With events rapidly unfolding in Japan, Maven is conducting a flash survey of nuclear power and radiation safety experts to gauge their reactions to the events at the Fukushima Daiichi facility. Responses are still coming in, but here are some preliminary results. We asked each expert three simple questions:
- In your professional opinion, what are the best case, worst case, and likely outcomes of the nuclear emergency in Japan?
- In your professional opinion, how long will it take to stabilize the reactor?
- In your professional opinion, what will be the long-term impact of this event on the nuclear power industry?
Interestingly, most of our survey respondents asserted that the event has been over-hyped by the media and appear to believe that the situation will be stabilized within days with little radiation released and no lasting environmental impact. For example, one respondent noted:
In my opinion, the likely outcome of this event will be minor releases of radioactive material and a prolonged shutdown of the reactor for repairs and verification. This will put a strain on the Japanese electrical grid. Another outcome is already negative publicity for nuclear during what is a ‘nuclear renaissance’. It is grimly amusing that the media has a focus on this nuclear plant minor event, while thousands of people were swept by 30 foot waves. The death toll will be large from this; but not due to nuclear releases.
…an almost 9 [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Richter Scale] earthquake and massive tsunami hit this reactor, and the results have been pretty much negligible.
Time to Fix
Most of the respondents agreed that it would take a few days to no more than a fortnight to stabilize the situation in Fukushima, but several months- or even years- to analyze the core, rebuild the containment dome, refuel, and restart the reactor. This response is typical:
1 to 2 weeks will be required to make sure that the core is in a stable condition. It will take many months before the core will be fully analyzed for serious damage to determine if / when it would be restarted or removed entirely and completely refueled.
Another Major Setback for Nuclear Power
In terms of the longer-term impact on the nuclear power industry, there is palpable fear among the experts that this event will provide a major setback to the global “Nuclear Renaissance” that has been taking place over the past few years. Said one respondent:
In the US… it will add fuel to opponents of further nuclear development. The US hasn’t built a new reactor for about 30 years and a finally two new reactors are in the process of being built. The situation in Japan will prompt those in the US who are opposed to nuclear development to renew their efforts.
Another (highly technical) respondent provided additional detail:
There will be a significant negative impact on the nuclear power industry as “uninformed pundants” cite this event with Chernobyl and [Three Mile Island]… Newer Generation III / III+ designs including Advanced PWR, Economically Safe BWR, Advanced CANDU, … and generation IV Liquid Metal designs (VHTR, SCWR, MSR, …) are all “Inherently Safe” reactor designs that can passively manage a LOCA (Loss of Coolant Accident).
Ohers pointed out the unanticipated sequence of events that caused the situation and noted a potential need for greater scrutiny of nuclear plants located in tsunami-prone areas:
I could also see a call to remove nukes from tsunami-prone areas, as this is what really caused the disaster. If not for the tsunami, all of these plants would most likely be in safe shutdown (with damage albeit, but fixable). The industy will not die immediately, however, it will go under the same scrutiny that came after Chernobyl, potentially tougher now, since the failure scenario beat the best technology, training, and emergency response.
Finally, some respondents pointed out that the event creates additional challenges in meeting global demand for electricity, both in Japan and globally:
[T]here will be the usual hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing, but the benefits of nuclear power to Japan far outweight the risks.
The increased use of electricity planet wide along with the push for electric vehicles is a not sustainable by wind or solar. Nuclear is the only other source that doesn’t emit [greenhouse gases]. There will be a lot of finger pointing and wring of hands but nuclear must play the major role in base loaded power plants.
Full results of the survey will be made available upon request. If you are interested in seeing all responses, please contact Maven.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]