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Japan Power News

Fukushima: What Happened and What Needs To Be Done 370

Posted by Soulskill
from the hide-in-our-caves-and-fear-the-mighty-atom dept.
IndigoDarkwolf writes "The sometimes confused media coverage around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant left me wanting for a good summary. Apparently the BBC felt the same way, and now delivers an overview starting from the earthquake and concluding with the current state of the troubled reactors."
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Fukushima: What Happened and What Needs To Be Done

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  • by BillyBurly (674193) on Monday April 11, 2011 @06:21PM (#35786732)
    The reactors did not blow up. The reactor vessel is located inside of a concrete containment structure, which is inside of another building. The explosions happened in the outermost building due to vented hydrogen.
  • by BillyBurly (674193) on Monday April 11, 2011 @06:27PM (#35786792)
    http://nei.org/newsandevents/information-on-the-japanese-earthquake-and-reactors-in-that-region/ [nei.org] they have good daily updates. at the bottom of the current days update there is a link to the archives
  • Re:The truth (Score:4, Informative)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Monday April 11, 2011 @06:40PM (#35786890) Journal

    The "building" that blew off is just a light screen around the reactor building itself. It's very light weight panels hung on an equally light frame, designed to screen the reactor building from view. Nothing else. A relatively small explosoin would blow the panels off. They did not "prevent" the second explosion; it was a calculated risk necessitated by a release of steam and hydrogen from the overheated core.

    If you've been following the IAEA blog it's serious but not out of control.

  • by hoytak (1148181) on Monday April 11, 2011 @06:53PM (#35786990) Homepage

    This comparison is misleading, even if the raw amounts of radiation are comparable. The radioactive materials released from Fukushima Daiichi when those readings were taken have a half-life of minutes and don't pose a health hazard outside of the really close vicinity. The materials released from Chernobyl were much more dangerous, as they have a half-life of a couple hundred years, and only negligible amounts of those have been released from Fukushima.

    Bottom line: this accident is not at all like Chernobyl, even though the "OMG RADIATION SPEWING FROM REACTORS!!!!!!" media likes to think so.

  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabred.dyndns. o r g> on Monday April 11, 2011 @07:07PM (#35787104) Homepage

    We all use electricity. And we're using more and more of it as time goes on. Coal releases tons of radiation and kills miners as well as being horribly dirty (there is no such thing as clean coal). We're running out of oil and it pollutes. Wind isn't always blowing or in the right place, sun isn't always shining or in the right place, water isn't always available for dams or in the right place and kills huge aquatic populations, not all of the population lives where tidal generators are a possibility... we're running out of options if we want electricity. Nuclear is great for providing a base generating capability, and there's not a whole lot else right now that's feasible or economical, especially considering the amount of nuclear waste we're planning on storing under a rock in Nevada.

    Hell, the Fukushima reactor mostly survived the 4th largest earthquake since 1900 [usgs.gov]. And that's a 40 year old design. We're talking the same year that the Intel 4004 was released. That's a hell of a testament to the design of modern nuclear power plants that are more efficient and even safer.

    Yes, shit happens. Fukushima failing is horrible. But it's like being afraid of flying when you're perfectly ok with riding your bike, even though you're much more likely to die. [wikipedia.org]

    It's not "nuclear apologists". It's realists who want to maintain our standard of life, and understand what acceptable risks are. Life is all about risk management, and flipping out about the word "nuclear" is very poor risk management.

  • by fishbowl (7759) on Monday April 11, 2011 @07:27PM (#35787248)

    >Coal releases tons of radiation

    1. Radiation isn't measured in tons.

    2. Radioactive coal has been mined, but this is not as common as you have apparently been led to believe.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Monday April 11, 2011 @07:28PM (#35787258) Homepage

    Technically "meltdown" simply means failure of the primary cooling system. And it most certainly failed, after standing up to catastrophic events far beyond their rated capacity.

    So the reactors technically went into meltdown ... and were brought out again before anything actually melted. A number of indirectly neutron-activated elements, secondary byproducts of the fission reaction, were released into the air, and are totally harmless by now. In fact, over 99% of the Iodine-131 is Xenon by now.

    In reality, in Japan :
    -> Solar power killed dozens of people (people installing them during the quake, and a few people who got smashed by falling panels)
    -> Wind power likewise killed a few people, who were repairing a mast
    -> Oil based power killed hundreds of people, due to explosions in refineries and power plants
    -> Nuclear power actually got close at one point, to (indirectly) kill 1 person. That person is recovering, and will make a full recovery in less than a month's time
    Deaths per TWh energy [nextbigfuture.com] (obviously discounting little details like the gulf wars, which only the absurdly naive claim have nothing to do with fossil fuels)

    So ... which is the safest energy source ? Nuclear power is FAR safer than solar power. More than 3x as many people have died from the consequences of using solar power than have died from nuclear power. This is taking into account that we have solar for 10 years, and nuclear for 60, and solar power is not contributing significant energy right now. In other words : the number for nuclear power is likely to not rise at all, and the number of deaths due to solar power is very likely to rise phenomenally.

    In any sane society or media, Fukushima would be a very strong argument about how extremely safe nuclear power really is, and how it can stand up to disasters far bigger than what it was built for. In a sane media articles like this [notrickszone.com] would be published, because any panic about nuclear effects will easily kill 10x as many people as the nuclear incidents themselves, just due to traffic accidents.

    Additionally, without nuclear fission reactors, we would not be able to do half the medical scans that yearly save tens thousands of lives in the US and all over the world ... Tracers in blood are dependant on nuclear power reactors, for example. In reality nuclear power saves FAR more people than it kills.

    Any sane society would build more nuclear power reactors, and pour money into further research into things like nuclear fission, fusion, and whatever. Cheap, safety is far beyond any other power source, portable, absurdly small amounts of fuel needed, and, ironically, less toxic than solar panels, and far less mechanically dangerous than wind power, and let's just shut up about fossil fuels and their wars, or coal ... what possible other thing could you ask for in a power source ?

    And why the fuck are we focusing on this ? Some 10000 people died due to many different reasons, all of which basically boil down to direct effects of the force of nature. To all of the media their deaths are merely a tool to implement their preferred policy, which is, for reasons I cannot fathom, anti-nuclear.

  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Monday April 11, 2011 @07:52PM (#35787496)

    According to the Nuclear Energy Agency [oecd-nea.org] the majority of the radioactivity released at Chernobyl was in Xenon-33 with a half-life of 5 days. This was followed by Iodine-131 (half-life 8 days) and Tellurium-132 (half-life 78 hours). The next most active element released (measured in Becquerels) was only 3% of the Xenon released, and it has a half-life of 13 days.

    If I read the report from the NEA correctly then ISTM I was comparing apples to apples.

    Furthermore, unless one or more of the reactor cores at Fukushima has gone critical again after the shutdown then any direct product of the fission reactions that has a half-life measured in minutes was gone after the first day of the accident, well before the meltdowns and hydrogen explosions and measured releases of significant amounts of radioactivity.

    There are certainly very short-lived isotopes that are part of the decay chain of long-lived isotopes. Iodine-131 is a perfect example. The problem is that they will continue to be created for the duration of the longer-lived isotopes.

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Monday April 11, 2011 @09:16PM (#35788284)
    Radiation released by coal, of course, is harmless and does not elevate cancer risks, right? [ornl.gov] Has only a short half life, does it? Worldwide release (from combustion of 637,409 million tons):
    Uranium: 828,632 tons (containing 5883 tons of uranium-235)
    Thorium: 2,039,709 tons
  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Monday April 11, 2011 @09:28PM (#35788368)
    "Technically "meltdown" simply means failure of the primary cooling system"

    You are 100% wrong.
    "A nuclear meltdown is an informal term for a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating. The term is not officially defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency[1] or by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[2] However, it has been defined to mean the accidental melting of the core of a nuclear reactor,[3] and is in common usage a reference to the core's either complete or partial collapse. "Core melt accident" and "partial core melt"[4] are the analogous technical terms."

    And although nuclear reactors might be safe while they're operating, they still produce a lot of radioactive waste. This is waste that has to be stored for over 10,000 years. No one on this planet has done anything that could possibly qualify them to design a vessel to store radioactive waste for a period of 10,000 years. Our knowledge of everything from how materials degrade to geological events that could happen simply is not accurate out to 10,000 years. Sure, I guess we could try to maintain the storage site for 10,000 years, but consider that no civilization on this planet has lasted even half that long. (China comes close at 4000 years).

    Generating large amounts of nuclear waste is simply reckless given the problems it can cause and how qualified we are to deal with it.
  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <(aussie_bob) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Monday April 11, 2011 @10:18PM (#35788648) Journal

    citing such illustrious sources as YouTube, Wikipedia and the Daily Mail.

    AFP

    Kyodo earlier reported that preliminary figures from the country's Nuclear Safety Commission revealed the battered plant had released 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive material per hour for several hours.

    That calculation prompted Japan to consider upgrading the accident to the highest level -- something that has only been given to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster -- Kyodo said, citing unnamed government sources.

    According to the International Nuclear Events Scale, level seven incidents are ones with a "major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures."

    BBC News

    "Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) may face as much as 2 trillion yen ($23.6bn; £14.5bn) in compensation claims, according to JP Morgan.

    The company has been grappling to contain the radiation leak crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

    On Tuesday, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency raised the severity of the nuclear crisis at the plant to level 7.

    Washington Post

    Japanese authorities planned Tuesday to raise their rating of the severity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis to the highest level on an international scale, equal to that of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, according to the Kyodo news agency.

    Officials reclassified the ongoing emergency from level 5, an “accident with off-site risk,” to level 7, a “major accident.”

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