Sunday, 3 April 2011

Against Lu Shih-hsiang (盧世祥)


Lu Shih-hsiang's (盧世祥) editorial piece, published Sunday April 3rd, was loaded with deliberately frightening implicature concerning the danger of Taiwan's use of nuclear power, yet was conspicuously lacking in factual analysis of those dangers. On the one hand there are the probabilities of significant earthquakes and tsunamis to be quantified, whilst on the other hand there are the probabilities of multi-system failure to consider at each of Taiwan's six reactors.

Each of those six reactors is designed to automatically shut down in the event of an earthquake - just as the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant successfully did so as they were designed to. The disabling of the back-up cooling systems at Fukushima provides lessons to learn from in the improvement of Taiwan's nuclear power plants, for example of relocating the spent fuel pools further away from the reactor vessels. Yet what the events at Fukushima do not provide are carte blanche grounds for scaremongering about "risks" and "dangers" and partisan point scoring against the Ma administration.

Yet the scaremongering never stops does it? Elsewhere I have found myself having to repeatedly correct an all too common and, I can only assume, deliberate, ignorance concerning the issue of radioactive waste management and disposal. For example, the disposal site in Lanyu is, according to the AEC, for low-level waste only - i.e. waste with radioisotopes of half lives of a decade or less, and not "thousands of years" as is commonly and uncritically accepted by maltrained student journalists.

As to the subject of replacing nuclear power in Taiwan - yes, let us not raise the "spectre" of economic collapse - let us talk about actual numbers. Replacement of Taiwan's three nuclear power plants at energy production parity, rather than mere power capacity, means that alternative sources of energy must produce over 40 TW hours per year. Other than nuclear power, the best (i.e. cheapest) way to do this is with further investment in combined-cycle gas fired power plants. Using figures for a Siemens SGT5 mutli-shaft combined-cycle turbine (848 MW capacity operating at 58% efficiency), ten of those could be built at a rough cost of around NT$200 billion and requiring approximately 5 square kilometres of land; gas imports would be cheap and there may be the possibility of replacing those with domestically engineered biofuels at some point. Whilst this would be an economically far superior option to any of the renewable sources of energy, it will not be palatable to environmentalists, who seem hell bent on forcing people who work in industry (and thus by extension, everyone else) to suffer the consequences of a lower consumption of electricity - a suffering they euphemistically and outrageously refer to as "conservation".

How dare people like Lu Shih-hsiang (盧世祥) presume to instruct the State to inflict certain suffering on everyone else in Taiwan, on account of the uncertain and manageable dangers of nuclear power.

For shame.

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan.

(Sent: Sunday April 3rd 2011. Unpublished by the Taipei Times)

Update: I don't think this is going to get published - the Timid Times have just published an intimidation piece by a former EPA minister. It relies upon deliberately misdirecting the reader's attention away from a host of salient facts - consideration of which would significantly weaken the anti-nuclear position. Sample:
"Following the events in Fukushima, no one in the world dares call himself an expert on nuclear safety, because the old methods of risk assessment and the old ways of considering environmental factors all have to change. Given that nobody dares claim that they know how to judge the risk of a six-in-one disaster including an earthquake and a nuclear accident, who can be convinced by talk of strict nuclear safety measures. Who believes now that man can always conquer nature?"
Oh - there are people who will in fact dare to call themselves experts on nuclear safety - in spite of this piss-poor attempt at intellectual intimidation. The problem of judging the risks of natural disasters has not fundamentally changed, and to claim it has is exactly what I'd expect from a 低級 political grifter.

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