Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Nuclear Power, Post-Fukushima

As the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant becomes clearer, there are profound implications for the operation of nuclear power plants worldwide. It is not just the threat of flooding, though that is an issue that the industry has underestimated.

In addition, a significant fraction of nuclear power stations may be looking with some concern at the Fukushima experience with containment, power failures, and evacuation. Containment may have failed at Fukushima from problems with both fractures and vents. All reactors have backup power supplies and batteries, but the batteries typically last only four hours and there is typically no Plan D to go to when the batteries run out — not such an unlikely scenario in the event of a natural disaster, war, or other extreme circumstance. Evacuation plans are typically limited to the emergency evacuation of the nearest two towns, but plans might also be needed for long-term evacuation of a much larger area.