Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Prof.T.Shivaji Rao, Director, Center Environmental Studies, GITAM University, Visakhapatnam
How Nuclear Plants Work and How They Fail
http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/TheScienceOfNuclearPower [Basics of fission,energy]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13047267 [ Hiastorical Nuclear Accidents]
http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/article2755175.ece  [Why Fukushima failed in Response systems]

Nuclear Plants are just silent killers of man and Nature created by the GOD. In nature the Uranium ore contains 99.3% of Uranium-238 and the remaining 0.7% is Uranium-235.  Uranium-238 and Uranium-235  in nature are least harmful.  But business people and other vested interests dig the iron ore and  convert  the least harmful Uranium-235  into the fuel form of Uranium-235  by purifying it to make a fuel by enriching it to about 4% of Uranium-235 that is packed in pellets and inserted into the core of the nuclear reactor for producing both electricity and material for making the bombs.   The reactor  when the nuclear atom is given a blow  by a neutron, enormous heat and other poisonous Radio-active atoms like Xenon, Barium, Cesium, Strontium, Plutonium and other dangerous radioactive substances are produced.  These radioactive substances are discharged into the air and water by several ways and  when they enter into the environment consisting of air, water and soil and foods like vegetables, fishes, prawns they ultimately get into human beings and produce cancers and birth defects in generations of people for many decades to come.  These poisonous radioactive substances  destroy natural and human life and culture and convert lands upto hundreds of kilometers into permanent nuclear burial grounds for ever.
How harmless Uranium ore materials in nature are converted into destructive and killer materials by man can be understood by the following simple example. For instance king cobras live in nature in anthills in forests and lead their normal life peacefully by catching their prey for food during nights But greedy people go and poke their iron rods into their abodes and disturb the Cobras when they become angry and bite the trespassers to inflict death over them by their poisons.   Similarly, the selfish people are mining the harmless Uranium and converting it into harmful  Enriched Uranium and then using it to produce electricity by means of the Nuclear plants and in the process they are producing Radioactive pollutants that poison man and nature slowly due to routine releases of radioactivity into the environment.  In course of time if an accident occurs in the Nuclear plant due to several reasons like in Fukushima or Chernobyl, the poisonous pollutants are thrown into the atmosphere and they kill thousands of people slowly and inflict cancer to millions of people living downstream upto hundreds of Kilometers as in case of Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents. The Nuclear plant operators are misleading the public by stating that Nuclear power is safe and cheap just like the medical representatives of various pharmaceutical companies praise before the doctors about the virtues of their medical tablets and tonics as part of their sale promotion activity the nuclear authorities are praising the nuclear plants as safe and cheap energy producers which is wrong.  This misinformation is dangerous to public health and welfare because in European states almost all people agree that safety of Nuclear (power is a Myth as accepted by Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. She had consulted the genuine experts on nuclear plants and realized that nuclear safety is a myth and ordered for gradual closure of all the nuclear plants in Germany.  If Indian Prime Minister and Union Cabinet Ministers including the Chief Ministers of the state want to know the truth about the safety of the nuclear power plants they must go and visit advanced countries like Germany and Japan  and discuss the issue with foreign experts  so that they can refrain from promoting nuclear plants as is done by the peoples leader like Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal.   For more scientific details see the above web sites on this topic prepared by independent experts.

Environmental Impact Analysis report are fabricated by consultants according to the national Green Tribunal and also according to the Chief Justice of India, S.H.Kapadia  who said “If you leave report preparation to the project proponent, I am sorry to say the person who pays will get the answers he asks for” and hence he called for a change in the system of preparation of EIA reports for the development projects.  See website:  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2886141.ece
 Intelligent political leaders like the former Japanese Prime Minister Kao and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel thoroughly examined the causes for the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in USA and Chernobyl in Soviet Union and Fukushima in Japan and discussed in depth about the problems of complicated nuclear safety systems ultimately concluded that nuclear safety is a cent percent myth.   They realized that the safety of the people and the security of their nations can be ensured in  the long run by gradual elimination of nuclear power plants and by resort  to the highly inexpensive, safer, people friendly and environmentally sound renewable energy sources based upon the solar energy, wind power, bio-energy, natural gas, Geo-thermal and thermal energy. But  due to lack of sound advice from honest Indian scientists and technologists , the Indian Prime Minster is misguided by the business interest behind the nuclear industry to promote large scale nuclear power plants by importing the technology from foreign countries and dump the reactors over the heads of unwilling people of India in states like Haryana, West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu where public agitations and demonstrations are going on endlessly.  The Prime Minister is not an expert on nuclear safety as envisaged by Sec 45 of the Indian Evidence Act and still is making false arguments that the Indian Chief Ministers and the public must accept nuclear technology by promising them that he will ensure safety of the reactors and that there is no alternative to nuclear power .  These arguments of the Prime Minster to promote nuclear plants against public health and welfare and national economy are false because even western countries like USA and Europe have recently found that nuclear power is not only a killer agent but also highly uneconomical as compared to the safer and economical renewable energy resources as can be seen from the following websites.
The common people of India must educate the educated people so that they can exert pressure on the elected representatives in the state legislature and in the parliament  so that the state and central governments abandon nuclear power and opt for the safer and economic renewable energy sources.  The Inernational Atomic energy Agency published hundred nuclear accidents involving nuclear plants worldwide during the past 50 years and hence nuclear power cannot be considered safe.  Moreover mechanical or electrical failures human errors or terrorist attacks can cause explosions at nuclear power plants in addition to those caused by flooding, earthquakes and Tsunamis. 
According to the Belgium Environmental activist Daniel Tanuro , Nuclear means Catastrophe. While writing on environmental aspects of nuclear power he says that it poses an unacceptable risk.  In his own words the arguments run as follows:  
"After the Chernobyl disaster, nuclear advocates have said that poor Soviet technology, poor safety standards and the bureaucratic nature of the system were the basis of the accident. If we are to believe them, nothing similar could occur to plants based on good capitalist technology, especially not in “democratic” countries where the legislature shall take all necessary security measures at all levels. Today we are seeing that these claims are not worth a damn.
Japan is a country of high technology. Fully aware of the seismic risk, the Japanese authorities have imposed strict standards for plant construction. The reactor 1 Fukushima even included a double safety device, with some generators supplied with fuel and others battery operated. Neither has done any good, because the most sophisticated technology and most stringent safety standards will never provide an absolute guarantee, given the possibility of natural disasters or possible criminal acts by insane terrorists (not to mention human error). We can reduce the risks of nuclear power, but we can not remove them entirely. If it is relatively small but the number of plants increases, as is the case now, the absolute risk may increase.
It is very important to make the point that this risk is unacceptable because it is of human origin, it is preventable, and it is the result of investment decisions made by small circles of people, focused on their profits without proper democratic consultation of the people. To write that “nuclear accidents (sic) in Japan are far from costing the loss of as many lives as the tsunami,” as it said in Belgium’s Le Soir editorial (14 March), is to ignore the qualitative difference between a unavoidable natural disaster and completely preventable technological catastrophe. To add that “like any complex industrial process, energy production from the atom has a substantial risk” (ibid.) also ignores the specificity of the nuclear risk, which includes the fact that this technology has the potential to wipe the human race off the face of the earth. We must relentlessly hunt down and expose these types of excuses, which reflect the enormous pressure exerted at all levels by the lobby of the nuclear industry".  
Nuclear Safety is a victim of inherently complex nuclear systems:  Safety of engineered systems are considered in terms of their reliable probabilistic estimate of risks and the redundancy  systems incorporated in the design stages and yet these goals of safety are virtually impossible to attain in case of nuclear reactors which are complex systems.  A complex system  consists of several inter connected parts that are linked up to work as a whole unit that exhibits one or more behaviourally patterns among several possibilities which cannot be visualized from the operational behavior pattern of the individual component parts.  Consequently one cannot estimate visualize the probabilistic estimates of risk due to the sheer number of potential behaviourel pathways.   Even if some patterns are deduced they are always subjected to controversy because their assessment is often based on subject to biases according to the specializations of the decision makers.  Since the nature of interactive complexity of a system implies that it is very difficult to produce totally error free designs.  Moreover it is virtually impossible to train human operators to handle the critical problems that arise when machines processes and human decision making processes start interacting in unpredictable ways at a time when it is difficult to predict a failure in advance.  Thus nuclear safety is not just about good engineering practices such as designing efficient or save machines alone.  In complex system such as nuclear power plants safety is mostly about repeated experimentation and understanding of the constantly evolving human behaviourely pattern and putting a great deal of creative thinking  in designing human-machine interfaces, institutional norms, cultures and working process.  Although the Government of India is planning large scale import of giant reactors of different kinds from different countries.  It is difficult to implement a safety regimes from other countries in India because nuclear power management organizations involving human actors are at their core culturally rooted and hence we Indians have to invent our own safety regimes even as we plan to learn from experiences abroad and for this purpose we have to create analytical cultures with interdisciplinary approach and we have to breed new kinds of professionals who can constantly think out of the box.  The nuclear energy management sometimes faces the problem of balancing between the management groups based on official hierarchies and decision making bodies on the one side and other operational groups who respond to rapidly changing accident prone scenarios on the other side.  It is easy for nuclear establishment to management comfortably the management group based on official ranks and rule based procedures. But since nuclear plants are interactivity complex and the nuclear accidents are due to multiple causes it is difficult to design effective management systems so that the different subgroups within the broader nuclear organization interact and collaborate meaningfully at the critical times of taking decisions on preventing, controlling and managing nuclear reactor safety at public safety.  For nuclear establishment to work effectively 3 important measures have to be taken.  Firstly from the pervading mess of corruption and inefficiency that characterize most of the Governmental institutions in India and it is very difficult to choose the right kind of leadership unless one selects top executives from outside the present establishment which usually promotes in breeding which is a sign of inefficiency. Secondly such executives have to be empowered to develop and build innovative processes and procedures of management which should not be influenced by political interference or indiscriminate trade unions.  Encouragement must be given to the senior and junior operators for reporting of perceived threats to safety problems and the whistle blowers must be protected and they should not be neglected.  Finally there must be a strong legal responsibility culture that does not impose punishments without reason but ensures accountability and conscientiousness among the workers.  Another crucial aspect of nuclear safety deals with communications and interactions between the nuclear establishment, the nuclear plants management and the surrounding communities.  The nuclear authorities must take the local people into confidence and treat them as co-partners as public cooperation is essential for the successful operation of a nuclear plant in the long run and hence trust transparency and consultation must governed their interactive relationships.  Unfortunately the nuclear establishment in India is known to hide the facts and mislead the public on nuclear safety problems.  For instance on the issue of Fukushima nuclear accident Dr.S.K.Jain CMD of Nuclear Power Corporation is reported to have told economic times on 15-3-2011 as follows: “There is no nuclear accident or incident in Japan’s Fukushima plants.  It is a well planned emergency preparedness programme which the nuclear operators of the Tokyo Electric Power Company are carrying out to contain the residual heat after the plants had an automatic shutdown following a major earthquake.”   Equally incredible was a quote in the same news report, this time attributed to Dr.Srikumar Banerjee, the Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, who is quoted as saying “Because of the unprecedented Tsunami, the external power as unavailable for the emergency diesel generators to take over during the process the pressure was building up in the reactor which had to be released in a phased manner, that resulted in the exothermic reaction due to hydrogen generation.. It was purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency as described by some section of media.”Evidently such false observations frequently made by senior officials of the nuclear establishment do not promote public trust.  Infact most of the people in India do not know how the nuclear plants work and how they fail sometimes and hence refuse to accept about the absolute safety of nuclear reactors particularly when they have seen with their eyes how man-made causes were responsible for the nuclear plant explosions at Chernobyl in Russia in 1986 and at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.  Inspite of the fact that Japan is known to be a world class leader in nuclear technology. 

US commercial nuclear reactors reported nearly 3,000 "mishaps" and at least 430 emergency shutdowns in 1987 according to "Public Citizen's" a latest Annual Nuclear Power Safety Report. According to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in records compiled by the organization, at least 493 violations of safety regulations occurred at the plants during that year. Further, in 1987, accidents, near-accidents, emergency shutdowns, and instances of lax management occurred daily at the 109 licensed-to-operate nuclear reactors located in 37 states across the country. The report notes that much of the data which the NRC chooses to make public represents only the "tip of the iceberg". The NRC, for instance, refuses to release key safety data such as "single-component failure" records and a comprehensive listing of all emergency plant shutdowns. In addition, the agency's safety regulations by nuclear utilities are incomplete and contradictory. The NRC also apparently lacks current information on such basic safety matters as plant-by-plant evacuation time estimates and the agency claims that it has been unable to access its own data base on individual plant mishaps for several months and has failed to obtain detailed records on the number of accidents at each reactor.
Among the findings of the Public Citizen study:
** There were at least 2,940 mishaps at US commercial reactors in 1987. These so called "mishaps" are Licensee Event Reports made to the NRC by the nuclear utilities themselves; according to NRC guidelines, they provide descriptions of "potentially significant safety events" that "might lead to serious accidents". The figure represents an average of 27 mishaps at each reactor (a number unchanged from the previous year).
Personnel error was involved in 2,197 (74%) of them. Many other mishaps, including some of the most serious accidents of 1987, were apparently not reported.
** Sixteen reactors experienced over 40 mishaps each.
The NRC reported 430 "scrams" (emergency plant shutdowns) - an average of 4.4 per operating reactor. Newer reactors averaged 11 scrams each during 1987. However, these figures may understate the actual number by 25-45%. The operating plants given the lowest overall management ratings by the NRC during 1987 were allowed to continue operating even though they were given poorer ratings than the Peach Bottom reactors 2 and 3 in Pennsylvania, which the NRC ordered closed in March 1987 for assorted management lapses including workers sleeping on the job.
Almost 14,500 metric tons of highly radioactive spent fuel is now stored at over 60 nuclear plant sites in large pools of water. Originally designed as temporary storage facilities, these fuel pools are experiencing a number of serious leaks and pose the risk of a major accident.
** Dozens of other mishaps occurred at nuclear plant sites in 1987. These included acts of vandalism and sabotage, unauthorized possession of firearms on plant sites, and a three-fold increase in the number of reported instances of drug use among nuclear workers.  ("Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy Project"; WISE-307 24/1/89).
Public trust cannot be achieved by the state and central Governments when democratic expression of fear and concern are dealt with by using police force as recently witnessed in public demonstrations against nuclear plants in several places including Jaitapur in Maharashtra and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.  If nuclear plants are being established to promote public health and welfare, the concerned people who stand to gain it benefits must naturally be treated as stakeholders and if there were any risks associated with the venture the people must be told about the environmental impacts including the advantages and disadvantages so that the people can welcome the plants wholeheartedly if the benefits far out weight the damages due to the industry.  If the damaging costs are more than the benefits the people themselves may come out with good suggestions on alternate methods of achieving the same energy through other renewable sources based on solar power, wind energy, natural gas, bio-energy, hydro-power, lignite, Geo-thermal, thermal and coal energy sources as suggested by the chancellor of Germany Angela Marcel who took a decision to phase out nuclear plants in her country and opted for more economical and safer, renewable energy sources as can be seen from the websites.
At the present time the Union Government and the state Governments are misleading the public by giving false information even about the impacts of Fukushima nuclear catastrophe while the mass media from other countries including Japan are feeding the Indian public with more truthful information about the accident.  The Indian Government is not following the rules and regulations even in preparing the EIA reports on the different nuclear plants in different parts of the country and thereby they are hiding the true facts about the feasibility of disaster management reports for maximum credible accidents as envisaged by the Environmental Protection Act and also as per the guidelines followed by other countries in the world.  If Germany and other European countries are demanding for abolishing nuclear power plants and opting for safer and economical alternate energy sources as projected by the author in the article on this subject.  Indian people cannot be taken for a ride particularly when the right to life, the right to health and the right to livelihood are at stake for the present and future generations who are the heirs to the Indian ethos that believing sustainable development based on truthful and non-violence as enunciated by the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi.
Emergency Planning Zones for nuclear accidents according to United States Standards:
To facilitate a preplanned strategy for protective actions during an emergency, there are two emergency planning zones (EPZs) around each nuclear power plant. The exact size and shape of each EPZ is a result of detailed planning which includes consideration of the specific conditions at each site, unique geographical features of the area, and demographic information. This preplanned strategy for an EPZ provides a substantial basis to support activity beyond the planning zone in the extremely unlikely event it would be needed.
The two EPZs are described as follows:
Plume Exposure Pathway EPZ
The plume exposure pathway EPZ has a radius of about 10 miles from the reactor site. Predetermined protective action plans are in place for this EPZ and are designed to avoid or reduce dose from potential exposure of radioactive materials. These actions include sheltering, evacuation, and the use of potassium iodide where appropriate. For more information, see Typical 10-Mile Plume Exposure Pathway EPZ Map.
Ingestion Exposure Pathway EPZ
The ingestion exposure pathway EPZ has a radius of about 50 miles from the reactor site. Predetermined protective action plans are in place for this EPZ and are designed to avoid or reduce dose from potential ingestion of radioactive materials. These actions include a ban of contaminated food and water.
When the Swiss Government wanted to buy the US Reactors in 1973 , they demanded experimental proof that the dome containment would retain the radioactive pollutants released during a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA). Actual  Test is very expensive,Moreover, since an actual test would be more dangerous than nuclear bomb testing, assurances on reactor safety are entirely based on tests on paper using simulated mathematical models.
 As such test results can not take into account the different permutations and combinations of malfunctions from defective materials, mechanical or human errors, sabotage, bombing, terrorism, missile hits, aero-plane crashes etc. they become invalid.
In other words, nobody can do all the necessary testing nor even anticipate what kind of tests are needed. At best, the experts may be able to simulate and estimate the answers to some of the questions asked by the people but do the people know all the questions that are yet to be asked for making the reactors absolutely safe for all time for different Natural and Man-made errors? Hence the proof of reactor safety could not be given and still has not been demonstrated.
But when the tests on the Emergency core cooling system designed to flood the core during a loss of coolant Accident[LOCA] were run at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho, mechanical failures occurred. When the tests were run during 1970-71 all the six tests conducted by the Aero-jet Nuclear Company failed. Subsequent experiments at Oak-ridge National Laboratoreis indicated that the Zircaloy-clad fuel rods of the Light water reactors may swell, rupture and block the cooling channels, and thereby obstruct the emergency cooling water from reaching the core and such obstruction which holds back the emergency core cooling water leads to a catastrophe sometime or the other. Thus reactor safety is considered to be most often a myth!


personal injury accident attorney said...

All i know is you can't avoid when nuclear is there also nuclear bombs.

environmental safety training said...

I think the right organizations are doing some things to make sure that those accidents are avoided. Agencies like OSHA and ISO have standards and guidelines in mmaking sure that any kind of operation are safe.

Anonymous said...

En vironmental safety training imparts only theoretical knowledge and unless we have very honest and dedicated workers to implement the required procedures the inevitable accidents like Chernobyl,Fukushima and Bhopal tragedies are uinavoidable as human mind works from selfish motives and vested interests which cannot be avoided in poor countries where politi cians are rank corrupt and in rich countries where politicians misuse power to eArn huge kick backs as in Japan where nbo body expects that nuclear plants are promoted while several alternate sources of energy are availabvle.Japan is trying to make Hittler a demi-God as he killed only millions of Jews in Gas Chambers belonging to only one generation while Nu clear plant promotedrs in USA,India and Japan are u nk nowingly killing people of several generations for the sake of corruption money to be used to win the Elections by bribing the people as voters.
Ms.P.Subhashini C/T.V.Rama Rao

Jodie Jenkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jodie Jenkins said...

work accidents can happen anytime specially in a workplace like this one...That's why it is very important to take safety precautions at all time and be sure to check all machineries before and after work if it's still functioning well.

About Me

My photo
Born in 1932 at Mudinepalli, near Gudivada, Krishna Dist. Andhra Pradesh, received Bachelors degree in Civil Engg., from Viswesaraiah Engineering College, Banglore (1956) and Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering from Rice university, Houston, Texas, (USA) (1962), Ph.D (Hony). Former Head of the Department of Civil Engineering and principal of College of Engineering, Andhra university.Formerly Hony.Professor in Andhra University,Manonmanian Sundarnar University,JNT University. Fellow of the Institution of Engineers,India Recipient of the University Grants Commissions National Award "Swami Pranavananda Award on Ecology and Environmental Sciences" for the year 1991. Recipient of Sivananda Eminent Citizen Award for 2002 by Sanathana Dharma Charitable Trust, Andhra Pradesh state. Presently Working as Director, centre for Environmental Studies, GITAM University, http://www.geocities.com/prof_shivajirao/resume.html http://www.eoearth.org/contributor/Shivaji.rao