[ RadSafe ] Abandoned

Jeff Terry terryj at iit.edu
Wed Mar 16 09:51:42 CDT 2011

I strongly agree with Dewey. 

I have found over the past few days that my university prefers that I speak publicly about the incident. The public wants more information. Some of the interview that I have done have been silly. NPR asked me to describe a non-normal natural disaster that could damage the reactors in Illinois after I said that the GE designs (4 in Illinois) now have been shown to survive a magnitude 9 earthquake which is greater that what we have observed in the New Madrid fault historically. What is a non-normal natural disaster? Something other than earthquake, fire, flood, tornado, hurricane. 

Describe exactly what happened.
The tsunamis played a major role in the event. Took out diesels at Dewey stated. 

Backup generators were flown in but they had some issues (everyone reports that the plugs did not fit). It could not have been due to the plugs not fitting as someone would have cut the wires and wired together plugs, etc. The likely issue is that some of Japan runs at 50 Hz and some of Japan at 60 Hz. I can't believe that it would be just the plug. This would not happen in the US.

Chernobyl, explain delayed vs prompt critical. Explain the Carbon moderators in the core. Explain the difference in amount of carbon vs the amount of Zr cladding (approximately 1 mm OD tube). This is what oxidizes (burns) in the reactor or spent fuel pool for that matter. It does contain the fission products. The UO2 does not burn. 

If you are clear, the majority of people will understand what you are describing. 

Give your contact information. 

I have been answering hundreds of emails from the public after these appearances. Many of the questions are similar and you can cut and paste. Respond to questions from everyone. It makes everyone feel that you care about them. When they respond to your question with a thank you, respond with a you're welcome. Offer to answer any questions that they have in the future. 

I have yet to receive an email from a rapid antinuclear person. They have been from the general public who want to understand what is happening. 

This is just on top of Dewey's excellent advice that I have left in below. 

If you are going to comment publicly, make sure that you have the most up-to-date information and that you understand what has been released. There have been multiple reactors that have been described as having problems. 

Explain how much energy that we generate from nuclear, here in Illinois it is 50 percent. Explain that it would be nearly impossible to replace it immediately and we really would not want to as it provides extremely stable (no standard brownout times in Illinois) supplies in times of high demand. 

I have been using it to explain the spent fuel problem as well. Describing reprocessing, long term storage and explaining why I think that storage in populated areas is not as good of an option as putting it in imperfect repositories such as WIPP or Yucca Mtn and that they should contact their representatives that they want safe nuclear power with the waste taken care of by the DOE as required by law. 


On Mar 16, 2011, at 9:01 AM, Thompson, Dewey L wrote:

> This is NOT intended to be critical of anyone's decision demur speaking to a class.  
> I would like to weigh in here and lobby that we be disposed to support such interaction - were we can.  Those of us that work for a corporate entity obviously can not be seen as a "public spokesman".  Many of us do have the ability to be a voice here and there.  
> What I would tell a ME class:
> 1. The basic facts, as we understand them.  Not sugar coated, but not
>   dramatized, "Just the facts ma'am".  There are several sources of
>   pretty good status.  
>   The plant apparently survived the earthquake (shake part) pretty well.
>   (compare that to the surrounding buildings).
>   The tsunami took out emergency diesel generators fuel and cooling 
>   systems.  This challenged cooling the reactor cores that were operating,
>   and lead to the early over heat problems.  The opinion part is that the 
>   situation is extremely serious, is stabilizing, but slowly.  Obviously 
>   they have, and have had unimaginable logistics issues with the regional 
>   devastation.  The immediate problem now is keeping the reactor cores 
>   flooded, and a looming problem is dealing with the spent fuel pools.  
> 2. The differences between this event and Chernobyl.  These cores have been 
>   decaying for several days now.  Chernobyl's releases were from a core  
>   during a power excursion with burning graphite. With no containment. 
> 3. Will there be lessons learned?  Absolutely.  Will there be a movement
>   away from nuclear energy? That remains to be seen.  We must know the
>   facts in order to make intelligent decisions.  My desperate hope is that 
>   we DO make intelligent decisions.
> 4. (The opinion part).  I still support the technology.  Yes, this is an 
>   ongoing catastrophic event of "biblical proportions", much of the use of 
>   technology involves risk of such.  Nuclear plants can (and must) be 
>   constructed to generate power while protecting the public.  My point for 
>   mechanical engineers would be to always remember that during their 
>   careers.  Whether it is designing a nuclear power plant or a catwalk for 
>   a ritzy hotel, it is an awesome and solemn responsibility. 
> Dewey 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Larry Addis
> Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 10:25 PM
> To: 'The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List'
> Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Abandoned
> <snip>
> This is truly a nightmare of historical/biblical proportions.  
> I was asked to give a talk/answer session to an mech. engineering class
> today and said I'd wait - I just don't know what I'd say. Dumbstruck at this
> point.
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