Sunday, March 27, 2011

They Write Letters (or Emails)

contra_costa The Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard introduces us to the NRC inspectors who oversee the two plants in that part of the world – Nine Mile and James A. FitzPatrick:

“Every day, we do a control room walk-down,” [Inspector Edward] Knutson said. “We look at what’s going on, we indicate what we expect them (operators) to do.”

“We talk to the control-room supervisor and get from them what has occurred in the previous shift,” [Inspector Scott] Rutenkroger said. “We see what’s in service and what’s out of service. We find out what they see as the condition of the plant.”

And they keep their eyes perpetually open:

Rutenkroger once noticed that the door between an emergency diesel-generator room and turbine building had a support missing. It could have hampered proper operation of the door and that could have led to trouble: Steam lines are located on the other side of the door. If the door hadn’t shut properly and one or more of the steam lines ruptured, steam could have seeped into the generator room and knocked out the generators — the backup power source for the plant.

Nice story – writer Debra Groom sticks close to home and doesn’t expand the story to make a point about American plants (well, except that they have regulatory inspectors on-site). Worth a read.

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Interestingly, when news readers are asked to weigh in on nuclear energy, the results are surprisingly favorable given some of the coverage. For example, the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times posted a series of letters (or emails, I guess, these days). Some excerpts:

Yes, we need new nuclear plants. Forget about the fact they will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and that they will help to meet our future needs for electricity. Instead, realize that as we build nuclear power plants, we will reduce our dependence on our own coal-fired plants.

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Let's be rational. Nuclear energy is our best prospect for future economic stability and energy independence. Our nation deserves it.

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Keep in mind that people of my generation survived atmospheric detonations of hydrogen bombs for many years in the 1950s and '60s. This irrational fear of radiation is causing us to make poor decisions based on junk science and environmentalism run amok. Life goes on, even in Chernobyl.

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Given the amount of damage done, the radiation levels, so far, have been more than survivable. Bear in mind those plants are over 30 years old and technology has improved since then.

And so on. There are a few negative comments, too:

I am constantly amazed at how short American's memories are. After the Three Mile Island disaster, everyone said "never again."After Chernobyl, there was zilch interest in new nuclear power development. Hopefully, what has happened in Japan will wake the U.S. public up to the dangers of nuclear power plants, but I'm afraid after a few months, no one will recall what has just happened, or if they do, they will say "it couldn't happen here."

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A nuclear energy accident can ruin your whole day, year, century and beyond -- thousands of years. The downside is great and the upside ethereal.

Don’t look at me. I’m not going to dispute any of this – the discussion is what’s important. Even if, in this round up, the pro-nuclear contingent enjoys a 6-2 margin, the is a good moment to hash out attitudes. In you have the means to put them online, go ahead and do it.

Lovely Contra Costa. It is inland from San Francisco, with Mt. Diablo State Park providing a lot of its scenery.

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