Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Japanese Nuclear Threat III

The more factual accounts of the Japanese Nuclear Power Station status from the department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT has me concerned at this point. Not panicked, but concerned. The design of these reactors assumes a continuous supply of coolant. While a large earthquake and subsequent tsunami are 100-year events, I think good engineering practice, given the consequences of a containment breach, would demand survivability without active coolant circulation.

Passive designs exist (here, here and here), and such designs should have been required from day one. Especially since the blow-back from anti-nuke political forces would cause more damage to this promising technology, and to the industry, than any single accident.

If you accept the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis (I do not, certainly not in any religious, apocalyptic sense), then nuclear energy is the only other practical alternative to fossil fuel now, and for the foreseeable future.

Abundant, affordable energy has risks and trade-offs. So does the lack of abundant, affordable energy. With the lack of abundant, affordable energy, comes the lack of abundant, affordable food, heat, refrigeration, medicine, transportation -- everything that we humans associate with good health and prosperity. "No compromise, no risk, zero tolerance" is the hallmark of an extremist.

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