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Power Japan

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Cleanup May Take More Than 40 Years 218

Posted by Soulskill
from the public-to-forget-about-it-within-40-months dept.
mdsolar writes "'A U.N. nuclear watchdog team said Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the Fukushima power plant and urged Tepco to improve stability at the facility. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency team, Juan Carlos Lentijo, said Monday that damage at the nuclear plant is so complex that it is impossible to predict how long the cleanup may last.' Meanwhile, Gregory B. Jaczko, former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that all 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology."
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Fukushima Nuclear Plant Cleanup May Take More Than 40 Years

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  • "Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that all 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology."

    If this is honest and true permits should be issued post haste.

    One caution.... newer is not better as Apple Map users found.

    • by Tailhook (98486) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @07:34PM (#43531701)

      Jaczko isn't credible. He is a head case that drove his colleagues, including his fellow Obama appointees, to publically and unanimously condemn his tenure as NRC chairman while seated right next to him during congressional testimony. They forced him out because they'd had enough of his shit.

      So now he is going to be a professional anti-nuke gadfly. Last week good 'ol Senator Harry Reid resurrected the head case [depletedcranium.com] and put him on the NNSA board so he can make that group dysfunctional and say scary things about the stockpile. Now that he's out of the shadows he's taking more shots as nuclear energy as well.

      If you read the linked story you'll eventually learn what, specifically, his problem is with contemporary operating reactors; they are large and have enough residual heat to damage fuel after shutdown. The notion that our power reactors are too large is not new. It has been well understood since the beginning of nuclear energy production. Jaczko is talking about it because that's his job now; use the credibility of his "Former Chairman of the NRC" moniker to make headlines by saying scary things about nukes.

      Incidentally this discussion raises the question; how large can a reactor be without risking fuel damage? The answer is about 60 MW thermal for traditional PWR light water designs. Common power reactors are 2000 MW thermal.

      BTW, we aren't going to do anything about any of this. We're not replacing the reactors, or coal or gas or building out green energy [wind-watch.org] or anything else. We're a balkanized welfare state nation occupied with feathering our environmental nest while evacuating our industrial base to Asia. The power system you have now will be approximately the power system running when you die. Maybe a reactor will melt and we'll replace our nukes with more gas consumption. That's about as much as you can expect.

      • We're a balkanized welfare state nation occupied with feathering our environmental nest while evacuating our industrial base to Asia.

        That's the most depressing phrase I've read all week.

      • by asola (2778943)
        1) Have you noticed the huge amount of solar and wind generation capacity installed in your country recently?

        2) Have you noticed the annual 30-40% drop rate of solar panel prices?

        3) Have you noticed the upcoming grid-scale storage developments (e.g.: GE's Durathon) which are nearing mass production?

        I would say that the US grid will look VERY DIFFERENT in 20 years time whether anyone there like/want it or not. Renewables will simply kill fossil/nuclear based generation once adequate grid-scale stora
      • Remember that they kill off whistle-blowers in the nuclear industry. Just mention the name Silkwood and chuckle and no one is going to say anything. The example of Tommy Hook helps with the intimidation.
    • by mspohr (589790)

      I think we should replace all of our nuclear reactors with one big one.
      The good news is that this is already in operation and has proven to be a stable design.
      It has been generating power for millions of years and has a projected life of millions more.
      It only gives earth a small amount of harmful radiation due to natural shielding. It provides many times the power the earth could possibly ever use.
      I am, of course, referring to the sun.

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@ovi.cSLACKWAREom minus distro> on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:21PM (#43531075) Homepage

    Is nuclear power really more cost effective per megawatt if you incluse the cost of long term storage and clean up after a disaster? Those numbers never make it into the calculations because they are inevitably paid by taxpayers.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:35PM (#43531177)

      Oh my god, don't start putting logic into your fiscal planning and equations! That's not how the world works. Witch! Burn the Witch!!!

    • by gr8_phk (621180) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @08:04PM (#43531961)
      The problem is that there were supposed to be other types of reactors that would "burn" the waste. That would generate even more power while getting rid of the "spent" fuel. Problem is those reactors never got approved due to proliferation risk. But of course they keep renewing licenses for the existing ones to create more waste and IIRC even allowing some more to be built.

      I'm not sure why this doesn't come up when they talk about where to bury the waste - building a reactor to make use of it IS an option. Of course the longer we wait, the more spent fuel will be contained in giant blocks of cement that can't be used as fuel either.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @06:46AM (#43535039) Homepage

        It wasn't due to proliferation risk, it was cost. All the LSFR reactors ever built were research testbeds and experienced major problems. None ever recycled fuel successfully in the way that would be needed for them to be commercially viable.

        The cost of development would be huge and the potential risks to the ROI are worrying to investors. It would make sense for the government to try to build one, if it were able to see beyond the next election or two and didn't have better options like renewables and fusion to throw money at.

        These things are just not commercially viable I'm afraid.

    • by fermion (181285)
      While the term 'too cheap to meter' was not originally strictly applied to the first generations of nuclear power, they were certainly marketed as such. Of course, as mentioned, they became much more expensive as each incident required huge taxpayer bailouts. OTOH, who know how much coal is going to cost us in the end. The superfund is no longer being paid by industry, and every day our atmosphere is being treated like a sewer. We have enough sense to know that indoor plumbing is worth the investment,
    • Cost per Megawatt?
      As in installed nominal power? Surely not.

      Cost per Megawatthour?
      As in total produced energy over nuke lifetime? Maybe

      Nukes work almost all year long while solar panels and wind turbines work somewhere between 800 and 2000 hours a year.

    • If you can predict disasters in order to include their costs into your expense sheet, then you can avoid disasters and don't pay a dime for the expected incured costs. So, I guess this is the very basic reason you cannot make this kind of calculations and why they do not make sense anyway.
    • by nojayuk (567177)

      Long-term storage of nuclear waste is paid for by a levy on the electricity generated by the reactors and not by the "taxpayers". In the US that's 0.1c per kWh. The total US fund for that is over 28 billion dollars and rising. In contrast the coal power station operators pay bupkis for long-term treatment of their unconstrained waste output -- any attempt to get them to cough up (so to speak) is a War On Coal.

    • If you are interested in costs, Amory Lovins' book "Reinventing Fire" goes into great detail. http://www.rmi.org/ReinventingFire [rmi.org] Large scale renewables with new transmission turns out to be the cheapest approach. He still prefers smaller scale methods owing to their robustness to large scale disruption. Nuclear is the most expensive option.
      • From the zealot who brought us the biofuels disaster [nucleartownhall.com]? No thanks.

        Regardless, the question isn't wether conventional nuclear is the most expensive, but if renewables can ever be cheaper than coal and natural gas, and deployed at a rate of say 100MW a day. (and with the low capacity factor of wind/solar, they would require several times that, not to mention several times the transmission infrastructure.)

        Renewables simply don't cut it at the scales we require. The developing world is building coal plants ins

    • by RevDisk (740008)
      Yes, it is.

      Decommissioning costs are put aside during the life of a reactor. The formulas are found in 10 CFR 50.75(c). There isn't a similar requirement for a fund dedicated to clean up after a disaster, because it's so rare and the company is liable anyways. It'd probably be a good idea.
  • by Dragonshed (206590) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:25PM (#43531101)

    Moving away from the first & second generation light water reactor designs is definitely something we should be doing, but simply going to smaller plants is a dubious plan.

    From TFA:

    > Dr. Jaczko cited a well-known characteristic of nuclear reactor fuel to continue to generate copious amounts of heat after a chain reaction is shut down. That “decay heat” is what led to the Fukushima meltdowns. The solution, he said, was probably smaller reactors in which the heat could not push the temperature to the fuel’s melting point.

    Actually innovating, bringing something like the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor to reality, is more along the lines of what we should be doing.

    Also, it was the tsunami that actually caused the meltdowns. Fukushima had appropriate backups for cooling the reactor, and were well under way when the reactors were shut down after the quake, they just didn't design for the eventually of a tsunami to come and categorically knock them all out.

    $0.02

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:37PM (#43531197)

      it was the tsunami that actually caused the meltdowns

      Has anyone said otherwise? What's your point?

      they just didn't design for the eventually of a tsunami

      It doesn't matter what other things were done right, because in the real world it still had a meltdown.

      • by ranpel (1255408)
        The article said: "That “decay heat” is what led to the Fukushima meltdowns"

        and it does matter because in the real world the ideal is to learn from the past in order to better prepare for the future. No?
      • by mad flyer (589291)

        Actually, if you were to check on the matter...

        The quake already disabled the plants, the tsunami just gave the final blow.

        AND NO, NO AND NO.

        THE QUAKE AT THE SITE OF THE PLANT WAS NOT BIGGER THAN WHAT THE PLANT WHAT SUPPOSEDLY BUILD TO SUSTAIN.

        The quake was a 9 something at sea, but much much lower at the coast of Japan.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Has anyone said otherwise?

        Jaczko did. Which was the point of the original poster's clarification.

        It doesn't matter what other things were done right, because in the real world it still had a meltdown.

        Of course it matters. Do you think less radiation would be released, if say the melted core had stayed critical for days after the tsunami, generating heat a considerable fraction of that of a working reactor? (Just scramming the reactor dropped heat production by a factor of ten. And keeping the reactor cool for about nine hours, dropped heat production significantly more.) Or while the core continued to boil sea water and release measu

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Actually the tsunami was not the only cause, the earthquake itself damaged the plant. That was not known at the time but has come to light during the clean-up operation.

        Another interesting fact that has recently been discovered was that the meltdowns could have been avoided. When the emergency cooling system failed the plant operators used fire engines to pump water into the reactor using a pipe designed for just such an emergency. Unfortunately a valve that was supposed to be closed was open, and no-one kn

    • by benjfowler (239527) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:39PM (#43531219)

      There are plenty of problems with LFTR, mostly to do with metallurgy, chemistry, toxicity (e.g. beryllium), the core freezing, etc etc etc.

      If there weren't, somebody would've built one by now. LFTR is no silver bullet, at least until all these problems are ironed out.

      • They have already been built long ago, and all of the fundamental concepts have been proven. What is left is the engineering and development left to make a commercial grade reactor. For a small fraction of what we are spending to turn our excess plutonium into MOX fuel which none of our reactors are equipped to use, molten salt reactors could solve the plutonium and spent fuel issues once and for all, at far less cost.

        The corrosion problems used as an excuse to shut down the program, already had known so

        • by delt0r (999393) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @01:06AM (#43533807)

          They have already been built long ago, and all of the fundamental concepts have been proven.

          Incorrect. There has never been any breeding. Th fuel cycles need breeding and thus a breeding ratio of 1 or better. This has never been done and numerically looks pretty tight. So tight that in situ reprocessing is typically proposed to remove the 233Pa which acts as a neutron poison. This also has never been done or shown to work in any way. These things would be considered a pretty fundamental part of a LFTR.

          • Thermal breeding of U-233 was demonstrated in the Shippingport reactor [wikipedia.org], and there are no reasons to expect that it will not work in LFTR as well. U-233 releases about 2.3 neutrons per fission, which while slow for breeding, is not that tight for breaking even.

            • by delt0r (999393)
              And that has a totally different neutron economy to a LFTR. 2.3 neutrons, minus one is tight. Every detail matters. Like what trace isotopes you have in the construction materials.
    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @07:20PM (#43531573)

      they just didn't design for the eventually of a tsunami to come and categorically knock them all out.

      Geological records show that a Tsunami about that size hits the coast of Japan every 300 years. The reactor was built to last 60 years. Just by random chance there was a 20% probability of being hit by a tsunami. But tsunamis don't happen randomly, they roughly happen at a known frequency, and northwest Japan was "due". So they failed to account for something that had a better than even chance of happening over the life of the reactor. This is why the greenies roll their eyes when the nukies say "Trust us, we know what we're doing!"

      • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:27PM (#43533027)

        This is why the greenies roll their eyes when the nukies say "Trust us, we know what we're doing!"

        And the rest of us roll their eyes when the greenies expect us to roll back ~100+ years of progress because nuclear accidents have happened.

        Nuclear power has the lowest carbon output per megawatt of ANY base load power supply. Full stop.

        This is a chart of deaths per TwH of power:
        http://www-958.ibm.com/software/data/cognos/manyeyes/visualizations/2e5d4dcc4fb511e0ae0c000255111976/comments/2e70ae944fb511e0ae0c000255111976 [ibm.com]

        Nuclear? 0.04. Coal? *161*

        Wow, great, we've had Chernobyl and Fukushima as major incidents. You know how many people die every year because of coal-fired generation? Hundreds of thousands. Greenies can fuck off.

        • Greens want to move to more modern technology. Nuke nuts want to stick with a very inefficient method to boil water. The solid state tech in solar panels is much newer and much more elegant that trying to hold a bunch of poisonous fuel right on the edge of disaster, fuel that is so fragile that the temperature has to be kept low to avoid damage and the thermodynamic efficiency is much lower than for coal or gas plants. No, it is the nuke nuts who want to impede progress.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          And the rest of us roll their eyes when the greenies expect us to roll back ~100+ years of progress because nuclear accidents have happened.

          Sigh. Can we please drop this particular straw man. Yeah, maybe there are a few extremists who rant on the internet about this, but it is hardly the mainstream point of view.

          I want the world to move forwards, not backwards. German and Japanese homes of a similar size to mine use less energy (and thus cost less to run) and are more pleasant to live in. I want that quality of life, and the way to get it is by being greener.

          You know how many people die every year because of coal-fired generation?

          Yeah, I do, which is one reason why I don't want more coal plants either.

          Fuck off. Seri

        • Taking the comparison a bit further, here are some (mostly) 2008 death statistics from the US:

          Tobacco – 500,000
          Alcohol – 100,000
          Car Phones (2002) - 2,500
          Motorcycles – 2,500
          Agriculture - 1,300
          Bicycles (1995) - 800
          Candles - 126
          Skiing deaths – 34
          Dog Bites – 20
          Drawstring hoods – 17
          Window blind cords – 13
          Roller skates - 10
          Nuclear Power - 0

          Roller skates are a much bigger menace than nuclear power.

      • They planned for earthquakes and tsunami. What they didn't account for was the size of the 2011 event, which was larger than any in recorded history, as a result the tsunami went right over the sea wall.

    • Also, it was the tsunami that actually caused the meltdowns. Fukushima had appropriate backups for cooling the reactor, and were well under way when the reactors were shut down after the quake, they just didn't design for the eventually of a tsunami to come and categorically knock them all out.

      They didn't entirely ignore the possibility—there was a 19ft sea wall designed to protect the plant from the tsunami. It was just unfortunate that it wasn't sufficient to protect the plant from the 46ft wave that actually came. In fairness though, a tsunami higher than 19ft in that area was pretty much unprecedented until the afternoon of March 11th 2011, and had the plant been made one generation later, a newer backup system would have been in place that used gravity rather than knockoutable electric

    • by mbkennel (97636) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:08PM (#43533271)

      A liquid flouride thorium reactor has exceptionally radioactive fission products dissolved in a caustic, very hot liquid. Every nuclear plant also has to be a chemical reprocessing plant of 700 degree radioactive liquids sufficiently dangerous that humans cannot get close to them for decades.

      This system also happens to be very water-soluble, so that a breach and flood similar to Fukushima would be extraordinarily dangerous---most of the waste would have entered the environment instead of a modest fraction.

      Conventional reactors have fission products encased in zirconium steel.

      • Fluoride salts are very stable with a ~1000C liquide range, not water soluble, and do not react violently with air or water, no matter how many times you and others insist on repeating this FUD. Even in the event of an accident, the fission products remain safely locked up in the salts and will eventually freeze solid with no intervention. Obviously, you want to avoid flooding for any number of reasons, but there is no requirement to build the plants anywhere near water, or use water for cooling.

        Conventio

    • by delt0r (999393)
      LFTR still have decay heat. If your systems fail, passive or otherwise, because of say a 12 meter wall of water. It will have the same problems. Worse in fact, since you need a moderator which is typically graphite. That burns nicely when exposed to air. The Fluoride salts also react with water to form hydrogen and acids. Any core breach is just as bad. And no its not different because the core is suppose to be melted. Decay heat will get it hot enough to melt through the containment vessels.

      The long and
      • LFTR and other molten salt reactors have significantly less decay heat to deal with, since they do not trap the volatile fission products within a solid fuel. This reduces the difficulty of the problem from the outset. Furthermore, the drain tank is separate, contains no moderator, and can be optimized for passive decay heat removal--something not possible with solid fueled reactors.

        Also, your graphite red herring is not only irrelevant, but false. This has been studied, and graphite does not burn in air.

        • by delt0r (999393)

          Also, your graphite red herring is not only irrelevant, but false. This has been studied, and graphite does not burn in air.

          Tell that to the people directly involved with Chernobyl. You seem to have forgotten some basic chemistry, that is reaction rates, and even what reactions happens, are temperature dependent.

          No concern to you, is not the same as not a concern. These concerns where raised/pointed out in scientific papers on LFTR.

          • Tell that to the people directly involved with Chernobyl. You seem to have forgotten some basic chemistry, that is reaction rates, and even what reactions happens, are temperature dependent.

            No concern to you, is not the same as not a concern. These concerns where raised/pointed out in scientific papers on LFTR.

            Here you go. For various reasons, it is not a concern [energyfromthorium.com] in a LFTR.

            Still, there is still no graphite present in the drain tanks, so it is largely academic.

        • This has been studied, and graphite does not burn in air.

          Oh that's good. I thought for a minute there was a nuclear accident at Windscale. Guess that never happened.

    • The solution, he said, was probably smaller reactors in which the heat could not push the temperature to the fuel’s melting point.

      Probably. Or, design a cooling system that works on convection during a power-down state. Like modern Generation-3 and Generation-4 reactor designs utilize.

      The Westinghouse AP1000 requires no operator action for 72 hours in the event of a shutdown.

  • fertiliser (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ssam (2723487) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:35PM (#43531175)

    It would be good if other areas of industry had the strong safety regulation that nuclear has. for example fertiliser plants.

    • Re:fertiliser (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:41PM (#43531235)
      It doesn't take 40 years to clean up after a fertilizer plant explodes. BTW, what happens if they get another tsunami while they're cleaning up the mess?
      • by hawguy (1600213)

        It doesn't take 40 years to clean up after a fertilizer plant explodes. BTW, what happens if they get another tsunami while they're cleaning up the mess?

        On the other hand, it doesn't take an explosion for a fertilizer company to leave land toxic, uninhabitable, and a risk to groundwater for over 30 years:

        http://yosemite.epa.gov/r9/sfund/r9sfdocw.nsf/vwsoalphabetic/Frontier+Fertilizer?OpenDocument [epa.gov]

        • by mirix (1649853)

          The principal chemicals in groundwater and soil are three pesticides, ethylene dibromide (EDB), 1,2-dichloropropane (DCP), and 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane (DBCP), which were used as soil fumigants, as well as the solvent carbon tetrachloride.

          Doesn't look like it was the fertilizer that caused the problems, fertilizer company or not.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        It doesn't take 40 years to clean up after a fertilizer plant explodes. BTW, what happens if they get another tsunami while they're cleaning up the mess?

        If they get a Tsunami in central Texas while they're cleaning it up, I'm pretty sure the flooding will be the least of our worries; the dust cloud from the giant asteroid will be a more pressing concern....

        Oh, you meant in Japan.

      • How long is it going to take to clean the atmosphere of all the pollutants pumped into it by thousands of coal plants around the world for the last 100+ years?

        So what if it takes 40 years? Its contained to a small physical area.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Yep because no chemical plant accident has long term environmental effects [wikipedia.org], or even a single event which has caused more deaths [wikipedia.org] than all nuclear accidents combined by several orders of magnitude.

        The focus on nuclear power in a world where every other industry is effectively worse is just bizarre.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:43PM (#43531245)

    Any large industrial accident can take decades to clean up. More than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez [wikipedia.org] accident, there are still lingering effects. There are many Superfund toxic waste [wikipedia.org] sites that have been on the Superfund list for 30 years (the list was started 30 years ago or many would have listed longer)

  • 1. Send the best minds in Japan to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation [wikipedia.org]. Study the tools and methodologies used. Interview all the engineers participating in the cleanup effort. Learn absolutely everything you can about waste recovery techniques, environmental stewardship, and safety protocols.

    2. Do exactly the opposite.
  • LFTR will solve these problems -- but YOUR help is needed

    Imagine a nuclear reactor so safe you can walk away from it or shut its internal power and it will mechanically drain its operating fluid into a vessel where it will just sit there.

    Imagine that this process will be scalable from local megawatts to nation-wide terawatts by a simple replication of standard industrial components, with no increase in risk or change in the overall safety factor --- because it is not just an 'improvement' over present plant

    • by mbkennel (97636)

      | will mechanically drain its operating fluid into a vessel where it will just sit there.

      Until the rain and floods come in after the accident in which case you have steam explosions and radioactive waste in a highly water-soluble liquid combing to make all sorts of fun.

      A LFTR is a chemical reprocessing plant with astonishingly racdioactive liquid (since it just came out of the fission core) circulating at hundreds of degrees with caustic chemical properties. There will be leaks. There will be breaches. E

      • | will mechanically drain its operating fluid into a vessel where it will just sit there.

        Until the rain and floods come in after the accident in which case you have steam explosions and radioactive waste in a highly water-soluble liquid combing to make all sorts of fun.

        The salts are not water soluble, and have no violent reactions with either air or water. Contrary to your claims of "all sorts of fun", ORNL even dumped some in a pool at one point, and it did little more than create some steam. Fluoride salts are among the most chemically stable substances on earth, and both the fissile and fission products remain safely dissolved in just about any imaginable circumstances. Even so, keeping water out is not an issue, as there is no need to site the plants anywhere near

      • Until the rain and floods come in after the accident in which case you have steam explosions and radioactive waste in a highly water-soluble liquid combing to make all sorts of fun.

        I cannot much that isn't covered in Kaitiff's reply [slashdot.org] to your concern last December --- aside from pointing out we're talking about fluoride not sodium salts.

        Even the most complicated designs for LFTR are simple at the bottom. Drains in the containment floor after a pipe rupture --- or at shutdown through a melted freeze plug, the liquid comes to rest in a vessel where it is already sub-critical.

        Yes it's temperature-hot, for awhile. While the salts are not chemically reactive with water (or air), as long as

  • by pod (1103)

    "public-to-forget-about-it-within-40-months"

    40 months? How about 40 weeks. When is the last time you heard anything of substance about Fukushima?

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