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Earth Power Technology

Chernobyl's Sarcophagus, Redux 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the looking-back dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes "With the news that a multinational consortium is to the halfway point in constructing a huge stainless steel hangar that will sit over the ruined site of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, Dan Drollette looks in the archives of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and compares notes on the sarcophagus that was built 25 years ago, and the one that is being built now. 'No one really knows what went into the "concrete cube;" even the amount of concrete claimed to have been used is suspect, as it would form a volume larger than the sarcophagus, wrote nuclear engineer and author Alexander R. Sich in his 11-page article, "Truth was an early casualty."' Let's hope this new sarcophagus lasts longer."
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Chernobyl's Sarcophagus, Redux

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I believe the structure should appear from space as a giant band-aid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @05:44PM (#46923581)

    "Truth was an early casualty."

    That's a great line.

  • Chernobyl was arguably the worst design of anything in history. But the Soviets moved, 500,000 plus people. Gorbachev says it is what broke the USSR. Mistakes were made, but they are taking responsibility for the mess. This is what is needed for Nuke Inc. USA and Japan. Get it done. This would turn the tide of popular opinion.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @05:56PM (#46923673)

      If by taking responsibility you mean reburying the highly radioactive blob and unspent fuel which will continue to work its way to their water table...then yes they are.

      A true example for the rest of the world.

      The truth is we can't adequately cope with runaway reactions of any scale. The best we can do is try to keep the scale small which doesn't produce enough power to be useful. We also don't have a solid plan on what to do with the waste products besides weapons proliferation.[lots of ideas, no solid plans]

      Nuclear energy is clearly something we are all bad at.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As opposed to our plans for dealing with the waste products of other energy production systems? Or the "adequate" way we deal with say, coal mine fires?

        • As opposed to our plans for dealing with the waste products of other energy production systems? Or the "adequate" way we deal with say, coal mine fires?

          I'm sure you know you've got a logical fallacy there; being bad at one thing doesn't rule out the possibility of being bad at lots of other things.

          But the USA could have put out the Centralia coal mine fire any time we wanted to - just divert half the Susquehanna river into the mines for a year.

          Nobody's going to do that, though, because the right wing likes

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We also don't have a solid plan on what to do with the waste products besides weapons proliferation.

        Bury it in the ground and send the bill to the tax payer, then claim it's really cheap to run because you don't need to include disposal of nuclear waste as they're paying for that in othe rways.

        • by blagooly (897225)

          All of the above is correct, unfinished business that results in lost trust. These are not unfounded, irrational fears of NIMBYs wielding BANANAs. Advocates should perhaps dig deeper into how the French do things. Gov't/industry are effectively one there, perhaps the truth is on lockdown? Or are they more serious about things other than profit?

          There is a major push from the trillion dollar industry, with support from this Admin, as Climate Disruption rules all. So folks should pay attention.

          EPA is curren

          • by icebike (68054)

            And why shouldn't the EPA be revising safe acceptable radiation levels? After all, the prior standards proved so overly protective as to be universally ignored. If WWII and Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and all of the other minor leaks and accidental exposures have taught us anything is that life (including humans) is more resistant to radiation that we ever though. Basically if it doesn't kill you within a few weeks, you will have a statistically indistinguishable prognosis of living a normal life.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by blagooly (897225)
              EPA allows far less than FDA. If they just quietly say they want the EPA levels to match FDA, because why should we have two sets of numbers? Skip the details and complicated reworking of the whole thing, most folks wouldn't even look up from twitter. For example, EPAs Maximum Contaminant Levels assumes regular consumption over 70 years, accepts that one in a million will die. FDAs single dose Derived Intervention Levels accepts 2 in ten thousand. If pesky calculations like this are somehow kept out of the
      • Agreed, we are very bad at it because no one wants to be good at it. Just good enough to be profitable. A company can run a good plant and still make profit, just not the pie high in the sky kind. We've got little choice in the matter, we're going to either have to get good at nuclear or just accept insanely huge energy costs as norm in the next five to six decades.

        I love solar and wind, but that's going to be an uphill battle with the coal and oil folks for at least the next 30 years. At least nuclear

      • by Fjandr (66656)

        There was a test reactor built at Argonne National Labs in Idaho that solved the meltdown problem in 1986. They demonstrated it by shutting off all power, both internal and external. The temperature of the core rose a bit, and then fell until the reactor shut itself down.

        They repeated the process by disabling the entire cooling system. Again, the reactor shut itself down safely, with no manual control necessary to safely halt the plant.

        It was mothballed because of anti-nuclear protests by those who don't kn

    • by Tailhook (98486) on Monday May 05, 2014 @06:49PM (#46923995)

      but they are taking responsibility for the mess

      The EU is paying for the new shelter, not Russia or Ukraine. The construction of the old shelter/sarcophagus is a lie. They're still running about 10 of these RMBKs in Russia proper.

      And somehow, in your mind, this qualifies as "taking responsibility."

      turn the tide of popular opinion

      The problem of popular opinion about nuclear is a symptom of cheap fossil fuels. Give people a little energy scarcity and they'll warm right up to nuclear. Until then they'll indulge the the nuclear hysteria they've been trained with.

      • Give people a little energy scarcity and they'll warm right up to nuclear.

        I see what you what you did there.

      • by icebike (68054)

        The EU is paying for the new shelter, not Russia or Ukraine. The construction of the old shelter/sarcophagus is a lie. They're still running about 10 of these RMBKs in Russia proper.

        The new shelter is not even on the same scale of intent as the old sarcophagus. Never mind the shortcomings of the sarcophagus, its intent was to be a shield for radiation. It is falling in due to its own weight, and hasty construction. But as of now it is serving its purpose, although badly in need of repair.

        The new shield is nothing more than dust cover. Made of thins sheet steel, it is designed to keep the dust of future work on the sarcophagus contained. It is not itself designed to block radiatio

        • AIUI radiation tends to travel in straight lines starting out in random directions. So the bulk of radiation that is emmited by a source will end up either absorbed by the containing structure, absorted by the ground or radiated into space and even for victims with line of site to the source the radiation will decay according to an inverse square law.

          Radiation from the disaster site is really only a concern because of the threat it poses to people dealing with the real problem (which is radioactive contamin

      • by fnj (64210)

        That's two posts so far in which you've called it "RMBK". You might want to spell it right. It's RBMK - Reaktor Bolshoy Moshchnosti Kanalnyy.

      • The problem of popular opinion about nuclear is a symptom of cheap fossil fuels. Give people a little energy scarcity and they'll warm right up to nuclear. Until then they'll indulge the the nuclear hysteria they've been trained with.

        Popular opinion is largely due to the disproportionate amount of attention dedicated to radiological pollution. In the nuclear industry, waste is routinely kept out of the environment as much as possible and any leaks are a big media story that makes out that many people are going to die (in actual fact, the health impact of even big nuclear disasters doesn't seem that great). On the other hand, other industries such as coal fired power stations routinely just dump much of their pollution directly into th

        • by blagooly (897225)

          US issues are many. Hanford, Los Alamos, Oak ridge, etc? The job did not get done. It is part of the legacy, fair or not. There is no facility for storing spent NPP fuel. 50, 60 years into the thing, no US place to put the fuel. They did not get it done. SFPs are dangerously full, past their design basis, and vulnerable.

          Chernobyl, Fukushima. You folks may never go home. An acceptable risk? These are legit, open questions that have nothing to do with politics/ideology, or unfounded fears.

          Public confide

          • US issues are many. Hanford, Los Alamos, Oak ridge, etc? The job did not get done. It is part of the legacy, fair or not. There is no facility for storing spent NPP fuel. 50, 60 years into the thing, no US place to put the fuel. They did not get it done. SFPs are dangerously full, past their design basis, and vulnerable.

            Ok, so the US hasn't got its shit together... but a lot of the rest of the world seems to do ok at this stuff and yet public opinion is frequently against nuclear.

            Chernobyl, Fukushima. You folks may never go home. An acceptable risk? These are legit, open questions that have nothing to do with politics/ideology, or unfounded fears.

            Again, you're not comparing nuclear against all the other options - you're just citing reasons why nuclear is bad without looking to see how bad the alternatives are. We've got to get our power from somewhere, so instead of saying "this is bad", start saying "this is worse than..." and "this is better than..." - certainly none of the options are

            • by blagooly (897225)

              Must not happen. Well, that is impossible, I know. That is the problem. Some hungover fellow will poke a forklift through the thing.

              What aspect of coal compares to this? Reactor core materials found almost 500 km from Fukushima plant -- 40,000,000,000,000,000,000 Bq/kg -- Can travel very, very significant distances -- Hot particles found in 25% of samples from Tokyo and Fukushima http://www.fairewinds.org/hott... [fairewinds.org]

              Which one creates waste that will be hazardous to all biota, 20,000 years from now?

              Each

              • What aspect of coal compares to this? Reactor core materials found almost 500 km from Fukushima plant -- 40,000,000,000,000,000,000 Bq/kg

                The first thing that springs to mind is that whoever wrote that was intentionally trying to make the numbers look big and scary. Quoting "Bq/Kg" in a situation where you're talking about nanograms of material seems pretty disingenuous.

                As for the "what aspect of coal comparest to this" point - the fact that coal fired power stations are *all* *routinely* chucking toxic particulates and gasses into the atmosphere *all the time*, compared to a whole 2 major radiological disasters relating to nuclear power.

                So

    • Mistakes were made, but they are taking responsibility for the mess. This is what is needed for Nuke Inc. USA and Japan. Get it done

      What the hell is this supposed to mean? We should get around to building our own sarcophagus properly over *our* Chernobyl? Oh, that's right...we didn't have one.

      Or are you saying the US should take responsibility for Japan's Fukushima reactors? Why?

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Monday May 05, 2014 @06:30PM (#46923855)
    It can't hurt and it might help.

    On a positive note, deeds such as this involving international assistance reinforce my retarded optimism that humanity might rise above tribalism into something astonishing.

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      Don't worry, elections coming up at the end of this year. You'll soon have that beaten out of you.

  • So what is the purpose of this submission? Chernobyl cleanup and management is an interesting topic, but little useful info is put forth here. An update on construction and a rehash of what we already know. Just a vehicle to put forth an accusation of lying about concrete volumes that doesn't appear to have a basis.

    Chernobyl is a huge mess that fortunately can't and won't be replicated due to design differences in existing plants.
  • ... and a lot of others doing the dying. Nothing new in the behavior of the human race. And no, this one will not last much longer either. After all, they will have to buy the next one, regardless.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      If you do a cost-benefit analysis of risk, nuclear energy is less problematic than fossil fuels, believe it or not, even with occasional accidents. Fossil fuels harm and kill a good many due to air pollution, and perhaps general climate disruption due to the green-house effect.

      There is something psychologically more fearful about dying from radiation than dying from lung cancer even though the second is significantly more prevalent.

      Perhaps because in our movie-shaped imaginations, too much radiation creates

      • by Kittenman (971447)

        If you do a cost-benefit analysis of risk, nuclear energy is less problematic than fossil fuels, believe it or not, even with occasional accidents.

        I read somewhere that the most deaths of any power source have been .. solar. Because people fall off the roof while putting up the panels.

        Yeah I know... citation needed. But hey, this is slashdot, right?

        • Actually, coal is the worst by far. Nuclear is the best. Solar is more dangerous than Nuclear, but not even by an OOM.
          Forbes article [forbes.com], deaths per Trillion kWh
          Coal, Global: 170k, Coal, China: 280k, Coal, US: 15k
          Solar: 440
          Nuclear, Global average: 90
          Deaths per TWh by energy source [nextbigfuture.com](note:1k times less electricity than above)
          Coal, electricity, world average: 60. 100 if it's for everything.
          Oil 36
          Solar .44
          Wind .15
          Hydro .10(not including Banqiao, including it raises it to 1.4 because the once incident killed 171k.

          • How many births outside of China is coal responsible for to make those numbers?

            Or, they are not net, then when did China cease to be part of the world? I hope there was some kind of memo about this, I haven't seen it.

            • China has an appalling coal miner safety record. That is where most of the confirmed, as in you can x-ray the lungs of these people and see the dust in them, coal deaths come from. The other deaths, some may be directly diagnosed as particulate pollution deaths, but a lot of these people will just silently die as be signed off as dead from hearth disease which was in fact caused by the coal power plant emissions. Coal power plant emissions cause cardiovascular problems. Those people do not even get accounte

              • by Muad'Dave (255648)

                ... from hearth disease ...

                Coal-fired hearth, I take it. What a wonderful Freudian Bra...I mean slip!

            • by Firethorn (177587)

              How many births outside of China is coal responsible for to make those numbers?

              Not sure about the question? What do you mean births? Unless you think the 170k for the global average is a total - it's now, it's the average number of deaths per TkWh. IE if you generate 1T kWh via coal power, on average 170k people are going to die from it. China's record, at least when the statistics were gathered, was so bad it more than doubled the death rate for the global average, so they broke it out as a specific example. I understand that they've improved somewhat since then, but consider th

              • Did in fact read it as a total rather than an average and assumed the China figure was an error. Makes more sense now.

    • You could say the same about coal, and be more correct. In fact, WAY more correct.

      Coal kills 170,000 people per year; nuclear after Chernobyl and Fukushima only kills 90. Source [forbes.com]

      440 people die per year from rooftop solar, which is almost 5x as many as nuclear.

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      You apparently have never looked at the number of coal-related deaths vs. the number of nuclear-related deaths. If you add in the nuclear deaths from atomic weapons (including cancer) in addition to power plants, the numbers are still separated by several orders of magnitude.

  • um (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495)

    No one really knows what went into the "concrete cube;" even the amount of concrete claimed to have been used is suspect, as it would form a volume larger than the sarcophagus

    The core melted a hole through the ground deep enough to hit the water table where it exploded on contact with water, then caused a steam explosion that was so powerful some of the material hit the jet stream. The heat continued causing hydrogen build up and further hydrogen explosions.

    They tried to pour molten lead into the cavity but that just boiled and caused the radioactive steam to also carry lead vapor as well, making it even more toxic. So they gave up and filled it in with concrete. No one has any

    • Mod up...
    • by zm (257549)

      The core melted a hole through the ground deep enough to hit the water table where it exploded on contact with water, then caused a steam explosion that was so powerful some of the material hit the jet stream. The heat continued causing hydrogen build up and further hydrogen explosions.

      Citation?

    • Re:um (Score:5, Interesting)

      by whois (27479) on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:22PM (#46925043) Homepage

      The core melted a hole through the ground deep enough to hit the water table where it exploded on contact with water, then caused a steam explosion that was so powerful some of the material hit the jet stream. The heat continued causing hydrogen build up and further hydrogen explosions.

      They tried to pour molten lead into the cavity but that just boiled and caused the radioactive steam to also carry lead vapor as well, making it even more toxic. So they gave up and filled it in with concrete. No one has any idea how large the whole was, if there was a chamber at the bottom from the water reservoir or multiple explosions. I don't find it the least bit suspicious that the amount of concrete poured into a random unexplored hole in the midst of the greatest man made disaster in history might be a bit off.

      Please cite sources for the core melting through to the water table. Accounts that I've seen say the steam explosions are from the cooling loop and secondary explosions are due to hydrogen. Most of the dispersal was due to the fire which burned for days.

      • by kyrsjo (2420192)

        Exactly. It did melt through a few concrete floors tough.

        • Re:um (Score:5, Informative)

          by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday May 06, 2014 @03:54AM (#46926565) Homepage Journal

          Yep, but the core didn't hit the water table. They located most of it years and years ago. The core is currently a solidified mass through a bunch of pipes, solidified pools, and such through much of the structure under where the reactor core was, the best known formation is the 'elephant's foot' [wikipedia.org] located in a sub-basement [nautil.us].

          Taking pictures of it was an interesting affair because the radiation is strong enough to fry even our best shielded robots, not that the Russians had them, so they had to get creative with more primitive tools.

          Still, I haven't seen any evidence that it managed to make it to the water table.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        where there not a army of miners that where employed to to dig a giant chamber below the building to house a cooling apparatus? The cooling apperatus was never placed because of money issues and wasn't that chamber filled then with concrete out of a possible worry that the fissionable materials would go into the ground water table.

        this further supports the whole point that you made that the fissionable materials never reached the ground water.

        on the subject of the lead it was mixed with sodium (not sure ab

    • Whatever you're smoking - you should consider laying off it before commenting. Or at least label your comments with "hallucinogen induced fiction".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ugh. Utterly embarrassing uninformed comments like this are why I really don't want to read /. any more. Everything you've said is just sophistry and doesn't pass the whiff test if you've got even a basic foundation in nuclear physics, and you got upvoted +5 for it!

    • Where did you get this BS? From viewing the China Syndrome movie? It did not reach the water table. The water was from the cooling loop.

      I don't know what is worse your awfully misguided comments or the fact that people actually modded up. Jesus.

    • No, it melted through to the cooling pools, which they drained in order to prevent that exact circumstance. The 3 guys who did that died shortly afterwards since they were basically swimming in highly radioactive water.

      The smoldering graphite, fuel and other material above, at more than 1200 C,[67] started to burn through the reactor floor and mixed with molten concrete from the reactor lining, creating corium, a radioactive semi-liquid material comparable to lava.[66][68] If this mixture had melted through the floor into the pool of water, it was feared it could have created a serious steam explosion that would have ejected more radioactive material from the reactor. It became necessary to drain the pool.[69]

      The bubbler pool could be drained by opening its sluice gates. Volunteers in diving suits entered the radioactive water and managed to open the gates. These were the engineers Alexei Ananenko (who knew where the valves were) and Valeri Bezpalov, accompanied by a third man, Boris Baranov, who provided them with light from a lamp, though this lamp failed, leaving them to find the valves by feeling their way along a pipe.[70] All of them returned to the surface and according to Ananenko, their colleagues jumped in joy when they heard they had managed to open the valves. Upon emerging from the water, the three were already suffering from radiation sickness and later died.[71] Some sources claim incorrectly that they died in the plant.[70]

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

    • I'd like to read more about that. This is the first time I hear about the "evaporating" lead. As far as I remember it was lead pellets, which did melt, but never evaporated. The boiling point of lead is 3180F. I doubt that the core was hot enough when they started dropping the lead, about 3 days after the meltdown, formation of the corium and the contact with water in the lower levels.

  • Chernobyl is in Ukraine, a fact that should makes everyone think twice before pushing a civil war. And by everyone, I also mean US and EU. Nobody should have supported a revolutionary government with an agenda beyond making a new constitution and new elections

    • by hey! (33014)

      Yeah, but it's up in the north right on the border with Belarus; not the nice waterfront property Russia's interested around the Sea of Azov.

      • by manu0601 (2221348)

        You miss my point.

        There have been a revolution in Ukraine. The constitution does not apply anymore (otherwise the former president would still be there). Since there is no constitution, nothing legally prevent a region to leave the country. The emergency is therefore to restore a constitutional order, and foreign powers should not support a government that works on anything other than that.

        Without a constitution, Ukraine will fall in civil war. It will not need help from Russia to go that way, and the mess

        • and the mess will spread to most parts of the country. Including Chernobyl.

          I'm not sure what you're getting at here...it sounds like they decommissioned the last reactor back in 2000. And trying to extract useful nuclear material from the destroyed reactor would be hellaciously complicated and expensive, even assuming you don't care whether every person who does the work dies. Portions of the inside of the reactor basically melted into a big glob--nuclear material, moderators, control mechanisms, concrete from the vessel walls...

          • by manu0601 (2221348)

            trying to extract useful nuclear material from the destroyed reactor would be hellaciously complicated

            I was not thinking about people making a dirty bomb, but rather about fights around a fragile sarcophagus filled with radioactive material.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Three full core melt-throughs are sitting in sandstone, leaching to the pacific/atmosphere without any control or sarcophagus at all, since march 2011.

  • I saw a documentary, there are deers, birds, a lot of large fish in the station's artificial lake, foxes, etc. And also a lot of trees in the Chernobyl area.

    Is wild life and plants immune to radiation?
    • by advid.net (595837)

      Is wild life and plants immune to radiation?

      Those with radiation induced complications die much earlier.

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      There's also a huge population of people, and the background radiation at the site rarely reaches higher than 20Sv. You can get more background radiation than that at several beaches in Brazil, and commercial airline pilots operate their entire career at those levels of radiation.

  • I was speaking with a nuclear engineer just this past weekend. The reason that Chernobyl happened was that an unauthorized test took place over the direct objections of senior management. It was like taking the oil out of a car engine and seeing how long it would run. What did they expect would happen? In any event, after the disaster, the existing cover is/was inadequate at best.

    Whether the new design is adequate or not is moot: when Putin takes over the country, he will completely shut down any real news

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