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Old 08-31-2007, 11:35 PM   #41
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Why are you guys losing the public relation battle? Why is the majority of Americans so ignorant about the benefits of nuclear power? What did the Europeans do to educate their people? Why couldn't we do the same, or better?
The US did take the lead in peaceful uses of nuclear power immediately after WW-II, and much of what we did paved the way for nuclear power programs in many other countries. One reason that Western European and Japanese nuclear use is higher is simply because they have so little oil, gas, and coal. The public in many of these countries (particularly Japan) have had a vocal anti-nuclear contingent, but the economics were just too important to disregard and the politicians simply forged ahead with these programs. After decades of cheap, relatively clean power with few significant incidents, the public has just come to accept nuclear power.

In the US, the "no nukes" crowd, with scarcely a shred of technical underpinning, latched on to the cache and much of the counterculture membership of the anti-war movement. It wasn't really "about" much except wanting to be part of a movement. It just perpetuated itself, like a Grateful Dead concert series, for decades. What a long, strange trip it was. The real question is why it had any impact on popular opinion. I guess I'll understand that when I understand why "People" magazine is popular.

(Also, the early US enthusiasm for peaceful uses of nuclear power led to some impractical ideas. Though almost entirely unrelated, these programs may have served to undermine confidence in the US nuclear power industry to some degree. "Operation Plowshare" and the NS Savannah come to mind as examples.)

NS Savannah - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Operation Plowshare - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 09-01-2007, 01:16 AM   #42
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In the US, the "no nukes" crowd, with scarcely a shred of technical underpinning, latched on to the cache and much of the counterculture membership of the anti-war movement. It wasn't really "about" much except wanting to be part of a movement.
I've never been rabidly anti-nuke, and the idea of pebble bed reactors appeals to me, but my concern about traditional nukes -- both peaceful and harmful -- has always been the potential for human error to have a large impact on a large number of people.

Humans screw up. Nukes generally magnify the impact of human screw-ups big time.

I'm somewhat amazed we haven't yet accidentally set off a warhead. Maybe the safeguards are just that good. But I did get a bit nervous when somebody on a nuke-armed sub accidentally let a ladder penetrate an armed missle a couple years ago....
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Old 09-01-2007, 01:50 AM   #43
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I believe most Nukes have multiple safeguards including sensory triggers. For example, a nuke dropped by a plane must experience free fall/zero gravity before it will arm. Nuke artillery must experience large G-forces before arming. That type of thing. Fail safe, fail secure is the name of the game. But it's not my field so I'm sure someone here can explain it better.
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Old 09-01-2007, 01:59 AM   #44
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Fail safe, fail secure is the name of the game.
Yes, I'm sure that's the goal. But computer geeks know that only the most trivial algorithms can be made provably correct. So, I'm fairly sure there's always a weak link in the chain. And we obviously have already seen human error contribute to catastrophic failure in commercial nukes, so it's not just an academic concern.
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Old 09-01-2007, 10:13 AM   #45
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Yes, I'm sure that's the goal. But computer geeks know that only the most trivial algorithms can be made provably correct. So, I'm fairly sure there's always a weak link in the chain. And we obviously have already seen human error contribute to catastrophic failure in commercial nukes, so it's not just an academic concern.
Paradoxically, the more dangerous something is, the safer it can become.

People get scared by the extreme dangers, so everything about it is treated with respect, and everything gets attention to detail. Multiple fail safe/secure mechanisms as others have said.

You are right, it is all done by humans, and we do fail. However, rigorously planned and fully tested software can be amazingly robust. When is the last time a cash register, for example, failed to add up the bill correctly (assuming the inputs were good)? Use an ATM transaction if you want a more complex example.

Layer several levels of that protection and you can get very good indeed. Look at all the well-designed (not Chernobyl) nukes running in Europe and Japan w/o incident (that I am aware of). We knew Chernobyl was a bad design to begin with, it never should have been built (and none were, outside of USSR). And we have learned from TMI that we need more standardized designs.

If every coal mine disaster had the potential to kill 10,000,000 people, rather than a few poor miners, coal mines would be very safe indeed, I suspect.

In the mean time, >40,000 people die each year in the US in car accidents. Many more are permanently or seriously injured. Yet, I am not aware of a 'No-Transportation' concert series?

A long list of popular musicians that have been killed in car/plane accidents pops into my head, I don't even need to go to wiki for that.

Can't think of a single one killed by a nuke power plant, ever.

I wish they would stick to singing/playing/song-writing/entertaining. Musicians, on average, really suck at risk assessment and statistics. They probably wouldn't have tried to become famous if they understood the odds

-ERD50
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