Friday, December 28, 2007

Energy: Are Nuclear Power Plants Really Safe?

Reader markymark states:

Reactors are so safe, that I wouldn't object to having one in my backyard (thats a bit of a stretch) and I am an environmentalist.
What about Chernobyl? Highly radioactive fallout, 56 direct deaths and 4,000 more from cancer.

What about Three-Mile Island? No loss of life, but a partial meltdown occurred.

What about the other nuclear accidents? (ahem)...none. Out of "12,700 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operation in 32 countries" these are the only two accidents.

A friend of mine is trained to run nuclear power plants and submarines, and he verifies markymark's comments on redundancy:
Even with all the varied designs in the US, the safety systems are extraordinarily redundant.
For every safety component there is a duplicate component. Each of the components is monitor by safety code written by two different programmers using different programming packages. All of this reports to two separate master systems. If any of the monitoring systems fall out of step by 1 millisecond it initiates an alarm sequence.
What about terrorist attacks? Check out this video of a test of a jet vs. reinforced concrete. I'll give you a hint...the jet lost...96% of the aircrafts kinetic energy goes back into destroying the aircraft itself, with the remaining 4% entering the reinforced slab of concrete. Pretty cool seeing things disintegrate...

Also, this from the Australian Uranium Association:
The analyses used a fully-fuelled Boeing 767-400 of over 200 tonnes as the basis, at 560 km/h - the maximum speed for precision flying near the ground. The wingspan is greater than the diameter of reactor containment buildings and the 4.3 tonne engines are 15 metres apart. Hence analyses focused on single engine direct impact on the centreline - since this would be the most penetrating missile - and on the impact of the entire aircraft if the fuselage hit the centreline (in which case the engines would ricochet off the sides). In each case no part of the aircraft or its fuel would penetrate the containment. Other studies have confirmed these findings.
I am proud to say that I do practically have one in my backyard.

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