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June 20, 2018

Putrajaya snubbed cheaper energy savings scheme for nuclear plans, forum told

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 24 ― Putrajaya “ignored” a proposed energy savings scheme that could have saved Malaysia billions of ringgit and scrap any need to construct nuclear power plants here, a former civil servant claimed.

Energy efficiency activist Zaini Abdul Wahab, 40, told a forum last night that the government was well aware of alternative options to the two nuclear power plants it was planning to build in Malaysia.

“Because I know for a fact that it was mentioned in Parliament and in many seminars by the agencies, by having just a 10 year programme on energy efficiency, the only money required from the government is less than one billion (ringgit), average [RM100,000] a year, we can avoid capacity of at least 3GW of power demand, equivalent to three nuclear power plants,” he told a 60-strong crowd at a forum here last night.

Zaini, who has worked with the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry (Kettha) and Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda) during his eight-year service, claimed that the government had “ignored” the proposed programme, which would have purportedly translated into billions of savings as Putrajaya would not have to fork out money to subsidise nuclear energy.

“But they ignored that. As for now, they ignore that. That’s my first argument why I’m against nuclear, because they have the options, they ignore that,” said Zaini, now an energy management consultant in the private sector.

Zaini, who was not listed as a speaker but was invited to address the crowd, said there was a need to be “realistic”, however, and that he expects nuclear plants will eventually be introduced in a few more decades to meet power demands.

His arguments echoed the stand of Prof G. Lalchand, a speaker at the same forum.

Lalchand, a former Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) staff, told the crowd that he was not anti-nuclear, but he believes that nuclear plants should only be a last resort in another decade.

“We do not need nuclear before 2025, in the meantime, the chances are there for energy efficiency to drop the demand from consumers to the same as the nuclear power can generate,” said Lalchand, who is both an engineer and an academic, adding that it would be cheaper

Nodding to major disasters involving nuclear power plants such as the US’s Three Mile Island’s 1979 accident, Ukraine’s Chernobyl 1986 accident, Japan’s Fukushima 2011 incident, Lalchand said that such accidents had always prompted the raising of safety standards.

“That’s why I said it should be as late as possible to get more safe,” he said, when explaining that a delay in Malaysia’s rolling out of nuclear power plants would enable the use of newer and safer technology.

Until then, Lalchand pushed for energy efficiency ― where users maximise the work done through the energy used ― to save costs and avert the need to build new power plants.

During the forum, another panellist, Datuk Dr Ronald McCoy spoke about the hidden costs in using nuclear technology to generate electricity, citing studies on how the number of cancer-related deaths had risen among those living near nuclear power plants.

According to McCoy, the hidden costs include the maintenance of nuclear power plants, and the disposal of radioactive waste, as well as the decommissioning of plants.

The forum which also featured activist Prof Dr Tan Ka Kheng was held in conjunction with the launch last night of anti-nuclear grassroots movement Anak Malaysia Anti Nuklear (Aman), which is chaired by McCoy.

Aman, which is urging the government to scrap its plans in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to build nuclear plants, has listed seven reasons for its objection.

Among the reasons given were safety concerns, fears of Malaysia being dependent on other countries for expertise and supply of nuclear materials for the plants, adequate power supply currently, as well as slower growth in new nuclear plants with countries tapering off the use of such power-generating methods.

As early as December 2010, the government was reported to be planning to build the country’s first ever nuclear power plants, with reports later saying that seven locations in Malaysia had been identified as the possible sites for two nuclear plants.

Initially slated for completion in 2021 and 2022, the plan was later postponed last year as the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown remained fresh in the public’s minds.

In July this year, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong said the government will carry out studies to determine the feasibility of building a nuclear plant within the next 10 years, promising to “make everything transparent” and keep the public informed.

Continued here: 

Putrajaya snubbed cheaper energy savings scheme for nuclear plans, forum told

History And Controversy Of Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear power has always been contentious due to its very nature. Uranium creates a high burst of energy as it decays, and that energy can be captured for power use. However, it also creates a radioactive waste that must be dealt with, and the possibility of nuclear accidents shadows all of the potential good that they may do. Because of this, there have been few reactors built, and all 100 were built built between 1974 and 1977. Since then, four have been decommissioned due to age, while there have been plans to build five more to replace them. As countries look for means to replace failing petroleum reserves, nuclear power plants may be worth taking a looking at.

Three Mile Island

The possibilities of nuclear power were first debated even as early as 1938. Project Manhattan showed that there was a lot of potential power in splitting the atom for power. However, there were problems capturing that power, making it ideal at first for only weapons. There were additional issues as radiation had debuted only a few decades ago, but its effects were only starting to be really felt. Radiation was already proving to be a fickle servant, as it held tremendous power for good but also created a number of problems as well that needed to be dealt with before it could be truly useful.

History And Controversy Of Nuclear Power Plants

It was not until after World War II that the government decided to look into nuclear power as an energy source. Although radiation was being used to find and deal with diseases, it also caused them as well; exposure to radiation could lead to cancer. However, as the cost for building nuclear power plants was prohibitive, the government had problems justifying the amount. Although the private sector was approached, it was not until the Price-Anderson Act of 1957 that the private sector would even touch nuclear power. That act limited the liability companies could face for even catastrophic accidents involving nuclear power.

Three Mile Island

The Argonne National Laboratory was assigned to the United States Atomic Energy Commission to develop nuclear power. Over the next, decade 52 reactors were built for experimentation, and these would eventually lead to the building of the first nuclear power plants in the 1960s. It is worth noting that the United States Navy contributed; they wanted to take advantage of nuclear power’s ability to use limited fuel for almost unlimited duration, seeing a tactical advantage for its ships and especially its submarines.

Nonetheless, nuclear power plants did not take off until the 1970s. Between 1974 and 1979, almost all of the current reactors would be built, and only recently have any new plants gone past the planning stages. A nuclear power plant represents a massive investment, and there need to a number of safeguards in place before it can go online. Also, it needs to be built where it can get a lot of water for cooling down. It must also be a reasonable distance from any cities in case of even the slightest mishap, while at the same time, near the area it will serve. With this limitation in mind, it makes building nuclear power plants an interesting planning problem.

However, it has not been a smooth road. There have been accidents even since the beginning, although they have been mostly relatively minor. There has even been some controversy, as a proposed plant in Bodega Bay, just north of San Francisco California, was the first plant shut down due to environmental protest, which was just getting really started in the 1960s. Eventually, the environmental movement would be responsible for virtually shutting down the building of new nuclear power plants until recently.

Three Mile Island
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It does not help that there have been problems with nuclear power plants. Almost all nuclear power plants have had some problem, however minor, and 27% of those built have had to shut down for more than a year, while most of the remainder have had to shut down at times. It does not help that nuclear power plants need to be shut down periodically for maintenance, approximately 39 days every 17 months, making them hardly reliable sources of power. Combined with the environmental issues of nuclear waste, and there is some some to doubt the management of the America nuclear program.

There have been three nuclear power plant accidents that have helped serve as rallying points that have made the public uneasy when it comes to nuclear power plants. The Three-Mile Island Power Plant suffered a mishap that while it did not result in any immediate deaths, it did increase cancer rates for years. The Chernobyl Accident, while eventually found out to be gross operator error, demonstrated that a nuclear power plant accident could be dangerous. The Fukushima Incident, although demonstrating that safety features usually worked, had enough leakage to make people cautious. Overall this creates a certain nervousness when it comes to nuclear energy.

Three Mile Island

Given all of these problems it is hardly surprising that a number of people are against nuclear power plants. However, their one saving grace also happens to one that makes them worth the debate: their power output. All of the reactors currently in operation provided 790 terawatts of power in 2011, or enough power to provide 19.2% of total energy needs of the United States. Given that people in general are trying to find ways of weaning themselves from petroleum, and that petroleum is one of the major sources of power, it is understandable that nuclear power is back on the table.

It helps that new designs for nuclear plants may eliminate a number of the maintenance problems, so that plants do not shut down completely for maintenance, and that meltdowns may be a thing of the past. Engineers have taken apart the old designs, looking for any and all possible flaws, and have rebuilt the plants with a number of new safety features. The newer plants look to have all of the safety issues of older designs solved. Even the waste issue has been addressed to at least some degree, making the new designs a lot more environmentally sound.

Nuclear has become part of the new debate over which direction to turn to as the go-to alternative. Although solar power is quickly becoming the environmental favorite, there is still some debate over whether or not nuclear power will be making a comeback in the following years. It is just a matter of making sure all bases are covered; if that can happen then nuclear power plants may just be the part of the future.

History And Controversy Of Nuclear Power Plants

History And Controversy Of Nuclear Power Plants

Report finds gaps in US nuclear disaster plans

Washington (AFP) – US nuclear plants must better prepare for the risk of natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, said a report Thursday on lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima crisis in 2011.

Current approaches to regulating nuclear safety “are clearly inadequate for preventing core-melt accidents and mitigating their consequences,” the report said.

As of now, US safety regulations are based on making sure nuclear plants can withstand equipment failures, loss of power and other malfunctions related to the design of the plant, otherwise known as design-basis events.

But history has shown that the biggest nuclear accidents — including at Fukushima Daiichi, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl — “were all initiated by beyond-design-basis events,” said the report.

Things like natural disasters, human errors and power outages “have the potential to affect large geographical regions and multiple nuclear plants,” said John Garrick, a nuclear engineer and co-author of the report.

“These include earthquakes, tsunamis and other geographically extensive floods and such things as geomagnetic disturbances,” he told reporters.

Titled “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving the Safety of US Plants,” the report was commissioned by Congress from the National Academy of Sciences, a non-governmental group of experts that provides scientific and policy advice.

– Call to update plans –

The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing severe core damage in three reactors, releases of radioactive material, widespread evacuations and the eventual shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Japan.

The report did not find fault with Japan’s actions before or after the incident.

Rather, it called for nuclear plants and US nuclear regulators to actively seek out the latest scientific data on risks and revise their plans accordingly.

The United States operates 100 nuclear power reactors, whose safety procedures are overseen by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nuclear plants should be ready to respond to a wide-spanning natural disaster that could damage infrastructure and disperse radioactive material beyond their 10-mile (16-kilometer) emergency planning zone, the report said.

It cited a number of off-site events that could interfere with electrical power to nuclear operations, from terrorism to human error to geomagnetic disturbances caused by solar storms that interrupt the electrical grid.

“There is some new evidence now that some of these events are not as rare as perhaps we thought,” said Garrick.

– Better understanding of risks –

The report did not include an in-depth examination of US preparedness for a nuclear accident, nor did it set a new safety threshold for whether US nuclear plants should be allowed to operate.

However, it said nuclear plants should examine emergency plans for backup sources of power as well as safety systems for monitoring reactors and spent-fuel pools.

It also recommended improved training for nuclear plant operators who may need to cope with unexpected disasters, and urged the US government to “incorporate modern risk concepts into its nuclear safety regulations.”

Risks of natural disaster are not necessarily greater than ever before, but experts now have a better understanding of their potential impacts, said the study authors.

Particular care should be given to treatment and evacuation of children, the elderly and the ill in case of a nuclear accident, the report added.

A number of changes have already been called for in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, said study director Kevin Crowley.

“Since the accident, in the United States and in many other countries, there have been a great many efforts to understand the lessons and to implement changes,” Crowley told reporters.

“It is really too early to know just how they are going to turn out,” he said.

See original article:

Report finds gaps in US nuclear disaster plans

Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. science advisory report says Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident offers a key lesson to the nation’s nuclear industry: Focus more on the highly unlikely but worst case scenarios.

That means thinking about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, solar storms, multiple failures and situations that seem freakishly unusual, according to Thursday’s National Academy of Sciences report. Those kinds of things triggered the world’s three major nuclear accidents.

“We need to do a soul searching when it comes to the assumptions” of how to deal with worst case events, said University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, the panel’s technical adviser. Engineers should “think about something that could happen once every, perhaps 1,000 years” but that’s not really part of their training or nature, he said.

“You have to totally change your mode of thinking because complacency and hubris is the worst enemy to nuclear safety,” Meshkati said in an interview.

The report said the 2011 Japanese accident, caused by an earthquake and tsunami, should not have been a surprise. The report says another Japanese nuclear power plant also hit by the tsunami was closer to the quake’s fault. But the Onagawa plant wasn’t damaged because quakes and flooding were considered when it was built.

Onagawa had crucial backup electricity available for when the main power went down, as opposed to Fukushima which had emergency generators in a basement that flooded. Onagawa’s operators had “a different mindset” than the executives who ran Fukushima, Meshkati said.

The other two nuclear accidents — at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island and Ukraine’s Chernobyl— were caused by multiple system failures.

Lee Clarke, a Rutgers University risk expert and author of the book “Worst Cases,” criticized the academy’s report as too weak. He said the tone of the report made it seem like the accident was unpredictable and caught reasonable people by surprise “and it shouldn’t have.” But the report itself said the “the Fukushima accident was not a technical surprise.”

David Lochbaum of the activist group Union of Concerned Scientists said the problem is that federal law financially protects the U.S. nuclear industry from accidents gives utilities little incentive to spend money on low-probability, high-consequence problems.

But Nuclear Energy Institute senior vice president Anthony Pietrangelo said the American nuclear industry has already taken several steps to shore up backup power and deal with natural disasters.

“We cannot let such an accident happen here,” he said in a statement.

Another issue the report raised was about how far radiation may go in a worst case accident.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission orders plants to have emergency plans for a zone of 10 miles around a nuclear plant. But the academy study said Fukushima showed that “may prove inadequate” if a similar accident happened in the U.S. People nearly 19 miles away in Japan needed protection from radiation. But the committee would not say what would be a good emergency zone.

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Online:

National Academy Report: http://bit.ly/1pMeTAX

Source:

Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters