Sunday, March 13, 2011

US Will Draw Wrong Conclusions About Nuclear Energy From Japan's Tsunami

Already the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have articles about the US public's concerns and fears over nuclear power safety and the political fallout in the US from the failure of the cooling systems and potential meltdown at several Japanese nuclear energy facilities.

The fears of radiation leakage and the building and use of nuclear power plants will be looked at in isolation. The public dialog in the US likely will be build or do not build a nuclear power generating facility. This is an incomplete conversation.

New power generating facilities will be built in the US because our need for more enegry grows as our population and GDP grow.

Imagine the extra devastation and loss of life that might have occurred, if Japan were circled by huge wind turbines and the Tsunami pushed hundreds, if not thousands, gigantic turbine blades into people and buildings. Imagine the devastation from a large solar plant that uses large batteries containing toxic materials, such as lithium, mercury, etc. to store power for times of the day when the sun is unavailable and that toxic material was spread over a city or got into a water supply.

Imagine the difficulty in using emergency vehicles and other transportation modes during this crisis in Japan, if every vehicle were zero emission, did not use carbon emitting fuels and had to rely on non-existent electricity to recharge batteries.

Yes, there should be a public discussion about the safety of nuclear power plants, if the US is going to increase its nuclear power production. The discussion should not be limited to build or do not build a nuclear power plant. The discussion should include consideration of the effects of naturally occurring crises, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, mudslides, droughts, etc., on the different types of power generating facilities, nuclear, wind, solar, natural gas, coal, oil, etc.

Power plants, whether of a green technology or of an old carbon based technology, are large facilities and because many green energy producing technologies are less efficient than old industrial technologies, green technology energy facilities to meet growing energy demands will be huge and numerous. A lot of very huge anythings in times of catastrophe have the possibility of worsening a catastrophe.

Each type of power generator has different adverse risks to the surrounding populace in times of catastrophic crises. When discussing the risk of nuclear energy, consideration of the risks from other large energy generating facilities should be compared simultaneously. In comparison to a gas explosion, oil fires, or the devastation from large structural materials pushed at high speeds with great force by winds, water or mud, towards a populated area, the risk of a nuclear meltdown is only one of many devastating risks from power generating facilities and may not be enough of a risk in comparison to other power sources to limit the use of nuclear power.


  1. Hmmm...offshore windfarms are in deeper water - tsunami waves build up as they reach the shallows. So there would be no crisis.

    Name a large solar plant that has significant numbers of batteries.

    I see the blog is called misunderstood finance. Misunderstood technology might be a better title.

  2. Large solar farms do use batteries to prevent sharp decreases in power output due to clouds passing over, etc. Toshiba and other companies are in the business of supplying batteries for solar farms that use photovoltaic solar cells, those that produce electricity instead of concentrating the sunlight to produce heat to run a steam turbine. When connected to a power grid, it is important to maintain a constant power output.

    Here is a link to a press release from small company that installs batteries for power grid balancing to solar and wind farms,

    Another company announced it is installing batteries for a solar farm for a Hawaiian utility company:

    "The Kauai solar farm will include a battery energy storage system installed by KIUC at the point where it connects to the grid.

    The battery system will help smooth out the fluctuations in electrical output that occur when clouds pass over the photovoltaic panels, said Mike Yamane, KIUC engineering manager. Minimizing those fluctuations provides stability needed for the grid, he said."

    As solar and wind power plants produce supply more electricity to the power grid, there is a greater need for batteries to prevent drops in power supplied to the grid.

    Batteries are made from heavy metals that have toxic effects on people and animals.

    As for tsunamis, actually the waves are always there. They are just under the water in the ocean and they have the same energy in the ocean as they do when the hit land. The force and speed of the waves depends on the depth. It is the shallowness of the shoreline that makes tsunamis tall and fast. The force and speed of the underwater wave hitting the wind turbine infrastructure will depend on the depth of its location. In addition, earthquakes and movements of the ocean floor cause tsunamis. A wind turbine could easily be toppled, wash ashore, and pushed inland with great force and speed by a massive tsunami wave.

    The point though is that all large power plants have negative environmental effects and risks to people. Solar may mean less carbon, but they have other risks, sometimes renewable, green power has serious risks that greenhouse gas emitting power plants don't.

  3. Its pretty ridiculous to compare the damage a handful of wind turbines surfing behind a tsunami - on to a shore that is already devastated by a colossal amount of water and other debris - with the potential fallout from a nuclear reactor meltdown. How many people live on Japan's eastern coast - something like 28 million? I'll take my risk with wind power thanks very much.


  5. Sorry, Mr.Recht, but you are mistaken. Japan's wind farms survived the tsunami quite well. They continued to generate electicity during and after the earthquake and tsunami. Some of them were not feeding their electricity into the national grid because some transmission lines were down, but this was not a windpower related problem but a grid problem. Your anti-environmental libertarian bias is showing. Right wingers like you hate clean energy because it involves government regulation(clean energy standards, targets,etc)and shows that free markets do not always result in desirable outcomes. Get over it. Clean energy is the way of the future.

  6. There are few toxic elements in batteries, I'd feel much safer next to a pile of damaged batteries than the Fukushima nukes. Lithium is not toxic and there are no truly toxic elements in lithium batteries. Aluminum, copper, and plastic with small amounts of lithium. I wouldn't eat one but as long as you don't either they won't hurt you. As as been pointed out the wind farms were not hurt and did no damage. There are real concerns with the nukes still spewing radioactivity in the area, food has now been irradiated to unsafe levels. You can't bury your head in the sand as to what is really happening. I was hoping we could progress to LFTR's but now that seems less likely.