Yes, RBMKs had a couple of design flaws. It was fixed. So what. Nothing is perfectly engineered. Everything has design flaws. Everything.
It is difficult to accurately tell the number of deaths caused by the events at Chernobyl, as the Soviet-era "accidental loss of all the medical records" cover-up made it difficult to track down individuals. It is estimated that that one crash caused 500,000 deaths to date. You really can't compare it to a car accident can you?
I remember teaching groups of students about the radiation effects from Three Mile Island, and later, Chernobyl.
In Switzerland, high in the Alps, baby goats were dying a few weeks after Chernobyl from radiation poisoning. The effluent from Chernobyl was so hot that the radioactive gases rose into the stratosphere and were carried by the jet stream all the way around the world, concentrating at first at high elevations, with depositions of fallout at over 3,000 meters (~10,000'). Mother's milk from the mountain goats was contaminated enough to kill the babies.
It was disconcerting to students that such a thing could happen. Chernobyl's death toll may reach 1,000,000 humans in time, and millions more of other higher mammals.
Using several models, Dr. Rosalie Bertell predicts there will be between 899,600 and 1,786,000 deaths in the end due to Chernobyl.
You can run around and say only 34 died and claim that the rest of the people are mentally ill or don't realize the life enhancement they got as a bonus for being in the Chernobyl area at the time. Whatever. Any way you dress it up or pretty it up, tens of thousands of people have already died from Chernobyl.
Unfortunately we live in a society where statistics are regularly abused to support bias positions. Both sides are guilty of this but comparing the claims, I have seen more abuse and fear-mongering by the anti-nuclear activists. So excuse me if I take outrageous claims with a grain of salt.
We also can't use Chernobyl as any indication of a future predictor – it was irresponsible, dangerous and not at all like modern reactors.
By the way, I may not respond any more - this thread is getting old.
CCV and Lock,
I quote you from memory of the cases reported at the time of the disasters, in real time, and up close and personal, not some damned model. The models were accurate, in any event, after the fact. Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island were handwriting on the wall.
I use that metaphor in a Biblical sense. Look it up.
A safer and less toxic fission reactor design producing significantly less long term high level nuclear wastes (Plutonium and Minor Actinide fission products) is available to use to backup renewable energy sources to provide power to the grid during the times renewables are not generating power (sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing).
Promising technology developed at the Idaho National Laboratory in the early 1990s that would make possible safer and less toxic fission reactors is just left abandoned and uncompleted, not becase there were any show stopper technical problems in the design, but because of unjustified misperceptions that the technology constituted a nuclear proliferation risk. This program was called the Integral Fast Reactor at INL and it was the nation's premier research and development effort focused on the improved and safer reactor design concepts at the time of its cancellation in 1992 three years before the completion of the project. Even at the time of cancelation the technical achievements of the design group at INL were considerable (greater reactor safety, more efficient nuclear fuel consumption, ability to use a much wider group of nuclear fuels including more abundant reactor fuels such as unenriched U-238 and more abundant Thorium, and a dramatic reduction of long term high level nuclear wastes that would have to be sequestered for thousands of years in a geological repository). For reasons known best to then DOE Secretary Hazel O'Leary a decade's work on the Integral Fast Reactor was abandoned and largely wasted.
I applaud efforts to develop carbon free renewable energy. Deriving a larger percentage of our energy from solar, wind, and hydro-electric sources should reduce our energy dependence on foreign oil and improve the effectiveness of our participation in gradually controlling global warming. Unfortunately, I do not feel that there is any renewable technology currently on the horizon that can be economically scaled to replace the electrical power generation through coal, oil, and natural gas which currently provides the majority of our commercial power generation in this country. The only technology of which I am aware that can economically replace current high carbon impact power generation (coal, oil, and natural gas) is nuclear power. Solar technology scaled to replace existing high carbon footprint power generation (coal, oil, and natural gas) to published best estimate would cost between four to eight times the cost of nuclear power. Renewable energy solutions also require a double energy infrastructure investment. It is first necessary to purchase the relatively expensive solar panels, solar thermal generators, or windmills. You must then backup these renewable energy plants with full capacity backups capable of providing power to the grid during the times the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow. You could use high carbon footprint technologies like coal, oil, or natural gas as backups to renewable if you want. It is also possible to consider nuclear power plants to provide capacity backup to your renewables during the times of the day renewables are providing only small amounts of power into the power grid. Since nuclear energy produces large amounts of energy economically on a 24/7 basis and produces no greenhouse gas it makes some sense to consider nuclear an excellent prospect as a backup to renewable energy during the times renewable sources are unable to produce power.
Nuclear energy development for commercial power generation has evolved over the past two decades. Our best current nuclear power designs are capable of operating in a very safe fashion without generating large amounts of long term high activity waste. In the early 1990s Argonne National Laboratory/Idaho National Laboratory designed an Integral Fast Reactor that demonstrated it was capable of burning as fuel the vast majority of the minor actinides and long lived toxic fission product contaminates as well as the plutonium which forms the majority of high level wastes produced in the nuclear fission of conventional commercial power reactors. Argonne National Laboratory determined that the waste produced by the Argonne Integral Fast Reactor would decay to the benign radiation levels of natural uranium within 200 years. This contrasts with the requirement to contain the nuclear waste of conventional commercial Light Water Reactors to a period of 50,000 years because of the presence of long half life plutonium and minor actinide fission products in conventional one pass through fuel cycle approaches used with current commercial power reactors. The Integral Fast Reactor Design uses high energy neutrons to “burn” through fission the long lived high level contaminants and converts them to short lived high activity alternate fission products that relatively quickly decay to safety within the 200 year period. This is a significant improvement in the long term safety of an energy policy including nuclear power as one of its components. It is unfortunate that, while Argonne/Idaho National Lab was able to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of the Integral Fast Reactor during the early 1990s in a prototype research reactor, funding for a full commercial scale Integral Fast Reactor was withheld and Argonne National Laboratory stopped work on this very promising design.
Completing the Integral Fast Reactor design would also permit us to handle more safely the waste currently being generated by our existing commercial power reactors. The toxic long lived wastes from existing Light Water Reactors used for generation of electrical power can be processed and “burned” in an Integral Fast Reactor. This makes the waste from our existing commercial power reactors also decay to safe levels in approximately 200 years. By placing new Integral Fast Reactors near the locations of old existing commercial Light Water Reactors you can process all the resulting toxic waste locally and not have to ship high toxicity waste products across the country to some central processing station. Not moving toxic material more than necessary reduces the chance of accidents. While the IFR was actively under design it was estimated that two commercial Integral Fast Reactors could process their own waste and the waste of five comparably sized commercial Light Water Reactors such that all of the processed waste would decay to benign levels in 200 years. Having a completed IFR design would allow us the choice of being able to install safer nuclear power producing dramatically less long lived high level contaminants if ever in the future it was judged necessary to do so in the public interest.
I believe that it is in the national interest to complete a full commercial implementation of the Integral Fast Reactor. I would suggest drafting legislation to request the Department of Energy reopen this design effort, rescale the successful IFR research reactor to full commercial size and build a full scale commercial IFR pilot plant. I would also suggest that it would be in the national interest to fund the Idaho National Laboratory and an industrial partner like General Electric or Westinghouse to prepare a full commercial IFR design and submit that design, at government expense, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to obtain certification for this reactor design permitting it to be quickly selected and built by power utilities needing safer modern nuclear power. Generally, power utilities have been looked to to pay the NRC certification costs of new reactors. Since the IFR is new technology and might still be considered slightly higher risk by very conservative utility business managers I think it makes the most sense and is in the national interest, to accelerate the certification of the IFR design by submitting the new design to the NRC at public expense.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Retired)