Skip to main content

The Second Earthquake

Rokkasho World Nuclear News reports what happened after this morning’s earthquake in Japan.

The Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (Meti) said that seawater pumping to cool the reactor cores of Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2 and 3 continued after a brief evacuation on a tsunami warning.

That’s good.

The single reactor at Higashidori is offline for maintenance and its full core load of fuel is within the used fuel pond. When power from the grid was disrupted, cooling was maintained by emergency diesel generators. The Rokkasho reprocessing plant also lost grid power and is currently maintained by its diesels.

And that’s what’s supposed to happen in these circumstances. All good.

---

Polls have been showing some, but not dire, slippage in support for nuclear energy. One should always wait until a crisis is over before polling the crisis, because attitudes are going to be all over the place. It’s hard to really pin down attitudes while the news is full of both fully and half-baked assertions.

The Atlantic’s Nicholas Jackson writes about a social media tool that acts somewhat as a pollster:

Social Radar, a tool developed by Infegy that monitors activity on social media, was used to build a comprehensive report on the feelings surrounding nuclear energy by analyzing conversations across multiple platforms on April 1. The report, released this morning, "shows dramatic shifts and complex attitudes in the public's perception of nuclear energy before and after a massive 9.0 earthquake hit  Japan and caused ongoing problems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on March 11, 2001," according to a press release that accompanied the report's publication.

That’s not exactly something you needed a tool to figure that out. But it gets more interesting:

After analyzing more than 40 million "online conversations," Infegy concluded that public perception of nuclear energy prior to the earthquake was high; it took a sharp turn on the 11th. Seventy-six percent of online conversations concerning nuclear energy were positive leading up to March 10, according to the report. By March 13, 62 percent of all conversations were negative. A few days later, public sentiment had evened out a bit, with Infegy's analysis showing a near 50/50 split between negative and positive perception.

I’d probably avoid the idea that social media users are reflective of “public sentiment,” since it’s an amorphous group that does not provide a true cross section of the population. Still, the pattern is the same here as for polls – negative when the events in Japan were at their most active, with moderation following. Jackson is surprised by this:

The most shocking thing about these findings is that the public's perception of nuclear energy has returned so quickly to the positive. And it could be on the rise.

Actually, not the least bit surprising. The news always stresses the worst case scenarios, as it does in any such event, but when these fail to happen, there’s nothing left with which to gin up fear. And nuclear energy ceases to be frightening. See the posts on Pew, Gallup, and Harris for more on polls and polling.

The Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…