Critics of nuclear power would argue that it was incredibly dangerous, created waste products that would be hazardous for thousands of years, and was hideously expensive if all costs were taken into account.
|Red Wing Minnesota in the foreground|
sunlight gleaming off the Mississippi River
The Prairie Island power plant about 5 miles upriver
|Prairie Island plant shut down for spring refueling|
|Sailing on Lake Pepin just downriver from Red Wing|
on a sailboat purchased with funds earned from the nuclear power industry
Recently, the boosters of nuclear power thought that their brightest days still lay ahead of them. After all, the problems of climate change demand we stop burning coal to generate electricity. But it is likely that Fukushima has driven the final nail in the coffin of nuclear power because it is a disaster of mind-numbing proportions.
By: Kirk James Murphy, M.D. Monday March 14, 2011 12:14 am
The Fukushima reactor building that exploded March 12 is one of a series of identical General Electric reactors constructed in Japan and the US. In this reactor design, the used nuclear fuel rods are stored in pools of water at the top of the reactor building. These “spent” rods are still highly radioactive: the radioactivity is so great the rods must be stored in water so they do not combust. The explosion at Fukushima Daiichi reactor unit 1 apparently destroyed at least one wall and the roof of the building: some reports stated the roof had collapsed into the building.
Two days later, the nearby building containing the plutonium-uranium (MOX) fueled Fuksuhima Daichiireactor unit 3 exploded. So why bother about the rubble of reactor No 1? The WaPo quotes a nuclear engineer who knows the answer:
Although Tokyo Electric said it also continued to deal with cooling system failures and high pressures at half a dozen of its 10 reactors in the two Fukushima complexes, fears mounted about the threat posed by the pools of water where years of spent fuel rods are stored.
At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, where an explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that unit 1’s pool may now be outside.
“That would be like Chernobyl on steroids,” said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi unit 1. more
Fukushima Marks the End of the Nuclear Era
Japan was still reeling from its largest recorded earthquake when an explosion struck the Fukushima nuclear plant on Saturday, followed by a second blast on Monday. Despite government assurances, there are fears of another Chernobyl. The incident has sparked a heated political debate in Germany and looks likely to end the dream of cheap and safe nuclear power.By SPIEGEL Staff.
Japanese television brought the catastrophe into millions of living rooms throughout the country, where viewers watched in horror as an explosion struck a nuclear reactor in Fukushima.
The explosion on Saturday blew off the roof of the reactor building, sending a cloud of thick white smoke into the air. When the smoke had dissipated, only three of what had been four white reactor buildings were still visible.
Nothing but a ghostly shell remained of the fourth building.The outside walls of the reactor 1 building had burst. The steel shell that contains the red-hot fuel rods apparently withstood the explosion, but it was unclear if a major disaster could still be averted. In addition, four other reactors in Fukushima's two power plant complexes were not fully under control. more