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Japan Power Hardware

Fukushima Cooling Knocked Offline By... a Rat 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the rats-of-nimh-are-running-our-nuclear-reactors dept.
necro81 writes "The cooling system at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, responsible for keeping the spent fuel pools at an appropriate temperature, lost power early on March 18th. During the blackout, the temperature in the spent fuel pools gradually increased, although TEPCO officials indicated the pools could warm for four days without risking radiation release. Power was restored earlier this morning, and the pools should be back to normal temperature in a few days. During the repairs, the charred remains of a rat were found in a critical area of wiring, leading some to believe that this rodent was the cause of this latest problem. At least it wasn't a mynock — then we'd really be in trouble."
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Fukushima Cooling Knocked Offline By... a Rat

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  • by Haoie (1277294) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @02:36PM (#43226737) Homepage

    And here I am thinking all radiation makes stuff grow really big, really fast.

  • by hamster_nz (656572) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @02:43PM (#43226821)

    Every other year I have to remove fried mice out of my in-wall stove's wiring, In autumn they try to come in side and look for a nice warm place for winter. I guess they find the oven before they find the mousetraps.

    This, however, never makes it to Slashdot...

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @02:51PM (#43226881)

      Well, your stove hopefully isn't containing radioactive waste.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Well I'm surprised there isn't mention of how the term "debugging" came to be.

      Turns out there was once a software irregularity being investigated in one of the earliest computers. The problem discovered was an insect has gotten into the machine hardware and shorted out one or more components.

      This is a serious matter, however, as a nuclear facility should not have things like rats running around. This is evidence that they are STILL not taking nuclear safety seriously.

      • You can't keep rats out. They get in. They are smart and tough and are capable of amazing feats of ingenuity. They are one of humanity's oldest enemies for a reason.
        • by Immerman (2627577) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:39PM (#43227401)

          Nah man, they may be a bit parasitic but they're not enemies, they love us - no other species creates nearly the mountains of delicious food waste and cozy warm walls to live in. Sure, they extract a bit of a tithe in grain and property damage, but in exchange they clean up a lot of our waste and share all sorts of cool things like bubonic plague that we might never discover on our own..

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      Is it really that hard to keep rodents out of the house... or a nuclear power plant in this case.

  • were this radioactive rat: Pizza!! [google.com]

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @02:51PM (#43226885)

    They didn't say that the pools would risk releasing radiation after 4 days, they said:

    Tepco said it would have taken several days for temperatures in the pools to have risen above the safe level of 65 degrees Celsius, or 149 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The company said that temperatures in the fuel pools would have remained at safe levels for at least four days.

    A rise above "safe" levels doesn't necessarily mean radiation release. I don't think there's any danger of radiation release until the water boils down to a level where the rods are exposed (and presumably even in an extended power outage, additional purified water could be added to the pools to maintain water levels).

    Rat induced power problems are not uncommon in large industrial plants. All it takes is an unsealed conduit cover while workers take a meal break, and a rat can slip inside. Rats wreaked havoc on network cables (both fiber and copper) at a building I once worked at -- many of the conduit runs were left unsealed by a vendor (or poorly sealed by foam plugs that eventually shrank enough to be displaced by the rodents) and the rats found them convenient for getting around the building (as well as a cozy place to live), and apparently they liked to nibble on cables or their feces+urine degraded the cables enough to cause failure. They ended up replacing almost all of the cables in uncapped conduit (and properly sealing the conduit this time).

    • Absolutely dead on. Rats love the plastic sheathing on cat 5 like nothing else. I can't tell you how many times I've had to rerun cables at one customer's business because of rats and mice. Things would start flaking out and it would be a rat chewed cable 9 times out of 10 (the other times it would be a leaky roof). I even told them that they could get a good exterminator for less than they were paying me to re-pull wires.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You are making a distinction where there is none. The summary says the exact same thing you say:
        "officials indicated the pools could warm for four days without risking radiation release".

      That's the same thing. For 4 days there is no significant risk. After 4 days, then there is a significant risk. That doesn't mean it's "imminent", or that radiation will be released at 4 days, 1 second.

    • by ikaruga (2725453)
      Mistakes, bugs or rodent problems are understandable. But c'mon, we're talking about nuclear power here. I expect at least some redundancy and fail-safety. Unless we're talking about some soviet era facility, I guarantee you that you'll never hear about such a problem on any other nuclear power plant in the world. It's like they didn't learn anything from two years ago. And Tepco is one of the most well-funded companies in Japan. Lack of money and staff shouldn't be a problem. As a guy who lives in Japan I
      • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:22PM (#43227203)

        Mistakes, bugs or rodent problems are understandable. But c'mon, we're talking about nuclear power here. I expect at least some redundancy and fail-safety. Unless we're talking about some soviet era facility, I guarantee you that you'll never hear about such a problem on any other nuclear power plant in the world. It's like they didn't learn anything from two years ago. And Tepco is one of the most well-funded companies in Japan. Lack of money and staff shouldn't be a problem. As a guy who lives in Japan I hate Tepco. Thanks to them my power bill is freaking expensive and yet they can't even do a decent job. What a disgrace to Japan.

        How much redundancy do you need in a system that stays at safe levels for 4 days after a failure?

        I can see having full double or triple redundancy for systems that will result in unsafe conditions in hours or minutes, but for 4 days?

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          I can see that I was modded down.

          To put it another way: There's already a 100% guaranteed fail-safe in place to keep the stored fuel safe for at least 4 days after a cooling system failure: the physical properties of water.

          What secondary system can you build that can beat the reliability of physics? What do you gain by having a secondary cooling system (to offset the doubled installation and operational costs)?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          4 days is apparently not enough. Have you heard of Fukushima? They didn't build it as a pile of wreckage to start with you know.

          • by hawguy (1600213)

            4 days is apparently not enough. Have you heard of Fukushima? They didn't build it as a pile of wreckage to start with you know.

            I don't know if you'd heard, but there was a major earthquake and a huge Tsunami that took away all of the redundant power systems. It wasn't a failure of the cooling system that caused the

            A redundant cooling system doesn't do much good when you have no way to power it.

            If you're suggesting that the power plant should have been built to survive the exact disaster that struck it, then you'll get no argument from me, but it's a lot easier to design something to protect against past (and known), disasters tha

        • by Anonymous Coward

          How much redundancy do you need in a system that stays at safe levels for 4 days after a failure?

          I can see having full double or triple redundancy for systems that will result in unsafe conditions in hours or minutes, but for 4 days?

          You forgot to account for the level of danger in the event of prolonged failure in your argument.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but is not Fukushima in fact a Soviet-era reactor, or nearly so? They could potentially perform massive refitting of the plant, but that's expensive, you're already complaining about the current energy prices

        • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:55PM (#43227563)

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but is not Fukushima in fact a Soviet-era reactor, or nearly so? They could potentially perform massive refitting of the plant, but that's expensive, you're already complaining about the current energy prices

          You are wrong. The reactors are Fukushima-I are all USA design BWR's (designed by General Electric, several were manufactured by GE). I'm not sure that "era" means what you think it does...Unless by "Soviet-era" you meant the period of time that the USSR existed? That would put most of the nuclear plants in the USA in the "Soviet-era".

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            era, (noun); a long period of time, often marked by distinctive characteristic events.

            What did you think the word meant?

            And yes, I would consider most US nuclear reactors to be at least borderline Soviet-era, though probably with better control and safety systems than soviet-built reactors. They're old, creaky reactors being operated long past their scheduled end of life, and bear only a passing resemblance to modern reactors.

            • by hawguy (1600213)

              era, (noun); a long period of time, often marked by distinctive characteristic events.

              What did you think the word meant?

              And yes, I would consider most US nuclear reactors to be at least borderline Soviet-era, though probably with better control and safety systems than soviet-built reactors. They're old, creaky reactors being operated long past their scheduled end of life, and bear only a passing resemblance to modern reactors.

              Well, it just seemed like a weird way to say "20 or more years old" -- usually when people say "Soviet-era", they mean that it's associated with the Soviet Union. I.e. "Soviet era T-54 tanks" or "Soviet era nuclear missiles".

              Referring to USA designed reactors as "Soviet era" just because they were designed when the Soviet Union still existed is a bit like saying "The Smithsonian Museum has the Ottoman Era Declaration of Independence on display".

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                Fair point. But in terms of nuclear reactors not only were they built at the same time, they were also built with pretty much the same technology and goals, though priorities were perhaps slightly different and the US was mostly better at "high tech". Unlike military hardware which was highly customized to suit different tactical and strategic applications.

                • by wjwlsn (94460)

                  The technology and goals were actually very different. In the US, you had regulator-imposed general design criteria that said things like "thou shalt have a void-coefficient of reactivity that is negative" and "thy shutdown systems shall be fast acting" and "thou shalt have diverse and redundant safety systems" and "when the shit hits the fan, thou shalt contain thy fission products".

                  In Soviet Russia, reactor design imposes criteria on YOU! Design reactor for maximal plutonium production and easy removal of

                  • So, then, why did Fukushima fail so badly, even though it had fast-acting shutdown systems, a negative void coefficient, diverse and redundant safety systems, and a containment design that satisfied all of the regulations that existed at the time? That's the real story here, and its moral has a lot to do with the idea of "beyond design basis" accidents and designing to be more robust than required by regulation.

                    The Mark I and Mark II reactors installed at Fukushima 1-4 were part of an effort by GE to desi

                    • by wjwlsn (94460)

                      Analyses conducted in the late 1970s concluded that the Mark I would almost certainly result in disaster in the event of sustained power loss - and it did.

                      Yeah... unfortunately, the containment failures at Fukushima matched the models pretty well. I've posted it before, but the following document is illuminating... see the section titled "BWR 3/4 Perspectives", including the parts regarding station blackout (SBO), transients with loss of coolant injection, and transients with loss of decay heat removal (DHR).

                      http://www.osti.gov/bridge/purl.cover.jsp?purl=%2F205567-BJIEKT%2Fwebviewable%2F [osti.gov]

                      I still don't understand why TEPCO didn't install hardened containment

    • I used to work in the NOC for a major Telco and when we had outages the techs had to fill out a ticket explaining what caused it. It was a drop down, and the #1 cause was "Lightening related power surge", #2 cause was "Animal - Rodent" About 90% of all failures were in those 2 categories.

    • Rats and mice will chew anything (though they have a weakness for the taste of wire cable sheathing) because like a dog's toenails, their teeth never stop growing. They must be worn down by constant use.
  • Godzirra!! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Doug Otto (2821601)
    Everyone panic.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Image:
    http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/technik/bild-890027-475494.html

  • A little humility (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @02:55PM (#43226923)

    Nature is very good at serving us humility in small bite size portions that can bring great things down. Events like this should remind us that we are mere stewards of the planet and that the rest of the ecosystem will happily take over the best laid plans we have if we let our guard down even a little.

    No matter how well you design something nature can and will find a way to get in, and it is arrogance in the extreme to assume otherwise. About the only way to avoid something like that is to have a clean room environment, and I'm quite certain that you can't fit a nuclear power plant inside a clean room.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Nature is very good at serving us humility in small bite size portions that can bring great things down. Events like this should remind us that we are mere stewards of the planet and that the rest of the ecosystem will happily take over the best laid plans we have if we let our guard down even a little.

      Isn't that the lesson Jeff Goldblum was trying to teach us in Jurassic Park?

      No matter how well you design something nature can and will find a way to get in, and it is arrogance in the extreme to assume otherwise. About the only way to avoid something like that is to have a clean room environment, and I'm quite certain that you can't fit a nuclear power plant inside a clean room.

      Sure you can:

      http://techblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/11/neighborhood-nuclear-power-pla.html [dallasnews.com]

      • Can you? This article was predicting they'd be on sale in less than five years, and was written over four years ago. They appear to be a little behind schedule. Their website (http://www.gen4energy.com/) still talks about everything as being still on the drawing board; no mention of actual deployment or any target dates or milestones.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Can you? This article was predicting they'd be on sale in less than five years, and was written over four years ago. They appear to be a little behind schedule. Their website (http://www.gen4energy.com/) still talks about everything as being still on the drawing board; no mention of actual deployment or any target dates or milestones.

          There's a lot more than physics behind the inability of in newer (and safer) nuclear power plant designs being deployed.

          There are other examples of small-scale reactor deployments - like the ones used in nuclear submarines (including the small NR-1), as well as the nuclear reactors used in spacecraft (not something you'd power a neighborhood with, but they are still reactors).

          • by onyxruby (118189)

            Agreed, politics is by far the greatest impediment to deploying small scale nuclear reactors. I'd love to see small scale nuclear reactors deployed on a wide scale, it's the best green technology that we have. If you get down to it you /could/ fit one of those in a clean room. I was speaking more metaphorically than literally in this case.

            • by hawguy (1600213)

              Agreed, politics is by far the greatest impediment to deploying small scale nuclear reactors. I'd love to see small scale nuclear reactors deployed on a wide scale, it's the best green technology that we have. If you get down to it you /could/ fit one of those in a clean room. I was speaking more metaphorically than literally in this case.

              I think you're on the wrong website - I flippantly ignored the point you were making and corrected something you said, and you didn't call me any names, and even agreed with something I said in a later post.

              I think that Slashdot protocol requires that you make a derogatory comment about my mother, or at least attack my virility and/or sexual orientation..

              • by onyxruby (118189)

                What can I say, I was wrong on a point? I'm okay with that, it was metaphorical anyway. Disagreement with me is something everyone is going to do on something, I don't take it personally.

                I could be jerk next time if you want, but that just isn't my style.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Events like this should remind us that we are mere stewards of the planet and that the rest of the ecosystem will happily take over the best laid plans we have if we let our guard down even a little.

      Yeah. We should just nuke the whole thing from the orbit, it's the only way... Oh.

    • We are indeed "mere stewards of the planet". Which is why we should be looking at the safest and most efficient means of generating the power we use. (i.e. nuclear)

      Things like this will happen from time to time, which is why the system is built to remain safe for four days after a loss of power (and probably quite a bit longer than that in extreme conditions.) Granted, it would be a lot more preferable to have a passive cooling system so you don't even care if your power gets knocked out, but then you run i

    • by Sigg3.net (886486)

      Stewardship implies sovereignty and superiority over the presumed animal 'kingdom'.

  • Not true. (Score:4, Funny)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:01PM (#43226973)
    It was a Rodent of Unusual Size.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:09PM (#43227061) Journal
    Remember the bug that allegedly shorted out the vacuum tubes and triggered the coining "bug" as a term for errors in computation? Hereinafter all errors in nuclear power plant design and operation will be called a rat?
  • James Herbert dies....coincidence!?!?!?!?

  • Obligatory XKCD: http://whatif.xkcd.com/29/ [xkcd.com]
  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:36PM (#43227363)

    When you are dealing with a potential calamity on the scale of Fukishama (or even Deepwater Horizon for that matter) the system needs to be able to rebound easily from instabilities such as fire, earthquake, overheating, floods or Rats. The biggest problem with Nuclear is you need guaranteed cooling for the system to remain stable -- and you can't get that to 100%. Ever. The entire system needs to shift over to one of the less problematic alternatives in order for it to gain wide acceptance.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      No alternative is 100% safe either. Wind turbines kill several people every year (mostly maintenance workers falling to their deaths). Falls from roofers are a leading cause of death among home contractors, and installing rooftop solar panels on every home would increase this number. The occasional hydroelectric dam failure kills people via flooding (in fact the worst power plant-related accident in history is the failure of a series of hydroelectric and flood control dams - nearly 200,000 killed). Oil
      • by Anonymous Coward

        You can't cordon off nuclear fallout.

        I'd be perfectly happy with nuclear power so long as corruption and incompetence weren't so rampant, (this includes viable solutions to waste management.)

        Yes, nothing is perfectly safe, but a field of windmills a few miles from here isn't going to force me to relocate if some idiot does something wrong, as we have to expect will happen sooner or later.

        Humans have proven that they're not worthy of nuclear power. Plain and simple.

        And damn it, I want to see solar power use

  • He was willing to keep it real in protest.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:05PM (#43227705)

    Last seen training irradiated juvenile turtles to kick ass with medieval Japanese weaponry.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    there aren't enough cats in power plants and labs.

  • fights the nuclear power. More news at 11.

  • ...than a giant green lizard.

  • This business of storing used fuel rods at working reactors needs to stop. Once they've cooled off enough for dry cask storage, they should go to dry storage in a mountain somewhere.

    The US repository was supposed to be in Yucca Mountain. Early plans called for a second repository somewhere on the east coast, probably in hard-rock mountains in Maine or Vermont. There are mountain ranges that haven't done anything exciting geologically in the last 20 million years or so, and those are the best sites.

  • Master Splinter is deceased. We should be grieving the thwarting of the age of the TMNT as Splinter will never be able to train the TMNT. Which anthropomorphic rat sensei will train the anthropomorphic turtles to defeat Shredder now?

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