Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's not the best picture

But here's Callie right after her grooming. I hope I didn't give anyone the wrong impression; her fur was just lightly trimmed, not clipped down. She had long bits of hair growing out between her toes and on the back sides of her legs. The hair on her rump (one groomer once called that "the skirt") was also very long and knotty. So that all got trimmed off and the fur on her chest and belly got evened up.

My paws are neat and tidy now, but I'm so over it.

The groomer also lightly trimmed her all over, but if you didn't see her before it's hard to tell. At any rate, she's clean, tangle-free, and trimmed up. She also didn't want her picture taken, as you can see. She wouldn't look at me with the camera and absolutely refused to pose. I don't blame her, really.

I heard on the news (which in France is all Japan and Lybia right now) that the country in the world with the most domestic power nuclear reactors is the United States. I had no idea. According to what I saw, the US currently operates 58 reactors, followed by France with 55. I had a quick look a Wikipedia and they say there are 104 commercial reactors operating in the US and 59 operating in France. The United States is the largest supplier of commercial nuclear power in the world.

Neither Wikipedia nor television news programs is a paragon of accuracy. But still, the general information seems to be that the US has the most reactors in the world, and that really surprised me. Most of them are located in the east and mid-west.

Our house is just over 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) from the two reactors at St.-Laurent on the Loire River. Those reactors were commissioned in 1983. There were two older reactors on the site that were decommissioned in the early 1990s; they were about thirty years old then.

The debate has begun again, given what's happening in Japan, about the wisdom of nuclear power in France (and I'm sure all over the world -- Germany just shut down a number of reactors). Except for the Green Party, most politicians say that France cannot and will not abandon nuclear power generation. Eighty percent of France's electricity comes from nuclear generation. That's a lot. But the prime minister immediately authorized a thorough safety review of all of France's plants, and there is a growing consensus to shut down at least one, Fessenheim (near the border with Germany), which is the nation's oldest operating plant.

It's interesting. I know the plants are there; in fact I know where several of them are. But I kind of ignore them on a day to day basis. It reminds me of when I lived in San Francisco. I knew we were on the San Andreas fault, and I was there for the 1989 earthquake. We did some things to prepare for a "big one" around the house (strapping the water heater, bolting shelves to the wall, having an "earthquake survival kit" on hand). But on a day to day basis, I didn't really think about it much.

With this disaster in Japan, I'm suddenly acutely aware of the nuclear power plants nearby.


  1. Yes but there are no Earthquakes in France... I don't think Japan's reactor would have failed had it not been for the earthquake..

    I was also in the Bay Area for the '89 quake - I was 8 years old riding my bike in front of my house. It shook like jello in front of me and I fell off my bike. To this day earthquakes scare the crap out of me.

  2. It is a scary thought but I try to step back and look at the bigger picture.
    I am more afraid of the stranglehold the arab world has on the likes of us ordinary folk with the supply of oil. Just a few days of fuel blockades nearly brought the UK to its knees a few years ago and similarly in France last year. If diesel hits £3 a litre in the UK or fuel becomes scarce, how long would it be before there was no food in the shops, etc.
    It's a complex issue. Maybe I feel smug because there are no nuclear reactors near us here.

  3. I FORGOT TO SAY - Callie looks so beautiful after her grooming. I wonder if she feels better for it or if she's annoyed with you.

  4. Walt - from wikipedia which in our case is spot on.
    Nuclear power in Australia is a heavily debated concept. Australia currently has no nuclear facilities generating electricity, however, Australia has 23% of the world's uranium deposits and is the world's second largest producer of uranium after Canada. At the same time, Australia's extensive, low-cost coal and natural gas reserves have historically been used as strong arguments for avoiding nuclear power.
    Regarding iol, we have our own reserves but our prices are locked into world parity.
    As for earthquakes - we do have a little rumbling from time to time but I wonder if its something I ate the night before.

  5. Callie looks lovely even in a sulk :-)
    Didn't know France drew that much electricity from nucelar power. As you say I know there are reactors on the Loire, you drive past them on the way to St Nicholas de Bourgeuil but most of the time "they're just there" and you don't think "what if".

  6. I think the best comparison here is with power generation and transport.

    The deaths per TwH or operating time for nuclear energy are a tiny fraction of those for fossil-fuel plants. But like the small death-toll from aeroplanes compared to cars, the reportage is stuck on the possible numbers of a single event.

    What we've seen in Japan is not a nuclear accident but a massive earthquake and tsunami destroying everything in their wake. Even these power plants running at close to end of life operated way over operating specifications in a disaster of millennial rarity. I'd be fairly confident that oil and gas facilities in such circumstances would not be so locked down. The Banqiao Reservoir Dam failure in China has caused more deaths than any single energy-related event but it hasn't stopped dam-building for hydro-electricity!

    The German's panic reaction to the tectonic events in Japan is not rational. The political, climate and ecologic effects of turning back to fossil fuels would be massive. I believe that globally, nuclear plants have now been run for about 14 thousand man-years, and like aeroplanes, every little problem goes back into improving them.

  7. I would rather have nuclear than fracking for shale oil in the Lot. I am one of the many converts to nuclear, believing that we now have no choice if civilised human life is to have any chance of continuing. Having said that, nuclear power stations are always going to be risky in earthquake zones. Many years ago I became aware of the potential risks with nuclear power plants in Indonesia, and I am surprised by how much of a wake-up call the tragic events in Japan seems to have been for many people. Sadly, it will have brought to a halt the progress made in nuclear being considered as part of the way forward globally. The boffins will have to go some to come up with a significant alternative now.

  8. Mike - we were obviously typing at the same time. Well said!

  9. yea, I dont understand how u can build nuclearn plants on fault lines! duh......and I am hoping this leads to closer inspection of existing plants....tho we cannot do without the power at this point....perhaps it will spur wind & solar possibilities.....we live within prob. 25 mi of a plant....with 2 reactors....i was surprized at the large number of reactors in one place in Japan....makes things even more scary..
    Callie looks mahvelous

  10. Callie is definitely ready for her close up - she looks lovely.
    I view nuclear power as a necessary evil.. I don't see that we have a lot of choice. But I do agree (in retrospect) that we should be rather more careful about where we build the plants. San Onofre just south of LA springs to mind - is that wise?

  11. Callie looks lovely, though a trifle cool with you, Walt.

    There are many reasons for failures at nuclear plants, including human error. That's always going to be the biggest flaw, because there are humans at every nuclear plant. Even the Japanese, it turns out, are over their heads, and now the Germans are cautious.

    Comparisons with deaths from airplanes or cars don't take into account that radiation spreads and physically affects people far from the scene of the event and over a long time.

    Nuclear power boosters always say that design and siting improvements have solved all the problems. Yet somehow disasters keep occurring.

    People in PA who lived through the Three Mile Island disaster may be a little more skeptical about nuclear power than other people.

  12. She's a good lookin' girl!

  13. Callie knows she has a lovely
    profile...and looks gorgeous.
    Ken must be delighted to read
    about the spring cleaning
    underway in his absence.
    I remember your doing a
    great job on the refrigerator
    while he was in NC one year.

  14. Your pup is a fine one. Just beautiful.

    I think the world must reevaluate. I remember seeing some plants in the countryside of France when I was there in in 2009. Made me uneasy and that was before this devastating disaster in Japan!

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. I laughed out loud!

  15. It's precisely because people can put a name to the handful of nuclear energy incidents that makes them so much like plane accidents vs car accidents. No one puts a name to the thousands upon thousands of individual deaths from small accidents other than labelling them as acceptable risk. The Chinese dam disaster I alluded to killed over 170,000 people, yet TMI killed no one and has had no detectable longlasting effects on health in surrounding communities. Another comparison that might be drawn is death from shark attacks vs simple drowning or even death by bee-stings or lightning strike. Shark deaths are astonishingly rare, but exceedingly memorable.

    Toxic emissions from coal, gas and petrol powered stations are killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. The number of people who have died from radiation sickness is minuscule compared to this.

    Subsidiary events like the Gulf of Mexico disaster and others further spread the death and ecologic effects of these fossil fuel sources. The political issues over Middle East oil and Russian natural gas will undoubtedly cause the deaths of thousands more in years to come. The money that has poured into Arab states over the last century has assured the continued oppression and execution of women and minority groups. These are not risks, but certainties.

    The US has a number of its nuclear plants coming to the end of their working lives in the next few years. Unless they're replaced the US needs to miraculously conjure up a new source for 20% of its energy requirements. (Like the New Orleans levees, crumbling bridges around the country and other important but dated infrastructure, all need attention "yesterday". It seems no one wants to pay taxes to support this.)

    If there's a better measure of risk or safety than deaths/TwH then people need to spring forward. But right now fission is the best energy option the world has until renewables and/or fusion-based options are available and in sufficient supply to even match 2011 demand.

  16. Oh Callie, you are very lovely!

  17. What a great post as it has certainly generated a lot of debate and interest amongst your readers.

    I agree that nuclear energy is here to stay, and that rather than a debate about nuclear or not, the debate should be focussed on what can be done in the future to maintain the safety of the reactors and the radioactive waste.

    In the developed world we are all used to relatively cheap energy, and energy on demand.

    Renewables could possibly supply a slightly larger proportion of our needs, but will never fulfill our ever increasing demands. Also the development costs will, I am certain, be more than most people are prepared to pay.

  18. Well, this post certainly generated some comments. And most of them have already stated what I was was going to state.

  19. Callie looks so wise in your recent photo,she's just gorgeous!

  20. Callie looks so aloof in this photo! Do you think the grooming and new look have gone to her head? :))

  21. It's funny how some dogs don't like getting their picture taken. Wonder why? One of our dogs hates it and other other two don't mind.

  22. lovely pooch

    no earthquakes in france, I hope?

  23. Wow! What an amazing discussion. A couple of things:

    There ARE earthquakes in France. There was a magnitude 3.2 quake just 6km south of Valençay on Monday (very close to us), and another of the same magnitude not far from Le Mans on Tuesday. They happen all the time, but are normally too small to be felt. The Mediterranean basin is much more active seismically as there are plate boundaries running through it. I got this info here.

    I also agree that nuclear power is not going away any time soon. Even if the political will exists to phase it out, it would likely take decades to do it to allow new or different technologies to take up the slack. Simply turning off the power would cause havoc.

    I agree that, in general, nuclear power generation is safe. But there are serious issues about radioactivity, waste disposal, and safety. Accidents happen, natural events occur, and malfeasance is not out of the question. There are certainly many plants around the world that should be shut down sooner rather than later. But certainly not all.

    Thanks to everybody for your thoughtful comments.

    And Callie enjoyed them, too!


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