Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 26, 2012

The Militant newspaper goes nuke

Filed under: nuclear power and weapons — louisproyect @ 3:44 pm

Since the Socialist Workers Party of the United States is so small and so wacky, I had misgivings about whether it was worth my time writing about the latest idiocy in the Militant, a newspaper I was thrilled to sell in a previous lifetime. I suppose that having had a chance to browse through the second volume of Barry Sheppard’s memoir about the party helped me make a decision. Given the utter disconnect between the party of my youth and the moribund sect of today, there is always the pathologist’s need for an explanation.

In a lead article titled Fukushima 1 year later: nuke panic vs. real disaster, the erstwhile Trotskyist group of over 1500 members now reduced to just over a hundred makes the case that socialists should support nuclear power, not just in the Third World as they have argued in the past, but everywhere. The lesson they draw from Fukushima is how minimal the threat was and how necessary it is to stay the course:

The basic facts today are well known. The plant used a cheaper containment vessel for fuel rods prone to rupture in the event of a cooling system failure. Tepco’s owners never adequately raised the elevation of the backup generator, despite the potential for tsunamis in the area. Company officials deliberately delayed action to cool down the reactors in order to protect their investment. Surely, if private profit didn’t drive the reactor’s operation, the entire incident would have been avoided.

But we see this approach everyday in every part of the world where capitalist social relations dominate production. It flows from the way the capitalist system always has and always will function: to maximize profits while simultaneously undermining the source of all wealth, the earth and the worker.

Despite all this, zero is the number of people who have reportedly died as a result of nuclear radiation poisoning related to the Fukushima plant. Another striking figure, given the combination of the bosses’ recklessness and the destructive power of earthquakes and tsunamis. The basic facts about what is considered the second worst nuclear disaster in world history actually provides a very strong argument against the assertion that nuclear power presents a special inherent danger to humanity.

The so-called environmentalist opposition to nuclear power—or other forms of energy—is anti-scientific and reactionary. The various “green” forces and their nostrums provide no earthly option for maintaining modern civilization, let alone for advancing industrial development. They stand in opposition to the development of semicolonial nations oppressed by imperialism and are antagonistic to the needs of the great majority of humanity.

In contrast, the communist movement champions the expansion and extension of electrification and industrialization worldwide, and along with it growth of the proletariat and culture. This is essential for closing the gap between the imperialists and semicolonial world and bringing the world’s toilers closer together in common struggle.

These arguments will be familiar to anybody acquainted with Spiked Online, the latest permutation of a group of former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party in Britain. Despite the name, this is not the same sect led by Bob Avakian. Instead, it originated as a split from Tony Cliff’s organization led by sociology professor Frank Furedi that went on to publish Living Marxism, a “contrarian” outlet that championed nuclear power, genetically modified crops, massive hydroelectric dams, and other projects that were designed to expand “industrialization worldwide” as the SWP puts it. Eventually, the Furedi-ites dropped all pretensions to Marxism (except for one or two individuals like James Heartfield) and became indistinguishable from the libertarians at Reason Magazine that they have worked closely with in the past.

For comparison’s sake, here is Spiked Online’s Rob Lyons on Fukushima one year later:

[A]ccidents can happen. Not everything that happens is reasonably foreseeable or easily preventable. The important thing is to learn the right lessons when bad events occur. Unfortunately, in all the hype about Fukushima, the wrong lessons are being learned.

Not a single person has died because of exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima accident, though two plant workers did die in a flooded basement room as a direct result of the tsunami. But lesson four is that overreaction to a problem can be worse than the original problem. For example, it was reported that 45 patients died after the botched and hurried evacuation of a hospital in the Fukushima prefecture, and this was not the only such case. One centenarian committed suicide rather than be forced from his home in the exclusion zone…

This is the most important lesson, one year on, from the earthquake and tsunami: it is the crisis of politics that is holding society back. We have the technical capability to move society forward, to cope with natural disasters and to learn from serious accidents. But without a sense of purpose about what society should look like in the future, and how to get there, the uncertainty of society’s elites – and the absence of a capacity for the wider population to give them a genuine democratic kick-up-the-arse – could prove to be the biggest disaster of all.

If there is any difference between this libertarian’s call for moving “society forward” and the SWP’s business about the extension of industrialization, I can’t detect it. Basically this is the same message you are getting from Tepco, the American nuclear industry, and the heavy battalions of the ruling class that are determined to push ahead with nuclear power over the objections of the Japanese people. Popular resistance to nuclear power, as well as elite concerns about their viability, in Japan has resulted in 53 out of 54 nuclear power plants being shut down. Without a doubt, if the SWP had a satellite “Communist League” functioning in Japan, its 5 or 6 members would be agitating to re-open them. Imagine the slogan: “For a communist atom!”

This has not always been the position of the sect. In 1996, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Chernobyl, the Militant editorialized:

Even if no accident occurs at a nuclear plant, there is no method of safely disposing of the mounting tonnage of nuclear waste. For example, a nuclear waste facility that just opened in Aiken, South Carolina, uses chemicals that have generated large amounts of explosive compounds during the processing of the deadly material.

There is only one way to protect people from catastrophic accidents at nuclear plants, from the cancer and genetic damage caused by nuclear power, and from the growing accumulation of deadly radioactive waste that cannot be stored safely. Shut them down! Workers and farmers must take the lead in dismantling these facilities, as well as demanding the resources be made available to aid those affected by Chernobyl and other nuclear disasters.

I am not sure if Barry gets into this in his memoir, but one of things that characterize the post-sanity SWP is the failure of the Militant newspaper to ever explain why a line changes. The same party members who would have seen the wisdom of the 1996 editorial now support the new tilt toward nuclear power wholeheartedly. Ironically, a party that came into existence as an alternative to the sheep-like obedience to the Kremlin now follows the same pattern, all the more peculiar since the SWP’s version of Stalin has so little clout outside his ranks. Stalin once derisively asked how many battalions the pope had, after the Vatican issued some statement on human rights abuses in the USSR. In the case of the SWP, you are not dealing with battalions but an aging platoon of the politically bereft.

Turning to the substance of the Militant article, there are a couple of points that can be made. It alleges that the Japanese government failure to provide adequate protection against tsunami flooding:

The Japan Meteorological Agency erroneously projected that day that a 10-foot plus tsunami would hit northeastern Japan.

Concrete walls line about 40 percent of Japan’s coastline, many places 33 feet high. But in the region hit by the tsunami, the walls were about 10 feet high. The waves turned out to be 40 feet high on average. The whole warning and protection system had been built for a lesser case—and cost-saving—scenario.

So, would higher flood walls made a difference? Perhaps so, but there is also the possibility that it was the earthquake itself that led to the Fukushima incidents, as the Independent reported:

The suspicion that the earthquake caused severe damage to the reactors is strengthened by reports that radiation leaked from the plant minutes later. The Bloomberg news agency has reported that a radiation alarm went off about a mile from the plant at 3.29pm, before the tsunami hit.

The reason for official reluctance to admit that the earthquake did direct structural damage to reactor one is obvious. Katsunobu Onda, author of Tepco: The Dark Empire, explains it this way: A government or industry admission “raises suspicions about the safety of every reactor they run. They are using a number of antiquated reactors that have the same systematic problems, the same wear and tear on the piping.” Earthquakes, of course, are commonplace in Japan.

Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former nuclear plant designer, describes what occurred on 11 March as a loss-of-coolant accident. “The data that Tepco has made public shows a huge loss of coolant within the first few hours of the earthquake. It can’t be accounted for by the loss of electrical power. There was already so much damage to the cooling system that a meltdown was inevitable long before the tsunami came.”

As might be expected, the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) rejected this claim since, as Wikipedia points out, it is virtually an arm of the nuclear industry:

According to a government report to the International Atomic Energy Agency in June 2011, “NISA’s lack of independence from the trade ministry, which promotes the use of atomic power, hampered a quick response to the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant this year”. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there have been questions raised about whether the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has been fulfilling its function as an industry regulator, and whether it should continue to exist.

More to the point, what kind of “precautions” can be taken to ensure that a nuclear power plant can be isolated from the impact of a powerful earthquake even if it is located inland? While most Americans worry about the impact of a large earthquake on nuclear power plants in California, the real threat appears to be further north in the Cascadia subduction zone (where tectonic plates collide) that straddles Oregon, Washington State and Vancouver, Canada. The always reliable McClatchy press  reported:

The only part of the United States where a 9.0-scale earthquake is expected again (geologists discovered that one occurred there on Jan. 26, 1700) is the 750-mile-long Cascadia subduction zone off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and northern California. A subduction zone — a place where faults in the Earth’s crust are wide enough for plates of rock to “slip” past each other — also produced the March 11 Tohoku earthquake in Japan.

Robert Yeats, a geology professor at Oregon State University, was one of the first to suggest in the 1980s that the Pacific Northwest might be vulnerable to a 9.0 subduction zone earthquake.

Just for comparison’s sake, the earthquake in Japan registered 8.9 on the Richter scale.

The Militant is also full of crap when it refers to “zero” people dying as a result of radiation, especially given its claim to be speaking in the name of science. Cancer does not develop overnight. After you are exposed to radiation, it might take 10 to 15 years for cancer to develop. And, more importantly, cancer is the one disease that lends itself to clashing interpretations of causality based on one’s material interests. For example, it took decades for the tobacco industry to be reined in. Its “experts” were always able to make the specious case that one person who never smoked a cigarette in his or her life might get lung cancer, while a heavy smoker would not.

For example, my mother-in-law, who lives in Istanbul, had thyroid cancer. How can anyone establish whether this was related to Chernobyl, a town in the Ukraine that is located just across the Black Sea from Turkey?

Needless to say, fossil-based energy sources such as coal, oil, and gas have their own problems. This has led some progressives like George Monbiot to embrace nuclear power. My own take on this is that it is a fool’s errand for the left to take up the question of whether nuclear power or greenhouse gases are the “lesser evil” under capitalism. It is entirely possible that some mix of such forms of energy will be combined with solar or wind power under socialism and rendered less threatening with the absence of a profit motive. But in the meantime, it is incumbent upon us to build forms of resistance to the capitalist energy sectors whenever they threaten us in the here and now because of that very profit motive. For example, the resistance of the Japanese people to nuclear power is not only progressive; it might even lead to a departure from the political slumber that has existed there for decades.

In the United States, campaigns against coal company mountaintop removal and unsafe working conditions in the mines are exactly the sort of thing that revolutionaries should get involved with. With respect to natural gas, the fight against “fracking” and the Keystone XL Pipeline are crucial. Frankly, it does not matter whether natural gas is “better” than coal or nuclear power—as some environmentalists like the Sierra Club have argued (likely abetted by donations from the natural gas company owners). The whole point is to resist capitalist abuse, whichever sector of the energy industry has responsibility for. This is even true for the “green” wind-power industry that has been driving people crazy in various small towns around the country with their low-frequency hum and other health hazards.

Our goal is to fight for a society that is not organized around the profit motive. The bourgeoisie will always defend its assaults on our health and safety in the name of the extension of “industrialization” worldwide. But it has its apologists like Thomas Friedman to make its case and has no need for socialist volunteers to pitch in, even though it is doubtful that the wacky cult around Jack Barnes can ever be relied on with its steadily evaporating apparatus and influence.


  1. Excellent post, Louis.

    Comment by David Altman — March 26, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

  2. Regarding nuclear power: there has long been a very interesting discussion about the thorium fuel cycle, which seems to avoid the risk of meltdown, cannot be used to breed plutonium, and produces a much smaller amount of waste that requires storage for a few hundred years (shorter than the lifespan of many public buildings still in use throughout the world), rather than on the order of ten thousand years.

    I’ve never heard any discussion of this from a Marxist viewpoint and wonder if anyone else ever has.

    Of course, all popular discussions of major technologies are distorted by the requirements of capital. Clearly, it’s the short-term interests of capital that preserve the current very dangerous nuclear superstructure: different technologies (like thorium) are only taken seriously when money has been invested in them, which means that in any discussion it’s mostly capital that is talking on both sides, and people be damned.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — March 26, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

  3. Dragging out your mother-in-law, Louis. Really? Wow, a new low. “Just across the Black Sea from Ukraine”? Like Hoboken is to Tribeca maybe? Hardly “evidence” at all. The fact that the Chernobyl reactor was on the NORTH side of Ukraine bordering Belorussian about *600 miles* north of Turkey has some bearing, maybe? Was your mother-in-law exposed to radiation levels high enough to induce thyroid cancer? Do you even know? Do you even care? Or *anyone* else in Turkey for that matter? The problem with anecdotal ‘evidence’ is that I can fart in the wind and expect someone, someplace, to crash their car into a siding…

    #The Bloomberg “report” was second hand. There was no evidence of any cooling equipment trashed by the quake. The equipment is the intake pump, the piping it pumps too, the heat exchanger, and reactor cooling pump.

    #Mitsuhiko Tanaka comments are based on pure speculation, not unlike anti-nuclear Seer Arnie Gunderson. Temps did not start to rise until *after* the tsunami struck. There is no evidence to support Tanaka’s speculation as the diesel generators *did start* and cooling was within limits according to operators who were debriefed this. As the tsunami struck within minutes of the quake, talking about ‘temperatures rising hours afterward’ is, well, logical as there was no cooling. What evidence there is seems to point to the cooling system not damaged by the quake in the ONE reactor.

    What the anti-nuclear movement doesn’t want to see is the idea that the “other” Fukushima reactors, at Fuskushima Dania, that sustained much less damage from quake or tsunami suffered no meltdown and went to cold shutdown as designed: because they were upgraded and better protected. It is simply politically impossible for the anti-nuclear movement anywhere to subscribe to the facts that nuclear can be made safe, that it is safe, that had the more-than-once warning made by all sorts of groups on issues of intake pump hardening, tsunami wall protection and relocation of fuel tanks made by everyone form the U.S. NRC to the Japan Communist Party been heeded, we wouldn’t neet the duck-and-cover doomer discussion like this one.

    On radiation. I don’t use the “no one died” scenario. Partly because at Chernobyl dozens did die of radiation sickness within days and weeks of being exposed to an explosion and release far worse than Fukushima. That no one died immediately, more or less, shows this to be the case. However, as many have pointed out, it takes usually 20 years to see radiation induced-cancers develop (exception being thyroid cancers which can develop much sooner). But you have to start with exposure and dosage. Within a month after cold standby of hte reactors backround radiation *everywhere* was less-than-100 mSv. mSv is the actual full dosage the human body is exposed to. There are some hot spots of over 200 mSv. But the majority…99.9% of the Fukushima area, or the “exclusion zone” is and people who lived there until the evacuation was called for, are likely to receive no higher dosages than anyone else in Japan, despite the radiation scare mongering now prelevent in anti-nuke and media circles.

    Geoff Russel, an Aussie writer on diet, energy and climate change wrote. I don’t agree with his terminology, generally, but he makes the tie to “zero deaths” and “like to to die from radiation”. This at The Punch:

    Over the past year, about 600,000 Japanese will have had a new cancer diagnosis caused by the normal range of lifestyle choices, environmental hazards and genetic factors. Boring.

    How many people have died from the radiation released by the failures of the Fukushima Daichi reactor? Zero. “It’s a disaster”, says ACF. No it isn’t.

    What is the most likely cancer toll from those leakages? Zero. Boring.

    Apart from a few dozen workers, how many people around the reactor zone have received as much as a pelvic CT scan’s worth of radiation during the past 12 months? That would be the number of people who have actually had a pelvic CT scan … together with most of the 600,000 cancer sufferers who are probably quite thankful for their dose.

    The evacuation is certainly tragic. The radiation phobia fanned by ignorance is certainly tragic. And there are villains. ACF and the other anti-nuclear anti-rational forces. Who was it who had people in space suits at evacuation stations waving geiger counters over children in a procedure designed to maximise terror?

    Full: http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/Fukushima-was-no-disaster-no-matter-how-you-spin-it/

    Comment by tialsedov — March 26, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

  4. David, didn’t you get my point? Nobody can prove that she got cancer from Chernobyl or that John Wayne got lung cancer from smoking 3 packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day. That is in the very nature of the disease for which the exact causality is unknown at the cellular level. You can definitely link malaria to the bite of a mosquito or HIV to a retrovirus but that’s not the case with cancer. That is why Chernobyl radiation impacts, tobacco, Long Island and New Jersey breast cancer clusters, etc. have been so difficult to establish. Needless to say, it is rather disconcerting to see a long-time socialist like yourself doing the heavy ideological lifting for the nuclear power industry.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 26, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

  5. The explanation for the “quake theory” has been pretty much demolished now. This article was written in August. Since then hundreds of workers have been crawling around the plant and no quake ‘damage’ to the cooling system has yet shown up. It’s now 5 months later and no one is taking this line.

    Comment by tialsedov — March 26, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  6. I understand your point but it’s a mixing of metaphors. There have been thousands of clinical studies that show an increased risk of lung cancer when smoking cigarettes. Large numbers of people die from doing so. The evidence is in and yes, one CAN prove Joun Wayne got lung cancer from smoking 3 packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day. The believe that this can’t be proven flies in the face of every known medical study on the subject. For you to make the logical connection by stating, as you do above that “Chernobyl radiation impacts,” with actually so little evidence for such “impacts” actually exist, unlike with smoking. And this is what you don’t understand, Louis, which is why you compare the two: radiation and cigarettes. The clinical evidence for radiation ‘impacts’ at the low levels the people of both Ukraine and Japan face is startling by it’s near-non impact. And that is my point.

    My socialist politics makes me a supporter of being opposed to the rapid increase in carbon output of a country like Japan due to it’s shuttering it’s nuclear plants. It has already lead to fuel inflation, suffered by the working class mostly, as the trade deficit specifically linked to carbon emitting fossil fuel imports is now heading quite north from what it was prior to Fukushima. As a socialist I’m opposed to such foolishness based completely on fear of the unknown. The best think Japan can do now, after nationalizing TEPCO and *every* utility there, would be to actually address the problems and restart their reactors ASAP.

    David Walters

    Comment by tialsedov — March 26, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

  7. The clinical evidence for radiation ‘impacts’ at the low levels the people of both Ukraine and Japan face is startling by it’s near-non impact. And that is my point.

    David, this statement is one of the reasons I try to avoid having a debate with you over such matters. Some experts view low-level radiation as much more of a threat than you do. As far as smoking is concerned, you didn’t grasp my point apparently. When HIV enters your bloodstream, you will get sick. Smoking cigarettes does not automatically lead to cancer, nor does exposure to radiation at either a high or low level. I recommend that people read Robert Proctor’s “The Cancer Wars” for a better understanding of these issues. I say this as a former employee of Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 26, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

  8. Louis, yes, I know that it’s only a single digit % of people who smoke who get cancer. But the difference is that it’s been pretty well charted what that % is, the numbers per 1,000 people exposed to cigarette smoke and so on. Not to mention other inon-cancer ssues involved in smoking: asthma, heat disease, etc etc. Radiation…not so much. Which is why the “Linear Non-Threshold” debate is such a debate and why the old consensus of this is finally breaking down…that even a small dose of radiation, regardless of how small, will lead to some kind of cell damage.The comparison, then, between the well studied *effects* of cigarettes and that of the almost non-existent effects of low-dose radiation is not much of a comparison…

    And you 100% correct: many, most experts do not agree with me or other experts who challenge this view.

    Comment by tialsedov — March 26, 2012 @ 6:04 pm

  9. Louis: there’s no evidence that low level radiation (whole body dose in the range of natural variation annually or acute dose of 10,000 mrem) causes cancer. and many epidemiologists think there is a hormetic effect.

    Smoking causes cancer.

    This is not a question of the inability of statistics to predict WHICH INDIVIDUAL will get cancer. We are talking probabilities. On probabilistic grounds, smoking causes cancer. That low levels of radiation cause cancer is without evidence, though it is often assumed following LNT(though even here the increase would be infinitesimal).

    The outgoing head of NCRP Antone Brooks noted that “LNT is dead for low dose risk assessment.”

    Your comparison of david’s view with “some epidemiologists” who view low dose radiation as more dangerous than david makes it sound like it’s david vs. the experts.

    But these experts of yours are not taken seriously by most epidemiologists. comparing dave w to the experts is a sleight of hand on your part, or ignorance.

    Comment by Gregory Meyerson — March 26, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

  10. Zero deaths from Fukushima? Consider this:

    “The peer reviewed International Journal of Health Services reported that as many as 14,000 excess deaths in the United States appear linked to radioactive fallout from Fukushima. The rise in reported deaths after March 17 was largest among U.S. infants under age one. The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks. The study by Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and

    Prevention’s weekly reports, was the first on Fukushima health hazards to be published in a scientific journal.”


    Comment by Richard Estes — March 26, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

  11. Consider, Richard, they’ve been basically forced to retract the statement. They overtly tweaked the numbers, adding 15 cities to the post-fuksuhima date so the numbers came out higher. Additionally, they now blame the date from the CDC for problems with their numbers. Here he is a few days after the release of the press release: http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/EnvironmentalHealth/30305 tamping down on the claim. Magano’s been an outlier of health physics cherry picking data for too long. He’s been regularly called to the mat on it by health professionals.


    Comment by tialsedov — March 26, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

  12. One small correction. As I recall it wasn’t that the Papacy issued a statement about human rights in the USSR but I believe that Laval in 1935 sought to encourage Stalin to take a stance which would better enable him to win over French Catholics to the support of an alliance with the Soviet Union. “The Pope! How many divisions has he got?” That was equivalent to “Why should you Laval care what the Pope thinks?”

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — March 27, 2012 @ 2:37 am

  13. There are a number of peer reviewed reports that show mortality rates spiked in areas of the US which had high radiation following Fukushima. The response from the nuclear industry has been along the lines of’ correlation is not causation ‘, in other words leave us alone.

    Comment by purple — March 27, 2012 @ 5:30 am

  14. All radiation is dangerous, you can argue about necessary evils. No sane and objective scientist is going to say that radiation is good.

    Comment by purple — March 27, 2012 @ 5:35 am

  15. Many pro-nuclear power Greens, such as Mark Lynas, James Hansen and Stewart Brand, make similar points to those made by the Militant’s Louis Martin.
    For instance, the alleged lack of fatalities caused by the Fukushima disaster.
    Only long term studies can resolve this question, but isn’t a 450 square mile evacuation zone a disaster?
    Comparisons to the effects of the Tsunami are largely an irrelevance here.
    One issue is about managing the effects of a natural disaster, the other is about the long term consequences of a human technology.

    The long term consequences of fossil fuel production are about global warming.
    The long term consequences of nuclear power are about radiation.
    Only renewable sources; solar power, wind, tidal and hydro-electricity don’t have these problems.
    The Militant’s article light-mindedly invokes science to undermine the case for developing renewable energy sources.
    It argues that nuclear power will be essential to the electrification of developing countries.
    Neither of these points are supported by any factual evidence.

    The real scientific point about renewable energy is that it has the *potential* to supply all electricity needs.
    It’s simply not as profitable for capitalism to develop these as other short-term methods of exploiting natural resources.
    Hence, capitalist enterprises demand tax incentives and subsidies for Renewables.
    While fossil fuels and nuclear power are produced without the capitalists having to bear the true cost of their environmental impacts.

    In reality, American industry and the industrialisation of China & India remain highly dependent on fossil fuels.
    In particular on coal, production of which has risen very steeply in the past 20 years.
    Whereas nuclear power contributes to less than 6% of the World’s primary energy supplies.
    (see IEA Key World Energy Statistics 2010, page 6)

    Click to access key_stats_2010.pdf

    More than half of this nuclear power was produced in the USA, France and Japan.
    Yet, as a result of Fukushima, almost all of Japan’s nuclear power stations are shut down, while Germany is completely abandoning nuclear power.
    In both countries, these measures meet with popular support.
    So Militant’s argument that nuclear power should be adopted as a panacea by less developed countries than these is completely reckless.

    Comment by prianikoff — March 27, 2012 @ 9:21 am

  16. Nice post.

    Any nation that is prepared to take the risk, however small, of rendering its territory uninhabitable for centuries deserves to perish. Trouble is this shit threatens the world.

    `Given the utter disconnect between the party of my youth and the moribund sect of today’

    I have a feeling the party of your youth was already a moribund sect. The nascent Fourth International did not survive long the death of Trotsky and the arrival of the Cold War. The former was much more survivable than the US-led global capitalist super boom and the startling success of the Stalinst cancer.

    A Fourth International remains to be built.

    Comment by David Ellis — March 27, 2012 @ 10:04 am

  17. `Nobody can prove that she got cancer from Chernobyl or that John Wayne got lung cancer from smoking 3 packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day. That is in the very nature of the disease for which the exact causality is unknown at the cellular level. You can definitely link malaria to the bite of a mosquito or HIV to a retrovirus but that’s not the case with cancer. That is why Chernobyl radiation impacts, tobacco, Long Island and New Jersey breast cancer clusters, etc. have been so difficult to establish. Needless to say, it is rather disconcerting to see a long-time socialist like yourself doing the heavy ideological lifting for the nuclear power industry.’

    I don’t think this is actually the case Lou. The mechanisms by which smoke inhilation over a prolonged time span triggers cancer in the lungs are actually know which is why the cigarette companies could no longer cry `correlation’ and were subject to being sued at last. The way exposure to a large and sudden radiation overdose creates a fatal and fast acting poisoning effect called Radiation Sickness is also know as is the way long-term exposure to radiation levels over the norm trigger cancer inducing cell mutations.

    Plausible deniability regarding cancer clusters in the vicinity of nuclear plants is due to the fact that these are small and there are potentially many other things that could have given rise to them though to y mind these denials are not that plausible. In any case, given a melt down those excuses would no longer fly as the radiation wiped out huge swathes of the surrounding population and rendered the land uninhabitable.

    Comment by David Ellis — March 27, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  18. By far the most important immediate steps a socialist government will take to defend a human-life sustaining global environment and climate will be huge energy saving and efficiency measures like ending commuting in complete contradistinction to the reckless profligacy of the bottom line capitalists. Without these measures the renewables we must develop will never be viable.

    Comment by David Ellis — March 27, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  19. A broken clock is right twice a day.
    Jack Barnes is worse than a broken clock but this time, on this subject,
    he got it right.

    Comment by Ralph Levitt — March 27, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

  20. @prianikoff, if look at the statistics, the “6%” of primary energy in use is down from previous years. Why? Renewables? Hardly. It’s the massive increase in coal and natural gas use on the electrical generation side and the massive increase in oil in absolute terms on the transportation side. If you look at the *electrical* side you see nuclear at 19% of the total…and that’s world wide *80%* of the planet’s non-carbon generation. But most on this list commentary see that as MORE of a threat than fossil fuels?

    The reason more and more are coming around to nuclear as the solution to fossil fuel generation is that, as the Militant recognizes, and the increase in carbon via Japan AND Germany by way of negative example, is that nuclear replaces coal and gas and oil on a one-to-one unit of energy. Their is a reason Germany and Denmark still get most of their energy from…coal and that’s because solar and wind are unreliable and a modern industrial country can’t run with a grid that is dependent on renewables. Thus their reliance of, and expansion for, natural gas and coal. Fortunately for the Germans, they can rest on France’s nuclear grid, which is now exporting to Germany to help them in their wind/solar fantasy…and which is driving Germany’s electrical rates sky high.

    @David Elis, a ‘socialist gov’t’? Name one. While agree with what you are saying, generally I reject the view many socialists hold that “After the revolution…”. No, the planet cannot wait, at all, for the Revolution. We need to deal with phasing out generation *now* as immediate and transitional demands. This is not an exercise, IMO, in “what could be” but rather “we are facing extinction, we need to deal with this now”. German and Japan, reacting in a fit of political/emotional extremism, are going in the *opposite* direction we as a species should be heading.

    30 countries right now are actively engaged in build an nuclear infrastructure, of, at least expanding what they want to do. China wants to have 75% of their grid powered by nuclear by the end of the century. Brazil and Argentina, Finland, the UK and many other countries are expanding their nuclear fleet or replacing their older units with safer newer ones. Socialist should support this within the context of demanding full regulatory transparency, rate-payer and workers control and other democratic inputs. But opposition? I consider it a reactionary move to do so.

    I think the SWP, their own isolated and abstentionist way, understands this.

    David Walters

    Comment by tialsedov — March 27, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  21. David Walters
    ” If you look at the *electrical* side you see nuclear at 19% of the total”

    The figure is actually 13.5%
    (see page 24 of the same report I quoted above)
    This gives a comparison of 1973 and 2008 fuel shares of electricity generation.
    By the way, it also shows that the use of natural gas to generate electricity nearly doubled over the same period.
    The proportion coming from Coal also increased.

    This just reinforces the point I was making though:-
    There’s no evidence that nuclear power can replace fossil fuels, let alone do it safely.
    Especially in developing countries that lack an existing power and water infrastructure.

    In practice, nuclear power plants are quite “variable” and have shown an alarming tendency to blow up.
    Nearly all of Japan’s nuclear plants are down at the moment.
    Is it reactionary for the public in Japan to oppose them on safety grounds?
    I think not.
    Very understandable I’d say and socialists arguing from a technological determinist position tend to sound rather elitist and somewhat quaint.
    A bit like something out of a 1950’s vision of the future.

    Sizewell B, Britain’s biggest Nuclear power plant was down for safety reasons recently too.
    The decision to replace it and the other ageing reactors in Britain involved an abrupt policy “U-turn” by the Liberals in the Coalition government.
    The French-owned EDF energy will be the main beneficiaries.
    The experience of the new Finnish nuclear reactor at Olkiluoto is also a cautionary one.
    It’s a story of technical problems, cost over-runs and delays.

    see :-
    ‘The Myth of the European “Nuclear Renaissance”‘

    By comparison, renewable energy sources are modular, can be developed very quickly, and the wider they’re distributed, the less variable they become.
    They encourage international cooperation to link the countries with good wind resources to those with the highest insolation.
    Of course, no one is arguing that they can meet all of our energy needs in the near future.
    But neither will nuclear power and the consequences of building more of it will to increase its serious risks.

    Comment by prianikoff — March 27, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

  22. Who gives a sh*t if higher flood walls could have prevented the Fukushima disaster? Higher flood walls were not in place. Who cares if the Thorium fuel cycle and n -th generation reactors could make for perfectly safe nuclear power? We live in the real world, not theory. As long as nuclear power is run for profit (private or state capitalist [ducks]), it will be constructed in an unsafe way because the risk of catastrophic accident is fairly low even then, and (in the capitalist states) the nuclear industry doesn’t have to insure against that risk (while in the state capitalist dictatorships, the risk can be ignored entirely).

    To the libertarian pro-nuclear crowd and their socialist allies, I’d suggest that they should agree that starting April 1st (say) the nuclear industry should be required to provide proof of insurance against risk of accident. This would force them all to shut down – why? Because insurance actuaries are crazy tree huggers?

    Comment by christian h. — March 28, 2012 @ 12:40 am

  23. `While agree with what you are saying, generally I reject the view many socialists hold that “After the revolution…”. No, the planet cannot wait, at all, for the Revolution. We need to deal with phasing out generation *now* as immediate and transitional demands. This is not an exercise, IMO, in “what could be” but rather “we are facing extinction, we need to deal with this now”. German and Japan, reacting in a fit of political/emotional extremism, are going in the *opposite* direction we as a species should be heading.’

    I don’t hold `after the revolution’. Ending nuclear power production and taking climate change seriously is the revolution. That revolution will end immediately production for exchange and profit as the guiding and dominant philosophy of society. You say we must end potentially fatal forms of energy production immediately. I agree. That will be the revolution.

    The nuclear energy industry exists for one reason and one reason only: the production of weapons grade plutonium. Engery production is a sideline that claws back a little of the gargantuan subsidies this `industry’ receives. Far more engery is invested if you count mining, decomissioning and waste storage than comes out or will ever come out.

    I repeat: any nation that is prepared to play Russian Roulette with teh future habitability of its territory how ever many empty chambers the gun has deserves to perish. Just don’t take the rest of us with you.

    Comment by David Ellis — March 28, 2012 @ 9:32 am

  24. @David Ellis, the nuclear energy exists to make electricity. No commercial nuclear power plant is to make plutonium for WMD. This is a very old urban legend that holds little water. Pu production around the world is done at dedicated “R&D” reactors owned and operated by the various defense/war depts, be it in Pakistan or the United States. Why? Because extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel is very, very expensive. The far more simple “piles” used to create WMD is much cheaper and is much less a head ache for a whole series of reasons. To my knowledge no SNF from a commercial grid connected reactor has ever been used to produce nuclear weapons.

    Secondly, you can’t end the problems by human caused climate change without nuclear energy. Renewables won’t do it. Again you fall into this ‘revolution’ thing as you state “The revolution is ending nuclear energy and taking climate change seriously”. What? Germany is having a ‘revolution’?

    “Far more engery is invested if you count mining, decommissioning and waste storage than comes out or will ever come out.”

    This is simply untrue and the lifetime energy output of nuclear FAR exceeds any other other form of power bar none. The energy return on energy invested (EREI if you want to look this up) tremendous and shows the huge flaws in your thinking. This has to do with the amazing density of uranium as a fuel vs any other form of power especially as compared to the highly diffuse form of energy in wind and solar. Look up the material input into wind vs that of wind (solar beats both, generally). You will find that for copper, iron/steel, bauxite/aluminum, and especially concrete, wind uses an average of 8 to 12 times more of these per unit of energy produced than nuclear (and most other forms of on demand power).

    @prianikoff You are wrong on every point. It’s at best wishful thinking. Every MW of renewables has to be back up with some form of on-demand power: hydro, nuclear, coal, or gas. This is why Germany has built a huge number of gas turbines and is planning on building more coal plants. Why they are in fact running these plants now around the clock: renewables won’t cut it. You say that renewables can be built ‘modularly’. Actually so are the new generation of nuclear PPs, as China is showing today.

    The UK rejects the German/Belgium/Swiss rejection of nuclear energy. I actually find it odd that the anti-nuke movement there is so weak relative to their continental comrades. There is actually more opposition to wind in the UK, which has lost tremendous popularity because of it’s huge environmental footprint than nuclear has. Priankoff: for every MW of capacity of nuclear, you can replace a MW of coal and gas. you can’t do that with wind. you need at least 3 times the number of wind turbines because the real capacity factor is so low. (35% for on shore wind). Nuclear can completely shutdown the fossil fuel industry for electrical generation, as the French did when they eliminated 90% of their plants that used to burn oil for generation (and a few coal plants thrown in).

    I don’t believe Europe, for now, is in any sort of “Renaissance”. it’s all nuclear-NIMBYism, where most of Europe will burn every larger amounts of coal and gas (complements of the Russians) and rest on France’s nuclear grid, as they do now. The Swiss are likely to reverse themselves and the French and Finns, not to mention the ‘rest of Europe’: Bulgaria, Poland, Russia, Lithuania and the Czechs will continue to expand their nuclear deployment so as to export much of it to…Germany any another country foolish enough, irrational enough, to abandon their only serious form of non-carbon and on demand power.


    Comment by tialsedov — March 28, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  25. The UK rejects the German/Belgium/Swiss rejection of nuclear energy.

    Such sharp class distinctions take my breath away.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 28, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

  26. Tialsedov is wrong of course, about nuclear energy and AGW. There is no technically feasible way to build up nuclear power fast enough to matter. Even if you ignored people’s concerns completely, and got rid of the approval process (“it’s perfectly safe just trust us”) the nuclear industry’s construction capacity would require at least two decades to construct sufficient capacity to replace, say, all US coal-fire power plants. He is also incorrect when he claims that “every MW of renewable capacity has to be backed up …”: this is simply not correct. It’s a question of energy storage and transmission networks. Not to mention that nuclear plants often are off line for significant amounts of time, so need to be “backed up” as well.

    Btw, what about my question – do you or do you not think that nuclear operators should be required to provide proof of insurance? If not, why not?

    Comment by christian h. — March 28, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

  27. @Louis. There is zero class analysis of the decisions to *abandon* nuclear energy. I’m simply noting it in response to the also-zero-class analysis provided by prianikoff. What anti-nuclear groups and opinionators don’t get is that nuclear energy is not going away…regardless of the mode of production.

    @christian. Of course we can scale up nuclear. The French went from zero nuclear to 80% of their grid in less than 20 years. While done under conservative capitalist gov’ts, it was a result of a victory of the French working class: the nationalization of all energy sources after WWII. At that time in the 1970s, France was on oil generation. EDF, the result of the nationalization, was a vertically integrated (construction and operations) publically owned entity that accomplished this. They are off oil. It is a question of demanding such actions take place, a focusing of national resources to accomplish the goal. Without anti-nuclear *legal* obstructions, the same could be accomplish in the US with a TVA-like effort.

    Right now, every MW of renewables has to be back up, christian. And it has little do with transmission. There is almost no way to economically scale up ‘storage’ to allow evening/early morning wind generation surpluses for use later in the day or at peak. This is why…there are no serious plans to do this, even in countries like Denmark and Germany with double-digit wind penetration. The natural gas industry *loves* solar and wind as they are married at the face to each other, one supporting the other. This is why Warren Buffet was willing to invest so much in wind energy and why you seen gas companies with nice solar and wind photos in their ads. While wind blows, or the sun shines, they can turn down their gas plants, but that’s it. Capitalist Germany…and any country regardless of which class rules…would have to build gas plants and coal plants to provide base-load (24/7 minimum power) to back up renewables.

    Here is a study, prejudiced for sure, from climate activist Barry Brooks on the problems of scaling up solar, to site one of many examples, to “base load”:


    I’m than willing to accept that renewables can replace on demand baseload power. When I see it. Until then, the largest source of low carbon energy in nuclear. Until you get your priorities straight as to what is important here, the left is totally clueless about what it is going to take from a technology POV to mitigate climate change.


    Comment by tialsedov — March 28, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

  28. Ah yes, the French example so beloved of the pro-nuclear crowd (it’s brought up in every singles one of these debates). I happen to be unconvinced that because something could be done in one place and one time, something on a completely different scale therefore can be done somewhere else in a completely different time. I’m weird that way – reality does not operate by analogy. And no, it was not a “victory of the French working class”, it was a program pushed by French capitalism (there was no working class resistance to it, but neither was it a result of working class struggles).

    And to repeat: it is simply, blatantly, incorrect that every installed MW of renewable power has to be “backed up”. It is false now, and even more false in the future. What is currently true is that some back-up generation capacity is needed, but most certainly not on a 1 for 1 basis.

    And then of course we have the even better argument… “nuclear isn’t going away”. Why, this also applies to war (let’s have more of those… it’s not going away!), poverty (why fight it – it’s not going away), and in the foreseeable future, capitalism (embrace it, it’s not going away). These are really desperate arguments.

    The thing is, nuclear power is not a major issue for me – I think other issues (both environmental and otherwise) are more pressing, AGW being one of them. What is however a major issue is the way nuclear power is propagandized as a solution to AGW when it is clearly not; or even more ludicrously, if it is sold as some kind of inherently socialist form of energy production. In reality, plans to build up nuclear power are nothing more than a way to stuff the pocket books of a bunch of capitalists, and a dangerous distraction from what really has to be done to reign in AGW.

    Comment by christian h. — March 28, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

  29. David Walters
    “There is actually more opposition to wind in the UK, which has lost tremendous popularity because of it’s huge environmental footprint than nuclear has.”

    Offshore wind has no almost no “environmental footprint” and is expanding rapidly in the UK.
    By 2020, it should account for 17% of electricity generation.

    Britain is too small and densely populated for big onshore windfarms to be non-controversial.
    But their opponents are usually rural conservative nimbys.
    The same people never seem to complain about overhead power lines or nuclear power stations.
    Which suggests that there are vested interests at work too.

    The limited opposition to offshore wind farms mainly comes from the right wing press, based of the cost of government subsidies.
    But they’re popular with the public.

    There was absolutely nothing progressive about the decision to renew the nuclear power stations.
    It was pushed through by the Coalition, with very little public debate.
    The relative lack of public opposition so far is more down to apathy and fatalism than anything else.

    People generally ignore the issues involved in nuclear power until the next major accident happens.
    Since Fukushima, more French voters are sceptical of the country’s reliance on nuclear power.
    The Socialist Party favours cutting it by a third, while Sarkozy its most ardent advocate.

    It’s not just about the technical arguments. A socialist energy and transport policy has to take into account people’s views, as well as the threat to their environment posed by radiation and global warming – the consequences of an over-reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power.

    Comment by prianikoff — March 29, 2012 @ 8:14 am

  30. …nevertheless, technical developments are important.
    Something that would reduce energy consumption signficantly would be to use better insulating materials.

    Aerogels, or “solid smoke” are quite amazing at this.
    They’re made by removing the liquid from a gel and replacing it with air.
    They have remarkable properties, having both ultra low density and high thermal resistance.

    for an example see:-

    Until quite recently they couldn’t be used as a building material because they’re extremely brittle.
    But fibre-reinforced silica aerogel is now being manufactured into a building-standard thermal insulation sheets.
    Research is also underway to incorporate it into glass, further reducing the heat lost through from windows.

    for more see:-

    Comment by prianikoff — March 29, 2012 @ 8:23 am

  31. Peer reviewed article by Japanese scientist suggests that Unit 2 broken by quake before tsunami hit

    Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology, 49 (2012), 360–365.


    A scenario of large amount of radioactive materials discharge to the air from the Unit 2 reactor in the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident

    Fumiya Tanabe


    Based on an analysis of the measured data with review of calculated results on the core melt accident, a scenario is investigated for large amount of radioactive materials discharge to the air from the Unit 2 reactor. The containment pressure suppression chamber (S/C) should have failed until the noon on 12 March 2011 only by seismic load due to the huge earthquake on 11 March or by combination of seismic deterioration and dynamic load due to steam flowing-in through safety relief valve. Opening of the two safety relief valves (SRVs) at 14 March 21:18 should have resulted in discharge of large amount of radioactive materials through the S/C breach with the measured air dose rate peak value of 3.130E-3Sv/h at 21:37 near the main gate of the site. The containment drywell (D/W) should have failed at 15 March 06:25, at the cable penetration seal due to high temperature caused by the fuel materials heating up on the floor of the D/W, which had flowed out from the reactor pressure vessel. Then large amount of radioactive materials should have been discharged through the D/W breach with the measured air dose rate peak value of 1.193E-2Sv/h at 15 March 9:00.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 29, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

  32. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/JTsearch5.cgi?term1=MINORU%20MATSUTANI

    Thursday, March 29, 2012
    Reactor 2 radiation too high for access
    73 sieverts laid to low water; level will even cripple robots


    Staff writer

    Radiation inside the reactor 2 containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has reached a lethal 73 sieverts per hour and any attempt to send robots in to accurately gauge the situation will require them to have greater resistance than currently available, experts said Wednesday.

    Exposure to 73 sieverts for a minute would cause nausea and seven minutes would cause death within a month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

    The experts said the high radiation level is due to the shallow level of coolant water — 60 cm — in the containment vessel, which Tepco said in January was believed to be 4 meters deep. Tepco has
    only peeked inside the reactor 2 containment vessel. It has few clues as to the status of reactors 1 and 3, which also suffered meltdowns, because there is no access to their insides.

    The utility said the radiation level in the reactor 2 containment vessel is too high for robots, endoscopes and other devices to function properly.

    Spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said it will be necessary to develop devices resistant to high radiation.

    High radiation can damage the circuitry of computer chips and degrade camera-captured images.

    For example, a series of Quince tracked robots designed to gather data inside reactors can properly function for only two or three hours during exposure to 73 sieverts, said Eiji Koyanagi, chief developer and vice director of the Future Robotics Technology Center of Chiba Institute of Technology.

    That is unlikely to be enough for them to move around and collect video data and water samples, reactor experts said.

    “Two or three hours would be too short. At least five or six hours would be necessary,” said Tsuyoshi Misawa, a reactor physics and engineering professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute.

    The high radiation level can be explained by the low water level. Water acts to block radiation.

    “The shallowness of the water level is a surprise . . . the radiation level is awfully high,” Misawa said.

    While the water temperature is considered in a safe zone at about 50 degrees, it is unknown if the melted fuel is fully submerged, but Tepco said in November that computer simulations suggested the height of the melted fuel in reactor 2’s containment vessel is probably 20 to 40 cm, Tepco spokeswoman Ai Tanaka said.

    Tepco has inserted an endoscope and a radiation meter, but not a robot, in the containment vessel. It is way too early to know how long Tepco will need to operate robots in the vessel because it is unknown what the devices will have to do, Tanaka said.

    A Quince was exposed to radiation of 20 sieverts per hour for a total of 10 hours, and the device worked fine, Koyanagi said. If the team conducts further experiments, it may find out the robot
    can resist even more radiation, he added.

    According to experts, even though high radiation in the containment vessel means additional trouble, it is not expected to further delay the decommissioning the three crippled reactors, a process Tepco said will take 40 years.

    The experts noted, however, that removing the melted nuclear fuel from the bottom of the containment vessels will be extremely difficult.

    Tepco inserted a radiation meter into the containment vessel of reactor 2 Tuesday for the first time, measuring atmospheric radiation levels at several points inside the vessel. The readings logged 31.1 and 72.9 sieverts per hour.

    Tepco has not been able to gauge the water depths and radiation levels of the containment vessels for reactors 1 and 3, as, unlike unit 2, there is no access.


    Comment by louisproyect — March 29, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  33. This news appeared earlier today:-

    “Two power firms have shelved £8bn plans to build a new nuclear power station on Anglesey, casting doubt on thousands of jobs.
    E.ON and RWE npower made the decision on Wylfa B, intended to operate from 2025, after a strategic review.
    They are looking for a new owner for Horizon Nuclear Power, the joint firm to develop the plant.
    …The German-owned companies blamed the global economic crisis, developments in the nuclear industry in Germany and what they called the “significant ongoing costs” of running the Horizon joint venture for the decision.”


    There seems to be lots of opposition to new nuclear power in Wales!

    Comment by prianikoff — March 29, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

  34. @louis per MATSUTANI study…

    Wow! There are so many assumptions leading to further assumptions, it boggles the mind. A few “low-lights”… They assume that the earthquake weakened the unit#2 containment enough for an atmospheric release on March 12. I haven’t heard that one before…besides there are a lot of “ifs” leading to that conclusion. Operator records for unit #2 show there was no unit #2 containment compromise of any sort on March 12. I’ll take the operator records over a cacophony of “ifs” any day. Also, they purport that the massive rad release on March 15 came from unit #2 due to a hydrogen explosion in the suppression chamber (torus). That never happened, but it was speculated as a hydrogen explosion for several days. Some Press and many anti-nuke sources continue to make the claim, regardless. The March 15 release was due to unit #4’s refueling deck exploding…period. These two gaffes are the tip of the iceberg.

    And so it goes…mean while 20,000 still dead from the tsunami; carbon output way up as a result of *not having their nukes running* and no moves to updgrade sea wall protection…yet…from the government.

    Comment by tialsedov — March 29, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

  35. @prianikoff. off shore wind in directions all around the British Isles runs at about 40% of the time. No matter how much overbuild you have, ONE regional summer time lull in the wind and you have to turn on your gas turbines or ramp up your coal plants. There is no getting around this. This is why most don’t understand energy systems like the grid and what it takes to keep it going. The sheer costs of overbuilding all these sea- and land based wind systems will bankrupt you. The average combined wind capacity for all wind in Germany and Denmark is around 35% (slightly higher for Denmark, lower for Germany). Every single time you have wind that dies down over any section of the area, you have to be able to make that up *somehow*.

    Generation of power is completely a ‘following the load ‘ issue. The power isn’t actually “generated” until you turn on that light switch, or start up that hospital complex. You don’t just generate a lot of energy and have people ‘tap into it’ when they need it. The generators pick up torque the *instant* that load comes on line (light switch, factor, office). This why Germany and Denmark have hit the limit for ‘overgeneration’ so when the load goes down at night they can shunt the power to Norwegian and Swedish hydro. There is only so much of this that the hydro systems can ‘store’. Or you get a crashing grid and black outs.

    This is the reason that wind can be a supplement, maybe a big one, at best for a non-carbon base load system designed around hydro and nuclear But it’s unreliability is always going to be there. The fact is that the wind planners in Germany, *correctly* planned the vast increase in gas (and some coal) they talked about phasing out nuclear to start with.

    I also agree you need people’s consent to do any of this. The fact of that matter is I don’t take the the consent of ‘rural peoples’ any lighter than I do with those in cities. This is why you need a truly national discussion about energy something I’m all for. But in terms of ‘interests’ you should look at yor own European gas and coal interests and see what they think about nuclear and why *they oppose it right down the line*. Oh..not to mention the multi-billion Euro Wind and Solar industry. There are no capitalist good guys here. Goose, gander.

    We are talking about maintaining a vast electrical grid in Europe to keep people warm and the lights on *all the time*.

    BTW…the video on aerogels were fantastic. I’ve been following it on The Next Big Future blog over the last few year and it’s truly a ‘revolutionary’ technology that can change a lot of how we build things (including nuclear power plants, I might add :). The demonstration of the 3mm of aerogel “cloth” protecting the guys hand from a blow torch was outstanding!


    Comment by tialsedov — March 29, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

  36. Anyway… have I been the only one to notice the parallels between the US SWP and the Sparts, in that as the sect gets tinier, nuttier, more isolated from normal human reality, it sinks to the lowest levels of contrarianism – trying to get attention by just reversing the sign on the current orthodoxy? The Spart equivalent would of course be their support for imperialist troops in Haiti.

    Comment by doloras — March 29, 2012 @ 11:01 pm

  37. NY Times March 29, 2012
    Inquiry Suggests Worse Damage at Japan Nuclear Plant

    TOKYO — The damage to the core of at least one of the meltdown-stricken reactors at Fukushima could be worse than previously thought, raising new concerns over the plant’s stability and complicating the post-disaster cleanup, a recent internal investigation has shown.

    The results of the inquiry, released this week by the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, also cast doubt over the Japanese government’s declaration three months ago that the ravaged site is now under control.

    Throughout the crisis that ensued after a powerful earthquake and tsunami last March, both the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco, and the government were accused of playing down the dangers posed by the nuclear meltdown. Subsequent disclosures that the event was indeed far more severe than they let on have badly damaged their credibility, to the point that almost any statement from the authorities is now regarded as suspect by a dubious Japanese public.

    Fukushima Daiichi’s vital cooling systems were knocked out in the early stages of the crisis last year. The uranium cores at three of the plant’s six reactors quickly melted down, breaching their containment vessels and setting off a large radiation leak.

    Three reactors were later rocked by hydrogen explosions, which blew out their outer walls.

    What followed was a frantic effort to keep the inner parts of the reactors flooded with cooling water to prevent their cores from again overheating. Officials at Tepco had previously said that operation was succeeding, and that the damaged fuel rods were safely submerged in water.

    But earlier this week, an examination at one of the reactors showed the water level at its core to be lower than levels previously estimated, raising fears that the broken-down remnants of the uranium fuel rods there may not be completely submerged and in danger of heating up again.

    Cooling water at the plant’s No. 2 reactor came up to just two feet from the bottom of the reactor’s containment vessel, a beaker-shaped structure that encases the fuel rods. That was below the 33-foot level estimated by officials when the government declared the plant stable in December.

    The low water levels also raise concerns that radioactive water may be leaking out of the reactor at a higher rate than previously thought, possibly into a part of the reactor known as the suppression chamber, and into a network of pipes and chambers under the plant — or into the ocean.

    At the No. 2 reactor, workers still pump about nine tons of water an hour into the core to keep it cool.

    The investigation also found current radiation levels of 72.0 sieverts inside the containment vessel, enough to kill a person in a matter of minutes, as well as for electronic equipment to malfunction.

    Kazuhiko Kudo, a professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University in southwestern Japan, said it was now suspect whether the nuclear fuel was being adequately cooled. And if some parts of the fuel remained above water, there was a risk that the fuel could again heat up and melt. That could set off a dangerous spike in the pressure inside the containment vessel, and lead to more radiation escaping the reactor, he said.

    The high levels of radiation would complicate work to locate and remove the damaged fuel and decommission the plant’s six reactors — a process that is expected to take decades.

    “With levels of radiation extremely high, we would need to develop equipment that can tolerate high radiation,” Junichi Matsumoto, an executive at Tokyo Electric Power, said Tuesday.

    To gauge water levels inside the containment vessel at No. 2, workers clad in hazmat suits inserted an endoscope equipped with a tiny video camera, a thermometer, a dosimeter for measuring radiation and a water gauge.

    Two other badly damaged reactors — Nos. 1 and 3 — could be in even worse condition. Hydrogen explosions blew out the outer walls of those reactors, and officials believe that more nuclear fuel has breached the containment vessel at the No. 1 reactor than the others.

    Experts also worry about a fourth reactor that was not operating at the time of the accident, but nevertheless poses a risk because of the large number of spent nuclear fuel rods stored in a water coolant tank there. The No. 4 reactor was also hit by a hydrogen explosion in the early days of the crisis, possibly due to hydrogen that leaked into the reactor from the adjacent No. 3 unit.

    The spent fuel rods stored at the No. 4 reactor pose a particular threat, experts say, because they lie unprotected outside the unit’s containment vessel. Tokyo Electric has been racing to fortify the crumpled outer shell of the reactor, and to keep the tank fed with water. But should a problem also arise with cooling the spent fuel, the plant could run the risk of another colossal radiation leak, experts say.

    The many aftershocks that continue to hit the Fukushima region are also a source of worry.

    “The plant is still in a precarious state,” said Mr. Kudo of Kyushu University. “Unfortunately, all we can do is to keep pumping water inside the reactors,” he said, “and hope we don’t have another big earthquake.”

    Comment by louisproyect — March 29, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

  38. DW “The sheer costs of overbuilding all these sea- and land based wind systems will bankrupt you”

    The problem’s been studied and it’s manageable;

    For the same carbon-offset, the cost of the offshore wind farms and their reserve power systems is no more than 10 nuclear power plants.
    (without all the risks of nuclear power)
    The high capital outlay required for nuclear power stations was the main reason why E.On and RWE pulled out of Wylfa B and Oldbury yesterday.

    The build-rate for wind power is also much faster than for nuclear;
    Currently at over 1 GW per year, compared to 14 years for the first GW
    I know which option I’d choose.

    Integrating power delivery across national boundaries is a good thing and helps manage supply variability (not just for wind either).
    It’s the reason why German companies are actively involved in the development of Solar energy in North Africa.
    Siemens also produce the high voltage dc cable that would be needed to deliver it to Europe.


    One case study on their use for a home insulation project, suggested it would be possible to keep a home at 64F by body heat alone.
    Adding rooftop Solar heating panels would make the home almost self sufficient for heating.
    So demand on the grid could be reduced quite considerably.
    Another use for aerogel might be to insulate the heat reservoirs of solar power stations.
    This could bring them closer to 24/7 power delivery and help to upscale projects like Andasol 1.

    (with all the usual provisos about using private capital)

    Comment by prianikoff — March 30, 2012 @ 8:42 am

  39. Who cares if the Thorium fuel cycle and n -th generation reactors could make for perfectly safe nuclear power? We live in the real world, not theory.”

    Christian, the thorium fuel cycle is not “theoretical.” Practical thorium-based reactors have been around for for at least fifty years, and the Indians are working on thorium technology as we speak.

    Your position is far closer to the ahistorical naive anarchism so popular among today’s petty bourgeoisie than to real Marxism.

    Your “real world” is an arrogant, delusional, and profoundly unscientific illusion based on “common sense” unchecked by any worthwhile capacity for genuine critical thinking. To your kind, the world is always flat.

    As to the interference of capital with technological development–and with public discussions of technology–that was the point with which I concluded my post. But if we are to rule out of court all technologies thus corrupted, we will have no technology at all.

    Obviously that one sailed right past you.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — March 30, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

  40. PS. I never said that thorium is “perfectly safe.” On the contrary, it is dangerous–as are all the things we human beings need to do in order to go on being human.

    My point is that–just possibly–the danger inherent in thorium-based fission may be on a scale that human beings–at least in a stable society where production is for use, not profit–should be able to control. I believe that the risks in “conventional” fission-based technology are clearly unacceptable in any form. The question requires further study.

    That said, there is no perfectly safe way forward for the human race. Every decision made in society includes an assessment of risk, mitigation of the identified risks, and acceptance of the mitigated risks. Socialism can strip away the distorted risk mirror of capitalism, but it cannot eliminate risk altogether.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — March 30, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  41. @prianikoff “14 years for the first GW”. ???? You pick 1970s/80s *outlier* builds as your comparison? How about the last 4 Chinese plants built on time and under budget? Same with the advanced BWRs built in Japan? Also under budget and on schedule. Prianikoff…you are doing what most anti-nukes do, comparing the building of and running of a Model T ford to that of a modern car. Gen III reactors re built *modularly*. Their costs are way controllable compared to previous one-of-a-kind builds. The only exception to this is the technology around the ERP developed in France which the first two build being way over budget and behind schedule, but still HALF the time of your “14 years”.

    The abondmonet in the UK by the *German* utilities was motivated by *profitablility* issues…that is the rate of return a lot slower than wind…with it’s giganitic feedin tariffs and massive subsidies. The UK has a fake “Market Approach” to all new power plants, thus profit, not social need, is the conservative by-word there.

    The 1 GW of wind is only worth 300MWs since it isn’t always running. You know never when the wind blows. Thus your “1GW per year” you have to actually multiply by at least 3 to get a realistic number (in time AND costs) This this is why James Hansen has ditched the all-renewables scenarios calling it “faith-based” and not science based. Like myself, Hansen is *not opposed to renewables*. But he understands they can’t do it all or even come close.

    Your “carbon – offset” doesn’t take into account the base inefficiency and indeterminacy of wind, Prianikoff. It simply doesn’t blow when you want it, as the Danes have found out, and their plan to get off of coal and gas is falling flat. If you allowed all base load to be run by nuclear and the intermediate and peak loads by renewables we could see what works.

    The insulation schemes are all good…and are way off. They are NOT happening now in the U.S. I’m all for it, but it’s limited and only addresses a limited part of the load (home heating). Even office heating, down the road, with the areogel and the base body heat to keep your house warm is *decades and decades* away and simply doesn’t address generation. I want to replace every gas and coal plant in the UK. My plan would work. Your’s would have everyone returning to a life like the Hobbits in the village of Middle Earth.

    Comment by tialsedov — March 31, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

  42. Thorium/LFTR: energyfromthorium.com

    It will be the fix in about 10 years for most of this if the Chinese and the US start up companies get their way. Nuclear is safer than any fossil fuel, Fukushima notwithsanding. We are all still dying at the rate of a 3 million a year from fossil fuels, excluding wars over it. Nuclear? Barely a blip. I know what I’d choose, again and again, and so should the workers movement. Nuclear will shut down coal and gas, boutique solar and wind solutions will not.

    Comment by tialsedov — March 31, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

  43. UK emissions drop because of nuclear:

    An 8% drop in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the UK in 2011 was helped by an 11% increase in electricity output from the country’s nuclear power plants, provisional figures from the government indicate.

    According to statistics released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), UK CO2 emissions in 2011 totalled an estimated 456.3 million tonnes, compared with 495.8 million tonnes in 2010. This decrease “resulted primarily from a decrease in residential gas use, combined with a reduction in demand for electricity accompanied by lower use of gas and greater use of nuclear power for electricity generation,” DECC said.

    The energy supply sector, which includes power stations and emissions from the energy sector, accounted for some 40% of the UK’s CO2 emissions in 2011, while the transport sector was responsible for 26% and the business and residential sectors each contributed 15%. Emissions from the energy sector have provisionally been estimated to be 183.8 million tonnes in 2011, a 6% decrease from 2010.

    “The decrease in emissions from this sector since 2010 can almost entirely be attributed to power stations,” according to DECC. “Demand for electricity was 3% lower in 2011 than in 2010, and there was also a change in the fuel mix used at power stations for electricity generation. The technical problems which had been experienced at some nuclear power stations in 2010 were resolved, and there was therefore more nuclear power available for electricity generation in 2011.” A 17% drop in gas use for generation together with an 11% increase in the use of nuclear power led to a fall of about 7% in emissions from electricity generation.

    Comment by tialsedov — March 31, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

  44. #41 DW That 1Gw in 14 years refers to the rate at which wind power was being installed at first.
    It’s now about 15 times faster. There aren’t really any comparable figures for nuclear consruction at the moment.
    I also was clear that the comparison of building the offshore wind farms with 10 nuclear power stations includes the power from other sources that would need to be built.

    #43 A completely dishonest use of the source material.
    For a fuller version, see:-

    It shows that the biggest reduction in C02 emissions came from the residential sector and were due to the weather.(not to mention the increased price of gas)

    “… 2011 was a warmer than average year; in particular, it was significantly warmer than 2010.
    In the first and last quarters, 2011 was warmer than 2010 by 2.2 and 4.1 degrees Celsius respectively.
    This heavily contributed to the significant reduction (of 23 per cent) in the use of natural gas for space heating, which was therefore reflected by a similar fall in emissions.”

    Co2 emissions from the energy supply sector only fell by 6.1 per cent (although, together with transport, it’s responsible for 66% of all Co2 emissions)

    The contribution from nuclear power increased by 11% because “technical problems which had been experienced at some nuclear power stations in 2010 were resolved”
    i.e. nuclear power is variable (Japan’s nuclear power stations, are contributing next to zero).

    It’s also a myth that nuclear power isn’t subsidised. Of course it is.
    The reason that Britain was able to develop nuclear power in the first place was because it was a nationalised industry and the British government also had a nuclear weapons programme.
    Just as EDL and Arreva are owned by the French government.

    The true costs of re-processing and disposal weren’t included in the funding formulas and, in the event of nuclear accidents, can be astronomical.
    The funds for the moveable building which needs to be erected over the ruins of Chernobyl haven’t even been found yet.
    No secure long term storeage facilitites for nuclear waste have been built anywhere on the planet yet.

    I’m not arguing for a “return to nature”, reduced living standards, or for speculative technology.
    I’m not arguing that any one source of energy is the solution.
    I’ve also been careful NOT to suggest that 100% renewable energy is a short-term objective.

    I’m basing my argument on the Co2 reduction targets that have already been agreed by many European governments.
    I am however arguing against both the pro-nuke greens like Hansen, Monbiot, Lynas et al and pro nuclear Marxists.
    They all downplay the serious hazards of nuclear power and over-hype its potential to solve the problem of global warming.

    Comment by prianikoff — April 1, 2012 @ 9:28 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: