Thursday, 12 August 2010

Raising the nuclear spectre...

The bush fires raging in a vast area around Moscow have caused widespread devastation. Two hundred or more deaths, several towns have been completely razed to the ground and hundreds, if not thousands are homeless. But the chief concern now seems to be that the fires have entered an area contaminated by the fallout from the smoke of the fire that destroyed one of Chernobyl's reactors. It seems the Greenpeace activists 'monitoring' the smoke have 'detected radiation.' One wonders, of course, what sort, and what isotopes they are measuring.

I'm very skeptical of anything Greenpeace tells me, especially after their claim that the Brentspar was 'loaded with radioactive material' when it was in fact, background radiation from seabed mud they were 'measuring.' There may be a little 'science' in there, but the 'spin' destroys any credibility it may have.

Recently I came across an article written by one of their activists postulating on the effects of a train carrying 'nuclear material, "exploding" following an accident' in the East London area. The article betrayed the fact that the author had no knowledge of spent nuclear fuel's nature and even less of the protection systems and shielding that is present when it is transported. This is a common myth the anti-nuclear lobby keep perpetuating. In their minds any radioactive material is the same as an A-Bomb. According to their mythology, simply bumping it can cause a nuclear explosion. The truth is somewhat different. In fact you have to use quite a lot of TNT to 'fuse' lumps of fissile material and create a nuclear 'explosion.'

The other myth the media are equally guilty of promoting is that the reactor at Chernobyl was a nuclear explosion. It wasn't, it was a steam burst caused by a fire in the graphite core which holds the fissile rods that cause heat when they are allowed to react without the Boron damping rods which absorb the radioactive particles the fuel rods emit. To cool the core and transport the heat being generated into heat exchangers which in their turn heat the water from the boilers to steam and drive the turbines which generate electricity for you and me. What went wrong at Chernobyl was an attempt to 'restart' a reactor manually. Uneven heating of the core led to a fire in the graphite blocks, that caused a coolant pipe to split and that caused water to flood into an environment where the heat was five or six times the boiling point of water and the pressure was low enough for the water to 'flash' instantly to steam.

One litre of water becomes one thousand litre of steam. The top blew off the reactor under steam pressure, the fire in the graphite got air and the rest is history.

There are serious risks with nuclear power. not least the human factor, but please, let's stop the morons who sread the myth that all nuclear installations are A-Bombs. They're not.


  1. I would also like to point out that all the safeties that would have stop the reactor from starting were disabled due to some experiment that had run earlier that day.

  2. Yes, you are correct. Thy had been specifically disabled because the new manager, an electrical engineer with no nuclear background or training, insisted on following a directive concocted in Moscow by a committee and which the onsite Nuclear Engineers had warned was dangerous and would lead to an accident. A senior Party official over ruled the objections.

    It should also be noted that the Health and Safety Executive in the UK tried to impose an almosy identical 'safety' procedure on the nuclear industry. It was dropped after the Nuclear Engineers threatened to go public with their objections...