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Japan Power Hardware Science

Radioactive Water Found In Two Reactor Buildings 442

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hot-shower-won't-help dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said it detected several kinds of radioactive material in the water on the floor of reactor buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The isotopes found in the water were cobalt-76, technetium-99, silver-108, iodine-131, iodine-134, four isotopes of cesium, barium-140 and lanthanum-140. All have half-lives measured in hours or days, with the exception of cesium-137."
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Radioactive Water Found In Two Reactor Buildings

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  • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:43PM (#35641128)

    That rule of thumb fails if said element happens to decay into yet another radioactive isotopes. Like, say, uranium...

    Somewhat, though you're not going to get much of that other radioactive isotope if you start with a few grams of something that has a half-life of hundreds of thousands of years.

  • Re:you don't say! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Solandri (704621) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:00PM (#35641430)
    Several of the radioactive elements they're finding have half lives of a few hours (I-134 and Ag-108 are less than an hour). For those decay products to be found in significant quantities 2 weeks after shutdown indicates the source of the water has a large concentration of these decay products. This would suggest a leak in the reactor's containment, rather than residual run-off from the water dumping/spraying operations. Reactor 2 sustained a hydrogen explosion inside containment, probably within the torus/suppression pool. So this isn't really a surprise.

    Reactor 3 had no reports of a similar explosion, but they are inferring that containment is breached based on higher than expected radiation measurements. That is the more worrisome one, since it's using a MOX fuel rather than plain uranium. However, they are reporting that reactor 3 isn't losing pressure, so maybe there isn't a leak.

    If you check my post history, you'll see I'm adamantly for nuclear power. But we shouldn't downplay what these reports are telling us.
  • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:06PM (#35641510)

    That's not a very well informed argument, although your target selection is not too bad.

    The unwashed masses stop listening because they want to be scared. They want to be scared because anyone whom doesn't watch garbage like the mainstream media produces... does not watch that garbage.

    You know how much of a pain in the ass it is to sit next to the guy at the magic show who spends all his time telling everyone around him how its all fake and I bet I know how it works? Or the guy at the horror movie whom feels the need to tell everyone around him how its all fake and none of it is real? What a PITA for the folks whom want to be entertained.

    Same way with the TV news viewers. They literally don't want the truth, so stop trying to tell them. They want to be scared. If you somehow convince them not to be scared about this thing, they'll be pissed that you've "ruined the fun" as they wait for the next scary story.

    With a memory best measured in days or weeks, I don't think the opinion of the general unwashed masses really matters for nuclear power, at all.

    Now on /. its OK to tell the truth about whats going on. Some of us actually want to know. But keep the non-fiction here and the fiction out there on the TV news where it belongs.

  • Re:you don't say! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GooberToo (74388) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:15PM (#35641624)

    The lesson for the future is to include redundant diesel generators

    And more importantly, don't place your backups at or below sea level; and especially not so when on the coast. And especially, especially not so when tsunamis are prevalent in your region. The absolutely obvious stupidity is jaw dropping.

    I would seriously like to know why the IAEC didn't have something to say about that long before this happened. Even moreso, I'd like to know why they didn't have generators in standby for such emergencies; as is commonly done in the US. I actually thought this was an international standard. And even moreso, I'd like to know why generators were not immediately made available within the first 12-hours by the military after an emergency had been declared. Had any of this been done, there would have never been an initial emergency declared, let alone an ever growing escalation.

    Everything about this smacks of massive human incompetent by the Japanese government and the utility company, which seemingly, has unyielding authority which seems to usurp that of the people and even the government.

    The final word in analysis, once its actually penned, is likely to be a scathing review of incompetence at almost every level of governance and corporatism.

    They had helicopters functioning. Its not like all of Japanese society ceased to function. It literally would have been trivial to have a generator, or a series of generators delivered within the first twelve hours. Hell, contrary to the popular spin, their inability to deliver the most basic of emergency services by their military strongly suggests that they were in fact, completely unprepared for any and all emergencies they are likely to face.

  • you don't understand human psychology

    here's a guide to help you get started as to how and why you are so out of touch with the subject matter:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/weekinreview/27johnson.html [nytimes.com]

    Measured by sheer fury, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that damaged the reactors was mightier than millions of Hiroshima bombs. It shoved the northeastern coast of Japan eastward and unleashed a tsunami that wiped civilization from the coast. But explosive power comes and goes in an instant. It is something the brain can process.

    With radiation, the terror lies in the abstraction. It kills incrementally — slowly, diffusely, invisibly. “Afterheat,” Robert Socolow, a Princeton University professor, called it in an essay for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “the fire that you can’t put out.”

    Nuclear scientists speak in terms of half-life, the time it takes for random disintegrations to reduce a radioactive sample to half its size. Then a quarter, an eighth, a 16th — whether measured in microseconds or eons, the mathematical progression never ends.

    When traces of radioactive iodine were found last week in the drinking water in Tokyo, officials expressed the danger in becquerels, the number of nuclear disintegrations per second: 210 per liter, safe for adults but high enough to warn that infants should not drink it. As the government began distributing bottled water, the level fell significantly but not the fear. As far away as California there was a run on fallout detectors.

    As these hypothetical microthreats ate at the mind, rescue workers were piling up real bodies — 10,000 so far — killed by crushing waves or their aftereffects, deaths caused by gravity, not nuclear forces. These dead will be tabulated, mourned and eventually forgotten. The toll will converge on a finite number.

    In Chernobyl, the site of the world’s previous big nuclear accident, the counting continues, like languid ticks from a Geiger counter. A United Nations study in 2005 concluded that about 50 people had been killed by the meltdown but that 4,000 would ultimately die from radiation-caused cancer — victims who do not know who they are. The most debilitating effect, one investigator said, has been “a paralyzing fatalism,” a malaise brought on by an alien presence that almost seems alive.

    human psychology, smug techies. learn it, or be irrelevant

  • by Rising Ape (1620461) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:30PM (#35641874)

    Its radiotoxicity is very significant, more so than its chemical toxicist. Ingested alpha emitters are nasty - Thorotrast [wikipedia.org] was highly carcinogenic despite Thorium having a 14 billion year long half life and so being only weakly radioactive.

    Of course, Thorotrast was ingested in huge quantities, which won't happen for this plutonium.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:42PM (#35642078)

    This is all just a minor accident that could have been avoided if it weren't for the hippies who won't let us build completely safe reactors to replace the existing completely safe reactors. Right?

    I know you're trying to be sarcastic but unfortunately you're correct. The ones that melted down had sorta-crappy Mark I containment structures. They were planning on building replacements on site with much better containment structures... To some extent its just bad luck, but note how they blew up almost in order of construction and the newest ones pretty much shrugged it all off.

  • actually I thought the GPs point was valid and well made. it's this:

    You know how much of a pain in the ass it is to sit next to the guy at the magic show who spends all his time telling everyone around him how its all fake and I bet I know how it works?

    CNN/Fox/et. al. have access to many qualified, tv-friendly experts who could put the Fukushima accident in perspective, but they choose not to. Why? Because their audience is not interested in reporting, they are interested in "news". They want the "magic" and "horror" of real live disasters. They are not interested in seeing the "magic" or "horror" revealed as neither magic nor particularly that horrifying.

    Not everyone who fears/hates nuclear power falls into this category. Not even everyone who watches cable news channels. But it does seem an interesting insight into why the cable news channels prefer talking heads who hype the disaster over experts who would offer a more even-handed and sedate assessment of the situation.

  • Re:you don't say! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GooberToo (74388) on Monday March 28, 2011 @02:22PM (#35642702)

    As I understand it, the site has several redundant diesel generators as backups.

    From what I've read, they all started and failed when water reached them. That's what I'm basing my comments on.

    which understandably caused them to fail to start.

    Reports are, they started and ran for an hour before the tsunami reached them. Which again, is entirely the basis for my comment.

    As for just hooking up any random generator flown in by helicopter, apparently that is just not possible as a) they don't deliver the right voltage/amperage of electric current and b) the equipment for transforming it from the wrong to the right stuff is sitting in an inundated basement.

    That seems like a bullshit statement. You're trying to tell me there are no emergency generators available in all of Japan which are designed for the sole purpose of powering these reactors in case of an emergency? Are you seriously arguing no other reactors use these generators? Are you seriously saying the military has no convertors? No generators on trucks - as every other industrialized nation in the world does?

    Yes, apparently they could and should have been better prepared.

    Yes, meaning, prepared at all - as other industrialized nations are.

    Also, why there was no way to jury-rig some kind of power connection directly to the pumps themselves is unclear to me.

    Any industrial electrical engineer can do this. Its not technically difficult so long as you have the expertise. Seemingly you're arguing both the entire country and the military are completely without said expertise and yet they were only slightly unprepared. Ya, right.

    What surprises me is that it apparently takes quite a lot of cooling -after- the control rods have come down. I'm not the only one who was under the mistaken impression that lowering them stops the reaction and after that it's pretty much over and done with and you can sit back and relax.

    This explains a lot. You seemingly have no idea what you're talking about but insist on interjecting your self admitted, unlearned, view of things.

    The silly thing is, nuclear fission is basically a stop-gap until we have nuclear fusion or something even better.

    You do understand that in a thousand years we may still be looking at stop-gap measures. And if you bother to actually look, we are no closer to fusion today that we were a hundred years ago. Seriously, go look. The technological hurdles are extremely complex and profound. Even worse, the projects which have continuously failed to advance the state of the art continue to receive some 90% of the funding. The projects which theoretically show real promise continue to receive little or no funding. We literally have a better chance of inviting unicorns and pixies in the next hundred years than we do of powering our world with fusion.

    If it still takes so much cooling to prevent things from going wrong this badly, then my view of nuclear fission as a source of power is significantly more negative than it was previously.

    And this is exactly why we have this problem in the first place. Sad but true. Newer reactor designs don't have this problem. These reactors were designed fifty years ago and built forty years ago. The problem doesn't exist in newer designs. Yet these designs exist because anti-nukers actively prevent them being built. Which means designs which typically are certified for twenty years, are still running thirty, forty, and fifty years after being built because anti-nukers making it all but impossible for them to be shutdown without a replacement. And since you can't built a replacement because of anti-nukers, we have problems like these.

    In a nut shell, anti-nukers are the cause of shit like this. Literally, if you killed all anti-nukers tomorrow, the world would be a better, safer, cleaner place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @04:48PM (#35644448)

    Well, to pull the cores you need working cranes and you need somewhere to store the hot core. Hot in both senses - and still generating a LOT of heat.

    There's no power - the cranes are damaged, all the systems that lift the tops off the reactor so the core can be accessed are damaged, and the core is filled with hydrogen and steam at 300C - and the steam is full of fairly nasty short lived isotopes.

    The storage pools are damaged and likely leaking highly radioactive water .....

    Frankly I'd be leaving the damned things closed and hoping they go away on their own as well ....

    And note this is now a very bad situation, hot salt water is incredibly corrosive, it'll have been leaching material from the damaged cores. There's a lot of water gone in, it has to have been going somewhere. And despite the cries of "It's all good" from the Nuke lovers in the crowd - all is not good - losing track of hot core material is a "very bad thing (tm)", this is not small quantities of short lives isotopes, it's a mix that'll be dangerous long term . It's gone somewhere, it's either in the soil around the reactor, in the groundwater around the reactor, or in the sea. And there's more than trace amounts of it - all that water that went in went somewhere afterwards.

    In an area that eats a lot of fish - that's going to have effects for years. Maybe not deaths from radiation, but the economic damage will be considerable.

    And before you say "This can't happen here", what happens in the US if you have a "Mt Saint Helens" and end up with 3m of ash covering a reactor ?.
    No incoming power, your diesels are choked with ash, and you can't get more fuel in anyway.

    The problem with current reactor designs is that they don't just stop and cool off on their own, they need continual human intervention to stay safe.

    I have no objection to Nuclear power, but I do object to it being featherbedded - if it can't cover the downside costs on it's profits, it's not economic. And that's the situation in Japan and the US - The operators walk with the profits and the govt. in both places (i.e. the taxpayers) carries the risk when shit happens.

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