Tech UPTechnologyFukushima no es Chernobyl

Fukushima no es Chernobyl

fukushimaThesituation produced by the earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japanhas rekindled thedebate on the risks of nuclear energy. José María Gómez Gómez and José Manuel Udías Moinelo, physicists from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), have made an analysis of what has happened so far, which has been disseminated by the Scientific Information Unit of the UCM.

After the earthquake, they claim, “lReactor buildings withstood the earthquake, but external power lines were destroyedand the plant was left without external electricity. “Then everything worked as planned, the nuclear reactors were shut down and the large emergency diesel generators went into operation, providing the electricity needed for cooling and control. However, an hour later it arrived. the tsunami and disabled diesel generators.

In areactor nuclear, “even if it stops, that is, even if the nuclear fission reactions that generate heat stop, aresidual heat due to the disintegration of fission products in the uranium rods“At first it can reach about 150 MW, which the researchers compare with the heat that would be generated” if there were about 150,000 domestic stoves lit inside the reactor vessel. “The heat produced decreases very rapidly at first, and then more and more. “This also occurs with spent nuclear fuel, which has been extracted from the reactor and is stored at the bottom of a pool of water,” the physicists point out. Under normal conditions, the heat is extracted by means of a water cooling circuit. “But when the power supply failed, it has not been able to cool down and as a consequence there have been high temperatures and a large increase in pressure in the reactor vessel that endangers its integrity. To avoid greater evils, we proceeded to vent by opening valves, and this has causedleaks of radioactive elements and also explosions and fires produced by hydrogen“, they add.

According to experts, it seems quite clear that the loss of water has caused damage to the core and the containment building of some reactors, and radioactive leaks, although the situation will improve as the external power supply is restored. “It is still too early to be able to take stock of the accident, including the amount of radiation that has been released into the environment so far. But all experts agree that it is not comparable to the severity of the Chernobyl accident,” say the Spanish scientists.

The nuclear debate

Regarding the positions regarding the future of nuclear energy, the scientists assure that the position report prepared in 2007 by theEuropean Physical Society(EPS), an independent body representing 100,000 European physicists not linked to the nuclear power industry. According to this report, in the coming decades world energy demand will increase by 1.7% annually. In Europe,one third of the energy produced is electrical energy, of which the31% comes from nuclear power plants14.7% from renewable sources and the rest is obtained by burning fossil fuels, with CO2 emissions. Renewables are increasing significantly, butthe electricity demand will not be able to be satisfied without the nuclear contribution. Without forgetting that “If the electricity produced by nuclear plants were produced by burning oil, gas and coal, an additional amount of CO2 would be emitted into the atmospheregreater than that emitted by the entire fleet of automobiles “.

With these and other data -which include Chernobyl, but obviously not Fukushima-, the EPS report concludes that lhe production of electrical energy of nuclear origin is no longer unsafeIn other words, it does not carry more risk (of loss of human life, health or damage to property or economic loss) than other sources such as coal, fuel oil or gas, but rather the opposite. “From what is known at the moment, it does not seem that the Fukushima accident is going to alter these conclusions”, point out the Spanish scientists. However, they also affirm that? Although what happened in Japan is very unlikely to happen in Spain, it shouldcall us to review the safety standards of our power plants and to promote research to reduce the risks associated with all energy sources, such as air pollution and CO2 emissions, radioactive waste and accidents in the transport and extraction of fossil fuels ?.


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