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No There There in NYT Story

nyt_logo The problem for news reporters is that they pitch a story that sounds promising, but it ends up a wash: there’s no news there. So what does one do? Kill the story or make as much of it as possible and, being fair, reveal that there really is no story.


Here’s the headline of a story that appeared on the New York Times Green blog: U.S. Dropped Nuclear Rule Meant to Avert Hydrogen Explosions.

Uh-oh. That sounds bad, given that Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors suffered a series of hydrogen explosions. Could it be that the NRC is too much in cahoots with the industry?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has allowed reactors to phase out some equipment that eliminates explosive hydrogen, the gas that blew up the outer containments of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.

There’s that part.

“Post-Three Mile Island, they were considered very important to safety,’’ Mr. Blanch said. He accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of having “gutted the rule’’ because the industry wanted to save money.

And there’s the other part. Looking pretty bad, I must say. Blanch is Paul Blanch, “who said that he had been involved in installing such equipment at Millstone 3, a nuclear reactor in Waterford, Conn.” I guess he didn’t say that he was also a consultant for Beyond Nuclear, an anti-nuclear energy group, but maybe time was tight.

But Eliot Brenner, a spokesman for the commission, said that as the commission analyzed its rules to determine which ones actually improved safety and which did not, it had found the equipment was unnecessary.

Oh. Well, wait, is that justified or might Blanch be right?

Depending on the type of reactor, the commission now requires a variety of other precautions. General Electric models of the type used at Fukushima, which are also common in the United States, must pump their primary containments full of nitrogen gas instead of air, for example.

Because hydrogen requires that oxygen be in the air to detonate, this “inerting” of the primary containments is a way of preventing explosions. And some plants have to have “igniter systems” that would burn off hydrogen before it could build up.

So that’s that. There’s no there there. Spike that story!


Anonymous said…
Hey Mark, you should read another take on this story at Idaho Samizdat.

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