JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2006/06/i-am-not-great-fan-of-nuclear-power.html (90 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1149376431-504407  Jay Kominek at Sat, 03 Jun 2006 23:13:51 +0000

I think the risk to people is higher if we continue with the current policy. As it stands, the companies that built the existing reactors want to continue operating them as long as possible (or longer), since the regulatory climate makes it difficult if not impossible for upgrade or replacement.
If building new reactors were easier, companies would be less hesitant to replace/upgrade old designs with newer, safer designs. (Of which there should be no shortage. The navy has been busy cranking out reactors for years, and is apparently on its ninth generation sub reactor design.)

jsid-1149378193-504410  Andrew Upson at Sat, 03 Jun 2006 23:43:13 +0000

The current crop of nuclear reactor designs are not only much safer (inherently) that what is currently in use in the USA today, they also produce a small fraction of the radioactive waste material.

Personally, I think that if we are ever going to get ourselves off oil nuclear power is the only forseeable technology for accomplishing such a goal.

The reason I say that is that to get off oil (at least for passanger cars) the only feasible technology to replace the internal combustion engine is the fuel cell. Hybrids are a stop-gap at best, and batteries are too heavy and take too long to charge to use alone.

The biggest problem with fuel cells is getting a cheap enough source of hydrogen. Sounds simple, given that water is 1/3 hydrogen, and water is the most abundant resource on the planet. Problem is the amount of energy needed to get that hydrogen is too much for our current system to handel, never mind be affordable.

Here is where nuclear power comes in so handy. With the large quantities of power it can generate if we set up a rash of new stations of sufficient size we can not only take coal/gas plants off line we can also use the surplus power to produce the hydrogen.

Power plants hate having to constantly change their output. If you simply ran the plant at the same output all the time you would ultimatly save money in plant operations, and whatever wasn't being used by consumers would automatically go to the hydrogen plants.

That's kind of an oversimplified explanation, but I've yet to find someone that can argue against the merits of the idea. Details, perhaps, but not the overall idea.

jsid-1149378276-504411  Andrew Upson at Sat, 03 Jun 2006 23:44:36 +0000

Opps, meant to type that water is 2/3 hydrogen.

jsid-1149378540-504412  Andrew Upson at Sat, 03 Jun 2006 23:49:00 +0000

Oh yeah, one more thing. I'm not so sure I believe Fusco that all of those kids' problems were caused by Chernobyl. Some, sure, but e.g. the kid with MS is one that I'm doubting. Even if radiation can cause MS (could be wrong but I don't think it does), there's plenty of possibilities that he'd have gotten MS anyway. That's just one example, but there's other kids that I kinda raised by eyebrows at WRT the Chernobyl connection.

jsid-1149387867-504418  Parallel at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 02:24:27 +0000


Are you sure you want public policy to be driven by visceral reactions to photographs of worst-case scenario human tragedy?

Wouldn't the Brady Campaign want legislators to consider gun policy in the context of gun wound pictures from inner-city emergency rooms?

In both cases, the horror of the representation makes it very hard to make rational, statistics- and logic-based decisions based on the totality of the evidence and theory.

Look--people died because of the Three Mile Island accident. They died because coal-powered generating plants had to be brought on line to cover the demand for electricity, and the increased pollution was too much for their already-compromised lungs to handle.

If you want policy-makers to look at the Chernobyl pictures, then also require them to look at pictures of lung tissue blackened by decades of coal smoke.

jsid-1149389635-504419  homeboy at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 02:53:55 +0000

Clearly nuclear plants in France don't cost nearly as much as nuclear plants in the US. How much of the extra cost in the US is due to regulatory tests that are now inappropriate since they were developed at a time when far less was known about what is required to build a nuclear plant safely? How much of the cost in the US is strictly a political poison pill to attempt to kill nuclear plant construction?

And yes, I did view the slide show before commenting. Having also read quite a bit about Chernobyl, I believe that it is reasonable to say that it is highly improbable that it could happen here, or that the ensueing damage would be so hopelessly mis-managed.

jsid-1149408419-504429  Bob at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 08:06:59 +0000

'Someone once said, "Using nuclear fission to boil water is like cutting butter with a chainsaw." In large part, I'm in agreement with that assessment.'

That's not an assessment; at best it could be called a quip but it is not really all that clever even.

What Andrew said is spot on.

And Chernobyl does not even have any relevance to the use of nuclear fission to generate power other than as a good example of
1) a poor design: not inherently safe; run in a mode to generate material for bomb production rather than strictly for power generation.
2) a poorly run facility. Personel problems; maintainance problems.
3) poor management decisions. An unnecessary experiment was being run with people who did not have the best qualifications on equipment that was not properly maintained with instrumentation that was not up to the job being asked of it.

There are modern designs for fission plans that are inherently safe and in which a "Three Mile Island" or "Chernoble" type of accident cannot happen. As for "boiling water", it is all a matter of scale; if you only need enough for a cup of tea it is a bit much. If you want to boil enough for every one in California to have a cup of tea along with air conditioning and indoor lighting, it might be just the thing. The liberals out there ought to like that there would be no green house gas emissions to go along with it either.

Less well known is that nuke plant emit less radiation than coal plants. Google '"coal ash" radiation' for a little eye opener.

jsid-1149409355-504430  Jay.Mac at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 08:22:35 +0000

You might be interested in reading Michael Crichton's speech here - http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/index.html ("Fear, Complexity, Environmental Management in the 21st Century"). He wanted to write a novel about a global disaster and so he began to research Chernobyl. What he found surprised him.

jsid-1149426450-504436  Oz at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 13:07:30 +0000

I can tell you for sure that Naval plants are just about as safe as possible. One of the quirks of my profession is that as a nuclear submariner I will actually get less exposure than just about any other profession - these plants emit less than background.
Fun radiation facts:
A Naval operator might get 1 rem in his entire career.
The average person living in the northwest or northeast picks up about 200 mrem/year from radon alone.
Smokers average 1 rem/year from their habit.
Cosmic rays and sunlight account for at least another 100 mrem/year.

Of course, the low radiation figures are from properly operating plants; accidents are a different story. But the pressurized water reactors we use are inherently stable at power. The automatic safety features are quite effective and very sensitvie, and the regulatory environment is such that major inquiries are done if even the lowest level ones are triggered. As I've often observed, the amount of missteps required to cause an accident is so high that it departs from operator error and borders on operator intent.

jsid-1149431873-504438  DJ at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 14:37:53 +0000

Digging up gazillions of tons of coal to boil water is like melting butter on the radiator of a dragline.

The parallels in this country continue to amaze me. One such comparison is why it took so long to bring each nuclear power station on line vs. why it takes so long to execute someone who has been convicted and sentenced to capital punishment. If you'll pardon the pun, it doesn't take as long as it takes (or tooks?). The delays are, and were, invariably caused by "the opposition", i.e. people who are willing to spend time, effort, and money on delay, delay, delay.

The tactic worked with the nuclear power industry. How long has it been since construction began on a new plant in this country? How many were started, only to be stopped and abandoned?

If the Luddites would shut the hell up and if a good, modern design were replicated, as in France and in the Navy, the cost would be perhaps an order of magnitude lower, as would be the time required to build them. The Navy has proved that nuclear power can be done safely, even when it's portable.

Consider the notion of using hydrogen to power automobiles. It's quite efficient and the byproduct is water vapor. Tastes great, less filling, but where do you get the hydrogen? It can be produced from water using electric current, but it requires a bit more energy than is released when it's burned. So, how about a standard design for new nuclear power plants that includes hydrogen generation, piping it directly into a distribution system?

Nope, I haven't studied the notion. But, wouldn't it be better to have it in place before oil becomes a scarce commodity? It's time to start studying the notion, ain't it?

jsid-1149462190-504456  Ben at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 23:03:10 +0000

Fusion is the answer.

jsid-1149465153-504461  Sarah at Sun, 04 Jun 2006 23:52:33 +0000

Just FYI: The fusion comment was posted by Ben, not me.


I used you computer to comment on here when I was visiting and forgot to reset the defaults on Mozilla. Sorry. Would you reset 'em, please?

jsid-1149466567-504464  Rhett at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 00:16:07 +0000

Guys, I don't think Kevin is at all against nuclear power. But in the realm of risking an accident every 20 years vs having no nuclear power alone, the latter answer of no nuclear power is harder to say no to when you see the humon cost, or almost as bad, live near a nuclear plant.

I think what Kevin, and I agree with is some super smart people in the proper fields should get together, make one design, and stick with it. THe knee-jerk reactions by the pictures could be bad, but they are also invaluable. Show every construction worker, foremen, scientist, and technician the result of shoddy and shitty design and work, and tell them if they fuck up they'll have people linning up to piss on their graves for centuries.

jsid-1149475935-504480  Baddog at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 02:52:15 +0000

Do a search for pebblebed reactor and read up on the newer tech. available. Yes, a large part of the cost is CONSTANT litigation and harassment to every issue that has "nuclear" in it. Nukes are generally run as "base-load" plants because they don't like being ramped up or down in power level. Amer. reactors are safe and run according to extremely detailed technical specification as part of their licenses. The hard part is keeping them at power, they want to shut down at every hiccup, real or false.

jsid-1149478130-504484  Kevin Baker at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 03:28:50 +0000

Rhett gets it.

Thanks, Rhett.

jsid-1149491653-504495  Deamon at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 07:14:13 +0000

Kevin, how many nuclear plants has the US military run, and for how long, without incident?

jsid-1149507496-504505  tomWright at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 11:38:16 +0000

Kevin are trackbacks working?

jsid-1149510957-504511  Oz at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 12:35:57 +0000

Deamon, the US Navy has never had an accident and has steamed for over 1,000,000 miles on nuclear power. The military overall has suffered one; a prototype being run by the Army (I think) went prompt supercritical and killed its three operators. Look up "SL-1" for more info.

jsid-1149512770-504513  drstrangegun at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 13:06:10 +0000

Chernobyl isn't a warning against nuclear power or the ramifications thereof; Chernobyl is a warning against graphite reactors, just like three-mile island is a warning against lightwater cooled reactors, etc.

I say we co-opt some of the earlier Naval designs and drop one per state, maybe more than that. Use a nice small unit that minimizes the contamination risk if something does go wrong and deploy in the hundreds, inside reinforced concrete blockhouses with 40' thick walls flush with the surface. Viola, power, safely, with no terror or theft threat.

jsid-1149514671-504518  Bilgeman at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 13:37:51 +0000


I sail with enough ex-bubbleheads to be able to vouch for the Navy's succesful reactor program, but you seem to miss one or two very, VERY important components to the USN's success.

1) The Rickover Legacy. How long did it take you to be "Qualified in Submarines"? And what was it like when the teams came down for your boat's Engineering "E" exams?
I've heard, and from more than one sailor, that it's ass-pucker time for the entire crew.
Do you think civilian operators get that kind of in-depth and continuing training and evaluation?

2) Budget. Utilities are required to generate a profit. Navy does not.
As much as their PR claims otherwise, in a pissin' contest between safety and budget, budget swings bigger dick...every time.

3) The Captain rides with the reactor. Part and parcel of sailing, both above and below the surface.

Do you think a utility company CEO and/or Chairman of the Board are going to move their families to and live on the grounds of their nuclear power station?

And if they are unwilling to do so, then why should anyone else?

Fact is, the reason we have stopped building fission power plants has everything to do with market forces. We have decided that the risks far outweigh the benefits.
And as much as the industry would like to change public perception,(so that we FEEL safe), the industry itself has to change.

I'd FEEL a lot safer about a fission plant if the CEO, CFO, and voting Board members all lived on the grounds of the facility they manage, along with their families.


jsid-1149517832-504529  Kevin Baker at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 14:30:32 +0000

"Kevin are trackbacks working?"

Haven't a clue, Tom

Great discussion, ladies & gentlemen. Thank you for your input.

jsid-1149518934-504533  Oz at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 14:48:54 +0000

Bildgeman, I realize now that I mispoke before. I'm not qualified yet; I'm at prototype now, so calling myself a submariner was a mistake. I blame wishful thinking and lack of sleep. But to answer your question, I've been in for a year and I don't expect to get my dolphins for at least another year and a half. I've heard the same things about ORSE time on the boat, too.

More on point, Kevin said that any new plants have "got to be safe." Well, no shit. "Safe" is one of those words that's easy to abuse. An unloaded gun is safer than a loaded one; a gun that's never made is even safer than that. Likewise, a non-existant reactor is safer than an operating one. Life requires risk, however, and nuclear power presents a miniscule one, IMO.

Would I live on the grounds of my prototype? No, but that's just because it would be a crappy place to live. It has nothing to do with any dangers related to the plant. It's hardly fair to demand a person to force his kids to live in an industrial zone in exchange for the dubious privelige of providing your electricity.

jsid-1149523034-504544  Bilgeman at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 15:57:14 +0000


Good luck on your Dolphins. The fastest I've ever heard of anyone earning 'em was 4 months IIRC, and the fellow claims to have turned himself into a dish-rag to do so.

"It's hardly fair to demand a person to force his kids to live in an industrial zone in exchange for the dubious privelige of providing your electricity."

Fair? What could be MORE fair?

It's about their ass backing up the safety check that their mouth has written.

If it's such a safe and well-run plant, then a CEO should have no problem putting his kids to bed at night half a mile from the containment building, right?

Let's ensure that if ANYONE'S children end up in a facility like the one Fusco essayed, it be first the offspring of those who make the decisions between budget and safety, huh?

Providing electricity isn't just a "privilege", dubious or otherwise, it's also a business...they expect to make money, and lots of it, from me.
I'll choose not to extend them that privilege if their business model includes irradiating me and mine. (It's a little much to ask from your customers...y'know?)

"Life requires risk,"

Indeed. Y'know, the last time I heard that line was on the M/V Rover.

We were carrying 25k tons of North Sea unleaded gasoline from the UK to New York. Our inert-gas plant was out of action, so we had no CO2 blanket over the cargo, and as an extra added bonus, we had a gang of Indian welders out on the stern replacing rusted ventilator covers.

You could see the vapors pouring out of the pressure-vacuum vents on the tanks, trailing right astern to where Mr. Oojieboogie was wielding his gas-axe and his stinger.

I questioned the "sanity" of this at our weekly "Safety Meeting", and got the canned "Managed Risk" sloganeering.

So I jumped ship at Perth Amboy.
A month later, the OMI Charger,(of the same company), blew up and sank in the Houston Ship Channel, killing two poor schmucks-contract welders.

Let those who "manage" assume the most "risk", say I. If they opt not to, then they can go piss up a rope.


jsid-1149535755-504568  Rand. at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 19:29:15 +0000

Bilgeman- As with any, and _all_ industries, there is potential harm to be had with manufactoring and product. Death from lung cancer is no more or less worse (it's still lung cancer), whether it's caused by smoking, pollution from cars, air fresheners, radon from the earth, a rotary phone, radiation from oil and gas, radiation from coal fly ash, or radiation from a theoretical fission plant accident.

Should the CEO, CFO, and all the other C alphabets be forced to live near thier companies industry? What about other pollutants, should C*O's be forced to live near thier paper mills, or acid factories? Dog food plants? (If you've ever lived or drove past one you'll know what I speak of)

Perhaps they're unwilling to because the property sucks. Whether or not there's a nuke plant on the property. Lot's of plants are out in the middle of nowhere... Far away from those things people want to live near, because that's the only land they could get, or it was the cheapest land they could get... Because no one wanted to live there. Before the plant. Why then would anyone, C*O or not, want to live there?

I'm not saying they should get a pass on safety, but why should they be kept in durance vile, by force, any more so than any other C*O? Why aren't the current threats enough? Ok, separate topic there.

Here's the thing- Fission isn't necessarily a bad thing. Repeat that. Fission isn't necessarily bad.

Mismanagement is your enemy. Fission isn't any more damaging/destructive than 10's of thousands of other potentially things we do. Look up trains. You want scary, think about what get's carried across railways without anyone around having the slightest clue... Propane tanks, enough to blow up most of a city or more. Chlorine gas, enough to hostpitalize 1000 people in one accident. LPF, amonia, toxic waste like chicken remains. Look up oil spills. Valdez for example. Chemical spills, hazardous waste dumping. Heck, you're more likely to die, and horribly so, from driving your car than from a nuke plant.

Now look up radiation exposure from coal burning power plants. That's garunteed exposure, not possible. Remember, it takes something going very wrong, in present day case, something going very very wrong, for anyone to get radiation exposure from a fission plant. Coal gives radiation to people every day.

So no, I won't support forcing C*O's to live near thier nuke plants.

Kevin- Thanks again for getting the extra long comment option.

While I can understand your desire for conformity of plant design, I have to play somewhat dumb and ask why? Is the same design repeated 100's or 1000's of times inherently more safe? With the governments monolithic movement tendancy once ossified on a design, do you think a consistent design that will be flexible enough to keep up with new and innovative safety and effieciency developements? It's certainly not the case currently, with no new reactors being approved since the 70's, and thus no new designs being allowed?

As to current designs, there's scores to choose from, that are all safer, more effiecient, produce less waste, and less dangerous waste. Someone already mentioned pebble-bed, which is just about meltdown proof. Or Thorium based fuel reactors. Just a few.

Nuke is the _only_ way, short of the holy grail called fusion, that we'll get away from hydrocarbon based energy.


jsid-1149539863-504576  Kevin Baker at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 20:37:43 +0000


"Is the same design repeated 100's or 1000's of times inherently more safe?"

In some ways. For instance, a single design ensures that somone trained on one reactor can work at any other reactor without being extensively retrained. Any design improvement can be repeated through all the operating reactors - no more one-of-a-kind components or systems like we have today.

jsid-1149543679-504579  FabioC. at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 21:41:19 +0000

Indeed, the Chinese are pursuing standardization on a fairly small (100 MW) scale with their pebble-bed (HTR) reactors, which also happen to be very unsuitable for the production of nuclear weapons materials.

Bilgeman, I know a guy who used to be a sailor, and his horror stories about ship "safety" are pretty similar...

jsid-1149548612-504583  Phelps at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 23:03:32 +0000

If using nuclear fission to boil water is like cutting butter with a chainsaw, then burning coal to keep the lights on is like cooking your steak by loading your grill with old tires.

jsid-1149548855-504584  Kevin Baker at Mon, 05 Jun 2006 23:07:35 +0000


We should keep the lights on by burning old tires??

jsid-1149554479-504595  DJ at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 00:41:19 +0000

Is the same design repeated 100's or 1000's of times inherently more safe?

No, it's not. There is nothing about repeating the build that makes the design inherently more safe. But, if you build more each of fewer designs, then you can afford to put more effort into designing, testing, and proving what you do build, and that tends to make them more safe.

It you have 100's or 1000's of designs instead of one carefully done, heavily thrashed about and tested design, then it's more likely they were designed by 10's or 100's of design teams, and it's more likely that some team, somewhere, will design a catastrophe and the proving and testing won't catch it in time.

The proof is in the puddin', as it were. Chernobyl was one design that the designers screwed up and the operators blew up. The Navy's designs are the opposite end of that spectrum.

jsid-1149554959-504596  Bilgeman at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 00:49:19 +0000


"Bilgeman- As with any, and _all_ industries, there is potential harm to be had with manufactoring and product."

I think I'm probably as acquainted with that as anyone, perhaps more so, given my racket.

"Here's the thing- Fission isn't necessarily a bad thing. Repeat that. Fission isn't necessarily bad."

I never claimed that it WAS a bad thing, but it doesn't occur in a vacuum, ace.
It takes place in a few very rarefied environments, one of which is in a Naval setting where budget, either for training or for maintenance, is essentially no object;
the other being a for-profit enterprise where there certainly are budgetary constraints upon both training AND maintenance,(and manpower, and everything else).

"Mismanagement is your enemy."

I'll determine who and what my enemies are, thanks all the same.

I assert that the profit motive is the enemy. It is the profit motive that invariably lies at the bottom of what is later labelled "mismanagement"...after the disaster, naturally,(not much is learned without body bags and price tags being attached, is it?).

"Fission isn't any more damaging/destructive than 10's of thousands of other potentially things we do."

Sure it is, both quantitatively and qualitatively... what an asinine thing for you to say.

Name me another industry that, as a matter of normal operation, creates materials that are, and remain,hazardous to human life for tens of thousands of years.

Petroleum and chemical refineries suffer fires and explosions fairly regularly, they are repaired, and are back in operation. The cities they are located in aren't condemned for human habitation...usually.

Coal is indeed a nasty substance to deal with, from mining it to transporting it, to burning it to disposing of it's ashes. But it generally takes decades of exposure to kill you, and it kills only you.

There are coal tips in many cities, but no-one has yet shown an increase in the rates of cancers or genetic mutations that can be attributed to their presence...are you asserting that a plutonium "tip" would be no different?

I think not.

"Heck, you're more likely to die, and horribly so, from driving your car than from a nuke plant."

Ahh, so because some drunk might get blotto and paste me across his fender, then I should "be reasonable" and allow the "Two Guys Electric Corporation" to slam a 5 MW reactor behind my back fence, or next to my kid's school while the two guys never approach their facility closer than two states away?


jsid-1149555042-504597  Bilgeman at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 00:50:42 +0000


My last rust-bucket. The good stuff begins on page 12:



jsid-1149562110-504609  Dan at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 02:48:30 +0000

im so sorry to get off topic, but you seem to be a huge gun lobbyist...

I'm reminded of the sketch Family Guy did on this:
Founding fathers around a table, one of them is holding up the Bill of Rights
FF1: "Alright, we're done!"
FF2: "Do you think the language in the second Amendment is clear enough? You know, about the right to bear arms?"
FF3: "Of course it's clear! Every Amercian has the right to hang a pair of bear arms on their wall, how can that possibly be misconstrued?"
FF1: "Alright, fantastic then. Wait, you know what? Before we send this to the printer, let's take that abortion thing out..."

jsid-1149570753-504614  Kevin Baker at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 05:12:33 +0000

Sorry, Dan, but if I were a "huge gun lobbyist" wouldn't I have an equally huge income, live in a mansion, and hobnob with politicians?

Saw that episode. It drew a grin, but I don't find The Family Guy all that funny. I'm with Cartman on that, if nothing else.

My favorite gun-related cartoon episode is The Simpsons "The Cartridge Family" episode when Homer gets a gun. That had me rolling.

I so want to open a gun shop named "Bloodbath and Beyond."

jsid-1149573399-504616  Deamon at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 05:56:39 +0000

I'd suggest that there are many industries that can inadvertantly wipe out a city (Bopal anyone?), or posion the land for a long time. Abandonded coal mines here in Ohio have got alot of people worried becuase they seem to leach sulfuric acid into the water table forever. (Don't ask me the exact science on this though, I can't remember the exact chemical process that has caused this.)

Certainly there are risks to using Nuclear powerplants, but they aren't insurmountable, and we need more power. So untill someone gets the Geosynchronous Solar collectors working, Nuke power looks to have the best conversion rate available.

jsid-1149583791-504621  Anon at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 08:49:51 +0000

I'm not sure how long it takes to build a coal plant, but I thought I heard that Westinghouse had a new modular (or prefab) plant design that is supposed to take 3 years to set up (apparently that's light speed compared to other nuclear reactor plants). I'm not sure what it's status is, though.

jsid-1149596476-504632  FabioC. at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 12:21:16 +0000

Actually, toxic heavy metals have been produced by natural processes and will remain toxic as long as biological life exists on Earth.

Nuclear reactors need to be built and run carefully to avoid serious accidents, and profit-driven corporations will be tempted to take shortcuts. However, the worst accident to date occurred in a socialist country. One point is not a trend, anyway.

jsid-1149602361-504646  markm at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 13:59:21 +0000

"in a Naval setting where budget, either for training or for maintenance, is essentially no object"

I was in the Air Force, not the Navy, but "the budget is no object" certainly didn't apply there. The budget was everything. We (the electronics repair squadron) were perpetually understaffed and short of spare parts.

Now, it's true that a huge proportion of that budget was essentially wasted. There were the $800 brass nuts. There was the no-wax floor tile, which the squadron Chief Master Sergeant insisted had to be waxed. There's the %100-%200 markup that comes with everything done under a defense contract just to cover the paperwork the goverment requires (mainly to prove that the contractor isn't cheating the government). And finally, they spent hundreds of millions on new test equipment specifically for the F11-D just before they junked the airplanes.

But all that is the result of entrusting budgeting decisions to a huge bureaucracy whose jobs don't depend on their performance. In business, you've got the profit motive - if someone else can do it much cheaper than you, your company is going to wind up cutting jobs or folding entirely. OTOH, you've got to keep things reasonably safe, or you lose more money in lawsuits, etc. The main thing driving factory safety isn't government regulations but workman's compensation costs, and a power company that mishandled a reactor would be sued into bankruptcy.

And on the third hand, if you gold-plate everything in the interests of safety or reliability or anything else, you wind up not being able to afford to do much. Nearly half of our airplanes were always grounded waiting for parts, and that would have cost lives if there had been a war on. In the civilian world, insufficient electrical power costs lives - people with medical conditions aggravated by heat waves when there's no power for air conditioning, fires started by candles when the lights are out, etc. You need to balance the requirements for safety, etc., against actually getting the job done at reasonable cost. Government bureaucrats don't perform such balancing very well at all - since doing well at is has nothing at all to do with their job retention and promotions.

jsid-1149607874-504660  Rand. at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 15:31:14 +0000


The problem is, by locking designs to cookie cutter plants, you lock out _all_ advances in safety and effieciency. So long as any advance is made in reactor technology, your request for "identical" designs is inherently LESS safe. In effect, you're trading a known and garunteed lack of safety, for a possibly worse, but still theoretical, problem.

I'm not saying each reactor should be different, and special. But just as to far on one scale is dangerous, so to is the other end of the scale here.


As someone else already pointed out, budget is always an issue, even with the military. Regardless, budget issues are always a management issue. And as I stated, mismanagement is the/your enemy.

Fine, determine who your enemy is. You'll have to excuse me for drawing the logical conclusion from your own words. You assert that management issues, budget constraints, maintenance, manpower, everything else, are the bad part about fission reactors. Or did I fail to comprehend what you wrote?

"Name me another industry that..."
Long term effects: Genetic-engineering, Medicine, Religeon, Military (Biologic, Explosives, Chemical, Science, Nuclear weapon, Unexploded ordenance), Chemical, Nano-technology, Anything utilizing advanced materials science, Industry in general, petroleum, Coal fired plants as stated several times.

I cite the others I've mentioned for initial and short term destructive effects, as well.

Asinine, Ok. But realistic.

And not fatalistic, intransient, or blind.

Lets take the Petroleum industry you just waved off... A BLEVE, boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion, can level a city. A rather large city if enough liquefied petroleum gas is involved. And like I eluded to previously, check out industrial rail transporting of hazardous materials. Through cities.

Coal is, itself, radioactive. Small amounts, granted, but when the coal is burned off, those small amounts get concentrated, and cast out via the ash into the air. Everyone downwind of a coal plant is exposed, daily, not just to the normal nastiness of pollution, but to radioactive ash that will enter the lungs and stay.

I'm trying to understand the kills only you comment... "But it generally takes decades of exposure to kill you, and it kills only you." I'm sure you were going somewhere, but I don't see where.

Um. I'm not sure where you get your information from, but there's plenty of evidence and research that shows increaded rates of cancer, alone, from coal power production. Starting with mining, and increased radon levels in the area, to the radioactive ash that is spewed in burning it off.

Last time I checked, plutonium is created, not mined. I don't understand where you're going with plutonium tip.

Talk about an asinine comment.

From a risk management aspect, sure, you should be reasonable. Or don't be, and don't drive. In fact, don't leave your house. And definitely play the lottery, lots. And while you're at it, live down wind of that coal plant you seem to think is so safe.

No, you shouldn't let some two bit corporation construct and operate a nuke plant. Neither should you force, under probable duress, someone to live somewhere they don't want to.

There's no acceptable justification for that.


jsid-1149617851-504683  Bilgeman at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 18:17:31 +0000


"There's no acceptable justification for that."

Do you negotiate much? There's every justification for forcing someone to do what they don't want to do...it's called a "contract" as opposed to a "mandate".

We don't (yet), allow private companies to erect things like nuclear stations, (or fossil-powered generation stations either, for that matter), by mandate, chum.

So there's this thing called "give and take".

I'll consent to give them license to operate the nuclear plant that they claim is totally safe, IF their CEO and his family will consent to live in an estate on the station grounds.

Frankly, I'd feel the same way about refineries and coal stations.

Betcha they'd all have a much better safety record if we did it my way.


jsid-1149625549-504699  Kristopher at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 20:25:49 +0000

I want a nuclear powered SUV.

A strontium-90 powered pebble-bed reactor would work well here.

jsid-1149628698-504702  Kevin Baker at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 21:18:18 +0000

You can bet the center of gravity would be looooow!

Hey! The return of the Stanley Steamer!

jsid-1149637012-504714  ben at Tue, 06 Jun 2006 23:36:52 +0000

fusion... fusion... beuler?

jsid-1149640062-504718  Kevin Baker at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 00:27:42 +0000

Fusion's just twenty years away, Ben.

Just like it has been for the last fifty years...

jsid-1149642176-504719  DJ at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 01:02:56 +0000

The problem is, by locking designs to cookie cutter plants, you lock out _all_ advances in safety and effieciency. So long as any advance is made in reactor technology, your request for "identical" designs is inherently LESS safe.

Any design can take into account only what is known at the time it is designed and built, and, yes, that takes into account knowing how to make it be adaptable for the future. Nuclear power technology is not in its infancy. After six decades of experience, the technology is quite mature, even if the existing power plants are old. By designing a plant now and spending a large amount of effort on its design and testing, all those advances in safety and efficiency could be incorporated, which would make that design as safe as it can be at the time it is designed, and would minimize the likelihood that someone will be part of such a design team somewhere who doesn't quite know what he thinks he knows. Again, the proof is in the puddin'. That is exactly what the Navy has done and it has paid off handsomely. The cost per unit built is less and the safety is quite high, as their track record shows.

In effect, you're trading a known and garunteed lack of safety, for a possibly worse, but still theoretical, problem.

What "known and guaranteed lack of safety" is that? The notion that something might be better later does not mean that it is not good now.

Even had it been spelled right, that is a preposterous statement.

jsid-1149642581-504720  Brett Bellmore at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 01:09:41 +0000

I think the best thing to do is build one or two fusion plants for the whole country... Using nuclear bombs for fuel "pellets". ;)

I've loved that concept, ever since I first read about it back in the 70's: Excavate a HUGE underground cavity, spray water into it, detonate nuke. Extract steam to run turbines, returning water, until the steam quality drops too low... Detonate another nuke.

The paper I read on this indicated that low quality steam would attenuate the blast wave to be perfectly survivable by the chamber wall, and fusion bombs are a well proven technology.

jsid-1149645597-504724  Kevin Baker at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 01:59:57 +0000

You want to live anywhere near that plant?

jsid-1149646649-504725  Parallel at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 02:17:29 +0000

Let's talk about the physics of fission for a moment.

When a neutron hits a Uranium atom, one of two things can happen. (1) The atom splits into two or more daughter atoms, or (2) the atom accepts the atom, gets heavier, and is transmuted into a heavier atom (like say Plutonium).

Trans-uranic elements like Plutonium can have very long half-lives, and tend to be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

Fission products (everything from Hydrogen to Thorium) can be very radioactive, but they naturally decay to background radiation levels in a couple of hundred years.

I've personally visited multi-hundred-year-old buildings in Europe, so I'm pretty confident we can build containment that will last that long.

So why do we have to worry about hundreds of thousands of years worth of containment? And, oh by the way, why don't the French or Japanese or Russians worry about it?

Because Jimmy Carter decided in the 1970s that it was too dangerous to reprocess spent reactor fuel, recycling those trans-Uranic elements into new fuel rods. He thought it would be too easy for Plutonium to be diverted to nefarious purposes. On the other hand, the French, Japanese, Russians, etc all reprocess their spent fuel.

So how about reprocessing the fuel on-site, right next to the reactor, so that diversion is next to impossible? Never let the radioactive elements out of a high-radiation field so someone trying to steal it would have an even harder time?

Well, Al Gore (through Hazel O'Leary) killed *that* project being run by Argonne National Laboratory in the early 1990s. It cost DOE more money to shut down the project than let it run to completion.

Go figure.

jsid-1149646998-504729  DJ at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 02:23:18 +0000

You want to live anywhere near that plant?

Go see http://www.okgeosurvey1.gov/level2/nuke.cat.1.html

Apparently the USA has never detonated a fusion device underground. Given the size of the hole it made during the "Mike" test, I don't want to be on the same continent.

jsid-1149648201-504732  Kevin Baker at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 02:43:21 +0000


"When a neutron hits a Uranium atom, one of two things can happen. (1) The atom splits into two or more daughter atoms, or (2) the atom accepts the atom (neutron), gets heavier, and is transmuted into a heavier atom (like say Plutonium)."

Err, no. At least, not exactly. You're leaving out the beta decay part of the cycle.

jsid-1149661671-504743  Tom OQuinn at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 06:27:51 +0000

It is now 01:50 in the morning at the Nuclear power plant where I have worked for 25 years. Trust me when I tell you this is the safest job I have ever had. The commenter who said something about upgrades/replacement, it's called power uprate and is becomming all the rage. Takes 5 years, is performed during refuel outages, and is generally paid for by increased generation by the time its done. New designs are passive safety designs, that means fewer valves/systems to test and maintain.
Your guess at $60 a MW is way high.
Tonight it runs $60 for gas turbines, $20 for coal, and $4 per Mw for nukes. That is fuel cost only operations and maint. is comparable. And factor in, my plant is not in the bottom quartile in costs.

jsid-1149662990-504744  Eric Sivula at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 06:49:50 +0000

Kevin, the beta decay for U-239 into Pu-239 is about 2 and a half days. The U-239 turns into Np-239 after 23 or so minutes. The Neptunium becomes Plutonium after 2.3 days.

This decay usually occurs while the plant is active. In fact, the real difference between conventional nuclear plants designed to maximize electrical output and breeder reactors is the location of the fuel rods. The closer they are, the more plutonium and less steam you get. Spread the rods, out and the opposite occurs.

Since much of the beta decay is occuring the reactor, how does it effect the reprocessing?

jsid-1149667464-504745  Tom OQuinn at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 08:04:24 +0000

As an addendum, the biggest part of any plant is the generating side, the reactor side is relatively small. And in this country we have two basic designs Boiling water reactors and pressurized water designs. GE and Westinghouse respectively. As for the training aspect, I go to training every five weeks, I have annual tests,and if I don't pass, I won't go back to work untill I do. Minimum score is 80%, and if you always scrape by, you will get to discuss it with the boss to find out what the problem is.
As for cleanliness, I wouldn't feel to bad about eating off the floor in the reactor building "wouldn't drink the water."
The comment about "carefully designing a plant" I am constantly amazed by the depth to which the design process was carried, and remember I've been at this for 25 years.
And as for improvements, it is a constant process, some are mandated, some are not.
I know most of the commenters are very well read and well intentioned in their comments, but you really have to be in the business to understand why our safety record is where it is. The TMI mess was a wakeup call for the industry, and in this country it worked very well. The Chernyobl thing, the least part of their problem was plant design, and yes it was a design that no one else would build. I got to read the report written by the civilian head of the russian nuclear program, it was much worse than what was reported. The reason the area was abandoned was no one tried to clean it up. Don't ask how, it was a minimum 30Km radius.
The comment about having the CEO on site, no thanks, they can only correct what they understand, and having a business major direct operations at a nuke, just does'nt add up.

jsid-1149684923-504764  Bilgeman at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 12:55:23 +0000


"I know most of the commenters are very well read and well intentioned in their comments, but you really have to be in the business to understand why our safety record is where it is."

Well, I'm trying to understand THIS particular "oopsie-boo-boo":


It seems that not allowing the lid of your reactor to rust away would be right on up there on the (undoubtedly) exhaustive safety checklists that have to get reviewed.

Or am I wrong?

(Full disclosure: I once worked for a FirstEnergy subsidiary).

"The TMI mess was a wakeup call for the industry, and in this country it worked very well."

It seems that the gang in neighboring Ohio hit the nuclear "snooze button", didn't it?

Fact of the matter is, the TMI wake-up call also served as a death knell.

Which, when you think about it, is PRECISELY the problem with fission nuclear power...the FIRST inkling anyone other than the motherfucker who is "gun-decking" the log books has that the reactor's lid is wasted could very well be nausea, hair loss, uncontrollable diarrhea and a very unpleasant death for a very large number of people.

Oh, gee...that's right, I can join a class-action lawsuit against the utility,(as another commenter observed)...how nice...assuming, of course, that I survive.

Honestly, though, I'd rather have my family and my life back.

Maybe we should consult with those Kiev area mothers which option THEY would prefer?


jsid-1149693516-504782  Kevin Baker at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 15:18:36 +0000


"Your guess at $60 a MW is way high."

That was a sell price, not a cost to generate.

jsid-1149721576-504854  Tom OQuinn at Wed, 07 Jun 2006 23:06:16 +0000


There are the lazy and stupid anywhere you go. The engineer responsible, probably wasn't born when TMI screwed the pooch, and likely will be barred from working in the industry again. But at the end of the day, they found it before it broke. Several utilities have replaced their reactor heads due to this problem.
Another benefit of starting up this type of heavy industry, is the US will learn again, how to do the heavy forging and related engineering. That is something we have done over seas now. We as an industry are not perfect, but we havent killed anyone by irradiation at a commercial plant. Test reactors and fossil plants, dozens. The Russians I don't count because at the time the government ran those plants. Just for general info, the RBMK units don't have a containment. And Bilgman, I'm not trying to convince anyone that it's all good, it's generally better than a lot of alternatives.

jsid-1149739700-504876  Kevin Baker at Thu, 08 Jun 2006 04:08:20 +0000


I'm sure someone said something similar in Bhopal.

"We as an industry are not perfect, but we havent killed anyone by irradiation at a commercial plant."


Attitude check requested.

jsid-1149750214-505595  Tom OQuinn at Thu, 08 Jun 2006 07:03:34 +0000

Attitude check?

Mine is fine, just discussing the industry I work in, and believe to be the safest of any that I have personal experience in. I seem to detect a little antitechnology feeling in the references to chemical plants in third world countries. If we are to look for lives to save, cars kill more than died in Bophal every year, still legal. Cigeretts cause more heart and lung disease than power plant emissions of any type, still legal and regaining popularity with the younger types. And yes those are unsubstantiated opinions. But as for attitude, nothing personal, taken or offered.

jsid-1149767421-505602  Bilgeman at Thu, 08 Jun 2006 11:50:21 +0000


"Several utilities have replaced their reactor heads due to this problem."

Now THAT'S a comforting bit of news...NOT!

I hadn't heard that there was more than one rusting and corroded reactor lid, now you inform me that there have been "several".

"And Bilgman, I'm not trying to convince anyone that it's all good, it's generally better than a lot of alternatives."

Oh, I agree. I don't have a beef with fission per se, but with the way the sacrosanct "market forces" can and do negatively influence their operation and maintenance, and the impact of that on safety.

You seemed critical of having a Business Major running a nuclear power station, but I ask you: Aren't they doing exactly that anyway?

My requirement would acknowledege and accept the fact. A Business Major would STILL run an atomic power plant, it's just that his family would live on the grounds. As I pointed out to Ben: make the Captain ride with the reactor.

"I seem to detect a little antitechnology feeling in the references to chemical plants in third world countries."

I think you're misidentifying what is being criticized.
Those chemical plants were erected in 3rd world countries PRECISELY to dodge US and 1st world safety and construction laws.
Business majors again...budgetary imperatives to maximize profits.

It's a distillation of what kind of shit gets pulled when the money people can have the dirty and dangerous work performed somewhere else by somebody else and risk the lives of people they don't know and will never meet.


jsid-1149791332-505659  FabioC. at Thu, 08 Jun 2006 18:28:52 +0000

I have good reasons to think that reactor heads are well overdesigned, so that level of corrosion is not an imminent danger. It must be corrected for a variety of reasons anyway.

jsid-1149811141-505677  Tom OQuinn at Thu, 08 Jun 2006 23:59:01 +0000

The reactor heads as well as the vessels are 5" thick with a 3/8 stainless weld overlay. The one that made the news was all the way through to the overlay. The area that was all the way through was small but had deformed. The others that I mentioned had been inspected and the corrosion monitored untill the new head could be fabricated. These units are pressurised water reactors with the control rod drives entering through the head, vice below as a boiler would. these units control reactivity in part by adding boric acid to the coolant as a neutron absorber. The area that was damaged was between drive stub tubes and behind support structure. There was a great deal of boron build up from seeps that made the inspection difficult. No excuse for shoddy work. Every plant has inspection programs to detect adverse conditions, the guy that was responsible failed in his job, not his boss, is my guess.
Back to the reactor safety question, the proper operator action for a design basis accident with a 100 day,100% power history, for the first fifteen minets, is watch and ensure automatic actions occur. A design basis accident for my plant is a complete shear wtih 100% diplacement of a 28" line without the ability to isolate the leak. The size of the corroded area on the head, if it had blown, would have been relatively easily handeled. They would have lost steam not water.
You are right, business majors run the utility, but they have little to do with our standards. I've seen other plants train and operate, I have faith that the people I've seen will do the right thing, no matter what.

jsid-1149821388-505692  Kevin Baker at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 02:49:48 +0000

And if someone fucks up (actually, it's typically a series of people who serially fuck up) and the pooch gets screwed, will you say "oopsie-boo-boo" then?

Sorry, I just found that extraordinarily flippant and dismissive.

jsid-1149833595-505700  Parallel at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 06:13:15 +0000

Just for completeness sake, there's another reason the the Chernobyl reactor design was completely unsuited for power generation.

Reading http://www.ccnr.org/plute.html we learn that if you're making plutonium for nuclear weapons then you want so-called "weapons-grade" plutonium, which you get by swapping out the fuel rods often. "Weapons-grade" means a high percentage of plutonium-239. If you leave the fuel in the reactor for a longer time you get too much plutonium-238 and -240, which are undesirable in weapons.

The Chernobyl reactor was primarily designed to make weapons grade plutonium, so it was built around the idea of continuous refueling. The Soviet operators didn't have to shut down the reactor before pulling out fuel assemblies. All the heavy machinery (cranes) above the reactor to move fuel in and out contributed to the design decision not to have full containment. Plus, they were constantly moving fuel in and out of the reactor building, so containment would have been breached anyway.

Western power reactors, on the other hand, are sealed up while critical. When it's time to refuel, they shut down. The reactor isn't running when the pressure vessel is opened.

Switching gears a little bit--

Business managers do have an incentive for the plant to run correctly and safely. The plant is only making money when it's feeding electricity to the grid. If the plant stops running because of an accident, then it's not making money. If the plant is damaged because of an accident, it's not making money while repairs are made.

In the early 1990s I was a student working with the nuclear engineers on a research reactor in Idaho. This operation had an incentive to keep the research reactor online for calendar months at a time. The researcher team would get a bonus (something like $100,000) if the reactor fed power to the grid for an entire calendar month. That was above and beyond the money earned per MWH.

If the utilities were willing to pay a $100,000 bonus for a tiny 20 MWe reactor to stay online for a calendar month, imagine what the financial penalties would be for a 1000 MWe plant tripping offline. Even a business major can understand the payback for "safety" systems to keep the plant up and running reliably. A reliable plant is a safe plant.

jsid-1149852677-505707  FabioC. at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 11:31:17 +0000


It's not just nuclear power plants where a series of fuck-ups can have catastrophic consequences. The accident at Seveso, Italy, 1976, released a considerable amount of TCDD and required decontamination and health monitoring efforts not dissimilar from those required by a nuclear accident.

jsid-1149855855-505709  Bilgeman at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 12:24:15 +0000


"The plant is only making money when it's feeding electricity to the grid. If the plant stops running because of an accident, then it's not making money. If the plant is damaged because of an accident, it's not making money while repairs are made."

The same can be said of ships, and yet, corners are cut, undertrained 3rd world (Flag of Convenience) crews are used, ships are undermanned, and shipyard periods are rushed through because every day in the yard is a day NOT carrying cargo.

Result: ship burns, ship sinks, seamen die.

Read the .pdf file on the fire aboard the Carter.

One of the main identified "corners cut" was the failure to repair and replace the Tank Level Indicators, which would have cost 103 grand.

The fire caused, in addition to two lives, 15 million dollars in damage to the ship, and had the 5 million pounds of explosives aboard gone up...well, we reckoned out at sea that if we exploded, we'd leave a temporary crater in the ocean 9 miles in diameter.
The Carter didn't catch fire on the high seas, but downstream from Wilmington NC a spell.

But the ship isn't making money while repairs are made to prevent an accident from happenning either.


"I have good reasons to think that reactor heads are well overdesigned, so that level of corrosion is not an imminent danger."

When you begin "riding your safety factor", you're halfway to burning and sinking.
Safety factors aren't designed in so that you can save money or defer maintenance.
Let's NEVER find out what level of corrosion constitutes an "imminent danger" by preventing the corrosion from occurring at all..m'kay?


jsid-1149872139-505746  Kevin Baker at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 16:55:39 +0000

Actually, Bilgeman, some corrosion is planned for and expected. The deal is to monitor it and repair/replace LONG before it becomes a safety issue.

jsid-1149879299-505764  Tom OQuinn at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 18:54:59 +0000

People will fail at all levels as long as there are people involved. Where I work, if the senior management group puts money before safety, we wil report them to the feds and take their jobs, the feds will put them in jail. Why would we take this so seriously? I don't care where the CEO lives, because I and my family live here. Talk about motivation.
Another sidebar on the money part, depending on the maintainence an outage can cost upwards of $10K a min. Replacement power for lost generation is about a million a day.

jsid-1149884578-505770  Kevin Baker at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 20:22:58 +0000

Um, $1M/day is about $700/min. (At $60/MWH, that's 700MW/reactor. Isn't that a bit high?)

Regardless that is a far cry from $10k/min.

Where does the $10k figure come from?

jsid-1149893897-505781  DJ at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 22:58:17 +0000

Kevin, my last boss would have hated you. It's one of the reasons I left.

jsid-1149895476-505784  Kevin Baker at Fri, 09 Jun 2006 23:24:36 +0000

Should I feel hurt?

jsid-1149900876-505787  DJ at Sat, 10 Jun 2006 00:54:36 +0000


His management style is commonly known as "jumping to conclusions". He really gets pissed if anyone shows his conclusions are wrong, especially if they use numbers and arithmetic. You're just the opposite of him and he really hates that.

jsid-1149948036-505828  Tom OQuinn at Sat, 10 Jun 2006 14:00:36 +0000

(24*4*985)=94560 fuel cost+O&M+outage cost. And as you pointed out thats generation cost, not selling cost.
10k a min is cost of mods and maint. That depends on contract costs and replacement equipment costs. Those numbers are what our outage and scheaduling group advertise as motivators to encourage handoffs and getting it right the first time. Those are old numbers too, they don't include, as far as I know, power to operate the shut down unit (40mw/hr).

jsid-1149948581-505830  DJ at Sat, 10 Jun 2006 14:09:41 +0000

OK, it's my turn. What physical parameter has the units of "power/time", i.e. "mw/hr"? Is it the rate of change of power, or am I missing something?

jsid-1150040067-506430  Tom OQuinn at Sun, 11 Jun 2006 15:34:27 +0000

power used per unit of time, same as your house.
If you want to fry a few brain cells try on reflected power, or VARS, volts,amps reflected. Due to built in capacitance in the system. Late nights on major holidays, voltage will start to creep up and excitation in the field windings will automaticly adjust down to the point you are close to tripping off due to under exciting. If you under excite and slip a pole on the generator, electrically, you would probably physically destroy it, rip the windings out. The crazy part is there is virtually nothing you can do except sit and watch it bite you.
We would have to trip the unit and risk a cascading blackout.

jsid-1150049228-506435  Kevin Baker at Sun, 11 Jun 2006 18:07:08 +0000

Actually, Tom, that's Volt-Amps Reactive, not reflective. In AC power there are two vector components of load current; reactive and true. This is due to the phase relationship between the voltage waveform and the current waveform. Resistive loads draw power in perfect phase with the voltage, but inductive and capacitive loads draw their power phase-shifted from the voltage waveform. Inductors (motor windings, transformers, etc.) cause the current waveform to lag the voltage waveform. Capacitive loads shift the waveform in the opposite direction. Because most loads on commercial power systems are a combination of resistive and inductive, the current wave lags the voltage wave. The measurement of how much the current waveform is shifted is called the Power Factor. This can be pictured as a triangle where the true power is X-axis and the reactive power is the Y-axis. The inductive component is positive Y-axis, and the capacitive component is negative Y-axis. The apparent power is the vector sum of the inductive, capacitive, and true power. The power factor is the cosine of the angle between the true power and the apparent power.

The net effect is that a load with a poor power factor appears to require a lot more power (apparent power) than it actually consumes (true power), because the vector sum of apparent power is the total amps the load is drawing at a given voltage whether they're doing actual work or not.

In order to correct for the inductive phase-shift (positive Y-axis), utilities apply power-factor correction capacitors to their distribution systems (negative Y-axis). But when the total inductive and resistive load goes away (at off-peak periods such as you describe) that capacitance must be disconnected or the power factor will shift so that the current waveform leads the voltage waveform - and if you're running a generator that's a very bad thing. Unfortunately, power transmission lines themselves act as significant capacitors, so a major component of the system capacitance cannot be disconnected.

I imagine things get interesting if the load is light enough.

jsid-1150064501-506452  Tom OQuinn at Sun, 11 Jun 2006 22:21:41 +0000

Thanks for the correction, it's not something I think about a lot, dispatchers job and all, but refelective helps me remember the mechanism that causes the effect.
I don't believe resistive load affects VARs. However If load is light enough, lightly loaded Fossil plants come off line, some every night, and we have backed the nukes down to the point of idleing feed pumps.
Some companies actually run syncronous motors to beat the penalty for VARS, we switch capacitors in and out all day long.
Yep, interesting is a good word, our turbines put out about 1.5 million hp at 1800rpm, so instantly remove all load and accelerate the rotor with all the energy available from the grid, and steam from the plant, for 180 degrees, then stop it at sycronous speed. Gutted generator,fire, explosion, cats and dogs sleeping together, who knows?
Imagine a 13ft long LP turbine blade exiting the turbine casing at something like the speed of sound, how far would it go and would it leave a dent where it hit?
Fermi 2 lost a couple of turbine blades, really ugly pictures.
The blackout thing is pretty interesting. When NY went down, if the dispatchers hadn,t opened the tie breakers we could have lost it all. I have seen the recorders take 150mw swings when a big unit trips. If it gets bad enough, the grid frequency could start to drop and trip everything on underfrequency and undervoltage.

jsid-1150078300-506468  DJ at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 02:11:40 +0000

power used per unit of time, same as your house.

Power used per unit of time is a nonsensical term. Power is energy used per unit of time. Power plants distribute energy, which they usually measure in megawatt-hours, at some power level, which means at a rate of so many megawatt-hours per hour, or so many megatwatts.

And, "mw" is "milliwatt". I presume you mean "Mw", which is "megawatt".

Dude, you're in over your head here. You're discussing things you don't quite understand as well as you think you do. To an electrical engineer such as I, it's kinda funny.

You tell 'im, Kevin.

jsid-1150078390-506469  DJ at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 02:13:10 +0000

And, please partdon my spetlling. It's latte, er, I mean late.

jsid-1150116028-506494  Tom OQuinn at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 12:40:28 +0000

I'll pardon your spelling if you will pardon my capitalization.
Sorry, I didn't know your level of expertise, I made the assumption that most folks were looking at ideas (safety) rather than formula.
Actually the megawatt meter only reads out in megawatts, hours are not included. I'm not sure what you mean by power level, voltage is fixed, output is not. There are penaltys for high usage rates, as there are benefits for less VARS.
I have noticed that the tendency here is to pull out a phrase, or a word and rebutt. You guys have a good life and enjoy the mail. If exchanging ideas and information isn't enough, have a nice day.
I have enjoyed reading Kevin's thoughts on personal freedom and responsibility.

jsid-1150121495-506505  DJ at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 14:11:35 +0000

My comment was not intended as a "gotcha", although in retrospect it looks as if it were. It was motivated by a pet peeve that I saw on a TV show that I saw only the day before.

It was an episode of "Super Ships" on the Science Channel. The ship was a very nicely designed and very fast ferry that is used between Maine and Nova Scotia. It's a catamaran design, with each hull having two large diesels driving jet nozzles at the stern. With 38,000 horsepower and carefully designed cat hulls, the sumbitch gets up on plane, but it has a T-shaped stabilizer below the center hull. It cruises at 45 knots and is stable as a rock in four meter sea states.

The pet peeve woke up again when the talking head tried to impress us how fast it goes. First, he talked of the speed in "knots per hour". No, "knots" is shorthand for "nautical miles per hour". Knots is a "speed" (i.e. a scalar, not a vector), not a "distance". "Knots per hour" is thus "acceleration". Then he translated that speed into metric terms as "45 knots = 81 km". No, "km" is "length" or "distance", not "speed". How about "45 knots = 81.5 km/hr"?

It's the same old garbage I hear almost daily on the news. The talking heads there read whatever is put in front of them without having a clue what it means.

So, I had a similar reaction to your statement of

Those are old numbers too, they don't include, as far as I know, power to operate the shut down unit (40mw/hr).

I presume you mean the plant requires a power level, supplied from outside, of 40 Mw when the reactor is at idle. That's a power level of 40,000 Kw, and so it consumes 40,000 Kw-hr for every hour it is at idle.

Here, the natural-gas-fired power plant about five miles away supplies energy to me at 9.5 cents/Kw-hr. The cost of the energy to run the idling nuke plant is thus 40,000 Kw x $0.095 / Kw-hr = $3,800 / hr.

So, such a simply sanity check, which any good electrical engineer likely can't help performing after reading your comment, needs a starting point. A number of "40 mw/hr" is not such a starting point. If the units are wrong, then the number might be wrong also, hence my comment.

jsid-1150126786-506518  Bilgeman at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 15:39:46 +0000


"Yep, interesting is a good word, our turbines put out about 1.5 million hp at 1800rpm, so instantly remove all load and accelerate the rotor with all the energy available from the grid, and steam from the plant, for 180 degrees, then stop it at sycronous speed. Gutted generator,fire, explosion, cats and dogs sleeping together, who knows?
Imagine a 13ft long LP turbine blade exiting the turbine casing at something like the speed of sound, how far would it go and would it leave a dent where it hit?"

In maritime, the LP turbine has been known to get off it's feet and "abandon ship" through the side of the hull.
Usually this has been because of a "carryover" from the boilers making it through the main steam lines.
And I don't even want to THINK about what happens to the HP turbine in an instance like that. Having large heavy pieces of very hot metal chasing me around the bilges like a rat in a barrel with a couple of .22 slugs is not high on my list of career objectives.

1.5 million horse...? Jesus! The biggest steam plant I've ever worked on was an SL-7,(now known as a Fast Sealift Ship), at (2x)60,000 shaft horsies. That was enough steam to get from New York Harbor to the English Channel in just under 5 days.
And changing a burner in one of those "Baby-Willies" was an "all-day sucker".
I hand-fired the starboard boiler on one 'em from Baltimore to Jacksonville FL,(there's not many who can claim THAT on an SL-7), and I found out a few months later that I was working without a net...no low-water or low-low water alarm. The Chief and the 1st had an out-of-the-way "dummy" alarm switch, and would "makee-noisee" for the USCG and the ABS,(American Bureau of Shipping), by signal from the Chief's flashlight.
...kewl, huh?

"Some companies actually run syncronous motors to beat the penalty for VARS, we switch capacitors in and out all day long."

Switching capacitance on and off the grid is about the only practical thing that can be done to achieve and maintain Unity PF, (at least until some clever chap figures a way to do it better). I've had ships, especially late-1960s & early-1970s builds, that had a capacitor wired into every single flourescent light ballast...what an Almighty PITA that is...like there isn't ENOUGH crap to fix!


jsid-1150129856-506529  Kevin Baker at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 16:30:56 +0000

1,500,000Hp x 746W/Hp = 1.12MW

Yup. That's a LOT of torque:

1,500,000Hp x 5250 / 1800RPM = 4,375,000 lb-ft.

jsid-1150138722-506557  Tom OQuinn at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 18:58:42 +0000

Our standby generators are Nordberg diesels rated at 3900Hp x 4; you've probably seen those before. Continuous output is supposed to be 3500Kw each.
Some large installations have very large components driven by synchronous motors to beat the VAR's penalty. There is lots of strange stuff out there that were someone's "better idea". The accountants divide the usage so that you will pay for anything they can justify. True power versus apparent power.
985,000,000W/746W/Hp= 1,320,375Hp (with some other stuff added, in close to 1.5million)
1,500,000Hp x 746W = 1,119,000,000GW,
only one letter off.
A lot of conversation in my job, right or wrong, is jargon. It carries over sometimes. We record production and usage every hour, Mw per hour. The notation I used is a contributor, if I used it at the plant, the meaning would be plain.

jsid-1150147095-506566  DJ at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 21:18:15 +0000

It's happened again, but this time it's at http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/06/12/beer_ingredient_may_fight_prostate_cancer/

Here's the money quote:

CORVALLIS, Ore. --A main ingredient in beer may help prevent prostate cancer and enlargement, according to a new study. But researchers say don't rush out to stock the refrigerator because the ingredient is present in such small amounts that a person would have to drink more than 17 beers to benefit.

I have drank (drunk?) more than 17 beers. I did it just last year.

Did he read what he wrote? Does he even begin to understand it? Does his editor understand it?

Do you see how utterly silly it can be to not get the units right? Does he mean 17 beers over a lifetime, or per year, or per month, or per week, or per day?

Yeah, it's a pet peeve of mine. The idea is to understand what is written, and such lack of understanding on the part of the writer can sure make it difficult.

jsid-1150147957-506569  Kevin Baker at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 21:32:37 +0000



How'sit feel? ;)

jsid-1150156046-506584  Tom OQuinn at Mon, 12 Jun 2006 23:47:26 +0000

Human, I have seen several posts that had one or more error in units or other wise. I don't feel compelled to drub the writer, I can generally get the meaning and if I don't someone else can have the opportunity to educate me. I got nothing to prove. If it makes you feel good, correct my spelling, grammar, or units. (Punctuation particularly)
(1,119,000,000W...1.12GW sorry again)
Kevin, does DJ spin up this easy over everything?

jsid-1150158051-506587  DJ at Tue, 13 Jun 2006 00:20:51 +0000

Why don't you ask me instead of Kevin?

jsid-1150159040-506590  DJ at Tue, 13 Jun 2006 00:37:20 +0000

Kevin, if you like big engines, you'll like http://www.bath.ac.uk/~ccsshb/12cyl/

How does 5,608,312 ft-lbs of torque at 102 RPM sound? And, it's portable, sort of.

And, yes, they spec'd it wrong. It's lb-ft or ft-lb of torque, not lb/ft.

jsid-1150161573-506592  Bilgeman at Tue, 13 Jun 2006 01:19:33 +0000

"if you like big engines, you'll like :"

I like Sulzers, I have more experience with their RND models, which don't have exhaust valves, but rather ports.

That view of the crank is especially edifying...so THAT'S what the whole shebang looks like! I only see dimly-lit bits and pieces while trying not to douche with lube oil and drop something into the sump, all while sweatin' like a slave.


jsid-1150207744-506649  DJ at Tue, 13 Jun 2006 14:09:04 +0000

Let's hope you never have to take it apart at sea!

I watched another issue of "Super Ships" (I hope I'm remembering that name right) which showed the construction in Korea of a really big supertanker for a Greek tanker firm. A similar engine was used. It was built and tested, then dis-assembled, transported in pieces, and re-assemlbed in the engine room of the ship.

One thing that impressed me was that a spare cylinder, piston, and rod were stored, high up on the engine room wall. I couldn't help thinking what a nightmare it might be if a cylinder had to be swapped out at sea. The amazing thing was that the engine room was big enough to do it in.

jsid-1150399878-507321  Lynette Warren at Thu, 15 Jun 2006 19:31:18 +0000

Oz said:
A Naval operator might get 1 rem in his entire career.

I picked up over a rem in 4 years working on nuclear submarines. There isn't anything especially extraordinary about that. It's typical. My yearly dose decreased (and my salary significantly increased) as a result of my move to civilian nuclear power.

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