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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.

  • by RsG (809189) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:25AM (#35852606)

    I'm not even pro-nuclear (I'd call it the lesser of two evils), and even I take exception to the assumption that the realists about Fukushima (or Chernobyl for that matter) must be nuclear industry shills.

    There is a general trend of alarmist hysteria surrounding nuclear power, and slashdot is one of the few places I read where there are people basically telling the alarmists to stow it. A few of these people shouting down the anti-nuclear sentiment are strongly biased in favour of nuclear power, but most are simply more informed about the risks involved than the general public. Dismissing the anti-alarmist commentators as "nuclear industry PR folks" is essentially throwing reason out the window in favour of fear.

    (Just to preempt the inevitable accusation that I am "one of them", my own view is that nuclear power plants should be built in lieu of coal power plants. See the "lesser of two evils" sentiment above. I'm all in favour of solar homes and where local conditions permit I support hydro, geothermal or other means of power collection. In the long run I think fusion offers our best hope. Nuclear power is a stopgap.)

  • 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 DeathElk (883654) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:56AM (#35852724)

    worship uncivilised gods

    continually have tribal battles

    Well that must make us Westerners absolutely prehistoric then.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @03:15AM (#35853012)

    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 solar is only one alternative.

  • by Gorshkov (932507) <admgorshkov&yahoo,com> on Monday April 18, 2011 @03:53AM (#35853148)

    Except that there is in fact a lot of nuclear astroturfing going on.

    How is it astroturfing if they are a) a group specifically and publicly formed by and for the nuclear industry, b) not hiding who they are, but openly and honestly giving their side of the debate, c) to an audience that is there specifically to hear what they have to say because they WANT to hear what they have to say?

    Sorry, but that's just silly. It's kinda like saying the catholic church astroturfs every time a priest stands up and gives a sermon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @04:50AM (#35853334)

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

  • 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 erroneus (253617) on Monday April 18, 2011 @08:31AM (#35854348) Homepage

    You realize you just posted spam on a discussion board literally filled with black-hat hackers that can ruin your day, your year or your life?

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @10:07AM (#35855076)

    In Chernobyl, the "released" radioactive material spread all over Europe and Asia. In Fukushima, the "released" material is mostly still on the power plant site.

    Contaminated water is a pain to keep bottled up, but it's a lot easier than contaminated smoke.

    So that 1/8 figure, while accurate, is misleading about the effects on the population.

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