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Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 22 May 2012
in Clean Energy News

Estimating Nuclear Disasters

According to a new study from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany (Fun Fact: Mainzohio nuclear is Johannes Gutenberg’s hometown) major nuclear accidents happen every 10-20 years. The findings were published in this month’s journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

This estimation wouldn’t sound as ominous if applied to another type of accident like a fender bender but since it has to do with something far more dangerous and widespread it has to be considered.

Germany seems to have considered the risks and decided to abandon nuclear power saying they intend to completely phase it out by 2022 and focus on renewable energy.  After Japan’s Fukushima disaster last year it seems everyone is a bit unsure about the future of nuclear.

Jos Lelieveld, the institute’s director, and his team report that this estimation is higher than previous predictions. They came to their conclusion rather easily: they divided how many hours civil reactors have been in operation and the number of nuclear meltdowns that have happened- three at Fukushima and one at Chernobyl. They did not take into account the ages or types or reactors nor where they are located because an accident is an accident- no one expects them to happen.

"After Fukushima, the prospect of such an incident occurring again came into question, and whether we can actually calculate the radioactive fallout using our atmospheric models,"Lelieveld explained to Susanne Benner for the institute’s website.

The team used a computer model that simulates the Earth’s weather conditions and patterns and the way chemicals react in the atmosphere to predict an average of where radioactive caesium-137 (137Cs) will settle after a meltdown.

At a nuclear accident site 8 percent of the 137Cs particles will probably deposit within an area of 50 kilometers or 31 miles.  About 50 percent of the particles would settle outside a radius of 1,000 kilometers or 621 miles and about 25 percent can spread more than than 2,000 kilometers or 1,242 miles.  

Of course in areas with more reactors there is, physically, more to be afraid of but a single reactor in a densely populated area is just as dangerous.

Lelieveld thinks Germany’s decision to move away from nuclear is a step in the right direction but it may not be enough especially considering how far radioactive particles and radioactive effects are capable of traveling.

"Not only do we need an in-depth and public analysis of the actual risks of nuclear accidents. In light of our findings I believe an internationally coordinated phasing out of nuclear energy should also be considered," he said.

Is Lelieveld’s suggestion, an international coordinated phase out of nuclear energy, viable? Discussions about climate change and the responsibility of countries to reduce emissions even if they are in the throes of an industrial boom have been unsuccessful. Is there ample time and money in countries reliant on nuclear for them to consider a phase out like Germany?

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Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio. Samina and her husband believe that sustainability starts in the home and try to live their lives as simply as possible without compromising comfort.

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1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.

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1945: Delivered to US Army.

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1950: Acquired by the US Navy on July 1, 1950 and placed in service as USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1954: The movie, Mister Roberts, was made on the USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.

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1963: Reclassified as Miscellaneous Unclassified (IX-308).

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1971: The New Bedford (IX-308) served as a Torpedo Test Firing Vessel in the Puget Sound area.

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1994: Ceremony in New Bedford.

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1995: The ship was struck from the Naval Register on April 4.

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2004: The Sea Bird's current disposition is a tuna long liner (fishing boat) out of San Diego, CA.

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2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.

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2007: The Sea Bird was drydocked for renovations.

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2008: The Sea Bird setting sail to Sea-Tac in Seattle, WA.

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2009 - 2010: The Sea Bird is currently docked at Seattle Sea-Tac.

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