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Japan Power Hardware

Things Get Worse at Fukushima 1122

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the good-luck-out-there-guys dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Radiation levels are skyrocketing around Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant as reports indicate that a radioactive core has overheated and melted through its containment vessel and onto a concrete floor. Radiation levels inside reactor two were recently gauged at 1,000 millisieverts per hour — a level so high that workers could only remain in the area for 15 minutes under current exposure guidelines."
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Things Get Worse at Fukushima

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  • Re:No!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan667 (564390) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @01:54PM (#35656452)
    the oil and coal lobby certainly want you to fear nuclear so the can continue to kill you slowly with coal plants that emit radiation and smog. Oh, and the wars for foreign oil.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @01:54PM (#35656456)

    They've set back nuclear energy for decades, at a time when we most need it.

    Guess we had better get used to more carbon dioxide.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:01PM (#35656586)

    The entire complex was being shut down in just a few months, why would they spend all the extra money trying to save the reactors if they were going to be decommissioned anyway?

  • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:02PM (#35656602)

    But this is not going to be a Chernobyl-level catastrophe..

    I really hate that the above statement is becoming the bright side at Fukushima. No matter what corporate greed or human error is uncovered in the coming years/months, the masses are going to remember the hysterics of this tragedy and remain opposed to nuclear energy for some time.

    Amazingly the damage and deaths caused by Deep Water Horizons and the rigs burning in Japan don't get near the hype. And the number of deaths caused by coal are virtually ignored.

  • Nuclear Energy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by should_be_linear (779431) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:03PM (#35656632)
    Nuclear (and coal) energy always seemed to me like old mainframe computers and renewables like Internet (distributed), modern, interesting, R&D. We just need to jump to new and abandon old. It will be difficult, but I think it is FAR from impossible. I know there are lots of people here on /. hypnotized by how great nuclear is. but I just prefer distributed everything better (including risks) as opposed to centralized.
  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:05PM (#35656658) Homepage

    1. This is actually proves nuclear is so resilient.

    2. We should build more nuclear plants.

    3. It was designed for the biggest quake we ever thought could happen.

    4. It was the big bad tsunami that caused the damage, not the earthquake.

    5. Nothing has happened, nothing is happening, and nothing is going to happen.

    6. We can trust whatever TEPCO is saying.

    7. People fall off of roofs.

    8. Windmills kill people.

  • by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:06PM (#35656684)

    The reason they've been unable to obtain funding is because they've been unable to obtain authorization to build it. If you come up to me asking for money to build a plant that is illegal to build, I'm not going to give you any money.

    And the reason it's illegal to build safer plants is because the public lumps ALL "nukyulur" into the same "oh shit it's dangerous" boat. It doesn't matter what tech you use, or how safe it is: to the public, you're building Chernobyl Mile Island Daichi and must therefore be run out of town.

    Hell, when they started irradiating food to kill bugs that could kill people, they found that they couldn't sell it. They had to coin a new marketing word (picowave!) so that the mouthbreathing morons that make up most of the public wouldn't think someone had slipped plutonium into their frozen peas.

    So until we get the public over its irrational fear of anything radioactive, we will never see nuclear technological advancements applied. Ever.

    And as I said yesterday, once we get the public over that fear, we still have to address the *real* problems of Nuclear: What to do with the waste, and how to stop cheap bastard energy corporations from cutting safety corners in the name of profits.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:10PM (#35656744) Journal

    When that didn't work out and it was clear that they had absolutely no other option, TEPCO began pumping seawater in. They did everything they could to avoid writing the reactors off.

    And that's unreasonable because...?

  • This is part of the planned failure mode of the reactor.

    Apparently earthquake and tsunami's were part of the planned failure modes of the reactors as well. We've all seen how well things have gone so far. Why should we believe the company now? How do we know that this is really all part of some planned failure scenario and not simply another unexpected disaster beyond their control and indeed understanding?

    But this is not going to be a Chernobyl-level catastrophe.

    They say there's no danger of a Chernobyl style catastrophe, but what credibility do they have? These people--and quite a few nuclear proponents around here--told us all that there was "no danger" of any major leak in the days after the tsunami hit. Three weeks later the reactor is a molten puddle on a concrete floor, and now they're telling us we don't have to fear something else. Do you believe them? Would you beleive them if your home was near the exclusion zone?

    Need I mention that four weeks ago, all involved would have scoffed at the notion of even the possibility of a meltdown.

    Even the Japanese Prime Minister has lost patience with the plant owners and their slipshod operations [latimes.com]. How much credibility can we give these people, give to nuclear power? How much can we afford to give?

  • by sirwired (27582) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:13PM (#35656804)

    This is speculation by ONE guy in an article in the Guardian, hardly a bastion of calm, rational, journalism. NONE of the other usual online sources have corroborated this at all.

    An actual meltdown, with the core sitting on the floor of the building, would be front page news across the world, yet only this one article says this is the case.

  • by 0WaitState (231806) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:15PM (#35656842)

    The reason the public lumps all nuclear power technologies into the same hopper is that they are all run by the same corrupt management culture. Management cuts safety margins, defers upgrades, miscategorizes more frequent natural disasters as once in 1000 years, all the while paying themselves performance bonuses for having improved operating margins. Then the "nobody could have foreseen" event happens, and we the taxpayers have to spend 10s to 100s of billions cleaning up the mess. If the nuclear industry had to post an insurance bond against their future screwups there would be no nuclear industry.

    This isn't a technology problem, it's a regulatory and human problem.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:17PM (#35656896)

    Wind and solar are pipe dreams. I don't care if I get modded down for saying that. I don't care if it goes against popular opinion, or flies in the face of all the pro-solar, pro-wind propaganda of late. And I don't care if it upsets the environmentalists. It's true. Even if you could come up with enough money to build the infrastructure to deploy and maintain the kind of huge solar and wind farms you would need all over the country/world, they'll still only cover a fraction of our present-day needs.

    Just building the transmission lines for that kind of project is going to be overshadow the scale of the whole TVA project. And who's going to pay for it? Do you think the American people (or the people of other countries) are willing to make *real* sacrifices for that, when it really comes down to it? Oh sure, ask any American if they support solar/wind and they'll say "Yes." But try rephrasing it as "Would you support a 50% income tax increase to pay for investments in solar/wind infrastructure?" and see what they answer.

    Believe me, I would love nothing better than a country running exclusively on clean energy, with solar panels and turbines everywhere. But the more I look at the issue, and the kinds of numbers involved, the more I don't see how it's ever going to be practical (not until the coal runs out anyway).

    And that's not even getting into the issue of countries and areas that don't get enough unobstructed sunlight and wind. What's going to happen to them in this utopia?

  • by klingens (147173) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:19PM (#35656920)

    It was a very modern plant once. What do you think how "modern" the currently built ones (the few ones that are... finland one is the only one which is built right now) are in 40 years? Just as outdated, just as much nuclear waste no one knows what to do with. Nuclear energy is a dead end from an economic and public safety perspective and always was. The only reason for it to exist is armament, either real or potential.

  • Re:No!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:21PM (#35656948)

    Power is not safe. Period. Anyone who says that is simplifying the truth.

    The question is how dangerous (as in injuries and deaths per unit of energy) the various ways of producing electricity are. I'm not so sure that this accident will make any qualitative change to the picture. Nuclear is still going to be the safest option. Wind is also quite safe, but wind needs to be supported by hydro and natural gas (AKA fossil gas) and those are neither safe nor good for the environment. Wind would be a good alternative if there was a safe and clean way to store energy.

  • by 1zenerdiode (777004) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:22PM (#35656960)
    The article above seems to be fear-mongering. This washington post [washingtonpost.com] article discusses what seems to be a more plausible failure mode. Apparently there are gaskets around the control rod penetrations in the bottom of the vessel, and the temperature may have increased enough to damage them allowing primary water to escape into the concrete containment structure. There are also many other penetrations in the vessel for plumbing that may have been damaged during the quake.
  • by PyroMosh (287149) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:23PM (#35656980) Homepage

    The plant is fucked. But it's been hit by a disaster beyond what was even planned for. And how many have died?

    The point isn't that nuclear is perfectly safe. It's that it's better than many of the alternatives out there.

    Look at how many people did as a result of coal and oil operations. Then factor in the pollution that those technologies spew into the atmosphere.

    Now compare that to Nuclear. Including this disaster. Some people who work in the plant have been exposed and been hurt. I recall reading a week ago about 3 killed in a hydrogen explosion at the plant (I've not seen this confirmed). But what will the eventual impact be? ARe we talking about a 50 mile exclusion zone where a big chunk of Japan will be uninhabitable? Thousands geting sick with radiation poisoning?

    Or are we talking about a 1% increased risk of cancer for folks who worked and lived in the immediate vicinity during the month after the incident?

    Because if the eventual results are the latter, I'd rather have a nuclear plant in my back yard than a coal plant.

    Coal WILL pollute the environment.
    Coal WILL increase my risk of various diseases.
    Coal often kills people in it's extraction process.

    Nuclear MIGHT pollute the environment if something goes very, very wrong.
    Nuclear MIGHT increase my risk of cancer if something goes very very wrong.

    If that's the choice, then it's clear to me which one I support. The question now is will the disaster kill / sicken lots of people, or not?

    It's not denial, it's an analysis of the options. It seems to me that the disaster is being sensationalized because nuclear is somehow "spooky". Again, we'll see.

  • by Coren22 (1625475) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:25PM (#35657022) Journal

    Interestingly enough, every one of those but #6 is true.

  • by jjohnson (62583) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:29PM (#35657084) Homepage

    How could North Korea get light artillery within range of Fukushima? And what could they gain besides a nuclear barrage of Pyongyang?

  • by atrain728 (1835698) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:31PM (#35657120)
    What kind of light artillery has a range of 600 miles?
  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:33PM (#35657166)

    Because salt water can cause a salt build up on the fuel rods, making them much harder to cool and making meltdown more likely. Or does that not jive with your evil corporation narrative?

  • by WhitetailKitten (866108) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:35PM (#35657206)
    Not to get off-topic, but I think even North Korea isn't crazy enough to do that, because the response from Japan and its Western allies would be to bomb North Korea back into the Mesozoic Era. Shelling a disabled nuclear power plant to expressly turn it into a dirty bomb when the country's already suffering a three-hit combo of quake-tsunami-reactor isn't just an act of war, it's being a dick on a massive scale.
  • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:40PM (#35657288) Journal

    Ironically, this whole crisis was caused because they did precisely that—the reactors shut down automatically for safety reasons, and then they had no power with which to keep the pumps running because the diesel generators were underwater. Had pretty much any one those reactors not automatically scrammed, it is likely that things would be in better shape than they are now.

    And what folks should take away from all this is that reactors should auto-scram only when they detect a coolant leak, not because of an earthquake that merely might cause a coolant leak. Or at least that's what should happen for older reactors like these that require active cooling in a scrammed state.

    No, scratch that. The takeaway should be that reactors that require active cooling in a scrammed state are fundamentally unsafe in a seismic zone and should be replaced with newer reactors as soon as possible.

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:44PM (#35657376)

    "...shouldn't several TEPCO executives have commited ritual hara-kiri or seppuku by now?"

    Allow them the honor of placing the first ceremonial bags of concrete on the melted core themselves.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:47PM (#35657428)
    Paraphrased since it was hours ago and I was driving... "Traces of plutonium have been found around the Fukushima site, and although the amounts discovered were no higher than if the soil samples were taken from any random soil around the world, the scientists determined that the specific isotopes of plutonium found were from the plant." They then continued to explain why it was super dangerous.
    What I heard was "DANGER DANGER! The soil around the Fukushima site is identical to the soil in your backyard. That's not a good thing! You must Fear It! Fear It!"
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:49PM (#35657454) Homepage

    If we can ever apply 30 km/s of delta-v to objects cheaply enough that we're considering doing it for our garbage, I'd like to think that we can 1) find better things to do with that delta-v and 2) find better things to do with our garbage, like recycle it since the energy cost is obviously no longer a concern.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:49PM (#35657462) Journal

    All GP did was claim that TEPCO tried every option which involved not writing the reactor off first, before pumping seawater in. At no point has the allegation be made that they risked catastrophic failure by doing that.
    If they were genuinely risking a catastrophic failure by not immediately pumping in seawater, then I agree that to not do so was unreasonable.
    But that is not the allegation WhiteTailKitten made.

    All that was alleged was that they tried to avoid wrecking the reactor if they could help it, and when they couldn't avoid wrecking it, did. That does not strike me as unreasonable. Don't forget, Japan is now facing rolling blackouts across a large swath of the country for a year or more because there just won't be the power-generating capacity available. That calculation was surely known when they decided not to immediately flood the reactor vessel with seawater.

    Reckless and stupid would be allowing the reactor to get too hot in the hope that it would do less damage than pumping in seawater. However, pumping in seawater, guaranteeing substantial loss of power-generating capacity, before it was necessary to do so would have been irresponsbile.

    Allowing the situation to develop and shifting from one option to the other when the balance changed seems to me to have been the best thing they could have done.

    If that what actually happened? Was that the point when TEPCO changed their response? I don't know. But what I do know is that GP didn't allege any facts which would lead someone to conclude that TEPCO acted unreasonably, but still expected the reader to imply that this proved TEPCO acted unreasonably.

  • by squallbsr (826163) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:52PM (#35657500) Homepage
    I think the reactions from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents have actually made nuclear power much more dangerous than it would be today if these major disasters hadn't happened. We would have probably advanced our reactor designs and have had safer reactors as a result.
  • by rmstar (114746) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:53PM (#35657524)

    This is part of the planned failure mode of the reactor.

    Calling the core meltdown in Fukushima a "planned failure mode" is... Orwellian.

    A week ago, none of this was possible, and just a ridiculous scenario due to fearmongering by some hysterical tree huggers. Now we have a confirmed meltdown and now it's a "planned failure mode". Wow.

    You guys are truly beyond repair.

  • by leenks (906881) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:54PM (#35657542)

    “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven't got it.” -- Bernard Shaw

  • by slyborg (524607) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:56PM (#35657582)

    Posted this above as well, but Unit 1 at Fukushima had just been relicensed for another 10 years in February.

    The fact of the matter is that a utility will always apply for an extended operating license and will almost certainly get one. The only plant shutdowns I know of in the US, apart from TMI Unit 2, were when something too expensive to repair needed replacement, such as the ComEd Zion plant outside Chicago, which needed a new $460 million steam generator. So since there is so much better in the way of designs available, why aren't utilities rushing to replace these ancient reactors instead of asking for extended licenses, you ask? Economics of course - an existing plant is almost all sunk cost, and the utilities are in business to make money. They will build new reactors only to add capacity, and they will build the cheapest design they are permitted to.

    My main objection to nuclear power is that these plants are operated by businesses. Unlike a solar farm or even a coal plant, the worst case failure for a nuclear plant is very, very bad. You have a business trying to maximize profit knowing that the worst case failure costs will be shifted to the taxpayer. This is a recipe for disaster. I have no issues at all with the state of reactor technology, and the US military operates dozens of reactors that *move around* and has for 50 years without a major accident (the Russians haven't had as much success there, though). If these things were being operated by some agency like the military with those levels of discipline, perhaps we could all rest assured. When it's some utility executive who wants a bigger bonus, I am not at all confident.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:05PM (#35657758)

    I totally agree, although this is /. Covering up the nuclear industry is a well accepted practice in here :)

  • by kimvette (919543) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:50PM (#35658356) Homepage Journal

    You might displace some garden snails, scorpions, or spotted owls by putting up a solar farm.

    Don't put up a wind farm, because old-style high-rpm windmills that aren't even used for large-scale electricity production was known to kill birds every now and then, so all wind power is bad. Off the coast is even worse because senators do not want to put up with the eyesore as they cruise around in their yachts.

    Hydroelectric? you can't dam up any rivers; red squirrels might lose their homes and have to relocate to a new tree.

    There is always an argument against everything. Environmentalists are more BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) than NIMBY.

  • by leenks (906881) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:04PM (#35658522)

    I was purely commenting on my parent and not on this story.

    I fully agree with everything you are saying, and I feel this story is going to do nothing but fuel anti-nuclear movements which I don't think the world can realistically afford at the moment.

    These reactors were old too, but this disaster (which was beyond what they were designed to withstand) is going to impact negatively on nuclear power for decades even though the overall impact is far less than any other power source we have available to us today.

  • by EatAtJoes (102729) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:37PM (#35659806) Homepage

    Wind and solar are pipe dreams. I don't care if I get modded down for saying that.

    Yeah it really takes guts to be a raving pro-nuke on Slashdot, taking potshots at renewable energy. You really bucked the trend, there.

    What really rakes in the mod points on Slashdot: any realistic argument surrounding the horrific health impacts of nuclear power. Nothing gets nerds excited like references to the devastating consequences of Chernobyl on the surrounding population (like say ... Scotland).

    Much braver to make the daring claim that "nobody ever died because of a nuclear accident", because all of the respected epidemiogists sounding the alarm are really luddite shareholders in wind and solar companies right? When I want the real dirt on public health, I always ask .. a physicist or nuclear engineer, because they care about health first!

    Also gutsy: crying crocodile tears for "all the mine workers killed by coal". Only an evil anti-nerd environmentalist would fault corporate negligence in failing to observe basic safety precautions leading to the needless deaths of thousands of miners. Good thing that nuclear is so safe we don't even have to worry about corporate negligence!

  • by TheSync (5291) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:16PM (#35660326) Journal

    "Nuclear would be fine as long as it was strictly regulated by a 3rd party uninterested in profits (read: the government)"

    And who, exactly, was running Chernobyl, and what was their viewpoint on profits?

  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:16PM (#35660332) Homepage Journal

    Well, I'm not freaking, but I'm not happy either. When the hydrogen explosion killed some of the workers on the roof, that was a failure that had been anticipated in the design: the outer building bad blow away panels to limit the damage from a hydrogen explosion. It wasn't the hydrogen explosion per se that bothered me, but the fact they had guys on the roof when there was significant hydrogen gas below them. That made me doubt the operators' ability to assess the state of the situation in real time.

    I'm sorry to say that events since then have not improved my estimation of how accurate and timely TEPCO's picture of the situation is. There have been a series of alarming, unexpected events, almost too many to list. Until the situation stops generating nasty surprises, I'd say all bets are off as to how bad this situation *might* get. I say this fully recognizing how effective the defense in depth safety features have been so far at preventing a Chernobyl scale incident. I don't *expect* such an incident to occur, but the unexpected is the characteristic feature of this crisis. If I were a Civil Defense planner, I'd be quietly preparing for a much worse than I'm hoping for.

    It is absolutely true that compared to the tsunami, the Fukushima reactor situation has been relatively minor, but that's not exactly the benchmark I'd want to set for nuclear power safety (don't have an accident as bad as a magnitude 9 quake followed by a coast length 10m high tsunami). There is a potential for a one-two-three punch here: quake, tsunami, radiological disaster. Japan is on the ropes. It's people are valiant, but they are vulnerable. In this situation a radiological disaster wouldn't have to be anywhere near as bad as Chernobyl to be psychologically and economically crushing.

    I'm not anti-nuclear by any stretch of the imagination. The problems in this situation are (a) the obsolete design of the reactors and (b) TEPCO management. It is clear that the combination of these two has produced a situation of such complexity that nobody can say with any certainty what is going on, or what is going to happen. You don't have to be an anti-nuclear fanatic to see this. This system continues to behave in *majorly* unexpected ways. Yes, even in an acceptably safe design there are surprises, but the surprises appear to be cascading, and that shouldn't happen in an acceptably safe design. There's really no way of getting around that. This design isn't good enough, this company wasn't good enough, and the regulation of these reactors' operation wasn't good enough.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:06PM (#35660810) Homepage Journal

    In the real world, it is necessary to choose among the feasible solutions that offer the best benefit-cost prospects.

    That is a misconception. In the real world the ordinary citizen does not know what the cost-benefit prospect is.
    The oil the USA (and the world) is getting so cheap is "secured" by endless war since 1970 (roughly). Do you really think the "sudden" revolutions in the middle east are happing just so?
    The low price for energy you pay, is payed with taxes that are fueling your war machine. The war machine is making sure you get the energy you want. If the price for the wars would be in the energy bill, you would see how much you in fact pay. But you don't see that ;d

    Anyway, as a hint for your future:

    The real problem for nuclear is that only a tiny fraction of the populace understands ... but everybody reacts to the hysteria and fear that is propagated by the media.

    This is a very important/bright sentence.
    Let me rewrite it for you:

    The real problem for renewable is that only a tiny fraction of the populace understands ... but everybody reacts to the hysteria and fear that is propagated by the media/government/energy companies.

    You get it? You are convinced that renewables wont ever work because that is what you got told the last 30 years. And you believe it ... but that does not make it true.

    Ah, my hint, which I wanted to give:
    Just turn around every sentence you hear and put in the opposing side and the opposing argument ... then think about it.

    angel'o'sphere

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