Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Right Context for Nuclear Energy

BeautyshotSometimes, we run into statements about nuclear energy that do not really cry out to be said. It’s not that any number of things, many quite trivial, don’t get said in the course of a given day, it’s that a little more thought might warn one away from speaking. For example:

“Sometimes it does but it’s a tricky thing to determine that concept [probably means context]. We can find many instances in which parties have tried to implement nuclear power in the wrong context, which leads to high costs and exposes populations to a greater risk of accident so it’s important to find the right context for nuclear energy.”

Okay, I guess, if awfully presumptuous. Let’s start with this and see where it goes.

“Nuclear energy has some specific requirements,” he said. “In Bolivia, which is a landlocked nation where it’s relatively arid so there’s no water cooling, it would be very difficult. In some cases, it’s a geographically imposed context. In others, it’s the size, or if a country has bad credit, because nuclear energy is very expensive.”

Wait, what? Bolivia isn’t looking to open a nuclear energy facility – and why would a country with bad credit – unless maybe it’s a home-grown industry – wait a minute - what?

All this was said by David Scott, executive director of economic and energy affairs at the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority. I’ve nothing against Mr. Scott, of course, but what is he talking about?

“It’s possible to put a plant in a location where it maybe doesn’t belong,” he said. “The accident in Fukushima is an example of that, where the design of the plant they deployed was not appropriate for the natural challenges of that site, so context is very important.”

Yet Fukushima Daini (and Onagawa, too), which was hit by the same earthquake and tsunami that crippled Fukushima Daiichi, rode out the natural assault. (Daiichi means number one, Daini number two – the facilities are neighbors.) And of course, Japan doesn’t have one facility, as Bolivia ill-advisedly would. Scott is being fantastically reductive here, constructing a dubious premise to accommodate a single instance – and the instance doesn’t really fit the premise – which is dubious, anyway. And so on.

Well, the conference at which he said this wasn’t a total loss.

Kristine Svinicki, a member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the challenge of meeting rising demand, while balancing cost, safety, security and environmental protection, was leading many countries to consider deploying new nuclear power plants.

“But unlike safety, risk assessment for security does not generally involve a known set of verifiable scientific and engineering parameters,” she said. “So it is often a challenge to strike the necessary regulatory balance. But safety and security take priority over all other considerations.”

Sounds a bit like an amused response to Scott, doesn’t it? In any event, props to Commissioner Svinicki for an interesting take on risk assessment.

3 comments:

jimwg said...

re: article's accompanying photo.

Good report -- But why do even pro-nuclear blogs almost always pass off cooling towers as reactors?? Such ignorance belongs the providence of the science clueless and nuclear unwashed!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Krista Hiles said...

That Nuclear accicdent in japan was a real disaster , main reason behind this waqs tsunami waves. The damage caused by the tsunami produced equipment failures, and without this equipment a loss-of-coolant accident followed with nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials.
I would suggest that
power plant development must be carried out very carefully and with all the precautions .

Don Kosloff said...

Perhaps because cooling towers have proven to be the most hazardous parts of nuclear power plants.