Friday, March 25, 2011

A Nuclear Attitude

I found a comment at The Telegraph UK that pretty well describes my current attitude and understanding towards events at Fukushima, Japan.

J.P. Craig-Weston [says,]

Look I apologise for being a bit rude with you, (although to fair you somewhat invite it,) but a couple of points that keep cropping up here irritate me.

First of all the casual and witless assumption that I'm opposed to Nuclear Power, I’m not in fact, quite the contrary I simply do not regard any of the so called alternatives as being, well realistic or practical alternatives, for the kind of large scale energy production that we use to drive everything from this computer to CERN.

The second, is the persistent attempst by certain blindly uncritically pro nuclear elements to disregard or dismiss the well documented and thoroughly understood effects of radiation poisoning, ( another commentator posted, “so - Chernobyl - according to WHO and a slew of UN bodies the probable final result is that the incidence of cancer amongst those in the immediate vicinity will be raise by just 3 and a bit percent,” I pointed out that 3% actually translates into a massive number of potential fatalities, 30,000 in every million in fact so the effect is neither small nor trivial.)

I also agree that the design of the Japanese reactors is superior to the Russian one at Chernobyl, but then so was the design of the Titanic, so to speak. It didn't save them.

If the events at Fukushima have demonstrate nothing else it is that nuclear power despite it's many advantages and merits still remains an extremely hazardous technology and one that still need to be deployed with caution and circumspection. When it fails, as it seems to have done at Fukushima, (after 40 years of earthquakes culminating in a 9 on the Richter scale event, followed immediately by inundation by a 10 meter tsunami,) it fails catastrophically and massively. I would have thought that this lesson would be entirely self evident to anyone who has observed this or previous nuclear disasters.

So statements such as,”So the second lesson is that nuclear power is even safer than we thought,” seem to me, to be in this context, not merely wrong headed but just inane.
This also bears repeating:

When it fails it fails catastrophically and massively.

We are about to learn that lesson about Just In Time (JIT) inventory management. It does free a lot of capital. It is less resilient. Taxing inventory reduces the resilience of the system by increasing the cost of inventory. JIT fits in well with the tax system in places where inventory is taxed. It does not fit in well with resilience.

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