Saturday, March 19, 2011

Japan: "Faith"

I'm not an engineer or nuclear physicist. That should be obvious, right? Still, I am saddled with this quandary when it comes to nuclear power plants. I have about as much faith in the media as I do in government. Basically, none. I guess when either one of those entities does something that makes them trustworthy, I'll have a little bit more faith in them. That having been said, I can only go by what I have watched, listened and read about Toshiba's Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

They have the main (primary) water coolant pump and then the emergency (secondary) coolant pump - for each reactor.

Since the impact to the environment and the populace from meltdowns and partial meltdowns can be so horrific, why did all of these great scientific minds only decide to have one backup coolant pump? I mean, even if this is per reactor, that is still woefully deficient when you consider what can happen when your emergency pump fails.

It's sort of like parachuting. You have your main and your emergency reserve, right? Well, anyone that skydives realizes that if their main fails and the reserve fails, they are a dirt torpedo - they're going to die. A person, the skydiver die, singular. Nuclear reactor emergency plan fails, many die, plural. Dozens, hundreds, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. Maybe more.

Why did they build this power plant in such a low-lying area in the first place? Japanese engineers did not realize that the word "Tsunami" is a Japanese word?

The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 was a 9.5 and the most powerful earthquake ever recorded.

Just back in 1960, not ancient history.

The 51st anniversary is coming up on us fast. Some of the local Tsunami waves from this earthquake were 82 feet high. Think about that for a moment. The Tsunamis from this quake destroyed Hilo, Hawaii. Six-thousand miles from the epicenter, the waves from the Tsunamis were 35 feet high. Japan also received Tsunamis from this earthquake.

The Japanese engineers are to be praised for the earthquake resistance of the design at Fukushima. It actually withstood an earthquake much more powerful than it was designed to withstand.

Unfortunately, that doesn't quite make up for the short-sightedness and lack of study when it comes to Tsunamis. The Fukushima plant was commissioned in 1971, just eleven years after the aforementioned Chilean earthquake which locally created Tsunamis up to 82 feet high.

So, it's no great leap of logic to think that this could happen in Japan or am I mistaken?

If you cannot use salt water to cool the reactors without damaging them, what is the rationale for building such a sensitive power plant basically at sea level? This just doesn't make any sense at all. Sure, if there is a desalination plant adjacent to the power plant to convert sea (salt) water to fresh water, that would make some sense but not enough to trump the fact that this is a Tsunami-prone area and one where 30-85 feet high Tsunami waves could be anticipated because it did happen before elsewhere.

So, we all look at the footage with awe and horror, at these waves over 30 feet high, smashing through everything. Imagine 82 feet high waves, would there have been anyone left to fight these reactor fires for the last week had that happened?

It would seem that all nuclear power plants that only have single emergency coolant pumps and single emergency generators for those pumps, that this should be increased dramatically. Why not have multiple emergency pumps and generators?

Of course it would increase the cost of the plant. You know why equipment like that is so expensive? Because it's worth it, that's why.

You cannot plan for every possible combination of terrible things a disaster could bring, but it seems you could lessen the damage by not building these plants in low-lying areas and whenever one is built in the future, it should be built on higher ground or far enough inland that only the most incredible disasters could touch it. I mean, we couldn't really prevent an asteroid from striking whatever ocean and sending a massive Tsunami into whatever area, but we can plan for what we have already experienced.

Another thing is planning for disruption in water flow to the pumps. All of the emergency pumps in the world and generators to run them won't make any difference if there is no water to pump. I don't know about other countries, but The United States is littered with water tank towers. Communities have excellent water supply and pressure thanks to these. A few of these ringing the area to supply the emergency pumps might be a good idea. If they could not be earthquake-proofed due to their height, then build them lower and let the pumps do the work, at least the water would be on tap for the plant.

I know that you cannot possibly plan for every contingency and as I said before, the Japanese really need to be congratulated for the earthquake-resistance the power plant had. However, it seems to me that when these types of power plants are planned and then built, very little, let me strike that out, not enough thought is put into what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future.

We have a lot of faith in science, including medicine. I have read many debates on forums - the religious folks battling it out with the atheists. There is a funny thing about atheists. A lot of the time, they bring in science and medicine as some type of ultimate tool of winning debate. Let me tell you something, absolute blind faith in science and medicine will enslave and kill all of us just as absolute blind faith in religion could enslave and kill all of us. Science and medicine have become new religions to many people. Faith in things that are still created and controlled by easily corrupted people.

Not to get too far off Wife suffers from ovarian cysts from time to time. One time she had such a terrible flare-up they though that she had appendicitis and they actually removed her appendix...only to discover that her appendix was fine and that it was her ovarian cysts flaring up.

A couple years later, she had a return of the pain and went to see her primary care physician. Indian lady, seemed nice enough at the time. This "doctor" ignored every, single thing that my Wife had to say about her lower abdominal pain and then went on to sing the praises of Lipitor. She wanted to push Lipitor on my Wife without so much as a blood test to check for cholesterol issues, etc.

A few weeks later, my Wife collapsed at home and started vomiting and I called her primary care physician and got her on the phone and we then got into an argument about my Wife EVER having ovarian cysts! This is what I was told on the phone, "I did not diagnose her with these..."

This "doctor" was obviously getting some type of kickback "rewards" program[1] for pushing Lipitor and even when it came to the health of her patient a few weeks later, it was as if she didn't even know her. If it wasn't about putting her on a drug so she could get a cash reward or a free trip to the Bahamas, she wasn't interested. So, we fired her ass. But you know what? This sort of corruption is everywhere. Not all Doctors, but enough of them that you should not have faith in them anymore. When you look at the hospital or a doctor's office, you should see a fast food restaraunt. It's just a business.

And today's entry has been about "faith."

At this point in the development of our species, I have about as much faith in science and medicine as I do in religion. Not much at all.

[1] By the way, representatives from pharmaceutical companies do have bennies they give out to doctors for prescribing their medications. Just in case you didn't know. So, doctors can be rewarded for writing more prescriptions for certain medications. Oh, yeah, by the way, police do have ticket writing quotas to meet as well. Maybe not in all departments, but in most of them. Yes they do. When your job performance is measured in how much paper you produce and you don't produce much paper, that's called, "poor job performance."

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