Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Certain Logic in Russia

kiriyenko There’s a certain logic here:

Kiriyenko said the impact from the Fukushima plant disaster would not only increase safety concerns but also quicken demand for new reactors to replace the industry's ageing plants.

"There will be a need to build new plants more quickly to more swiftly replace previous-generation plants," he said.

He added that Russia may speed the retirement of its older generation plants in the wake of Japan's nuclear accident.

I can’t decide if what Kiriyenko is asking here is, essentially, why let Fukushima go to waste? If the accident there allows new plants to be built in Russia whether or not they are needed, that seems rather too cynical. Because the corollary would be to say that the older plants need replacing and that would be irresponsible.

Maybe Kiriyenko is just musing out loud. He does say this:

Russia has said it has no intention of curbing its drive for more nuclear power at home and for export.

Russia here presumably being Kiriyenko. Russia being Russia, he can say whatever he feels is true, but that can also change rather rapidly. For now, though, it looks like the lumbering eastern bear will continue apace.

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Let’s sincerely hope this is true:

A senior official at the U.N. nuclear agency is suggesting the worst may be over as far as radiation leaks at Japan's stricken reactor complex are concerned.

Denis Flory says he expects the total amount of radiation releases to be only a "small increase from what it is today" if "things go as foreseen." But Flory, a deputy director general at the International Atomic Energy Agency, emphasized Tuesday that he was estimating final radiation releases.

The story doesn’t identify him more specifically, but Denis Florey is the IAEA’s safety chief.

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Let’s wish this weren’t true:

One person has died after police in western India clashed with locals protesting against the planned construction of a nuclear power plant.

Police said they were forced to open fire after protesters attacked a police station close to the proposed site in Jaitapur, in the state of Maharashtra.

Sadly, this means one more person has been killed protesting nuclear energy than has been killed by nuclear energy in India. Still, that’s one too many.

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The U.N.’s Summit on the Safe and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy, held in Kiev, Ukraine, had a keynote speech by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. There may be more to say about the summit, but Ban’s speech seemed judicious and careful. This, though, was striking:

“[W]e must put a sharper focus on the new nexus between natural disasters and nuclear safety,” he stated. “The challenge of climate change is bringing with it greater extremes of weather. Nuclear power plants must be prepared to withstand everything from earthquakes to tsunamis, from fires to floods.”

According to the IAEA, 64 new reactors are under construction. Today, 443 are operating in 29 countries worldwide, some located in areas of seismic activity.

Ban is completely right as long as we acknowledge that planning virtually any power plant takes account of weather and natural disasters and at a level that surpasses anything seen at a prospective site.

But more interesting here is the intermingling of weather and natural disaster. Fukushima Daiichi was struck by an earthquake and tsunami. Not severe weather, not anything that could be counted as a result of climate change.

I’m not sure it is wise to conflate the two – weather can be predicted to an extent, natural disasters not as much. It behooves us to recognize that one thing is not exactly like the other.

It’d also be worthwhile to recognize that the earthquake does not appear to have been the cause of problems at Fukushima – we can’t know this for sure until the government accounts for the accident – but the tsunami afterward. One could say reasonably – for now – that the combination proved determinative.

But that makes the media worry about siting nuclear plants in “areas of seismic activity,” as reflected in this story, seem a little off base. Other plants in Japan were struck by the same earthquake – and some harder than Fukushima – but suffered minor if any damage.

Sergei Kiriyenko

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The country that turns away from atomic energy today, will become dependent tomorrow on those who did not curtail it," Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's state-owned nuclear power monopoly Rosatom.

D Kosloff said...

How many currently operating Russian reactors do not have a containment? Remember that the Soviet concept was that containments were not needed and that containments were a silly non-Soviet idea.