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Nuclear Emergency Declared At 2 Plants In Japan

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the good-place-to-avoid-the-china-syndrome dept.

Japan 752

Hugh Pickens writes "CBC reports that Japan has declared a state of emergency and called for mass evacuations near two nuclear power plants following cooling systems failures that led to radiation escaping from a reactor at one location. The emergency declarations, which include five reactors at the two plants, followed Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the country's northeast coast. In a troubling announcement, Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official Ryohei Shiomi said a monitoring device outside the plant detected radiation that is eight times higher than normal and an evacuation zone has been expanded from three kilometres around the plant to 10 kilometres."

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752 comments

Dont mean to sound selfish (1, Interesting)

merlock18 (1533631) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461638)

But I was planning on going to Japan in a few months. I wonder how this will affect myself and Japans tourist undustry in general.

Re:Dont mean to sound selfish (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461726)

they'll want you there more than ever, feel free to spend extra

Re:Dont mean to sound selfish (5, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461764)

In a few months, once the influx of foreign rescue workers has abated, you'll see hotel/etc prices plummet. So you should be able to save money. (If that feels machiavellian, remember, you're adding money to a tourist industry that has just been shot in the face. So swing by New Zealand and northern Queensland on your way home.)

((All assuming these nukes don't kablooey.))

(((Headline on local news: "Japan launches monster rescue effort". You know it's bad when even the monsters...)))

Re:Dont mean to sound selfish (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461792)

Imagine the savings you would have made after Hiroshima.

Re:Dont mean to sound selfish (0)

Raptoer (984438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461766)

Unless you're planning to visit the nuclear plants themselves, it won't affect anything. The Fukushima Daiichi plant is 250km away from Tokyo.

Re:Dont mean to sound selfish (-1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461812)

Who cares about your travel plans ? You have time to amend them. People may be getting sick as we speak over there ...

you are too self-centered.

Re:Dont mean to sound selfish (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461950)

He cares about his travel plans - that's why he was asking.
So according to you, no-one in the world can continue their daily lives and problems, like changing travel plans if necessary.
There are many aspects to this sort of disaster - one of them, and the most important, is the people on the ground there. That doesn't mean other related issues can't be discussed ...

Re:Dont mean to sound selfish (0)

Eleanor 235 (1700550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462008)

Somehow I think I was more selfish - my first thought was a speech my sister is giving on Tuesday denouncing nuclear power.

Meltdown? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461652)

It's one of these annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus.

Re:Meltdown? (0)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461840)

Its probably not called the China Syndrome in that part of the world. The Brazilian Syndrome doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Re:Meltdown? (3, Insightful)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462022)

The Brazilian Syndrome doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Well, it does, but the scenario is very different.

I've done this before! (5, Funny)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461662)

We need to bulldoze the plant before it blows and build a new one!! Is fusion available yet?

Re:I've done this before! (4, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461808)

Disaster! We won't get those until 2050! And microwave power plants aren't available until 2020, either!
On the plus side, the forest arcology unlocked eleven years ago.

Re:I've done this before! (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461848)

We won't get those until 2050! .

Its 2061 now. Fusion is always 50 years away.

Re:I've done this before! (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461874)

the truth is, fusion is N billion dollars away (I'm not sure about the N, probably 20-30), and the world is only willing to pay over 50 years. I think after this scare, some governments will try to speed up the process.

Re:I've done this before! (0)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461946)

Development might be N billion dollars away, the true question is ... how many billion dollars would deployment be away for retrofitting the grid?

Re:I've done this before! (4, Funny)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462012)

Exactly. The power lines are all set up for fission electrons. You can't just go pumping fusion electrons through them!

Re:I've done this before! (4, Insightful)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462030)

In the 90's when oil was cheap, the iter project (a new fusion reactor) was too expensive and nobody wanted to pay. Make it cheaper, make it smaller. So the design became more modest (for lack of a better word). Early 00's, the iraq war was on. France was against So out of spite, the US sided with japan as host country, rather than with France as expected. This blocked approval of the build site for several years. Late 00's, oil is at record prices and the a build site (Cadarache in France) is finally selected. With a question attached (or so I heard from people within my field), if we pay more can you speed up the process? Yeah right, unfortunately science and engineering does not always work that way (mythical man month). Some things just require time. Until iter, the development of fusion went faster than the development of computer hardware. This delay of about ten years for financial and political reasons will come back to haunt us. Blame your governments for being cheap and petty. Blame your governments that we won't have fusion in time to save our sorry asses.

Re:I've done this before! (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461890)

Its 2061 now. Fusion is always 50 years away.

It would have been more amazing if the date/time code on your post said it was 2061.

That would mean that /. would still be around in 50 years, posting comments to the past would be possible, and a large percentage of the human race need to go for a Darwin Award.

Re:I've done this before! (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461904)

No no fools. Fusion is always x+15 years away. That would be 2026.

Re:I've done this before! (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461994)

No no.

My scientific estimation of monwy and time fusion:

x=durations of approved well funded projects by gov agencies last year

y=your current number of employed researchers.

z=money per y and researcher to make the researchers happy (including salary)

Apply for (mean(x)+p-std(x))*y*z

p is the political bonus.

So much for the safety of nuclear energy (-1, Troll)

klingens (147173) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461670)

Wonder how many of the usual "Nuclear Energy is cheap, safe, clean and does the dishes AND the laundry" posts we get today.
Face it: if the (unlikely) worst happens and a reactor does blow up in japan, the current recession is child's play.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461704)

Yes, and if the (unlikely) worst happens and a baboon turns into a massive black hole, the current recession is child's play. What a dumb argument.

Nuclear power plants are safe. Not perfectly safe. Not zero risk. But they kill a hell of a lot fewer people than coal, the usual alternative. The worst-case scenario for this nuclear power plant is bad, but not out of proportion to other problems this exceptionally large earthquake has caused.

Have you seen pictures of Japan? Oil refineries have literally, actually, factually blown up, releasing who-knows-what into the atmosphere and water. People are freaking out because a nuclear power plant has released small amounts of harmful radiation and might release moderate amounts. With plenty of warning.

The story here is not that a power plant was damaged and might release toxic material. It's that everyone is going bugnuts crazy about that when entire towns are inundated and/or on fire.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461740)

Yep. I was lol'ing at a guy watching a refinery burn without thought towards what he might soon be inhaling.

People are terrified of anything invisible, and display remarkable stupidity towards what can be seen.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461818)

For the Japanese a little meltdown is child's play. When it comes to nuclear, they've seen worse...

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (5, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461914)

People are freaking out because a nuclear power plant has released small amounts of harmful radiation and might release moderate amounts.

No, not people. The news media. Of everything going on in Japan this is what they are focusing on. I'm mildly disgusted at the news coverage all in all. The primary coverage initially was the effect on the stock market, and now it is nothing but these reactors. Far, far more environmental damage is being done by all matter of other noxious things burning and leaking. Oh, and I'm pretty sure people are dead, dying, entrapped, homeless, etc, already. Yet the focus is on what *might* happen with a nuclear reactor, as if the thing is going to go up like a thermonuclear bomb.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (4, Insightful)

sodul (833177) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462044)

You know that you have other options than to watch american media news on the Internet, right ? My recommendation is to get your news from two countries with somewhat opposing political agendas ... it's amazing how the same events have completely different interpretation from one side of the border to the other. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461706)

If this turns out to be nothing it's going to be used as FUD against nuclear energy for years to come.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461708)

You wouldn't happen to know how many people have died in the industrial extraction of coal and oil would you? or its safety record during the first 60 years of America using it to power the country? Just want some comparative statics.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461852)

Or who have died from the radiation emitted by coal fired power plants.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461868)

You can ask people living in Hamilton, Ontario. Before I looked they had the highest rate of lung cancer, and were downwind of a massive coal power generation plant.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461742)

From what I understand about the incident, the back up generator did not work. They need a backup for the backup and we're good.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461788)

I've problem in buying that explination... why couldn't the fire dept just bring some mobile ones there and somebody do quickly the coupling. Not that much power is actually needed to pump relatively small amount of water?

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461826)

It is all relative, their backup generators are likely well into the megawatt class and much bigger than a firetruck.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Mad Geek (102911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461886)

They're already using fire trucks and pumps in an attempt to cool it down, but they need more.

It's not a fire. They need enough water to emerse the reactor faster than the evaporation rate, and they may need additional equipment from both the Japanese Self Defense Force and the US DoD to accomplish that.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462040)

They do, they have batteries but like any batteries backup, capacity is limited.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (4, Insightful)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461750)

The reactors won't impact the global economy appreciably - it's *highly* unlikely that anything is going to blow up, anyhow. It's sounding like they had a partial scram, with primary coolant system failure afterwards.

Nuclear power *is* safe. You're seeing a disaster the scale of which is nearly unimaginable, and appropriate action is being taken. You don't fix these things overnight.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (2)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461998)

Modern nuclear power is safe, but we didn't put containment domes on modern reactors for nothing.

In retrospect that reactor should have been replaced years ago in a country like Japan.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (5, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461752)

How many people died from the Japanese nuclear accident? Zero, so far. How many will die? Donno, but probably 0. How many died in America's worst nuclear accident ever (3 mile island)? Zero.

Now let's see... how many anti-nuclear hippies died from doing too much LSD or ketamine or whatever it is they do? Probably thousands. How many people died in coal mine accidents? Beyond count. How many died building hydroelectric dams, which are very "green"? A lot, 112 for just for one dam (Hoover).

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461784)

Is it opening up a whole new can of worms to ask how many people the CO2 emissions from coal will kill over the next few centuries as well?

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

bieber (998013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461794)

For some perspective, do people not also die mining the fuel for nuclear reactors? I imagine the risk is still far less because nuclear reactors get so much more energy per mass of fuel, but it's hard to believe that no one ever dies in the process.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35462074)

a lot more die mining for coal..or anything else.. mining is hazardous.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461804)

5 Japanese died in a reactor accident with a partial meltdown covered up by the government. News released in 2007.

Hooray for your lies.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461814)

Not to undermine your general argument there, but the fatality rate at the Hoover dam was largely due to the labor laws and technology of the time; occupational health and safety was unheard of, and safety harnessing was limited. Constructing such a massive dam today would be much safer.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (4, Informative)

II Xion II (1420223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461832)

Although I agree with your general assessment. In regard to dying from doing too much LSD, I think that is a quite low probability given its relatively high LD50 compared to what is usually taken. Information gleaned from an overview of the Wikipedia entry and its sources (along with Erowid) suggest no documented deaths linked to LSD usage alone.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (4, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461940)

LSD is effectively non-toxic in humans. People occasionally do stupid things while on LSD that result in death, but keep in mind that people also do stupid things while excited, agitated, or depressed.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462010)

"death from LSD" usually means "death from doing stupid things while high on LSD". Just like acute alcohol poisoning rarely have fatalities but impaired driving kills thousands each year.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (5, Insightful)

cronb (994958) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461860)

Statistically the number of people who die prematurely due to power production using coal is roughly 40,000/year(ok this is an national resources defense council number but the science is good). This includes people dieing in mines due to collapses explosions, people dieing prematurely due to working in a mine their entire life(lung cancer), but most importantly people dieing prematurely due to the increased risk of cancer of living near a coal plant. The number for nuclear is 0. For that matter the total number of premature deaths due to radiation in the population surrounding Chernobyl was roughly 40,000. So as many people in the US are dieing yearly due to coal production as died in total due to the only significant release of radioactivity to the public in the history of civilian nuclear power in 60 years.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

mazesc (1922428) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461892)

You are comparing apples to oranges.

Drugs shouldn't have much to do with nuclear energy safety. Moreover, if you start asking about coal mine accidents, you should also consider uranium mining accidents. I have to admit I didn't find much about any accidents, but there are a few. (and probably I would have found more if I had been looking harder) Of course, with nuclear energy you often can't directly find correlation with accidents. What about permanent disposal. How do you know everything will be OK with the nuclear waste we have produced up to now. It has only been a few decades of nuclear energy, so it will take some time before these materials are not dangerous any more.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (3, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461932)

Now let's see... how many anti-nuclear hippies died from doing too much LSD or ketamine or whatever it is they do? Probably thousands.

No need to resort to ad hominem. Even an objective comparison of safety supports nuclear over green technologies.

There have been zero deaths in the U.S. associated with commercial nuclear power generation. Wind has already killed at least 13 people [wind-works.org] in the U.S. Solar has a huge problem in that roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. [aol.com] If you're imagining every house in the U.S. with solar panels mounted on the roof, you should expect probably about 100 more roofer deaths per year from installing and maintaining them. In terms of direct deaths (i.e. excluding mining and pollution), hydro actually turns out to be the most dangerous power source worldwide due to deaths from dam failures.

Over it's 50+ year history worldwide, in terms of deaths per amount of energy generated [nextbigfuture.com], nuclear power is the safest form of power generation man has ever invented. Yes that includes Chernobyl (a reactor design not used outside of the former USSR). If you accept the high estimate of number of expected cancer deaths from Chernobyl, it's about 4x safer than wind (the safest green technology). If you accept the low estimate, it's 125x safer than wind.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461992)

You deserve +1 funny for death by wind.

Since then six more have died, including the first member of the public, a parachutist who literally flew into a turbine in Germany.

Ouch...

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461956)

But a nuclear reactor experiencing trauma without immediate human intervention by experienced and well-trained engineers could be a massive disaster.

Containment walls can be breached, and in the event of a large-scale disaster it's quite possible that no humans will be nearby who are able to deal with such a disaster.

While a nuclear reactor can be run safely, it's only as safe as long as there are people there to tend to it in case something goes wrong; and if there are not, it's potentially dangerous for people many miles away.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462014)

If there's no one at the reactor to tend it and there's no way to get people to the reactor than it doesn't matter what happens to it. Everyone who could possibly be effected is already dead or dying.

Don't agree, then please tell me what would destroy the massive containment systems around a reactor, kill most everyone at the power station and do enough damage to cause a failure without doing the same to everyone in the vicinity.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461760)

Nuclear power plants generate heat with fission, they fundamentally are unable to "blow up." It is not merely unlikely, it is simply impossible. No one has to face to the prospect of any nuclear power plant going up in a fission fueled mushroom cloud, but we all will have to face the fact that you are poorly informed.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Raptoer (984438) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461796)

Well they can blow up conventionally. Chernobyl exploded because the reactor's graphite moderation rods caught fire and the uranium fuel produced so much heat that the structures covering the reactor became pressure vessels and exploded.
Chernobyl didn't have a massive containment building like all western reactors do.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462042)

Steam explosions, spontaneous decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen at high temperature+pressure or hell ... terrorism. There are ways to get a reactor to explode even though the fuel can't.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461806)

cheap - not really; subsidies are usually needed. but then, subsidies are needed for practically all power generation that isn't coal or gas.
safe - mostly. safe enough. why shouldn't the power we demand carry risk? that seems better than wrecking the biosphere with carbon.
clean - yep. the waste 'problem' is entirely political.

this won't even slow down the growth of nuclear in china. we'll take notice eventually and man up as well. suck it.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462000)

>>cheap - not really; subsidies are usually needed. but then, subsidies are needed for practically all power generation that isn't coal or gas.

Nuclear has the lowest subsidy rate of any green technology (including 'clean' coal and gas). Normal coal and gas aren't generally subsidized at the power plant level.

I've posted the subsidy rates for various sources of energy on here before. IIRC, it's something like 10-20% for nuclear, vs. 40-50% for other green technologies.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (0)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461830)

do you have any idea of how many people die yearly because of cars / mobile phones / lollipops / bathtubs / ... ? should we ban all those graver dangers first ?

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (4, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461850)

The chances of the reactor blowing up are next to zero. The biggest problem will be either a core breech(aka melting through the core chamber), or a slow uncontrolled cooling of the control rods because of damage by them being too hot. However considering that the CBC article is hours old already, and they've been slow venting, and finally have the ability to turn the pumps back on to get water into the chamber it should be controllable unless something happens again.

Now, let this be a lesson to anti-nuke nuts. Most reactors built within the last decade or two have two redundant systems for moving water. Steam, or mechanical. This series of reactors doesn't. You know why? Because in Japan, anything that could possibly at all, maybe related to nuclear, or radiation makes environmentalists go batshit crazy.

But it doesn't help that the reactors were built to withstand at least a 9.0 and it was hit by a 9.1, and I've heard it may be revised again as high as 9.4.

Why do you even have an opinion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461922)

Fukushima 1, reactor 1: confirmed meltdown, 45,000 people evacuated.

They've lost control of pressure on at least two reactors.

Re:So much for the safety of nuclear energy (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461974)

>>Wonder how many of the usual "Nuclear Energy is cheap, safe, clean and does the dishes AND the laundry" posts we get today.

I'm more concerned with the terrible track record of reportage on the subject. The news is already reporting that there is 1000x times normal radiation in the town. (http://www.businessinsider.com/fukushima-nuclear-plant-2011-3) with my friends on Facebook writing posts about Godzilla and whatnot.

It's 1000x normal *inside the containment building*, which is exactly what those things are there for.

I'd much rather have been living next to the nuclear plant than the Chiba oil refinery during the earthquake.

Holy shit (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461676)

Japan's population density is 377,873/Km^2-- this means millions of people need to get moving, & fast, & where the hell are they gonna go? Let's hope Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing take some refugees in case this shit goes down...

Re:Holy shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461746)

>Japan's population density is 377,873/Km^2

No it isn't, do the math. Someone vandalized the Wikipedia article, or is an idiot.

Re:Holy shit (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461820)

Uhh... Given that Japan has an area of 377,944KM^2, that would be a total of 142,814,833,112 people - several times more than live on the planet earth.

The highest population density of any country is Macau, which has roughly 18,500 people/KM^2.

Re:Holy shit (2)

karuna (187401) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461884)

The comma was used as a decimal separator in this case. So 377,873/Km^2 is 377.873/Km^2. Problem solved.

How is this possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461692)

How did a nuclear reactor in an earthquake-prone industrialized country get approval of any sort if it could not resist a magnitude 8.9 earthquake? How did it get approval if it was not passively safe, or had functional containment that would not be completely bypassed by earth tremors? Are these reactors from the 1950s? It is absurd that people did not perform the due diligence to prevent a nuclear meltdown from an earthquake, and I can only hope they get tried for this negligence.

Re:How is this possible? (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461734)

The reactor came online in 1971.

As for an 8.9 - 8.9 would make it like the 7th most powerful earthquake recorded.

You also have to realize - meltdown is very very bad, but we're not talking Chernobyl here - a bit worse than Three Mile Island, but the reactors are properly designed and the worst of it should remain contained until other action can be taken.

Re:How is this possible? (2)

HiddenCamper (811539) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461736)

the earthquake wasnt the problem. it was the tsunami. it caused damage which brought the emergency diesel generators offline. these plants at fukushimi were offline for most of 2008 and 2009 for earthquake upgrades and it looks like they worked for the most part. right now any damage is because they had no power and were relying on RCIC and other passive cooling systems, and even now have limited electrical power and probably limited heat sink capability. IAANE

Re:How is this possible? (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462002)

The OP was wondering about passive safety. Passive safety is when the laws of physics make the reactor disable itself before it overheats e.g. due to the shape of the reactor where the nuclear material expands with heat and then spills out of the reactor into a separate container so that there is not enough nuclear material to sustain a reaction. In such a design the heat that would ordinarily be the problem is what shuts the reaction down with no intervention or electricity required. Cooling by a diesel generator is an active safety system - the diesel generator is actively fighting the physics of the situation to prevent an accident. A passively safe reactor fails by shutting down, an actively safe reactor fails by e.g. spewing radioactive waste. The kind of reactor you want is the passively safe kind, so the OP is wondering what kind of idiot built a reactor that isn't passively safe. Probably the reactors were built before such ideas were developed or perhaps the whole thing is actually fine and the news stories are exaggerating.

Re:How is this possible? (1)

c.r.o.c.o (123083) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461770)

Considering Fukushima I 1 reached first criticality in in 1971 and Fukushima I 6 in 1979, the technology and designs used is probably from the late 50s to mid 60s. Back then much less was understood about earthquakes and effective countermeasures. And it wasn't the reactor itself that failed, the fault seems to be with the backup diesel generators meant to power the emergency coolant system.

Let's see what happens. For now it's just unsubstantiated reports. I mean the article quoted on the first page is from the CBC, as in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Also remember, this was the 5th largest earthquake this century, and the biggest to hit Japan in 140 years. Some things you simply can't plan for.

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

Re:How is this possible? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461996)

What where the options for a (not the USA with magic cash) country to get out of spending more and more and more on oil/energy imports?
They did the national cashflow, some projections and hoped a big spend would let them escape the need for so much oil and have a positive national science PR flow on in other areas.

Nukes is for real men. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461738)

Keep those girlyman windmills that can only crush a tractor or chop up a couple of birds.

I want a MANLY power plant that can create a 30-100 km dead zone of mutants and a death plume that has a global reach.

Re:Nukes is for real men. (3, Insightful)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462018)

I want a MANLY power plant that can create a 30-100 km dead zone of mutants and a death plume that has a global reach.

OK, but why do you think coal is so manly?

NHK (4, Informative)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461754)

Since most foreign media just use NHK news, here is the link to their english website:

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/index.html [nhk.or.jp]

I am in japan and following this very closely

Re:NHK (1)

yes_really (2014766) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461778)

lol, as I reported earlier... see above. Ignorant bastards :P Where are you in Japan? Are you trying to get away from Fukushima? :(

Re:NHK (2)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461942)

No, i am safe (400km away) from all direct effects, but if the plant blows and the wind turns the story might be different. But ill now go and try to buy iodine tablets. I do not plan to move.

Re:NHK (1)

bubulubugoth (896803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461810)

There are reports of Japan tremors, like every 10 minutes or less... is that accurate?

Re:NHK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461880)

It has calmed down, but it was true for all of Friday afternoon/night into early Saturday morning.

Re:NHK (2)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461968)

The most accurate information you can get on earthquakes in Japan, listed by time and strength from hundreds (or thousands) of sensor station:

http://www.jma.go.jp/en/quake/ [jma.go.jp]

and tsunamis

http://www.jma.go.jp/en/tsunami/ [jma.go.jp]

I personally felt (400km away) the shock, two or three aftershocks and the nakano quake in the morning. Over this distance i would only feel a quake > 4 at the center (japanese scale).

at this place the primary shock was categorized to be 4 at my workplace which does not even make me get up from the chair (happens every few month), but i knew immediately that its big; the time between "the monitor shakes" and "the building shakes" gives you a rough estimation of the distance... and with that strength i knew it was > 6-7 (it felt more far away than the 7 nakano shock some time ago, and stronger).

discrepancy (5, Informative)

Netdoctor (95217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461802)

There's a lot of misinformation flying around.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12721498 [bbc.co.uk] [bbc.co.uk] (watch the movie)

Steam was released on purpose.

Based on just this discrepancy between the BBC and the CBC articles, /. might be a bit careful on it's reporting right now...

Everyone's getting excited over the nuclear plants, and ignoring the thousands that are still are dying due to just water. Why is radiation so much scarier? Water kills faster. /rant.

Re:discrepancy (5, Informative)

yes_really (2014766) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461824)

Maybe you wanna check this: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/12_45.html [nhk.or.jp] or this http://slashdot.org/submission/1496534/JapanCaesium-measured-melt-down-may-have-started [slashdot.org] ... steam was released HOURS ago. Two isotopes are now being measured which hints at a melt down. It was stated that the batteries run for a few hours and they got station blackout. Maybe you check your sources again.

Re:discrepancy (3, Informative)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35461924)

Yes this does not sound positive http://abcnews.go.com/International/dropping-water-levels-nuclear-plant-heighten-fears-meltdown/story?id=13120888 [go.com]
ie "27,000 liters of water, including water stored for firefighting, was being pumped into the reactor via makeshift pumps and other means in order to raise the water level above the reactor's nuclear fuel," at Fukushima Daiichi.
Its seems if they can get diesel-powered generators online, it might be ok, if not, the internal damage will add up fast.

Re:discrepancy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461828)

Steam was released on purpose.

Now if they'd just release Half-Life 2 Episode 3!

Water doesn't keep killing (0)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462004)

Floods are nasty but once they are done, they are done. They don't keep on killing for decades after. You don't rescue a drowning victim then have their hair fall out a year later.

Explosion and Smoke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35461926)

According to this article (in Japanese), about 2 minutes ago an explosion was heard and "something smoke-like" can be seen at the number 1 reactor. :(

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20110312/t10014627501000.html

Nuclear Emergency Declared At 2 Plants In Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35462006)

Nuclear Emergency Declared At 2 Plants i In Japan ,God bless http://www.cpinpai.com

No real nuke freakouts on Japanese tv. (1)

okazakiOm (1249958) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462036)

If it's all reactor news over there, there's not a whole lot going on over here in Japan on the local networks. Oh, wait. I just saw Fukushima Dai-ichi explode. That can't be good. I really need to move back to California. Yes, I know. It's not very much fun over here and I'm 500 km away from this. I wish I was 5000.

Coal might be a better choice in a seismic zone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35462072)

Seems like a possible design flaw? I heard reports of them bringing in mobile power units via the IAEA to try and restart the cooling system but it must be complicated. If you are going to build a reactor in a seismic zone it better have a lot more redundancy and the ability to "plug-in" external power for cooling backing and quickly and scram the reactor.

Suddenly coal doesn't seem quite as bad.

NHK World is reporting serious emissions (5, Informative)

neiras (723124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35462084)

The outer walls of the Reactor 1 building have partially blown off, leaving only what looks like a steel frame. NHK is saying that a sensor within 5km of the plant is detecting radiation levels approaching 1015 microsieverts - that is apparently a year's worth of radiation exposure each hour.

People in the danger zones are being told to cover faces with wet towels, avoid eating vegetables and other fresh foods, and refrain from drinking tap water. Things seem to be happening quickly.

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