From SCRAM to CRAM in just five years

A SCRAM (Safety Control Rod Axe Man) is an emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor, though the term has been extended to cover shutdowns of other complex operations, such as computer server farms (the cloud). In commercial reactor operations, this emergency shutdown is often referred to as a “SCRAM” at boiling water reactors (BWR), and as a “reactor trip” at pressurized water reactors (PWR). This is exactly what happened at Fukushima when the first movement of that 9.0 earthquake back in 2011 occurred. That is exactly what will happen if there is a slight tremor near California’s last and only nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Station. California is politically a ‘no-nuke’ state and the antis want this one closed too.

Ever since the initial construction start date back in the late 1960’s, the Diablo Canyon plant has faced opposition from environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth and took over 17 years to complete and bring online. This one plant is just a couple of acres along the coastline and produces 10% of California’s electricity making it the largest single source of clean energy in California. For all their supposed faults (pun intended) — radioactive waste, links to the Cold War arms race, the specter of a catastrophic meltdown — nuclear plants have the benefit of producing huge amounts of electricity with zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Those who think a carbon-free energy future is impossible without nuclear are now squaring off against those who think the challenge can be met using only renewable like wind and solar. “I’m tired of arguing about the future,” Michael Shellenberger (Environmental Progress) said. “Let’s decide what we’re going to do right now with the largest single source of clean energy in California.” Shellenberger organized the Diablo Canyon campaign after he realized that the larger debate about nuclear could be crystallized around this one existing plant. And now, the plant is attracting an unlikely wave of support from some of the country’s most prominent environmentalists and climate change scientists.

The problem, Shellenberger said, is that despite the plethora of wind turbines cluttering the landscape, solar panels stretched across vast amount of land or rooftops and now electric vehicles on the roads, “people don’t understand how little that stuff is compared to a single nuclear plant.” Moreover, he added, a nuclear plant has the benefit of being consistent regardless of whether the wind is blowing or the sun is shining or any bad weather condition. And did I already mention – zero greenhouse gas emissions which is the number one reason for renewable energy.

After a four year cautionary shut down of more than 50 nuclear power plants in Japan after the 2011 earthquake, Japan is restarting many of those power plants after some additional safety upgrades. One of those upgrades is the availability of search and rescue robotics. Part of the failure at Fukushima was the mounting pressure that eventually caused an explosion that many of us saw on TV. If a robot were available at the time, it could have been deployed to open the value and release the hydrogen pressure and prevented the disaster.

Now robots of every shape and size are being designed and develop for search and rescue use at any type of disaster to assist where humans are unable to. Some of these robots are very human like in shape so they can execute human like activity while other robots are no more than the size and shape of an American Cockroach. These cockroach robots are known as a Cognitive Robot Abstract Machine (CRAM) and the acronym name is a play on the smaller size because everything has to be crammed inside that little critter thanks to nanoscale technology. So the next time you step on that cockroach in our backyard, remember that some day they will inherit the earth, one way or the other.



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