The Forum held on May 26 was well received by the 15-20 attendees. Thanks to Dr. Gordon Aubrecht of OSU for a thorough explanation of the events and the implications of the disaster with the Japanese Fukushima nuclear power plants after the earthquake and tsunami in March. Understanding the mechanics of what happened can help everyone understand what might be done in the future to avoid the problems experienced there.
But as Dr. Aubrecht pointed out, risk is always a factor. It’s a factor with coal- and natural gas field power plants. Better planning and improvements in the technology will help mitigate risk. But in the US, the older designs – similar to the design of the Japanese plants – will be with us for many years to come. Such facilities – and especially replacements – are expensive to build and current regulations make approvals difficult to obtain. Given that the actual failure in Japan was rooted in the back-up power systems needed to run the pumps and other equipment that kept the reactors cool and would have enabled an orderly shut-down, it may be possible to look at some alternatives for strengthening the response at existing plants.
Lively discussion ensued, and the insights and questions from the group added to the overall success of the meeting. Bottom line, Dr. Aubrecht said he could not imagine a robust power supply system that did not include nuclear power as a component, combined with renewable resources like wind and sun, and a declining contribution from traditional generation plants.
Then, Germany announced their plan to be out of the nuclear power generation business by 2022. Just to prove that the US is not the only country with reservations about the technology, if not the strategy.
— Rich Bowers