April 27th, 2010

That Damn Arnie Gundersen Ruins Another Perfectly Good Turtle Egg Breakfast With His Constant Harping On Safety And Science

by Philip Baruth

As with drilling in ANWAR, the push to expand nuclear power in the US rests on an industry-driven idea of next-generation technology. Bush liked to say that we could drill in ANWAR and leave no footprints; the nuclear industry likes to say that tomorrow’s nuclear plants will not only be goof-proof, but capable of more or less consuming their own waste, leaving us with plants that can pass the white glove test. Case in point: Westinghouse’s newest reactor design.

The AP 1000 is supposed to be light-years ahead of Vermont Yankee’s reactor in terms of basic safety; its unusual containment structure is designed to allow “air flow” between the concrete shield wall and the stainless steel liner.

Of course, “air flow” and “radioactivity” are not normally concepts you want to pair in a single sentence, and sure enough, turns out there’s a tiny potential problem with the design: small metal baffles direct the air flow, but could also potentially collect moisture, leading to what scientists call “rust,” leading to what are referred to technically in the industry as “holes.”

And since the whole structure is in effect a 130-foot high chimney, radioactivity could then be vented directly into the atmosphere at levels potentially ten times the NRC limit.

better?Or so says Arnie Gundersen, the guy who called the cooling tower collapse and revealed the extensive underground piping at Yankee, the existence of which plant officials had repeatedly denied.

Reading this latest write-up at one of the New York Times’ blogs, VDB could only imagine a certain breakfast scene down in Louisiana, home of Entergy Corporation:

A BREAKFAST TABLE, fine linen and silver, at the edge of a terrace overlooking the ocean. The CEO is multi-tasking: checking stock valuations and overnight spikes and troughs, browsing the New York Times business section, and spooning poached TURTLE EGG absently into his mouth. The wind ruffles his hair lightly.

The turtle egg is done to a turn. Life is quite good.

And then he sees the DIAGRAM of AP 1000 (CUT TO DIAGRAM), depicting the potentially fatal flaw in design. Camera DOLLIES IN to EXTREME CLOSE-UP, as CEO’s eyes narrow, lips tighten, teeth grit. BEAD OF SWEAT suddenly visible at hairline.

Gundersen,” the CEO mutters finally, under his turtle breath.

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