Thursday, May 19, 2011

Czech PM: tests of power plants are guides for terrorists

It's somewhat paradoxical that the nuclear forum is taking place in Prague because the Czech Republic effectively rejects the idea of new tests of the nuclear power plants.

Dukovany, the older of the two Czech nuclear power plants

Our top politicians - including the president and the prime minister - have rejected Merkel's and others' recent attacks against nuclear energy as irrational and cheap populism. Everyone seems to agree that there's no reason to perform new tests. And even if there were reasons, the tests must be done by nuclear experts and not politicians. It's preposterous for politicians to pretend that it's them who is the safety assurance for those power plants.

Czech PM Mr Petr Nečas who has an RNDr degree (doctor of natural sciences) in plasma physics has also announced that our country will complete the extension of the newer nuclear power plant in Temelín while he dismissed alternative sources of energy because they're unstable. Some intensification of the nuclear collaboration between Czechia and France has been negotiated.

By the way, Iran claims that its first nuclear power plant in Bushehr has reached criticality and is producing energy now. Fine. If it were about the power plant only, and if it could be guaranteed that it would be about it in the future, I would have no complaints. Obviously, there are good doubts whether the energy is the goal, and even if you had no such doubts, such doubts may emerge at any moment of the future as the Iranian politics changes.

The nuclear forum in Prague has discussed the proposed tests but there was one special test that deserves a special discussion: resiliency against a terror attack. Is that a good idea to perform tests of it? Of course, military aircrafts are waiting to attack any possible terrorist and so on. There are some policies to fight this remote threat.

The Czech Republic opposes this proposal even more stubbornly than the other tests and restrictions. Mr Nečas made a point that looks good - but also kind of original - to me. He said:
The idea of public and transparent evaluations of anti-terror precautions at one or another important industrial facility, including nuclear power plants, when completed in their full glory, could directly become a guide for the terrorists how to make the attack.
I agree with that even though I didn't fully realize this notion. It's kind of important that generic people don't really know what the potential terrorists may expect to face - because terrorists could learn it, too.

In the real world, the terrorists are not the most hi-tech people in the world. Osama bin Laden could just write some e-mails, watch porn, and dream about the destruction of a few trains on 9/11/2011. He didn't even have the technological know-how to lock a 6ft Guinean maid in his bedroom.

However, the terrorists are surely sufficiently intelligent and organized to learn about some precautions that are known to pretty much every informed citizen of a Western country - which is exactly why those things shouldn't become public. And I think that if a whole committee in the Parliament knew about all the precautions - and especially those that failed the test - it would already be dangerous.


  1. Mermin did not give a straight answer to the question raised about "Schroedinger's cat" problem. How would one resolve that problem in light of his gedanken experiments?

  2. Dear Golshid, first, this is a wrong place: this blog entry is about nuclear energy safety.

    Second, could you please say what is the question about the cat? Generally, physics is a tool to deduce the right explanations and predictions of what we can observe. It is not a tool to mimic an intermediate "reality".

    Schrödinger's cat unquestionably evolves into a superposition of the states - this statement only means that there is a nonzero probability that it is dead and nonzero probability that it is alive because this pair of probabilities is what the (squared) wave function means.

    It doesn't mean anything else. There is nothing mysterious here. There is no "problem" and there has never been any "problem" with the cat in QM itself; there was only a problem to explain the cat when people overinterpreted the wave function as something "real" which it is not.

    One may only ask questions about "classical-like" properties such as the alive status of the cat - properties that quickly decohere from others. That makes cats and other large objects special. But quantum mechanics applies to all objects.

  3. Every nuclear state has a power to use nuklear energy for military purposes. I have much bigger concerns about states like USA, which already used their nuclear bombs. USA is running out of resources, so they have a strong motivation to use military force. USA is responsible for most of the recent wars in the world.

  4. This site:

    keeps very good track of news coming out of Fukushima, many of them from Japanese sources. Scroll through a few pages of recent news. There is also this Japanese blogger who translates things as they come:

    The news aren't good, and that's an understatement. Looks like this is now a chronic disaster with no end in sight.

    As for safety tests elsewhere, it seems to me that at the very least the many plants still using the same reactors as Fukushima should be looked into, and probably closed. The GE instruction manual does not give any instructions for this kind of situation, which is why the TEPCO guys look like they are making it up as they go along. Nobody seems to know what to do. A few days ago there was this article

    written by a politically conservative engineer, a rather rambling piece, but in the end he proposes some kind of radical intervention to try to contain this mess. Failure, he claims, is not an option. If we can go and get OBL, whether Pakistan likes it or not, then we can certainly go into Fukushima and take charge of the matter, whether the Japanese like it or not. Interesting piece, though he doesn't say what exactly the marines are supposed to do once they conquer Fukushima.

    In the end, that bizarre Japanese-American physicist, Michio Kaku, seemed to be right: We are in uncharted territory. He is also the one who proposed two months ago that the government and the army should take full control of the situation, under the guidance of some international committe of nuclear engineers and physicists, because TEPCO is totally out of its depth.

    Regarding cats in popular accounts of quantum mechanics, I think they are vastly overused, but not nearly as much as terrorists in popular accounts of contemporary politics. OBL in particular seems to have more lives and uses than Schrödinger's cat.