Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quick Hits: At Indian Point, Three Plants, The German Psyche

IndianPoint1 CNN’s Alan Chernoff goes into a nuclear plant – New York’s Indian Point, in this case – and nothing falls over on him and he doesn’t topple into the used fuel pool (which he takes a look at). In fact, he finds a spotless, well run industrial structure. Oh, and extremely secure.

Useful type of story for reporters to be doing – folks are probably pretty curious about the inside of a plant right about now.

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At a House hearing, NRC Commissioner Gragory Jaczko loosely identified three nuclear plants the commission believes need further oversight:

Three U.S. nuclear power plants need increased oversight from federal regulators because of safety problems or unplanned shutdowns, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday, although officials said all are operating safely.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the three plants — in South Carolina (H.B Robinson), Kansas (Wolf Creek) and Nebraska (Fort Calhoun)— "are the plants we are most concerned about" among the 65 U.S. nuclear power plants in 31 states.

Jaczko did not say what issues require the extra oversight:

"The NRC felt the three required significant additional oversight but continue to operate safely," said Scott Burnell, an agency spokesman.

The story quite correctly notes that there are four levels of oversight and these plants fall into the second. The third and fourth levels would be far more serious for the plants. Tellingly, Jaczko initially told the House committee that six reactors were on the list, but three of them, at the Oconee plant, had resolved all issues and were taken off the list.

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Sarah Sloat has a go at German kookiness about nuclear energy:

So then, what’s the source of this “special sensitivity?” It’s hard for the Germans themselves to pin down. Some see its root in German romanticism of the 19th century, the idealization of nature seen, for example, in the landscapes of Casper David Friedrich.

Others attribute it to the national character. “It’s all psychological; it’s typical German nervousness,” said one. Characteristics like “cautiousness” and “risk-aversion” also come up.

Sloat decides its all about Chernobyl, but I liked these better. Risk-aversion! It’s a wonder Germans drive cars or get on a plane – far riskier than having a nuclear energy plant in the neighborhood.

Indian Point.

2 comments:

Charles said...

IMHO, the specific sensitivity of Germans to anything nuclear stems from
a) horrendous memories of bombing during WW2, quite similar to what can be experienced from an atomic bomb (see the description of the Hamburg firestorm here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Hamburg_in_World_War_II )
b) the fear to be in the middle of a nuclear battlefield during the cold war
These fears have been skillfully exploited by the KGB to try to drive a wedge between FRG and its Atlantic partners. After the end of the cold war, the issue for Russia is more to sell NG than gaining global dominance.

Anonymous said...

Note that Jaczko's comments about the three plants referred to the status of those plants in the action matrix of NRC's normal Reactor Oversight Process -- NOT plants seen by NRC as needing more review in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.