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“Nuclear is the safest option”

Fukushima triggered public alarm in China, but state energy researcher Jiang Kejun believes nuclear power remains the country’s best bet. He tells Meng Si why.

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In the early days of the Japanese nuclear crisis, the Standing Committee of China’s State Council suspended approval of new nuclear-power projects. Later, an official at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – China’s top economic planning body – indicated that China would not abandon nuclear power as a result of events in Japan and that, as long as safety is assured, development would still be rapid. So what is the real impact of Japan’s disaster on future energy policy in China? chinadialogue’s Meng Si spoke to Jiang Kejun, senior researcher at NDRC’s Energy Research Institute.

Meng Si: The Fukushima radiation leak prompted a variety of reactions around the world. In China, a number of government departments stressed that the incident would not change the country’s determination or plans to press ahead with nuclear power. What’s your view?

Jiang Kejun: There will be a short term impact, but not a long term one. In the short term, nuclear approvals will slow down, and it could be several months before the current moratorium is lifted. I think the public focus on nuclear power is a good thing – the Fukushima incident has brought everything out into the open, helping everyone to develop a better understanding of the energy they use. In the end, people will realise that nuclear power is the safest energy source.

MS: How do you reach that conclusion?

JK: It’s not my conclusion – you only need to look at the data. The Japanese government is extremely conscientious, and if we haven’t yet been told of workers suffering radiation exposure on a large scale, then it hasn’t happened.

The Three Mile Island accident in the United States caused very few deaths, some illnesses. There are huge variations in the figures for Chernobyl: the International Atomic Energy Agency says fewer than 50 people had died [by 2005] as a result of the incident, while some environmental groups put the figure at 90,000 or even well over 100,000. But even if you use the higher figures, when you average it out, nuclear power is still extremely safe.

I remember a report by a journalist who, after researching nuclear power in depth, came to the conclusion that it was the only source of energy he could trust, because it has the strictest approval and monitoring standards. It’s like trains and planes – you’re much less likely to die on a plane, but when there is an air crash it gets lots of attention.

Compare nuclear power with other energy sources. When it comes to chronic diseases, coal is the worst. Mining disasters aside, each year sees more than a thousand cases of silicosis, and the numbers get even worse if you add in related cancer cases. There are issues like this with all fossil fuels.

Even around Fukushima, the radiation impact is limited. Some of the numbers might sound bad, but the situation is still some way from the worst case scenario.

MS: There is a view that if this can happen even in cautious Japan, then there is a huge question mark over China’s nuclear management. What would you say to that?

JK: The technology Japan uses is somewhat outdated, while the nuclear technology now being used in China is the most advanced in the world. When the Daya Bay plant was built, with extensive safety measures, it was the best in the world.

I think the problems in Japan have more to do with where the authorities decided to locate the plant in the first place than whether Japan was or wasn’t careful. And actually it’s not just Japan – globally, those deciding the location for major projects often fail to take into account all sorts of factors. For example, dams in China are thought to be designed to withstand the sort of disaster that only occurs once every few centuries. But the 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan shows just how hard it is to predict the severity of such an event.

When we talk about nuclear safety, it’s important to remember that it’s essentially a technological matter, and that standards for the nuclear industry are among the highest of any industry in China. China’s nuclear technology can be said to be very safe. 

MS: But isn’t that based on a relative concept of safety? As our knowledge increases, isn’t it true that what is considered safe today might not be in the future?

JK: It is a relative concept, yes, but personally I’m in favour of nuclear power. It isn’t that I particularly like nuclear, but I like coal and hydropower less because the problems with those energy sources are bigger. And even wind power, for example, which is widely considered a clean technology, can also have a negative impact on birds and ecosystems.

Today there are many NGOs opposing nuclear power, but they don’t have the data to support their position. Nobody wants accidents to happen, but what else are we going to use if not nuclear power? If you look at the whole process, fatalities caused by nuclear power per unit of electricity generated are one hundredth those caused by hydropower, and about one twentieth those caused by coal power – and that’s just fatalities, the differences in other areas can be even larger.

MS: Why do you think the public were so alarmed by the Fukushima accident?

JK: I think the media performed badly in this case. First, they failed to go out and get the basic facts about nuclear power. To discuss this subject, you need a very strong technical background – you can’t just talk about it in the same terms as anything else. But at the start, journalists just repeated what they heard, throwing in all sorts of different opinions, and the reports made the situation sound terrifying. The average member of the public is unable to differentiate between them.

One error, at the very start, was that it was often reported that radiation levels were “10,000 times” over the legal limit. Actually they weren’t, they were 10,000 times higher than background radiation levels. What does that mean? The media didn’t explain that, in Tokyo and where the plant is located, background radiation is 0.04 microsieverts, and so 10,000 times is 400 microsieverts. Just compare that with the radiation caused by an X-ray. [One X-ray causes exposure of 1,000 microsieverts, according to the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention].

In fact, radiation levels around nuclear-power stations tend to be comparatively low – levels of radioactive substances around coal-fired power plants are 10 times or more those near nuclear plants. Europe has plenty of money and doesn’t want to use coal. Have any of these anti-nuclear environmental groups asked people whether they would be more willing to live near a nuclear-power plant or a coal-fired one? Personally, I would opt for nuclear.

So when the media reports these sorts of stories, they need to think about their own role and responsibilities, acquire the necessary background knowledge and provide the public with accurate information.

MS: Disregarding government subsidies, what are the market prices for nuclear, coal and hydropower, and what will the future trends be?

JK: Currently nuclear power doesn’t really need to be subsidised. The order of expense is: photovoltaic solar power as the most expensive, then offshore wind, onshore wind, natural gas, nuclear, coal and hydropower. The costs of nuclear already include waste handling and safety management.

Coal will become more expensive in the future, due to pollution issues – nitrogen and sulphur scrubbers will be needed in power plants. There won’t be much change in nuclear-power prices, though the cost of the safer third-generation reactors are likely to fall by about 20%. There is huge potential for solar power to get cheaper, maybe by 50% over the next 10 to 20 years. However, there is not much scope for wind power to get cheaper – by the end of 2010 it had already fallen to a little over 3,000 yuan (US$462) per kilowatt.

MS: Does handling nuclear waste account for much of the cost of nuclear power? There is public concern that this will turn into a permanent burden.

JK: Nuclear-waste storage today is very safe. There are still some problems that need to be worked out, but they are all within a controllable and acceptable range. Fourth-generation nuclear reactors will increase fuel usage rates by several dozen times and at that point very little waste will be produced. Actually, we are already capable of processing nuclear waste, it’s just the cost is high, and so we store it.

MS: Germany has announced closure of seven nuclear power plants and many expected a power shortage – but no large scale power cuts seem to have happened.

JK: Since the shutdown, many industrial sectors have complained that this is a blow for them. Germany is already preparing to import coal from the United States, which is tantamount to exporting pollution and fatalities to a different country. I think Germany has not made a wise choice, and in the long term, this will damage the competitiveness of the nation as a whole.

Meng Si is managing editor in chinadialogue’s Beijing office. Guo Xiaohe, a chinadialogue intern, also contributed to this article.

Homepage image from Baike shows the Sanmen nuclear-power station in China's Zhejiang province.

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2011年3月29日进行了一项略小的罗西装置的测试。这次测试有两位新的观察者在场:理论物理副教授Hanno Essén,瑞典怀疑者社会的主席以及瑞典皇家学院科学能源委员会主席Sven Kullander,他们与其他的独立观察者们一致认为这项装置肯定会产生核反应。见NyTeknik的文章:瑞典物理学家研究电子猫:这是一次核反应。
这次测验使用了一个新的更小的装有50厘米电池的装置。它可以在6小时内生产出4.4千万,或25千万每小时(90兆焦耳)。Essén和Kullander写了一份报告,也刊登在NyTeknik上:迷你罗西装置实验测试2011年3月29日在博洛尼瓦Leonardocorp进行。Focardi 做了一个很有启发意义的电台访问。这是英文翻译版。NyTeknik发表了很多关于罗西的文章,列在这里。《新能源时代》密切关注有关罗西的新闻。他们有一列文章。如下
一家名为Defkalion绿色科技的公司已经在希腊雅典建立,目的是生产销售Andrea Rossi能源催化剂冷聚变反应堆。据希腊报纸《投资家世界》以及其他信息源说,这家公司注资2亿,包括有1亿用于支付特许使用费,大概是给罗西。希腊媒体报道说这家公司计划每年为希腊和巴尔干市场生产30万台机器。这家公司的网站称它拥有向除美洲外的地区的专有销售权。www.lenr-canr.org/News
我们上传了一篇由Scott Chubb撰写的文章,文章描述罗西的装置和近期的事件。
2011年2月10日和11日,博洛尼瓦大学的Levi et al进行了另一项罗西装置的试验。与1月14日的那次试验相比,这次的流速更高,防止冷却水蒸发。一方面是要恢复耕地热量,另一方面因为Celani和其他人批评说相位改变热量测定过于复杂。有人担心湿蒸汽对干蒸汽的热含量以及用来检测蒸汽干燥度的相对湿度计。熟悉这个测验的消息源向Jed Rothwell透露了以下数字。有几个近似值 :测验持续时间:18小时。

NyTeknik 发表了最新实验的引人注意的描述文章(英语)。文章包含了很多细节,如顶峰电力大致达到130千瓦的事实。 NyTeknik 还发表与2位外界专家围绕该次展示的一个访谈,分别是Uppsala大学的Emeritus教授,国家研究院科学能源委员会主席Sven Kullander,以及来自于瑞典皇家科技学院的理论物理副教授Hanno Essén。分别有英文和瑞典文两个版本。

3月,罗西与 NyTeknik 读者们进行了一次富有教育性的在线交流。



Nuclear is a dinosaur

Here is what is going to derail that dinosaur.

Please take 15 min and explore the link provided

Rossi has given three demonstrations so far including with professors from Bologna University and the Swedish skeptics society and the Chairman of the Swedish Physics Union. This is a link to the LENR site where detailed information about cold fusion efforts is available. www.lenr-canr.org/News... The Naval Research lab has been working on this with positive results for over 10 years. Yet the major scientific magazines refuse to touch this issue since it was purportedly discredited by some researchers and an institution that stood to lose 10s of millions in funding per year and numerous PHD candidates and hundreds of grad students who were working on the government funded hot fusion reactor. This funded hot fusion system has never produced surplus energy after billions have been spent and years of research.

Rossi has announced a 1MW Cold Fusion facility to be opened in Greece this Oct. Yet top line periodicals have yet to publish even one article. This will change the economics of the world lifting many people out of poverty and it will also threaten many vested interests.

Rossi 6-hour demonstration convinces Swedish experts
April 2011
On March 29, 2011, a test of a smaller Rossi device was performed. It was attended by two new observers: Hanno Essén, associate professor of theoretical physics and chairman of the Swedish Skeptics Society, and Sven Kullander, chairman of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' Energy Committee. They agree with other independent observers that the device must be producing a nuclear reaction. See NyTeknik: Swedish physicists on the E-cat: "It's a nuclear reaction."
This test employed a new, smaller device with a 50 cm3 cell. It produced ~4.4 kW for 6 hours, or 25 kWh (90 MJ).
Essén and Kullander wrote a report, also in NyTeknik, Experimental test of a mini-Rossi device at the Leonardocorp, Bologna 29 March 2011. Focardi gave a revealing radio interview. Here is an English translation.
NyTeknik has published a number of articles about Rossi. They are all listed here. The New Energy Times is keeping a close watch on news articles about Rossi. They have a list of articles here.

Plans to begin commercial cold fusion reactor production this year
March 2011
A company has been formed in Athens, Greece, Defkalion Green Technologies S. A., for the purpose of manufacturing and selling Andrea Rossi Energy Catalyzer cold fusion reactors. According to the Greek newspaper "Investor's World" and other sources, the company is capitalized at €200 million, which includes €100 million to be paid in as royalties, presumably to Rossi. The Greek press says the company plans to manufacture 300,000 machines a year for the Greek and Balkan market. The company website says it has exclusive rights to sell the machines everywhere except the Americas.

Rossi has announced that he is fabricating a 1 MW reactor to produce hot water (not steam or electricity), scheduled for October 2011. He is building the machine in Florida before shipping it to the Defkalion factory. It will consist of 100 small devices similar to the one demonstrated at U. Bologna.
We have uploaded a new paper from Scott Chubb describing the Rossi device and recent events about it.

Rossi 18-hour demonstration
February 2011, updated March 2011
On February 10 and 11, 2011, Levi et al. (U. Bologna) performed another test of the Rossi device. Compared to the January 14 test, they used a much higher flow rate, to keep the cooling water from vaporizing. This is partly to recover more heat, and partly because Celani and others criticized phase-change calorimetry as too complicated. There were concerns about the enthalpy of wet steam versus dry steam, and the use of a relative humidity meter to determine how dry the steam was. A source close to the test gave Jed Rothwell the following figures. These are approximations:
Duration of test: 18 hours
Flow rate: 3,000 L/h = ~833 ml/s.
Cooling water input temperature: 15°C
Cooling water output temperature: ~20°C
Input power from control electronics: variable, average 80 W, closer to 20 W for 6 hours
The temperature difference of 5°C * 833 ml = 4,165 calories/second = 17,493 W. Observers estimated average power as 16 kW. A 5°C temperature difference can easily be measured with confidence.
3,000 L/h is 793 gallons/h, which is the output of a medium-sized $120 ornamental pond pump.
The control electronics input of ~80 W is in line with what was reported for tests before Jan. 14. Input power was high on that day because there was a problem with cracked welding, according to the Levi report.
18 hours * 16 kW = 288 kWh = 1,037 MJ. That is the amount of energy in 26 kg of gasoline (7.9 gallons). Given the size and weight of the device, this rules out a chemical source of energy.
NyTeknik published a fascinating description of the latest experiment (in English). This includes new details, such as the fact that the power briefly peaked at 130 kW. NyTeknik also published an interview with two outside experts about the demonstration: Prof. Emeritus at Uppsala University Sven Kullander, chairman of the National Academy of Sciences Energy Committee, and Hanno Essén, associate professor of theoretical physics, Swedish Royal Institute of Technology. Two versions are available, in English and Swedish.
On March 3, Rossi conducted an informative on-line chat with NyTeknik readers.
Rossi and U. Bologna have announced that tests on the device will continue for a year.

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Nuclear power, peace and low-carbon

Just from the perspective of low-carbon emission, nuclear power seems not a bad choice: it creates less emissions than fossil fuels. But, it would be misleading to claim that nuclear energy is one of the best options.

Firstly, we live in a world confronted with impending nuclear proliferation. The article serves those nations that are either in possession of, or yearning for nuclear weapons such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Saudi Arab, considering that nuclear power is also be used to produce nuclear weapons. Thus, the author's assertion on nuclear power breaks the basic principles of nuclear non-proliferation of our nation. In short, it's a typical mistake of what we called, technically correct yet politically ignorant.

Secondly, we also need to balance the energy ratio, due to the limited fund, lowcost options are inclined. The money invested on nuclear power will be more efficient used in other fieldsl. In my opinion, the best power plant is "minus plant" or so called "efficient plant", that is, we can achieve economy development without power plants.Since the late 1970s, no individual has made a single investment in any nuclear power plant whatsoever, nor has Wall Street ever involved. The reason is clear-cut: high risks, poor returns. I don't understand why the author posed a contrary viewpoint.

In all, nuclear power does not hold water both politically and economically. Then how did it come to be the safest option? As for whether it's a dinosaur, I have no idea. Perhaps.

This comment is translated by Hunt.lee

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有消息传出,虽然政府已经保证过福岛核电站的安全 ,堆芯熔毁的事故还是发生了。这是政府职能的缺失。可以参考“每日科技”的这篇新闻:福岛本可避免核泄露,却因不作为错失良机。 http://t.co/UT9Uc1Y 日本本该废弃落后的核技术,或采用更为先进的技术。《中国综合症》(一部反应核事故灾难的电影)仍值得忧虑。在公民健康与技术人员的名声之间,政府应更加看重前者。

Meltdown coverup

Now it transpires that, in spite of the government assurances, a full meltdown occurred at Fukushima. There was negligence. See this link on
DailyTech : Fukushima Could Have Avoided Nuclear Meltdown, Lost Chance By Inaction http://t.co/UT9Uc1Y
Outmoded nuclear technology needs to be scrapped or updated. "China syndrome" is worrying. Governments should value the health of citizens over the reputations of their engineers.