Nuclear Power Debates... why not in Ireland?

Some really informative stuff on Slashdot regarding nuclear power:

by david.given (6740)
France generates pretty much all of its electricity from nuclear, with reprocessing, using pressurised water reactors. Not only do they have a number of handy engineering benefits such as isolating the water loop through the reactor from the water loop through the turbines, but they also have a particularly useful safety feature in that they’re self-regulating — temperature goes up, power output goes down. France has an excellent safety record; I can find only one major incident, which was a coolant spill in 2008. They even do their own waste reprocessing into plutonium, which is then reused to generate more power. Unaccountably, terrorists don’t seem to have stolen any of it.

This was the opposite “self-regulating — temperature goes up, power output goes down” in Chernobyl. You’ll have to forgive me as I wasn’t born then. It was re-iterated differently also:

by Burning1 (204959)

More specifically, modern safe reactors have a negative void coefficient. As water vaporizes in an critically hot reactor, it reduces the rate of reaction. The hotter the reactor gets, the larger the void(s) in the coolant, the less reaction occurs.

Chernobyl had a positive void coefficient.

The main article was about running Nuclear plants over capicity (120% quoted) and putting contracts up for renewal when possible some plants should be end-of-lifed (EOL). Another submitter had an interesting point on the extended life:

by jpmorgan (517966)
The plants were built to a certain design that had large safety margins… not because they were needed per se, but because the designers couldn’t prove they weren’t. Today, we can model all the behavior of the plants to a high degree, so we don’t need the same safety margins to keep these plants safe. You don’t need a cooling system with 50% excess design capacity, since we can prove that 25% is sufficient. We know now that the containment wall is twice as big as it needs to be, for the original design load. So, we can use the safety margins to run the plants longer and to higher capacity than the original design.

Chernobyl obviously is used in spades in either side of the argument. Those who favour Nuclear power point out that it can never happen again. Those who are against it use it as an example of what has happend with us mere mortals.

by Burning1 (204959)

The Chernobyl reactor disaster happened because the operators decided to run a test, and turned off the automatic safety shut-down.

…and because the reactor was of such a design that it could not have a proper containment vessel, and because the control rods had a major flaw in that initiating an emergency shutdown (SCRAM) would cause the reaction rate to INCREASE momentarily, and because the reactor had a positive void coefficient (will tend to increase the rate of reaction as the coolant vaporizes, without outside intervention), AND because there was insufficient instrumentation and operator training to identify the critical reactor condition until after the meltdown had started.

There was a perfect storm of design flaw and poor decision making that lead to the Chernobyl disaster.

Although the nearby town of Pripyat was abandoned after the disaster, Reactors 1-3 continued operation. Reactor number 2 was damage in a fire, and shut down in 1991. Reactor 1 was decommissioned in 1996, and reactor number 3 was shutdown in 2000.

Personally, reading heavily into the Chernobyl accident has gone a long way towards improving my opinion on nuclear power. To see what it took to cause the most recognizable and most cited disaster, really puts things into perspective.

Spossa came out with a good joke we all love:

by sopssa (1498795)

I’m a supporter of nuclear energy, but don’t let anyone dumb too close a nuclear power plant.

It’s good we have this guy [] in control of a nuclear power plant.

One thing I love Slashdot for is the informative links, like the one below of a back yard nuclear generator!:

by slewfo0t (679988) Ahh, I see the eco-nuts are in full force with this post… Putting on tin-foil hat…

Nuclear power - PLEASE put one of these in my back yard!

One point we should never forget is that Chernobyl has concentrated the mind safety-wise:

by QuantumRiff (120817
I am a huge fan of Nuclear Power, however, I sometimes wonder if all the irrational fear of Nuclear Power was Good for the industry? I kinda think all the negative attention and scare tactics and stuff made the nuclear industry have to go over and above to continue proving, without doubt, that they were safe..

There was also well versed points that Coal plants would not meet the requirements if it was subject to Nuclear safety regulations. The bulk of the cost of Nuclear is in the safety of the plant and fuel reprocessing/dumping. Most have pointed out it’s quite viable to end up with very small amounts of lesser grade material with modern reprocessing.

Why all these comments? Well I wish we had a debate like this in Ireland. We are bar none the most reliant on fossil fuels (of which we produce almost none). Everytime it’s brought up in the media, ESB and people who represent them or are in the industry say (paraphrased) “Thats a matter for the 2030’s”. If you know it takes at least 20 years to get us up to speed (importing technology and people from France, UK etc) then why aren’t we having a debate now and a plan of action after 5 years, 2014/5 and beyond? There was an old Nuclear power board in the 80’s but it was disbanded on account of the Carnsore point objections.

I firmly believe we have the power to think broader now, like we have on divorce, civil partnerships and so forth. That stuff could not have been implemented from what I understand in the 80’s either. Times move on and attitudes change. If we had a debate and the facts, I’m sure supporters of Nuclear energy in Ireland like myself would at least get an educated debate going - as it’s our energy future and money.