Chernobyl Legacy

Past threads about Pro-Nuke Greens have gotten me thinking hard about my life-long opposition to nuclear power. The arguments are strong. But I just spent some time immersed in Paul Fusco’s multimedia photo essay Chernobyl Legacy, and it’s very hard not to come away thinking, “It’s not worth it. We can’t take this risk.” Incredibly intense, moving, gruesome. Fusco narrates about how “they” assure us: “Yes, we made a mistake, but we’ve got it all figured out now. It won’t happen again.” But things that humans make can — and do — wear out, break. Maybe I’m just having an emotional reaction. But we weren’t there. We didn’t / aren’t living through the aftermath of Chernobyl. I somehow don’t think you could come up with any argument in the world to convince these people that humans should ever play with nuclear power again.

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3 Replies to “Chernobyl Legacy”

  1. The failure at Chernobyl was a combination of human factors (stupid management), systemic failures (culture of secrecy and non-meritocracy in management) and design (the reactor itself). IMHO, a reactor which requires cooling not to melt down is inherently unsafe.

    I have, however, read about reactors called pebble bed reactors. As I understand it, these reactors have their fuel broken up into spheres which, through a limitation in physics I don’t quite grasp, kill themselves when they overheat, rather than melting. So a Chernobyl type mismanagement would result in a dead reactor, but not a dead countryside.

    As far as whether it’s worth it, Scot, the only thing that makes Chernobyl seem worse than coal power is the fact that we are land creatures, rather than flying ones, and the damage we do to the atmosphere is, as yet, more or less invisible.


  2. I was thinking about pebble bed reactors while listening to Fusco. I too have thought of them as fail-safe in a way that traditional reactors are not. And I suppose that’s true. But his admonishment that things break (they just do) is essentially correct. It’s a question of how much risk of failure there is vs. how serious the consequences of failure, however improbable. A true meltdown may not occur at a pebble bed reactor, but what other accidents are possible?

    and the damage we do to the atmosphere is, as yet, more or less invisible.

    Jim, you might want to amend or correct that comment after viewing the piece (the main part is only 10 minutes long).

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