Monday, May 01, 2006
  I don't trust Indonesians

I don't trust the Brits either.
Documents obtained by New Scientist under the UK's Freedom of Information Act have revealed unsuspected problems with the country's ageing advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs). Government nuclear inspectors say they have uncovered weaknesses in the safety analyses carried out by British Energy, the company that runs the reactors.

Nor the Americans.
In a report (November 2003) on the potential for radiation leaks at Yucca Mountain, the Technical Review Board told the Department of Energy that the heat from the expected 77,000 tons of decaying radioactive waste and spent fuel would accelerate corrosion of metal waste containers DoE has designed for use at the site. DoE currently stands by the design, which is supposed to contain radioactivity for 10,000 years, but has not produced data proving its effectiveness.

Nor the Australians.
Greens MLC Ian Cohen says it is not good enough that ANSTO has failed to discover how and why one of its workers (at Lucas Heights power plant) was contaminated with radiation. "For a reactor to be operating in the heartland of suburban Sydney is crazy. Sydney-siders deserve a safe, clean, healthy city not one with a high-risk terrorist target on the edge of their backyard."

Nor the Japanese.
Japan is considering seeking help from the U.S. military after the accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force's chemical warfare unit was ready to be deployed at the accident site but that it lacked relevant experience and .... U.S. forces may have the necessary know-how.

Nor the Russians.
The Carlisle (UK) evening paper 'News and Star' reports a 12-fold increase in thyroid cancer in Cumbria after the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago

Nor the Spanish.
The oldest operating powerplant in Spain, the Jose Cabrera power station in Almonacid de Zorita, will be shut down on April 30, 2006 (today). In 1994, more than 170 cracks were detected in the cover of the reactor vessel; the cracks were only repaired in 1997. Dismantling the station is expected to start in 2008 and completed in 2014 at a projected cost of $165 million, according to Spain's National Radioactive Waste Company.

Nor the Indians.
Kakrapara Atomic Power Station (KAPS), in the western city of Surat, is India's well-groomed nuclear workhorse and when it comes to controlling radiation leakage, KAPS is "our best station". That, it turns out, is bad news. KAPS may be India's prized nuclear plant, but radiation emitted from its reactors is three times as much as the international norm.

Nor the Iranians.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Tuesday that Iran would halt all cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog if the Security Council imposes sanctions.

In fact, I don't trust any and every nationality which has nuclear power as an energy source.

I've said this before, here, and here, and here, and here and ....

I'll continue to rail against nuclear power as long as sloppy thinkers advocate the expansion of an energy source which is known to be hazardous and outrageously expensive.

There was an article in last week's Jakarta Post by Warief Djajanto Basorie, a teacher of journalism, about Indonesia's nuclear options.

I am not a journalist but I do try to check my 'facts'. For example, he suggests that a major leak at Windscale on the east coast of England in 1957 did not result in radioactive particles escaping the plant.

Oh yeah? Ignore the fact that Windscale is actually on the west coast of England, and note that an estimated 750 terabecquerels (TBq) (20,000 curies) of radioactive Iodine-131 were released in the accident, and milk and other produce from the surrounding farming areas had to be destroyed.

Now try to follow his arguments.

A nuclear power plant for Indonesia is now on the front burner. Soedyartomo Soentoro, head of the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan), says the nation needs 100 gigawatts of electric power by 2025. Four nuclear power plants would provide a total of 4 gigawatts.

So Indonesia needs 100 nuclear plants ~ (4x 25 = 100) ?

The most probable site is seven kilometers from the Tanjung Jati B power plant on Muria Peninsula on the north coast of Central Java. The site is in Jepara regency near Mount Muria, an inactive 1,602-meter volcano. The Muria area is chosen because of the relatively low probability of an earthquake occurring there.

Which is why the site is currently occupied by a seismological testing centre?

Geologists say Kalimantan would be a better site as it is less vulnerable to quakes. But as more than 60 percent of Indonesia's electricity needs are in Java, Bali and Madura, a future chain of nuclear plants will be built on and for these three islands.

Does this answer both my questions?

The article has, quite rightly, a focus on safety issues.

On the physical construction of the reactor, safety issues to watch out for are reactor vessel embrittlement, pipe wall corrosion and steam generator degradation. For Indonesia, an external problem would be earth tremors.

Two other safety concerns are post-power use. One is waste management. Spent fuel, nuclear fuel that can no longer economically sustain a chain reaction, is either reprocessed or stored. What is left of the reprocessing, however, is bomb-grade plutonium. This raises the anxiety level of major nuclear energy users of the highly toxic material falling into the wrong hands.

Ah, waste management, something that NO country has satisfactorily solved.

The UK government has been advised by an official panel to dispose of nuclear waste by burying it deep underground - the same solution it has already rejected three times over the last 30 years.

The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommended today that geological disposal is the "best available approach" for the long term management of 470,000 cubic metres of waste from nuclear power and weapons.

But CoRWM has highlighted the need for secure "interim storage" for one or two generations over "several decades". It said that there may be technical problems at sites proposed for deep disposal, as well as "social and ethical concerns".
NewScientist.com 27.4.06

"Best available"? "Interim over several decades"? "Technical problems"? "Social and ethical concerns"?

Do I detect a frisson of doubt creeping in?

Warief continues to argue that there are sound economic reasons for constructing nuclear power plants. I really can't be bothered to counter these but would point out that assuredly the only profit takers have been those involved in the initial construction.

So let's wrap this up.

Whatever the safety features and the costs investors propose in their bid, the government's immediate task is selling nuclear power plants to the public, particularly to the people who would have to be moved from the surrounding land of a proposed site.

Do you trust the Indonesian government to adequately 'socialise' its nuclear power programme?

Would you trust the Indonesian government to provide adequate compensation to those who would have to be moved? Have they ever?

Above all, do you, would you, trust Indonesians to construct and manage nuclear power plants? And secure the resulting waste products for the next millenium?



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