March 27, 2011 at 1:55 pm #254741
I’m known for my pessimistic outlook on the future; there’s no denying it. But sometimes I look at the big picture and realise that I’m still sugarcoating the situation to make it fit into my own view of possible outcomes of a world in crisis due to diminishing oil supplies.
I don’t claim to be an expert in this field, but I’ll certainly call a spade a spade when someone deals me a spade.
So imagine my surprise when I’m shown new information that makes Mad Max look like play-time.
The way I’ve assumed things will play out is a combination of severe financial problems and physical fuel shortages will gradually eat away at society until our more complex systems that keep everything running will begin to fail. This includes the police, hospitals, welfare, supermarkets, heavy industry, sewerage treatment, and coal and gas-fired power stations. We’ll begin to loose those services we have come to rely on so heavily.
But what happens to a nuclear power station?
Lets say Jimmy is a supervisor in an American nuclear reactor. Even though he’s still getting paid, the supermarkets are running low on food and there have been food riots. Police are starting to not show up to work because they are more interested in protecting their own families, and on the morning that he was supposed to plan the replacement of 30 tonnes of spent fuel rods, a mob of rioters is moving down his street. He decides not to go to work and instead stay home (or bug-out, leaving the city) in order to protect his family.
Several other plant workers decide to not show up, ever, for the same reasons.
So instead of the lights just peacefully going out and never coming back on again, we have a situation of an uncontrolled nuclear reactor with nobody at the helm.
And from what I can tell nuclear reactors take a lot of tender loving care, huge amounts of money, lots of specialised equipment and resources, and a very skilled workforce to keep them going. Even when they aren’t going, almost the same amount of effort is placed in keeping spent fuel rods safe and cool. Take any of those factors away and you could be in a situation that the Japanese now find themselves in.
Multiply that by the hundreds of reactors spread around the globe throughout asia, europe and america.
We regularly talk about how a die-off is inevitable, but what happens to all these nuclear reactors once there’s nobody who can take care of them, or decommission them? Given the current financial crisis, I doubt anyone can afford to properly decommission a plant even now.
There are dark days ahead, but that darkness may be lit by an eerie glow.
rwMarch 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm #493524AirgeadMember
That’s always been my worry about nuclear power – it needs power to make it safe. If the grid goes down, there is trouble.
Particularly on older reactors like the ones at Fukashima. Newer designs are much better and don’t rely on external power so much. The really new gen4 designs (currently none in production) are designed intrinsicly safe in that they need intervention to make the reaction happen. If they loose power or cooling, the reaction stops. Very clever stuff but still on the drawing board.
Lets be honest though, almost none of the world’s reactor fleet is in its first flushes of youth. Most of them are old 60s designs like those at fukashima. It is likely to be a big problem and one people haven’t quite woken up to yet.
DaveMarch 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm #493525redhen2Member
pessimistic? nah, rw. you’re positively polyannaesque.
my bf and i have been talking about this very thing. he is pro nuclear, i am not. my biggest concern is how we manage them when resources are light, as you said.
i’m not sure where that would head, but i’m pretty certain we won’t be talking about building big cement domes over reactors that have turned ugly. after all, where would the cement come from?
i guess it’s not called wtshtf for nothing.
hope that helps. [insert irritating smiley face to give the impression that i’m joking and everything will be fine]
kathyMarch 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm #493526WazzaMember
Rw, you’re a worry, mate. Just when I think the doom and gloom scenarios can’t get much worse, you come up with this! But there are other scenarios. How about Jimmy and his mates put America first, rise early in the morning, salute Old Glory flying on their front lawns, put their hands on their hearts and say “God bless America”, then head down to the nuclear plant. On arrival they find the place deserted and the coolant system on the blink. Being good ol’ boys from way back, they take the only remaining option and urinate in unison on the over-heating fuel rods (all the while singing the Star Spangled Banner), thus saving their community from certain nuclear annihilation. After dying a lingering and horrible death, they are posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian award for bravery.March 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm #493527caddieParticipant
This is my concern also.
I really believe we should NOT be mining uranium at all.
I dont think there are any totally fail safe measures that can be taken.
Nature has ahabit of upsetting the best laid plans of men.
Bring on renewables in all forms, not just solar and wind.
Hang the expense, it is better than being dead!!!!March 27, 2011 at 4:55 pm #493528AirgeadMember
You are right. Both potential scenarios are possible. Indeed, given the way people seem to react in emergencies, your scenario would be the most plausible. However, we are relying on the courage and self sacrifice of people to ensure safety (as happened in Japan). This is hardly a fail safe situation…
There are any number of ways that a neglected plant could go bad if left for long enough. Even if the staff shut it down and left it safe before leaving. Unless they properly decommission it which is a massive undertaking and really needs a functioning (and wealth) society to achieve.
DaveMarch 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm #493529
It’s my understanding that it takes decades of constant care to cool spent fuel rods to the point where they are safe to transport.
Imagine 20 years from now all the fuel rods currently in use loosing their cooling systems and being exposed to the environment, similar to what is happening in Japan in the decommissioned reactors.March 28, 2011 at 11:09 am #493530GgangMember
I very real possibility and it may be closer than we think …….
we certanly arent being told the truth about Japan and realistically they have no options to stop the radiation leak ……..
concrete like chernoble ? IMO imposible -this is 6 reactors plus spent fuel ponds and where could they get that much concrete with all the infrastructure damage from the earthquake and TsunamiApril 3, 2011 at 12:48 am #493531BootstrapperMember
What I’ve been told is that a reactor needs constant attention to keep it running. Left to itself, a reactor will shut down; The control rods will drop back into the core where they’ll absorb the Neutrons and shut the nuclear reaction down. As long as the containment vessel maintains integrity, the reactor should simply sit quietly while the fuel decomposes.
In the Japanese emergency, the cooling ponds are overloaded with spent fuel rods so a low level chain reaction is keeping the rods hot. The control rods on the reactors were damaged by the tsunami, so the reactors can’t be shut down properly. Add damage to the cooling systems and you have the recipe for a disaster.
Just in case you get the wrong impression, I’m also against nuclear power. Not just because of the danger they pose in operation or the millenial headache of disposing of the waste but also because ultimately, they’re energy sinks. Once you add up the energy costs of producing, transporting and assembling all the materials needed to construct a nuke power plant, then add all the energy needed to mine, process, transport and assemble the fuel (and the cost of disposing or storing it), you would have been better off using the (fossil) energy and raw materials (except the radioactives), directly. In fact, it would be physically impossible to exploit nuclear energy (fission or fusion) without a massive fossil-energy subsidy. That alone, is reason enough not to pursue it.April 3, 2011 at 2:21 am #493532DanHowerMember
Nuclear power can never be economic.
The operation of nuclear power plants itself seems to have costs that makes it worth while.
What is being left out of the calculation is the handling of the waste. Even after 10 years of cooling down, or is it 30 to 40 years, you are left with radioactive matter which must be kept safe and guarded for about 250,000 years.
You need to keep bad boys from getting access for 250,000 years. Who is gonna pay the wages for security personnel for 250,000 years? Should those people living in 102011 pay for security personnel for electricity we used in 2011?
I guess they won’t have a choice, and they will wish us to hell.
Another point is liability insurance. While I cannot hire a hall from the council the speak about the dangers of nuclear power without forking out big dollars for public liability in case somebody falls from his chair, the nuclear plants themselves can operate without insurance, the reason being the risk managers decided many years ago the potential damage is so high it is not insurable at all.August 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm #493533Le LoupMember
I have to admit that I have never thought of that nuclear power station scenario. It would be nice to think that the government has that covered, but we all know how that works!
We are covered for everything but a nuclear contamination problem, literally. We live off the grid, and providing we don’t have to continue paying the rates WTSHTF, we can survive here no problem. IF we have to move, then we have that covered too.August 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm #493534BobbeeMember
I firmly believe that, added to CC and PO and the flow on from those, major natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc will be the cause of loss of life and/or disruption of life AWKI in the future.
Taking the earthquake and tsunami devastation in Japan and the ‘problems’ with the nuclear power stations there as your base, imagine that scenario repeated all over the world.
With that in mind perhaps it will be the luck of the Irish that decides who survives well…………………………..
Under ground bunkers etc, to which mainly only the rich and famous will have access, imo, are all very well, but what keeps the air clean without power, stock piles of food can only last a set time I would think, where does a continuous supply of uncontaminated water come from, what do you use for light????
It takes decades at least for the ground to be safe for the planting of needed food supplies etc etc etc
I would say the humanity who survive and the world they live in may be very different to anything we can imagine now.
The mind boggles…………..well………..MY mind boggles anyway!!!!!!!
IMPORTANT TO ADD THAT I FIRMLY BELIEVE THE HUMAN RACE WILL SURVIVE ANYTHING THAT NATURE THROWS AT IT. WE HAVE SURVIVED THE ICE AGE AND OTHER AGES OF HEAT AND I KNOW NOT WHAT, SO WE WILL SURVIVE THIS TOO.
The possibility of nuclear contamination is a major concern though, imo……………
I’d better not sign off ‘Happy day’,
Bobbs :hug: :hug: :hug:August 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm #493535
Bobbs, its not a question of whether the human race will survive or not, but if I’ll survive.August 26, 2011 at 2:11 am #493536gypsyoakMember
I hope so RW!
Otherwise who will let me know what disaster scenarios I need to prepare for in the future! :lol
Honestly though, I love reading your posts, you bring things up that I haven’t even thought about. True…..I do consider getting hold of some Scarlett Pimpernell suicide pills everytime I do….and then I reconsider and buy extra toilet paper and matches instead!
xxxAugust 26, 2011 at 3:59 am #493537NeataMember
Hummm, wonder if we can get a map of all the nuclear sites in Australia.
Then we’ll combine that knowledge with the consensus thinking from the “if you could live anywhere” thread and we’d have the perfect spot to live our simple radio active free lives :tup:
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