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Response to RobertEarl (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 08:15 PM

4. You do what you can...

RobertEarl,

A little personal story. In Novermber of 1978, some fellow graduate students at MIT and I went to Washington, DC to the winter meeting of the "American Nuclear Society". The American Nuclear Society is the professional society for all the scientists in the nuclear field.

The ANS holds both an annual meeting in various cities, and a winter meeting that is hosted by either Washington, DC or San Francisco; on alternate years.

The meeting was held at one of the larger hotels in Washington. In the evening, various companies involved in the nuclear field host "hospitality suites" in some of the larger suites of the hotel. They invite conference participants to come in, have a drink, or a hot-fudge sundae, or whatever they were offering. The idea is to get people in to talk with their people. They may find someone they'd like to hire or work with, or sponsor some research. They might meet a promising graduate student that might make a valuable employee. Science is said to be a "body contact sport".

I visited the General Electric suite and talked with a GE engineer. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that GE was the reactor vendor for a nuclear power plant in Japan, being built for TEPCO, and he was GE's advisor to TEPCO. I was looking forward to the start of my own career, and I asked this engineer what the toughest part of his job was. He responded, "Getting the client to listen to me and follow my advice". He then told me how TEPCO was planning on building the fuel tank for the backup diesel generator at the new plant above ground. The NRC requires that all the fuel tanks for backup diesel generators at nuclear plants in the USA have to be buried like those at your local gas station. GE agrees with the NRC on that. This engineer explained that the new plant was in a seismically active region, and that a tsunami was a possibility. A tsunami could wipe away the above ground tank and leave the plant without a backup power supply to run the coolant pumps.

I said that his advice sounded reasonable; and asked why TEPCO wouldn't listen and follow his advice.

His response was, "Because it would probably mean burying the tanks for the other 5 reactors at the site".

It turns out the Japanese plant in question was Fukushima Diachi Unit 6. Unit 6 is the only true "GE" plant. The other 5 had reactors vended by Toshiba or Hitachi that licensed the GE design. However, on Unit 6, GE was the reactor vendor. However, that doesn't mean GE builds the plant. They just provide the reactor and the design. It is up to a general contractor to actually build the plant.

In the USA, our reactor vendors are companies like Westinghouse, GE, Combustion Engineering, and Babcock & Wilcox. They make the reactor. The rest of the plant is built by companies like Bechtel, Brown and Root, Stone & Webster....

So I knew that TEPCO was taking a chance with the placement of their fuel tanks. GE knew that too, and advised against an above ground siting. TEPCO wanted above ground, and the Japanese regulators were OK with that.

What are we supposed to do? It's THEIR country, and THEIR laws.

California and Vermont are pretty progressive states; whereas Texas is conservative. What is someone from California or Vermont supposed to do if they don't like the laws in Texas. Texas is governed by Texans; it's their State and they can run it the way they want to.

All we can do is tell the Japanese Government and the reactor owner, TEPCO that what they were doing was dumb. The reactor vendor for Unit 6, GE; which designed the reactors for Units 1-5 also, made clear to TEPCO and the Japanese regulators that what they were doing was dumb. They chose to ignore the company that designed their reactors. If they won't listen to GE, they certainly won't listen to me. So what am I, or anyone else suppose to do?

I don't know where you were listening, but the NRC also let the Japanese authorities know that Fukushima was sub-standard. The NRC also told the Soviet Union that Chernobyl was a bad design. I remember the program PBS's NOVA did on Chernobyl. It featured Nobel Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe. I remember Hans Bethe telling the audience that US scientists told the Russians that their RBMK, i.e Chernobyl design was bad and unsafe. I remember Hans Bethe saying, " 'Oh no', said the Russians, 'Our reactors are safe' ". There's not much you can do when your advice is being ignored, and you have no direct power.

We didn't "let it happen". We had no power to stop it.

PamW

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Arrow 27 replies Author Time Post
kristopher Feb 2013 OP
patrice Feb 2013 #1
PamW Feb 2013 #2
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #3
LineLineLineReply You do what you can...
PamW Feb 2013 #4
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #5
PamW Feb 2013 #6
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #7
PamW Feb 2013 #8
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #9
PamW Feb 2013 #10
Warren Stupidity Feb 2013 #11
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #14
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #16
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #17
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #18
oldhippie Feb 2013 #19
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #21
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #20
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #22
oldhippie Feb 2013 #23
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #24
oldhippie Feb 2013 #25
GliderGuider Feb 2013 #26
RobertEarl Feb 2013 #27
Throckmorton Feb 2013 #12
PamW Feb 2013 #13
Throckmorton Feb 2013 #15
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