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Collecting links to public technical descriptions of NPPs

  1. Aug 24, 2011 #1
    One lesson from the early days of the Fukushima accident was that should something happen at an NPP anywhere around the world, there's an urgent and wide need everywhere to get as much technical background info of the plant concerned as possible. There are several databases around the world aiming to collect plant data centrally, but these usually lack the level of detail that would be necessary to be really useful. And being available for the general public is a value in itself, which many of the databases lack.

    Since there are freely available documents around the Internet (in spite of many of them disappearing from free distribution following the 9/11 events), I have been thinking of creating an index page to help myself to quickly locate helpful documents, should a need arise. And, while at it, might as well make it public to help others in the same situation. As a first crude step, I started a thread on the discussion forum of the Finnish Nuclear Society to make it easier to quickly bookmark good documents, whenever such are encountered. The link is here:

    http://www.ats-ydintekniikka.fi/toimituskeskustelu/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=64 [Broken]

    and all contributions are naturally more than welcome. Guest posting is allowed, so if you have some links to useful public technical data with relevance for reactor accident management you would like to share, from that thread they will find their way to the aforementioned link page.

    Or, if the moderators see it fit, such links could possibly be posted directly to this thread as well?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2011 #2


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    In the US, detailed technical descriptions are rather limited/restricted following the al Qaida attacks (9/11/01) on the WTC. Structural details of US NPPs are covered by National Security and Safeguards rules. Such information was removed from the public domain, and most of it is only available on a need-to-know basis.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  4. Aug 24, 2011 #3
    Yes, that is a known issue and one there's no way around. Still, there's a lot of information out there (such as e.g. data about the existence and general descriptions of different safety systems, some information of their capacities etc.) that is insensitive enough to have been considered safe to allow to remain in the public domain. We professionals have access to most of the data we need (if we just have the time and patience to wait for it), but in my view, it would be really good from the point of view of communicating to the public and enabling an overall trust in the experts, if the data that has been considered safe to stay in the public would be "indexed" in a way that would be practically usable. The level of detail found in the first link of my list is an example of information that could be useful for many in spite of not giving out any structural details of the plant concerned. And a large number of analyses containing information regarding volumes of different safety systems etc. have still been considered safe enough to leave publicly available even in the US.

    One problem with collecting data in different data bases is typically the issue of deciding what to give and what not to give. Therefore. I'm thinking of this different approach of not asking for any new information, but rather trying to find links to the different locations where information already exists (and apparently the judgement regarding the publicity of technical detail has been done).
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  5. Aug 24, 2011 #4


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    What's in the public domain or published is fine.
  6. Aug 25, 2011 #5
    I'm not sure what value there would be in collecting technical information about nuclear power plants, especially in a publicly available database. There's a need to know issue, even if the effort is just aimed at collecting and organizing public information, and maybe more importantly there's a potential crackpot issue. As soon as something happens at a power plant, experts who know the systems better than anyone else are going to be on top of it, and random people chiming in based on limited knowledge and expertise would only confuse the public - who, remember, got frightened when newscasters told them that Fukushima radioactivity was showing up in milk on the other side of the ocean, and didn't grasp the concept that the amounts were miniscule and required sophisticated tests to quantify. Sometimes information overload is a bad thing.
  7. Aug 25, 2011 #6
    Other times, not. A recurring motif in scary movies is the closed door, beyond which ANYTHING may lie. So too with nuclear power plants. Their workings are mysterious to the public and therefore somewhat scary.
  8. Aug 25, 2011 #7
    I do not mean that any new database should be made, just that it would be good to have a rapid knowledge of the basic facts of the NPP affected. There is usually at least some data available concerning e.g. the emergency systems (electric / steam driven / something else) and the existence of severe accident mitigation systems, possibly some relevant accident analyses etc., but it may take a while to find it even though it is somewhere on the net. What I'm thinking of is simply to bookmark this data whenever encountered and putting the bookmarks in a single place.

    During the first two days or so following the Fukushima accident, it was very difficult to get confirmation on even the basic facts of the plant (is unit 1 BWR/2, BWR/3 or BWR/4, are units 2 and 3 equipped with Mark I or Mark II containments, is there a RCIC/isolation condenser/some other system to prevent core meltdown at station blackout at the plant and so on.) There were several conflicting descriptions of the plant running around the media during the first couple of days, and in my view it took an unnecessarily long time to be sure of the very basic facts. Of course the Japanese were busy doing what was acutely needed, and providing basic information for people on the other side of the world - who did not need it from the urgent safety point of view, was understandably not among their first priorities.

    Remembering that the Fukushima plant happens to be one of the best-documented NPP in the world, I could imagine a similar situation taking place in some other plant and another country would be an even more challenging task from the point of view of giving the local media the information they urgently need to keep the public informed. People are worried and need information even in places where the accident has no possibility to have any physical effect.

    I agree on the problem, but I think rapid access to correct factual data - in the level of detail that has been agreed to be made public - would help, rather than prevent, the experts who are responsible for informing the local public to give better and more accurate information. Even though the experts can usually get access to the restricted information, it may take too long time from point of view of informing the media, and it would be easier to give information, if there was some public source material that could be used to supplement the conclusions of the plant situation.
  9. Aug 25, 2011 #8
    As an example, take this report. A really good overview of the different containment systems and their engineered safety features. Would probably have been a good supplement material when communicating to the public during the active phase of the Fukushima accident, and after having found it, I'll certainly bookmark it for future reference.
  10. Aug 25, 2011 #9


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    There is a lot of information on the web already. For American plants, the NRC website has more information than I can hope to read in a lifetime. They have improved the search functions greatly, but could so better.

    There are technical papers and reports available through DOE

    There are websites for industry groups and manufacturers.

    There are websites for IAEA, ICEA and many international organizations. Perhaps IAEA might be the best organization to host such a database.

    Your best bet would be a list of websites that already exist. Building a separate database would require continuous maintenance to ensure information is current. Further the information posted would need to be screened to avoid disclosing classified or proprietary information. (To protect the host organization for the database.)

    Inevitably, it will not be a complete database, so it may be a matter of luck whether it helps at all. For example, do you think there would be much information from North Korea or Iran?
  11. Aug 25, 2011 #10
    That's exactly what I'm after.

    That will always be a challenge. American plants are pretty well covered, thanks to the NRC public documentation, as are some of the reactor types used in the former Soviet Union (due to international projects aimed at improving their safety in the early 1990's). Nordic plants have some information available as well. But I have no idea what resources there exists for e.g. the newer French or German plants, if the need would arise to quickly provide information for the media or public. Or CANDUs, for that matter. Or the South Korean reactors that are now being marketed internationally.

    IAEA is the right organization to collect plant specific data in their own database and distribute it to the organizations with a legitimate need for it, and there's no point (and no possibilities) to reproduce their effort, although I've understood they have met into some difficulties getting information after the 9/11 events as well. What I think could and should be done is what was already mentioned in the beginning: a navigation page helping to find resources that already exist in the Internet so that one would not need to waste time doing endless googling hoping to find something, when the heat is already on.
  12. Aug 25, 2011 #11
    I guess my point is, there is no need for you or I to know these very basic facts. We might feel better having some knowledge and understanding, but we have no right to this information and there's nothing useful we could do with it except feel better and perhaps a bit smug when we tell others about the details. And non-technical people, which is most people, won't understand the details anyway - they will listen to what they hear from their favorite news source, and that in turn will be whatever the source thinks is newsworthy and will attract viewers/readers and therefore, at the end of the day, money.
  13. Aug 25, 2011 #12
    I can only speak for myself, but I found it very difficult, when the media was pressing for any bits of information to give to the concerned public, and there were huge gaps in my knowledge of these basic facts. Until I got the confirmation that units 2 and 3 have a turbine-powered RCIC, it would have been impossible to give any answers to questions regarding the threat of an immediate large release following a plant blackout. Fortunately the plant design happened to be a pretty well documented one, and the gaps were filled through relentless effort amidst answering the constantly ringing phone, but I would not mind repeating that exercise, if it was possible to do part of the searching of the material beforehand.

    I mean, the quality of reporting by the media could be improved, if experts with sufficient knowledge to interpret the data coming from the responsible organizations (TEPCO and NISA in this case) would have some supporting material that could be used to explain the facts to the media and also improving to maintain an own mental image of the situation. It was very frustrating to explain the basic principles of decay heat removal systems and probable course of action if they fail, and then see the article in next day's paper, where the turbine hall is called a "reactor" and water is said to be pumped in the reactor with diesel generators to provide electricity for the instruments needed to cool the reactor which may explode if allowed to pressurize. And a picture of a PWR with cooling towers to supplement the text.

    I think that in our current age, where the Internet enables rapid distribution of data from all around the world, it simply is not enough to tell the media that we don't need to know the details. Then they will go to other sources to find the bits of information needed for writing the article that will attract readers, and it is very probable this information has a weaker level of factuality than the data I would be able to give, based on my general knowledge of the field supported with the bits of detail there is available.
  14. Aug 25, 2011 #13
    I disagree. When your neighborhood NPP starts feeling sick, information on such basic matters as what kind of containment it has become something you will urgently want to know.

    ...and where will that news source get its info from? The pre-approved experts will probably be busy.
  15. Aug 25, 2011 #14


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    Based on rmattila's clarification that what he would like to see is primarily a list of sources that already exist, I think his idea is worth consideration. There was a lot of amazement expressed when astronuc or I would pull information off the NRC website or from the DOE Bridge. These are open sources that are there for informing the industry and can also be used by experts or news media or anti-nuclear activists or just curious folks. Some of us are used to searching this resource, because we have done it for years as part of our work. Believe me the people over a UCS are experts at researching what is out there and obtaining access to even draft information like SOARCA.

    Other than Safeguards information and legitimate proprietary information, the more information is available the easier it will be to provide evidence to blow the conspiracy theorists out of the water. It won't stop them, of course, because it will all be dismissed as propaganda and lies, but it may be better than some of the speculation and wild guesses that have been difficult to challenge in the past.

    I will point out one other thing. In this crisis the Physics Forums have actually become an excellent resource for helping interpret technical data and even providing translation clarifications. The mentors have helped keep bloodshed to a minimum and tried to keep us on topic. Hopefully this kind of resource will be there for future issues (hopefully not related to nuclear plants).
  16. Aug 25, 2011 #15
    You may, but the average person doesn't know the first thing about containment, and is not equipped by training, knowledge or temperment to gather and evaluate factual information and make informed choices - he wants to be told what to do and how to think about the situation by someone he trusts. This is also true for people in leadership positions, who need to rely on trusted experts to educate them just enough to make decisions. Gathering information is fine provided it's not held secret for security or proprietary reasons, but we need to recognize that not everyone wanting access to this information has the pursuit and dissemination of truth as a goal - some will take what suits them and use it to futher their own agendas, for example ringing panic bells for ideological purposes (scaring people about nuclear power, for example - or the global warming naysayers). Knowledge is power, but unnecessary knowledge in the wrong hands tends to come back in unexpected and undesireable ways.
  17. Aug 25, 2011 #16
    I disagree wholly. Without facts there cannot be insights. "Facts" do not include only the basic facts about the plants but also the radiation measurements, the radiation forecasts and so on, all the new information that needs to be quickly analyzed as a basis for decision making.

    When a dramatic and big event happens - like Fukushima - it takes days and months before a deeper understanding evolves what is really going on. Although TEPCO has technical details of the plant it doesn't mean they know exactly from the first day on what would be the best way to act. This latter needs insight.

    I am only here taking one example. The local government didn't use early SPEEDI data to define evacuation zones - or expand them. This was not because the SPEEDI couldn't give enough results, it was more or less because the local government didn't completely understand how SPEEDI is working. It was afterwards they gave the explanation that there was not enough real data to support SPEEDI forecasts.

    Now if they had published early SPEEDI data worldwide right from the beginning I am quite sure there would have been enough experts around the world to say that the evacuation zones should be expanded in some areas. And if Japanese government had indeed done that right from the beginning everybody would be happier.

    After all TEPCO and Japanese government have limited amount of experts working there. The more experts are seeing the basic facts the more likely is it that the correct conclusions are made. It's not that the outside experts are better - it's just that the Internet and rapid access to information all around the world has completely changed the way information should be understood. It's no longer "private", it's "shared".

    I am absolutely sure that this applies both ways. Also TEPCO experts every now and then check what is going on in the Internet - just to make sure that they have not "missed" anything important (I mean insights, not the facts). And for this to work these basic facts should be made public as much as possible.

    Once the basic information can be shared in an open way, also the insights can be shared. It should no longer be a black-box situation where people (experts and the others like me) all around the world just listen what the local experts have to say - it should be more like a box with some holes in it so some fresh air keeps moving all the time inside out and outside in.




    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  18. Aug 25, 2011 #17

    One thing we see in any kind of disaster is that the average person doesn't trust authorities to be forthcoming. Another reason to have lots of eyes interpreting the info.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2011
  19. Aug 26, 2011 #18
    Thank goodness scientists and engineers only very rarely find their ways to positions of real authority and power. :smile:
  20. Aug 26, 2011 #19
    You seem to assume that the experts all around the world would have immediate access to all data they need. Unfortunately in my experience this is not true. And concerning for example the Fukushima accident, it is quite understandable that the responsible organizations in Japan were busy doing more acute things than providing the experts all around the world the data they would need to advise their decisionmakers in countries far away from Japan. There simply was no other way than to search for pieces of information from all possible sources, including the public ones. And it turned out that in the case of Fukushima, the publicly available information would have been quite sufficient, if it only would have been rapidly accessible. So I'm not thinking of just the general public here, but also the experts, who should be able to concentrate their limited resources on making analysis rather than hunting for random pieces of information.

    Do you think it's better if those with an ideological agenda use incorrect and faulty data as basis for their argumentation? I can't see how access by anyone to as accurate and correct information as possible from safeguards point of view could be a negative thing. If this leads to discovery of problems, don't you think it's a good idea to recognize them and thus be able to make the necessary corrections?
  21. Aug 26, 2011 #20
    This link is not working now, here is a working one with the same content:

    http://www.nippon-sekai.com/main/articles/fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-power-plant-crisis/government-failed-to-release-some-radiation-data-after-the-accident/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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