Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nuclear energy: Japan is back

Technicality: TRF stopped accepting all new Echo comments. Use DISQUS instead. Echo comments will remain visible and will be hopefully imported to DISQUS before October 1st.
Japanese PM orders to restart two reactors

On March 11th, 2011, Japan was crippled by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake followed by a giant tsunami. The number of casualties was clearly high. A week later, Gene made the following prediction in the Echo comments that will hopefully be converted to DISQUS soon (once I prepare all the code and get in the mood):
A prediction:  

When this is finally over, in one or two years, the total fatalities will be:  

1) Tsunami-50,000 to 60,000.  
2) Radiation-zero.   

LM: I don't know what Melody Miyuki Ishikawa thinks about nuclear energy but I know what she should think about it. I embedded the video because 30% of the energy in the chandelier etc. in the video was produced by Japanese nuclear power plants (half a year before the earthquake).

I have found no evidence of earthquake damage to the reactors and they were functioning just fine after the quake.  The problem was the failure of the emergency core cooling systems (ECCS).  It is not difficult to make ECCS systems earthquake proof.  The air intake and exhaust ports need to be elevated sixty feet or so, of course, and electrical cabling and water piping flexible enough to withstand even grade disruption.    

The only problem, it seems, was the assumption of a 5-meter maximum tsunami.    

I do assume that radiation dosage effects are rate dependent.  It just doesn't make sense that the integrated dosage is the only factor.  There may or may not be long-term mortality effects caused by minor exposures to ionizing radiation so 2) above requires some qualification.  Are there any real experts out there?
With 15 months of hindsight, we may ask: How did Gene do? Well, we're told that tsunami has "only" killed 15,861 people, one third of Gene's estimate. But as far as I know, correct me if I am wrong, his second number was right on the money: the radiation emerging from the Fukushima I power plant has killed zero people. We may effectively argue that the tsunami has only retired a power plant commissioned in 1982 which wasn't too far from a natural retirement age, anyway.

This story and all of its numbers show that nuclear energy is an incredibly safe source of energy. Even in extreme circumstances, we may end up with zero fatalities. There have been lots of work invested to the operations needed to make the power plant lethally damaged by the tsunami safe; but this professional work is a part of the package of the nuclear planning. Nuclear energy isn't supposed to be for everyone. It's an activity reserved for technologically mature societies and their engineers and nuclear physicists.

However, this success, happy end, and proven resilience of the nuclear infrastructure hasn't prevented tons of demagogues from irrationally attacking nuclear energy. Whole nations – otherwise rational nations – decided to ban nuclear energy on their territories. We had to dedicate a dozen of March 2011 blog entries to nuclear energy, in an attempt to spread the knowledge i.e. anti-fear about nuclear energy at least a little bit. In the case of Japan, we can partially understand the fear. They were actually affected by a natural catastrophe that hadn't been included in the plans and they know that the earthquakes may occur again. That's something that defines the identity of their islands.

On the other hand, countries such as Germany didn't have a glimpse of a rational justification for their nuclear exit. Earthquakes of this sort are pretty much impossible over there and almost all German power plants are very, very far from a sea, too.

The stop sign for the Japanese nuclear power plant was nationwide. It was still a clear overreaction. Now, fifteen months later, it became possible to admit that it was an overreaction. At least in the Land of the Rising Sun. Today, Japan's government approved bringing two country's nuclear reactor back online. Greenpeace and similar predictable suspects are screaming. But the government has the power to make such decisions.

Demonstrators and their fists don't like the restart of the Oi nuclear power plant but Japan is thankfully not governed by stupid girls' fists.

I hope that they won't be the only two reactors. If I remember well, about 50 reactors were running in Japan before the earthquake. Congratulations to Japan that has shown it's still a little bit more rational than their German former Second World War allies and many others. It's a bit paradoxical that the country with the genuinely elevated risk of unpredictably huge earthquakes is the first one among the sulking nations that restores some dignity that nuclear energy deserves. But the paradox isn't too shocking if you realize that it's not really rational arguments about earthquake zones that are deciding about the power plants' being switched off; it's all about the various people's degree of irrationality.

And that's the memo.

The resuscitation of Oi was previously approved by a local mayor.

Feel free to test the DISQUS comments below (even with comments that are not too high brow) – that have replaced the built-in "slow" comments. All the 10,000 slow comments have been imported to the DISQUS system today; that was straightforward although it took 24 hours. I think that DISQUS tolerates if you write down a nickname instead of your real name. In an extreme case of users who need to hide their identity, you may even fill an unreal e-mail address.

The migration/export from Echo to DISQUS isn't straightforward at all. But at some point, the dominant "fast" commenting environment on TRF will be disabled and the 73,000+ comments will hopefully be preserved.


Petr Jiráček who played for Pilsen a year ago scored the only goal in the Czechia-vs-Poland Euro soccer tournament.

Except for the first 30 minutes, the Czech team was totally destroying our Northern cousins. All the goals scored by the Czech team came from players who either play in my hometown of Pilsen or they played for Pilsen just a year ago before they moved to Wolfsburg, Germany (Pilař played extremely well, too – and Milan Baroš who is a popular target of cheap Czech criticism was a very positively contributing player, too, even though he is not from Pilsen).

Greece defeated Russia 1-to-0 with some luck.

Czechia continues as the winner of group A to the quarterfinals, accompanied by Greece – probably a pair that was believed to be the most likely pair of losers before the tournament. Russia that defeated us 4-to-1 in the opening match is going home. Poland doesn't have to go home because as co-hosts, they are already at home. ;-)


  1. Great game! Saw your comment ;)

  2. That's awesome, that's the way to go. Luboš, what do you think of this blog (read more of his entries): I don't mean his philosophical/political opinions, just the technical analysis of the various options.

  3. I support nuclear power but I would not take too sanguine a view of the Fukushima outcome. Nobody was killed outright by radiation, that's good, but 70k people have lost their homes, farms and businesses. The land in a 20km radius is uninhabitable.

    I guess with Disqus there's no facility for embedding pics?

    This link is a test: Doko Demo World

  4. Congratulations on soccer win. Poland looked like they ran out of gas -- at half time! Lacked fitness.

    Is there radiation hysteria just like global warming hysteria?

  5. Rationality? We're dealing with people.....left-wing people.

  6. Exactly... Poland is lacking any nuclear power plant - after they scrapped the plans for Żarnowiec - so it ran ouut of energy, maybe not after 1/2 but already after 30 minutes. ;-)

    The question on comparison of AGW and radiation hysteria is good. I still think that they differ. AGW is much more political and connected with ideologies and big governments' interests, much stronger, much less justified, and so on.

  7. Haha, funny cartoon. Visiting is quite a coincidental agreement in our international interests. ;-)

  8. Jason,
    Fukushima did have a significant cost in many ways but
    much of the loss was due to overreaction and completely irrational fear of radiation. No one is saying that nuclear power is risk-free but only that a reasonable cost/benefit analysis should be done in place of a purely emotional rejection of the technology. Sadly, nuttiness prevails everywhere today.

  9. I'm glad they don't give up on nuclear energy completely.
    The accident was the result of the quake and tsunami exceeding the design specifications, which is unfortunate because there were actually higher tsunamis, even in the last century. This caused prolonged station blackout, which was well known to lead to eventual core melt.
    It's not difficult to prevent this situation by better protecting the backup diesel generators, but even more importantly it makes no sense to completely give up on all future designs, which are not just incremental improvements, but feature real "walk away" passive safety.
    For example, Germany had the Thorium High Temperature Reactor and the US had the Molten Salt Reactor, whose core obviously can't melt, because it's already molten ;-)

  10. Lubos, maybe you can have a choice of how the nesting happens as far as time is concerned. My reply to lukelea, 10 hours ago, comes before yours which was 12hours ago, and it looks as if you are commenting on my comment!

  11. Dear Anna, at the top of this segment with the DISQUS comments, there is a bar with "discussion, community, my disqus". If you click at the "discussion", you may choose whether the comments at the top are the best ones; the newest ones; or the oldest ones.

    You obviously have the "newest" ones so for example this exchange of two of us is at the top and Luke's minithread is Luke, Anna, Luboš. If you choose "oldest", our Anna-Luboš exchange will be at the bottom and the Luke minithread will be somewhere above it, ordered as Luke, Luboš, Anna. That's because the older ones will be at the top which is what you find natural (but hierarchically deeper replies are always sorted below their parents). So you should switch to "discussion: from the oldest ones" and everything will be ordered according to your (and not only your) tastes.

    Is that clear? It's a client's choice. I don't have to deal with such issues and I can't.


    This estimate of a 90% chance of 7.0 or greater earthquake to hit the same place seems extremely high. Does this make any sense?

  13. This estimate of a 90% chance of 7.0 or greater earthquake to hit the
    same place seems extremely high. Does this make any sense?

  14. yes it is clear.thanks

  15. thats pretty common for conservatives?

  16. Dear MikeN, this is happening to almost everyone including myself and is a bug that DISQUS vows to fix soon:

  17. How many people with radiation sickness? I haven't heard of any hospitalized cases.

  18. Response to the Technicality remark in the blue box...:
    Oh Lumo, why can we not have a little bit longer fun with the ECHO comments; I mean the smileys, "likes", including immediately visible pictures etc ... ;-) ? Be sure that I`ll be able to place my jokes anyway; sooner or later ... :-P

  19. Hi Dilaton, because the details of the Echo files change every time one adds a new thread or a new comment, for that matter, and I have already spent about 30 hours with this complete Echo mess. What the system produces is incoherent garbage but I at least need this garbage to be constant and stop changing.

    Also, the amount of funding I've received for this work places the work at less than $2 per hour, the amount of technical assistance I have received is zero, and if this counting won't change and the conversion will continue to be the nighmare it is now, I will just abandon the plans to save the Echo comments.

  20. Ok Lumo, I see ... :-/
    Did not want to annoy you

  21. less than $2 per hour! Hey, I can boost that but first I have to set up my paypal account. They make it difficult nowadays. Have to wait several days.

  22. When Lubos is upset we are all upset. His piggy bank does deserve to get much fatter ;-)

  23. Somehow I seem to have been flagged for abuse on Disqus as my comments get "hidden"
    - MopTop

  24. Completely off topic, but Matt Strassler has officially gone out of his mind.

  25. Japan hires top girlband AKB48 to sell government bonds:

    But Japan doesn't need bonds, it needs Bond-O!

    And those girls look just as anemia as the bond yields do. What are
    the odds they'll do a cover of REM's "It's the End of the World as We
    Know It (And I Feel Fine)?"

    Or, does this mean that Michael Jackson will come back from the dead with a special offer!!!

    All jokes aside, when a government is doing something like this to
    get you to buy their debt, you know said country is on its last leg!

  26. Japan hires top girlband AKB48 to sell government bonds:

    But Japan doesn't need bonds, it needs Bond-O!

    And those girls look just as anemia as the bond yields do. What are the odds they'll do a cover of REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)?"

    Or, does this mean that Michael Jackson will come back from the dead with a special offer!!!

    All jokes aside, when a government is doing something like this to get you to buy their debt, you know said country is on its last leg!

  27. 5, 2012, 4:44:00 PM

    Protests in Japan as nuclear power plant reopens.Dozens of protesters shouted and danced at the gate of a nuclear power plant as it restarted Sunday,Nuclear energy has been a national strategic priority for Japan since 1973.Now, with an energy crunch predicted for the summer, it seems that nuclear power is on the way back.

  28. Good article, small quibble: The Fukushima-1 plant was commissioned in 1971 (40 years before the tsunami), not 1982.

  29. Somehow my comments are showing up hidden because of abuse reports.

  30. Thanks, Ondřeji! The blog attracted a lot of interest.

    I don't see in what sense it's technical. It seems very ideological to me. It's all the usual memes of the Left, e.g. that there is a "collision caused by conflict between finiteness of resources and growing GDP" etc. That's nonsense. Many things are finite but the physical limitations that actually follow from the finiteness are many orders of magnitude away from the current situation. In this sense, the resources such as fossil fuels are effectively infinite.

    He also misrepresents what conservatism distinguishes from leftisms. Conservatism isn't just either low-risk or high-risk. Conservatism is about preserving things that seem to work against those that are reasonably expected not to work. For example, fossil fuels and market economy work. So the conservative attitude is to keep them. What he proposes as "low risks" plans for the future aren't low risk things at all.

    Sorry, I won't read more entries from that website which I find frustrating, annoying, illogical, and pretentious.

  31. People get hysterical over dangers they cannot smell or feel or see immediately but have been convinced that a causal route exists.

    Radioactivity is a real danger and there was a world demonstration in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to convince all. The Chernobyl disaster brought out the hysterical part of the fear very clearly. i.e. the part where no matter how many scientific and correct arguments are used, the behavior is controlled by the fear generated by the word "radioactivity".

    There has never been a real disaster due to global warming within the historical memory of people. There has been of global cooling, i.e. the little ice age when the Thames was frozen and Greenland was deserted ( they are now finding the farms of the medieval warm period).
    So it is completely a matter of success of the constructors of AGW that the hysteria caught and is not amenable to scientific discourse. It is a social studies phenomenon, this AGW hysteria .And of media and of money interests and of academic and grant finding interests etc.

  32. Despite certain bad happenings, the nuclear power has so far reduced the gobal pollusion significantly, and if it is important to reduce the outlet of CO2, a lot more nuclear power will be needed.