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Japan Power

TEPCO Workers Remove Wrong Pipe Get Splashed With Radioactive Water 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-bad-is-it? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A day after TEPCO workers mistakenly turned off cooling pumps serving the spent pool at reactor #4 at the crippled nuclear plant comes a new accident — 6 workers apparently removed the wrong pipe from a primary filtration system and were doused with highly radioactive water. They were wearing protection yet such continuing mishaps and 'small mistakes' are becoming a pattern at the facility."
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TEPCO Workers Remove Wrong Pipe Get Splashed With Radioactive Water

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  • The most troublesome thing about this nuclear pipe water tipping incident is that there is nothing funny about it. What possible humor is there in this? Shall we call the place "Tipco" or something? Shall we make jokes about the water itself, and say silly things like, "Oh, they spilled water? Hopefully it wasn't heavy water! Get it? Hehe." Dumb stuff like that. Or talk about the fact that at least they were wearing protection. So they won't get a disease. Surely, that joke would be pregnant with humor. T
    • Re:fried fish (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nospam007 (722110) * on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:28PM (#45086875)

      "The most troublesome thing about this nuclear pipe water tipping incident is that there is nothing funny about it."

      We never found it funny, that they are telling us now for 50 years that it's perfectly safe and that they are professionals who can handle any problem, no matter what.

      Now we know that they can't even handle a bunch of simple systems that have a tank, a hose and a pump.

      • Re:fried fish (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:08PM (#45087179) Journal
        It does seem increasingly clear that TEPCO couldn't be trusted to take care of your fishtank for a weekend(not even the freshwater one that's really relaxed about sampling and balance adjustments); but it should be noted, in fairness, that wacky piping accidents do get easier the more thickly built (ideally ad-hoc, and in poorly labelled stages, with evolutionary growth here and there) the piping rat's nest gets.

        The essence of true competence is to avoid getting into situations where continuous high levels of competence are needed; by not backing yourself into a clusterfuck of a system that is always one false move away from doing something dangerous; but if you've fucked up and done that, it's really just a matter of time until somebody gets tapped as the fall guy by the pitiless gods of blind chance.
        • by ultranova (717540)

          The essence of true competence is to avoid getting into situations where continuous high levels of competence are needed; by not backing yourself into a clusterfuck of a system that is always one false move away from doing something dangerous; but if you've fucked up and done that, it's really just a matter of time until somebody gets tapped as the fall guy by the pitiless gods of blind chance.

          Unfortunately, this means that you get the credit for savings due to doing the bare minimum of maintenance to keep

      • by cffrost (885375)

        Now we know that they can't even handle a bunch of simple systems that have a tank, a hose and a pump.

        Do you mean to say that nuclear engineers are incapable of procreation?

    • by lgw (121541)

      Here you go: we should send the NSA employees over to work on the dangerous reactor cleanup - that way we solve two problems at once!

    • From the summary...

      yet such continuing mishaps and 'small mistakes' are becoming a pattern at the facility

      The most troublesome thing is that this pattern is continuing from before the tsunami even hit. Otherwise there wouldn't be any problem right now. And the fact it goes so far back and they're still letting those stooges run things.

      • Re:fried fish (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:29PM (#45087335)
        But it isn't a pattern of small mistakes. A design that guaranteed that a generator failure during a power outage would result in a meltdown was (and still is) considered safe. That's not a mistake, that's a fundamental design/regulatory issue. That they put the generators in line with a tsunami path, rather than mounting them on the roof of a reinforced shed (which would have prevented the meltdown, so long as the fuel wasn't contaminated before the backup fuel was brought in), wasn't error. It was intentional. There's a difference. An unfortunate event that was intentional is negligence. Opening the wrong pipe mistakenly believing it to be a different one is a 'small mistake'/mishap.
        • When you get a question wrong in a math test you still intentionally put the answer you did. And it is still a mistake.
          • by AK Marc (707885)
            When graded for partial credit, they'll not get the same results. Not all errors are mistakes, and not all mistakes are errors
        • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @12:06AM (#45088339)

          Opening the wrong pipe mistakenly believing it to be a different one is a 'small mistake'/mishap.

          That's one small mistake for man, one giant leap for mutantkind

          • by worf_mo (193770)

            Thanks for helping me blow my breakfast out of my nose! Where are modpoints when you need them...

        • by dj245 (732906)

          That they put the generators in line with a tsunami path, rather than mounting them on the roof of a reinforced shed (which would have prevented the meltdown, so long as the fuel wasn't contaminated before the backup fuel was brought in), wasn't error. It was intentional. There's a difference.

          1. It probably wasn't intentional. The nuclear industry takes this kind of thing very seriously if anybody points it out during the design stage. It was overlooked.

          2. They would have been screwed even if the generators were fine, because the pumps, and the motors/turbines which drive the pumps, were also located in the basement and were ruined. This placement is almost unavoidable because you generally need to put the pump below the lowest possible water level of the supply tank.

          • by jbengt (874751)

            They would have been screwed even if the generators were fine, because the pumps, and the motors/turbines which drive the pumps, were also located in the basement and were ruined. This placement is almost unavoidable because you generally need to put the pump below the lowest possible water level of the supply tank.

            If that's the case, then next time it should be remembered that it is possible to use submersible pumps.

            • by AK Marc (707885)
              My favorite was Katrina. the pumps failed. They used submersible pumps. With the driving electronics co-located and non-submersible. The pumps were not damaged, but inoperable because of the location of the control circuits. What idiot designed a submersible pump install that wouldn't work submerged?
      • It seems a lot like SNPP

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Well, the first post linked to a picture of the three stooges so...

  • Again (Score:5, Informative)

    by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:24PM (#45086843)
    . . . the boys should not be trusted with nuclear anything. They know how to take notes and make lists, but when it comes to handling risk, they're clueless.

    I once found a radioactive test sample in a dumpster when I worked for a medical device manuf. in Tokyo - there are many more stories to go along with that one. Like how we were told if there was a fire to first order a pizza, then tell the firemen to follow the delivery to the fire. A lumber yard caught on fire one night, and we watched as the sirens and flashing lights on the fire trucks zig zagged around the neighborhood - 45 minutes later, the fire was out and they still hadn't found it.

    An outside multi-national agency must be brought in or these types of calamities will only continue with TEPCO.
    • by Deadstick (535032)

      A lumber yard caught on fire one night, and we watched as the sirens and flashing lights on the fire trucks zig zagged around the neighborhood - 45 minutes later, the fire was out and they still hadn't found it.

      I didn't even have to leave Exceptionalistan to see that happen. I live in a suburban square mile bounded by four section-line streets, trisected by the confluence of two streams, and bisected by a power-line easement. My son's buddy hurt himself on a dirt bike, I called his HMO, the HMO operator set off a full-boat response of police, fire engines and ambulances...and I got to listen to the sirens dopplering up and down and fading in and out until I sent a kid out on a bicycle to tell them how to do the

    • by cffrost (885375)

      [W]e were told if there was a fire to first order a pizza, then tell the firemen to follow the delivery to the fire. A lumber yard caught on fire one night, and we watched as the sirens and flashing lights on the fire trucks zig zagged around the neighborhood - 45 minutes later, the fire was out and they still hadn't found it.

      From the details you provided, it sounds like you neglected to order a pizza before calling the fire department — is that what happened?

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Like how we were told if there was a fire to first order a pizza, then tell the firemen to follow the delivery to the fire. A lumber yard caught on fire one night, and we watched as the sirens and flashing lights on the fire trucks zig zagged around the neighborhood - 45 minutes later, the fire was out and they still hadn't found it.

      I can't believe such an obvious lie was modded up to +5 insightful. Ignoring the rest of your post which may or may not have merit, this kind of stuff is obviously nonsense. At best you were probably confused and the emergency services were attending other events.

      Japan has some of the most detailed city mapping the world. Long before Google started doing it their sat-nav systems have full street level 3D views with texture mapped buildings and landmarks, even street furniture. It was quite remarkable being

    • by dj245 (732906)

      . . . the boys should not be trusted with nuclear anything. They know how to take notes and make lists, but when it comes to handling risk, they're clueless. I once found a radioactive test sample in a dumpster when I worked for a medical device manuf. in Tokyo - there are many more stories to go along with that one. Like how we were told if there was a fire to first order a pizza, then tell the firemen to follow the delivery to the fire. A lumber yard caught on fire one night, and we watched as the sirens and flashing lights on the fire trucks zig zagged around the neighborhood - 45 minutes later, the fire was out and they still hadn't found it.

      In Japan, an address is generally a number on a block, not a number on a street. Giving directions becomes a lot more tricky. You can wander around for a while looking for the right block even if you know generally where it should be.

      If the addresses were tied to the street, eventually you could find the right street and travel along that street, but in Japan this is not the case.

  • Every time TEPCO appears in the news I swear I hear yet another "Doh" soundbyte.
  • Plumbing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:48PM (#45087009)

    Queue the malcontents to stir up the idiots with OMG TEPCO IS KILLING TEH EARTH!!!1

    Stop it. They're handling vast quantities of water in thousands pipes, tanks, tunnels and pumps. Some of it is going to leak. Some of it will spill. Sometimes it will get on someones rad suit. This isn't incompetence or the end of the world. It is the natural and expected consequence of dealing with fucking plumbing.

    Whatever. This hysteria has an expiration date; after the 50th OMG THEY SPILT SOMETHING story people will get tired of it and the media will seek out some new source of hysteria.

    That is, at least, as it should be. It would be nice if we could just not indulge this stupid shit to begin with.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fnj (64210)

      Living proof why this level of bumbling exists. Because millions of lazy ass ignorant unengaged morons like you stand for it.

    • Re:Plumbing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @10:15PM (#45087879)

      Queue the malcontents to stir up the idiots with OMG TEPCO IS KILLING TEH EARTH!!!1

      Woah, woah, woah. Now hold it right there. We malcontents were saying TEPCO are a bunch of hopeless dipshits somehow trusted to manage nuclear safety coupled with an ingrained cultural stigma towards requesting outside assistance.

      We never said anything about them killing the earth.

    • we could just not indulge this stupid shit to begin with

      Wow! You took the words right out of my mouth.

  • Its almost like the are in a culture where you can't call out people's mistakes and follow orders blindly.

    • Re:Culture (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:19PM (#45087259) Journal

      Its almost like the are in a culture where you can't call out people's mistakes and follow orders blindly.

      A corporation?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      That was the most insightful thing I've seen in this thread, thank you. There was a slashdot topic a while back, and I asked Samantha Wright about neurochemistry affects the brain, and she replied with this link [psmag.com], which isn't chemistry at all but a fascinating treatise on human cultures (and in fact answered my question). We are all products of our environments. The linked article notes that westerners are weird, and the weirdest of the westerners is Americans from testing different peoples.

  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:53PM (#45087041)

    And that, boys and girls, is where tentacle monsters come from.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:06PM (#45087159) Homepage

    How do you accidentally remove the wrong pipe when you're working with nuclear stuff?

    I've worked in the software and IT industry for quite a few years, and in that time I've learned that there are things you do that need to be precise, because you can make a hell of a mess if you don't. To do this, you measure twice, measure a few more times, and have your second who has been watching what you're doing confirm you're doing what you expect to be.

    I learned this from maintaining production systems for business critical stuff, and a few things for which lives could literally be on the line. But at the end of the day, it's still less dangerous and critical than working on a nuclear plant.

    This just sounds to me like either they're fumbling around in the dark, working from incomplete plans and don't actually know what the parts are, or are just simply not taking time to do the diligence on what they're doing.

    Especially when it's your ass that's going to get splashed with highly radioactive water.

    For a nation which has a reputation for fastidious attention to detail, obsessive safety drills, and engineering excellence ... how the hell are they ending up with a company which has made so many 'mistakes' in this?

    Once again, I have to wonder if these guys are actually qualified to be running nuclear reactors. Because this is two accidents in a few days, and I get the impression that a lot of this was also caused by human error.

    The mind boggles.

    • by wiredlogic (135348) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:22PM (#45087277)

      This is the Japanese nuclear industry. Somebody higher up the chain of command identified the wrong pipe to remove and the peons that had to do the work are socially conditioned to accept orders without question. This saves said superior from the embarrassment of having underlings point out his mistakes... until the mistakes can't be shoved under the rug where everyone can pretend they didn't happen.

    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      I've worked in the software and IT industry for quite a few years, and in that time I've learned that there are things you do that need to be precise, because you can make a hell of a mess if you don't.

      "Measure fifty times... cut ONCE."
      Radioactivity justifies taking this koan as close to verbatim as possible.

    • by mdielmann (514750)

      Once again, I have to wonder if these guys are actually qualified to be running nuclear reactors. Because this is two accidents in a few days, and I get the impression that a lot of this was also caused by human error.

      The mind boggles.

      I guess it wasn't the Germans that bought the Springfield nuclear power plant. And then they used Homer as the model employee when HR went on a hiring spree.

    • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @12:18AM (#45088387)

      That was my experience in the Japanese IT industry as well. Fastidious and near anal retentive attention to detail.
      Unfortuantely it's also got it's fair share of it's bumbling halfwits that the company can't/won't fire due to the lifetime employment custom.

      The head honcho representative of the large Japanese-IT-company-that-many-people-will-have-heard-of at the place I was working once had to apologise for accidently unplugging the wrong production server (Nope he didn't even shut it down or turn it off)

      The Japanese actually need the anal retentive planning, because they recognise that they are actually pretty hopeless. The REAL problems begin when something happens OUTSIDE of their plans. They lack a complete inability to think on their feet and respond in a timely manner... preferring to sit on their hands and wait for a roundtable discussion and confirmation from their higher ups. Contrast that with the situation at Fukushima. In fact it was the initial Fukushima engineers at the beginning of the disaster that made some critical calls in defiance of Tepco (who were only interested in saving the plant), that may have prevented a greater catastrophe.

      In fact, when the Tepco engineers were starting to explain and reassure people about what had happened at Fukushima on TV on the 12th of March, they sounded just like the voice of the bumbling server engineer, trying to apologize for unplugging the server, that i remembered from years earlier.
      It was at that time I knew that they had no control over the plant....

    • by eulernet (1132389)

      There is an excellent article in french explaining the problem:
      http://www.lepoint.fr/environnement/fukushima-des-liquidateurs-temoignent-de-l-enfer-sur-terre-27-09-2013-1735686_1927.php [lepoint.fr]

      In fact, it appears that all these tasks are done by unqualified people, like bus drivers or fishmongers.
      These people went unemployed, following Fukushima's problems.

      Tepco is unable to handle these problems, so they seek contractors to work on them.
      The winning contractors are always the lowest bidders, and they tend to find s

  • Fatigue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:06PM (#45087165) Journal

    More than likely the workers are all getting fatigued and small mistakes are starting.

    It's well beyond time for the Japanese government to bring the Japanese military in to bring this under control. After that an international effort to assist Japan in any way required. Even considering the pride of the nation as a factor it's now becoming an international problem for any country that shares the pacific ocean.

    This is well beyond TEPCO's ability and expertise, they are a utilities company. Furthermore it was their negligence through nonfeasance that got us into this mess in the first place. A criminal investigation should be conducted and the future of the company considered.

    • More than likely the workers are all getting fatigued and small mistakes are starting.

      It's well beyond time for the Japanese government to bring the Japanese military in to bring this under control. After that an international effort to assist Japan in any way required. Even considering the pride of the nation as a factor it's now becoming an international problem for any country that shares the pacific ocean.

      This is well beyond TEPCO's ability and expertise, they are a utilities company. Furthermore it was their negligence through nonfeasance that got us into this mess in the first place. A criminal investigation should be conducted and the future of the company considered.

      Replying to you because I accidentally moderated "Offtopic" instead of "Insightful", oops. Apropos of your comment, I'm really tired today and it's been a long day at work.

      • Militaries tend to be expert in fighting wars. They are not expert in civilian nuclear power plants and environmental remediation.

        Should we militarize the entire American workforce given that 13 Americans die every day in workplace accidents?

    • by AK Marc (707885)

      Even considering the pride of the nation as a factor it's now becoming an international problem for any country that shares the pacific ocean.

      If every bit of contaminanted water was dumped in the ocean, and raw seawater was pumped in for cooling and not collected, would the levels have an effect that would be measurable from the US? The ocean is pretty big. Japan does more harm with illegal whaling than this, and the US condones that.

      • Yes, it would be detectable. But that doesn't mean it would be at levels that pose a significant incremental risk to the wider ocean environment or human health.
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Would it be detectable? The background radiation would be many times higher than anything Fukushima caused, unless the type of radiation is different enough to pick out of the background.
      • by MrKaos (858439)

        Even considering the pride of the nation as a factor it's now becoming an international problem for any country that shares the pacific ocean.

        If every bit of contaminanted water was dumped in the ocean, and raw seawater was pumped in for cooling and not collected, would the levels have an effect that would be measurable from the US?

        That's a great question but not the issue that is a threat to human health, the best answer I have (in light of the lack of real data being provided) is probably not very measurable.

        It's the effects radionuclides bio-concentrated in the food chain, how they analogue micronutrients presented to metabolisms and the ge

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Indeed. Also, there are no established safe procedures for these improvised systems. This means you actually have to understand what you are doing. As not even the TEPCO reactor designers and operators had that level of insight, how are low-level workers supposed to move safely in such an environment? I expect we will see a lot of cancer casualties in the next 10-20 years among these workers.

  • It is difficult to understand why TEPCO is still in charge. Their record for managing this mess is not appealing.
  • I grow tired to reading with radiative elements and contaminated materials being labeled merely "toxic."

    Sitting in a room for few hours with a closed bottle of bleach won't terminally wound you, not like the water leaking from the Fukishima plant.

  • My last post on this topic a couple days ago was "I'm starting to get the impression that Tepco only hired idiots." This has now been 100% confirmed.
  • Known unstable and dangerously radioactive environment. Workers fully aware of dangers and thus, arguably, more than a little careful about their every move. And still, dangerous mistakes were made. Given the profound consequences of human mistakes in the operation of nuclear reactors, tell me why, again, that it's a good idea to build them?
    • by gweihir (88907)

      Simple: Satisfy greed for power in politicians that want the bomb or want to be able to build it fast if needed. Satisfy greed for money (and lots and lots of it) in the nuclear industry.

      No rational reasons otherwise. And we are burning nuclear fuel that will be essential should we ever want to travel around this solar system. Wasting precious resources in this stupid way could well kill or much delay colonization of the solar system.

  • The only protection worthwhile is protecting the respiratory and digestive system, because anything going in that way will stay long. These people got the same dosage as if they had been doing this naked, but with filter-masks. Might not be a good idea for any of them to reproduce now and they have won a significantly increased risk of cancer as reward for their incompetence.

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