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Japan Power Hardware

Things Get Worse at Fukushima 1122

An anonymous reader writes "Radiation levels are skyrocketing around Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant as reports indicate that a radioactive core has overheated and melted through its containment vessel and onto a concrete floor. Radiation levels inside reactor two were recently gauged at 1,000 millisieverts per hour — a level so high that workers could only remain in the area for 15 minutes under current exposure guidelines."
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Things Get Worse at Fukushima

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  • Nuclear technologies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:57PM (#35656512)

    This disaster will very likely change the way that nuclear power generation plants are approved and evaluated in the future. Unfortunately, a promising technology will almost certainly be set back, perhaps irreparably. The silver lining, however, is that alternative nuclear technologies may finally get a fair shake. Alternate fuels and reactor types offer so many possibilities to possibly exceed the efficiency and safety levels that we put up with today but have thus far been unable to obtain funding compared to the currently developed reactors. That confidence in our current strategy is being eroded rapidly. This isn't some second-rate system like Chernobyl, it is close-to-state-of-the-art.

  • by Prikolist ( 1260608 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:02PM (#35656606)

    Yea, now people will finally stop arguing for it and give solar, wind, etc. more attention. Awesome.
    I'm sorry, but I'll never be a proponent for something that has a good chance of causing horrible diseases and mutations and birth defects, regardless of how good the technology protecting it is (you could blame Chernobyl on outdated and weak Soviet tech if you want, but a modern plant by the gods of technology, Japanese, is faring no better). And there is the matter of having to bury the leftovers for thousands of years.

  • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:10PM (#35656748)

    Reactors 1-4 will never be used again. But burying them in concrete is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Right now, the cores are still hot enough to melt through the reactor vessel if not constantly cooled by constant pumping of (now) fresh water through the coolant system.

    Worst case scenario (though not hugely likely) - water stops getting in, or stops cooling the fuel rods, they melt down through the reactor into the outer containment vessel, and there's not enough left of the control rods mixed in to prevent the molten fuel reaching criticality again, and it then gets hot enough to melt through the containment itself, then either contaminate groudwater, or even worse, hit enough water to cause a steam explosion, spreading radioactive elements for miles around.

    It's going to take *years* to decommission these plants after the damage they've suffered from the quake and tsunami. No doubt some sort of concrete shroud will be part of the final solution, but right now, keeping control of the coolant flow in both the reactors and the used fuel ponds is the top priority, closely followed by patching any leaks from the containment vessels caused by the multiple hydrogen fires/explosions.

  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:15PM (#35656854)
    Human history is littered with, well, litter. We just push stuff over the next hill or into the river and forget about it. We're starting to run out of room to do this without having side effects of leeching into soils etc.

    What I find ironic is that by blasting stuff into the sun, we might just be able to 'push it over that hill' in a manner that won't be an issue for literally billions of years.

    While our early ancestors surely said "you don't think we can possibly pollute the entire ocean do you?".

    Could we possibly produce enough stuff from this planet that we actually effect the sun in any meaning full way? In terms of scale it seems like we might just be able to get away with blasting our refuse into the sun and not see any significant consequences.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:16PM (#35656862)

    Bury the whole damn thing in concrete, and be done with it. This crisis would have been resolved two weeks ago if TEPCO wasn't more interested in repairing and reusing the reactor than the public safety.

    Each reactor was written off the moment they pumped seawater into it. The corrosive nature of salt means the steel containment vessels will never pass inspection to allow them be used again to house an active reactor. Reactors #1, #2, and #3 will never be used again. TEPCO deserves criticism for waiting too long to pump in seawater (long enough to allow the rods to become exposed and melt), but refusing to use concrete has nothing to do with it.

    They aren't encasing it in concrete because doing so would compromise their ability to continue cooling, and thus practically guarantee the core melting through the steel containment vessel.. TFA is speculation that this has already happened based on one industry expert's interpretation of the reports he has seen. He's apparently forgotten that reactor #2 suffered a hydrogen explosion inside containment early on (near or in the suppression pool, or "torus"). They've been suspecting for a while that they have a containment breech there, allowing water from the core to leak out. The high radiation readings from the water near that area are consistent with that scenario.

  • by jeroen8 ( 1463273 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:24PM (#35656988)
    Our sun, a nuclear fusion source which is already working reliably for more than 5 billion years, produces an extreme amount of energy. Within 6 hours, deserts on Earth receive more solar energy than we use in a whole year globally. Why do we keep ignore this most power full energy source? For the world energy demand (18.000 TWh) we need only a surface area of 188 x 188 square miles with Concentrated Solar Plants. This is a small thumbnail on the map of Africa. Germany has seen the light and is investing 500 billion euro's in Desertec []. A CSP plant runs 24 x 7 hours on full power (even when the sun is away because it can store sun heat in molten salt). These CSP plants can easily replace nuclear and coal power plants.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:25PM (#35657016)

    Hmm, Unless climbing out of this pesky gravity well becomes very very very cheap, I'm pretty sure garbage isn't going to be launched at the sun, It would also be worth considering that today's garbage is tomorrows archaeology or perhaps even tomorrows mineral/raw material mine. Dumping matter into a fusion furnace does put it pretty much beyond use.

    If we were more selective about our waste (say spent nuclear fuel) then

    A) what about an accident during launch (scattering radioactive material over a large area)
    B) The mineral question is also interesting, current nuclear material consists of rare elements, of which only a small finite supply exists. It is not inconceivable that other uses might be found for said nuclear waste in the future....

  • by Toy G ( 533867 ) <> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:35PM (#35657202) Homepage Journal

    No, the announced closure was just postponed in February for another 5 years at least, with a view to get an additional 5 years on top of that after a bit of maintenance.

    Reactors cost huge sums to build, nobody really expects them to last only 30 years; 40 is the bare minimum to get some returns from the whole operation, anything on top of that is pure profit... which is where the REAL interest is, of course.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:37PM (#35657238)

    This is truly the end of fission Nuclear power plants.

    Why? I think to the contrary, it'll calm down people. Here, we have the worst that can happen, a vast disaster, the feared meltdown, and the result is some elevated radiation in the basement and the usual hysterical news. There's no area, the size of Pennsylvania rendered uninhabitable forever (or other hysterical predictions of the radical environmentalists).

    In other words, this is one of those dumb "human error" accidents that caused the other three meltdowns of civilian power plants, but a genuine natural disaster. And the reactors weathered it pretty well.

    Sure, there will continue to be NIMBYs. But the more real knowledge we have about nuclear power and its problems, the more comfortable people will get to nuclear power.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:42PM (#35657322)
    TFA seems to have forgotten that reactor #2 suffered a hydrogen explosion inside containment []

    Enough hydrogen was also produced within the reactor vessel by the interaction between water and hot fuel to cause an explosion at each unit when this was vented to the secondary containment. For units 1 and 3 this removed the top part of the reactor building. At unit 2 this may have taken place in the torus, causing damage there.

    They've been suspecting they have a containment breach in reactor #2 for about two weeks now, in or near the torus / suppression pool which is connected to but sits beneath the main containment vessel. So the presence of highly radioactive water underneath it isn't really a surprise. No need for the core to melt through the steel containment vessel for that to happen.

    The mystery right now is the burns the three workers suffered a few days back. They were working on reactor #3, not #2. #3 was also suspected to have a leak in containment, but their latest readings say that the containment vessel is not losing pressure, which would seem to imply there is no leak. So where did that radioactive water come from?

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @03:54PM (#35657530)

    Yea, now people will finally stop arguing for it and give solar, wind, etc. more attention. Awesome.
    I'm sorry, but I'll never be a proponent for something that has a good chance of causing horrible diseases and mutations and birth defects, regardless of how good the technology protecting it is

    Yes, because solar cells are made from sugar and spice and everything nice, and don't have any toxic components.

    What will you say if a tank of Cadmium waste leaks from a solar cell manufacturing plant, contaminating ground water and causing injury and death. (and who's to say that it hasn't already happened, since we've offshored most of our solar production.)

    All power production has risks and can cause injury or death. The question is what level of risk is acceptable, and it needs to be looked at on a per-kwh basis. Solar hasn't killed many people yet, but it's still in its infancy -- there's around 20GW of installed capacity now, the output of a few nuclear plants.

    (you could blame Chernobyl on outdated and weak Soviet tech if you want, but a modern plant by the gods of technology, Japanese, is faring no better). And there is the matter of having to bury the leftovers for thousands of years.

    This is by no means a "modern" plant - it's a 40 year old plant with a reactor designed by a USA company 50 years ago. More modern designs have passive safety built-in, so no active cooling is required.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:09PM (#35657818)

    We'll just build fast breeder to take care of the nuclear waste problem. Oh wait, we can't because ecologists don't want us to. Can't have the nuclear industry solve its waste problem: that'd be one less argument for us. Unacceptable.

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:32PM (#35658130)

    “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven't got it.” -- Bernard Shaw

    The clearly the /. editors or the dimwit who submitted this story are not cynics, because they certainly lack the power of accurate observation. This report speculates that the reactor pressure vessel may have melted, but for some unaccountable reason the summary suggests that the containment may have been breached.

    There are probably better discussions out there, but here's my take on the reactor design, which includes a pretty picture from Wikipedia that gives an idea of the difference between the pressure vessel and the containment. []

    This story is pure sensationalism by abstraction and amplification. The mental health effects of fear due to misinformation, sensationalism and lies surrounding nuclear accidents of this type are far greater than the physical health effects, and I dearly hope one day the ignorant assholes who promulgate these kinds of sensationalistic accounts get their propper cumuppance: a massive class-action suit brought by the victims of their voyeuristic fearmongering.

  • by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:35PM (#35661076)

    Just because it could have been very much worse doesn't mean this isn't a huge clusterfuck.

    It sounds a lot like the fire code made sure that everyone made it out of the building alive but now you're upset because the fire department tracked mud on the carpet and soaked all your furniture with their fire hoses.

    And now you want us to stop building houses and live in tents, never mind that the house that caught fire was made of wood and the houses being built today are made of brick.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.