From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Winter Firewood
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 18:27:30 -0500
Ralph Lindberg & Ellen Winnie wrote:
> If you want to see how a country can do nuke right, look to France (OK
> so they don't do much well). They generate a design, make it as safe as
> they can and build it. Then they build it over and over again.
> They don't keep making it "safer" and "safer" as they build it with
> in-process design chances .
The reason the French program looks so good has less to do with the
actual program than with the government's policies toward nuclear
and the press. To be sure, the French program has had its share of
burps, including a couple of fairly interesting sodium-water
reactions at Super-Phoenix. But lacking 1st Amendment restrictions,
the government can and does control what the French press reports.
Not by some censor board but by letting its wishes be known to the
publishers. My experience with French visiting engineers is that I
know more about French nuclear operational matters via the US
nuclear press than they do. Closely related to that is that
Electricite' de France (the French national utility) simply doesn't
communicate operational details to the lay media. They don't have
to and they don't. The fact that all French power stations are
owned by a single utility makes the matter even easier than here
with thousands of little utilities, each with its own PR
Though I've never sat down and counted tit for tat, my impression is
that the French nuclear program has has more incidents than the
American one including several involving core melt.
Simply because the military keeps most things secret, most folks
have no idea how many catastrophic reactor accidents there have
been. There have been a BUNCH. The SL-1 accident is one of the few
that gained any publicity. In this one, the operators manually
lifted the control rod until the reactor went prompt critical. The
instantaneous power production, estimated in the gigawatt range,
caused a steam explosion that destroyed the reactor and killed all
three men present. The water hammer sheared off all coolant pipes
and the reactor vessel settled down several feet under its normal
location. From a radiological standpoint, this accident was still
insignificant. Even without a sealed containment, radioactive
material was detected only a couple hundred yards away from the
site. In a little over a year, the reactor was removed and the
ground it was on now registers normal background.