Well There’s Your Problem | Episode 8: Three Mile Island
JUSTIN FROM THE FUTURE: Alright folks, um,
so I forgot to turn on screen recording when we recorded this podcast, so I lost all the
annotations. So I’m gonna reference a few annotations I put on the slides through the
podcast which you’re not gonna be able to see, because again, I-I lost them all. I think
it’s still pretty watchable, um, y’know, maybe if you just stop the video? You can like,
sorta, look at the picture and figure out what we’re talkin’ about? Um. And of course
if you’re listening to this on a podcast app of course that doesn’t matter at all. But
um. Sorry about that, I’m gonna try and make sure that don’t happen again and you get,
y’know, all the nice annotations that help you understand and learn. Okay, now we’re
gonna podcast. REGULAR JUSTIN: Alright. Let us talk about
atoms! Alright! LINDSAY: More specifically, smashing atoms
for fun and profit! JUSTIN: Yes.
ALICE: [nervous laughter] And people can stop bitching about your mic quality, because it’s
much better now. JUSTIN: Yes.
LIAM: [much better mic voice] Yeah, yeah, I ran out, thanks to the Patreon dollars,
I ran out and got a new microphone, so everyone can calm the *fuck* down.
ALICE: Mm. Smashed right through that first, erm, that first Patreon goal.
JUSTIN: [segueing perfectly] Much like the atoms we’re about to smash-
[laughter] JUSTIN: -on today’s episode of ‘Well There’s
Your Problem,’ a podcast about engineering disasters. I’m Justin Roczniak, I do this
podcast and also a YouTube channel about city and urban planning, and I’m on Twitter @donoteat1.
My pronouns are ‘he’ and ‘him’. ALICE: Alice Caldwell-Kelly, I’m on a podcast
called Trashfuture, about why the future will be trash, as well as this, and my pronouns
are ‘she’ and ‘her’. LINDSAY: Hi. I’m Lindsay, I somehow got elected
as a city councillor, and my pronouns are… any, I really don’t care. ‘She/her,’ though,
is easiest. ALICE: [laughs in transgender]
LINDSAY: It’s easiest cause that’s what everyone offline knows me as, and I’m just like, yeah,
let’s not pull that thread, okay? Let’s not try to explain what being non-binary is to,
like, 70 year olds. That’s, that tends to… [laughter]
LINDSAY: That tends to be, you run into either, like, cool old people who are like, “That’s
really cool, and I support you,” or just, “That is disgusting and you’re horrible,”
there is no in-between. ALICE: Mm. The big cableknit sweater of non-binary
gender, you just start pulling and it just keeps pulling.
LIAM: Endlessly and forever. Finally I am Liam Anderson, I am @oldmananders0n on Twitter,
so, I get really annoyed with dumb comments in our YouTube section, and I have two things
to say. First, happy birthday to Older Man Anderson, my dad, and two, uh. I would like
to point out, per someone in the YouTube comments, Megan Burke is a dear friend and don’t comment
on jokes you don’t understand, and then get us all mad when we’re drunk, thank you very
much for your coöperation. [laughter]
JUSTIN: We also got cancelled for culturally appropriating Groverhaus.
LIAM: That dude just blocked *everyone*. ALICE: Cause there can only be one Groverhaus
thread! LIAM: This is so fucking embarrassing.
[laughter] ALICE: One of, one of my friends tweeted about
it, and she said, “I hate that I know what every individual element of ‘cancelled for
culturally appropriating Groverhaus’ is, and I blame Alice for all of it.”
LIAM: Yeah, it was truly incredible, it’s just like, man.
LINDSAY: And I’m just sitting here like, I have no idea what the hell Groverhaus is.
LIAM: Yeah. Well, go back and listen to the bonus episode.
[laughter] LIAM: Subscribe to our own Patreon.
ALICE: We’ll wait, just do that now. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yeah. It’s not uploaded yet, but go and listen to it. Alright so as you can see
from our image on the screen here, today we’re going to be talking about nuclear power.
LIAM: WOOOOOOOOOOOOO JUSTIN: More specifically, one particular
nuclear power plant, Three Mile Island, which is just, uh, just south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
on the Susquehanna River. ALICE: Mm. Am I gonna understand this one
if I haven’t seen either of the two previous Mile Islands?
LIAM: Nope. You gotta go back. LINDSAY: Oh, it’s like a soft reboot, so it’s
fine. LIAM: The gritty reboot of nuclear meltdown.
[laughter] ALICE: Ah, okay.
LINDSAY: The gritty reboot of corium and secondary containment.
JUSTIN: Yes. So, I’m gonna start with a primer on how, what is nuclear power? How does it
work? It’s very simple, right. So… LIAM: OH YEAH THE MSPAINT GENIUS HARD AT WORK
[laughter] ALICE: Jesus.
JUSTIN: So you have spicy rocks and you put them in water, and you use the bubbles that
the spicy rocks make to turn a fan, right. And it turns it backwards, so when you plug
it into the wall it generates electricity. Right?
ALICE: Mm. And you have two different kinds of nuclear reactor in this diagram.
JUSTIN: Do I? ALICE: You do, you have a friendly sun, just
reacting up there. JUSTIN: That is true.
ALICE: But the thing with the sun is that it doesn’t have a fan, so it’s less efficient
as a power source. LIAM: Not with that attitude.
ALICE: Means you can’t just attach a fan to it.
JUSTIN: It’s true, yeah. LIAM: That’s why the good lord invented the
Dyson sphere, Alice. LINDSAY: No, but you can put Earth on, you
can put solar panels all over Earth as long as you don’t mind, y’know, clouds, and night
getting in the way. [laughter]
LIAM: It’s coming. It’s coming. ALICE: Yeah, one day… one day we’re gonna
get bubbles out of that sun. JUSTIN: So, obviously that’s a very simplified
version. But uhh, you know, basically what is making these rocks spicy is nuclear fission,
right, you hit a, you hit the nucleus of a uranium atom with a neutron, right, and if
you whack it hard enough, it’ll split into pieces, and that releases energy, right? And
it also releases heat, it releases more neutrons, that go and whack into other atoms and split
them apart. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Now if you do that real fast, you get a bomb. We don’t want that, we want to
do it slow, so we just have a continuous source of heat. Right? So- and obviously nuclear
reactors can’t blow up like bombs, that doesn’t happen.
ALICE: But I saw all those movies, like The China Syndrome and shit!
LIAM: ‘Character assassination on an entire industry!’
[laughter] LINDSAY: It’s like, oh no, my pressurized
water reactor’s suddenly gonna turn itself into a bomb… by… magic.
JUSTIN: Yes. LINDSAY: It’s like how I turn the ignition
on my car, it blows up and demolishes the entire block. It’s got the same basic components
as a fuel-air bomb, that means it’s the same thing.
JUSTIN: Tesla’s workin’ on that. [laughter]
LINDSAY: The Cybertruck? More like the CyberBOMB. LIAM: Grrr, it’s so goddamn stupid, I hate
it, I don’t understand why we can’t just bring back the ’95 Ranger.
ALICE: Why did he make the Warthog from Halo? LINDSAY: More specifically the one from the
first Halo with no polygons. ALICE: Yes! Absolutely. I mean, I’m with Liam
on the ’95 Ranger thing, I think like the only acceptable truck has a case of Steel
Reserve in one footwell, and the roof lining kind of sags on one side, and the driver is
your cousin and he just kind of says ‘hell yea’ to everything.
LIAM: Hell yea brother, you got six tins of Skoal running around in the back.
[laughter] ALICE: Yeah.
LIAM: If you scrape out all of it together, you get one lip out of it, yup, I’ve been
LINDSAY: You see it’s funny, it’s like, the future I was promised was space and reactors
everywhere, the future I *got* is the fuckin’ Cybertruck.
[laughter] ALICE: But don’t worry, they’ll put a Cybertruck
in space. JUSTIN: Oh yeah.
ALICE: Just to ruin everything a little bit more.
LINDSAY: Can we make sure that Elon Musk is inside it this time?
[laughter] JUSTIN: So, in a nuclear reactor, right, we
have to control these reactions so they don’t get out of control [department of redundancy
department], and we use a thing called a control rod to do that, and that’s, just, y’know,
sort of a thing you lower into where the spicy rocks are, and they absorb some of the neutrons,
y’know, stops the reaction. LINDSAY: This is how you do, like, active
control of the spicy rocks. Passive design is a whole other kettle of fish, like you
have negative void coefficients, fuel temperature coefficients, so many coefficients, there’s
a lot of coefficients. ALICE: If we have our spicy rocks, then this
is the fabled smooth black mineral, right, is you have something neutral like graphite
that you insert into it, and it absorbs those neutrons?
JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: In this case math is *literally* power,
yes. JUSTIN: And if you drop them all the way in,
that stops the reaction dead, but there’s some residual decay heat. Uh, as Lindsay was
mentioning about, um, the whatsit, the void coefficient…
LINDSAY: Yeah, it’s like, every reactor is negative, except Chernobyl, because they’re
like, “What could possibly go wrong? Our boiling water reactor will never undergo thermal runaway.”
Until it did. [laughter]
JUSTIN: And uh, so, let’s go into, I guess, we’ll talk a little bit about how Three Mile
Island was built, and how that worked. Three Mile Island was something called a pressurized
water reactor. This is as opposed to a boiling water reactor, right? In the pressurized water
reactor, the water never boils, cause it’s under pressure… hence, pressurized water
reactor. Um. Give me my pen. [the pen does not appear as he forgets to turn screen recording
on] JUSTIN: There we are. [No]
ALICE: Ah, he’s gonna Madden it. [No] JUSTIN: Yeah, I’m gonna John Madden this.
[No] LIAM: Oh great.
ALICE: It’s, uh, the pressurized water reactor, a lunchpail quarterback that has good coachability.
LIAM: Yeah. Show me Texas Tech running for 98 yards, please.
[laughter] LIAM: Draw it! DRAW IT
LINDSAY: It’s like a boring but practical, insert footballer here, I have no idea about
football. ALICE: Yes! It is the lunchpail quarterback,
compared to the like, flashy, showboating boiling water reactor.
LIAM: You can just say the Washington football team.
[laughter] LIAM: You can just come out and say it.
JUSTIN: So, the spicy rocks are here- LIAM: God.
JUSTIN: -in this big red tank, right, there’s water goin’ through there, it’s at about 153
atmospheres of pressure, so it doesn’t boil even though it’s up to like 600 degrees fahrenheit
or like 400 degrees celsius or whatever it is. And that goes out of the reactor, it goes
into this steam generator here, and hot pressurized water goes in the top, it comes out the bottom
cold, it runs through a pump, it goes through the cycle again. In the meantime there’s another
cycle of the water that goes to the turbine, that also goes through the steam generator,
it goes in the bottom cold, it comes out the top hot, runs to the turbine, turbine runs
a generator, generator um, y’know. Goes out, and then you can plug in… I don’t know.
Your phone or somethin’ to the wall. ALICE: Yeah. Your Juicero. Your toaster. Whatever.
‘Transformator’ does not sound like a real word, by the way.
JUSTIN: I have no idea, I just noticed that. ALICE: ‘Just ask this sciencetician!’
[laughter] JUSTIN: One thing I wanna draw attention to
which is gonna be relevant here is this tank here called the pressurizer, right? So, how
do we maintain pressure in a pressurized water system?
ALICE: [got two A*s in GCSE sciences] Uh, you s q u e e z e the water.
JUSTIN: You can’t do that, cause the water is incompressible.
ALICE: Damn. Okay, um… LIAM: New plan!
[laughter] LINDSAY: It’s basically like, hey, why don’t
we have a little bit of air in the top so we can adjust the pressure and also we know
how high the water level is in the reactor. That’s gonna be important later.
JUSTIN: Yes. So this is partially filled with water and then there’s a bunch of steam on
top, which is keeping the whole thing at a certain pressure, and then you can make adjustments
here to the whole system. This thing is usually at the top of the, the whole pressurized water
system, right, this’d be the highest component in there. That way you can assume that if
it’s full, then everything else is full of water. Right?
LIAM: I feel like it’s not… a good idea to make assumptions in terms of nuclear power.
Yes. Go on. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, the power plant in question here, Three Mile Island, that opened in 1974, with
unit 1, 819 megawatts, unit 2 went online December 30th 1978, was designed by a company
called… ‘Babcock and Wilcox.’ [puerile laughter]
ALICE: Oh! Boilermakers! JUSTIN: Yes.
ALICE: You just imported one of our terribly… like, humorous British names.
[laughter] JUSTIN: Yeah, this is like, there’s no way
a company with that name doesn’t do anything other than build, like, incredibly high-strength
pressure vessels. LINDSAY: They make big tea kettles. Big tea
kettles, that’s what British does. ALICE: They… more or less. They built all
of the boilers for like, steamships and then like coal-fired battleships and stuff. So,
they do know from pressure, but also having a very silly name.
LINDSAY: And to be fair, we did used to have an engineering company literally called the
Buttlerly Company, so, maybe I can spread them on my toast, I dunno. They make boilers.
And boat lifts. [laughter]
LIAM: This part of Pennsylvania also has Paradise, Bird-in-Hand, Bearville and Blue Ball. Uh.
This is unfortunately my neck of the woods, and I… Lancaster is just delightfully named.
ALICE: Mm. JUSTIN: And Intercourse, don’t forget Intercourse.
LIAM: Oh, how could I forget Intercourse. JUSTIN: Yeah.
ALICE: Very beautiful scenery thereabouts, uh. Lots of, like… brown, and grey, and
brown, it looks like the STALKER series of videogames.
[laughter] JUSTIN: So unit 2 is 906 megawatts of electricity,
that’s the nameplate capacity. By the way, if you’re gonna replace this plant with a
solar farm in the same general area, it would be about 23 square miles of solar panels,
by my back of the envelope calculations. [laughter]
ALICE: Okay, but how many really big windmills? LINDSAY: Well, that depends on how hard the
wind’s blowing. If it’s not blowing, it’s infinite.
[laughter] ALICE: Damn.
LINDSAY: i n f i n i t e w i n d m i l l s JUSTIN: I feel like I’m one of those billboards
on the side of I-80, that says, “You need reliable Pa. coal and natural gas, the wind
suts- uh, the wind dies down, the sun sets…” [laughter]
LIAM: Every single drive we take to Pittsburgh. [laughter]
LINDSAY: I mean, the whole thing is, they’re right, but they’re also advertising just the
worst stuff. JUSTIN: Yeah, exactly.
LINDSAY: It’s like, when the worst person you know makes a great point.
ALICE: Famously, the goo that’s going to kill all of us.
JUSTIN: Yeah. So the capacity factor on this plant, I think when it opened it was about
73%, that means you could expect like, it’s making the amount of power it says it’s going
to make 73% of the time. ALICE: 73% of the time, it works all the time.
JUSTIN: Yeah… yeah. Well, for a lot of wind and solar installations, that’s down to like,
20 or 30%. ALICE: Mm.
LINDSAY: It depends where in the world, like, if you’re in Germany, the solar installations
there are like 10% and I think their wind is like, mid to low 20s? It really depends,
though. It’s like, if you don’t have much wind, using all the best sites, your capacity
factor’s really high, like 40 or even 50%. If you’re building a lot of wind you start
to build on more marginal sites, so you end up going down to about 30% average by that
point. ALICE: Well, I mean, Scottish wind power is
pretty good because, a) we have a lot of wind, and b) it upsets Donald Trump.
[laughter] ALICE: This was one of his big, like, this
was one of his bêtes noires on Twitter before he became president, was we were gonna build
an offshore wind farm that he thought was going to ruin the view from his shitty golf
course. LINDSAY: Do you know what also annoys him?
LIAM: I hope it did. LINDSAY: Like the wind farms are built with
migrant labour, a lot of them. Exploited migrant labour, which I imagine he’s slightly more
fine with, but, y’know. JUSTIN: And wasn’t there just a wind turbine
company that fired all its workers for organizing? LIAM: Solar.
LINDSAY: Yeah. JUSTIN: Solar, okay, yeah. If you haven’t
noticed, most of us in the podcast – I think all of us in this podcast – are pretty pro-nuclear.
You wouldn’t expect that from an engineering disasters podcast, but uh.
[laughter] LINDSAY: I mean, part of the disaster is that
Three Mile Island was a massively huge PR disaster, but in terms of engineering it’s
like, “Well shit, we bricked a reactor,” but literally no-one got hurt.
ALICE: What I will say is the disaster… by far the largest and most expansive disaster
that we’ve ever talked about in passing is our continued use of coal and natural gas
to generate power. And nuclear is kind of the best way to avoid that.
JUSTIN: Yes. So this was owned by a company named Metropolitan Edison, as I’ve mentioned
before just downstream from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, it’s near Lancaster, it’s near Middletown,
it’s near York… LIAM: WOOOOOOOOOOOO
JUSTIN: [unenthusiastically] Yeah. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Anyway. So. Um, let’s talk about the accident. I’ve gone back to, back to this
diagram with the transformator. Yeah. [laughter]
JUSTIN: I don’t like that, I don’t think that’s a real… I think that’s supposed to say transformer.
[laughter] ALICE: The transformationizer. Yeah.
LIAM: Words aren’t real. All words are made up. Don’t worry.
JUSTIN: Transformators, more than meets the eye.
[laughter] JUSTIN: Someone’s gonna comment and we’re
gonna find out that’s a real thing. ALICE: [aggressively] I don’t care. …what
is a PORV? JUSTIN: Where?
ALICE: Uh… above the control rods, slightly to the left?
JUSTIN: Oh, the PORV. The PORV. ALICE: Phat Orss Rwhite Virl.
LINDSAY: It’s like pork but gone wrong. ALICE: Ahh. Well to me all pork is pork that’s
gone wrong. LINDSAY: That is fair.
JUSTIN: That’s a pilot activated [operated, cause it’s not PARV] relief valve, and we’re
gonna talk about it in a second. ALICE: Ah, okay.
LIAM: Spoilers. That’s not how you spell activated. JUSTIN: This is the night of March 27th 1979,
this is seven years before Chernobyl, right. The accident, not the television series.
ALICE: Everyone’s driving enormous cars and wearing huge collars and stuff. It’s a terrible
time in American history. LIAM: Speak for yourself.
JUSTIN: Somehow, inexplicably, all have British accents.
[laughter] LIAM: We love you, Mully’s Motors.
JUSTIN: So, unit 2 I think was thirteen months old at this point, and on this day, unit 2
was running at 97% power, unit 1 was shut down. Earlier that day they had removed a
blockage in a condensate polisher, which is like something they use to sorta… it’s like
a big water softener that they use for the feedwater that goes into the steam generator,
right. ALICE: It’s like a big BRITA filter.
JUSTIN: Yeah. Basically. So when they removed this blockage, it resulted in water making
its way into a compressed air line of some kind, which shut down the feedwater pumps
that provide the water into the steam generator, right, so this guy is shut down, now there’s
no water going into here, right? LIAM: Sounds safe.
JUSTIN: So that was about 4 o’ clock in the morning. Now, so the reactor does a thing
called SCRAM. That’s an acronym for ‘safety control rod ax man’, because the first nuclear
reactor that was ever built, in the squash court at the University of Chicago, the idea
was if they needed to shut it down quickly, there was just a guy with an ax who would-
[laughter] ALICE: Chop the thing?
JUSTIN: Yeah, he’d chop a rope that would drop the control rods into the reactor.
ALICE: Awesome. JUSTIN: Yes.
ALICE: So your smooth black mineral becomes fully inserted and it just kills the fission.
LINDSAY: You stick the rod in the hole and everything dies.
JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: It’s worth noting that that’s probably
a backronym just from the actual use of ‘scram’, i.e ‘get the fuck out, get the fuck out now’.
LINDSAY: Yeah. It’s a backronym. Like the whole ax man story didn’t actually happen,
but it’s a good story, so. JUSTIN: That’s a better story, I believe-
I choose to believe it. My feelings don’t care about your facts.
LIAM: Okay. Well that’s good. I’m gonna come over there and beat you senseless.
[laughter] JUSTIN: So, anyway, this – and if you watch
Chernobyl, you heard ’em talking about AZ-5 all the time, this is the same process.
LINDSAY: It’s the same process except in Chernobyl the control rods took like 20 seconds to get
inside the core when at Three Mile they took 1, and also the control rods actually shut
the reactor down, rather than causing a momentary increase in power, which is the opposite of
what they’re supposed to do. Chernobyl was BAD. Was so bad!
[laughter] JUSTIN: So, now ordinarily in this situation,
right, there’s supposed to be ‘auxilarary’ pumps that provide water just to cool down
the pressurized water in the steam generator so it can continue cooling down the reactor,
which is still producing decay heat even though the control rods are in, right? Uh. All of
those pumps had been turned off for maintenance. Or they hadn’t been turned off, but the valves
to them were closed, so they turned on and were just spinning uselessly in air.
ALICE: Ah. The big mood of this accident. JUSTIN: Yeah, exactly.
ALICE: And this is why you never do routine maintenance. It only makes these things worse!
Don’t do it! [laughter]
JUSTIN: If only they’d had worse safety culture, this would not have happened.
[laughter] ALICE: I mean, this is actually kind of true,
like, one thing we can learn from this and Chernobyl is that a nuclear reactor is Basically
Fine most of the time- LIAM: Yeah!
ALICE: -once you have it started, and it’s only once you start to really fuck with it,
in some really strange ways, that you get these things.
LIAM: This is just me installing DragonFlyBSD on my desktop.
[laughter] LIAM: But also with the potential for widespread
ecological disaster. LINDSAY: I mean the whole thing is like, you
also need to have the extra step of building the reactor really really shittily in the
first place. Like, you know, Fukushima. “Hey, we don’t need to build a tall seawall, I know
Onagawa’s seawall is like 14m tall, we’ll be fine with 5, even though we know tsunamis
have been taller than that.” And Chernobyl is just like, “Hmm, let’s build a reactor
design which – unlike every other design of reactor on the planet – is capable of undergoing
thermal runaway and exploding (a fact which we consistently cover up), and then instead
of a big heavy reinforced concrete containment building, let’s cover it with… a tin shack.
With an asphalt roof.” JUSTIN: A tin shed, yeah. It’s just someone’s
JUSTIN: It’s just one step up from that Boy Scout who built a nuclear reactor in his backyard.
[laughter] ALICE: I mean, what is an RBMK reactor but
barbecuing too close to the vinyl siding of your containment vessel?
[laughter] JUSTIN: Groverreaktor.
LIAM: Ah, thematic consistency! ALICE: Yes. I figured since we had the Estonian
thing last time, I would keep that throughline going.
JUSTIN: Obviously. So now, the pressurizer, right, the big tank we were talking about
before, it has a relief valve on the top, in case the pressure gets too high from the
pressurized water system, because it’s still heating up and it’s not being cooled down,
right? So that pressure relief valve is a pilot activated relief valve, so that’s what
the PORV is, right? Which, basically there’s a complicated system where if the pressure
is at a certain level, it will hold the valve in place, but then when it gets higher, the
valve moves, and there’s like an electronic aspect to it, I don’t understand it too well.
[Liam laughing at Justin] LINDSAY: Well, the only thing you need to
understand is that the indicator light for it took note of what the servo was doing,
not what the actual valve was doing. So it’s like, if the valve got stuck open, it would
say, [cheery indicator light voice] “I’m closed!” even though it’s not.
JUSTIN: Yes. And that’s what happened. LIAM: Oh good that sounds good.
ALICE: Duplicitous warning lights! [laughter]
JUSTIN: There’s two warning lights, and one always tells the truth and the other one always
JUSTIN: So, yeah, it opens, and it gets stuck open, right? So we’ve got this water that
runs through the reactor which is now just shooting out the top of the pressurizer, and
it’s going down into this tank that’s supposed to hold it if it’s venting. Okay. So as Lindsay
mentioned, there was a flaw in the control system – the light said the valve was closed,
even though it was open, and y’know. There’s now this sort of, there’s this condition developing
where rather than circulate through, all the water in the pressurized system’s just shooting
out the top and going into this tank. ALICE: Mm. You’re just getting a dry reactor.
That’s no good. JUSTIN: And the operators are lookin’ at this
and they’re very confused, because the level of water in the pressurizer keeps goin’ up?
Um, and they can’t figure out why. They’re like, “Uh, jeez, do we need to vent some steam
out of this pressurizer?” When of course what they needed to do was the opposite of that.
So one of the things which you’re taught not to do when you’re operating these things is
let the pressurizer get to the point where it’s completely full, because then you’ll
wind up with water hammer issues. Which isn’t good.
LIAM: That sounds tight. LINDSAY: You basically lose the ability to
regulate the pressure in the reactor, it’s kind of like when, well, certain surgeries,
it’s like, “Hey, we’re gonna give you a muscle relaxant.” “What will that do?” “It means
you won’t die during the surgery but you’ll also lose all control over your bowels.”
LIAM: Hellll yeah. Where my mind’s workin’ but my body ain’t. Yes. Give them to me.
ALICE: [attempting to haul the podcast away from ‘certain surgeries’] I mean, water hammers
rule though, just because if you look at any of the diagrams they use to teach them, it
is literally the most metal stuff imaginable, because it’s: “Step 1: Water flows.” “Step
2: Water abruptly cut off.” “Step 3:” a bunch of like, jagged lines and then, almost inevitably
in bold red italic letters, [water hammer voice] “WATER HAMMER.”
[laughter] LINDSAY: [‘Fatality!’ voice] w a t e r h a
m m e r [laughter]
LINDSAY: Sorry, I was trying to do the ‘Fatality!’ voice but I have to keep it down because my
roommates are asleep so I can’t do the ‘Fatality!’ voice.
ALICE: In the grim future of Waterhammer 40k, there is only-
LIAM: Oh, you stole my joke, goddammit! [laughter]
ALICE: Should’ve been quicker with it. LIAM: Fuck!
JUSTIN: Okay, lemme get rid of some of these lines so I can continue to John Madden [lol].
Now, so at about 4:11, this tank over here was now full of coolant water, and it started
to overflow. ALICE: Well that’s not good.
LIAM: But I thought more was, more was more gooder. Is more not more gooder in this case?
JUSTIN: Ah, no, more was bad. Yeah. And so, y’know, the system’s just venting coolant
water into this tank, which is now overflowing, the sump pump turns on, it like pumps the
water into another building? Somehow? Like, this water that was *just in the reactor*?
ALICE: Mm. This irradiated water, that’s now, like, in the bottom of the reactor building
in that little indent that you have there. JUSTIN: Yeah.
ALICE: And is now being pumped out. LIAM: Yes.
JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: [deadpan] Cool.
JUSTIN: So, this sounds an alarm and, y’know, the operators ignore it.
[laughter] JUSTIN: They just didn’t do anything about
it. LIAM: That sounds like Harrisburg.
[laughter] JUSTIN: Yeah. Y’know, cause I *think* the
water that goes through the reactor is only significantly reactive for seven minutes or
so or something like that? LINDSAY: It’s basically like the hot spicy
rocks just temporarily make the water hot and spicy but it lasts for, like, seconds.
Does mean in a boiling water reactor, though, you can’t go in the turbine building when
it’s on, cause you’ll get radiation. Not much, but you’ll get radiation.
ALICE: So, don’t swim in it, but aside from that.
LIAM: You could use it to make your tea, you British fucks.
LINDSAY: You could, cause by the time the tea’s brewed, it’s not radioactive any more.
LIAM: There you go. LINDSAY: [frightening voice] *I don’t like
tea.* ALICE: I wouldn’t, I would not want to Litvinenko
myself testing that, but okay. LIAM: Yeah, y’know. Get the radium, like the
good old days. Get your radium beauty rub. Yeah.
[laughter] JUSTIN: So, at about 5:20am, this overheated
coolant, which keep in mind, it’s been circulating this whole time, right? Just goin’ around
in circles, without the crucial part that cool it off, right? It’s boiling into steam
even under a huge amount of pressure, um, and it starts to cavitate inside the pipes
and inside the pumps, that means there’s just big voids full of steam in the flow, right?
ALICE: Mm, very noisy. I learned about this from playing submarine sims.
[laughter] ALICE: No, seriously, propellor cavitation,
it’s a real thing, it’s very annoying. LIAM: I learned something new today.
ALICE: It’ll kill you in a whole different way. Yeah.
JUSTIN: The solution to this was to turn the pump off.
[speechless beat] JUSTIN: Right? So they turned the pump off
so it stops vibrating and they figure, eh, natural circulation can handle it, right.
So after they do that, at 6am, there’s a shift change.
LIAM: Doom. JUSTIN: “Ha. It’s your problem now.”
LIAM: Yeah. Doom. ALICE: You just punch out and you’re like,
“Well, we’ve turned off the thing that sounds like somebody is hitting the inside of our
reactor with a bunch of hammers. So… it’s fine.”
[laughter] LIAM: Bad thing! Take cover!
JUSTIN: “Closing time!” [laughter]
LIAM: “Yeah, I’m gonna go on home and uhhhh, this is your problem now.”
ALICE: Yeah. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So the new shift, they get their bearings and they look at this like, “Hmm. This seems
wrong. I don’t think any of this should be happening.”
[laughter] JUSTIN: So, someone uses another valve to
finally shut off the vent out of the pressurizer, but at this point 32,000 gallons of coolant
had leaked out. And then, just before this, of course, enough coolant had leaked out that
the top of the reactor, the innards, was exposed over the waterline.
LINDSAY: the i n n a r d s JUSTIN: Yeah.
ALICE: Mm. So, I mean, that’s one thing you don’t want, is to have a reactor just exposed
to air, right? LINSDAY: Chris Morris voice, [Chris Morris
voice] ‘this is the one thing we didn’t want to happen.’
[laughter] JUSTIN: So as a result there was a reaction
with the fuel rods’ cladding and the steam, and the extremely high heat, which produced
more heat, and that melted the fuel rods, right? So we’re in full-on, like, meltdown
at this point, right. That also has the effect of releasing radioactive fission products
into the coolant, which is also, y’know, still flyin’ out the top of the pressurizer.
ALICE: Mm. And now you can’t use that water to boil your tea any more because you will
die. JUSTIN: Yes.
LIAM: Good. Good. That’s what you get for drinking tea. The devil’s drink.
[laughter] JUSTIN: This is a pro-coffee podcast.
LIAM: Yeah, exactly. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Pro-coffee, anti-tea. LIAM: We will happily die on this hill.
ALICE: I thought this was a pro-whiskey podcast. JUSTIN: This is a pro-whiskey… ah, but.
Well, can you put whiskey in tea? LIAM: Yeah, man.
ALICE: You can put rum in tea, actually. LIAM: You can put whiskey in tea, if you’re
not a coward. LINDSAY: You can put moonshine in tea.
ALICE: Rum in tea is like an army thing. LINDSAY: You can put anything in tea.
ALICE: That’s true. LINDSAY: ‘Cept milk, that makes tea horrible.
I will fight you on this. Milk in tea was a mistake.
ALICE: You might have to. LIAM: I don’t drink milk in tea because I’m
not a child, and/or my dad. LINDSAY: See, I respect you.
LIAM: Thanks. JUSTIN: Okay, so at this point, like, the
water that’s comin’ out, that’s leaking out of this tank which is overfilling, is no longer
the type of water that’s spicy for a few minutes, it’s the type of water that’s spicy for a
long time. Right? LIAM: How long is it?
LINDSAY: Depends on what isotopes it’s contaminated with! If it’s caesium-137 it’s got a half-life
of 30 years. Give or take. ALICE: Oh… yeah. I was gonna say ‘somewhere
between 24 years and… I don’t know, like, half a million.’
LIAM: Nice. LINDSAY: It’s half a million, but that’s like,
one part per million in terms of what’s actually in the contaminants. Like, people say, “It’ll
be radioactive for billions of years!” And it’s like, yeah, but that also means you could
just sit a rock of it on your desk and you’ll literally get more radiation from the trace
isotopes in the walls of your house. Cause the longer the half-life, the less radioactive
it is. Which, incidentally, is why iodine, radioiodine, is the one you really gotta watch
out for, cause that sticks around for 8 days, which is, like, long enough to be ingested,
but because it only sticks around for 8 days, and because it accumulates in the thyroid,
it gives you thyroid cancer. Which, incidentally is-
LIAM: Oh, delightful. LINDSAY: Yeah. Incidentally that’s like where
three quarters of the *direct* deaths from Chernobyl came from, cause the USSR was like,
“Hey, no accidents happened. We don’t need to dispose of contaminated food. Radioiodine?
What’s that?” ALICE: Mm, also all of the firefighters who
were just *handling fissile materials* and then, as we saw in the series, just kind of
turned into gummy bears. LIAM: You don’t get yellow fever or whatever,
but you do get radiation poisoning, so there are tradeoffs.
LINDSAY: I mean, one thing the show did do is it like compressed the timeline of the
guy with the, y’know when he picks up the chunk of graphite [RIP Misha] that got blown
out of the core, and just immediately starts screaming? It actually took him about 8 hours
to start screaming, and then a few days later his hand actually fell off, apparently. So
it’s both better and worse. LIAM: Oh wow. Cool.
ALICE: That’s much worse! JUSTIN: Damn! So about about 6:45 the radiation
alarms go off, they find out oh, the containment building’s basically uninhabitable, good thing
no-one went in there. Cause it’s full of highly radioactive contaminated coolant. And at 6:57
they declare an emergency, right. But no-one actually knows what the hell is goin’ on.
LIAM: Promising. JUSTIN: Yeah, cause, it’s still, the pressurizer’s
givin’ indications there’s plenty of coolant in the reactor, right? Um, so, and there’s
lots of hullabaloo of state and federal agencies, and Metropolitan Edison all contradict each
other about whether there was a radiation release, and blah blah blah, but no-one actually
figures out that we need to add water into the system *until seven hours afterwards*.
ALICE: Ooh. That’s not ideal. …are they still pumping water *out* of the reactor building
at this time? LINDSAY: Yeah… and so they start the sump
pumps on, but it wasn’t like it was being dumped outside, it was just in some auxiliary
building where it wasn’t supposed to be. So it’s like-
ALICE: Oh, sure. LINDSAY: Like, this is a horrible violation
of working practise, but it’s probably fine. ALICE: Mm. You’ve just made two buildings
uninhabitable, but it’s not like it’s going into the groundwater.
LINDSAY: Yeah. Chernobyl this ain’t. JUSTIN: Yeah. It’s not going straight in the
Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay. [laughter]
LIAM: It’d honestly probably improve the Susquehanna. LINDSAY: Just get people to dig under the
reactor and just like, get all that groundwater out, and be like, hey. They’re still wearing
the hats. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So and sixteen hours later was when the pumps were turned on to remove heat from
the reactor, so they finally had a- this thing was like slowly melting itself into slop for
like sixteen hours. ALICE: Mm! So we almost did the actual China
syndrome, where it just melts into the floor. JUSTIN: Yeah. And keep in mind that film had
come out… I think about a week before? LIAM: Yeah, exactly a week.
JUSTIN: Before this particular incident. ALICE: The worst viral marketing-
LIAM: Twelve days. Twelve days. JUSTIN: Probably one of the first, too. Pretty
effective. LINDSAY: If they’d known about it in advance
they’d get to be like, [movie trailer voice] “and now you get to see the movie in real
life… one day only.” LIAM: [movie trailer voice] “For yourself.”
[laughter] JUSTIN: So a hydrogen bubble was discovered
in the pressure vessel about three days later, from the reaction with the, whatsit, the fuel
rods, um, casing and the steam. And they just went ahead and vented that to the atmosphere.
Y’know, whatever. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Better than an explosion. I guess. [laughter]
ALICE: Sure. LIAM: Yeah, that’s how I feel. Feels cool,
man. Your turbo gets to make all the [turbo ‘pfew pfew pfew’ noises] noises, y’know?
ALICE: Just roll coal with a fucking nuclear reactor.
[laughter] LIAM: This is my bro-off valve.
[laughter] ALICE: Just get the revs up and it just belches
out this hydrogen cloud… LIAM: [revving noises][hissing noises]
[laughter] LINDSAY: It’s just like, the whole thing is
like, you’d be rolling coal, like “I’ve got a live reactor core in my bed!” “But I don’t
see anything.” “Yeah, but you will in like six to eight hours when you start throwing
up bits of your own stomach cause you’re literally dead from radiation poisoning.”
[laughter] LINDSAY: Rolling coal, but with a multiple
hour latency, and it’s not coal, it’s like… vomit. And organs, and just… gummy bear
people. ALICE: I think you might be stretching this
metaphor… LINDSAY: I think I might be, it’s just at
this point. LIAM: Gummy bear people…
[laughter] ALICE: They look like gummy bears! They look
like gummy bears that have been, like, dipped in custard or something.
LINDSAY: I mean, that is literally what it does look like.
ALICE: Mm. JUSTIN: I got the Ford F-150 with the extended
cab and the lead lined cab. [laughter]
LINDSAY: Yeah. The lead lining, it means you get radiation poisoning, but it’s not *immediately*
fatal. JUSTIN: Yes.
LIAM: I like those odds. JUSTIN: So um, what are the results of this,
right? Here’s a picture of the reactor after the fact. …not a picture, it’s a drawing.
ALICE: Technically a ravioli. JUSTIN: Yes. You can see, like, everything’s
fuckin’ melted. All the stuff melted. It’s bad. It took a long time to do so, they had
to really screw up to make this happen. [laughter]
LIAM: I really like the, ah, the poster in the back right there that says ‘don’t leak
on me’. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yeah, they got the snake on there… LIAM: I’m gonna have my reactionary tampons
that say the same thing. LINDSAY: It’s like, they *say* don’t leak
on me, but they go home and there’s just a scale model of the reactor and it’s just like,
[horny voice] “This is my greatest shame. Leak on me. *Leak on me*.”
[laughter] JUSTIN: So, what happened afterwards? Well,
there was very little radiation released outside of the containment building, right, the average
dosage in the surrounding area was around 1.4 millirems-
LINDSAY: It was basically like a dental X-ray. It’s like, the real disaster here was just
that these idiots bricked a brand new reactor *and* caused more coal to be burned and therefore
killed us slowly? But the whole thing was, it was a PR disaster, cause they’re like,
hey, we declared an emergency but we have no idea what’s going on, and also the populace
at large is freaking out about nuclear energy, cause hey, it turns out, coal and oil interests
like, if we can make people shit scared of our biggest competitor, we get to sell more
coal. JUSTIN: Get that good Pennsylvania coal, I
mean that must have been a PR coup right there. LINDSAY: Just like good natural Pennsylvania
coal. It’ll blow uranium all over your place, cause coal has uranium in it. And thorium.
LIAM: You’ve seen those billboards. ALICE: Look, Phoebe Snow, like, rides upon
a rail of anthracite, she doesn’t do that on like a rail of uranium, with her, like,
jaw hanging off and shit. [laughter]
LIAM: A damn shame, too. ALICE: Nuclear trains when.
LIAM: The atomic train! JUSTIN: Come here to ‘Well There’s Your Problem’
podcast for Lackawanna Railroad jokes. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, yeah, so they bricked the reactor. They can’t use it any more, right. Uh, it’s
a big shot in the arm for anti-nuclear groups, cause, yeah, The China Syndrome had come out
in theaters just a couple of days ago. Activism to prevent catastrophic nuclear accidents
was cool now. Um. ALICE: I mean, to be fair, like, the nuclear
industry did not have *entirely* clean hands with this. Because, I mean, they had also
recently probably [allegedly] murdered a whistleblower called Karen Silkwood for, like, trying to
expose unsafe working practices at a fuel plant. So, nyeah, capitalism, it’s not great!
Everybody’s kind of implicated! JUSTIN: Yeah. Yeah, capitalism it turns out
is not very good with nuclear power. LIAM: Or many things. But at least we have
the Cybertruck! LINDSAY: Yeah. I mean the whole thing is,
nuclear power you gotta spend the money and do it properly and it’s got a really long
payback time, like, hey, why do that when you can build gas plants that blow up? A lot.
ALICE: Mm. The… it doesn’t work well with a profit motive, is the thing. Um. It’s very
expensive, and it takes a long time, and it only really works as a public good, you can’t
really just have, like, a nuclear corporation that works very well…
LINDSAY: Mm, well, I mean the thing is, it’s one of these things where it does work well
and it is cheap, but you’ve got to do it on such a large scale that basically only a country
can do it. It’s why, like, nuclear power in France is really cheap cause they’re like,
hey, we’re gonna build like 50 reactors all the same, pretty much, and they did. They
just did it. Any company is just like, company A is like, I’m gonna build *this* reactor,
and company B is like, I’m gonna build *the same* reactor functionally, but it’s all proprietary
so you can’t use the same machines and tooling to make it, and the third company’s like,
I’m gonna make *another* reactor, which is again, functionally the same but slightly
different, so you just end up with, like, this reactor zoo of all the different designs
built on private money, all competing over resources and just like eating each other.
And that’s why Watts Bar unit 2 took like twenty years to get built.
LIAM: I would absolutely visit the radioactive reactor zoo.
ALICE: You want the stereotype of communism, that everything is drab, and everything is
identical, and it kind of works forever with no maintenance but it’s very, like, uninteresting.
That’s what you *want*, you don’t want an exciting nuclear reactor.
LINDSAY: It is literally like, I’ve visited Sizewell B, which is like the only pressurized
water reactor in Britain. It is literally just extremely boring, there is literally
just nothing happening, it’s like, and that’s the reactor. It sits there and does nothing.
This is spent fuel. It sits there and does nothing.
JUSTIN: Liam, you’ve been to Three Mile Island, you went on the classic Pennsylvania school
field trip there, right? LIAM: Yes.
[laughter] LIAM: Yeah, uh, I mean, it’s… from what
I remember of the tour, I was pretty out of my mind on some good drugs at the time…
[laughter] LIAM: They were talking about just like, kind
of almost about that, about, y’know, they’re not really visible until everything hits the
wall, as it were? But they were talking about, especially in Pennsylvania, like we have so
much coal, power plants everywhere, and then in York County there’s also Peach Bottom – or,
Lancaster, York and Lancaster – and they were trying to like impress upon us 15 year olds
the idea of, ‘you want your nuclear power to be as utilitarian as possible,’ and they
were explaining how it’s impossible to run a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania at this
point, just ’cause of the kind of cultural scars, almost. So yeah, no, build more nuclear
power plants, though. LINDSAY: The irony is of course that with
all those coal plants, they’re basically like, if the reactor fire at Chernobyl 4 was a feature
and not a bug. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So an investigation after Three Mile Island did note that a similar accident had
occurred at Davis-Besse nuclear power station eighteen months earlier, that was another
stuck valve on the pressurizer, but they had corrected that. They realized what was wrong
in about 20 minutes and were like, “Ooh, shit. We gotta stop this.” And they stopped it.
And then they noted that this problem was common on Babcock & Wilcox reactors, and known
to the company, but they didn’t… do anything about it.
LIAM: What a surprise. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yeah. LINDSAY: It’s like, this again is just why
you do the standardization thing, cause then it’s like, hey, we know there’s a thing with
this reactor that means that there’s a thing with every reactor which means, hey, we can
just roll out the fixes to all of them. And everyone knows what’s what. It’s like, hey,
by the way there’s this bug on this reactor, which… the situation in America, it’s like,
hey, this particular model of reactor has this weird bug, this other reactor doesn’t,
and it literally can vary from unit to unit- [TASTY beer can opening noise]
LINDSAY: -if they were built to different designs, which some of them were, and I’m
just like… this is why you make everything the same. Standardization is efficient! It’s
like, when I was at Labour conference and I was overhearing like Paul Sweeney just,
overhearing these nuclear industry representatives basically saying, “Why are all these different
designs going?” and he was just like, “Why don’t you just build them all the same one,
man?” I was just like, I like this man. He gets it.
[laughter] LINDSAY: Build them all the same. Sometimes,
boring things… are good. JUSTIN: Yeah. So, the Three Mile Island accident
plus the end of the energy crisis really began a slowdown of nuclear power plant construction
in at least the United States. We did not approve another nuclear power plant from Three
Mile Island til 2012, I think. LIAM: Fuck.
JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: Well, I’m sure this will have no repercussions
for the wider, like, planet. JUSTIN: Oh God no, it’s not like we’re damn
near carbon neutral in southeastern Pennsylvania because of our nuclear plants or anything
like that. [laughter]
LIAM: Thanks Limerick! JUSTIN: Yeah. This podcast produced by nuclear
power. LINDSAY: Literally 30% of all carbon dioxide
emissions come from burning coal to generate electricity, which really should be obsolete
by this point, but it’s not, because Nuclear Power Is Scary.
ALICE: Well, to be fair, it *is* scary! Nuclear power, u scary. But like, I feel like it’s
just a thing about how humans process risk, that… perhaps for obvious reasons, it’s
more salient in our minds, of people turning into fucked up weird gummy bears in agony
for weeks, over pretty much the same thing happening but because you get lung cancer.
JUSTIN: Yeah. Or an oil refinery blows up. ALICE: Yeah.
JUSTIN: And the HF alkylation unit… LIAM: Oh, nice.
JUSTIN: Not that I would know anything about that. Uh.
[laughter] ALICE: Well, no, because you were drunk.
JUSTIN: Yeah. [laughter]
LINDSAY: It’s like, legit really funny to me, though, because people don’t, they don’t
feel this visceral terror about any other sort of energy source, but sometimes when
you just point really basic stuff out to them, suddenly people are afraid of it. Like, hey,
did you know that the bus bars on large solar installations are live any time there’s daylight
and can’t be isolated, so if you touch them you die? And they’re like, oh, that’s scary.
And oh by the way, people have to go up to the top of wind turbines to service them-
ALICE: Yes! Wind turbine fires! LIAM: Yes, yeah, those things are fucking
terrifying. LINDSAY: Basically almost everything in the
top of a wind turbine is flammable. And it’s like, every so often they catch fire and if
you’re *lucky* you die of smoke inhalation. If you’re unlucky you’re like those two engineers
who literally got stuck on the top of the turbine with the fire cutting off their escape
route, and it’s like, do I jump or do I burn? Hmm.
ALICE: Yeah. I mean, it’s, probably the only working at height thing where you might actually
want a parachute, it’s awesome. LINDSAY: Mm. BASE jumpers, overly represented
in the wind power sector. JUSTIN: That’ll do it. So, I guess, what really
want wrong at Three Mile Island? It’s kind of a systemic failure. We got the term ‘normal
accident’ out of this, right, which is an accident which occurs from unexpected interactions
of many different systems which are difficult to predict. It’s sort of like, and so there’s
a continuous line through all these episodes, we talked about Lac-Megantic last week, and
that was, there were four braking systems on that train, and none of them worked. Because
no-one knew what was gonna happen. No-one had expertise to see what the problem would
be… except the one guy who wasn’t allowed to go there. But like, here at Three Mile
Island it was like, who would have thought that this series of accidents would occur,
and just spiral into just a straight-up core meltdown that no-one could even figure out
was going on. LINDSAY: This is why you train your plant
staff well. ALICE: *Or*, never perform routine maintenance.
[laughter] LIAM: Also, also, yeah, very true. Fuck it.
Roll the dice, scaredy-cats. LINDSAY: It’s like, the whole routine maintenance
thing, if all the backup pumps are isolated or turned off or whatever, you’re not supposed
to operate the reactor, and they were like, I’m sure it’ll be fine. What could go wrong?
ALICE: I mean, I hear what you’re saying about this being a case of unsafe routine maintenance,
but I’m still gonna die on this hill of, perform no routine maintenance ever.
LIAM: Yeah, I like that. JUSTIN: Well yeah, I mean if you have like
an RMBK that’s completely solid-state, there’s no reason you would ever have to do maintenance.
Or a safety test. ALICE: No.
[laughter] JUSTIN: Oh, the irony, that the safety test
is what caused it to melt down. ALICE: Yeah.
LIAM: That’s what happens when you try to be safe.
LINDSAY: “There was no safety test. You didn’t see a safety test. Why? Because it’s not there!”
[laughter] JUSTIN: So this is one of the reasons why
new nuclear reactors, when they are built, we’ve started to see they’re being marketed
and designed from the get-go to be like, simpler and more robust. You can say, we need less
safety features, because now there’s less to go wrong, thank God.
LINDSAY: Yeah. It’s like, one of the problems… we’re building two new reactors in the UK,
they’re both EPRs, which is basically like the French saying, hey, we’ve basically just
progressively iterated on the design, what if we keep doing that but more, so you’ve
got the most complicated power plant design in the world. And the irony is, because it’s
all using active safety like, ‘we have this safety system, let’s build three identical
copies of it,’ it’s actually less safe, slightly, than the American design, the Economic Simplified
Boiling Water Reactor, it’s just like, hey, hot water rises, cold water falls, let’s just
use that to do all the safety. Which basically just means it is a big metal tube. Whereas
the EPR is like, this is a big metal tube but with Frankenstein’s lab around it.
ALICE: Like big flashing lights and stuff… [laughter]
LINDSAY: Flashing lights, Jacob’s ladders, big sparks. Occasionally.
JUSTIN: You need a lightning bolt to start it.
LINDSAY: Yeah… [laughter]
ALICE: I mean, I like the simplified boiling water reactor just because, uh, the more you
increase the passive safety margin of a nuclear reactor, the closer it gets to being an alcohol
LIAM: Nice! Pull double duty, that’s what I want!
ALICE: I mean, just so long as you keep it isolated enough, you can potentially have
a column still that’s working off of the coolant. JUSTIN: I like the idea of, like, you ever
seen that fake image from a while back of the whiskey aged 30 days by radiation?
ALICE: Yes! JUSTIN: Yeah.
LIAM: That’s what I want, though. Give it to me.
JUSTIN: This is my atomic whiskey. ALICE: I mean, they’re making Chernobyl vodka,
and that is real. Uh. LINDSAY: It’s good vodka.
ALICE: [dubiously] Yeah. LINDSAY: Yeah, it’s good, it’s smooth, I like
it. Do it the Russian style, just like, you don’t do a shot glass, you get like a full
size glass, fill it with vodka and neck it all in one. It’s good.
LIAM: There you go. ALICE: Yeah, and then have like some cheese
and like a dill pickle, and you just like eat that. S’great.
LINDSAY: Chernobyl cheese. It’s to die for. [laughter]
LINDSAY: Very slowly. JUSTIN: So the other reactor at Three Mile
Island was still good to go, in fact it was licensed around until 2034, but Excelon Energy,
who bought it from, whatsit, Metropolitan Edison, decided to close it down on September
20th of this year. LIAM: Fascists!
JUSTIN: I know, right? They, ah, cause it was too expensive to run, compared to just
building some natural gas. So, y’know, that’s a good 800 megawatts offline in Pennsylvania.
ALICE: Awesome. JUSTIN: I know.
ALICE: But I mean, who doesn’t love natural gas? Erm… it, y’know, nothing goes wrong
with it, and we’re definitely not, we definitely don’t have like a stack of future episodes
lined up. LINDSAY: Piper Alpha, what’s that?
[laughter] ALICE: Piper Alpha is what happens when someone
plays the Scottish national instrument- LINDSAY: Your control room asplode.
ALICE: -and also is a Chad. JUSTIN: Well, Three Mile Island had one of
the best safety records in the industry… other than this one incident.
[laughter] LINDSAY: It is literally like, unit 1 was
just like, hey, we saw how badly unit 2 shat the bed. We’re gonna not be them.
JUSTIN: Yeah, we’re not gonna do that. But again, it was shut down because… better
margins with natural gas, I guess. Y’know, and closing these plants down is very bad
for the climate, and that’s one of my main criticisms of the Green New Deal, is like,
Bernie’s like, we’re not gonna renew any new nuclear power plants-
LIAM: WE FUCKIN’ SHOULD ALICE: Yeah, it’s real bad.
JUSTIN: What are y’all gonna do in the interim? LIAM: Roll coal!
LINDSAY: Legit, his definition of clean energy is so restrictive that it excludes fusion.
So, like, hey Bernie, you’re now banned from using the Sun. The Sun doesn’t get a license
extension. Shut down, Sun, you’re bad. JUSTIN: Ah, that’d be pretty bad, if they
shut down the Sun. I mean that’d be pretty funny though.
LIAM: Shun- Sun goes on a wildcat strike. We’re gonna unionise the Sun.
[laughter] ALICE: But what is the Sun’s safety record,
though? I mean, we should get some OSHA people up there.
LIAM: It’s not *that* bad! JUSTIN: [OSHA voice] Extremely unsafe operating
conditions, y’know what the temperature is out there?
[laughter] LINDSAY: You know if you stand in it too long,
you turn into a gummy bear? ALICE: Plus, I mean, nobody’s wearing eye
protection up there. Bad. JUSTIN: Insufficient site access.
[laughter] LIAM: That’s a bitch of a commute, yeah.
ALICE: That’s what we need the Dyson sphere for. That’s, yeah, otherwise we’re just citing
them for like flagrant violations. LINDSAY: Just go up to the Sun, write it a
ticket, and the ticket immediately bursts into flames. And you’re about to say something,
and then you burst into flames. ALICE: God. Flagrant violations is just making
me think of like, mine disasters, we should do a mine thing sometime.
JUSTIN: Ohhh we need to do a mine thing, that’d be fun! Yeah.
ALICE: Upper Big Branch. Fucking Don Blankenship kills 30 people.
LIAM: Oh yeah. And then runs for governor! ALICE: ‘Cocaine Mitch’!
LIAM: Fucking jackass. ALICE: Yeah. Might be the best case of the
worst bad guy we’ve seen since the Sampoong department store.
[laughter] ALICE: Whereas this one, we don’t really have
anyone we can blame for this, right? Like, I mean, unless we want to throw the entire
night shift of this one unit under the bus. LINDSAY: I mean, it’s like literally everyone
did everything wrong. Babcock & Wilcox were like, hey, we don’t need to get a system to
check if this valve’s actually open or not, let’s just wire the indicator light across
the solenoid, I’m sure that’ll be fine. And the night shift were just like, hmm, what’s
going on in the reactor? Should we investigate? No, let’s just… do everything wrong.
[laughter] LIAM: Probably. Outstanding work.
[car alarm] JUSTIN: Alright. We got a car alarm.
LIAM: Oh yeah, you hear that too. Yeah. LINDSAY: Damn cars, ruining everything.
[laughter] [car alarm continues]
LIAM: Car bad, train good. LINDSAY: They know you’ve got me on the show.
They’re gonna murder me for my support of trambuses.
ALICE: Trambuses good. LINDSAY: [doing Batman theme horribly] Na
na na na na na na na trambus. [laughter]
ALICE: I would say, just regular tram good, but that’s just from me going to college in
Croydon. Um. [car alarm continues throughout]
LINDSAY: Oh yeah, the Croydon tram, it’s funny, because it was a tram they didn’t have to
actually install train protection devices on it, so that means that when one driver
was, like, overworked, he came out of a tunnel like 50mph too fast and then went round a
bend and like five people died. That was fun. ALICE: Yes. Just overturned the whole thing.
Another future episode, perhaps. So. Yeah, um, trams good.
JUSTIN: Trams good. ALL: Nuclear power good.
ALICE: Solar power… [equivocating noise] LINDSAY: Good if you’re in space.
[car alarm continues] LIAM: I’m tired of hearing about it.
JUSTIN: It’s good if you put it on your roof. ALICE: Or if you’re in the Sahara. Like.
LIAM: Dyson sphere. Dyson sphere. ALICE: Uh, wind power good, if you want to
annoy Donald Trump. JUSTIN: Yes.
LINDSAY: Just like, get a wind turbine, tie Donald Trump to it, and just leave him there.
He’ll come down, eventually. When his body rots enough.
ALICE: Mm. Hydroelectric power, quite good. JUSTIN: Yeah, hydro is good.
LINDSAY: Hydro is good. Did you hear though, there was this like Russian dam, where they-
ALICE: YES LINDSAY: Turned the turbines shut for maintenance
and the whole thing just ejected itself through the ceiling? Thta was a fun time.
LIAM: Good lord. JUSTIN: Oh, we gotta do that one, that’ll
be fun. ALICE: Gotta, yeah.
JUSTIN: But obviously the next episode is about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
ALICE: Of course! LIAM: WOOO
JUSTIN: I’ve forgotten to put in the slide for that.
ALICE: Oh goddammit. LIAM: Pathetic.
JUSTIN: So I’m gonna have to do that in post. LINDSAY: Curses! You ruined everything!
ALICE: GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER JUSTIN. No, just draw it in with John Madden. Like, John
Madden in the bridge. JUSTIN: Yeah. I could just John Madden it
in, yeah. [Justin proceeds to execute a surprisingly competent MSPaint drawing of the Tacoma Narrows
Bridge, which you can’t see because he forgot to record it]
JUSTIN: Ah no, everything’s gone, I have to write over this one.
ALICE: That’s fine. Just like, I mean… how would you… yeah.
[laughter] LINDSAY: Three Mile Island observation center,
closed due to… bridge. [laughter]
LIAM: I like that this car alarm is still fucking going.
ALICE: That’s actually the very precise- a very precise diagram of the wind interaction.
[it was a squiggle] JUSTIN: Yeah.
ALICE: Is it just fuckin’, bloop. LIAM: Yeah.
JUSTIN: No, I was gonna make, I was going for that’s debris, but, y’know.
ALICE: Ahhh. LIAM: Oh. Oh. Almost.
[laughter] LINDSAY: The bridge is made of spaghetti.
Spaghetti debris. ALICE: Well, that was the problem. Was, um,
yeah. LINDSAY: Just like the first bridge to be
made out of pasta. JUSTIN: What is suspension cable, other than
just a bunch of spaghetti, put together into one giant pasta cable?
[laughter] ALICE: Just recording this while we’re all
hungry. LIAM: I am hungry.
ALICE: A reactor is a danger ravioli. [laughter]
LINDSAY: And up next on BBC Two, Ravioli of Danger, directed by Steven Moffat.
[laughter] LINDSAY: He’s somehow managed to objectify
the ravioli. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Alright. Okay, that’s the hour. Um. Anyone got anything to pitch before we go?
ALICE: BUHHHHHHHlistentotrashfuture. We’re very good. And also, it- well, no, by the
time this is out you will have lost your chance to register to vote in the UK for our upcoming
election between socialism or brutalism [barbarism lmao]. If you didn’t, I’m very disappointed.
LIAM: Tell ’em, Alice. JUSTIN: Vote Labour.
ALICE: Yes. ALL: Vote Labour.
JUSTIN: Go watch my YouTube videos, contribute to our Patreon for the Groverhaus episode
which’ll hopefully be up by the time this is up. Um. Where we’ll be talking about, um,
the Groverhaus, the poorly built addition to one man’s home which became internet famous.
ALICE: And which we culturally appropriated. LIAM: Which we got cancelled for, apparently,
yeah. JUSTIN: Which we got cancelled for. Because
we are apparently not worthy of- LIAM: Talking about things on SomethingAwful.
[laughter] JUSTIN: Yeah.
LINDSAY: You are not true artists, you cannot appreciate it. Also, do you know one thing
I’ve learned? If you complain about the nuclear industry enough, they’ll invite you to their
annual conference. That’s literally what I’m doing next month.
JUSTIN: Nice. ALICE: Going to Nukecon.
LIAM: Nice. LINDSAY: I’m gonna suggest they call it that,
it’s actually just NIA Annual Convention, and I’m just like, you need to call it Nukecon.
LIAM: Nukecon. LINDSAY: If you register early, you get an
extra like, half hour in the ball pit. [laughter]
LINDSAY: The balls are now TRISO fuel granules, though.
ALICE: Hate the room parties at Nukecon. Like… eh.
[laughter] LINDSAY: Those elevator party people, ugh.
[laughter] JUSTIN: They just give you like a chunk of
uranium ore when you come in. Or a chunk of RMBK.
[laughter] LIAM: Keepsake RMBK.
JUSTIN: Yeah. [laughter]
JUSTIN: The pencils are made out of recycled RMBK.
LINDSAY: This graphite is literally too hot to handle. Selling like hot cakes. A pencil
so sharp it’s to die for. [please stop] JUSTIN: They give you lead gloves to handle
it. LIAM: It’ll slow down your inevitable death,
don’t worry about it. Ah, I have to do, I have to put my pitch. Follow my Twitter at
@oldmananders0n, and I’m not sure I did it earlier, so, Liam Anderson, pronouns ‘he/him’.
Die in a hole, transphobes. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yes. Lindsay, do you have anything to pitch? Please, say something.
LINDSAY: Vote Labour. And nuclear power is good, actually. ESBWR or get out.
ALICE: It’s both enhanced *and* simplified. LINDSAY: Economic and simplified. Economic
and simplified because they’re like, the economics of nuclear power, they get criticised a lot,
let’s just say it’s the economic simplified reactor.
LIAM: I like that. LINDSAY: That’ll solve everything.
ALICE: It’s the More Better Nuclear Reactor. JUSTIN: Get the Marxist nuclear reactor. Seize
the means of atom-smashing. LIAM: Alright, are we good?
JUSTIN: We good. I think we’re good. Alright. ALL: Bye everyone.