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60 Minutes and Vive Les Nukes

To view last night's 60 Minutes piece on the global revival of the nuclear energy industry, click here.


Terra Rossa said…
Did you guys see the article in the LA Times today about Democrats taking another look at nuclear power, now that energy is at the top of the agenda?

We've got a post about it up at - come join the discussion!
gunter said…

I was surprised by how 60 Minutes offered no balance to this report like there were any issues.

For example, the producers could have inquired as to why as recently as March 16, 2007 tens of thousands of French citizens in five major cities protested the construction of Areva's EPR. Nothing at all like the consensus CBS portrayed. Why not have interviewed the new progressive candidate Royale on her position on more french reactors?

Or introducing Andy Kadack and the Pebble Bed as some new revolutionary nuclear technology without a word on Exelon dropping the certification like a hot potato or Germany's THTR 300 (the first commercial pbmr) accident in 1986?

And reprocessing as "recycling" nuclear waste... come on.... with no mention of its volumetric increase of the nuclear waste problem or the pollution of La Mache and the Irish Sea from routine operations.

Why didn't CBS just run it as a paid advertisement for new nukes between their otherwise investigative news stories?

You'd think Westinghouse owns CBS or something?

gunter, nirs
Brian Mays said…
I believe, Mr. Gunter, that you are mistaken on a couple of points.

First, Madame Royal (no "e" at the end) is the Socialist candidate, not the "progressive candidate," and it is fortunate for you that 60 Minutes did not interview her, since she has significantly backed off her somewhat anti-nuclear stance of earlier this year. I doubt that you would have gotten the hard anti-nuclear angle that you are yearning for.

This simply reflects overall public opinion in France. Sure, "tens of thousands of French citizens" might be protesting the construction of an EPR, but this is a country in which somebody -- garbage men, train company employees, teachers, whomever -- is on strike every week. In France, protesting is a kind of pastime, much like baseball is in the US. They enjoy a new thing to protest every now and then (keeps the protesting from becoming too repetitive), so I wouldn't read too much into it.

Next, the THTR was not a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). It was a pebble bed design, but there was nothing modular about it. The accident over 20 years ago resulted in the release of a small amount of radioactive material, but that is just trivia when one considers the following question. Which results in more radiation being released into the environment: the THTR accident on May 4, 1986, or the new coal plants (how many is it? 26 new plants?) that Germany plans to build because of its ill-conceived nuclear phaseout?

Finally, Exelon decided to put its money behind actually building new plants (e.g., Clinton, IL) rather than certifying new designs. That is not surprising, since Exelon is a utility, not a nuclear vendor, and they want to build new nuclear plants and big nuclear plants now. Thank you for bringing this point up.
Anonymous said…
And it's not "La Mache" but "La Manche".
GRLCowan said…
Brian Mays says of the supposed THTR-300 accident, "The accident over 20 years ago resulted in the release of a small amount of radioactive material", but this does not seem to be true.

Here's a report in rather small print about its diligently monitored history of trace coolant radioactivity with some mention of fuel element damage. Helium is easy to filter. The discussion of accidents seems to be hypothetical. Maybe I'm missing something.

What no-one should miss is that Gunter is paid to be an unreliable source. It is likely there was never an accident at all; oil money is always trying to cover up evidence of nuclear safety, this appears to be one more case.

--- G. R. L. Cowan, former H2 fan
Oxygen expands around B fire, car goes
gunter said…
Vive Les Nukes? No Merci...

What 60 Minutes didn't air on French sentiments for construction of the EPR...

gunter, nirs
gunter said…
The THTR 300 accident in Germany was "such a small amount" that the nuclear industry and its government regulators tried to hide the radioactive release under the Chernobyl cloud. It was significant enough however that the radioactive signature was identified and exposed by the Univerisity of Frieburg.

Also significant enough that Germany abandoned its and others like its operation.
GRLCowan said…
... the nuclear industry and its government regulators tried to hide the radioactive release under the Chernobyl cloud ...

If anything at all relevant happened on the supposed date, I think the German government and regulators might have tried to hide the absence of a release "under the Chernobyl cloud". The false assertion that there had been a release would have been obviously false at other times.

Such a leak would be, as far as I can see, miraculous. It would not be possible for nuclear engineers not to have discussed it at great length in all the years since in an attempt to learn its lessons. How could the dirt in dirty helium get out without being accompanied by the helium?
Brian Mays said…
gunter said...

Also significant enough that Germany abandoned its and others like its operation.

That is unfortunate for the Germans, but others are not so foolish. The South Africans and the Chinese have taken the German technology and are developing it. The challenge for them now is to do as well as the Germans were able to do. As G. R. L. Cowan's link clearly indicates (to those with the technical background to understand it), the performance of the German fuel was exceptionally good. It will be a difficult act to follow.

The fate of German nuclear reactors is driven by politics, not by any technical or safety reasons. What can I say? The German Green Party must like coal plants, since the Germans appear to be so fond of building them.
Anonymous said…

Vive Les Nukes? Oui Merci...

The French have pretty much made their intentions clear regarding nuclear. 80% electricity supply from nuclear, substantial investment in development of the evolutionary EPR, advanced enrichment technology, all points to one thing, and it ain't any kind of phaseout or even slowing down. Royal will get her butt handed to her by the trade unions if she tries to diss nuclear, as Mitterand found out. Throwing away all they've built in the way of zero-emissions energy independence over the last few decades simply to cave into the demand of the anti-nuke wackos would be the height of stupidity.

Nucléaire énergie? C'est formidable!
tblakeslee said…
Here is an account and link of the accident: "In 1985, the experimental THTR-300 PBMR on the Ruhr in Hamm-Uentrop, Germany was also offered as accident proof--with the same promise of an indestructible carbon fuel cladding capable of retaining all generated radioactivity. Following the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident and graphite fire in Ukraine, the West German government revealed that on May 4, the 300-megawatt PBMR at Hamm released radiation after one of its spherical fuel pebbles became lodged in the pipe feeding the fuel to the reactor. Operator actions during the event caused damage to the fuel cladding.
Radioactivity was released with the escaping helium and radioactive fallout was deposited as far as two kilometers from the reactor. The fallout in the region was high enough to initially be blamed on Chernobyl. Government officials were then alerted by scientists in Freiburg who reported that as much as 70 % of the region’s contamination was not of the type of radiation leaking hundreds of miles away in Ukraine. Dismayed by an attempt to conceal the reactor malfunction and confronted with mounting public pressure in light of the Chernobyl accident only days prior, the state ordered the reactor to close pending a design review.
Continuing technical problems including a lack of quality control resulting in damage to unused fuel pebbles and radiation-induced bolt head failures in the reactor’s gas channels resulted in the unit’s closure in late 1988. Citing doubts about reliability, the government

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