Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thanks and Links

I posted my first blog last night, and by the time I awoke this morning Dan Yurman and Rod Adams had both posted kind words about my blog on their blogs. Thank you, Dan and Rod!

Dan Yurman posted about new nuclear bloggers here

Rod Adams posted about this blog here

And Kirk Sorenson welcomed me here

With this post, I am also adding some site links and a blogroll.


Anonymous said...

I posted about you too!

Meredith Angwin said...

Kirk, thank you very much! There's supposed to be a way to see links to my blog, but I don't know how yet. So I didn't know. Once again, thank you.

Country Mouse said...

Interesting for me to learn about nuclear energy pros and cons using this specific issue. I read an article on the protest march you mention and from the comments I gathered these questions:
1. What about the consequences of major nuclear accidents or a terrorist attack?
2. Is the reactor aged and accident prone?
3. What are the environmental impacts of raising the river water temperature - I gather the reactor has permission to raise the water temperature by 15 degrees (not sure on what scale).
The article was here:

I had a quick look at - Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance whose motto is "Dangerous, Dirty, and Expensive, Not for VT" but who don't post much interesting info on their front page. Just a picture of a broken pipe , water gushing out something big which could be a nuclear power plant, but they don't say. There are two links with more info, and one has a link to two other articles - maybe you could spend some time looking at those and giving your opinion on them in a future post.

And of course I have the same question many others do: What about the issue of dealing with nuclear plant waste material- transporting and storing it?

Thanks for starting this blog - I hope to learn a lot!

Meredith Angwin said...

Hi Country Mouse! (and for all my readers, Country Mouse and City Mouse write an award-winning blog about native plant gardening in California).

You ask some very good questions, but I fear it would take me days to give proper answers. And I just sent off some more blog posts for a friend to read before I post them, and that has to be my priority right now. Actually, doing some paid work should be my priority. Anyway...

All these questions will come up again, but I will give short answers below.

1) Terrorist attack. Reactors are what you might call a "hardened target: Most suicide bombers want to succeed, not just have a low-chance-of-succeeding. Other targets are far easier..for example, an oil refinery or chemical plant. Others know more about this than I do. Maybe they will weigh in.

2) The plant is old. But if is not particularly accident prone. The age-related issues are watched very carefully. Again, like your car. After 60K miles, please check the timing belt and the clutch plate. Similar things for power plants and they are documented in painful detail. Many other plants of this vintage have been granted life extensions.

3) This river thing is the only one that actually annoys me. (Not at you, Country Mouse! At the Educational System!)

The great invention of the 19th century was the heat engine...the ability to turn heat into mechanical work. Most people have never heard of a heat engine. Why? Why? We depend on these things every day!

Your car is a heat engine. All fossil and nuclear and biomass and geothermal power plants are heat engines. They burn fuel, and turn that heat into mechanical work that turns a turbine or the wheels of a car.

And all heat engines reject heat. Two thirds of the heat input to the engine is rejected, one-third actually turns the turbines or moves the car forward. This is an unfortunately consequence of the second law of thermodynamics.

Back to Vermont Yankee and the river. It has two ways of rejecting heat. It can reject heat directly into the river, and is allowed to do this in the winter, through a condenser. It can reject heat through the cooling towers, sending the heat into the air, like your car radiator does, and it does this during the summer to protect the river.

The plant complies with its heat discharge guidelines, winter and summer. If people think the guidelines are too lenient, they could conceivably lobby to get them changed. They would have to have evidence that the change would be worthwhile, of course. Instead, they lobby to get the plant shut down. Sigh.

Country Mouse said...

Thanks, Meredith. For some reason, I hadn't thought about all the engines in the world creating heat. Duh!

I hope I have time to bone up on all these issues - your blog can play a part in educating people for sure.

dave said...

I can speak a little bit more as to the Terrorist Attack issue. Vermont Yankee is what's known as a BWR, or a boiling water reactor. BWRs have very interesting containment buildings that are very hardened. They have two very thick concrete and steel layers between the reactor and the outside world. Access into and out of the buildings is by airlock only.

The guts of the reactor - the pumps and pipes and things that protect it from harm in the event of a plane crash, or something like that are actually underground, in the lowest level of the containment building all in separate sealed blastproofed concrete rooms.

A plane might break the outer wall of the reactor building (the tertiary containment), but it would certainly not break the inner wall of the reactor building (the secondary containment). As the reactor protection and cooling systems are below ground level, they wouldn't be affected one bit. An aircraft fuel fire would result in the extensive water and chemical spray systems within the reactor building activated.

Terrorists on foot might try to attack. However, VY, like every nuclear power plant, has an armed protection force that carries military service rifles. These are not "rent-a-cops". They are a private unit with military equivalent capabilities dedicated to protecting VY from any terrorist foot or vehicle attack.

Even if a suicide bomber managed to get through the armed protection force, into the control building, into the airlock and into the reactor building, and managed to find what they wanted to blow up, there is no single system that if it is blown up will threaten the safety of the reactor. If the bomber attempts to enter the reactor cavity to try and blow up the reactor itself, called the drywell, it is filled with nitrogen gas, so they wouldn't be able to breathe and would die unless they had protective equipment. Even if they somehow managed to climb up and get to the reactor vessel after entering the drywell, and managed to detonate their bomb right next to the reactor, and blew a hole in it, operators would be able to flood the reactor with water using all the undamaged systems in the bottom of the reactor building and keep it cool.

In sum - terrorists attacking a nuclear reactor have no chance of causing any danger to the outside world. And why attack a reactor when there are so many chemical plants that aren't even secured and located far closer to civilian populations?

Meredith Angwin said...

Dave. Thank you for this comment. This is not my expertise area, and I appreciate your help!