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Power Japan Technology

How To Take Apart Fukushima's 3 Melted-Down Reactors 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-in-case-you're-in-the-neighborhood-with-some-free-time dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "In Japan, workers have spent nearly three years on the clean-up and decommissioning of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. They only have 37 years to go. Taking apart the plant's three melted-down reactors is expected to take 40 years and cost $15 billion. The plant's owner, TEPCO, admits that its engineers don't yet know how they'll pull off this monumental task. An in-depth examination of the decommissioning process explains the challenges, such as working amid the radioactive rubble, stopping up the leaks that spill radioactive water throughout the site, and handling the blobs of melted nuclear fuel. Many of the tasks will be accomplished by newly invented robots that can go where humans fear to tread."
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How To Take Apart Fukushima's 3 Melted-Down Reactors

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:31PM (#46369743)

    I figure a small 50-20 kiloton atomic bomb should do the trick...

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:31PM (#46369753)

    Since they have a 40 year timeframe, they should just keep it contained for another decade or two and wait for superior robots to take over the task rather than relying on today's limited robots.

    • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:53PM (#46369983) Journal
      "Keep it contained" is a little optimistic. There is radioactive tea draining from the site to the sea. They are trying to use robots to install an ice dam in the beach to stop that, but have yet to begin installing it. It is unknown if it will actually work. They estimate they are losing 300 tons of fluid per day, of unknown composition but most certainly very radioactive. That is not "contained".
      • by hawguy (1600213)

        "Keep it contained" is a little optimistic. There is radioactive tea draining from the site to the sea. They are trying to use robots to install an ice dam in the beach to stop that, but have yet to begin installing it. It is unknown if it will actually work. They estimate they are losing 300 tons of fluid per day, of unknown composition but most certainly very radioactive. That is not "contained".

        That's why step one is "Keep it contained". Use resources now to keep it contained, but don't try to do any real cleanup until the good robots arrive. Maybe start a billion dollar x-prize robot campaign -- outline exactly the kind of outlandish tasks they need a robot to do, and let private industry do it for a piece of the billion dollar prize.

        • You keep saying "keep it contained". It's not contained yet. "Step 1: Contain it." See the difference?

        • by fnj (64210)

          You could say this is quibbling, but you can't "keep contained" that which has been wildly uncontained for 3 years. The phrase does not make sense. Rather one should say "contain further release of contamination within specified boundaries, and specify what is to be done about the vast contamination which has alrteady escaped those boundaries, at least some of it to the 4 corners of the earth's oceans".

          • I disagree, English is my native language and I have a Linguistics degree. The phrase means exactly what it was intended to mean and makes perfect sense. This is typical /., full of people who believe their mathematical logic professors when they claim such things as "the newspaper headline 'Bus passengers should be belted' has a humorous, unintended meaning". There is nothing unintended about it, and it is ludicrous to suggest otherwise. While learning to think in a certain, "mathematical" way is a very us

            • Bollocks. It's been said many times before, from Yugoslavia to Lebanon: "what use are peacekeepers when there ain't no peace to keep?"

              tl;dr: You can't keep/continue/sustain what hasn't yet been accomplished.

          • by khallow (566160)

            You could say this is quibbling, but you can't "keep contained" that which has been wildly uncontained for 3 years.

            Except that there isn't anything at Fukushima which is wildly uncontained.

            and specify what is to be done about the vast contamination which has alrteady escaped those boundaries, at least some of it to the 4 corners of the earth's oceans

            Nothing is good for a start. Can't you discuss this without veering into irresponsible hyperbole?

      • by bberens (965711)
        I wonder if 40 years is just the time frame they've calculated it will take for all the stuff to trickle into the ocean.
      • Well said, one of the moderate surprises was Europium.

        http://enenews.com/japan-exper... [enenews.com]

        Some are saying the exclusion zone should be a bit bigger based on this info.

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          Enenews? Really?

          • They may not be perfect, but they have posted information the Japanese government
            lied about then it later came out to be true.

            So at a minimum they are often forcing the corrupt government and corrupt Tepco to
            tell the truth sometimes, I think its impossible to get them to tell the truth all the time.

            • by nojayuk (567177) on Friday February 28, 2014 @05:27PM (#46370761)

              I got tired of reading godlikeproductions and globalresearch and enenews and the other bullshit sites posting about the Fukushima disaster because they were garbage sources full of fairy tales, improbable conspiracies and Hollywood disaster movie physics. I've not read the item you posted but the link text claims says fuel pellets were blasted thirty kilometres by the force of the explosions. Think about that for a moment, the physics of it, launching ANYTHING that sort of distance requires precision engineering as in large artillery pieces or an explosion that would have levelled the entire site and for kilometres around it too. No giant explosion, site not levelled, no artillery in evidence, bullshit story.

          • Also RT covered the Europium:

            http://rt.com/op-edge/chernoby... [rt.com]

            Now you can say they are no better, but do you really want to tell us to
            trust the "operation mockingbird" media ?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org]

            • by nojayuk (567177)

              Damn you, you made me click on a Chris Busby link without telling me. Why didn't you warn me?

            • Seriously, where do you find this tripe? First the completely implausible "explosion defies all physical known laws to throw heavy mass 30km" story, and yes, nuclear fuel is damn heavy mass... it's what makes it actually reactive.

              Then you get this wonderful piece of drivel. On the off chance you you really do care about this lets take a look at why it is an absolute crap article shall we?

              at Fukushima the game is to madly pump water in, in order to stop it melting down and exploding.

              Well, damn. Oh wait, there is absolutely nothing to back this up, plus "it" isn't defined. "it" could be anything from t

        • Some are saying the exclusion zone should be a bit bigger based on this info.

          Better idea: Make a video game [wikipedia.org] to get kids used to the idea of evacuating the country to France.

      • by tlambert (566799)

        "Keep it contained" is a little optimistic. There is radioactive tea draining from the site to the sea.

        (1) Bury it in concrete
        (2) Quit adding water; no new water = no new tea.

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          This is groundwater flowing from the mountains to the sea. To quit adding water they would have to put a dam on the uphill side as well.
    • You have a point. Also US$15B will be US$100B in 40 years. And I think 40 years is optimistic.
      I hope these costs will be added to the energy bill of the consumers, so that the 'cheap' nuclear energy will be honestly valuated against those 'costly' solar sources.
    • by preaction (1526109) on Friday February 28, 2014 @04:30PM (#46370315)

      They're inventing and improving the robots as they clean up the site. "Necessity is the mother of invention" and all that. Without a site to clean up, there's no way to build better robots to clean up nuclear sites.

  • Before even finishing the summary my first thought was that this will result in some significant activity in the robotics industry.
  • Tunnel 100 ft. below the reactor and build a huge leak-proof chamber. Use controlled detonation to collapse the reactor, building, and all into this chamber. Fill it with water and close/seal it off. Build something cool on top.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And 9/11 was an inside job.

    • Re:I have a plan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hawguy (1600213) on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:44PM (#46369901)

      Tunnel 100 ft. below the reactor and build a huge leak-proof chamber. Use controlled detonation to collapse the reactor, building, and all into this chamber. Fill it with water and close/seal it off. Build something cool on top.

      If it's easy to build a leak-proof, earthquake-proof chamber than can contain high grade nuclear waste indefinitely, maybe all reactors should have this huge chamber, then all they have to do after an accident is fill it with water and cap it off, and maybe build a playground on top.

      • Drill a long way down....set off a nuke. It creates a huge cavern with fused walls. Then drill down into the cavern and drain the waste into it.

    • I hope you're not an engineer lol. Filling that sealed chamber with water will cause a pressure cooker to build itself and explode, thereby spreading the problem over all the pacific and beyond.
      • by bob_super (3391281) on Friday February 28, 2014 @04:19PM (#46370223)

        Meh, you just need to engineer it so it blows UP.
        Vertical, one shot, with enough pressure to propel each reactor at escape velocity.
        I'd do the math for you, it's elegant, but there isn't enough space in this comment.

        • maybe the math is elegant, but for some reason i cant believe the explosion would be...

          how would you keep the reactor from being blown to tiny bits? put some sort of super-material base under it?

          how much explosives would it take for a one-time event to accelerate all that tonnage to escape velocity?

          • No explosives needed. You have a runaway source of energy, just make it boil a whole lot of water, which you already have plenty of.
            I'll run all the preliminary studies on how much steam pressure is required for a reactor to achieve escape velocity, just send $100M to my Nigerian account.

            I disagree, the explosion would be very elegant.
            How close you want to be to the cloud, and the debris field if you have a release before enough steam is built up, would be a question for the US/Russian/French, who all have

          • getting the reactor into orbit isn't the problem, just shove enough explosives under it and you're good. The problem is finding enough unobtanium to build the containment cylinder around the reactor to keep it from exploding out disintegrating.
            • For $15B cash, you can easily launch all three remaining shuttles with one reactor each. Just add enough boosters to get them off LEO, and you don't even have to care about damaging the heat shield...
              The museums may complain, but I'm sure quite a few NASA people and subcontractors would be happy to get off unemployment to help.

              • A shuttle can lift 30ton into LEO.
                So you need a few hundret launches to get rid of one single reactor.
                Into LEO that is, to shoot it on the moon or into the sun you need another rocket (reducing the 30 ton to a 3 ton mass + 27ton second stage rocket/vehicle).

        • I'm glad you're not an aerospace engineer. That's crazier than the "Let it melt the Earth until it reaches China" comments.

          • how do you know I'm not, and why would I need to be?
            Some people suggested to let it be stomped by Godzilla, I'm pointing out it probably outputs enough energy to blow itself up into space.

            We've got 40 years to think outside the box, your turn!

            At least I didn't suggest to give the Falklands to China so that it could melt through the ground in the right direction...

            • I'm venturing a guess that an aerospace engineer would've been indoctrinated to not try to propel the heaviest rocket ever launched with a pseudo-controlled nuclear-powered explosion of some sort.

              I can't seem to find any sort of estimates on how much a reactor would weigh, but it's a lot. I'll stick to doing math per ton.

              Let's see: Escape velocity is 11.200 m/s. Since E= 1/2*m*v^2, one kilogram would require 62,72 MJ, disregarding drag (which will not only significantly increase energy requirements, but als

              • Thanks for the documented answer. Gotta love /. for that!

                A few addendums, since a bad idea shouldn't be incompletely explored:
                  - I'd rather only launch the vessel and its former content, which reduces the mass to only a few tens of tons.
                  - At 750MW electrical, it was probably about 2.5GW thermal, which is what matters when boiling water. How much power is melted corium?

      • by bondsbw (888959)

        So now that you have found the fatal flaw in my plan, I revise it:

        Don't seal it off. Make it into a swimming pool [xkcd.com].

        (Or maybe just don't seal it off.)

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 28, 2014 @03:41PM (#46369871) Journal
    Some tasks are difficult because of the assorted parameters that you have to adhere to while doing them. In this case, relatively low tolerance for irradiation of workers and human morbidity and mortality are probably major inconveniences.

    This being so, it seems only logical to employ TEPCO management as decommisioning operators. It's not like they were good for whatever their existing job descriptions are, and we can safely value their radiation exposure as unimportant, or even a benefit.
    • by cdrudge (68377)

      Right. Because one disaster is made better by using the few people that demonstrated that they are some of the worst options for operating a nuclear power plant. Yeah if may make a few people feel better, but in the end you'll have just as bad if not worse disaster plus a bunch of dead radioactive worthless executives to also contend with.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Because one disaster is made better by using the few people that demonstrated that they are some of the worst options for operating a nuclear power plant.

        That didn't happen at Fukushima. I find it interesting how people can't wrap their heads around the idea that magnitude 9 earthquakes can cause nuclear accidents.

        • by MrKaos (858439)

          I find it interesting how people can't wrap their heads around the idea that magnitude 9 earthquakes can cause nuclear accidents.

          Maybe they can't wrap their heads around why anyone would build a Nuclear Reactor in an earthquake zone in the first place.

          • by nojayuk (567177)

            The entire nation of Japan is an earthquake zone, a bit like the Mississippi valley is a killer tornado zone (55 fatalities last year with major destruction of homes and businesses compared to zero deaths from radiation releases in Japan over the same year). If we were really concerned about safety above all else we'd evacuate both locations completely and bar them from human habitation forever. Not going to happen though.

            Back in the 60s when the reactors were being planned our understanding of earthquakes

            • by MrKaos (858439)

              the Japanese building codes are based on the fact that earthquakes WILL happen.

              Oh, indeed, I agree wholeheartedly. What some people can't seem to wrap their head around is that the Reactor itself was rated to 600Gal and was only ever exposed to 150Gal on the day, for which it SCRAMed correctly and shut itself down. There was never any question that the reactor itself could have survived the Earthquake and the Tsunami.

              I find it interesting that some people, like our friend above, like to mask the capabili

              • by khallow (566160)

                What some people can't seem to wrap their head around is that the Reactor itself was rated to 600Gal and was only ever exposed to 150Gal on the day, for which it SCRAMed correctly and shut itself down.

                And if the earthquake didn't happen there wouldn't have been that acceleration or the inundation by tsunami.

                I find it interesting that some people, like our friend above, like to mask the capabilities of the Reactor design and make sweeping statemnents such as "magnitude 9 earthquakes can cause nuclear accidents" when in fact, the official investigation revealed that this accident was "wholey man-mad" due to a series of management failures.

                I think one of the things I find most offensive about the Fukushima accident are all the armchair engineers who, although exercising no real experience, responsibilities, or perceivable judgment in engineering themselves, have no trouble equating hindsight with foresight. It's easy to claim that there were "management failures". You just type it in. A work of a few seconds and you can go on to picking

                • by MrKaos (858439)

                  And if the earthquake didn't happen there wouldn't have been that acceleration or the inundation by tsunami to expose that TEPCO had not made seawall modifications or adequate protections for the backup generators protecting S class facilities so that design basis issues were not exposed.

                  iFTFY

                  I think one of the things I find most offensive about the Fukushima accident are all the armchair engineers who, although exercising no real experience, responsibilities, or perceivable judgment in engineering the

                  • by khallow (566160)

                    You take a comment, made to someone else where you wern't involved, where my knowledge has been since updated and cite that as some major flaw in my argument upon which you base your fucking magnum opus. That's pathetic.

                    Not for me. I see this as evidence that you reached a hasty judgment and have stuck by that poor judgment ever since despite becoming somewhat more educated on the subject.

                    Ultimately, your opinion is irrelevant as, ironically, the very statement I replied to "the more real knowledge we have about nuclear power and its problems, the more comfortable people will get to nuclear power" has been heeded by everyone else and like me the more they have learned about the nuclear industry the more they can see what an out of control failure it is and lobbied for shutting the industry down due to the safety problems exposed.

                    Well, I must admit to being a little disappointed that the usual dysfunctional, anti-nuclear theater appears to have gotten the better of reason in this case. Well, there's always next time. And when someone says "this is almost as bad as Fukushima," we can reply "and how many people actually died at Fukushima?"

                    Yet no one has thought to consider that maybe the generator placement slipped through the cracks just because of how complex the Fukushima plant was? Finally, engineering doesn't magically get it right the first time.

                    Any responsible nuclear advocate would be able to make an honest ownership of those issues and cite how they have been improved, not deny they exist and try to cover them up.

                    What ownership? I'm tired o

                    • by MrKaos (858439)

                      evil_villain_voice_on "Not for me. I see this as evidence that you reached a hasty judgment and have stuck by that poor judgment ever since despite becoming somewhat more educated on the subject. muhahaha"

                      he said, clinging to the dispersing ash of his credibility.

                      Well, I must admit to being a little disappointed that the usual dysfunctional, anti-nuclear theater appears to have gotten the better of reason in this case. Well, there's always next time.

                      Well let's have it in your backyard then. I mean s

                  • by khallow (566160)
                    As an aside:

                    Japan's nuclear industry managed to avoid absorbing the critical lessons learned from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl

                    Once again, we see this calumny uttered, this time by someone in a position of authority. So what critical lesson from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl wasn't learned? I notice that the report never answers this. It's just a throwaway line by someone who will never be called on it.

                    As I noted in a long ago reply [slashdot.org], I don't buy that there was a lot to learn from these earlier accidents. They were of a different character.

                    If someone does something incredibly stupid, like drive drunk and slam a car into a tree, what is there to learn? Don't be stupid?

                    What lessons were there to learn from Chernobyl? Japan didn't have reactors as unsafe as those used at Chernobyl. They didn't do stupid stuff nor were inclined to. They didn't fail to warn the public nor were inclined to.

                    Going back to the report, many of the supposed faults have nothing to do with

                    • by MrKaos (858439)

                      Once again, we see this calumny uttered, this time by someone in a position of authority.

                      You cannot make people make change unless they feel liability. You must be able to point to an issue and say "This is wrong and you must fix it". Obviously an appeal to the human impact is lost on you because you don't understand it. What you are doing is attempting to bring the commission into disrepute simply because you don't agree with the outcome and, with all of the resources to discover a cause, shows that yo

                    • by MrKaos (858439)
                      As an aside:

                      This goes back to what offended me in the first place - yet another snide comment

                      First of all, if my snide comment offended you, I'm amused your fragile ego dictates much of the way you respond.

                      Second, I wasn't trying to offend you, I was more pissed off that the accident happened at all.

                      Three, until your 'back to the beginning' remark, I'd forgotten that you insulted me first and have never apologised. Now I feel like a real jerk for apologising to you for when I called you whatever I did

            • Nonsense.
              compared to zero deaths from radiation releases in Japan over the same year
              As you can not associate a death to the event, in other words you have no means to know why a certain person died on cancer ... you simply don't know how many people died to it.
              Turning that around: well, I don't know how many, in fact I don't know about a single one, I conclude there was none, is scientific/logically wrong.
              To claim that there was none, you would need a god instrument that states every cause of every death in

    • by Solandri (704621)

      This being so, it seems only logical to employ TEPCO management as decommisioning operators. It's not like they were good for whatever their existing job descriptions are, and we can safely value their radiation exposure as unimportant, or even a benefit.

      Actually I'm a pro-nuclear advocate, and I think this idea seriously would be helpful. The scale of the accident could have been greatly diminished to around an INES level 4 if the manager at Fukushima had decided to dump seawater into the reactor sooner.

      • Although I wouldn't blame anyone who got the contrary impression, I'm actually a supporter of nuclear energy as well (and, just by way of vaguely connected story, I was a veritable nuclear power fanboy at the age when kids are supposed to be enthusiastic about trains or trucks. I had cutaway posters in my room showing the layouts and components of major commercial reactors, my model fuel pellet, assorted nuclear-physics-at-the-picture-book-level books... One time my dad arranged a tour at the nearest nuclea
    • by MrL0G1C (867445)

      human morbidity and mortality are probably major inconveniences.

  • Step One: Find someone born on Krypton......
    • by gnick (1211984)

      According to a recent documentary I saw, apparently the DNA of pretty much the whole race is stored in one Kryptonian. I dozed off about half-way through, but if I understand correctly, we just need to give him a call by shining a bat-shaped spot-light into the sky.

      • Batman: Good evening, Commissioner.
        Gordon: Batman, we need you to look at a reactor melt-
        Batman: I've already fixed it. I capped it with a WayneTech dome.


        Meanwhile in Metropolis:

        Lois Lane: Reports of a melted reactor in Japan have -
        Clark Kent: This looks like a job for...
        Superman: Superman

        Superman: Hmm, leaking radiation.. OH GOD IT'S LIKE KRYPTONITE IT HURTS IT HURTS BATMAN, HELP ME!!
  • He'll stomp a mud hole in any nuclear reactors.
  • Don't know (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Friday February 28, 2014 @04:24PM (#46370265) Homepage

    If they don't know how they'll do it, how do they know it'll take 40 years and 15 billion dollars?

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday February 28, 2014 @04:31PM (#46370327)
      The "37 years remaining" reminded me of the old joke: A museum guide tells visitors "...and this ancient artifact is six thousand and thirteen years old". A tourist asks: "How do the scientists know that so precisely?" The guide responds: "I don't know how they did that, but when I got the job thirteen years ago, they told me it was six thousand years old". (Or something along the lines of this...)
    • by erichill (583191)
      If the final price comes anywhere near as low as $15 billion (adjusted for inflation) I'll be very, very surprised.
  • How do you disassemble the Fukushima site? Very carefully...
  • ... iFixit for an applicable video.

    Note: Need to order that heavy duty spudger to pry the top off.

  • I talked about the problem of highly radioactive water spewing from Fukushima back in April [slashdot.org] 2011 [slashdot.org]:

    The radioactivity released at Chernobyl escaped upward into the air. This made it easier to get a handle on the magnitude of the total amount of radioactivity released. The release at the light water reactors at Fukushima is for the most part traveling downward, to basements, tunnels, ground water, and the ocean. This makes it extremely difficult to get a handle on the total amount of radioactivity that has been released. They really don't know [if] the bulk of it is in the thousands of tons they have already discovered or if that is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Of course I was called an alarmist and other things for bringing this up back then.

    Clearly what they had discovered by April 1 2011 was just the tip of the iceberg. As I had predicted, it is the radioactive water that is the main cause for concern.

  • Install beta ... they'll dismantle themselves due to the shame.

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