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Japan Earth Power Technology

Fukushima Cleanup, 5 Years On (bbc.co.uk) 167

AmiMoJo writes: Today is five years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami, leading to a series of meltdowns. Nearly half a million people were evacuated at the time, with 100,000 still unable to return to their homes. The government has set a goal of 20mSv/year before people are allowed to live in affected areas again, and while progress is being made hotspots are still a problem in many areas. Reconstruction has been largely waiting for decontamination to be completed, allowing homes and businesses to fall into ruin. Those who do wish to return find their communities gutted, with essential services and jobs gone. Meanwhile, engineers are still unable to determine exactly what happened at Daiichi, particularly what saved reactor 2's pressure vessel from exploding. The initial reports were scary even before the nuclear plant problems were evident. Engadget notes that even now, the worst part of the cleanup remains a grueling work in progress, tough even for robots. Reader the_newsbeagle writes, too, with a link to the New York Times' take on the 5-year mark, and notes that The state and location of the melted fuel inside the reactors is still a mystery. The meltdown zone is too dangerous for human workers to enter, and robots have had limited success navigating in the wreckage. So Japan is recruiting subatomic particles called muons to map the reactors' insides. These particles, born of cosmic rays, constantly stream down from the atmosphere, passing through most matter unimpeded. But their occasional interactions with the subatomic components of uranium allow physicists to locate the blobs of the deadly stuff.
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Fukushima Cleanup, 5 Years On

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  • what saved reactor 2's pressure vessel from exploding?
      I'd suspect it was the same that saved reactor 1, 3 and 4's pressure vessels from exploding.

    • Indeed. The main reason is that pressure vessles don't just explode.

      • The other reactors were vented. They had a venting system that passed the contaminated air through water before releasing it. The water cleaned it much of the contamination, but not all, and now they have massive amounts of highly contaminated water to deal with.

        They had to send people in to connect up emergency battery power to activate the vents. Those are the people who got the biggest dose of radiation, and who saved Eastern Japan.

        For some reason the venting system in reactor two didn't work. The water level was low, but due to the severity of losing the containment vessel they decided to vent anyway. That didn't work either. Then at the last moment, with the vessel way beyond design limits, something happened and the pressure dropped.

        • So you have some links I can read? I'm finding it somewhat difficult to get any details about this event.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            There is an NHK documentary called 88 Hours, that's pretty good. See if it is available where you live.

          • Leslie Corrice's Hiroshima Syndrome [hiroshimasyndrome.com] is the best all-round source. Corrice's site is an amazing work, he has collected into one place facts as they became known, and news coverage of the events. He is particularly attuned to distortions, exaggerations and certain scenarios that have been delivered to the press chosen for their dramatic description despite a laughably low probably. And unlike just about everyone else, he strives to segregate his news reporting [hiroshimasyndrome.com] from his own commentary [hiroshimasyndrome.com].

            Some no-hype and anti-hyp

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          To clarify, the reactor vessel is designed to fail in a somewhat less severe way than simply exploding. There are points that are designed to fail first and vent the high pressure gas inside, into the containment building. However, in this case the containment building already had holes in it from explosions of other nearby containment buildings, so it would have been venting into the atmosphere.

          So yeah, no explosion as such, but a massive disaster anyway.

    • Reactor 1, 3, and 4 never had a sudden massive pressure excursion which appeared to drop off for reasons either unknown or not revealed.

  • by Brigadier ( 12956 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @01:20PM (#51678719)

    I watched this on NHK this weekend and was very impressed. A bit dramatic but very informative technically

    88 Hours - The Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown
    http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld... [nhk.or.jp]

  • Meltdown?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clonehappy ( 655530 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @01:23PM (#51678749)

    I was assured by the Slashdot elite, even weeks on from the earthquake/tsunami, that there had been no meltdown nor even any kind of breach of the nuclear fuel at all and to say otherwise was a tinfoil-hat-tier conspiracy.

    This is shocking to hear of a meltdown today!

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @01:52PM (#51679049) Journal

      I was assured by the Slashdot elite

      Who are the slashdot elite and how do I join? It sounds like a really awesome secret cabal of illuminati. Is there a special handshake I have to know? Or, is it something gets awarded after you've been been modded funny for a "beowulf cluster" or "hot grits" gag more than 65535 times?

    • Pat yourself on the back. With all the effort your selective reading must have taken you really deserve it. The meltdowns were known about in days following the incident. 3 reactors were without cooling water after all.

      As for breach of nuclear fuel you should listen to the slashdot elite.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Three of the six reactors are believed to have melted down.

      • That is impossible, nuclear power is cheap, safe, and radiation cannot hurt me anyway; and soon nuclear reactors will be EVERYWHERE and it will be GLORIOUS!

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Strangely enough, I'm unable to google a single post for you from that time. Your first post [slashdot.org] before the end of 2011 (including all years prior to 2011) was on December 12, 2011.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      To continue on my previous post, I call bullshit on the accusation. I did a google search [google.com] on the time span in question. Then I looked through the comments of the two stories which were at the top for the word "melt". There were in turn one comment each which claimed a meltdown didn't happen. We have exhibit A [slashdot.org]:

      Just something to keep in mind when you see crap like "If nuclear powerplants were merely as safe as they are advertised to be, there should have been a major failure right then". Hey clueless, the cores haven't melted. Yet. They are losing their heat removal capacity over time as less and less water surrounds them. When they do get hot enough, they will melt their containers, and we will have a chernobyl-style release. Not exactly the same as chernobyl, because there's no graphite to burn. Instead the particulate radioactive isotopes and actinides (and plutonium, yay!) will be propelled into the atmosphere via hydrogren explosions. There's also a hell of a lot more uranium and plutonium on site since some clever laddie beancounter got the used fuel rods containment pools located above the reactors.

      Fukushima hasn't completely melted down, yet. If it doesn't it will because we (the planet) threw everything we have at it.

      And then there's exhibit B [slashdot.org]:

      12mSv/h is slightly more than one red square, no where near an orange one. This makes the highest level of radiation detected, in the cloud of vented gas from inside the containment vessel about 30,000 times less than those at chyernobyl, and only for a very very brief period involving very short half life elements.

      The radiation level has since fallen back way down, especially since managing to resubmurge the spent fuel. The reaction has also slowed to about 1/2000th of it's original rates in the reactors, making a melt down extremely unlikely at this point.

      So there you have it. The Slashdot elite consists of two posters with opposite viewpoints. Sure, I might have missed someone or some article, but if there were a bunch of peo

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        There was a lot of bullshit posted back then... Can't find it now, but I recall a post where someone claimed to have taken a train passing near the exclusion zone, and used his Geiger counter to "confirm" that the radiation wasn't too bad and there was no need to evacuate. When people have that little understanding of the danger, it's hard to discuss it with them.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          Yes, there was plenty of crazy stuff. But we see here that the bullshit continues. With all the crazy stuff that actually was said, why make up shit?
  • by Prune ( 557140 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @02:18PM (#51679281)
    Sounds as if they had hired slashdot's own mdsolar to write the article.

    When I was I high school in Ontario in the mid-90s, we got a presentation by a gentleman from the AECB (now renamed CNSC), the Canadian nuclear regulator. He passed a hefty chunk of uranium ore around the school auditorium. Every student got to hold it. Yet, I'm still here to tell about it, and just fine (other than having become a slashdot poster), and I have no concerns about my former classmates, either. Why? Becase playing with that chunk of uranium increased our overall environmental exposure to radiation imperceptibly.

    Uranium can be deadly in the long run if you eat it, breathe in uranium dust, or put on a night face lotion laced with a good amount. Aside from that, it's only critical amounts of it, and the byproducts of uranium, that are deadly. The sly wording of the author, though, is intended to associate uranium with death in a general sense, and is FUD that reveals his bias.
    • Once on a tour of the Nevada Test Site I got to handle a chunk of pure U-238. Dark gray, the size of a common brick and insanely heavy. They use it for shielding.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        It was not *technically* mine but was my older brother's - though I later purloined it, sometime in the mid-1960s. I don't know what ever happened to it. He had (and then I had) a chemistry set or something along those lines. In that set was uranium - I have no idea what for as the manual had long-since been lost. It had a small Geiger counter but I don't think that came with the set.

        I'm remarkably healthy for my age but I never developed super-powers. I don't know for certain but, given that we were kids,

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      I'll go one better. I have a small chip of uranium ore in my desk drawer right this very moment. I got it to test a geiger counter gizmo I got for testing whether old watches I was working on had radium pigment. Naturally I had to make sure the thing works before I trusted a "normal" reading.

      I'm not afraid of handling this bit of ore, not in the least. But I wouldn't feel the same about handling the same amount of refined fuel, or the random by-products of a reactor disaster. Clearly I'm not radiation p

      • I'm not afraid of handling this bit of ore, not in the least. But I wouldn't feel the same about handling the same amount of refined fuel, or the random by-products of a reactor disaster.

        Refined fuel is fine. They handle it with cotton gloves - mostly to keep the oils in their hands off the expensive metal stuff.

        Random stuff from a reactor disaster? I'm with you.

  • This quake was the fourth largest in measurement history, one of the rare magnitude 9 earthquakes. It was thought this area would max out at a mid 8 from historical earthquakes and estimation of the maximum potential fault break size. But what happened is three fault segments broke in quick succession, creating a super quake.
    A similar thing happened in Sichuan China a few years earlier. Three faults broke making a quake larger than anticipated.
    So seismologists are revising their ideas about California
    • This quake was the fourth largest in measurement history, one of the rare magnitude 9 earthquakes.
      The mag 9 quake was 450 miles away, I believe 'natucal miles' even.
      At the plant side the quake was roughly mag 6.

  • I keep hearing about the contaminated water in Japan but I'd like to know what's in it to get an idea of the problem this poses.

    If the problem is heavy hydrogen then I suspect the problem will resolve itself before anyone gets around to processing the water. Some stuff like cesium and strontium are quite deadly but that is also what makes them valuable. There might be money to be made in "mining" this water for valuable radiation sources like that, for things like cancer treatments and disinfecting food.


    • Just how radioactive is this stuff? Couldn't we just fill an old oil tanker with this water, seal it up tight, then flood the outer hull and watch it sink into a deep sea subduction zone?

      No, Oil Tankers are made from steel and rust, it would never stay sealed. Even if it did, it would likely break in half when it hit the bottom of the ocean traveling at a respectable speed.

      Leaving the water where it is likely makes the most sense.

  • by fullback ( 968784 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @03:56PM (#51680193)

    Here are photos and an article in National Geographic from the massive quake and tsunami in the same area in 1896. Almost 27,000 people were killed and a tsunami was reported as high as 50 feet.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.... [nationalgeographic.com]

    The excuse that the tsunami was unprecedented and a "once in a 1,000- year event" is false.

    The take away for me after five years is that it was criminally incompetent to not have planned for the possibility of a similar event so recent that there are photographs of it.

    The engineers involved in the construction and operation should be in prison.

    Disclaimer: I have a BSME with a Nuclear option, and I should be in prison if I had anything to do with the plant. I also live within 90 miles of the plant and remember thinking that I was in serious jeopardy when I saw a helicopter dropping water onto the stored fuel rods on TV. When the helicopters come out, it's the last straw.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      There is now a prosecution of some of the senior staff going ahead, but it remains to be seen if it amounts to much.

  • Seriously, we need NEW reactors to replace the old ones. With gen IV, we can even burn up the old waste and even use it to clean coal waste.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.