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Japan Hardware

Robots Enter Fukushima Reactor Building 244

swandives writes "For the first time, a pair of remote controlled robots have entered a reactor building at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power hopes the iRobot Packbots will be able to provide data on the current condition inside the buildings, although the company hasn't yet released any information on what they found inside."
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Robots Enter Fukushima Reactor Building

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  • Re:Finally! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kinky Bass Junk ( 880011 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:08AM (#35852536)
    The problem isn't the robotics researchers or manufacturers. I can tell you from experience that new technology like the use of robots in emergency management will always take years to come into play. There are so many great ways that technology can be integrated with emergency management, but emergency services will never have the budget and human resources to experiment with and adapt technology to real world applications. The earthquake was a catalyst for change in emergency management in Japan, leading to an immediate requirement for the use of new technology which would have been invested in (with both time and money) when the need became apparent. Personally I'd like to see further developments like this - the use of UAVs for bushfire operations and other disaster reconnaissance, robotic rubble searchers, etc.
  • Re:iRobots? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by faulteh ( 1869228 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:10AM (#35852544) Homepage

    iRobot has been building robots for years with no problems with the name.

    It is substantially different from crApple products by the fact iRobot products are actually useful rather than shiny technology, and substantially different from Asimov's titicular story, 'I, Robot' in the fact that (a) iRobot's are not 3 laws safe, and (b) it doesn't use 'I, ' but rather 'i' and (c) the company in Asimov's stories is US Robotics which shares the name with another company that you may have used back in the dialup days

    I have one of the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaners and hope that there will be future technological advances that allow me to continue on my goal to the state of being a lazy fat c*nt.

    PS WTF Japan, you're only NOW starting to use robots help fix the reactor???

  • Re:iRobots? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @01:36AM (#35852642)

    Isn't the real 'WTF' here: 'Japan, you're using AMERICAN robots to help assess and/or fix the reactor!?!?!'

    Somewhere deep in a bunker under Siberia, an irony alarm is going off.

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @02:25AM (#35852840)

    "Nuclear power" in the vernacular sense means "power generating fission reactors". Mostly because those are the only tech presently used to harness nuclear reactions for electricity. Informally, virtually every member of the public hears "nuclear" and understands it to mean "fission", assuming they know what fission is.

    I am aware that a hypothetical fusion power plant would "nuclear" in the sense of the word used by physicists, however I do not generally refer to them as "nuclear power plants" to avoid confusion. When precision in language gets in the way of clarity, clarity should always come first; being correctly understood matters more than being technically correct when dealing with non-experts.

  • by Zenicetus ( 1014959 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @02:41AM (#35852888)
    "Lucifer's Hammer" (1977), co-authored by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. An otherwise good novel about what a large comet strike would actually do to our civilization, ruined by an ending where the elite Randian/Libertarian survivors save civilization by defending the last remaining nuclear power plant. That's all you need to know about Pournelle's stance on nuclear power. If nuclear power isn't wonderful, then the whole premise of that novel is shot.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @02:51AM (#35852916) Homepage Journal
    First and foremost most of the damage was not actually done by the earthquake itself, most of the fatalities, and the cause of the Fukushima incident was the tsunami, not the earthquake. And even assuming "civilized" means "heavily populated", it still ignores that whole Indian Ocean [] tsunami that occurred in a heavily populated area.

    Actually the fact that the earthquake occurred so close to the shore probably SAVED lives in the end. In the Indian ocean quake, most of the affected areas never actually felt the quake, all they saw was the water receding then a giant wave. Most had no chance to escape. At least in Japan the fact that the quake was so powerful gave an unmistakable warning to the people living near the coast to get to high ground. The closeness of the earthquake to the shore probably ended up saving, not costing, lives.
  • by Silverlok ( 1792664 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @03:33AM (#35853080)
    "Banri Kaieda spoke to reporters on Sunday shortly after Tokyo Electric Power Company presented a road map to cool down the reactors and significantly reduce radiation leaks in 6 to 9 months" [] It's only 6 to 9 months no big deal right? "Radiation levels measured between the double doors of those reactor buildings was 270 millisieverts in the Number One reactor, 12 in Number 2, and 10 in Number 3. The radiation level detected at the Number One reactor exceeds the national exposure limit of 250 millisieverts for nuclear contract workers." [] Three reactors melting down and at least one breached , plus several tons of waste fuels rods that have melted or blown away and are still currently boiling off, plutonium found around the plant on the ground , not to mention the dumping of highly radioactive water into the ocean for over a month but no big deal right? [] If you have a mind to look behind the curtain []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2011 @06:01AM (#35853580)

    Conservative estimates (Areva) point to at least 60% meltdown in three cores, mobilization of about half the cores' inventory of solubles and of essentially all gases.

    That's way more material than a Tsar Bomba or three (remember, the Tsar Bomba was high-altitude, 90-something % fusion yield). I'm not even counting the three cooling pools with unknown amounts of water in them which are steaming and outgassing in the open.

    Is it more than Chernobyl? Certainly not, in terms of heavy metals and activated carbon released, so the long-term effects (heavy metal toxicity, mostly) will not be as pronounced.

    I see, howewver, an estimation of 1T Bq/hr being released. That's definitely going somewhere and with the monsoon season starting, that somewhere is the southwest of Japan (Kanto will be hardest hit, if this is a regular monsoon).

    I have reason to believe that additional cancers, birth defects and miscarriages over the next 30-50 years or so will not be correctly reported, nor, indeed, correctly attributed should they be detected. Even simple facts such as radiation measurements are being withheld or obfuscated.

    Also, you yourself are spreading untruths. The plant was on an approved 10 year life-extension that had just started. The earthquake was definitely not the biggest earthquake ever and its magnitude at Fukushima was even lower than that, because of distance from the epicenter mainly.

    The #2 reactor is cracked. That could not have happened because of the tsunami (not enough energy), nor can it be because of the hydrogen explosion ("wrong" blast pattern). That leaves only one culprit - the earthquake itself, which indeed exceeded the puny 7.5 Richter design maximum.

    There is now talk (from TEPCO) of flooding the reactor buildings. They are not designed to hold water in the first place. They are already compromised, structurally, by a massive earthquake, two aftershocks and an explosion each. Will they hold if another quake comes?

    No need to answer that, of course. Just go back to your dreams of "energy too cheap to meter".

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @06:09AM (#35853624)
    Meanwhile I object to calling the guys that say "the roof won't blow off" etc etc "realists".
    As I see it one of the biggest problems is the expectation of 100% zealous fanboy behaviour or you are out. Suggest a thorium solution on the ground of increased safety? Out the door you go, distinguished career over with the successful project cancelled. Suggest a brilliant way to very cheaply chemically incorporate everything in high grade waste in a stable material? There is no waste problem screams the fanboys - you cannot have your dismal amount of funding so it's going to take you three decades to put the finishing touches on.
    Once nuclear power became a way to funnel huge amounts of money from the taxpayers it ceased to be anything other than an excuse for that transfer so it was technologically finished in the USA. What Westinghouse would sell you before Toshiba got involved was little more than TMI painted green. Now it's currently not much better. Meanwhile South Africa has more advanced civilian nuclear technology - derived from that via Germany is the pebble bed reactor in China. India is way ahead. France for all it's troubles and the dead end of plutonium fast breeders and pointless reprocessing is well ahead.
    Meanwhile in the USA it's just a cheer squad that pretends it is all perfect and it's rare that some improvement sneaks in from elsewhere (eg. the Toshiba stuff that inspired the AP1000). It's been a dead industry in the USA since even before Carter told them they had to survive on their own merits.
  • Indonesia... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @07:19AM (#35853968)
    Indonesia is a scary case. It has both an ambitious nuclear plan and a long history of geological instability which shows no signs of abating. It is also a culture where corruption is rife and taken for granted, which does not bode well for the prospects of a safe nuclear implementation. Given this cocktail of factors, it's probably not unfair to say that Indonesia truly is "backward".
  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @07:20AM (#35853970)

    Nuclear is far cheaper per megawatt than anything else built to date.

    on Average
    1 nuclear plant = 2-3 coal plants = 2-3 hydro turbines = 8-10 Solar /Salt Plants = 10-15 Solar/electric fields = 2000 wind turbines.

    note how the green energy requires land areas 3 times that of chernobyl for equal energy output.

    * based roughly on the largest output of the various power plants.

    considering that 90% of the population is fighting large scale deployment wind and solar so that they don't hurt the "view" from their properties. Nuclear is going to continue to remain the best bang for the buck.

  • by CnlPepper ( 140772 ) on Monday April 18, 2011 @07:22AM (#35853980)

    The plasma facing first wall and structural materials of fusion plants are being designed to minimise the generation of long lived radiative elements (search for IFMIF for info on the planned materials test facility). Over the lifetime of a fusion plant you'd end up with barely enough high level waste to put into a small oil drum - this can then be destroyed. People seem to forget that you can use the huge neutron flux of a fusion reactor to transmute materials, ie you can convert dangerous radioactive waste into much more benign waste. It would require a dedicated plant, but this would be no problem in a fusion economy.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990