Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nuclear Power + Geological Facts = Bunny Suits

News from the BBC reports that an earthquake in Japan yesterday leaked some radioactive material from a power plant. Apparently the plant is located on a fault line.

While Japan relies almost exclusively on nuclear power, it is a system that is well maintained. As the report profiles in a biography of leaks related directly to the fault, the issues here seem to have been a result of bad planning.

If anything, because of the growing demands for clean (that is, carbon-free) energy, it doesn't seem unreasonable for managers to turn to nuclear power. However, as the Japanese case demonstrates, planning nuclear futures will require perhaps a wider range of factors than previously thought.

3 comments:

MBQ said...

Nuclear energy is definitely high-risk, high-reward. As you say, it's understandable that they are looked at as a solution, but they come with a whole lot of potential side-effects.

I tend to think of nuclear energy as one of those drug commercials on tv. It's 23 seconds of telling you how great the product is and 7 seconds of telling you about potentially serious problems.

Tommbert said...

I think it's interesting that nuclear has remained a viable, if seemingly underrated option. By viable, I mean it isn't a dream--it actually produces electricity. But importantly, what I mean by underrated is that it seems like you can mention it as a rhetorical device, but never actually use it except as the nuclear power exists now.

What I mean is you always hear people talking about how nuclear power is an option, a useful, cheap, carbon-friendly option, but no one ever actually starts up with the permits and siting, even to the point where you would get injunctions and protests--they never even make it TO the drawing board, much less the groundbreaking. (Of course, I admit a lot of it has to do with the nuclear regulatory agency. I hear they're impossible to work with.)

I'm not in defense of it, necessarily; I'm pretty agnostic about nuclear because it is does have some pretty nasty side-effects. On the other hand, in the US at least, I'm tired of people invoking nuclear power without any intent behind it. US nuclear is a very empty thing to point at. I'd love to see what would happen if somebody actually did get through the red tape, what the public response would be.

MBQ said...

The problem with energy is that everyone wants it produced - but not in their neighborhood. (Kinda like prisons.) Whether its nuclear plants or windmills, people don't want them around but they want to reap the benefits.