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Re: [tlug] silicon cash eater

Curt Sampson writes:

 > I'm not buying this. My understanding is that the size of the tsunami
 > wave exceeded their design parameters. Thus you can't call them idiots
 > for a design that appears to have been adequate to handle the given
 > design parameters; you can only claim that they were wrong to go with
 > those design parameters.

C'mon, Curt, that's specious.  Design is part of engineering.

You understand "defense in depth".  You can also calculate how many
joules it takes to raise a tsunami to 14 meters (the design parameter
in question).  For something that big, you can't just say "OK, no
SPOFs here."  You have to assume that simultaneous failures of several
systems are likely.  (See my description of California engineering
elsewhere.)  You also understand the principle of mathematical
induction: after 1 comes 2, after 2 comes 3, etc.  Now, children,
after 14 comes what? ;-)

And one of the biggest problems with those parameters is one that I
would expect the construction engineers to miss: way insufficient
evacuation planning (even if there had not been an earthquake and
tsunami possibly crippling transportation systems, cf. Tsuruga).

 > Wrong on two counts. They clearly had some concern about safety;
 > that they had backup generators at all shows that. And _every_
 > engineering decision is about cost-cutting because you can _always_
 > spend more.

Agreed.  However, I will say that, at least for the engineers around
me, Japanese engineers take the given specs way too seriously.

 > Sure, but it wasn't blatently obvious that a flood of that level would
 > happen.

Curt, you understand that threat assessment is first about what the
enemy *could* do, and more so than about what the enemy *would* do.
When Mother Nature is the "enemy", the "short list" is what Mama CAN'T
do. ;-)

 > Ok, let's talk about a success: Fukushima.
 > When you consider the hundreds or possibly thousands of people that
 > would have been killed by an equivalant coal-fired power plant over
 > the course of forty years, it's looking pretty good. (Unless, of
 > course, you for some reason consider it "okay" to die in a coal mine,
 > in a vehicle carrying coal to the power plant, of lung disease caused
 > by the emissions of a coal plant, or whatever.)

You forgot black lung.  It is not on a par with death by radiation
sickness IMO, but it is indeed nasty.

None of what I wrote above comes close to undermining the fact that,
in terms of containing what could have happened given how big this
earthquake and tsunami were, Fukushima was a success by any reasonable
engineering standard, and the excellent overall safety history of the
industry (TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima notwithstanding.  But as I
wrote elsewhere, the fatal flaw in the Japanese nuclear industry is
the politicians' willingness to do nothing about the fact that a
nuclear accident that affects anyone in the general public almost
certainly affects tens of thousands, and maybe millions.

    I can see them dark clouds gatherin' up ahead
    Gonna wash this planet clean, jus' like the Bible said
    So everybody get ready
    Gotta hold on steady
    'Cause everybody's gonna get WET!
    Don't think it won't happen just because it hasn't happened yet.

So there. :-(


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