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Japan Power News

Japan Raises Nuclear Plant Crisis Severity To 7 673

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-to-worse dept.
darkonc writes "Early Tuesday in Japan, the government decided to raise the severity level of the accident to the maximum 7 on an international scale, up from the current 5 and matching that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. The government declared the level 7 emergency because it is now estimated that the crippled plant was emitting over 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactivity for a number of hours at the height of the nuclear incident. Previously, on Monday, the government had expanded the evacuation zone around the plant to include at least 6 cities up to 60 km away from the plant. These cities, outside of the current 20-30 km evacuation area, are now expected to exceed the 20 millisieverts/year limit on residual radiation established by International Commission on Radiological Protection and the International Atomic Energy Agency in the case of an emergency."
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Japan Raises Nuclear Plant Crisis Severity To 7

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  • by sincewhen (640526) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:20AM (#35791656)

    And some people still wonder why the public are opposed to nuclear power.

  • Right Now It's a 7 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:20AM (#35791664)
    I think using a scale based on 'the worst nuclear disaster so far' isn't a great idea. Do we add #8 'Fukushima' to the scale if it gets any worse?
  • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:27AM (#35791698) Journal

    And people on slashdot.org read that Japan has already released 10% as much radioactive material as Chernobyl, and somehow it's all a liberal scare. BP has the worst oil spill in US history, yet somehow this is a non-issue for the environment. And somehow, this is all related to tax breaks for the rich, and building up our military. Group think in full swing.

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:29AM (#35791714)

    And some people still wonder why the public are opposed to nuclear power.

    Because it took a large earthquake, a very large tsunami, and corporate neglect to cause something that, while expensive, has resulted a casualty figure that is lower than what is seen in a day in Libya. On the other hand, it also shows that nuclear technology that is decades old can withstand all but the strongest of natural disasters. If anything, the public should be realizing that modern nuclear technology coupled with real, effective corporate compliance and government monitoring would make nuclear energy extremely safe and productive. This is what the media should be talking about, instead they are fear mongering and spreading any rumor they can find that bumps up ratings, regardless of the veracity of those rumors. A wonder indeed.

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:33AM (#35791750)
    Local-ish, like me, in my hometown 1000 miles from Chernobyl, not being able to collect mushrooms due to Strontium contamination, today? I completely agree that coal has to go, but hopefully, nuclear will be only a temporary solution, to be phased out for renewables in the next decades.
  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:38AM (#35791796) Homepage
    22,000 people died in the tsunami. TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND. So why isn't the tsunami getting more press? Answer: your elites can't score political points from a tsunami.
  • by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:39AM (#35791802)

    Nuclear accidents are a lot like train derailments and airplane crashes.

    Statistically, air and train (and nuclear) are very safe but when something goes wrong, it’s very dramatic. Even looking at very conservative statistics for death vs power generated, coal is much, much worse it just kills people at a slow, steady rate such that it seems normal and doesn't get headlines.

  • about fukushima always minimizing, belittling, or otherwise dismissing what is happening here as hysteria or science illiteracy?

    it seems like a form of denial to me

    we're talking about the end of nuclear power in japan, and perhaps elsewhere

    if you don't understand why, you really are in denial, and you don't understand risk analysis

    it's not hysteria going on here. really

  • by Synn (6288) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:44AM (#35791844)

    Actually it's because we can't do all that much against natural disasters. I live in Florida and "Death by Hurricane" is sort of the deal you make to live here.

    But we don't have to mismanage nuclear power, or focus our (distant) future on it.

  • i'm not talking about this thread alone. in every story that comes up about fukushima on slashdot, you see comments modded up that:

    1. how fukushima is no big deal, its media hype and confusion
    2. how fukushima was easily avoidable, so therefore, its ok
    3. how events like this are really rare. so nuclear power is ok
    4. how nuclear is really really safe compared to other sources, and science illiterates are just hysterical

    repeat after me: denial, denial, denial, denial

  • by Pascal Sartoretti (454385) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:45AM (#35791856)
    Just imagine one second this type of accident in China...
  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:52AM (#35791922) Journal

    Talking about 'nuclear' as if there was exactly one fuel and one reactor design involved is like thinking a Prius, a Tesla and a '69 Corvette all work the same way.

    Maybe, just maybe, the answer doesn't lie behind the question of whether we want nuclear power or not. Perhaps we should think about nuclear alternatives. I still say "Yay for LFTR!"

  • by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:52AM (#35791934)

    Renewables will never have the energy density required to completely power our world, and will always depend on fickle things like the wind and the clouds. Either we carpet every available inch with solar panels, and plant every plain full of wind farms, or we move to more exotic power sources, like piezo sidewalks and nano-generator clothing (both of which I consider sci-fi despite working in labs, and piezo flooring has even been deployed in Japan (I guess the earthquake generated at least some power, even if it was intermittent...)).
    Even if you say "Fission has to go some time...", I'd say to this "... and be followed by fusion or Thorium, not sun and wind.".

  • by AndyMcL (65518) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:53AM (#35791940)

    Japan is a great country and the Japanese wonderful people. I lived there in the 90's and loved it. They are showing tremendous resolve and strength during a natural disaster that just keeps on going. It seems like almost everyday I see a headline of yet another 7.x aftershock. Yet they are repairing their infrastructure at an incredible rate and keeping as much control over what they can better than anyone.

    If and when the US has another natural disaster, I hope we can come somewhere close to what they are doing. The Japanese people's efforts are not only helping Japan, but much of the world. Many critical components and products for many industries are made or flow through Japan. If Japan were to stop or slow down noticeably, it would seriously affect economies all over the world including the US.

    -Andy

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:53AM (#35791948) Homepage

    Are we allowed be against 1950s bomb-maker-reactors and for newer no-accident-possible-and-practically-no-residue reactors?

  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:54AM (#35791952) Homepage

    Are you a shill for the nuclear industry? An astroturfer? Because that's the only reason I can think for such a stupid comment. I'm tired of all the pro-nuclear wankers on slashdot. Fine, coal is bad and we should try to replace it ASAP. But your relativism doesn't make nuclear desirable. It is another bad (and probably worse) energy source because it is INHERENTLY DANGEROUS!

    I'd take a world powered by nuclear any day.

    And if you replaced all of the coal-fired power plants around the world with nuclear, how many accidents do you think we would be having annually? How many major disasters would it take for you to admit it is a bad idea, because while it *can* be safe, it never *would* be safe.

    At least the problems with nuclear are local-ish.

    Fucking moron.

    Ahem;

    Are you a shill for the wind power industry? An astroturfer? Because that's the only reason I can think for such a stupid comment.
    I'm tired of all the anti-nuclear wankers on Slashdot.
    Your "INHERENTLY DANGEROUS!" nonsense doesen't mean a damn, because a 40 year old power station was hit by an enourmous earthquake, then an enourmous tsunami; no-one died, and the surrounding area is roughly as polluted as would be caused by the average oil refinery fire.

    Hell, there WAS a big refinery fire nearby too; but that got ignored because the scary nuc-ular power plant is spitting out some radioisotopes that will at most present a tiny cancer risk for people locally, and has made the surrounding area roughly as radioactive as being on a goddamn aeroplane.

    As someone else on here has already pointed out, there was an oil rig disaster last year which has actually killed people and has polluted a wider area more severely than Fukushima has. No-one said "oil is INHERENTLY DANGEROUS!" and called for all oil production worldwide to end. They said "Christ, they should be more careful with that stuff" which indeed they should. The same applies with this.

    Everything in the world is inherently dangerous in some way or another. RIGHT NOW you're sitting mere inches from mains electricity that could kill you, and indeed kills hundreds of people every year in a country near you. You don't raise merry hell about that. Statistically, major incidents included, nuclear remains the safest form of electricity production known, including safe and cuddly solar, hydro, wind etc.

  • by Talderas (1212466) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @08:58AM (#35792014)

    Congratulations. You hit on why the INES scale is deeply flawed.

    I'm going to point to this [world-nuclear-news.org] news article which explains far more in depth as to why the Level 7 was chosen. After reading it, you should realize that Fukushima is not as bad as Chernobyl. Here's some summary facts.

    The Level 7 was chosen solely based on the total cumulative release of radioactive isotopes over the course of a month. Chernobyl's release was mostly due to the radioactive plume that was ejected during a one time event.

    The Level 7 covers seven locations. Units 1-4 at Daiichi and three Units at Daiini. Each of these doesn't class over a Level 5 on the INES scale.

  • by squizzar (1031726) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:00AM (#35792044)

    You mean the politicking stops and someone either shuts them down or replaces them? At the moment no-one wants to deal with losing the fairly significant contribution that nukes make to our energy supplies, presumably the lights going out is a vote-loser, but no-one wants to build newer safer ones, presumably because it's a vote loser. The most stupid thing about the situation is that the middle ground is the most dangerous - blocking progress and the development and construction of better safer plants and meaning the older plants get lifetime extensions.

  • by cronius (813431) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:01AM (#35792052)

    In Norway nearly 100% of the electrical power used and produced is from renewable energy. The government of Sweden has started working on getting the country completely independent of oil (without building more nuclear power plants). Norway, England, Italy, the US and others have started to look into floating (deep water) offshore wind power as a future energy source.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. Comparing nuclear to coal is fucking bullshit.

  • by GooberToo (74388) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:03AM (#35792074)

    Except ignorant scaremongering frequently prevails over truth and reason. Not all radioactive releases are equal. The source of the radiation is as important as where its released and how it was released.

    The reality is, the current rating is based on radiation at the source NOT its comparability in scope to Chernobyl. That's not to say they will never or can never be comparable, only that comparisons to Chernobyl at this point is pure idiocy and scaremongering - classic anti-nuclear propaganda.

  • by multipartmixed (163409) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:04AM (#35792086) Homepage

    Most of these comments are subsets of what I see as the truth:

    1. Fukushima *is* a big deal
    2. But it's not going to actually ruin the planet
    3. So take the lessons we've learned, and improve all plants to make this type of disaster far less likely
    4. Continue to build nuclear until there are better choices
    5. Continue to research better choices

    #5 is the most important in the long run, and the Fukushima accident HELPS us understand that. In fact, this disaster is a disaster for Japan, but a great boon to the world, as it helps us better understand what we are doing.

  • by shilly (142940) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:09AM (#35792152)

    No, I don't think shutting them down or replacing them makes sense.

    Industrial gear is regularly in operation for many decades, especially when it's expensive. Trains and planes are often kept going for 30+ years, for example. Buildings often have lifespans in the centuries. No-one is going to invest in a nuclear powerplant that has to be ripped down after 20 years because it's outdated, not least because decommissioning costs a bloody fortune due to the large amounts of waste that have to be dealt with. Nuclear plants are routinely expected to operate for 30+ years. It's just unrealistic to expect that we're going to see widescale decommissioning of large numbers of 1970s and 1980s reactors, due to the economics alone.

  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:12AM (#35792186) Homepage

    Show me one incident of a refinery fire that required a decades-long evacuation of thousands of square kilometers, then we talk.

    If refinery fires had the same evacuation criteria in terms of actual risk to people, they would all require extensive evacuation. Sooty oil smoke is plenty carcinogenic, and I would bet good money that the "statistically noticeable cancer risk area" would be at least as large for a refinery fire as it is for Fukushima right now.

    The whole thing is a caution-outrage spiral; public concern creates the need for immensely cautious evacuation, which creates more public concern. People are always concerned about any risk from radiation, whereas some 20% of the population subject themselves to a quite large risk from intentionally inhaling smoke for a buzz. That's why a cloud of radioiodine that might give 20 extra people cancer creates global panic, while a cloud of oil smoke that might give 20 extra people cancer doesn't.

  • by Talderas (1212466) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:15AM (#35792208)

    Let us build new ones to replace the old ones we all want to decommission and then we can talk. You don't just decommission any power plant without the ability to support the loss of that plant generation capability until the new plant can be brought online.

    If you're going to replace two 400Mw coal plants with a 1Gw nuclear plant you do not shut down and decommission the two coal plants before building the nuclear plant. You run those coal plants, on extensions if necessary, until the nuclear plant up, running, done all of it's shake down, and is officially online. Then you take down the coal plants.

    Power plants are not short term infrastructure and I'm not aware of any cost-efficiency energy generation techniques that can fill a gap provided by a base load plant.

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:17AM (#35792246) Journal

    What most nuclear huggers seems to disregard is that most nuclear plants are old and way past their date for decomission. Dismantle those and then we talk.

    Let the "nuclear huggers" build some replacements and THEN start dismantling the old ones. Otherwise the "huggers" are going to think, not without reason, that once the old plants are dismantled, the only talk will consist of "NO!".

  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:19AM (#35792268) Journal

    I have yet to talk to any pro-nuclear person that is against shutting off old reactors in favour of new ones.

    We've just been polarized... if an anti-nuclear person hears me saying I am pro, they believe, just like you do, I am in love with the way it is. That's bullshit. The way it is is freaking dangerous. But as long as we nuclear-huggers aren't allowed to replace our aged 386 reactors with shiny new Core i7 reactors and no alternative means of generating energy (that DON'T have MASSIVE disadvantages when built for this amount of power generation)appear on the horizon, how on earth do you propose we go on?

    Is it really, truly a good idea to jump the shark just to get rid of these reactors? Couldn't we just, for once, stick our heads together and come to a good decision? You know, as in though through?

  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:21AM (#35792304) Homepage

    In Norway nearly 100% of the electrical power used and produced is from renewable energy. The government of Sweden has started working on getting the country completely independent of oil (without building more nuclear power plants). Norway, England, Italy, the US and others have started to look into floating (deep water) offshore wind power as a future energy source.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. Comparing nuclear to coal is fucking bullshit.

    Perhaps after a few billion years the whole world might have plentiful fijords and geography suitable for large scale hydro, then we might all benefit from it in the same way that Norway and Sweden do. Until then they're a complete red herring.

    As for offshire wind, great; we just need to crack the whole energy demand - windy period mismatch, or the epic civil engineering challenge and power losses from having an intercontinental supergrid to even things out, then we're all set.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:23AM (#35792336)

    400 sq/km of standard PV cells will match the current global generating capacity (~13TW).

    No, actually it can't.

    13 terawatts divided over 400,000,000 square meters requires that each square meter produce 32.5 KW of electricity.

    Alas, the Sun only puts a bit more than ONE KW of solar energy on each square meter.

    And solar panels aren't 100% efficient at turning light into electricity.

    So, ignoring night, clouds, and downtime, you're still off by a factor of around 100. When you include night, clouds, and downtime, you're off by a factor of 1000 or so.

    Good try, though.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:33AM (#35792484)
    Nice strawman there. The Japanese officials have raised the severity to a 7 all on their own. That's not a matter of people making the story worse with each retelling. Face it, your favorite industry is incapable of maintaining safety. Newer designs are less bad, but still not good enough. Keeping plutonium-laced spent fuel in swimming pools all over the country is dumb-as-fuck and sweeping it under the rug (er a mountain) is not even a valid long term solution. Plutonium does not exist naturally on earth, it's extremely toxic, and it lasts for millions of years. And that's just one byproduct.
  • by DamienRBlack (1165691) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:45AM (#35792658)
    I think the original poster meant 400 km square. As in 400 km x 400 km. Or 400,000 x 400,000 meters. That is 160,000,000,000 square meters, I'm sure you can see where that factor of 1000 is hiding now. 400 km x 400 km is a lot of space, but once again, not exactly the the entire world. For example, not one would miss 400 x 400 kilometers of Kansas.
  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @09:48AM (#35792684)

    If you pay attention to the scale in those geiger counters you will notice that although it makes a lot of noise it measures radiation in micro sieverts. The geiger counter made the most noise at 15 micro Sieverts. In comparison, an airplane flight from LA to NY earns you 40 micro Sieverts.

    If we rig a thermometer with a siren when temperature hits 30C then it will also sound dangerous. That doesn't make it a danger to your health.

  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @10:06AM (#35792918) Homepage Journal

    You think we've reached the height of human folly with coal? Well, just wait and see what a crash effort to build our way out of our entirely foreseeable future energy problems can do with nuclear power. And that crash course is coming, because if there's one thing you can count on people faced with a difficult and intractable problem to do, it is absent-mindedly kicking the can down the road until they have to desperately grasp for a quick fix.

    That's why I'm *for* building a modest number of nuclear power plants based on new designs *now*. What goes down, comes up. Today the public is down on nuclear power. When oil hits $200/bbl or more with no return in sight, then all will be forgiven and forgotten. Better to continue to gain knowledge in the technology *before* it's needed. Better to spend a few decades of bickering over the problems of nuclear power than to wait until we're in such desperate straits that even bringing those problems up makes you an enemy of the people.

    I have watched every single president since Richard Nixon declare that dependency of foreign oil is a serious threat to the United States, and I've watched every president since Richard Nixon fail to do anything about that threat, because it's easier to hand that hot potato to the next President. Nuclear is coming, one way or the other, because as a species we don't have the discipline to tackle problems we can avoid.

  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @12:18PM (#35795012)

    The Guardian posted an excellent rebutal to this point of view by Helen Caldicott: How Nuclear Apologists Mislead the World Over Radiation [guardian.co.uk]. The article you linked dismissed this article disparagingly with a three word ad hominem attack: "mad Auntie Fear" without addressing, let alone countering, any of her arguments. Instead, the Register article repeats the very mistakes Caldicott had identified.

    Helen Caldicott is a medical doctor. She taught pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School for two years before turning her focus to researching and reporting the health hazards of nuclear power.

    OTOH, Lewis Page [guardian.co.uk] (assuming it is the same Lewis Page):

    ... served as an officer in the Royal Navy from 1993 to 2004, and is now an author and authority on military matters.

    You can also get an idea of his expertise by looking at his other articles at the Register [theregister.co.uk].

    It is amazing that you think the article by Lewis Page is authoritative since he has absolutely no expertise on the subject; he totally ignores criticism from a person who is an authority; and he dismisses the authority with a rude ad hominem attack. OTOH, his level of discourse would fit right in with the irrational, faith-based pro-nuclear advocacy here on Slashdot.

  • Re:Details (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rei (128717) on Tuesday April 12, 2011 @02:27PM (#35796990) Homepage

    For the 8,672nd time, nuclear disasters are disasters in slow motion. Big wave comes up, slams into shore, retreats. A couple followup waves and it's done. Radiation exposure, however, keeps tick, tick, ticking. You can run from a disaster in slow motion. So few people tend to die in nuclear disasters. But what you can't do is pretend that they didn't happen, to ignore them. If you don't leave, *then* you get sick and die. You have to abandon the cities, you have to stop the farming nearby, the ranching, the fishing, etc. You have to put tremendous efforts into containment, or all of that gets even worse. Hence, nuclear disasters tend to be not about deaths, but about hardship, fear, and huge economic losses.

    Oh, and FYI, wind turbines are extremely earthquake-resistant. The towers are way overbuilt in order to withstand the wind loading, and their shapes tend to be excellent for damping.

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