Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Technology

Samurai-Sword Maker May Cool Nuclear Revival 317

Posted by kdawson
from the can't-cut-it dept.
NobleSavage sends a story from Bloomberg about Japan Steel Works Ltd., a company that still makes Samurai swords, and how it may control the fate of the global nuclear-energy renaissance. "There stands the only plant in the world, a survivor of Allied bombing in World War II, capable of producing the central part of a nuclear reactor's containment vessel in a single piece, reducing the risk of a radiation leak. Utilities that won't need the equipment for years are making $100 million down payments now on components Japan Steel makes from 600-ton ingots. Each year the Tokyo-based company can turn out just four of the steel forgings that contain the radioactivity in a nuclear reactor. Even after it doubles capacity in the next two years, there won't be enough production to meet building plans."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Samurai-Sword Maker May Cool Nuclear Revival

Comments Filter:
  • Hm (Score:5, Funny)

    by scubamage (727538) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:59AM (#22749880)
    So what I want to know is... can they make me a sword out of uranium? Now THAT would be sweet.
    • Re:Hm (Score:5, Funny)

      by steveo777 (183629) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:05AM (#22749944) Homepage Journal
      True, a uranium sword would be sweet, but what happens when you grow that third and fourth arm? Sure, you'd think the extra gripping power would be 'handy' on your sword now. But what happens when they deliver that bad boy and in your first uranium sword fight they both go critical mass... Did you ever think of THAT?!

      Maybe depleted uranium.

      • Re:Hm (Score:4, Informative)

        by n3tcat (664243) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:08AM (#22749966) Homepage
        Depleted uranium is still bad for you. See this. [wikipedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by steveo777 (183629)
          Yeah, I read that article. But if you honestly think that I was replying to an earnest post with anything but jest, you should really find a new sense of humor. Also, having a density of about 19.1g/cm3, it tends to be just over twice as heavy as sword steel (at 7.8g/cm3). Your 2kg sword would be 4.8kg and tire you and your four arms out quite nicely.
          • Re:Hm (Score:5, Funny)

            by MightyYar (622222) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:57AM (#22750508)
            It'd still make a sweet mace.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ACDChook (665413)

            having a density of about 19.1g/cm3, it tends to be just over twice as heavy as sword steel (at 7.8g/cm3). Your 2kg sword would be 4.8kg and tire you and your four arms out quite nicely

            But if you have 4 arms, then you'll have twice as much strength to heft the sword, so you will get tired at an equal rate as if the sword was a normal weight with only two arms. So by making you sprout those extra arms, the sword solves its own problems!
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by ichigo 2.0 (900288)

              But if you have 4 arms, then you'll have twice as much strength to heft the sword, so you will get tired at an equal rate as if the sword was a normal weight with only two arms. So by making you sprout those extra arms, the sword solves its own problems!
              It truly is a miraculous substance! Buy now and you get a free graphite rod with your purchase!
          • The lethality of DU is directly proportional to the delivery velocity.

        • Re:Hm (Score:4, Informative)

          by QuantumPion (805098) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:36AM (#22750284)
          The wiki article you linked states itself that DU is less toxic then many other common materials like arsenic. The statistical evidence linking birth defects to soldiers is dubious at best. This is pretty much a case of DHMO-itis, i.e., irrational fear over something not inherently dangerous. DU, like DHMO [wikipedia.org], are feared because of their mystique (in the case of DHMO-a ominous sounding acronym).
          • Re:Hm (Score:5, Informative)

            by scubamage (727538) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:11AM (#22750614)
            That's incorrect. The US Military admitted there were 'some unknown dangers' associated with DU after Dr. Doug Rokke (US Army Physicist) got cancer and is suffering numerous other ill effects from radiation poisoning whilst leading efforts to clean up the radiation after the first Iraq war. He also has explained that the US Military actively suppressed a WHO study which showed DU has the same effects as normal uranium on the human body. I only know because his brother, General Irving Rokke was the Dean of my college and I got to speak with him. I also learned about how the US and UK have been pressed about the issue numerous times in the UN and have used their comfy chairs on the UN Security Council to veto any sort of punitive action.
            • Of course depleted uranium and "regular" uranium have the same effect on the body - they are the SAME thing. It would be like saying that there is this regular Oxygen that is different from the special Oxygen-16 and Oxygen-18. Chemically, they are identical, just like Uranium vs. U-235 vs. U-238.

              Furthermore, "regular" Uranium and "depleted" Uranium and "enriched" Uranium have nothing to do with it being Uranium or not. It only has to do with Uranium-235 abundance. Regular just has under 1% of the U-235 and
          • Re:Hm (Score:5, Informative)

            by webrunner (108849) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:21AM (#22751342) Homepage Journal
            So.. it's less toxic than one of the world's most famous deadly poisons

            That's really reassuring.
      • but what happens when you grow that third and fourth arm?
        Kali! Kali! Kali! Kali! [wikipedia.org]

        Bow down and worship.
    • by bkr1_2k (237627)
      That would be ridiculously heavy, and very unwieldy.
      • Re:Hm (Score:5, Funny)

        by scubamage (727538) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:13AM (#22750034)
        Psh, you're missing the point. URANIUM SWORD! And we could create uranium sword wielding robots. This has badass written all over it and highlighted with AWESOME.
        • by steveo777 (183629)
          See, NOW you're talking. Heck you could put a tiny, tiny reactor with some sort of altered universe inside the sword to power some sort of mechanical arm for your body. You know, to take out the robots in the eventual uprising and attempted overlordedness they would attempt to attain.
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          we could create uranium sword wielding robots

          Now THAT would definitely be over 9000....
        • Re:Hm (Score:4, Funny)

          by misleb (129952) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:28AM (#22751442)
          Not to mention the +5 Nuclear Damage you get. Unfortunately, you get a -3 Dex modifier when wielding. :(

    • by necro81 (917438)
      Uranium is very dense stuff - about 19 g/cc. Compare that to 11 g/cc for lead and 7-8 g/cc for steel. It's not terribly strong, either.

      So, yes, a uranium sword would be pretty sweet, but you wouldn't be able to wield it very well or, if you could, it would get all dinged up the first time you used it.
      • Re:Hm (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rcw-home (122017) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:51AM (#22751004)
        If you really need a heavy sword, use a little Tungsten filler. It's 19.25 g/cc, has a high tensile strength, and makes steel stronger as an alloy. It lost out to DU because it typically has to be imported from China (and the US wanted to use the DU, not store it indefinately). DU is also pyrophoric.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      The perfect weapon for the Samurai who doesn't want kids.
    • No, no. Those are not your tax dollars coming to arrest you. They are my tax dollars.
  • by gravesb (967413) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:03AM (#22749916) Homepage
    This sounds like an area where American metal working could enjoy some sort of renaissance. I wonder what the start-up costs for such an endeavor are, what the future growth and profit margins are, and where such competency could be applied outside of reactors and and swords. But, with low skill metal working being outsourced, such specialized skills might be a place for America to specialize, especially as the dollar continues to fall.
    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:32AM (#22750236) Journal
      If there are multiple companies putting up $100M a pop for future production, I'd say there ought to be a solid business model in there somewhere.
      • by rucs_hack (784150)
        If the things themselves cost £100 million, you're going to need to spend billions to get a plant capable of building them up and running in any sort of reasonable time frame, when you think of everything that would be needed. Then there are the personnel. You can't just magic up experienced workers for this sort of task.

        I doubt it would be profitable for quite some time.
        • You can't just magic up experienced workers for this sort of task.

          No, but I can buy 10,000 experience points real cheap on ebay.
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:22AM (#22751356) Journal
          Actually, there might be a few plants not in commission but that have never been destroyed that could ease the cost of going this route. And a couple of billion dollars isn't all that much to the type of people who wold fund something like this. It would probably a couple investment groups and so on. Keep in mind, the 100 million is only a down payment. The final product will costs more. But EPA regulations and unions wold probably still make it a non-starter in the US.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)
      They might be busy:

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4249332.html [popularmechanics.com]

      (and I did hesitate to link to Popular Mechanics, as they are a bit rah rah patriotic for this here, but I doubt very much that they are outright lying)
    • Change the design (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dj245 (732906)
      I work reasonably closely with manufacturers of all sorts of marine equipment. Lifeboat davits, cranes, winches, diesel engines, etc. The most common thing they do when they can't source a part is change the design. This encourages innovation, and usually the new design is safer than the old one anyway. If you're waiting on a part for 2+ years for a crane, are you going to wait and see if someone else starts manufacturing them? No. You're going to change that design (maybe 6 months, probably less) and
      • Re:Change the design (Score:5, Informative)

        by rbanffy (584143) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:00AM (#22750522) Homepage Journal
        The problem here is not wanting to stick with currently proven designs, but the hideous cost of certifying a new design. It is so expensive to re-certify a project after a design change people really don't want to do it often.

        The certification process probably makes the design safer, but it also disincentives innovation in ways that would horrify someone used to the rapid pace of consumer electronics.

        On the other hand, the kind of reliability standards we see on consumer electronics would horrify me if they ever happened be applied to a nuclear facility or an airplane.
        • I'm sure China is capable of certifying and delivering these new designs at a lower cost.
        • by es330td (964170) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:11AM (#22751210)

          The certification process probably makes the design safer, but it also disincentives innovation in ways that would horrify someone used to the rapid pace of consumer electronics
          This is a HUGE problem we have in General Aviation. A plane like a Cessna 310 twin engine airplane first flew in 1953 with engines that are extremely inefficient and underpowered relative to today's engines. Everybody (pilot, owner, passengers, world) would be better served by replacing the original engines with some that are of newer design that are safer, more powerful and burn less fuel, but since the plane was certified by the FAA in a particular configuration that is how it has to stay. Newer models can be produced but retrofitting is not looked upon kindly by the people who get to say whether or not a plane may leave the ground.
    • by us7892 (655683)
      There will be no revival. Too many environmental restrictions to building such plants!

      Not in my back yard!!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Red Flayer (890720)

        There will be no revival. Too many environmental restrictions to building such plants!
        I am the dread samurai Robert-san. There will be no revival. I have come for your swoooord!

        (Though a bit late for a Holocaust cloak, one would think, and perhaps the component is a little large for a wheelbarrow)
    • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:50AM (#22750424) Homepage

      This sounds like an area where American metal working could enjoy some sort of renaissance.

      How? We have no industrial base anymore. It's the "information age", we're a "service economy", remember? Actually making steel is, like, so 1970s.

      U.S. Steel [wikipedia.org] now makes about as much steel now as it did in 1902. The once-mighty Bethlehem Steel [wikipedia.org]? Gone. National Steel [wikipedia.org]? Kaput.

      We traded our ability to make stuff, for our ability to by cheap imports at Wal*Mart.

      • by maxume (22995) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:55AM (#22751042)
        On the other hand, the steel that U.S. Steel makes now is high quality, special purpose alloys, and Alcoa is refining quite a bit more aluminum than they were in 1902 and Caterpillar is doing 'OK' globally. No one scoffs at Intel chips, and they are among the most intensely manufactured objects in existence.

        It really doesn't matter where cheap steel is coming from; it isn't particularly profitable to make, and it is the easiest capacity to add, so why should anybody be surprised that American companies aren't trying to compete with cheaper foreign labor for the title of biggest steel company?
        • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:28AM (#22751440) Journal

          Until you actually read the article and see that your cheap foreign labour is in Japan? Japan hasn't been cheap in decades.

          Oh and where are those Intel chips actually produced?

          Read up on Henry Ford and exactly why he allowed his factory workers special loans to buy the cars they produced. If a rabid capatalist understood, why don't you?

          • by maxume (22995) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:49AM (#22751688)
            Understand what? That we haven't lost our industrial base? That we have a huge export economy?

            (and Alcoa and Intel make stuff all over the world; this doesn't change the fact that they have significant production operations in the United States)

            I'm wasn't responding to the lamentation that the U.S. is apparently incapable of producing one of these giant forgings, I was responding to the ridiculous idea that all the economic activity of whatever golden age of American industry up and disappeared. It didn't disappear, it shifted to other activity, and when you count things up, there is more industry here than there was 25 or 50 years ago. So yes, as a percentage of our overall economy, heavy industry has dropped, but the economy has grown so much that the actual amount of heavy industry has increased, and instead of just paying people to work in steel mills, we can pay them to do silly things like program computers.

            And the U.S. is actually a pretty popular place to do heavy industry. We are politically stable, have cheap, available energy(Coal!) and a good portion of the workforce is highly skilled. We certainly don't have a monopoly on any of those things, but it's hard to argue that we should.
    • It's definitely a niche ripe to be filled.

      The biggest problem with US steel is, appropriately U.S Steel [wikipedia.org]. If we could get some more modern , high-tech, and agile steel producers we could restart the whole industry here. But it's all unions and subsidies and dinosaurs right now, and there is no sign of that changing any time soon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by elwinc (663074)
      Here's an abstract [ingentaconnect.com] that contains a little more info:

      The EPR (European Pressurised Water Reactor) developed by AREVA is a new nuclear reactor designed to achieve greater output (1600 MW) and longer plant life (60 years) than conventional nuclear reactors. The first one is currently under construction in Finland at Olkiluoto. For this new design, an integrated forging was applied for the nozzle shell, including an integral flange (Fig. 1). A 500 t ingot is necessary to manufacture this part, which was the

  • If they can't meet demands now, and they will be backlogged for years to come, I'm wondering why 5 years to catch up is even remotely important at this point? And, you know, if the business goes south you can still make swords afterwords.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)
      Swords are not exactly a growth industry. If they are genuine samurai swords, they can't be exported, and if they aren't, they are practically worthless (about the same price as the cheap Spanish ones they sell on QVC).

      The 5 year gap is important because during that 5 years, they'd expect to be able to increase capacity while other forgers would still be getting started.

      However, the problem is China and its vast natural resources. Japan, unfortunately doesn't have the natural resources to do this cheaply fo
      • Re:4 per year (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Foolicious (895952) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:19AM (#22750096)

        However, the problem is China and its vast natural resources.
        I honestly don't know about China's natural resources, but they seem to be consuming so much that they need to import steel and metals in scrap form from the US like gangbusters. I think this is because it's currently cheaper to refine it from scrap than mine it, but at this point China's resources, whether vast or otherwise, aren't as big of a sticking point as some people would think. Of course, their labor -- now that's definitely a cheaper pasture!
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tbannist (230135)
          It is cheaper for now. China's got problems, possibly big problems. They got huge pollution problems, and they've got run away inflation, plus the standard of living is rising in the cities. Effectively the cost advantage of "Made in China" is rapidly eroding. Some of the cheap manufacturers are now looking to relocate to different Asian countries where the labour costs are now lower than China.
      • Re:4 per year (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BosstonesOwn (794949) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:20AM (#22750106)
        Major questions , with the track record as of late from China would you trust a major piece of a nuclear puzzle to them ? I mean it really. And with Korea , I don't know if I would trust them as well.

        The Japanese firms for steel have a really good reputation for forging some of the best parts in the world. Even the Spaniards and Americans can not produce such quality steel.

        I don't think I would want to be near a Chinese forged reactor core any time in my life. QC does not seem to be their strong point.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PONA-Boy (159659)

        If they are genuine samurai swords, they can't be exported

        That is incorrect. Nihonto, swords MADE in Japan can be exported following specific procedures as outlined HERE [nihontokanjipages.com]. It is more difficult, I've found, to IMPORT a sword into Japan. This is especially true if you are importing Nihonto.

        The "practically worthless" swords, from a Japanese perspective, would be anything NOT made in Japan. Most of the cheap wallhangers that you see out there in the marketplace are from China, believe it or not.

    • to use in committing "sepuku" maybe?
  • by rjamestaylor (117847) <rjamestaylor@gmail.com> on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:03AM (#22749922) Journal
    These story elements (Japan, WWII, Allied bombing and nuclear technology) usually have a different theme than protecting the world from the hazards of nuclear fission gone awry.

    +1 Ironic
  • by Tom90deg (1190691) <Tom90deg@yahoo.com> on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:04AM (#22749924) Homepage
    But can't you make more places to build them? I realize that you may need specific hardware to forge this stuff out of one piece of steel, but seems to me that if you really needed them, you could make more than one factory.
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      The story says the following:

      Areva would be able to produce the ingot itself with an investment of about 100 million euros ($155 million), he said as workers coated the inside of a Japan Steel reactor shell part with stainless steel to prevent rust.

      It also says companies are making $100 million down payments...

      Something tells me that this will rapidly develop into a non-story from its current status as an advertisement for the solicitation of venture capital.

  • by Ilan Volow (539597) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:06AM (#22749956) Homepage
    The guys who make Swiss Army knives have nearly perfected fusion reactors. That can open wine bottles.
  • Candu (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:16AM (#22750068)
    As I understand it CANDU reactors don't even use a pressure vessel as such, but instead uses an assembly of pressurized tubes. One for each fuel bundle. This design was chosen precisely because it eliminated the need for this type of technological bottleneck and it is still in use today. I think tfa neglects to mention that there are several reactor designs that aren't dependent on this particular company.
    • Re:Candu (Score:4, Funny)

      by lju (944654) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:23AM (#22750140)
      A series of tubes? So it works like the internet, then?
    • Re:Candu (Score:5, Informative)

      by QuantumPion (805098) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:54AM (#22750472)
      A CANDU reactor still has a large steel Calandria surrounding the pressure tubes. I'm not sure off the top of my head of its dimensions but I imagine it is bigger but less thick then a typical PWR pressure vessel.

      And the reason why the CANDU was designed was because it runs on natural, unenriched uranium. It had nothing to do with the design of the pressure vessel. When the first CANDU's were being built, the US was still manufacturing PWR pressure vessels and there was no problem in that area.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by some_hoser (656003)
        The CANDU was designed with two main differences: Heavy Water Moderator -Lets you use natural uranium -Safer than graphite Pressure Tube Design -To avoid needing heavy manufacturing capabilities -This has nothing to do with ability to use natural uranium The Caladria is indeed big but does not need to be forged in one piece (or be as thick) as it does not have to hold in a significant amount of pressure (unlike the pressure vessel, naturally).
        • Yeah after reading up a bit I think you are right, that was one of the selling points of the CANDU design, although I never heard about that before today. I still say that the main motivation behind the CANDU design was its ability to run on natural uranium though, as Canada did not have the ability to enrich uranium themselves and they did not want to have to depend on the US.
          • Re:Candu (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Cecil (37810) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:40AM (#22750902) Homepage
            Partially, I think the idea was that they could sell this reactor to other countries without the risk of nuclear proliferation associated with enriched uranium, although the relatively difficulty of attaining enriched uranium was also a factor I think it had more to do with the proliferation risks than the actual sourcing of the material. This was unfortunately justified when India used their Canadian/US-built CIRUS research reactor to create enough plutonium for their first nuclear bomb [wikipedia.org]. Being strongly against nuclear weapons in any form, Canadians generally felt pretty betrayed by this, and the concept behind the CANDU reactor was cemented.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mks113 (208282)
        The outer Calandria is a Steel Vessel with a low pressure rating -- rupture disks that blow at 35 kPa or so. It is about 10 meters in diameter. It is full of heavily tritiated heavy water, so it is well sealed for personnel safety. The Calandria is on its side, so fuel is loaded from one side, and pushed out the other.

        There are 380 (or so, depending on model) pressure tubes (6" diameter?) made of Zirconium/Niobium Alloy that will withstand the 13 MPa and contain 12 (again, or so) fuel bundles that can b
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Froster (985053)
      Exactly right. The reason that CANDU uses pressurized tubes rather than a large reactor vessel is because Canada lacks the ability to manufacture a large vessel. It hasn't been too much of an issue though because Canada has built enough CANDU reactors for a peak of 100+ TWh of power, and currently around 85 TWh of power
  • old article (Score:4, Informative)

    by SecretSquirrel321 (1256326) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:18AM (#22750084)
    This article is from 2006. Surely there's more recent news, even about this topic?
  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:23AM (#22750134)
    I am puzzled. In last thirty years, our country in the heart of Europe has independently manufactured about twenty five complete reactor units. And we're not exactly the pinnacle of the world's engineering, even though compared to our neighbours, we might be pretty good. I would expect USA and other western countries having much more resources than us to be more independent in this respect. Now it may be that the qualiry criteria have been tightened up a little, but still, USA, for example, is a huge country. Don't tell me that a country capable of delivering people to Moon and space probes to the outer Solar system can't manufacture even a single bloody reactor vessel.
    • by szo (7842)
      I'm sure it's not the only one. The Hungarian power plants reactor shell was made by Skoda for example.

    • by dotancohen (1015143) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:20AM (#22751334) Homepage
      The JSW's containment vessel is a one-piece unit. Containment vessels made from more than one piece can (and are) manufactured all over the world. The advantage of the one-piece unit is that it has no seems, preventing radiation leaks. There are other methods of controlling radiation for the multiple-piece CVs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GiMP (10923)
      There isn't a market in the USA for nuclear reactors, the last one was built in the 1970's, our labor is too expensive, and from what I understand, our steel industry is suffering. Being from Pennsylvania, I personally know people who were laid-off from steel mills. No, I'm really not surprised that we're not masters of manufacturing.

      As others have said, the USA is a place of ideas. Intellectual property and services are our business. It is just a shame that it won't last forever. We are now in a globa
  • by Illserve (56215) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:25AM (#22750162)
    There weren't any factories that built Apollo's when we decided to go to the moon but somehow we managed.

    I think someone will be on top of this problem when the money is there.
    • , they are relatively "clean", and employ lots of white collar/upper middle class workers. Most communities were glad to have them built nearby. Especially, when they were helping "beat those commies to the moon".

      A heavy steel forging operation, OTOH, would face opposition because of the smokestack emissions, and the ingrained idea that we don't need workers who actually MAKE anything anymore, when we can base our entire economy on shuffling money around and suing each other.
  • by hairykrishna (740240) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:26AM (#22750176)
    There are alternatives. Most of the current running PWR pressure vessels were cast in multiple (2 or 3) pieces and welded together. The Russians cast their own pressure vessels. There are also other reactor designs despite PWR being the overwhelming favourite for new build.

    New nuclear build is not going to grind to a halt because this plant can't keep up.

    • by Svartalf (2997)
      Indeed... There's alternative designs to the current water based systems that are inherently safer than
      the current designs. Nobody's looking into them for development because the current designs are "good enough"
      which may make it a GOOD thing. If there's insufficient parts for the PWR design, perhaps they'll consider
      a pebble bed design instead.
    • by QuantumPion (805098) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:20AM (#22750726)
      New nuclear building will not grind to a halt, but it may be slowed/delayed a few years until more of these factories come online. And when the decision makers are trying to decide what kind of power plant to build to meet energy needs, a 2 year delay for the queue to get your pressure vessel because China has dibs on the next 40 may lead you to conventional sources (gas/coal/etc).
    • The Russians cast their own pressure vessels.


      The Russians also had Chernobyl. No offense, but I'm not in favor of following Russian examples in nuclear power without *serious* rechecking.
  • Nuclear fission is a poor solution anyway. Inherent safety problems, limited fuel supply (on the order of a century or two at most, perhaps much less), security concerns (both weapons technology proliferation and terrorist targeting concerns), unsolved waste disposal problems - the only reason this gets the support it does is because the military-industrial complex loves nuclear technologies, and some technical types who grew up on science fiction have a romantic attachment to Harassing the Power of the Ato

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argent (18001)
      And if it takes a century to develop the replacement technology, do we freeze in the meantime?
  • But (Score:2, Funny)

    by vandit2k6 (848077)
    Does the sword run Linux?
  • by edmicman (830206) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:50AM (#22750432) Homepage Journal
    to a Hanzo Hattori sword?
  • Doesn't add up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbesNO@SPAMxmsnet.nl> on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:04AM (#22750550)
    If it takes three weeks to forge one vessel, why can they only produce four vessels per year?

    Also, the forging is described as a cylinder, which leaves the top and bottom of the pressure vessel. How do you weld 30 cm thick steel? ISTR reading about submarine construction (which use a pressure hull maybe a few cm thick) where welding the hull sections had to take place at night because daytime operations would overload the local power grid. These vessels would be even more difficult to weld correctly.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:09AM (#22750594) Homepage
    I think the article confuses the reactor vessel with the containment vessel.

    A reactor vessel is a large-room-sized steel vessel, that holds the fuel and steam transfer pipes and so forth and is subjected to huge internal pressures in normal operation.

    A containment vessel is the building-sized concrete structure that gives many reactors buildings their impressive dome shape. It is only important in the case of an accident, when it might be subjected to pressures on the order of an atmosphere or so. It is intended to hold in or contain any radioactive materials released after an accident has occurred.

    Interestingly enough, in light of his demonization by anti-nuclear factions, it was Edward Teller who was largely responsible for insisting on containment vessels, a nice simple brute-force protection measure.

    Every reactor has a reactor vessel, but not all reactors have containment vessels. Some reactors, such as Chernobyl, and, in the United States, GE boiling-water reactors such as the one in Plymouth, Massachusetts have very ordinary-looking block-like buildings rather than containment domes. These reactors are designed to "suppress" pressure in an accident rather than "contain" it, by the use of engineered mechanisms that open valves at the right time and direct steam through big tanks of water, cooling it down and condensing it.
  • for nuclear reactors. they're building them to ENSLAVE WHALES

    maybe the japanese are trying to NUKE THE WHALES?

    first fake scientific research, now this?

    will the japanese stop at nothing to satisfy their insatiable whale flesh thirst?
    • Yes, but they need the US's Support in their endeavor, so they are appealing to the religious right in America. They are "Nuking the gay baby whales for jesus!"
  • Background info (Score:3, Interesting)

    by doctor_no (214917) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:53AM (#22751030)
    They have tours of Japan Steel Work's sword factories, following link has some pictures:
    http://ameblo.jp/machizukuri-engineer/entry-10070632943.html [ameblo.jp]

    An older example of the swords they make (from the Russo-Japanese war):
    http://www.e-sword.jp/sale/0650/0650_1006syousai.htm [e-sword.jp]

    The company also uses sword-making as a source of research that they apply to other field's of forging
    http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110001457129/ [nii.ac.jp]
  • by ShinmaWa (449201) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:57AM (#22751062)
    To call Japan Steel Works [businessweek.com] a "sword maker" is like referring to Microsoft as "that company that makes Minesweeper". Japan Steel Works is a very large steel company that makes a very wide variety of products (of which swords are a very, very small part) and did $2 billion worth of sales in 2007 alone.

    I mean seriously, Slashdot, isn't this story cool enough without adding misleading sensationalist crap onto it?
  • Silly article.


    Forging the reactor vessel midsection in one piece at this factory is not all that much better.

    • If it's all one piece, it can't be easily heat-treated to relieve the stresses of forging the thing.
    • If it's one piece, you need very special cranes and barges to move it to its destination.
    • Even if it's one piece, it still will need a whole lot of cuts and welds to attach the flanges, sensors, and pipes.


  • by Animats (122034) on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:28PM (#22752758) Homepage

    Nuclear reactor pressure vessels are a real problem. Most of the larger ones are in fact built up from welded sections. This isn't an easy welding job, and inspection of welds is a big headache. Several Japanese nuclear plants have had problems with cracks in pressure vessel welds, [jnes.go.jp] although in internal reactor components welded to the shell, not the shell itself. So making the pressure vessel and its internal support structures from one big forging makes a better product.

    The environment of a reactor pressure vessel is tough. First, there's "embrittlement". Neutrons are constantly blasting apart the atoms in the pressure vessel, and over a period of years, this structural damage adds up. Then there's corrosion. There have been major corrosion problems requiring reactor shutdowns from carbon dioxide and boric acid corrosion inside the pressure vessel. Remember, this is a steam pressure vessel; at steam temperatures and pressures, minor corrosive effects at room temperature become big problems.

    High quality welding of thick steel sections is a tough problem. Many approaches have been tried. The general idea is to make a V-shaped notch and fill it in during the welding process. Doing this in a way that's no weaker than the surrounding material is hard. Electric arc welding under an inert gas is the usual approach. Electron beam welding and laser welding have been tried. Then there's the problem of approach angle - welding on a vertical surface is not easy. Quality control requires X-rays, ultrasonic tests, and regulators that aren't corrupt.

    So there's much to be said for building the pressure vessel as one big forging. Of course, then there's the problem of delivering a 550-ton object to the job site. There are companies that can do that [diamondheavyhaul.com], if you can find them a clear path [hankstruckpictures.com] from a seaport.

    Sword making technology is relevant to the making of big forgings. Swords are built-up forgings. This is unusual in modern metalworking; most modern forged objects, like tools, are banged out in one piece by equipment much larger than the thing being manufactured. Big pressure vessels are built-up forgings; the scale requires it. In Japan, it's considered a good doctoral thesis in metallurgy to improve on sword making technology. So smart people are still thinking about the technology of built-up forgings. Nobody else bothers much.

    Here's a US NRC fact sheet. [nrc.gov] on pressure vessels, and a similar European document. [euronuclear.org]

    • by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Friday March 14, 2008 @02:58PM (#22754258) Homepage Journal

      Doing this in a way that's no weaker than the surrounding material is hard.

      If I may pick a nit here, if I understand this right, on average a weld will be stronger than the surrounding metal, the difficulty lies in being certain that that's the case for all of your welds. The problem isn't getting the strength up, but getting the variation down -- and as you point out earlier, non-destructive inspection of welds is a tough problem.

      This is the reason that aircraft are still assembled using bolts and rivets -- in theory you could make a lighter aircraft using welds, but there isn't any way to be certain that any particular weld was done right, so we usually stick with a slightly inferior, but more dependable way of doing it.

      (Or at least that was the case some years back... it would seem like there must be some way of cracking this problem.)

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true." -- Poloniouius, in Willie the Shake's _Hamlet, Prince of Darkness_

Working...