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Japan Battles Partial Nuclear Meltdown

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the cue-godzilla dept.

Japan 769

Hugh Pickens writes "Japanese nuclear experts are working to contain a partial meltdown at an earthquake-stricken nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, as fears grow that the death toll from Friday's massive quake and tsunami could reach the tens of thousands. A partial meltdown, experts said, would likely mean that some portion of the reactors' uranium fuel rods had cracked or warped from overheating, releasing radioactive particles into the reactors' containment vessels. Some of those particles would have escaped into the air outside when engineers vented steam from the vessels to relieve pressure building up inside. Adding to problems at the site, hydrogen was building up inside the Number Three reactor's outer building, threatening an explosion like the one that blew apart the Number One reactor building's roof and outer walls on Saturday. However, it remains unclear how far radiation has spread from the facility. Some local residents and health workers were diagnosed with radiation poisoning in precautionary tests, but they show no outward symptoms of distress. 'Even if you have a radiation release, although that's not a good thing, it's not automatically a harmful thing. It depends on what the level turns out to be,' says Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a US industry group, adding that a person exposed to the highest radiation levels measured at the Fukushima site would absorb in two to three hours the same amount of radiation that he would normally absorb in 12 months – a significant but not necessarily injurious amount, especially if exposure time was short."

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Considering ..... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470826)

I think it's incredible how safe their reactors are and when you consider what has happened, I think this should calm many people's fear of nuclear energy.

Now, the disposal of the waste ....

Re:Considering ..... (5, Interesting)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470864)

Tens of thousands of people were probably killed by the quake and the resulting tsunami.

But anti-nuke activists will consider this the worse tragedy and use it at every chance to fight against the building of more modern and much, much safer designs.

Re:Considering ..... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470902)

Indeed. I'm this guy [slashdot.org] , an irrelevant mathematics graduate with postgrad focus on the history of science and mathematics (so I'm not a nuclear power station worker but I'm not completely uneducated in the topic).

I tried to prompt a discussion on the Greenpeace blog about their sensationalist - and, especially yesterday, entirely unsubstantiated - banner.

My contributions were removed.

Re:Considering ..... (1, Troll)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470992)

Greenpeace are a bunch of pseudo-scientific frauds. They are fanatical fundamentalist tree huggers, facts aren't about to get in the way of their greenie dreams.

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471048)

That may or may not be true. In the worst case however, they at least counter the "everything is acceptable if some rich guy gets richer, even if it poisons a few thousand citizens"-lobby-organisations to some extent.

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471190)

Not true. They're a bunch of corrupt crooks doing whatever their sponsors wish. Me thinks they're mostly on big oil / gas companies payroll and it was clearly visible at the BP fiasco last summer. Back then they were silent up to the point when enough people noticed that something is going wrong. So they did one or two phony campaigns carefully designed to do as littlle impact as possible and looking as credible as possible.

Granted you have gobs of cash, you can buy those whores for whatever mess you wanna do to undermine your competition.

Re:Considering ..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471232)

Because when two opponents both disregard all facts in favor of their opposing dogmas, the "balance" reached will have something to do with facts?

Or will you wind up with a factless, senseless amalgam of policies, so you have tax credits/subsidies for green energies, but also subdidies for oil refineries; subsidies for farmers not to grow crops to prop up prices, and subsidies to make high-priced crops competitive, and so forth?

I don't see how any sane person can see a point in "countering" the abandonment of rationality to pad pockets with another abandonment of rationality to pad consciences/egos.

I agree, with one caveat (5, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470934)

Part of the problem seems to be that when the reactors were planned, Japan was in a seismic lull. Since then, activity has been increasing, and this put into doubt some of the safety features of the reactors, but nothing was done.

This is an argument, not against nuclear power, but in favour of transparency in the design, planning, build and monitoring processes. That, however, would demand equally grown up behaviour from the antis. I do feel that part of the problem with nuclear power has been the culture of secrecy fed by, to be frank, the scientific and engineering ignorance, emotionalism and sometimes near-hysteria of the antis.

In the early days of railways and canals there was similar "anti" hysteria - clergymen claiming that canals would be destroyed because it was blasphemy for men to ape their Creator by making rivers, idiots claiming that travelling at speed would prevent people from breathing - but the benefits were so enormous that people largely ignored them. The problem with nuclear power is that most people are not equipped to understand the potential benefits, so all they hear about is the potential downsides.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (4, Informative)

iserlohn (49556) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471000)

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

Nuclear is also among the most expensive power generation methods available. I'm not sure what the potential upsides are.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (2)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471034)

The expensive is driven mostly by lawyers.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471130)

"The time frame in question when dealing with radioactive waste ranges from 10,000 to 1,000,000 years, according to studies based on the effect of estimated radiation doses." [Wikipedia]

Not costly indeed if the time frame you can envision is shorter than the lifespan of an average human.

CC.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (0, Troll)

swalve (1980968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471206)

The uranium already has been radioactive for a lot longer than that. They pulled it out of a hole in the earth, they can just dump it back in. Nobody is creating radioactivity, they are just moving it around.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (4, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471228)

Fast breeder reactors can burn that waste leaving material with a half life of mere decades.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (1)

joeszilagyi (635484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471046)

Offshore wind appears to be the winning bet there. Fill the Great Lakes and every coast, the Gulf, and all of the Alaskan Coast with towers?

Re:I agree, with one caveat (3, Interesting)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471098)

Did you actually read through the link you posted?

Nuclear is somewhat more expensive than coal and gas, but cheaper than nearly all alternative energy sources; wind, solar and tidal.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (3, Insightful)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471122)

Much, much cleaner than Coal, Gas and Oil and more easily implemented at large scales than Wind and Solar, not to mention considerably cheaper than the latter.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471288)

By what measure is nuclear cleaner than natural gas? Really what this debate is about is which side has the better liars.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471148)

Upsides...

It helps the rich get richer.
Population control.
You sell more cancer treatments.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (1)

CapOblivious2010 (1731402) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471242)

It helps the rich get richer. Population control. You sell more cancer treatments

Are you not paying attention at all??? Not even a little bit???

Mining and burning good old fashioned coal puts FAR more radiation into the atmo than nuclear. Not soot, but actual "glow in the dark" radiation. This, and other dangers of fossil fuels, mean that they kill and injure (including cancer) many times more people every year than nuclear power.

But they've been around for a while, so we've gotten used to it.

Oh, and non-nuclear options don't give fucktards like you an opportunity to show off your trendy populist street cred by claiming that they're a way for rich people to kill poor people.

Re:I agree, with one caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471176)

"Nuclear is also among the most expensive power generation methods available"

I Had a look at your link to wiki and don't understand your summary. I would have said it is amongst the cheapest?

What am I missing?

Re:Considering ..... (0, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471040)

We can't do anything to stop tsunamis and earthquakes.

We can do something to stop using nuke plants.

Even when there's a meltdown in progress in a place where the cause was inevitable (a big earthquake in Japan), you nuke fetishists will play word games to deny that we should stop these intolerable risks that are within our control to stop using.

Which is why no nukes are acceptable. Not just because of the tech risks. But primarily because the people and orgs running them, their entire culture, is so corrupt and obsessed with the marketing that even the most obvious demonstration of their catastrophic costs cannot stop you from continuing the sales pitch. You cannot be trusted to be realistic, even while a meltdown is happening.

Re:Considering ..... (4, Insightful)

Phoshi (1857806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471188)

Except what alternatives do we have? Yes, nuclear power can go wrong, but in a modern nuclear reactor (Read: Not this, but anything we build in the future) the worst case scenario is serious damage to the plant and some minor radiation leaks. Chernobyl is a literal impossibility with new plants. But hey, nukes are bad, let's drop the tech - what else shall we use? Well, there's coal, oil, and gas - except while nuclear power does serious environmental damage in a worst case scenario, coal/oil/gas do serious environmental damage in regular use. So scratch that, they're crappy too. Let's take a look at the renewables sector - how about biomass? I mean, it's a pretty simple concept, and any emissions will be offset by growing more biomass. Perfect, we have our solution! Except you need somewhere to grow the biomass, and then you can't grow food. Electricity is nice, but we need food to live, so I guess biomass can't provide all of our energy. It can do some, but we need something else too. Alright, people talk about wind, solar, and wave energy a lot, there must be a good reason. Well, I look outside and while it's sunny, it's not windy - if my power supply isn't consistent it's worthless, so scratch wind and solar. Wave power? Well, the tides are fairly consistent, but the output simply can't match a full plant. Still, it works. So we have some power coming from biomass, and some from tidal power, and... well, crap. We've run out of viable options. Let's revisit a few old ones, then. Coal/Oil/Gas have serious environmental issues, but they've worked well so far. Nuclear is the safest of the lot (4 people have died from nuclear accidents in the last 20 years, over 4000 in coal alone), cheap, and clean - so er, why did we discount that one again? Because in an unprecedented earthquake, followed by a large tsunami, on an old design nobody makes any more, there's a *partial* meltdown? Any other plant in these circumstances would have fared much worse, and these reactors are old technology. It's not nuke fetishism, it's common sense.

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471042)

Considering that Japanese nuclear reactors, which are supposed to be among the safest ever built, were designed to withstand magnitude 8 earthquakes and also considering that Japan has extensive experience with tsunamis, do you think it would be wise to keep trusting the people who build reactors to these specifications on the seaboard right next to the "ring of fire", the most active earthquake zone on this planet, even though several earthquakes of magnitudes above 8 are on record for the last 100 years?

I believe that we could build safe nuclear reactors. I also believe that we won't, because that would be uneconomical. The people who implement nuclear technology lie about the safety, they lie about occurrences of problems, they lie about the impact of these problems and they lie about the long-term liabilities that nuclear power creates. They have no other choice because otherwise nuclear technology would be infeasible. This is the reason why nuclear power is a dead end. The current incidents are merely symptoms of the underlying systemic problem. Nuclear technology is the equivalent of putting all eggs in one basket.

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471180)

You can look it up the reactors in question were designed for 7.1 quakes, not 8; this batch built in 1971 (designed even earlier); btw F#1 reactor was scheduled to be decommissioned last month but after inspection got a new lease of life for 10 years apparently. Most reactors post ~1980 are much safer designs, and include more redundancies then earlier models, also the newest of designs are designed in a way where they cant achieve a critical state when power is lost, though I imagine the cooling problem could still exist.

The failure in japan is that of imagination. Imagining a whole host of failures including backup systems at the same time; not to mention only designing for 7.1 back in 1971; some of there newer ones were in fact designed for 8 as you mentioned. Hard to design for the earth dropping 30ft below you though. Safe nuke power is possible, it's just expensive and besides japan has no _real_ alternatives to feed it's current economy.

         

Re:Considering ..... (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471268)

So, what should we use?

Coal (and other fossil fuel): Global warming - in the next 2 years, the north pole will heat up to +50C.
Wind: requires a lot of space, cannot be the only method since wind is not constant. Also, won't somebody please think of the birds.
Solar: requires a lot of space, cannot be the only method since there is no sunlight at night. Also, cannot be used everywhere, especially in places that get a lot of rain and/or snow.
Hydro: cannot be used everywhere, while water is constant, it also requires a dam, oh look the landscape is changing, and won't somebody please think of the fish.
Nuclear: we might not be able to build a reactor that can survive a magnitude 9 quake without any incidents. Also, if a terrorist blows it up we will have problems.

So, what do we use? Nuclear and fossil fuel can be used almost everywhere, while solar and hydro requires a special climate or special rivers.

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471060)

If it weren't for the damn "green" retards, this wouldn't have happened.
These reactors were built in the 70s and even the company that has to put the money was willing to renew them for years, the responsibility for having Chernobyl class reactors in one of the most developed countries in the world lies entirely in the ignorant "ecologists" that would protest any new generator.
All in all, this accident seems like it won't be very extreme. People all around the world should take note and build reactors with 21st century technology to replace all this museum stuff.
Rational people must understand that "green" dolphin lovers are as dangerous as Islamist or Christian retards.

Re:Considering ..... (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471082)

But anti-nuke activists will consider this the worse tragedy

If one of these reactors ends up totally failing, it will be considered the worse tragedy by nearly everyone. Why? Because judging such events is a subjective process. That's why one baby trapped in a well is a huge crisis, whereas 100 people dying on the road each and every day doesn't even warrant news coverage. That's the way the human mind works, and you can't just brush it off.

If they were to end up with a Chernobyl-style exclusion zone around the plant for decades, then the meltdown would be remembered around the world long after the tsunami itself has faded from memory.

Re:Considering ..... (3, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471178)

But anti-nuke activists will consider this the worse tragedy

Nonsense. No one is going to consider this worse. Rational humans, however, will consider it more under human control. We cannot prevent earthquakes and tsunamis; we can eliminate the threat of nuclear meltdowns entirely by not building uranium or plutonium fission reactors.

There is, of course, a cost to that choice. We would either have to reduce energy usage (either by efficiency or austerity), build more dirty, CO2-spewing fossil fuel plants, deploy more wind and solar and other renewables (which have their own costs), develop the other nuclear technologies (fusion and "energy amplifier" designs, still at the prototype stage at best), or some combination of these. There are also benefits besides eliminating meltdowns: nuclear waste, weapons proliferation, the ecological damage of uranium mining, "peak uranium", and terrorism concerns are all ameliorated by not having fission reactors.

Another choice, as you say, is to build new fission reactors that are safer. Given that the pronouncements of how much "safer" these new designs are come from governments and industries with a history of spin and untruths, and are often spread by people who seem to have an emotional attachment to the idea of "Man Mastering the Primal Forces of the Universe!", it's appropriate to view them skeptically.

Re:Considering ..... (1, Flamebait)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471218)

I think it will shut up nuclear proponets who claim meltdowns are so improbable that they are effectively impossible. This is a natural disaster that has occurred. Human disasters from human mistakes are far more plentiful.

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471220)

Some facts:

Even ignoring the release of radioactivity into the air, how many conventional power stations (oil, gas, coal, solar) experienced explosions, fires or meltdowns? The fact is that despite over half a century of intensive effort and experience engineers can not design nuclear reactors that do not self destruct in strong earthquakes. The argument that nuclear engineers should just try harder (i.e. create safer designs) strikes me as wishful thinking and is not very persuasive.

Re:Considering ..... (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471224)

Nuclear Energy is dated, and its time is past.

There are far better alternatives, and if the governments who are the puppets of the energy industry would get out of the way, everyone could have a nice 27 Kilowatt energy unit in their homes connected to a national power grid with absolutely no centralization and no corporate control.

Centralized power generation networks is not a good idea, and it never will be. I do not build my data networks that way, or my computing infrastructure for the same reasons using a centralized model. They only reason why we build them that way is because a very few corrupt people want to control energy and you can't do that if it is built any other way.

Disasters such as what we are seeing bring huge amounts of service disruption which is entirely not required.

-Hack

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470874)

You mean safe as in they build reactors in an area known for its earthquakes and several of the reactors still blow up and leak. Really safe...

Re:Considering ..... (2)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470970)

Yes, they blow up and leak and might kill a few hundred people, or even a thousand.

Meanwhile, wood frame houses collapse and are washed away and kill ten times that amount.

So gather up all of your smelly hippie friends and form a human chain to protest people living in houses instead of teepees, because that would make more sense than protesting nuclear power.

Re:Considering ..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470990)

Both the reactors and the houses are built using American technology. Therein lies the problem.

Re:Considering ..... (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471056)

Both the reactors and the houses are built using fifty year old technology American technology. Therein lies the problem.

Fixed.

Re:Considering ..... (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471226)

How soon after the house collapses can you rebuild on that land? How much does the fallen house effect the environment around it? I can still drink the water right?

Re:Considering ..... (1)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470968)

Not when you get shoddy media outlets keen to cash in on some scaremongering.
http://twitpic.com/48zpsn/full [twitpic.com]

Re:Considering ..... (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471078)

its not over yet.

Re:Considering ..... (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471092)

I think it's incredible how safe their reactors are and when you consider what has happened, I think this should calm many people's fear of nuclear energy.

Now, the disposal of the waste ....

Especially when one considers that this is at an OLD plant. The new reactors being developed in China literally cannot melt down. Even if you stop the coolant completely.

Re:Considering ..... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471132)

Thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Only a few of them are melting down, or otherwise beginning to release poisons that will kill tens of thousands of people nearby either promptly or just prematurely from disease.

That's not safe. That's too dangerous to do anymore.

What you mean is that it's not credible that their reactors are safe. And more importantly, the people saying they're safe are not credible. Whether the people saying so for the past decades as this earthquake has been coming, or the people now saying anything but "they're too dangerous to tolerate".

The disposal of the waste just makes it an even bigger job for people who can't be trusted.

Re:Considering ..... (1)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471202)

I hate to be Captain Hindsight, but the reactors could not withstand a natural catastrophe that was not unheard of in Japan. That means that reactors build elsewhere might also not be able to withstand the worst possible event in their respective local area.

How, exactly, would that calm anyone? Just the opposite, it shows that a highly developed nation cannot prevent the worst case scenario even though they are fully aware of the impending meltdown. If they can't do it, what chance does, for example, China have?

Re:Considering ..... (2)

fahlesr1 (1910982) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471208)

Waste disposal is a solved problem. Reprocessing the spent fuel can remove all the extremely radioactively hot material which can then be fissioned in the reactor again. That'll break it down into much cooler material. The rest of the material has a half-life of only a few decades and is much lower level to begin with. You can even remove a small amount of precious metals from the spent fuel, stuff like silver, gold and platinum.

Storage for the stuff you can't fission again isn't a big issue. The material can be melted down into a glass and stored in a very small amount of space. We aren't talking a lot of material here, all spent fuel in the US since the first reactor came online could be stored in a football field sized hole about 15 feet deep.

All the engineering problems have been solved, most nuclear energy problems are created politically.

So when does (-1, Offtopic)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470830)

Godzilla turn up to kill those that survived the quake, tsunami, and fallout?

Re:So when does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470858)

Why is there not a game called tsunami? or would that be in poor taste?

Re:So when does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470960)

So when does Godzilla turn up to kill those that survived the quake, tsunami, and fallout?

Just after the Shinmoedake volcano has erupted.

what progress? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470838)

Despite all the tech developed since 1986, coverage of the progress of the cooling of the Daiishi plant has been absolutely atrocious in terms of speculation and lack of, well, at least one independent person , organisation or government (i.e. not this press release site, now down [tepco.co.jp] ) providing reports containing hard facts, e.g. telephoto / satellite imagery, radiation count, etc.

To repeat myself from yesterday:

Fact 1: this was an old nuclear reactor without a satisfactory containment solution;

Fact 2: this was an old nuclear reactor without passive safety: i.e. power is required to prevent meltdown, rather than meltdown being prevented by design;

Fact 3: backup generators and batteries were supposed to deal with Fact 2;

Fact 4: you can only have so many on-site backups;

Fact 5: Chernobyl's failure was the result of a very dangerously planned and even more dangerously aborted attempt to test what would happen if Facts 1 to 3 applied;

Fact 6: while everyone's learnt the lessons leading to Chernobyl's failure, older reactors have not tackled the problems which led to Chernobyl deciding that tests in Fact 5 were necessary in the first place.

Fact 7: one side of the debate will conclude that nuclear power is universally evil; the other side will claim that circumstances were so shockingly unlikely that they could not have been planned for, ignoring in particular Facts 1, 2, 4 and 6.no-one

Re:what progress? (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471014)

one side of the debate will conclude that nuclear power is universally evil

Its not nuclear power that is evil, and no rational individual would claim that. Its people that are evil, people that forego and downplay any and all warnings or dangers because we want cheap electricity now, and we'll solve this waste issue later... evil is dismissing the opposition because money is more important to them than human life, evil is an ad hominem attack on someone with valid concerns, evil is technology moving at the pace of the maximum speed pockets can be filled and not held back by the time it takes for people to understand all impacts the technology will have, positive, negative, likely or unlikely. Evil is calling you stupid.

Re:what progress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471076)

Evil is calling you stupid... just because you disagree.

FTFY

Re:what progress? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471118)

The contained waste from nuclear power is far less evil than the dispersed waste from coal power.

30 years ago nuclear was easily the best option for baseload power. Today, modern nuclear designs are by far the best replacement for existing nuclear generation (wind and solar can help, but the time tables for the gigawatts we need are easier to meet with nuclear).

Re:what progress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471050)

Fact 8: you have no idea what you are talking about.

Re:what progress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471266)

I was trying to post widely publicised knowledge in an unsensationalist form. Do you contend any of the facts listed? On what basis? If you're having trouble confirming anything, please tell me and I'll link to what you would hopefully consider a reputable source.

Re:what progress? (5, Informative)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471084)

There is no lack of information in Japan. There has been 6 or 7 press conferences on the topic by the management of the power station today, both before and after every development that happened at the station during the day. All the conferences had a pretty reasonable technical explanation of the steps, and report upon execution. All conferences were broadcast fully on several TV channels.

There are three problems with the coverage. First, western media have been extremely sensationalist in their coverage. Second, journalists, both in Japan and in elsewhere ignore the presentation (e.g. one journalist complained that she doesn't understand the explanations, and that there isn't "enough information" in the same breath on live TV), and press with "hard" questions, which end up to be only one: "When is this shit going to explode?". Three, which is a failure of Tepco, they put forward people who cannot explain shit eloquently. The explanations make sense if one listens patiently and makes sense of a ton of stuttering, stammering, repeating, verbal mistakes. Of course it ain't working when every journalist has to tweet within 25 seconds of the start of the explanation.

Finally, the big problem in Japan now is getting help to the people in the affected areas, not the meltdowns in Fukushima that may, or may not be happening.

But I guess some journalists have to make a living.

Re:what progress? (5, Interesting)

grumling (94709) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471094)

Imagine you live in Rome. You are a civil engineer, in charge of building the first bridge. You build it the best you can, based on observing trees that fall across small streams. It is very dangerous, but effective for a few years. Several other people copy your design and build their own bridges using tree trunks.

Meanwhile, someone else looks at your design and determines the bridge could be built much safer if you use an ads to flatten out the top, so that people can walk on the flat area, and some ropes along the sides at hand level let people keep their balance. You try it out and find it works very well. Meanwhile, people all over Rome are falling off the "Gen 1" bridges. People protest bridges to the Roman Senate and elect people who won't allow new bridges to be built, even with the safety features.

To make matters worse, the existing bridges are now rotting. Several bridges have fallen into the creeks and many are too fragile to let more than one person across at a time. The tree bark, which provided at least some grip for people using the bridges is now gone, and when it rains the bridges are incredibly slippery. The Roman Senate funds a study to look into building "Gen 3" bridges. The engineers come back with designs for stone bridges, using the latest in geometry (the arch). The engineering community thinks this bridge will last for years, be incredibly strong and safe. But because the public has such a bad memory of the existing bridges, they want nothing to do with them. Meanwhile they demand the Senate fund more ferryboats for river crossings.

Re:what progress? (2)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471198)

could not have been planned for? could not plan for a tsunami, a word invented in the country the reactor is on the coast of, a coast off which lies a major fault line that has spawned devestating tsunamis and earthquakes in the past?

Re:what progress? (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471270)

Maybe as a world we can agree to close all of the old reactors that lead to stories like this. Every time a reactor goes bad we hear all about how modern designs would never have been subject to the circumstances that brought down the failing one.

Instead we have these failures where all people will remember is that the reactor could not be shut down. If it melts through the containment vessel then you have another Chernobyl and nuclear takes another hit because of an "outdated" plant.

Unit 1 should have been offline since February (2)

Kyusaku Natsume (1098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471298)

But had their license extended 10 more years. I guess that the officers that did this now must be contemplating suicide at the moment. If I were in their shoes, I would.

An additional systemic problem, that I expect that government officers and utilities managers from Japan at last tackle in view of the current emergency if politicians can stop the stupid political bickering that goes at the moment, is that the country has 2 separate electrical grids, one for eastern Japan and one for western Japan, working at different frequencies, so even if western Japan has spare capacity, and I bet that they have, they couldn't do anything to help to meet demand from the other half of the country, even if most transmission lines in eastern Japan are in good shape. I guess that this problem weighted in the decision to not get decommissioned the unit 1 as programmed.

Now Tepco, the plant operator has announced that it will implement rolling blackouts starting next Monday. Hopefully, they will manage to put a few of the conventional power plants units that got damaged online in a week. The neat thing is that all hydro power plants are online and undamaged, at least in Tepco's service area. Having witnessed the damage that suffered some of our company's power plants by the 7.6 earthquake of january 21st, 2003 in Manzanillo, Mexico, I believe that they could manage to get all conventional power plants online in a month. I was impressed that the lights were still on in many of the towns damaged by the tsunami.

Just terrible news coverage (3, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470852)

All around. al jazeera/bbc have been decent, but still - not what it needs to be. Fox, CNN, MSNBC have all been sensationalist garbage - as usual. What else is a decent source of news anyone else has been following?

Hopefully this turns out to be nothing as bad as it could be. The reactors are dead, but lets hope that is the least of the issues.

Re:Just terrible news coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470904)

I don't think you really mean "let's hope that is the least of the issues"... or do you? idk, I've decided you're horrible person.

Re:Just terrible news coverage (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470916)

Here's one good source:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nhk-world-tv [ustream.tv]

Re:Just terrible news coverage (1)

Lonedar (897073) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470924)

The Guardian's live blog is usually up-to-date with developments: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/13/japan-earthquake-tsunami-nuclear-crisis [guardian.co.uk]

Re:Just terrible news coverage (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470944)

I don't see how this could be anything but the worst case scenario for that area of Japan, even if the radiation isn't an issue. Immediatly after a huge natural disaster they lost a massive power generation facility. This isn't like a power transformer blowing out or even a relay station going down, the component in their grid that is responsible for generating the electricity has effectivley been destroyed. Hospitals in the area which are probably at their breaking point already and will now need to rely on backup power much longer then intended, comminication in the area, which we Americans learned from Katrina is so important, will be limited if not down all together. Those are just the imediate effects, there will be secondary issues for months or years to come.

Re:Just terrible news coverage (3, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470996)

3 of the 6 reactors at the facility were offline for inspection, so there is some chance that they will be able to bring them back up on a decent schedule.

Doesn't really change what you describe, but maybe keeps it to months.

Re:Just terrible news coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470978)

If you want the technical inrformation from the source, you can just read the press releases from TEPCO:

http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html

(though the website is falling under the traffic now). Or read some other technical sources like WNN:

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/

IAEA is also posting information, but with some delay:

http://www.iaea.org/

Re:Just terrible news coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470986)

Try NHK World [nhk.or.jp] . As close as possible to the source of the news.

Re:Just terrible news coverage (4, Insightful)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471024)

I mainly read and watch Deutsche Welle for my news. AJ/BBC are usually decent though. How sad is it that we have ZERO real news in America? Not even NPR which is as close as we come. We need a real news channel and outlet, not political or sensational bullshit. Just news.

Re:Just terrible news coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471144)

All around. al jazeera/bbc have been decent, but still - not what it needs to be. Fox, CNN, MSNBC have all been sensationalist garbage - as usual. What else is a decent source of news anyone else has been following?

Hopefully this turns out to be nothing as bad as it could be. The reactors are dead, but lets hope that is the least of the issues.

What makes you think there is one?

And what makes you think ANY of the news coverage we get is any better than this?

I blame US (1)

FlapHappy (937803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471160)

The average TV viewer in the US has about a five minute attention span thus are only interested in the highlight-reel moments. I don't blame our media for creating an oversupply of useless, sensationalist drivel, they are simply responding with what they think WE want. Obviously, we want more TMZ! You know - the stuff that really matters. If I want any real analysis of world events, I'll just turn on The Daily Show.

No cooling systems? They just waiting and hoping (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470872)

FWIW, since the amount of decay heat the reactor can generate is a known quantity based upon the power of the reactor, the question becomes: is the containment vessel able to contain that much energy in the event of a loss of cooling? They're supposed to be able to.

Great (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470880)

Just what we need to speed along nuclear adoption here in the US.
Where's Jane Fonda when you need her?

If we're lucky, this will only set us back another 30 years.

Used cars, anyone? (1, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470896)

FTFA...

'Even if you have a radiation release, although that's not a good thing, it's not automatically a harmful thing. It depends on what the level turns out to be,' says Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute

To repeat myself from yesterday, the public should trust the pronouncements about things that can kill you for thousands of years from industry shills why, exactly?

Re:Used cars, anyone? (0)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470938)

...Wait until you hear about the deadly radiation menace in smoke alarms, placed in every home by our evil corporate overlords!

Re:Used cars, anyone? (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471064)

We just did, from you, in a futile attempt to change the subject with a double-reverse straw man.

Thanks for disqualifying yourself early from any reasonable debate about this extremely grave meltdown unfolding in Japan.

Re:Used cars, anyone? (0)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471138)

Why not wait a couple of months and complain about the radiation that actually leaked, rather than speculating that things are going worst-case-scenario?

Re:Used cars, anyone? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470942)

I guess yelling shill is fine, if you think it is useful, but there really are good arguments that a small release of radiation can end up not harming anyone, because it is small and spreads out to the point that it is well below the background radiation that is already unavoidable (most things are slightly radioactive...).

So while the release is certainly a cause for concern, it can happen and still have no measurable consequences, let alone thousands of years of consequences.

Re:Used cars, anyone? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471074)

And if this used car was driven only on Sundays by a little old lady from Pasadena, then it might indeed be as good as new, even though its 300,000 miles odometer reading is certainly a cause for concern, as is the cloud of radioactive steam belching from its tailpipe.

Re:Used cars, anyone? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471194)

What's the concentration and half-life of the radioactive material in the steam? How much steam was released? Or do things like that not matter to small poultry?

Re:Used cars, anyone? (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471246)

I'm sorry, what were you saying about strawmans again?

Re:Used cars, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470946)

To repeat myself from yesterday, the public should trust the pronouncements about things that can kill you for thousands of years from industry shills why, exactly?

They're more trustworthy than government shills, and we have no other sources of information except for those two.

Re:Used cars, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470950)

FTFA...

'Even if you have a radiation release, although that's not a good thing, it's not automatically a harmful thing. It depends on what the level turns out to be,' says Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute

To repeat myself from yesterday, the public should trust the pronouncements about things that can kill you for thousands of years from industry shills why, exactly?

Because the information that the "shill" is providing can be verified independently by anyone with even a modicum of web search capability?

Re:Used cars, anyone? (3, Interesting)

rAiNsT0rm (877553) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471070)

I work for a company that works with radioactivity, and the reality is shocking. I have been told that since there is no "standard" level deemed harmful, that they can get away with all kinds of shit. Because a small amount of radiation could cause cancer and some can be exposed to large amounts without issue, that they can do basically whatever they want. It was found that a wall that was supposed to be shielded was not and that workers on the other side of it had been getting nailed for years... they covered it up and covered their asses ASAP. I would trust NOTHING when it comes from a corporation or government agency on this subject.

This is a real shame and greed once again rules the day.

Re:Used cars, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471106)

What you should do is question what they say, and find out for yourself.

The thing that this source is talking about is the fact that radiation exposure is very much a quantum, probabilistic, Schrödinger's cat phenomenon. You can get a massive exposure and you're probably dead meat walking, but it's possible that you'll be fine. You can get a rather small exposure and you're probably going to be OK, but it's possible that you'll be dead in a year. Anyone who predicts one or the other with certainty is... overconfident.

Re:Used cars, anyone? (4, Insightful)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471124)

So you'd rather listen to the FOX news shills, the anti-nuclear shills, the oil shills, the donation scammers and the govt shills?

I'm sorry but what he's saying sounds about right. People have some kind of paranoia when nuclear is mentioned - you only need to look at the current situation! A quake of incredible magnitude quickly followed by a massive tsunami will probably kill tens of thousands leave the entire countryside ravaged for years, but the news are all focused on a handful of nuclear power plants that are having some problems. Even Chernobyl only killed 50 people! If you want to account for cancer diseases and such, bring that up to 500 or even 1000 if you want, but it's an unrealistically high estimate. And that's Chernobyl; it is absolutely impossible to end up with this result in the current situation.

Re:Used cars, anyone? (1)

Eevee (535658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471260)

What they are worried about is the plant's meltdown awakening Godzilla and bringing him back from beneath the waves to once more terrorize the citizens of Tokyo.

Radiation is not gradual (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35470922)

Radiation is either ionizing or it is not. There is no "harmless ionizing radiation". Being exposed to ionizing radiation means that you're taking a risk of fatal damage to your body, no matter how little radiation you're exposed to. This only becomes gradual on a statistical level, i.e. when you look at what percentage of a large group of people is affected.

Exposure to ionizing radiation is natural, so we always live with this risk, but that just means that we can't reduce the risk to zero, not that increased exposure to ionizing radiation is harmless until a certain threshold is exceeded.

Re:Radiation is not gradual (1)

wjwlsn (94460) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471142)

"Being exposed to ionizing radiation means that you're taking a risk of fatal damage to your body, no matter how little radiation you're exposed to." That's a very interesting statement. I think the most interesting part of it is your use of the words "risk" and "fatal". My understanding of those words is that risk = probability x consequences, and that "fatal" would be a word associated with consequence. I would like to understand this better. Please help me by quantifying the probability of "fatal damage" arising from an acute exposure equal to a small fraction of my yearly background exposure.

Re:Radiation is not gradual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471212)

Ionizing radiation can (instantly) damage the DNA in your cells. An increased exposure to ionizing radiation increases your cancer risk. A short exposure to small levels of additional ionizing radiation only increases your risk by a small amount, but the important thing is that there is no safe level of ionizing radiation: There is no level of ionizing radiation that you can be exposed to without increasing your cancer risk. That's why dosimeters measure the integral of the exposure instead of measuring the peak exposure.

The particles (2)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470956)

AFAIK just getting high levels of radiation isn't that harmful. Some cells will die and if you survive that you'll recover. Radiation is just electromagnetic emission. The real danger is the radiation emitting particles. If they get out in the air and contaminate the biosphere you'll end up with an area nobody can live in like Chernobyl and thousands of people dying from cancer and other diseases related to long exposure to radiation can lead to. So the question is how much of these particles have escaped.

state of emergency declared at a second plant (1)

Octoploid (855458) | more than 3 years ago | (#35470984)

The site looks almost identical to Fukushima: google earth link [google.de]

Re:state of emergency declared at a second plant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471126)

They are just detecting the stuff coming out from Fukushima, which means the people believing Government information are roasted.
Unfortunately, most people downwind were also in the Tsunamis' way. So even if alive they aren't in a position to consider the veracity of available information.
If someone is within 200km of the evacuated radius and can get into a car I personally would pack for Western Japan right now. At least until it rains.

Better news source (4, Interesting)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471012)

I found this to be a good source for uncommented information: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ [world-nuclear-news.org] . I cannot vouch for the veracity of the source, but it does not seem to be very biased.

Unfortunately the nuclear accident seems to have overshadowed reports on the real human tragedy - the tsunami and the earth quake. Especially in Germany, media are instrumentalizing the incident and are plotting doomsday scenarios. The worst of all seems to be "Der Spiegel", which I held in much higher regard until yesterday.

Good technical info (4, Informative)

wjwlsn (94460) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471028)

The following document is a good source of info regarding the situation at the Fukushima reactors. See the section titled "BWR 3/4 Perspectives", including the parts regarding station blackout (SBO), transients with loss of coolant injection, and transients with loss of decay heat removal (DHR). (The remaining parts of the BWR 3/4 section don't appear to apply.)

Core damage frequency perspectives for BWR 3/4... [osti.gov]

...and it was about to close (5, Informative)

Megane (129182) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471120)

It's not getting much press, but the Unit #1 reactor was scheduled to be closed [wikipedia.org] in two weeks. [truthiscontagious.com] (Those links don't show the exact date, but I think it was March 22.)

It's sort of like the old cliche about a cop getting shot in the month before his retirement.

No, there is NOT a 'meltdown'.... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471134)

These are reactor designs from the 1960s. Green opposition has successfully stopped the development of newer and safer control systems, so we are left with 50-year old technology to resist the largest earthquake/tidal wave ever seen in Japan.

Nevertheless, the reactor technology worked, and shut down the reactors. Then the water damaged the support services which were cooling the reactors down, meaning that they had to get permission to vent short-lived radionuclides in an unsafe manner. They did this - one site was unlucky enough to get an aftershock as they did it, which precipitated a hydrogen explosion in an unmanned part of the reactor building. There was one death and 4 light injuries. By now the reactors will all be cooling down, and there will be no more incidents.

In the meantime the gas and oil refineries, with the benefits of the latest technology, caught fire and exploded, causing many deaths. The sea defences were overrun, causing MANY THOUSANDS of deaths. But the headline news is about whether the reactor fuel rods have got slightly overheated....

I think the press has its priorities wrong....

Ground Water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471170)

We don't yet have any idea of the true nature or extent of what's happened, but if the radioactive material did breach the base of the containment structure, could we be looking at a potential for widespread groundwater contamination, potentially extending over a very wide area? One danger among so many others, of course?

Why not to worry (5, Informative)

NieKinNL (690492) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471186)

Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, has written his take [wordpress.com] on the events, and why he's not worried about it.
I haven't finished reading this story yet (it's quite a few pages), but it's pretty interesting so far.

Two ways to look at it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35471196)

Some people will see this incident as yet another argument against nuclear energy.

I think it's yet another indicator that much of the world's nuclear infrastructure is aging, and that we should be building new, safer reactors. I don't work in the industry, but I don't believe that any of the pressure-related problems being experienced at the Fukushima reactors would or could occur in a molten salt reactor.

Japanese Government is lying (1)

jsse (254124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471250)

In the beginning they said there's no radiation leakage hazard, hours later they said ONLY four people within 10 miles infected by radiation.

So tell me how these four people infected? By television radiation?

What happened to Autoscram? (1)

drewsup (990717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35471284)

IANANS, ( I am not a nuclear scientist), but I thought ALL reactors had an autoscram system, that detected coolant problems and was supposed to retract the rods from the reactor. Was i just dreaming this, or does it exist??
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