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Japan Hardware

Robots Enter Fukushima Reactor Building 244

Posted by samzenpus
from the our-radioactive-overlords dept.
swandives writes "For the first time, a pair of remote controlled robots have entered a reactor building at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power hopes the iRobot Packbots will be able to provide data on the current condition inside the buildings, although the company hasn't yet released any information on what they found inside."
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Robots Enter Fukushima Reactor Building

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  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday April 18, 2011 @12:48AM (#35852436)

    I continue to conclude: It's not Chernobyl. When all this began I said a worst case would be one or more Tsar Bomba equivalents. We now know it is far less than that. It does not appear that the entire mess will equal one Chernobyl.

    There will probably be a greater and more fatal impact: the rejection, in the West, of nuclear power, which will either have dire economic consequences and lead to even more transfer of wealth into the sovereign investment funds of the Near East, or possibly to wars: I point out that our Middle East Wars have been deadly; nuclear power has not directly killed anyone in the United States. There are debates about "extra" cancer cases caused by nuclear power, but I know of no proof that there have been any.

    Note that China is not going to halt nuclear power construction. The major effect of Fukushima Daiichi may well be a very great Chinese comparative advantage. Cheap easily available energy and freedom are the keys to economic prosperity: the Chinese are moving toward both. The United States is moving away from both. The results are predictable.

    Meanwhile, there is no sign of any danger to anyone outside the evacuation zone in Japan, and indeed not much evidence of danger inside it. Japan will be deprived of some rice farming land for a few years -- perhaps -- and of the energy from the plant. Of course the plant was older and scheduled for retirement to begin with.

    The 9.0 earthquake is now said to have been the largest ever recorded to have hit a civilized area.

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Monday April 18, 2011 @12:57AM (#35852486)

      The 9.0 earthquake is now said to have been the largest ever recorded to have hit a civilized area.

      Because as we all know, Chile, Indonesia and Anchorage, Alaska are composed entirely of backwards tribal villages.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        The 9.0 earthquake is now said to have been the largest ever recorded to have hit a civilized area.

        Because as we all know, Chile, Indonesia and Anchorage, Alaska are composed entirely of backwards tribal villages.

        I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, given that most of those places are particularly backwards.

        • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:33AM (#35852630)

          Ah, yes:

          Backwards Chile, [google.com]
          backwards Indonesia, [google.com]
          backwards Alaska. [google.com]

          Nope, no civilization there.

          • Touche. I think the use of the words "backwards" and even "civilized" were not particularly appropriate or helpful; however, the point that this was the strongest earthquake to have hit a densely-populated urban area appears to be correct. To address your response:

            The earthquakes in Alaska and Chile happened about 50 years ago, when those areas were much less built up than today.
            Valdivia Chile has a much less impressive skyline than Santiago even today, and the epicenter of that earthquake was over 400 mile

            • Indonesia... (Score:3, Interesting)

              by BrokenHalo (565198)
              Indonesia is a scary case. It has both an ambitious nuclear plan and a long history of geological instability which shows no signs of abating. It is also a culture where corruption is rife and taken for granted, which does not bode well for the prospects of a safe nuclear implementation. Given this cocktail of factors, it's probably not unfair to say that Indonesia truly is "backward".
          • by Kentari (1265084)
            At the time the earthquakes hit Alaska (9.2, 1964) was basicly empty and it still is (the biggest hit town, Anchorage, had a whopping +-45k population), Chile (9.5, 1960) was not much better (the more recent quakes was a 8.8 and thus not bigger), Kamchatka (9.0, 1952) was also empty and still is and Sumatra (9.1, 2004) is not empty but not heavily industrialised, you didn't see any skyscrapers, high speed railways or nuclear plants in the hit area there. Indonesia may have been developed quite a bit, but Ja
      • by RsG (809189)

        I remember reading early reports in the immediate aftermath of the quake that suggested it was a global record breaker. Later, these were retracted or forgotten once hard data started circulating (it's actually somewhere on the order of the fifth largest on record).

        It's entirely possible that either A) the passage the GP quoted was written before the facts become known or B) Pournelle was going by memory and wasn't up to date on where this quake actually ranked.

      • by khallow (566160)
        They certainly don't qualify as populated, developed world. So yes, I think Pournelle's characterization is accurate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zenicetus (1014959)
      "Lucifer's Hammer" (1977), co-authored by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. An otherwise good novel about what a large comet strike would actually do to our civilization, ruined by an ending where the elite Randian/Libertarian survivors save civilization by defending the last remaining nuclear power plant. That's all you need to know about Pournelle's stance on nuclear power. If nuclear power isn't wonderful, then the whole premise of that novel is shot.
      • by sjwt (161428)

        I would suggest you go and re-read this one idea novel, its is a lot more then that, and they do not save civilization, *spoiler* alert shouldn't be needed here, as you 'claim' to have read it, they may have the last working nuclear plant that they know of, but someone somewhere is still flying Jet plains! In the end they just saved them selves. Civilization is fine else where.

      • elite Randian/Libertarian survivors

        Elite Randian/Libertarian survivors? That would be the ones led by a US Senator from Cailifornia? What have you been smoking?

        Or were you perhaps referring to the amateur astronomer/rich-guy who had trouble opening a can of peaches at one point in the story (no can-opener)?

        Note, by the way, that there is no suggestion whatsoever in the book that the plant in question was "the last remaining nuclear power plant". It just happened to be the only one in the immediate vici

    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday April 18, 2011 @02:51AM (#35852916) Homepage Journal
      First and foremost most of the damage was not actually done by the earthquake itself, most of the fatalities, and the cause of the Fukushima incident was the tsunami, not the earthquake. And even assuming "civilized" means "heavily populated", it still ignores that whole Indian Ocean [wikipedia.org] tsunami that occurred in a heavily populated area.

      Actually the fact that the earthquake occurred so close to the shore probably SAVED lives in the end. In the Indian ocean quake, most of the affected areas never actually felt the quake, all they saw was the water receding then a giant wave. Most had no chance to escape. At least in Japan the fact that the quake was so powerful gave an unmistakable warning to the people living near the coast to get to high ground. The closeness of the earthquake to the shore probably ended up saving, not costing, lives.
    • by Billly Gates (198444) on Monday April 18, 2011 @03:06AM (#35852978) Journal

      It is not Chernobyl, but still a level 7 disaster with 1/8 the amount of radiation leaked (very very large). Chernobyl is so radioactive that it can't be inhabited for at least a few centuries.

      If the core and its steal containment structure is melted with radioactive material with water leaking through cracked concrete from it, then indeed the situation is much more serious. Radiation is going up in the sea outside the plant right after a 5.9 aftershock. This was after it fell when the leak was plugged. This points to a crack through the foundation where this is leaking into the groundwater and sea.

      Either way, it is very rational to view this as a catastrophy and these robots will be needed to find out what is going on and how to fix the plant. If the worst fears are true and that the metal reactors themselves have melted then I do not know how it can be fixed. It took 20 years before people could enter the reactor after 3 mile island shutdown to actually see the partial meltdown to confirm it.

      Not something to laugh about and forget by any sense of the means

      • by Kokuyo (549451)

        It is not Chernobyl, but still a level 7 disaster with 1/8 the amount of radiation leaked (very very large). Chernobyl is so radioactive that it can't be inhabited for at least a few centuries.

        And yet people live there. Sure, they're not supposed to, but they do. http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,412954,00.html [spiegel.de]

        The Germans have a saying: Nichts wird so heiss gegessen, wie es gekocht wird. Nothing's ever eaten as hot as it's been cooked. After all the media gets its claws out of this, some people will go back, others won't. Life will go on.

        • A good friend of mine was in Pripyat last summer, with a dosimeter (MKS-05 terra IIRC) and he showed me the photos. The radiation is not uniform and can go from pretty low to very dangerous after a few steps off the roads. You can do the tour, and there are certainly many tourists there, but if you plan to have children, better wait with visiting Chernobyl.

          • by Kokuyo (549451)

            Sure, no arguments there. But people act as if a big, evil monster was lurking there and to go there was certain death.

            That's just not the case. Yeah, in Bavaria you should still be careful about eating mushrooms. It's far from ideal but it also won't kill us. Life will, mostly, go on as before in a few months already.

            This does not mean we shouldn't be looking for alternatives... but a being a bit more level-headed would do many people a lot of good.

            • by gr8_phk (621180)

              Sure, no arguments there. But people act as if a big, evil monster was lurking there and to go there was certain death. That's just not the case. Yeah, in Bavaria you should still be careful about eating mushrooms.

              Going there is OK. Living there probably is certain death - an unpleasant cancerous death. The uninhabitable area is hundreds of square miles, and those Bavarian mushrooms are HOW far away?

              • The uninhabitable area is hundreds of square miles,

                Note, as a matter of perspective, that "hundreds of square miles" is about the size of a small county in the USA.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Cheap easily available energy

      Nuclear energy is neither cheap nor easily available. The strongest argument against nuclear energy is the economic argument. No one wants to factor in the hundreds of billions of dollars of cost after something goes wrong. If even 10% of the resources invested in nuclear (which is trillions of dollars, btw) were invested in PV, nuclear would not be able to compete with it. As it is, the relative pittance that has been invested in solar will begin to give nuclear very real competition within 2 decades. And

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by peragrin (659227)

        Nuclear is far cheaper per megawatt than anything else built to date.

        on Average
        1 nuclear plant = 2-3 coal plants = 2-3 hydro turbines = 8-10 Solar /Salt Plants = 10-15 Solar/electric fields = 2000 wind turbines.

        note how the green energy requires land areas 3 times that of chernobyl for equal energy output.

        * based roughly on the largest output of the various power plants.

        considering that 90% of the population is fighting large scale deployment wind and solar so that they don't hurt the "view" from their pro

        • No one wants to factor in the hundreds of billions of dollars of cost after something goes wrong

          you forgot this part.

          some people are saying the cost of cleanup and indemnification in fukushima can be as high as 60 billion.

          how many wind turbines can you buy with that ?

    • by Nedmud (157169)

      Ok, correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't Tsar Bomba famous for being the largest nuclear weapon detonated? I don't see the relevance of it to estimating the consequences of an accident at a power station. The effects in each case are almost entirely incomparable. Sure, they're both "nuclear", and each involves a release of radioactivity. But the distribution of that in terms of isotope mix, time, intensity, location follow entirely different models. Furthermore, Tsar is renowned for its fusion deton

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "...there is no sign of any danger to anyone outside the evacuation zone in Japan"

      This is truly hilarious. Words delivered with the same sincerity as those uttered by representatives of the cigarette industry back in the 1950's.

      Pournelle cleverly avoids comment on the Japanese workers who are now dying a slow death as a result of their efforts to deal with the problem and obviously Jerry cannot wait to see exactly just what problems might emerge from the 9 month project to seal the reactor.

      The fact that the

      • by thomst (1640045)

        The fact that there is need for an evacuation zone at all should wake dear old Pournelle up to the problem, but he is too drunk and set in his ways.

        FTFY

        Seriously, I once saw Pournelle physically threaten an audience member at an SF convention panel on Reagan's "Star Wars" pipe dream, because the guy dared to question the technical viability of the proposal, all the while weaving and slurring his words, obviously drunk on his ass.

        Pournelle is and has always been a fascist asshole - and a stone alky, to boot.

    • by Required Snark (1702878) on Monday April 18, 2011 @04:56AM (#35853358)
      Nice to know your crystal ball is functioning perfectly. I know that everyone in China is relieved to know that there will never be a Chernobyl/Fukushima accident in all the reactors that are going to be built in China.

      I'm sure that China will avoid the same organizational flaw where the people running the nuclear plans for profit are identical with the people who are making decisions about cost and safety. In Japan, after working at the electric utility TEPCO many managers went to work for NISA, the Japanese government Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Given how the Communist Party dominates all political and economic planning activities, all the regulators will call the shots, and safety will never be compromised to meet production schedules and profit goals.

      If you don't want to take my word for it, just ask all the people in China who were poisoned by melamine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal [wikipedia.org].

      One analyst, Willy Lam, a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, indicated that CCP's pervasive control over political and economic resources has resulted in the absence of meaningful systematic checks and balances. "Institutions that could provide some oversight over party and government authorities - for example, the legislature, the courts or the media - are tightly controlled by CCP apparatchiks." A Beijing-based consultancy, Dragonomics, concurred that "the problem was rooted in the Communist Party’s continued involvement in pricing control, company management and the flow of information". Independent regulation was lacking or ineffective as local industries' were so intertwined with local officialdom.

      The Times noted that while one child in 20 in Shanghai may have kidney damage as a result of drinking contaminated formula milk, on the other hand, "like the emperors of old, the new communist elite enjoy the finest produce from all over China, sourced by a high-security government department."

      What could possibly go wrong?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The Times noted that while one child in 20 in Shanghai may have kidney damage as a result of drinking contaminated formula milk, on the other hand, "like the emperors of old, the new communist elite enjoy the finest produce from all over China, sourced by a high-security government department."

        What could possibly go wrong?

        Just keep in mind that our leaders operate under the very same principles. They're not eating what we eat.

    • We are still finding out how bad it is at the moment.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @06:01AM (#35853580)

      Conservative estimates (Areva) point to at least 60% meltdown in three cores, mobilization of about half the cores' inventory of solubles and of essentially all gases.

      That's way more material than a Tsar Bomba or three (remember, the Tsar Bomba was high-altitude, 90-something % fusion yield). I'm not even counting the three cooling pools with unknown amounts of water in them which are steaming and outgassing in the open.

      Is it more than Chernobyl? Certainly not, in terms of heavy metals and activated carbon released, so the long-term effects (heavy metal toxicity, mostly) will not be as pronounced.

      I see, howewver, an estimation of 1T Bq/hr being released. That's definitely going somewhere and with the monsoon season starting, that somewhere is the southwest of Japan (Kanto will be hardest hit, if this is a regular monsoon).

      I have reason to believe that additional cancers, birth defects and miscarriages over the next 30-50 years or so will not be correctly reported, nor, indeed, correctly attributed should they be detected. Even simple facts such as radiation measurements are being withheld or obfuscated.

      Also, you yourself are spreading untruths. The plant was on an approved 10 year life-extension that had just started. The earthquake was definitely not the biggest earthquake ever and its magnitude at Fukushima was even lower than that, because of distance from the epicenter mainly.

      The #2 reactor is cracked. That could not have happened because of the tsunami (not enough energy), nor can it be because of the hydrogen explosion ("wrong" blast pattern). That leaves only one culprit - the earthquake itself, which indeed exceeded the puny 7.5 Richter design maximum.

      There is now talk (from TEPCO) of flooding the reactor buildings. They are not designed to hold water in the first place. They are already compromised, structurally, by a massive earthquake, two aftershocks and an explosion each. Will they hold if another quake comes?

      No need to answer that, of course. Just go back to your dreams of "energy too cheap to meter".

    • " It's not Chernobyl. When all this began I said a worst case would be one or more Tsar Bomba equivalents. "

      Well, that's very comforting, after all the Tsar Bomb is just the BIGGEST FRIKKIN HYDROGEN BOMB EVER BUILT.
      Yeah, I know residual fallout is smaller in atomic/hydrogene bombs than in dirty bombs, but I still wouldn't make the guy my PR/spokesperson.

    • but it has killed people in the US.(Not saying his overall point is wrong since it pretty much isn't.) Admittedly I only know of one incident, SL-1, but that killed 3 people. (But it might have been suicide. Of course it's kind of hard to forget that one when you hear one of the deceased accidently got nailed to the ceiling.)
      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        I think a few more people have died in the history of United States nuclear:

        HOWEVER - All of them were involved in the early days of nuclear R&D. Louis Slotin (Manhattan Project), Harry Dahglian (Manhattan Project), and the SL-1 crew (Remember, it was three military personnel at a military research reactor) come to mind.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The problem with this notion is that it has officially been declared to be as bad as Chernobyl already, and they have announced that they are literally months from cleanup.

    • by MrKaos (858439) on Monday April 18, 2011 @09:44AM (#35854898) Journal
      Clearly Pournelle's research is inadequate.

      I continue to conclude: It's not Chernobyl. When all this began I said a worst case would be one or more Tsar Bomba equivalents. We now know it is far less than that. It does not appear that the entire mess will equal one Chernobyl.

      Rubbish, Tsar Bomba's fall out is measured in kilograms, Chernobyls around 10's of tons. Due to the spent fuel pools there is approximately 30-40 years worth of spent fuel at Fukushima and we could be looking at around 800-1000 tons of plutonium assuming a 10 year refueling cycle. Great that it didn't blow up however the release of radionuclides will continue to occur until all the leaks are repaired. The question is how this will be achieved. Chernobyl released it's radionuclides into the air and all over the land because it was land locked. It seems that because Fukushima is releasing its radionuclide yield into the ocean that this is somehow less concerning. Let's do and see the science and asses the actual damage based on that, not hyperbole.

      There are debates about "extra" cancer cases caused by nuclear power, but I know of no proof that there have been any.

      The claim can be made for two reasons. First at TMI the science wasn't even done. Dr Carl Johnson, an expert in radiation related diseases asked the NRC and DOE to do a survey to look for some of these elements in the respirable dust around TMI after the accident and they refused. So if the authorities *refused* to take measurements on which to base long term cancer studies can be based, how can a supposition be made about how many lives have been lost due to increased cancer rates?

      It can be best summed up by this 2004 quote of Dr Michael Fernex formerly of the University of Basel who worked for the WHO;

      "Six years ago we tried to have a conference. The proceedings were never published. This is because in this matter the organisations at the UN are subordinate to the IAEA. Since 1986 the WHO did nothing about studying Chernobyl. It's a pity. The interdiction to publish which fell upon the WHO conference came from the IAEA. The IAEA blocked the proceedings; the truth would have been a disaster for the nuclear industry"

      Here is the actual text of the agreement. [wikisource.org] However the UNICEF report "Human consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident" summarised it neatly;

      "Life expectancy for men in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, for example, is some ten years less that Sri Lanka, which is one of the twenty poorest countries in the world and is in the middle of a long drawn out war"

      Maybe Pournelle is just to lazy to look and since cancer takes years to gestate I think it's premature to understand the damage done to the Japanese populace by Fukushima.

      the Chinese are moving toward both. The United States is moving away from both. The results are predictable.

      Absolutely predicable. If they make the same tragic organisational mistakes that every other country has made then we will see an accident on the same scale. It's difficult to believe that the Chinese will succeed where the UK, USA, USSR, Germany and now Japan has failed.

      Of course the plant was older and scheduled for retirement to begin with.

      Of course this is completely irrelevant and actually should have promoted investment in *ensuring* the plant wouldn't fail. The activated isotopes inside the reactor, or CRUD (Chalk River Unidentified Deposits - look it up), will be leaking into the Pacific if the reactor vessel is as breached as it appears to be. I suspect we are just at the

      • by HonIsCool (720634)

        However the UNICEF report "Human consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident" summarised it neatly;

        "Life expectancy for men in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, for example, is some ten years less that Sri Lanka, which is one of the twenty poorest countries in the world and is in the middle of a long drawn out war"

        Deceptive quoting makes the report seem to imply that the low life expectancy is due to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident whereas the report actually says something else:

        "As is true throughout the Former Soviet Union, life expectancy is low not only as compared with Southern and Western Europe, North America and Japan, but also with a number of countries from the developing world. Life expectancy for men in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, for example, is some ten years less than in Sri Lanka, which i

  • by Troke (1612099) on Monday April 18, 2011 @12:52AM (#35852452)
    I object to letting our robotic overlords have control of nuclear material.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by snikulin (889460)

      Don't be afraid, Comrade! Just like my iRobot's Roomba it will totally forget its humanity enslaiving plans when it encounter a loose power cable and start chewing on it.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday April 18, 2011 @12:54AM (#35852456) Homepage Journal
    Thanks to Google. Once they find out that long term disability and on-the-job life insurance does not extend to robots. This will be just one of many stepping stones to the robot uprising, mark my words!
  • Who will be the first to sue this company about the name, the Isaac Asimov estate or Apple?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by faulteh (1869228)

      iRobot has been building robots for years with no problems with the name.

      It is substantially different from crApple products by the fact iRobot products are actually useful rather than shiny technology, and substantially different from Asimov's titicular story, 'I, Robot' in the fact that (a) iRobot's are not 3 laws safe, and (b) it doesn't use 'I, ' but rather 'i' and (c) the company in Asimov's stories is US Robotics which shares the name with another company that you may have used back in the dialup days

      • PS WTF Japan, you're only NOW starting to use robots help fix the reactor???

        Why bother, when genpatsu gypsies [businessinsider.com] are so much cheaper?

      • iRobot has been building robots for years with no problems with the name.

        It is substantially different from crApple

        That's good to hear. At first I thought that these were some kind of wafer-thin robots with lustrous white plastic shells. I was afraid that they would get ruined with scratches from all the debris in the reactor buildings.

  • by CycleMan (638982) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:00AM (#35852492)
    With all the stories of robots invented by Japanese over time, I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event. I just assumed that if they were inventing sex robots and elder-care robots and dancing robots which all do things which humans could already do pretty well, that they had run out of things humans couldn't do, like industrial robots and disaster explorer robots. I've lost a lot of respect for Japanese robotics after the length of this delay.
    • Re:Finally! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kinky Bass Junk (880011) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:08AM (#35852536)
      The problem isn't the robotics researchers or manufacturers. I can tell you from experience that new technology like the use of robots in emergency management will always take years to come into play. There are so many great ways that technology can be integrated with emergency management, but emergency services will never have the budget and human resources to experiment with and adapt technology to real world applications. The earthquake was a catalyst for change in emergency management in Japan, leading to an immediate requirement for the use of new technology which would have been invested in (with both time and money) when the need became apparent. Personally I'd like to see further developments like this - the use of UAVs for bushfire operations and other disaster reconnaissance, robotic rubble searchers, etc.
    • Well, Japanese companies seem to spend their time producing things that are small and efficient and good enough for day-to-day activities.

      While in the US, everybody expects the world to turn into a Mad Max movie next Tuesday—so we spend our time making everything as overpowered and heavy-duty as we can get away with.

      Still, it's nice that the products of our trillion-dollar defense budgets do benefit someone once in a while.

    • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Animats (122034) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:55AM (#35852720) Homepage

      I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event.

      Me too. After 9/11, there were robots on scene in under 2 days. The iRobot unit being used here is a standard PackBot [irobot.com], of which about 20,000 have been manufactured for the US military.

      The worst aspect of this disaster for the future of nuclear power is that it all came merely from a loss of cooling. The plant survived the earthquake. The reactor's cooling system survived the tsunami and continued to function until the battery backups were drained. Loss of cooling caused heat buildup, hydrogen release, and the hydrogen explosions. All the damage you're seeing is from the hydrogen explosiions, not the natural disaster.

      A total loss of cooling power could happen for other reasons - a fire, tornado, hurricane, or act of terrorism. There's been a design assumption that no disaster would result in the loss of all power sources. That turns out to be a bad assumption.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        I think the future of nuclear power has been considered to be small reactors that will not suffer from this problem since sometime in the late 1970s. Apart from a pebble bed prototype it hasn't arrived yet.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I think the future of nuclear power has been considered to be small reactors that will not suffer from this problem since sometime in the late 1970s. Apart from a pebble bed prototype it hasn't arrived yet.

          It's not here yet because the powers that be [bodybuilding.com] build the current, shitty reactors [democratic...ground.com].

          • by dbIII (701233)
            It's called the nuclear lobby and they spend more money on advertising and "entertainment" of public officials than they do on R & D. It's not just the people legally bribed that are at fault but also those handing out the bribes.
      • I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event.

        Me too. After 9/11, there were robots on scene in under 2 days. The iRobot unit being used here is a standard PackBot [irobot.com], of which about 20,000 have been manufactured for the US military.

        The priority just wasn't having a look. They had to cool the thing, and some robot poking round the reactor would not have helped the cooling one bit.

        After 9/11, the priority would have been to find improbable survivors. Hence the deployment of robots.

        The worst aspect of this disaster for the future of nuclear power is that it all came merely from a loss of cooling. The plant survived the earthquake. The reactor's cooling system survived the tsunami and continued to function until the battery backups were drained. Loss of cooling caused heat buildup, hydrogen release, and the hydrogen explosions. All the damage you're seeing is from the hydrogen explosiions, not the natural disaster.

        One could argue that had the hydrogen been allowed to be vented to the atmosphere, even the hydrogen explosions wouldn't have happened.

        It has been noted that these were old designs, and more modern designs have passive cooling designs that do not require power

      • by gr8_phk (621180)

        Me too. After 9/11, there were robots on scene in under 2 days. The iRobot unit being used here is a standard PackBot [irobot.com], of which about 20,000 have been manufactured for the US military.

        And there you have the answer. Japans military was largely dismantled after World War II. They are not spending the money on rugged robots for military purposes, so they don't have this type of thing lying around for use in disasters. I also suspect that if it were in the US and we didn't have robots, someone wo

    • Re:Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Monday April 18, 2011 @02:23AM (#35852832)

      With all the stories of robots invented by Japanese over time, I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event.

      Give them a break, they had to mod the robot so that it's mouth no longer vibrated sensuously .

    • by blindseer (891256)

      It was my understanding that the radiation was too high at that point for any existing robot to operate in that environment. Since radiation levels on this magnitude is rare I suspect that robots designed to withstand such high radiation will not exist for some time.

      I have much respect for the mechanical and software advancements that the Japanese have brought to robotics. The problem here is that the electronics, while being very capable in completing computations, lack the capability to function in high

    • i guess they still havent solved the issue about who exactly is in charge of Gundam, after the ministry of agriculture denounced the responsibility

    • by dbIII (701233)

      I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event.

      I think they were hoping for reptile sequestration of all the radioactive material.

  • Allow Me (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Wild Norseman (1404891) <tw,norseman&gmail,com> on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:01AM (#35852500)

    Allow me to be the first to say, "domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!"

  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:23AM (#35852594) Journal

    "My God! It's full of stars!"

  • iRobot? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sl4shd0t0rg (810273) on Monday April 18, 2011 @02:03AM (#35852756)
    Great, if they are like my Roomba they will bounce from one wall to another in the corner, scream loudly, and then shutdown.
  • by TopSpin (753) on Monday April 18, 2011 @03:04AM (#35852964) Journal

    The media is getting this material here [tepco.co.jp]. You can find video of RC helicopter flights over the buildings, video of the No.4 spend fuel pool sampling operation right down to the surface of the water, photos of the tsunami water marks on the turbine and reactor buildings and photos of the destruction of outlying structures. Also interesting are photos of the emergency staff and their on-site facilities. Much of this stuff is high resolution photography.

  • Bender Says (Score:3, Funny)

    by wa2flq (313837) on Monday April 18, 2011 @03:08AM (#35852984)

    Hey flesh bags, bite my shiny metal radioactive a.....

    Oh Fukushima, not Futurama..... Sorry my bad...

  • by Silverlok (1792664) on Monday April 18, 2011 @03:33AM (#35853080)
    "Banri Kaieda spoke to reporters on Sunday shortly after Tokyo Electric Power Company presented a road map to cool down the reactors and significantly reduce radiation leaks in 6 to 9 months" http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/17_16.html [nhk.or.jp] It's only 6 to 9 months no big deal right? "Radiation levels measured between the double doors of those reactor buildings was 270 millisieverts in the Number One reactor, 12 in Number 2, and 10 in Number 3. The radiation level detected at the Number One reactor exceeds the national exposure limit of 250 millisieverts for nuclear contract workers." http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/18_03.html [nhk.or.jp] Three reactors melting down and at least one breached , plus several tons of waste fuels rods that have melted or blown away and are still currently boiling off, plutonium found around the plant on the ground , not to mention the dumping of highly radioactive water into the ocean for over a month but no big deal right? http://www.vgb.org/vgbmultimedia/News/Fukushimav15VGB.pdf [vgb.org] If you have a mind to look behind the curtain http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread672665/pg739 [abovetopsecret.com]
  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Monday April 18, 2011 @04:38AM (#35853286)

    "Well Artoo, this is another fine mess you've gotten us into"

    Obligatory Useful links: A very good description of radiation by the EPA
    http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/understand/index.html [epa.gov]

    Follow the link under the green heading at the right of the page

  • by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes AT xmsnet DOT nl> on Monday April 18, 2011 @05:08AM (#35853396)

    After the Chernobyl accident, the team that had created the Lunokhod rovers was asked to build remote-controlled vehicles (RCV) to help clean up. The RCV's first task was to remove reactor debris (chunks of graphite from the core) from a roof, by pushing it off the edge of the roof. The RCVs worked well; eventually though they failed due to the radiation. This despite them being rad-hardened, as the original Lunokhods had been powered by an RTG.

    • Re:Trivia (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ruie (30480) on Monday April 18, 2011 @05:59AM (#35853570) Homepage

      After the Chernobyl accident, the team that had created the Lunokhod rovers was asked to build remote-controlled vehicles (RCV) to help clean up. The RCV's first task was to remove reactor debris (chunks of graphite from the core) from a roof, by pushing it off the edge of the roof. The RCVs worked well; eventually though they failed due to the radiation. This despite them being rad-hardened, as the original Lunokhods had been powered by an RTG.

      RTGs do not produce much external radiation - they are based on alpha-emitter material that is absorbed by the surrounding shielding converting radiation into heat. However, space hardware is rad-hardened because of cosmic rays - natural radiation present in space. This is often not as high-level as can be found near reactor core.

      Here is an interesting description of using a robot to fix a high intensity radiaiton source [physorg.com].

  • Could anyone provide figures of property lost value and dead count caused by:

    - the Fukushima accident
    - the earthquake, excluding the tsunami
    - the tsunami, excluding the Fukushima casualties

    ?

    I mean, the power plant problem is a big one, but I'd really like to see how it compares to the big image. Somehow I have a feeling that even establishing a permanent 30km exclusion zone around the power plant, and all the cancer accidents resulting from radiation leaks will not get anywhere near to the number of dead an

    • by he-sk (103163)

      I don't have the actual numbers, but it's safe to say that the tsunami dwarfs the earth quake and the nuclear incident in deaths and property damage.

      People focus on the nuclear incident though, because the mitigation strategies against the quake and the tsunami mostly worked. "Only" 25000 people died compared to the 200000+ who died in the 2006 Indian Ocean tsunami. On the other hand, we have no mitigation strategy against the the nuclear incident (other than keeping it cool at all costs to prevent a meltd

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday April 18, 2011 @08:30AM (#35854344) Homepage

    This is typical and normal for Japanese companies not to be forthcoming with information. They simply don't offer information unless it is required. You might consider this "secretive" especially when such an event literally has potential to affect everyone on the planet in some way, but this is simply not inherent to the way the Japanese think. This is an embarrassment and simply would prefer not to talk about it. I think this trend is clear and obvious from the very beginning of the reporting of the situation. The picture painted was always one indicating "nothing to worry about" and so on. As things progressed, they had to "admit" more failure as it couldn't be denied.

    In the western mind, this does the opposite of "building trust" and is read as being deceptive. Even now, I cannot help but feel that way. But I have to remind myself that this is "normal" for this different cultural mindset. Then ask yourself why would they do anything that wouldn't be normal for them to do? They don't read this as a "public trust" issue -- they see it as an internal affair.

  • The reactors at Fukushima Daiichi that failed were designed in the 1970's. Newer designs using current technology are designed with a more 'fail safe' type of cooling and probably would NOT have suffered the cooling failure under the same conditions. Nuclear power plants designed TODAY are much safer than the ones put in service before Three Mile Island. The problem is that the older plants that are subject to the failure modes we have seen are NOT going to be replaced until they either DO fail, or are p

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