1560 Tom Petty.

I don’t think Thomas would actually say I told you so if things went wrong. He’d just look at her, and she’d know. That said, I think he does truly trust her judgement. Plus, she has to learn to lead, and he knows that the best way for that to happen is to support her.

I vaguely remember the Chernobyl disaster. At that time, and for most of my life, I was plagued by dreams of nuclear apocalypse. That disaster was just a blip on the radar of that saturated fear. At the time, we got a pretty glossed over view of how bad it was, and how disastrous it might have been. I’ve been looking into it a little more since the episode about it on the Do Go On podcast. It’s chilling, but interesting on many levels. The political reaction, the physical ones, it’s an amazing study for how humans deal with catastrophic fuck ups.
It all might have been avoided if not for one terrible manager too. Anatoli Diatlov, that’s the name, I think. A man who denied any responsibility till the day he died. A colossally arrogant dickhead who shifted blame from himself at every turn. I guess you’d have to if you were personally responsible for the deaths of thousands, and thousands yet to come. He went to prison for 10 years. Not nearly long enough, by my reckoning.
There was very nearly a second explosion. If it hadn’t been stopped it would have rendered most of Europe uninhabitable. The destruction caused by clouds of radioactive dust is practically incalculable. All down to terrible management at nearly every level.
The sarcophagus that contains the reactor will have to be maintained for thousands of years. Imagine how many regimes will rise and fall over the course of that time. There is enough radioactivity in one gram of the substance contained within to kill one hundred million people. It’s just sitting there, festering. Essentially forever.
Having said all that, I still think nuclear power is the most efficient source of energy we have. Modern plants are not like the ridiculously half assed Chernobyl plant and the decaying government that allowed it to be constructed. Someday we’ll master the atom. I hope we keep better care before that time though.


Not to start a big discussion, but-
As I remember it, unlike better built plants, the Chernobyl plant didn’t have a containment dome on it, therefore- if something went wrong, there is no protection from the nuclear-plant-gone-wrong.
To me, it’s sort of like taking a truck mud-holing, + leaving the windows open…by doing that, things are going to get very messy. *shrugs*

It also had been constructed using flammable materials in places where it should not have been, as well as other corners cut in order to secure bonuses for the construction companies.

Well the flammable materials were a given based on the design. The reactor was a scale up of the Manhattan project where the material used to house and moderate the reaction was graphite. Graphite is very durable at high temperatures, the V2 used it for the guide planes in its rocket motor after all. Graphite is a form of carbon and so is just a fancy cousin to a charcoal briquette.

So the design issue is pretty much a poster child of, things don’t scale well from the lab to industrial levels.

The lesson was not learned because, wait for it, the reactors used in the states are scaled up versions of those used in early submarines and carriers.

pretty sure it also had a passive heat coefficient greater than 1, meaning that if nothing else was running, it would increase temperature, essentially requiring active cooling.

Aside from the lack of any sort of containment whatsoever(ensuring that ANY accident would become a disaster), there was also a little design quirk that inserting the control rods would actually ACCELERATE the reaction initially before it started to slow it down, resulting in incredibly counter-intuitive behavior under certain conditions. Mostly under the kind of conditions where you have to make split-second judgement calls and desperately NEED intuitive and straightforward behavior.

This quirk alone made it, to be blunt, a fundamentally flawed design for a large-scale power plant.

Now, in fairness, we had some incredibly counterintuitive instrumentation at Three Mile Island that resulted in operators doing exactly the wrong things, and the containment vessel did the job it was designed to do.
Even the Fukushima mess, while a completely unmitigated trainwreck and close to a worst-case scenario as that style of power plant gets, is basically incomparable to Chernobyl.

Basically, Chernobyl happened because the russians failed at every conceivable level. Management, engineering, training, oversight, communication, you name it and they bungled it. They had a fundamentally unsafe reactor design being operated outside design limits, with multiple pieces of crazy being applied, with crew ignorant of the reactor’s various behaviors, and several safety mechanisms disabled. And then everything went wrong.
(And then they fed cattle from the contaminated area to humans. http://www.jakepoz.com/debugging-behind-the-iron-curtain/ The Soviet Union was terrible.)

To me- Jo’s face in the last panel makes me think- that she’s slightly annoyed by Thomas’ remarks, but that she’s slightly amused by his quriky remarks as well. She seems to be wearing a sly, sort of happy + bemused smile, in the end panel. Hee hee hee! :D

I wish the world would build a lot of modern nuclear power plants, the so-called “inherently safe” designs. Nothing is perfectly safe, but I’d live near one of those, and I’d never live near a coal-burning plant. Coal comes from under the ground, and a lot of stuff from under the ground is radioactive. Coal ash is mildly radioactive and it just goes up the smokestack for people to breathe. This is Not Good. Nuke power is incredibly clean by comparison.

It’s true that there is “hot” radioactive stuff that kills you instantly. And it’s true that there is radioactive stuff that lasts for tens of thousands of years. But the two kinds of stuff are not the same. The stuff that kills you quickly doesn’t last that long; it’s got a short half-life. It radiates away to nothing relatively quickly. There isn’t any “magically dangerous” stuff that kills instantly and lasts forever.

And I don’t believe the fear-mongering that waste will pile up forever. People are already working on reactors that can burn up nuclear waste, getting useful power and using up the dangerous radioactivity. If I understand it right, the final ash would have a short half-life. See, for example, the “Traveling Wave Reactor” page in Wikipedia.

However, I think solar power could be a major source of energy if the storage problem can be solved. If we had “grid-level” batteries that could store enough power to run a city, solar and wind power would be much more useful. They would go from chancy power sources to dependable power sources. Someday every house and building will have solar panel roofing tiles. And solar power is as close as we can get to perfectly safe.

Solar power is problematic in at least two ways:
1) Installing it on roofs – roofers have a very hazardous job, and solar does cost lives.
2) Chemicals and processes used to make it. Hopefully they’re all contained and recycled… at least in Western nations… where, of course, all of our solar cells come from (not).

Just to counterpoint.
1) working on a roof is inherently dangerous [fullstop]
– Roofing material that happens to also generate power is the goal
– today’s half assed panels on top of a roof that is not industrial is stupid and a scam
2) Depends on the cell production technology being talked about
– Thin film cells are heavily patented and production is limited due to patent costs
– crystalline cells are made by the same foundries that make your consumer grade electronics
– so look to china and the US multinationals for those environmental issues

The biggest problem with solar (and by extension, wind; where do you think wind comes from?) is that it isn’t scalable. The Darlington plant in Ontario produces about 100 times as much power as you could get from covering it’s entire grounds with solar panels. Couple that with the bulk of power usage not being domestic, and solar and wind are basically pointless wastes of money for everything except for niche locations that simply can’t be connected to mains power. And even then, an RTG works better if you can get ahold of one.

“That disaster was just a blip on the radar” – indeed it was. But unfortunately, that blip was only a few hundred kilometers to the north.

Its effects started showing only 20 years later as thyroid and throat cancer numbers just blew through the roof. Mom lost her thyroid in 2006, mine is on its way out as well. Officially, there wasn’t enough contamination to cause problems, but with everyone being a communist back then, official versions are highly untrusted anyways.

It was just a sick system, where design decisions were not made by qualified people, but by asskissers with good Party credentials. No wonder it blew up.


Thyroid cancer has increased in all areas where toxic smoke managed to get to. Even though some countries still deny that they were affected.

There was an earlier blip that most people missed but had a chance of happening in the states as well thanks to similar “we don’t give a rats ass” attitude coupled with – “security”.

I am talking about the Kyshtym disaster which was a radioactive contamination accident that occurred on 29 September 1957 at Mayak, a plutonium production site for nuclear weapons and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the Soviet Union. The official reason was a waste tank drying out and blowing its lid off due to an exothermic reaction. Unofficially it was waste collecting in the lake bed going critical.

Something similar is happening in the waterways downstream of a couple of US military nuclear facilities but those are only slightly fluorescent and being heated to boiling at points.

Enough to make you heave, ain’t it? Glad I’m not the only one worried about that. Gave me nightmares for years, still does sometimes.

Spite Monkey! And yeah, I saw what you did there with the episode title.

The Three Mile Island event occurred a little more than a year before I started working as a guard at a Nuclear Power Plant. Chernobyl (wormwood, in Ukrainian — but that’s not the word they used in translating the Book of Revelations) occurred a little more than a year before I left for another job. My reason for leaving had a lot more to do with my distaste for the contact security company I worked for than my personal feelings about nuclear energy.

The plant is still 25 miles down the road. Units 2 and 3 still produce power (Unit 1 ceased operations in 1998) and they’re still keeping my power bills low. And I’m still waiting for practical wind, tidal or solar power.

Nuclear plants are going to stay, at least for a lot of countries. It´s (definitely) very difficult to dismantle these without a trace, mainly because the residues will still be there for a loooooong time (starting from 10.000 years to 1 million of years). Our best bet is to learn to invent a sort of a closed environment in which nuclear residues would became “fuel” in the same sense as uranium, per example (This is not currently achievable, still). But, the new designs of nuclear centrals are way too much cost to handle right now for a lot of countries. Mind you, even in EEUU they need state assurance, and I don´t think anybody is gladly giving free funds for that. Fukushima revealed the true risks, even with modern technology. So, it´s no wonder if small but developed countries choose to invest in solar or tidal energy. They´re adapting. Denmark expects to be completely autonomous in electrical energy by 2025.

Actually, using current nuclear waste as fuel IS achievable. A breeder reactor would just keep on “burning” fuel at the point where modern reactors “throw it away”, until most of the long-lived radioactive isotopes are gone. They also get far more power out of a given mass of “starter fuel” since they go on to consume the stuff we currently throw away.

Breeder reactors have been discouraged partially because they initially required the ability to extract weapons-grade plutonium as a part of normal operation, and thus there was concern that Some Nations would use nuclear power plants as the basis for a secret weapons program. Later designs have largely fixed that.
Buuuut uranium also got much cheaper when we discovered there was a lot more of it than we’d thought, and the high fuel costs that made the more-expensive breeder reactor designs desirable disappeared.

Also, Fukushima was NOT modern technology. The first reactor came online in 1971, making it actually older than Chernobyl(Three-Mile Island sits between the two, and that covers all three accidents). The sixth and final reactor at Fukushima was brought online in 1979. All six reactors were designed in the 1960s.

In conclusion: SCIENCE!

Fantástico! Now if somebody as rich Elon Musk could give this a big push, then the dependence on uranium would drop a lot, and we could minimize the risks of nuclear waste! The problemas is that nuclear power has been so insanely pricey to get running, that no private company can do it “solo”. They needed state assurance (un case anything goes wrong, and for aleviating costs) and a lot of capital. In terms of risk, assurance companies wouldn’t be able to cover costs in case of disaster. So it’s cheaper both in risks and infrastructure costs for some alternative sources of energy.The days of centralized generation of energy are slowly fading. To put it in layman’s terms, there are less money in nuclear energy than in the past. Perhaps smaller, more eficient nuclear reactors should be the norm, but few countries are willing to put the dough on that. The breeder reactors would become a temporal solution (nuclear reactors have a life of 40-60 years or so). I don’t think that nuclear power will be outclassed in electric power generation anytime soon, but that its importance will diminish over time is a verified trend that will become reality in years to come.

Being able to tell someone “I TOLD YOU SO” is something that should be on every-bodies bucket list.

That’s as it may be. However, I’ve found that as you get older (and hopefully more mature) you begin to realize that the people who need to be told are either too important to you to do so, or are so obtuse that they either won’t listen or don’t care.

(My challenge to you is to diagram that last sentence.)

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