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Fukushima was a boiling water reactor, which is not a good design. A good design would be passively safe, which more or less means that you can turn off the plant and walk away without a disaster occurring.



Were the safer designs available in 1971?


Yes they were. Liquid Fuel Molten Salt reactors had been build and tested. The researches were ready to start building production scale units next.


Yes. Pressurized water reactors are very old, they were developed around the same time as boiling water reactors, in the 50s.

Their superior safety has been known for a long time as well, which is why all 58 French reactors active today are PWRs (and most of those in the US are as well).

That being said, it is still probably a bad idea to put a power plant in a place which is known to be exposed to tsunami...


Pressurised water reactors still rely on active security. Molten salt for instance allows passive designs.


> That being said, it is still probably a bad idea to put a power plant in a place which is known to be exposed to tsunami...

...Especially in the country which originated the word tsunami


I believe we had molten salt prototypes already at that time. If that design were favoured, instead of pressurised water, I bet it would have been pretty damn safe.

I believe they achieved relatively high standards despite the lack of funds anyway. (By the way, molten salt is coming back, but mostly lack the funding necessary to prototype bigger reactors.)


"Good" design is ill defined. The fact that a design is riskier than an alternative does not immediately make it worse. Especially when safety can be engineered to arbitrary standards with enough money.


> Especially when safety can be engineered to arbitrary standards with enough money.

There is not 'enough money'. If a reactor shows cracks in the steel in critical places, preventing this upfront might not be technologically possible and afterwards repairing might also be so expensive, that it economically makes no sense.

The big problem: if there is a technical problem, it is politically a very tough decision to close it, because of the costs involved (loss of profits from selling electricity, costs of decommissioning, costs of replacement, ...). Thus a more or less clear need to shutdown the reactor because of technical unfitness will conflict with financial interests and the scale of the money involved makes it worse.


I live pretty close to the San Onofre Nuclear station. They made some upgrades planned for 20 years of operation in 2010, and ended up shutting down the reactor due to premature wear in 2012, and are now planning to decommission the station. I'd be more worried about the financial concerns as an excuse to continue operating an unsafe station if I wasn't seeing the opposite happening in my own back yard right now.


The fact that a reactor may be failing after decades of use does not make it a poor design.

One optimizes for longevity during design, as well as other factors which cost money. It may have, for example, been cheaper to construct, with a strict lifetime after which it would be taken down."Good design" is almost always subjective.

That politics drive nuclear operators to maintain plants past their lifetimes does not indicate poor engineering.




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