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Japan Power News

Japan Battles Partial Nuclear Meltdown 769

Posted by samzenpus
from the cue-godzilla dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Japanese nuclear experts are working to contain a partial meltdown at an earthquake-stricken nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, as fears grow that the death toll from Friday's massive quake and tsunami could reach the tens of thousands. A partial meltdown, experts said, would likely mean that some portion of the reactors' uranium fuel rods had cracked or warped from overheating, releasing radioactive particles into the reactors' containment vessels. Some of those particles would have escaped into the air outside when engineers vented steam from the vessels to relieve pressure building up inside. Adding to problems at the site, hydrogen was building up inside the Number Three reactor's outer building, threatening an explosion like the one that blew apart the Number One reactor building's roof and outer walls on Saturday. However, it remains unclear how far radiation has spread from the facility. Some local residents and health workers were diagnosed with radiation poisoning in precautionary tests, but they show no outward symptoms of distress. 'Even if you have a radiation release, although that's not a good thing, it's not automatically a harmful thing. It depends on what the level turns out to be,' says Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a US industry group, adding that a person exposed to the highest radiation levels measured at the Fukushima site would absorb in two to three hours the same amount of radiation that he would normally absorb in 12 months – a significant but not necessarily injurious amount, especially if exposure time was short."
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Japan Battles Partial Nuclear Meltdown

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  • Considering ..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:05AM (#35470826)

    I think it's incredible how safe their reactors are and when you consider what has happened, I think this should calm many people's fear of nuclear energy.

    Now, the disposal of the waste ....

  • Great (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:11AM (#35470880)

    Just what we need to speed along nuclear adoption here in the US.
    Where's Jane Fonda when you need her?

    If we're lucky, this will only set us back another 30 years.

  • Used cars, anyone? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:15AM (#35470896)
    FTFA...

    'Even if you have a radiation release, although that's not a good thing, it's not automatically a harmful thing. It depends on what the level turns out to be,' says Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute

    To repeat myself from yesterday, the public should trust the pronouncements about things that can kill you for thousands of years from industry shills why, exactly?

  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:31AM (#35471024) Homepage

    I mainly read and watch Deutsche Welle for my news. AJ/BBC are usually decent though. How sad is it that we have ZERO real news in America? Not even NPR which is as close as we come. We need a real news channel and outlet, not political or sensational bullshit. Just news.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:39AM (#35471082)

    But anti-nuke activists will consider this the worse tragedy

    If one of these reactors ends up totally failing, it will be considered the worse tragedy by nearly everyone. Why? Because judging such events is a subjective process. That's why one baby trapped in a well is a huge crisis, whereas 100 people dying on the road each and every day doesn't even warrant news coverage. That's the way the human mind works, and you can't just brush it off.

    If they were to end up with a Chernobyl-style exclusion zone around the plant for decades, then the meltdown would be remembered around the world long after the tsunami itself has faded from memory.

  • by Draek (916851) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:43AM (#35471122)

    Much, much cleaner than Coal, Gas and Oil and more easily implemented at large scales than Wind and Solar, not to mention considerably cheaper than the latter.

  • by Nemyst (1383049) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:44AM (#35471124) Homepage

    So you'd rather listen to the FOX news shills, the anti-nuclear shills, the oil shills, the donation scammers and the govt shills?

    I'm sorry but what he's saying sounds about right. People have some kind of paranoia when nuclear is mentioned - you only need to look at the current situation! A quake of incredible magnitude quickly followed by a massive tsunami will probably kill tens of thousands leave the entire countryside ravaged for years, but the news are all focused on a handful of nuclear power plants that are having some problems. Even Chernobyl only killed 50 people! If you want to account for cancer diseases and such, bring that up to 500 or even 1000 if you want, but it's an unrealistically high estimate. And that's Chernobyl; it is absolutely impossible to end up with this result in the current situation.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:51AM (#35471178) Homepage

    But anti-nuke activists will consider this the worse tragedy

    Nonsense. No one is going to consider this worse. Rational humans, however, will consider it more under human control. We cannot prevent earthquakes and tsunamis; we can eliminate the threat of nuclear meltdowns entirely by not building uranium or plutonium fission reactors.

    There is, of course, a cost to that choice. We would either have to reduce energy usage (either by efficiency or austerity), build more dirty, CO2-spewing fossil fuel plants, deploy more wind and solar and other renewables (which have their own costs), develop the other nuclear technologies (fusion and "energy amplifier" designs, still at the prototype stage at best), or some combination of these. There are also benefits besides eliminating meltdowns: nuclear waste, weapons proliferation, the ecological damage of uranium mining, "peak uranium", and terrorism concerns are all ameliorated by not having fission reactors.

    Another choice, as you say, is to build new fission reactors that are safer. Given that the pronouncements of how much "safer" these new designs are come from governments and industries with a history of spin and untruths, and are often spread by people who seem to have an emotional attachment to the idea of "Man Mastering the Primal Forces of the Universe!", it's appropriate to view them skeptically.

  • by Phoshi (1857806) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @10:53AM (#35471188)
    Except what alternatives do we have? Yes, nuclear power can go wrong, but in a modern nuclear reactor (Read: Not this, but anything we build in the future) the worst case scenario is serious damage to the plant and some minor radiation leaks. Chernobyl is a literal impossibility with new plants. But hey, nukes are bad, let's drop the tech - what else shall we use? Well, there's coal, oil, and gas - except while nuclear power does serious environmental damage in a worst case scenario, coal/oil/gas do serious environmental damage in regular use. So scratch that, they're crappy too. Let's take a look at the renewables sector - how about biomass? I mean, it's a pretty simple concept, and any emissions will be offset by growing more biomass. Perfect, we have our solution! Except you need somewhere to grow the biomass, and then you can't grow food. Electricity is nice, but we need food to live, so I guess biomass can't provide all of our energy. It can do some, but we need something else too. Alright, people talk about wind, solar, and wave energy a lot, there must be a good reason. Well, I look outside and while it's sunny, it's not windy - if my power supply isn't consistent it's worthless, so scratch wind and solar. Wave power? Well, the tides are fairly consistent, but the output simply can't match a full plant. Still, it works. So we have some power coming from biomass, and some from tidal power, and... well, crap. We've run out of viable options. Let's revisit a few old ones, then. Coal/Oil/Gas have serious environmental issues, but they've worked well so far. Nuclear is the safest of the lot (4 people have died from nuclear accidents in the last 20 years, over 4000 in coal alone), cheap, and clean - so er, why did we discount that one again? Because in an unprecedented earthquake, followed by a large tsunami, on an old design nobody makes any more, there's a *partial* meltdown? Any other plant in these circumstances would have fared much worse, and these reactors are old technology. It's not nuke fetishism, it's common sense.
  • by avgjoe62 (558860) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @11:30AM (#35471484)

    Chernobyl is a literal impossibility

    Not to get into one side or the other of this debate, but when I see something like that statement I have to point out that the Titanic was unsinkable. Never speak in absolutes. While the reactors of today may be safer than Chernobyl, they are products of fallible people and subject to failure themselves.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @11:41AM (#35471588) Journal
    If you're going to be sarcastic and resort to ad hominem arguments, you might want to try understanding the topic at hand first. A kilowatt is a measure of power, not of energy. You almost certainly did not use 344kW last month, you used 344kWh - a measure of energy - equivalent to 344kW of power for one hour, or about 0.47kW averaged over the month. Peak usage for a small house is very unlikely to be over about 3kW, maybe a bit more if you've got electric heating. 27kW per house would be enough that you could use your peak electricity usage 24 hours a day. If you'd used 344kW, then your total energy usage would have been 251120 kWh. About the cheapest that you'll find electricity is 5/kWh, so this works out at $12,556 in electricity costs per month - more realistically, you'd be paying about twice this. Or, to put it in perspective, your 'small postage stamp house' would be using more electricity than a moderate sized datacenter. You'd also be drawing quite a bit more power than a typical residential power main can handle.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday March 13, 2011 @11:54AM (#35471686)

    Sorry if that sounds eilitist, but its true. Just because radiation is involved does not mean it is evil.

    Because it it did, the Sun would be the most evil entity in the Solar System.

  • Re:what progress? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frekja (982708) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @12:22PM (#35471896)
    Your metaphor lacks one detail: all the bridges are toll bridges, and the Gen I bridges are still making money for their owners. As a result, they're reasonably happy to keep charging people to cross while they pay PR companies to promote newer, more exciting bridges which they aren't choosing to build (but could be persuaded to do so if Government helped them to pay for these spanky new bridges).
  • by dachshund (300733) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @12:26PM (#35471938)

    A quake of incredible magnitude quickly followed by a massive tsunami will probably kill tens of thousands leave the entire countryside ravaged for years, but the news are all focused on a handful of nuclear power plants that are having some problems.

    I realize that Slashdot is pro-nuclear, and hell, even I'm pro-nuclear. But please don't embarrass yourself or this site by referring to the ongoing disaster at Fukushima Daiichi as a plant "having some problems". I assure you the experts dealing with this problem are not minimizing the seriousness of what's going on. It's very serious, it's ongoing, and until the plant is stabilized, it's legitimate world news.

    A plant "having some problems" is a drop in power production, or a small tritium leak. At this point a catastrophic meltdown and containment breach seem unlikely, mostly because the reactor operators have resorted to essentially destroying the reactor by flooding it with doped seawater. There has already been some non-trivial radiation leakage, and a 20-km radius evacuation is underway. It really is newsworthy.

    The lesson that pro-nuclear folks should be learning from this disaster is that Fukushima Daiichi and similar 1960s-era reactors should not be operating in the year 2011, and most especially not in an area with high seismic activity. You know this, I know this, and I guarantee that the experts who run the plants knew it before the quake.

    While this particular incident seems to be under control, as long as these plants are operating, there's a very real possibility of a catastrophic meltdown somewhere, in the next few decades. And that will do ten times more to stop the deployment of nuclear power than Greenpeace --- or the Slashdot boogeyman of the day --- could ever do.

  • by WCguru42 (1268530) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:04PM (#35472290)

    ... (BTW those wind farms kill bats and birds).

    For the last time, your cat, and tall fucking buildings are killing birds much more effectively than windmills.

    A chart [wordpress.com] of bird deaths by cause.

  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:44PM (#35472672)

    The thing is, most of us aren't competent to analyse the engineering or the physics in detail. The only thing we can go on is the fact that the pro-nuclear lobby turn out repeatedly to be a bunch of complete liars. For example, after Chernobyl we were told "there are no such dangerous reactors allowed in first world countries"; then we suddenly hear that the Japanese reactors are older than Chernobyl. During this crisis, almost immediately people came out to say "a melt down of these reactors is impossible", yet these reactors have melted down. We heard that the leak was only radioactive steam from the cooling system; that the core wasn't compromised. Now we suddenly learn again that that was a lie. We repeatedly hear that wind power is more expensive than nuclear and then find out that the numbers are complete lies. All of the cost estimates for nuclear plants seem to turn out to have been done ignoring the cost of nuclear waste.

    I don't know if there are some safe nuclear plants. I don't know if we can reliably make safe nuclear plants. What I do know is that the same people keep repeatedly telling us that "nuclear power is safe" and then we keep having major failures which prove it isn't. I don't need to understand the engineering issues to understand that there is no way to trust the pro-nuclear lobby to actually deal with those issues. Fission based power (and yes; you are right fusion is a different case) needs to be severely limited until we are sure that the people proposing it are much much more trustworthy.

  • by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:51PM (#35472724)

    All non-fossil power generation is "hooked on subsidies" -- until we internalize the environmental costs of fossil fuels, nothing else is competitive and so everything else has to be subsidized.

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday March 13, 2011 @02:17PM (#35472958) Homepage

    Part of the problem the nuclear industry has is people just like Dr. Oehmen who seem to have a extreme confidence but then say things that don't make sense.

    For example, at one point he says that the cooling system failed because onsite generators were flooded, so they operated on battery power till they could get some portable generators moved to the site and operating. OK so far. Then he says that once they got the portable generators there, they couldn't use them because they came with the wrong plugs. (!) WTF -- chop the plugs and receptacles off and wire the damn things together directly.

    After that he says stuff like only radioactive nitrogen was in the steam and it decays in seconds. OK -- so why are people being admitted to the hospital with radiation sickness? Maybe because there was a release of cesium?

    He concludes that the system is totally safe and nothing bad can possibly happen.

    It is people like this who cause our problems because they allow confidence to overcome foresight.

  • Re:what progress? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @02:24PM (#35473018)

    The step you are missing is the bit, just after paragraph 1, where you advertise your new bridge as providing "safe and limitless river crossing for generations; so cheap nobody will even think to impose tolls". Then, when people start getting washed away you build fences to make sure that only one person crosses at a time so nobody can tell who the washed away people are. Later, you publish studies showing that due to the unavoidable risk of waterfalls all river ferries are incredibly dangerous and much more expensive than anybody ever knew. Finally you start accusing everybody who ever claimed your version 1 bridge was unsafe of knowing nothing about water and that if only they all learned about the theory of swimming they would know that nobody will be killed by water in future.

    perhaps you are right and nuclear is now safe. It's just very difficult to believe it just because the nuclear industry says it's true.

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday March 13, 2011 @02:28PM (#35473036) Homepage
    Probably the most damaging evidence against nuclear power is its supporters who seem to have an excess of confidence and deficit of prudence. Such people are dangerous and rational people everywhere recognize them as such.

    To bring in the car analogy, you don't need to be a racing expert to know it's a bad idea to ride around with stunting teen driver whose confidence exceeds reality, anymore than you need a degree in nuclear physics to know that those who claim everything is absolutely safe and nothing bad can ever happen are probably being similarly reckless.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 13, 2011 @02:32PM (#35473068)

    For example, after Chernobyl we were told "there are no such dangerous reactors allowed in first world countries"; then we suddenly hear that the Japanese reactors are older than Chernobyl.

    The following are true statements:
    A and B are reactors.
    A is a Chernobyl.
    B is older than Chernobyl.

    Which of the following must also be true?
    a) B is a Chernobyl.
    b) B is less safe than a Chernobyl.
    c) The parent is a moron.

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @04:45PM (#35474146) Journal

    As religions go, the Greenpeace crowd are almost as crazy/stupid/deluded as the Southern Baptist crowd.

    You should probably get to know a few Southern Baptists before you say something so incredibly ignorant.

  • by Bengie (1121981) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @05:13PM (#35474368)
    The only nuclear setup I know of that doesn't "melt down" is the pellet design. Instead of rods, they use small pellets encapsulated in graphite. Too much surface area to melt down, even if all the coolant was removed.

    Much more expensive, but quite a bit safer. You also get an easier clean up because the graphite shells keep all the nuclear material contained.

    As for wind, it is unreliable. Power grids are not meant for fluctuating supply. Wind can augment a stable power supply like nuclear/coal, but it cannot replace it. You still need a "smart grid" if you plan to have a large scale roll out of Wind/Solar because a sudden breeze would overload the power grid if you have too many Wind generators, and a sudden drop in wind would cause a brown-out. Power plants cannot change output very fast and a bunch of "Green" energy creating huge power spikes would burn out lots of parts and it would cost more than nuclear in the long run.

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