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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 elrous0 (869638) * on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:17PM (#35640750)

    You can keep your sieverts. I prefer to measure radiation by the level of socially-isolating, mutated superpowers that it produces. Are any of the plant workers brooding yet, or developing secret identities, or lamenting how society has shunned them, or experiencing montage sequences where they learn how to use their new powers?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:21PM (#35640776)

    This does not have a half life in days, but years

    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/28/3-types-of-plutonium-detected-at-japans-fukushima-daiichi-plant/

    This is extremely bad

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:29PM (#35640922)

      This is extremely bad

      Oh my God, the protons in your body have a half-life of over 10^30 years!

      You, uh, do realise that the longer the half-life the _less_ radioactive something is? Generally speaking, plutonium is more likely to kill you because it's toxic than because it's radioactive (unless someone makes a bomb out of it).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        > You, uh, do realise that the longer the half-life the _less_ radioactive something is?

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

        • 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.

        • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:53PM (#35641300)

          .... not really no.

          it ups it but if your isotope with a 20K year half life decays into something something with a halflife of say (for an example that would be easy on the math)5 seconds then you'll get twice as much radioactivity out of it (assuming the seconds products are as dangerous forms of radiation) with a little variation.

          a isotope with a 20K halflife will still be utterly dwarfed in terms of radiation output by something with a halflife of a few decades even if the former has a decay chain 10 isotopes long because it can only add a linear multiplier, not an exponential increase in radiation output.

          once you're into halflives in the tens of thousands be more afraid of heavy metal poisoning than radiation poisoning.

        • by cforciea (1926392)
          Sort of. You only generate the fast decaying isotopes as quickly as your slower isotope decays, so the radioactivity in cases like that only goes up linearly. An isotope with a 2 million year half-life is still going to emit way less radiation than one with a 2 day halflife, even if it decays into an isotope that decays into an isotope that decays into an isotope each with a half-life of seconds.
      • by increment1 (1722312) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:53PM (#35641314)

        From what I read, plutonium is pretty bad if you inhale or ingest it, otherwise not too much of a problem. If it gets into you it can stay in you for years, causing cancer and bone problems (it can get into your bones and bone marrow).

        Outside of your skin, the radiation is too weak to cause much concern, but when it is inside you, the radiation is enough to cause reasonably serious harm (or at least the potential therein).

    • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:23PM (#35641772)

      Plutonium in perspective [nextbigfuture.com].

      As far as widespread release of Plutonium into our environment is concerned, consider this:

      The most important effects of plutonium toxicity by far are those due to nuclear bombs exploded in the atmosphere. Only about 20% of the plutonium in a bomb is consumed, while the rest is vaporized and floats around in the Earth's atmosphere as a fine dust. Over 10,000 pounds of plutonium has been released in that fashion by bomb tests to date, enough to cause about 4,000 deaths worldwide. Note that the quantity already dispersed by bomb tests is more than 10 million times larger than the annual releases allowed by EPA regulations from an all breeder reactor electric power industry.

      Plutonium is not good for you, but the sky has yet to fall, and seems unlikely to in the future.

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

    by AdamThor (995520) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:21PM (#35640782)

    Huh. So you say they dumped water all over the radioactive disaster with helicopters, firetrucks, a big concrete pump truck, and now the basement of the reactor is filled with radioactive water?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kimvette (919543)

      Yes, and in related breaking news, it has been discovered that water is indeed wet!

      I am soo tired of the sensationalized stories surrounding Japan's "nuclear crisis." I'm interested in hearing objective news grounded in science, and that there are "trace amounts" of plutonium found on the grounds surrounding the reactor is only barely newsworthy. What is newsworthy is that the containment units withstood a 9.0 quake which is many orders of magnitude greater than the design specified. That is impressive and

      • Re:you don't say! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:49PM (#35641216)

        I'm interested in hearing objective news

        No, you're interested in news reinforcing your subjective opinion; just like everybody else.

      • Re:you don't say! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mbkennel (97636) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:54PM (#35641326)

        The "trace amounts" are newsworthy because they indicate that the inner steel containment has been cracked and so have a few of the fuel pellets.

        In particular, these isotopes are fission products, which are supposed to stay solid and encased in their cladding.

        Previous radioactive materials were probably a consequence of neutron activation and had short half-lives, but weren't long term cause for concern.

      • what happened at fukushima might not be as horrible as the media portrays. however, you have to understand, when the general public sees this kind of accident and some techie starts scoffing and arrogantly laughing and proclaiming how insignicant this accident is THEY STOP LISTENING TO YOU

        there is an educated person on a given subject matter, and an uneducated person. what does it take to turn the uneducated person educated? well, not the attitude you see on display in the post above

        when the educated person acts like an arrogant ass, the uneducated people doesn't learn anything except that you have an ego problem. they immediately tune you out, and most importantly, they decide, without your input, that nuclear power is too dangerous and insist to their politicians that we don't use it. because no one educated them. they just scoffed at them

        do you want nuclear power to be widely adopted? then impassionately and concisely summarize why things might not be as bas they seem to be to the average person. when they ask a stupid question, or display colossal ignorance on a subject matter, smile and educate them simply and succinctly. or laugh at them. and see nuclear power get mothballed everywhere

        frankly, ego problems like on display in the comment board above are more irresponsible than an uneducated public. because they show that the educated are more interested in proclaiming their "superiority" (eg, their ego problems) than actually informing people

        congratulations jackass: your attitude helps kill nuclear power

        • 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.

          • i pointed out people with ego problems more interested at scoffing at the uneducated than educating them, and this yahoo replies by being exactly the sort of archetypical arrogant jackass i am talking about:

            "The unwashed masses stop listening because they want to be scared."

            oh, really? congratulations, you have an ego problem

            being uneducated on nuclear power is not uncommon, it is normal. being ready and interested in being educated is not uncommon, it is normal. unfortunately, techies with ego problems, mo

            • 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.

              • if you understand something about the psychology of people's attentions, then you can and should begin to understand how it is permanent, intractable, and just an unchanging facet of human nature. now what? laugh at it? scoff at it? get depressed? use it to tell yourself how superior you are?

                analogy: car rides are far more dangerous than airplane flights. but the average person perceives the opposite. the psychological reason is the aspect of control, or the illusion of it. in an airplane, you are handing control of your life over to a pilot. a dedicated trained seasoned pilot with many safety and security protocols, but you are handing over control nonetheless. in a car, you have your hands on the steering wheel: you are in control. but this is an illusion, because you are on a road with hundreds of other people also driving, and texting, and applying makeup, and drunk, and they have power over your life by their actions behind the steering wheel. it doesn't matter how good a driver you are if one of the hundreds of assholes around you crosses over the yellow line

                psychologically, it is about what you can perceive as finite and concrete (a tsunami) versus what you cannot perceive as limitless and never-ending (nuclear decay and radiation). perception, and control: more important to human psychology than other risk factors

                so if you emphasize to someone what they can perceive, and what they can control, about nuclear radiation, you demystify it, you make it concrete, you make it within their grasp. and thus you reduce the fear and panic and hysteria

        • I can't help but be amused that your post berating someone's attitude closes with "congratulations jackass"...

        • by sjames (1099)

          Sincere question for the sensationalist media: Show us one person who shows any sign of actual harm from this nuclear incident. Now stand him next to any of the many people harmed by the tsunami.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            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 t

            • You are going to have to smack them quite a bit harder.

              And then only for my amusement, as they are incapable of understanding your point here. My dog gets it, they don't and won't.

        • by khallow (566160) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:25PM (#35641808)

          what happened at fukushima might not be as horrible as the media portrays. however, you have to understand, when the general public sees this kind of accident and some techie starts scoffing and arrogantly laughing and proclaiming how insignicant this accident is THEY STOP LISTENING TO YOU

          THEY WEREN'T LISTENING IN THE FIRST PLACE. Sometimes you only can get people to listen to you by disagreeing "arrogantly".

        • by lennier (44736)

          do you want nuclear power to be widely adopted?

          No.

          your attitude helps kill nuclear power

          Excellent. Go right ahead snarking, Slashdot. The sooner fission gets shut down, the fewer catastrophic 'once in a million years' leaks every twenty years we'll have.

      • Re:you don't say! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:56PM (#35641366)
        Yeah. Of course. The containment withstood the quake. That's why it is still CONTAINING that plutonium. And I, Cs, Tc and whatnot. That is why we see dose rates of 1 Sv/h in water OUTSIDE the containment. But hey - no matter. Radiation is healthy and ingesting Pu is like chewing on an iron nail, as read further up this thread. You guys are getting somewhat embarrassing by now.
      • 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.

        • Re:you don't say! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Monday March 28, 2011 @02:21PM (#35642692)

          > It literally would have been trivial to have a generator, or a series of generators delivered within the first twelve hours.

          Or for that matter just airdrop complete self powered pumps and hook those up. Before the area became a radioactive hell on earth just how hard could it have been to drop in a pump, hook it up to the inlet and let it rip. Hell, in the DAYS that elapsed with no water in those reactors we could have flown a single pump from New Orleans that could have put enough water into those things to blow the fracking tops off the steel containment vessels and created geysers a thousand feet high over all four of those damned reactors. And it is a veritable certainly that somewhere in Japan existed an equally powerful pump or three. The investigations and recriminations over this pooch screw is going to go on for decades.

        • by lennier (44736)

          The absolutely obvious stupidity is jaw dropping.

          Yes, isn't it? And the really scary part is that the 'obvious' stupidity in the design was done by General Electric and approved by the best nuclear regulatory authorities in the world.

          The lesson is that 40 years ago, when Top Men told us that commercial fission was perfectly safe, they were either unbelievably stupid, or lying, or both.

          But those same companies and organizations are perfectly trustworthy today?

      • by sirsnork (530512)

        Except it didn't withstand a 9.0 quake. The 9.0 quake was quite some distance out to sea, but the time it got to Japan it wouldn't have been nearly as strong as that

    • by siddesu (698447)

      No, what is being said is that this most likely indicates holes in the reactor containers. Those same containers that TEPCO has been saying are safe since the week when we had daily explosions. In another week, they'll finally come around to say, one by one, that they've had meltdowns in 1, 2 and 3, and that there is significant leakage from the spent fuel in 4.

      Then, maybe, we can start learning the truth of what really is happening in Fukushima.

    • 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.
  • Radioactivity? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JBMcB (73720) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:21PM (#35640786)

    Let's see - they've been pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of seawater into the spent fuel pools for over a week now. I would take a wild guess and predict that, yes, there will be some radioactive water lying around.

    • by polar red (215081)

      Radioactive fishes. radioactivity will accumulate in the top of the food-chain.

    • Re:Radioactivity? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Fibe-Piper (1879824) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:51PM (#35641278) Journal

      Let's see - they've been pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of seawater into the spent fuel pools for over a week now. I would take a wild guess and predict that, yes, there will be some radioactive water lying around.

      Makes sense to me. The problem is, through concentrated disinformation, the corporation in charge has been very good at minimizing the extent of the issues their lack of preparedness has caused the people of Japan.

      Everything is being relayed in terms of what they are doing to prevent this or that nuclear side-disaster; nothing to do with the effects of the disaster that has already occurred and continues to occur.

    • by fnj (64210)

      But what you wouldn't expect is plutonium to be found in the environment. You wouldn't expect that unless the fuel rods have been damaged and some of the radioactive fuel has escaped.

      And what you overlook is that the report is not that there is water loose that is radioactive, but that there is water loose that is 100,000 times more radioactive than normal for water INSIDE THE REACTOR. Not in the environment; not in the building, but IN THE CORE.

  • by amazeofdeath (1102843) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:22PM (#35640794)

    Technetium-99 has a half-life of over 200k years. Of course, it's still days, just a lot of them.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      The reason that materials with half lives of 200k years last so long is because they don't emit much radiation, i.e. they're relatively safe to work with (unless they're poisonous).

      The ones you need to worry about are the ones which are decaying rapidly, i.e. the ones with short half-lives.

      • by russotto (537200)

        The ones you need to worry about are the ones which are decaying rapidly, i.e. the ones with short half-lives.

        The ones with very short half-lives are not so bad either, since they only need to be contained for a relatively short amount of time until they aren't dangerous anymore.

        The worst are the ones with half-lives short enough that they're pretty energetic, long enough that they'll stick around, and which can bioaccumulate. Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, for instance. Or several plutonium isotopes.

    • by Artraze (600366) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:55PM (#35641348)

      As others pointed out, they're probably referring to Tc99m, which has a short half life. The fact that ground state Tc99 has a half life of roughly forever is probably why it's not mentioned... It's so long that you need a lot of it to get a lot of decays. It's also fairly unreactive and doesn't form any particularly soluble salts (as best as I can tell), so the exposure possibility is limited. Finally, it decays with a fairly low every beta (294keV) and only very rarely emits a low energy gamma (90keV @ 0.0006%).

      Compare to Cs137 which has a 30yr half life, so it has the same decay rate as 7,000 times as much Tc99. It forms highly soluble salts and can be absorbed by the body and concentrated in plants. On top of that, it has a much higher decay energy, and usually emits a strong beta (514keV) and gamma (662keV). It makes the Tc99 look like so many bananas. So, they aren't technically correct, but Tc99 isn't really important.

      For reference:
      Tc99m: http://ie.lbl.gov/toi/nuclide.asp?iZA=430399 [lbl.gov]
      Tc99: http://ie.lbl.gov/toi/nuclide.asp?iZA=430099 [lbl.gov]
      Cs137: http://ie.lbl.gov/toi/nuclide.asp?iZA=550137 [lbl.gov]

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:22PM (#35640796)

    They said we're all gonna dieeeeee!!!!!

    But apparently I find out how, after these commercials... damnit! Now I gotta hang around this channel all day!

    • We are all going to die. Of course, I can't tell you how, since we will die in many different ways. However, I can tell you this, 200 years from now, everyone who is alive today will be dead. There are several theories as to why this is the case, but personally, I blame it on breathing oxygen. I don't know if you have noticed, but everyone who breathes oxygen, dies sooner or later.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I blame it on breathing oxygen. I don't know if you have noticed, but everyone who breathes oxygen, dies sooner or later.

        Unfortunately, 100% of people who don't breath oxygen also end up dead, and usually in a shorter period of time.

        Tough call.

      • I can tell you this, 200 years from now, everyone who is alive today will be dead.

        Except Cher, who will still be around.

    • by radtea (464814) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:34PM (#35640988)

      They said we're all gonna dieeeeee!!!!!

      Which is what they said after TMI and Chernobyl and for all I know Windscale as well.

      If nuclear power is so damned dangerous where are the piles of dead bodies?

      Call me when the number of people in the past thirty years gets up to 0.1% of the number killed by automobiles, or half the number killed by coal power in all its dreadful glory.

      Nuclear power has serious economic issues. If it had significant safety issues it would have killed WAY more people by now.

      And no, Greenpeace propoganda about us not being able to prove that Chernobyl didn't kill 10,000 people world-wide per year in the past 20 years doesn't count. Every reputable health authority that has looked at the consequence of the Chernobyl disaster has pegged the number in the low thousands at the most. No fun fore those people, but the vastly larger number of people killed by coal and cars aren't having any fun either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Beelzebud (1361137)
        Live in the Chernobyl exclusion zone for 20 years, and lets see how good your health is. I support nuclear power, but people like you really don't help at all. You're the opposite side of the Greenpeace coin.
        • by Wyatt Earp (1029)

          People and animals do live in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Exclusion Zone though.

          Thousands of people, many of them elderly, refused to leave 25 years ago, now about 4-500 live there.

          Animal life is exploding there as well, with very little animal mutations seen so far.

        • Work down a coal mine for 20 years and let me know how good your health is.

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:29PM (#35640932)
    I'm fine with nuclear power. I'm not fine with nuclear power plants being run by greedy assholes that put the profit margin above the safety margin. We have a few reactors here in the U.S. that are obviously being ran "on the cheap", and frankly those companies should be ran out of town, and taken over by people that put the public safety first.
    • It appears that this reactor was poorly designed in the first place (the technology was new for them and they did not know what they were doing). If they had known what they were doing, they would have worried more about Tsunamis.
      It also appears that the company operating it had a *very* cosy relationship with the people responsible for safety. Used elements were simply left on site and had been for years. The safety people apparently did not bother coming around and actually checking.

      Recent news indicat

      • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:49PM (#35641226) Homepage Journal
        Couple that with a culture that tends to frown on whistle blowing and reporting your superiors and you have a real problem on your hands. While this is the first major nuke incident in Japan, there is a long record of serious safety violations and technicians and engineers not willing to go behind their bosses back to report them. In 2003 [ft.com] TEPCO was caught forging documents at ALL 17 of it's reactors. This is far from an isolated incident.
      • by rubycodez (864176)
        Spent fuel has to be "left on site" in cooling pools for 10 to 20 years, depending on what type of cask storage to which it is going, and that's IF there is on-site cask storage. So "used elements" couldn't have been anywhere else but on site.
      • by gman003 (1693318)
        Actually, from what I can tell, the reactor design was "outsourced" to companies that had been doing it for some time, like General Electric. And the operating company had cooperated with them several times before at other plants.

        The only real problems are the lack of strong oversight (as you mentioned) and the fact that the reactors were very close to the end of their designed lifespan anyways, and were due to be shutdown within a year (a month, for one of them) due to their age.

        The solution to the lat
        • by vlm (69642)

          Actually, from what I can tell, the reactor design was "outsourced" to companies that had been doing it for some time, like General Electric. And the operating company had cooperated with them several times before at other plants.

          And the initial business decision to install GE BWRs was made shortly after losing a world war. And coincidentally one of the biggest corporations on the winning side was selling ..... BWRs.

          Theres also some hard core national security type stuff going on with respect to commercial plant design vs military plant design. Its such a struggle to balance experience with security. From a safety standpoint you should be better off exporting what you use in your subs, except that subs inherently are not as susce

    • by erroneus (253617)

      And yet, that's what we have. It's not that the Japanese "couldn't" have ensured that the backup power was operational, it's that they didn't. Unfortunately, I work close to some people with some rather interesting insight into Japanese business and the Japanese nuclear business in particular.

      Somehow I feel the US is not as bad as that, but I would be afraid to "test" to see if that is actually the case. And given the safety record we see in coal mines, I get the feeling there is simply a lot that I don'

    • by danlor (309557)

      I'm not.... not sure I ever will be again. I have long supported nukes for power as a good alternative to our many other heavily polluting technologies. But I was over looking a major detail. The systems are not and cannot be fail safe.

      At the same time, there is no other competing technology that has anything close to the potential downside that nuclear energy has. I always worried about reactor control, and never really gave much thought to the holding pools. But the pools have much more fuel, and are not

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        Back during the Eisenhower administration, people were talking about power "too cheap to meter". Now, I admit, if it really were too cheap to meter (producing huge amounts of electricity), I think I could live with maybe 1 or 2 nuclear power plants per country.

        But given that it's not, and the (small) risk of catastrophic failure, it hardly seems worth it.

      • Not sure why you feel that way. These reactors have been through a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami, but still there's not a single death due to direct exposure to radiation. If anything, this demonstrates how safe nuclear power it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235)

      I'm fine with nuclear power. I'm not fine with nuclear power plants being run by greedy assholes that put the profit margin above the safety margin.

      Like Chernobyl?

      • Is that supposed to refute what I said? Chernobyl used a bad design, and they were experimenting around on it, during the night shift. In other words, the public safety aspect was low on their list. We don't live in a communist system, so just saying Chernobyl doesn't refute anything. The reality is that we have private companies that run our reactors, and if those companies aren't putting public safety first, then they don't deserve to run the reactors. If you disagree with that, then I'm not su
        • by 0123456 (636235)

          Is that supposed to refute what I said?

          Chernobyl was run by a government with no concern about 'profit margin', and that lead to the biggest nuclear power disaster in the history of the world. So why do you think the world would be better off if nuclear reactors were run without regard for 'profit margin' (i.e. by governments)?

          Back in the real world, reactors run by companies concerned about 'profit margin' have killed far less people than coal power. Even in this case, from what I've read I believe a failed hydro power dam has killed more peopl

          • by swb (14022)

            Chernobyl was run by a government with no concern about 'profit margin',

            You mean a party with no official profit philosophy.

            High level party officials are always profit minded. Diverting building materials, concrete, and workers to their private dachas or for sale on the black market was quite common.

    • We don't have a power crisis, we don't have peak food, peak oil, or peak facebook views. We have peak people. Radioactive water is a solution, not a problem. -W
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:37PM (#35641030)

    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? RIGHT?

    IMHO the people who keep playing this down should go to Japan, get in one of those fancy radiation worker suits and CLEAN UP THIS HICCUP WITH THEIR OWN TWO HANDS, FFS.

    • 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.

  • The photo in the story comes with this caption: Aerial view shows white smoke billowing from a window in the No. 2 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 23. The Japanese unclear safety agency, NISA, said radioactive contaminants were found in water pooling on the floor of the turbine building. Unclear safety indeed!
  • by acidfast7 (551610) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:59PM (#35641418)
    it's nice to see people not only get upset about something once in a while, but to actually vote against it as well. The greens had double digit gains here in German elections. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baden-W%C3%BCrttemberg_state_election,_2011 [wikipedia.org]
  • The real problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:03PM (#35641462)

    We're missing the real problem here. If these test results are correct, (and there's some question about that) then there is still a critical reaction going on intermittently. The reactors's scrammed nearly two weeks ago and therefore couldn't be putting out something with a half life of days or hours unless fission had restarted. That would be a Very Bad Thing.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Fission is always taking place in nuclear fuel and spent fuel, as long as there are unstable isotopes present. It's just not very much fission.

      You can certainly have materials with a half-life of "days" two weeks after fission is "stopped". If the half-life is one day, then there's 1/2^14th as much as there used to be. While one part in 16 thousand or so is not very much, the detection threshold for radioisotopes is very low. How much they detected matters quite a lot.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday March 28, 2011 @01:22PM (#35641756) Homepage

    The best reports on reactor status are at Japan Atomic Industrial Forum [jaif.or.jp], which publishes a status table every day. This is addressed to people in the industry. They just list the facts, without explanation.

    The good news for March 28 is that Unit 3's containment is now listed as "undamaged" instead of "possibly damaged". Unit 2 is listed as "damaged and leakage suspected", and that's now the most worrisome unit.

    There's finally a fresh water supply for cooling. That's a big relief. Sea water cooling in a boil-off situation leaves tons of salt behind, and there was a real worry that the seawater cooling would stop working once too much salt accumulated. Fresh water cooling can continue indefinitely. It's not clear where the water is coming from. Hopefully they have a water line to a reliable source by now, and aren't just bringing in tanker trucks.

    The cores in units 1,2, and 3 still have exposed fuel rods. Until water injection into the core is working again, the reactor can't be brought to cold shutdown. Remember, the reactor vessel is pressurized and contains a mixture of water and steam. Injecting water into a boiler is inherently difficult. Injecting water into a damaged boiler in a ruined structure in a highly radioactive area is very tough.

    The spent fuel pool situation on reactors 3 and 4 is marginally under control. Seawater spray continues, but if they have to keep putting water in, the situation is still bad.

    They're weeks from a stable emergency shutdown.

    That's just the beginning. The situation isn't safe until there are again redundant closed loop cooling systems working. The current cooling hacks dump radioactive water into the ocean.

    Then comes decommissioning. The spent fuel pools have to be cooled for three years or so, and then the fuel rods transferred from the wrecked buildings to dry casks. It will probably be necessary to build another containment building around unit 2, at least. Units 1,2, and 3 are all too damaged to ever de-fuel normally. It's not clear what will be done there. Unit 4 wasn't fueled, but it had a hydrogen explosion while cooling was lost, and will probably never be restarted. Units 5 and 6 can potentially be restarted, but it's doubtful that they will be.

    • by Tailhook (98486) on Monday March 28, 2011 @03:17PM (#35643432)

      Great post. One issue with it:

      Units 5 and 6 can potentially be restarted, but it's doubtful that they will be.

      The history of nuclear power accidents does not support this. Three Mile Island No.1 reactor is still in operation in Pennsylvania. Chernobyl No.1, 2 and 3 reactors were operated for up to 14 years after No.4 blew up and contaminated Europe, and there are 11 other RBMK reactors still in operation elsewhere. The power reactor at the Windscale site was operated for 46 years after the graphite fire in the weapons reactor.

      Nuclear reactors represent astonishing capital investments by their builders, and by that I mean the companies, governments and citizens. Japan is dealing with rolling blackouts. This is intolerable in a nation that relies on meeting the demands of the export market. The No.5 and No.6 reactors represent about 2GW of generation capacity they desperately need.

      They'll bring those reactors up at some point.

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