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US Alarmed Over Japan's Nuclear Crisis

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the not-looking-good dept.

Japan 580

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that the US is urging Americans who live within 50 miles of Japan's earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to evacuate as Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that no water remains in a deep pool used to cool spent fuel at the plant and that radiation levels there are thought to be 'extremely high.' Jaczko's testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee suggests that damage to the plant is worse than the Japanese government and the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has acknowledged. On Tuesday, the company said water levels in three of the site's seven fuel pools were dropping, but did not say that the fuel rods themselves had been exposed. Left exposed to the air, the fuel rods will start to decay and release radioactivity into the air and lack of water in at least one spent-fuel pool sparked fears of a worst-case scenario: the fuel could combust. 'If there's no water in there, the spent fuel can start a fire,' says Eric Moore, a consultant to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on nuclear plant design and safety issues. 'Once you have that fire, there's a high risk of radiation getting out, spewed by the fire.' The power company says a reduced crew of 50 to 70 employees — far fewer than the 1,400 or more at the plant during normal operations — had been working in shifts to keep seawater flowing to the three reactors now in trouble. Their withdrawal on Wednesday temporarily left the plant with nobody to continue cooling operations."

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580 comments

Connection with Nippon Telecomm is out (1)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514740)

Not to take aware from the obvious serious problem of nuclear fallout, but the connection with NTT is out too: http://www.internetpulse.net/ [internetpulse.net]

So (-1, Troll)

lolococo (574827) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514742)

who's surrendering now, huh?

-signed: the French guy

Re:So (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514976)

Evacuating 50 miles from a DAMAGED NUCLEAR POWER PLANT is a bit different than having your countrymen evacuated from the entire country.

Le Danger! Le Danger! We must protecta ze cheese!

Worse than Tjernobyl. (-1, Flamebait)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514770)

This disaster could well be worse than the one in Tjernobyl. Especially for the poor sods that has to sacrifice their lifes to contain the mess. We now have four rectors that needs to be cooled down, built in and kept under close watch for a couple of hundred thousands of years.

If you cant stay within 50 miles of the plants today, you wont be able to live there later and the safety zone for living an normal life will surely be even bigger.

American technology for the win, go go General Electric!

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514826)

Worse than Chernobyl?? Do you have any idea of what happened there? It's not the same situation. Even in the worst case scenario it won't be as bad as Chernobyl. Do you know how many thousands of people were sent to their death to try to control the russian plant? It won't happen in Japan.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (5, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514926)

Obviously nobody knows anything if CNN is putting sentences like this in their articles: "buildup of hydrogen gas, which is the highly flammable, lighter-than-air gas used in the Hindenburg."

Oh jeez. While true, it really shows the expectations of science education in the US. I mean who is a sentence like that aimed at? Kids? They don't know what the Hindenburg is? Seniors? They invented the hydrogen bomb. People should know what hydrogen is.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (2)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515004)

Yeah. Yesterday they said American jets bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With news today, accuracy doesn't matter as much as time to market. The NYT tends to be a couple of hours behind CNN, but tend to do a better job, I think.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515292)

American jets?

Excuse me for a moment while I bash my head against my desk.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (1)

Illicon (1588477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515320)

Link, please. I would LOVE to see that.

Re:Hindenburg (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515116)

(ChildLeftBehind)
Isn't that a type of cheeseburger? Or a town in Germany?
(/ChildLeftBehind)

Re:Hindenburg (2, Funny)

Illicon (1588477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515330)

I can see it now: Come down to Bob's for the Hindenburger. Only available well done.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (2)

east coast (590680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515172)

They should have put video footage of the Hindenburg ablaze with Herbert Morrison crying "Oh the humanity" in the background followed by the reporter looking directly into the camera and saying, in a grim voice, "this could be happening in Japan as we speak!"

I'm sure people would have ate it up.

He can't spell Chernobyl... (0)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515260)

...and you question his "expertize" on the matter of nuclear disasters? Really?
I fear that you, Mr. Anonymous, are overly optimistic regarding the education and intelligence of the average Slashdotter.

Re:He can't spell Chernobyl... (1)

Illicon (1588477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515360)

You are aware, aren't you, that Chernobyl is located in a country whose inhabitants are not native English speakers and that they may have a different spelling when the proper name of the city is translated to English? Apparently not.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514834)

Don't believe everything you read, these news outlets need sensational headlines. There are some major differences between this and Tjernobyl, namely that this plant will be contained easily.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515352)

Not contained yet....

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (2, Informative)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514844)

People may not be able to live there yes, but Tjernobyl has shown proven the saying "life finds a way" true again. The area around Tjernobyl has become one of the most biologically diverse in the area... probably in large part due to the lack of humans around.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515446)

People may not be able to live there yes, but Tjernobyl has shown proven the saying "life finds a way" true again. The area around Tjernobyl has become one of the most biologically diverse in the area... probably in large part due to the lack of humans around.

Mutants will do that ...

Just joking ... stop looking at me so funny, 3-eyes!.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514850)

American technology wasn't the problem here, you fucking nationalist bitch luddite.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (5, Insightful)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514872)

Yes, because we don't have *any* [ca.gov] nuclear power plants in earthquake prone territory in America. We're way smarter than that.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515310)

It's pretty funny, because the backup generators and the pumps were working right after the earthquake and the cooling was working fine too.

Tip: When you're planning for disasters you treat each disaster separately, even if they can be linked (earthquake causes tsunami).

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (5, Informative)

dargaud (518470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514876)

We now have four rectors that needs to be cooled down, built in and kept under close watch for a couple of hundred thousands of years.

Even if those reactors melt down, which they haven't yet, they'll probably stay contained (3m of concrete underneath), and from there it would be about 10 years before access for scraping them would be possible, similar to TMI. The reactors themselves are a problem, but not the BIG problem. The pool with the spent rods is, like the summary says.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (1)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515060)

The jury is still out - you have no information to make "probable" guesses. Read this translated interview [slashdot.org] of a Nuclear cleanup expert to see the four possible outcomes of this accident.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (5, Informative)

germ!nation (764234) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514882)

This is the least informed comment I have ever read on /.

"We now have four rectors that needs to be cooled down, built in and kept under close watch for a couple of hundred thousands of years"

That doesnt even bear any resemblance to anything that is actually happening or going to happen at that plant.

Re:hundred thousand years (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515202)

Plus any kind of pesudo-timeline like that makes no sense either. "In a mere two hundred years or so" the tech will appear to molecular-sanitize a failed nuke site.

No, it couldn't. (5, Insightful)

Fallingwater (1465567) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514968)

Stop spreading this sensationalistic bullshit. Even in a worst-case scenario, that being meltdown of all cores, cracking of all containment buildings and fires in all spent fuel pools, the consequences would be tiny compared to those of Chernobyl. Yes, the whole area would be evacuated (some of it already is), and there would be large amounts of radioactive pollution, but there would be no "liquidators" giving their lives up to contain the situation, and people wouldn't be sacrificed in an attempt to save face. Japan isn't the Soviet Union.

Note: after writing the above writeup I considered deleting the whole thing because the parent post is obviously trolling, but then I decided to leave it in place anyway as there's already too much misinformation about this situation.

Re:Worse than Tjernobyl. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514988)

This disaster could well be worse than the one in Tjernobyl.

No, it could not.

- Chernobyl did not have a containment vessel to catch and contain a melted core.... it melted out the bottom of the reactor and through the floor.

- Chernobyl used graphite control rods -- and graphite burns, carrying with it radioactive isotopes right from the melted core.

All radiation is not created equal. A micro-SV is a measure quantity. A micro-SV per hour is a rate, and you have to know how long the person is exposed to get the total quantity. Eating a banana will give you about 0.1 micro-SV due to radioactive potassium-40 in bananas. An average person gets over 400 micro-SV a year just from eating food. A reporter in Japan yesterday, took a picture of a radiation meter while standing outside, and it read 0.6 micro-SV/hour. Well bellow even the most conservative safety thresholds.

Particularly in the vented steam, the isotopes found in quantity have very short half-lives. The quantity of what has been released is diluted quickly to levels barely above background in the atmosphere.

Note that most of the cooling infrastructure at the plant is completely intact... but they lack electricity to run it. A new electrical line is being run, and should be completed in a day or so. At that point, the pumps will be back on line, and the situation will rapidly de-escalate.

Headline win (2, Informative)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514772)

Anyone born before 1945 must find a great amount of irony in the headline.

Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (2, Informative)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515024)

I tried very hard, but I just could not find the following _full_ interview [google.com] in English, only Spanish. Reuters quote part of the interview but leave out the juiciest and most damning accusations by nuclear accident cleanup hero/expert Yuri Andreyev. Luckily google translate does a decent translation so you can read it...

A couple of (corrected) quotes:

Andreyev: "In the nuclear industry there are no independent bodies"

[What has happened in Japan's Nuclear facility] "was not an error, it is a crime"

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (-1, Troll)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515102)

that is the opinion of ONE man out of millions. Don't give it more weight than it deserves. It is too early to say, with certainty, that the Japan nuclear corporation is guilty like BP

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515250)

That's extremely disingenuous. Profit drives _all_ businesses. Expenses, like maintenance and backup systems cut into those profits. History shows that we (humans) are extremely short sighted and unimaginative when it comes to considering risk. The result is as predictable as, well, earthquakes in Japan. It does not require genius to see the flaws in the design and operation of this nuclear facility when those things are set against the recent geological events.

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515188)

P.S.

Also I question the sanity of this man Andreyev. He says if the fuel melts, it can achieve critical mass, and explode. Nuclear plants are designed to prevent such a thing.

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515240)

Also I question the sanity of this man Andreyev. He says if the fuel melts, it can achieve critical mass, and explode. Nuclear plants are designed to prevent such a thing.

That is what is told to us. In fact we meanwhile know that this is not true. You very "likely" wont get critical mass as long as the molten fuel is still in the containment chamber (because that is designed for that. But after it has burned its way out it is completely unpredictable, the situation gets even worse if yo consider we are talking about the burned out fuel rods in the roof here. They can add to the rods inside of the reactor.

angel'o'sphere

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515438)

You still can't get a critical mass in the sense of an atomic bomb using fuel rods. Hence why a huge amount of effort has to go into refining U235 (or Pu239) in order to make a bomb. The only explosions you can get are chemical explosions like the Hydrogen gas explosions, or exploding pressure vessels. These can still be catastrophic (see Chernobyl), but are dirty bombs rather than nukes.

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (2)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515266)

I think the trouble is these plants were built in the early 70s, before all that. They require active cooling to be safe, and nobody thought they'd see a magnitude 9 earthquake in their lifetime...

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (3, Interesting)

MS (18681) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515350)

The magnitude 9 was 150 km from Fukushima 1. The epicenter was NOT underneath the nuclear power plant! How strong was the earthquake at the power plant?!?

Re:Fukushima Accidend NOT an error, It is a CRIME (5, Interesting)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515476)

The design flaws were known from the beginning, three GE engineers resigned [wordpress.com] in 1972 over their warnings and recommendations being ignored. Then as recently as two years ago the IAEA warned Japan [over-blog.com] that the reactors were not safe in case of an earth-quake.

"face" prevents asking for real help (0)

speedlaw (878924) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514780)

I'm afraid that the cultural concept of losing face is active here. It is basically being left alone save some poke&hope attempts to drop water on it. Meanwhile, the US and others probably know how it truly is by all that remote sensing/spysat tech in orbit, but can't really say, other than "all americans in 50 miles evacuate". Ask for help....it's beyond face, it's a truly worldwide disaster.

Re:"face" prevents asking for real help (5, Informative)

nettdata (88196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514830)

That's not the case at all. They're fighting like hell to run power to the cooling systems to bring them back online. The brief withdrawal of workers was due to a temporary spike in radiation.

And the US and other nations have sent people there, on site, to report on what is going on. No sats required. Hell, the US Military has helped put out some of the fires, so they are RIGHT THERE.

The Emperor went on TV to ask the world for help and patience while they work on the problem. China has been asked for help in supplying boron to help cool things down.

Go follow the BBC News coverage for some real information on what's going on, they seem to be doing quite well at providing it.

Scare tactic (4, Insightful)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514782)

I don't know how much if this is true. I assume there is a modicum of truth in all of these reports, but these guys [mitnse.com] seem to offer a more rational and less sensationalist explanation.

Re:Scare tactic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514832)

Both sides are likely exaggerating.

Mandatory Simpsons Reference:

Kent: On the line with us now is plant owner C. Montgomery Burns. Mr. Burns?
Burns: Oh, hello, Kent. [as loud rhythmic buzzing continues in the background]
                    Right now, skilled nuclear energy technicians are calmly correcting
                    a minor, piffling malfunction. [rapid-fire shots of havoc in the plant]
                    But I can assure you and the public that there is absolutely no danger
                    whatsoever. [air raid siren wails] Things couldn't be more ship-shape.
                    [cut to Burns' office, where he is busy donning a radiation suit]
Smithers: Sir, where is radiation suit?
Burns: How the hell should I know? [covers the name `Smithers' on the suit
                    he is wearing]
Kent: Uh, Mr. Burns, people are calling this a meltdown.
Burns: [laughs] Oh, meltdown. It's one of those annoying buzzwords. We prefer
                    to call it an unrequested fission surplus.

Re:Scare tactic (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514964)

I don't know how much if this is true. I assume there is a modicum of truth in all of these reports, but these guys seem to offer a more rational and less sensationalist explanation.

Those guys are also tied directly to the DoD.

They gain credibility from their name on one hand, and lose it from their obligations on the other.

Re:Scare tactic (2)

Orgasmatron (8103) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515108)

Yeah, better to listen to "experts" only from the anti-nuclear activist groups, like on TV.

Re:Scare tactic (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514984)

I don't know how much if this is true. I assume there is a modicum of truth in all of these reports, but these guys [mitnse.com] seem to offer a more rational and less sensationalist explanation.

Do you really want to believe the power company, the ones that have proven to have lied about this case and others in the past? I still remember BP seriously low balling the oil that was being released. I saw reports where Japanese government reps were interviewed where they dodged every direct question. The latest report is 20 people are ill from radiation poisoning. Odds are the numbers are higher since milder radiation poisoning can take days to present symptoms. There's no way to spin this case. It's bad. They may have lost all six reactors as in none may ever produce power again where as Chernobyl still continues to operate. It seems likely four are dead with only 5 and 6 in question and those only because they were shut down at the time of the quake. No one has yet mentioned what's happening to the millions of gallons of sea water being sprayed and dumped on the site. Lately the water is being dumped and sprayed from the outside so much of the water is in no way contained. The chances of the ground water being affected are a 100%. The site is also likely to be so badly contaminated that the whole plant will have to be abandoned as a power site no matter the condition of the final two reactors. There's no way to sugar coat this it's a black day for nuclear power. Chernobyl may have affected a bigger area but the scope of the damage already dwarfs Chernobyl. Chernobyl was mostly the one reactor where as this involves a minimum of 4 and last I heard reactor 5 was looking bad and the spent fuel was heating up. On some levels it's already the worst disaster and it's an ongoing mess. All we can hope is that the contamination isn't as bad as it seems to be and that they can get the upper hand on cooling the storage ponds since the reactors themselves seem to have done what they are going to do. Storing spent rods in virtually open swimming pools on the roofs of the reactors is akin to storing gasoline next to a furnace. So long as nothing leaks everything is fine but is it really worth the risk?

Re:Scare tactic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515120)

It's about not letting a good crisis go to waste. By scaring the pants off people, Fox News can make some buck$ and the rest of the mainstream news media can set back nuclear power in this country for a generation. See, then everyone in the news business ends up getting what they most want, and as usual all we get are lies.

Nothing to worry about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514788)

No, no - it's safe as milk.

Clean, safe , cheap power source my ass.

Re:Nothing to worry about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514840)

Clean, safe , cheap power source my ass.

Your ass is a clean, safe power source? Are we talking natural gas here? Doesn't that require fuel for you to turn into natural gas? I thought it had been proven the input energy requirements far outweigh the output energy recovered in this method?

Re:Nothing to worry about (2, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514852)

No, no - it's safe as milk.

Clean, safe , cheap power source my ass.

When you are using 50 year old designs, then yes, you're right, it isn't all that safe. Now, if the anti-nuclear energy lobby had actually allowed us to build more, modern reactors over that time period, then we would have plenty of new, modern, safe nuclear reactors. So, the anti-nuclear power people really have to blame themselves as much as anyone else for the current state of nuclear power in the world.

Re:Nothing to worry about (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515084)

It's nice to blame others right?

If it weren't for those pesky hippies the good energy companies would have constructed those highly expensive new reactors and shut down the old ones. They would have willingly forfeit the MASSIVE profits they are making with old reactors. The pro-nuke energy lobby is only lobbying for the extension of old reactors because ... uh ... something ... eco friendly ... certainly not because they are pumping out pure profit since they've been paid off long ago.

Re:Nothing to worry about (5, Insightful)

kju (327) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515152)

Now, if the anti-nuclear energy lobby had actually allowed us to build more, modern reactors over that time period, then we would have plenty of new, modern, safe nuclear reactors.

Oh really? I have not much insight but i keep reading that there was never much resistance against nuclear power in the Japanese population because they a.) believed in the technology and b.) saw the necessity.

So what has barred the Japanese from buying those hypothetical "plenty of new, modern, safe nuclear reactors." Yes, I know that the plant in question was about to be shut down. Still it was in operation for 40 years in which time span the safety of nuclear was allegedly so much increased. So why wasn't it replaced 20 years ago?

The truth is that these power plants are operated by companies who want to earn money. They will never replace a plant before they are forced too. And that they weren't forced is not the fault of the opponents of nuclear power.

Re:Nothing to worry about (2)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515436)

I new these stupid "greens" are to blame here, I just couldn't find any way to connect emerging nuclear catastrophe with them. Thanks!

Re:Nothing to worry about (3, Insightful)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515182)

Without an earthquake (one of the biggest in recorded history, I might add) to disrupt the reactors, the Fukushima Daiichi plant could have continued happily along with no major problems. Good time to be somewhere else, granted, but this is hardly a disaster yet. As long as non-essential personnel get the hell out of there, and as long as they either get the reaction under control or start taking steps now to contain a meltdown, there should be no major issues. A bit of contamination, but Hiroshima AND Chernobyl are both relatively safe, compared to what nuclear doomsayers would have us believe about the lasting effects. Yes, I know the halflife of Plutonium is somewhere up around forty thousand years (give or take), but Plutonium won't comprise the majority of the contamination. Most of the decayed elements will be smaller radioactive isotopes with far far shorter halflives (years, decades maybe, not millennia), like Iodine, or Caesium. In fact, there's been more negative impact from coal and oil based power, even since the advent of nuclear power; hell, even if we include nuclear WEAPONS, there's been far more negative environmental impact made by fossil fuels than radiation. If I had a choice of living next door to a nuclear power plant, or a coal power plant, I'd pick nuclear any day of the week.

Nuclear power is only bad when something goes horribly wrong. Consider how many nuclear reactors there are in the world. How many reactive cores are currently operating. Now exactly how many times have we had a Chernobyl-scale disaster? One of the reasons Chernobyl got so far out of hand, I hear, was because the information output, such as it was in that era, just couldn't keep up with changing conditions inside the reactor. You'd have people working on information ten, fifteen minutes old, patching up lost causes the whole time. Chernobyl was of cheap, shoddy construction, even for then, and we learned so much from it - mostly in the "what NOT to do" category. Every year, there's a good dozen stories crop up on Slashdot about some new miracle bacteria or algae that just LOVES eating what we'd call radioactive waste, so storage and disposal of radioactive materials will eventually cease to be a problem. It would be cool if we could find a use for these radiation-eating bacteria, but hey, you can't have your pony and eat it too.

Conversely, no news is good news. How many times do you pick up the news paper and read the headline "All is well at the nuclear power plant"? How many success stories do you read about? Every time something involving nuclear power makes it into the news, even if it's (no, ESPECIALLY if it's) plans for a new reactor, the media is full of worst case scenarios and fears of another Chernobyl.

Re:Nothing to worry about (1)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515206)

Of course, I'll probably be alone in this opinion since this is apparently the same planet where people think wifi gives them rashes... Imagine telling one of those people to live next door to a nuclear plant!

Re:Nothing to worry about (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515394)

If I had a choice of living next door to a nuclear power plant, or a coal power plant, I'd pick nuclear any day of the week.

I have read that often the last days on /. and I simply don't get it. It what country do you live and what is wrong with your coal plants?
In germany nearly every majour city has a coal plant. There are no problems whatsoever with them. Except for CO2 the "hot air" they exhaust is cleaner than the air they take in ...
angel'o'sphere

Re:Nothing to worry about (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515462)

It would be cool if we could find a use for these radiation-eating bacteria, but hey, you can't have your pony and eat it too.

A little bit of common sense would tell you that those magical bacterias don't exist.
Bacterias live from chemical processes ... perhaps they are robust to live with "radioactive caesium" or can build up sugar with tritium, BUT by that the tritium, caesium, uranium or plutonium does not go away.
The only thing for which those bacterias are useful is to let them combine the "waste" into their metabolism and use some kind of pumping technology to get the bacterias out of the ground to store them elsewhere.
angel'o'sphere

Robots are the Answer (1)

Buzz Lomaz (1946758) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514818)

Trying to drop water from helicopters is not going to work, and apparently fire crews can't get close enough to the reactor with a water cannon. Surely Japan, of all places would have the expertise to rig up some remote-controlled fire trucks?

Re:Robots are the Answer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514950)

In Chernobyl robots were used to clean the roof of the reactor when the sarcophagus was being erected. This worked well until electronics started to fail due to the extreme levels of radiation. At that point humans had to be sent and complete the job.

One would expect 25 years of technological advancement would produce better robots but at the same time Japan is known for their Kamikaze approach.

Re:Robots are the Answer (4, Insightful)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515048)

But they are, in a way. Predator drones from Guam are now patrolling around the plant 24/7 sending live data to the Japanese techs on the ground.

Re:Robots are the Answer (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515128)

Yeah, but that would cost money, easier to let the thing burn, and not spend money.....

Re:Robots are the Answer (2)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515218)

Did you see the video of them dropping water on the reactor? What a joke.

They said it was 7 tons. 1 ton == 1000 L. That's like 50 or so of those office water things. Multiply by 7.

Did they seriously expect some serious cooling with that? Anybody with any smarts is going to go far away before the authorities fess up to the extent of the problem.

Re:Robots are the Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515376)

Trying to drop water from helicopters is not going to work, and apparently fire crews can't get close enough to the reactor with a water cannon.

Surely Japan, of all places would have the expertise to rig up some remote-controlled fire trucks?

The radiation is too high for robots. They tried the same at Chernobyl. Robots wouldn't work at all.

Re:Robots are the Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515414)

There are workers on site trying to restore power to the cooling system. Completion is expected within a day. Spraying water is just a deterrent of keeping the temperature down on the external walls and therefore preventing fires. Fires could destroy and stop the work being done on site.

If you believe in God, please, pray for those working on site right now.

THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. (-1, Flamebait)

Oh Gawwd Peak Oil (1000227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514854)

None of this is happening.

Nuclear power is safe. No one will suffer. No one will die.

This is all an overreaction by environmentalists and sensationalist media. If you read that anything bad is happening or anyone has died, it is a lie. Nuclear power is safe! I repeat SAFE! SAFE!!!!!

Sincerely,
The Slashdot Propaganda Machine

Re:THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515022)

The first two incidents at reactors #1 and #3 released some radioactive material. The majority of people saying it wasn't a big deal were talking about those releases, very few of them were claiming that the situation was stable.

Re:THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515242)

We've always been at war with Eastasia!

Re:THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. (1)

jbonomi (1839286) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515256)

Where does this position come from? Can't you see that the whole situation warrants a bit more of a nuanced view? "Bad things have happened before, so we should never do it again" is a pretty underwhelming argument, especially when the cause of these problems is well understood and could be mitigated.

Re:THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. (2)

ZigiSamblak (745960) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515420)

This may be moderated as flamebait, however this is exactly the attitude many people responding to the news of the Fukushima reactors on slashdot seem to have. How can you be so in love with nuclear that even when four reactors are in various states of melting down and leaking dangerous amounts of radiation into the environment that you find it necessary to attack any doubts on the supposed safety and environmental goodness of nuclear power?

Reminds me of Inspector Drebin standing infront of the exploding building in Naked Gun. "Nothing to see here people!"

Rethinking my pro-nuclear stance (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35514862)

I have always been pretty pro-nuclear power. It doesn't suffer from almost all of the drawbacks that classic power generation suffers from, nor many of the drawbacks of 'green' power generation (works only with wind/sun or you need such a LOT of it to generate anything significant). I've never had anyone be able to present an argument against it that couldn't be picked apart easily - apart from "well, *I* wouldnt want to live next to one". But I must admit I am having to rethink my position. Maybe small, self contained reactors are the answer, but I doubt it.

The Japanese are number 1 when it comes to earthquake proofing. So if they are unable to build plants that can take a big natural disaster (very big sure, but certainly not unheard of) without turning into a catastrophy, I'm really wondering if the idea simply is not inherently flawed. I mean even if it turns out this was caused by sloppy building and bribed inspectors or what have you, even if this was just a small proportion of the nuclear plants in the affected zone - then it still proves that one cannot guarantee there won't be a giant radioactive 'event' in case of a large natural disaster. I really shudder to think what would happen if there was a big earthquake in Russia right now. Or anywhere near the North Korean nuclear facilities. Does anyone believe that they are better prepared for something like that than the Japanese would be?

Re:Rethinking my pro-nuclear stance (2, Informative)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515136)

I would have to think that catastrophe on any scale affecting the classic generation would result in different types of harm to outside living in some way or another. If a coal plant goes up in flames then we have to deal with the massive air pollution and damage to anything that happens to be down-wind. If a natural gas plant goes up, same thing, except then we're dealing with toxic levels of gas on top of all the smoke. They all have their good points and bad points. I sill believe that nuclear power offers more pros than cons.

Re:Rethinking my pro-nuclear stance (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515294)

When coal plants are operating we have to deal with the massive air pollution.

We should all be concerned (0, Troll)

Tigger's Pet (130655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514868)

Given Japan's position as the third biggest economy in the world and the amount that they produce which is exported to the rest of the world, as well as their technological knowledge, I think we should all be massively concerned about the impact that will be had on the rest of the world, not just from what has already occurred with the tsunami, but also if there is a nuclear meltdown and possible explosion at the plant. Chernobyl still has a 20 mile exclusion zone to this day and the are directly affected by the disaster was far, far wider. If something similar happens in Japan then Tokyo could quite easily become a ghost town for years to come, along with huge areas of Japan. Hell, wind factors could quite easily carry any fallout across Korea and China at the very least.
I seriously think that the time has come for them to do to the Fukushima Daiichi plant what was eventually done to Chernobyl and encase the whole thing in a concrete-mix shroud now before it is too late to stop something worse happening in the days to come.

Re:We should all be concerned (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515034)

I think we should all be massively concerned about the impact that will be had on the rest of the world, not just from what has already occurred with the tsunami, but also if there is a nuclear meltdown and possible explosion at the plant.

Your a fucking idiot. You're not thinking, you're letting your complete ignorance in this field and fear concoct impossible risks, and sharing idiotic solutions to those imaginary issues.

There are more extreme steps Japan could take to have near complete control. Unfortunately all of them include operating near the reactors and exposed fuel rods (the real threat). If they could do this easily (without workers being exposed to higher levels of radiation near these areas) I'm sure they would.

Re:We should all be concerned (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515248)

While I agree that there will probably not be a "nuclear meltdown" I think you're being a little harsh. Tigger's Pet has a good point about the impact on the rest of the world, economically speaking. If China had a similar catastrophe how do you think that would affect the prices of the many goods that come out of the country? Hell, computer prices in general are probably going to go up now and that's just one of Japan's contributions.

Re:We should all be concerned (2, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515042)

I feel like that last post was written by a cheerleader.

>>>If something similar happens in Japan then Tokyo could quite easily become a ghost town

Tokyo's around 200 miles away! Jeez. And encasing everything in concrete would be dumb, as the nuclear material would simply keep heating-up until a worse disaster happened. You have to DEAL with the problem, not dump a bunch of concrete and hope it goes away.

Re:We should all be concerned (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515154)

And encasing everything in concrete would be dumb, as the nuclear material would simply keep heating-up until a worse disaster happened. You have to DEAL with the problem, not dump a bunch of concrete and hope it goes away.

Actually, that's not true. Encasing it is a viable (though probably last ditch effort) solution. Yes it will generate a lot of heat, but that doesn't really matter. The important thing is that, once encased, it cannot start a fire (no oxygen). Radioactive soot from a fire is probably the most dangerous part of the whole situation (outside of direct radiation exposure to people actually at the plant)

Where's the water? (1)

jasenj1 (575309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514930)

I would be concerned with where all that water went and what its state is?

One would assume the containment ponds are leaking into the ground. How radioactive is the water? How long lived is its radioactivity?

Re:Where's the water? (1)

Orgasmatron (8103) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515056)

It didn't leak out, it evaporated. The spent fuel is a heat source worth around a million watts or so.

Re:Where's the water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515276)

A 1MW heat source is going to boil away 1MW/2257kJ = 0.443kg/s of the water. The spent fuel pools appear to be 12m x 29m x 11m in dimensions, so contain 3.8 million litres of water. This would take about 100 days to boil away. So where has all the water gone, so quickly?

Re:Where's the water? (2)

CnlPepper (140772) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515480)

I suspect it is more likely a leak or partial leak. These plants have been through hell, a serious earthquake, multiple smaller aftershocks, a tsunami, 2 huge hydrogen explosions, 2 smaller hydrogen explosions and fires. It is possible that some of the water circulation pipes or the pool structure was damaged.

Re:Where's the water? (1)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515076)

They aren't leaking, they are being boiled away as steam. Normally they are kept chilled so that doesnt happen, but without power the temperature rose and boiled it off.

Is Japan is melting down? (1)

Kenneth Stephen (1950) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514932)

As reported in the NY Times [nytimes.com] - it looks like this is Japan's Katrina. From reading the article, I get a sense that this is worse than what happened with Katrina in the US. Any readers from Japan care to comment? It seems like, even if there are very dedicated and smart people working the problem, this wouldn't be something that can be handled simply by nuclear experts. Effective management of this as a crisis is needed, and the people in charge need to work together as a team to solve a national crisis. Neither of which seem to be happening.

Re:Is Japan is melting down? (5, Informative)

musikit (716987) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515006)

i live in tokyo. since friday there have been daily earthquakes sometimes multiple with a magnitude of at least 3. i live in the akihabara area and businesses are doing their best to reduce all power consumption. people too are doing a good job of reducing power consumption. sections of the greater tokyo area are in scheduled black outs. trains are running at a 50%-75% schedule. as far what is happening up north.... i know what you know. where all my foreign friends have left i am still here. i went to shinagawa 2 times this week to get a reentry permit and the line the first time was 15hrs long. so i showed up the next day 1 hour before opening and the line was 2km or longer. as far as my japanese friends they are concerned however tokyo is still running, people still have jobs to goto and such.

Re:Is Japan is melting down? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515372)

And, for those not in Japan, a frequently updated plot [usgs.gov] of earthquakes around the island and their magnitudes.

not Japan's Katrina (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515196)

Japan's Katrina x 100,000

Re:Is Japan is melting down? (5, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515396)

As reported in the NY Times [nytimes.com] - it looks like this is Japan's Katrina. From reading the article, I get a sense that this is worse than what happened with Katrina in the US. Any readers from Japan care to comment? It seems like, even if there are very dedicated and smart people working the problem, this wouldn't be something that can be handled simply by nuclear experts. Effective management of this as a crisis is needed, and the people in charge need to work together as a team to solve a national crisis. Neither of which seem to be happening.

The nuclear bit hasn't produced much in the way of damage, at this point, but the tsunami did far, far more damage to Japan than Katrina did to the United States. Katrina isn't even on the same order of magnitude. I've been shocked to see tv news sources suggesting that Japan wants to avoid a Katrina-scale disaster as if this weren't already ~hundreds of times worse.

not real likely (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35514978)

In case you didn't know, every single backup system failed in a row. That's not real likely if your government actually inspects them and has tight safety policies. Japan apparently didn't because that power company had huge problems with safety and maintenence in the past. Their main pump, diesel pump, elecrtic pump, and battery powered pump that's supposed to deliver cooling all failed. That's REALLY unlikely to happen if you actually test them every couple months, unlike them. So we really just need more/better laws and testing policies, not less nuclear plants.

Re:not real likely (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515124)

Didn't the battery operated pumps go out when the batteries ran out of energy?

That's still a failure of that system, but it seems less of a maintenance failure and more of a part of the interconnected failures that came from underestimating nature.

20/20 by the masters of 20/20 (0)

equex (747231) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515010)

Because the US has handled all their disasters with flying colors....just shut up already USA.

Re:20/20 by the masters of 20/20 (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515228)

>Because the US has handled all their disasters with flying colors....just shut up already USA.

How about, instead of making this about a jingoistic Japan vs. US thing, making it about people vs. politicians generally?

US Alarmed Over Deep Water horizon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515068)

How about "US Alarmed Over Deep Water horizon". I mean if choosing from the two, oil spill is the worst one. Sea life could survive in some diffused Radiation but not covered in oil. And no one gives a damn about it anymore, like nothing had happened.

Where are the robots? (1)

cormandy (513901) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515238)

Where the hell are all of the robots Japan has been promoting over the years? Instead of designing robots that mimic facial expressions or perform synchronous dance routines, why didn't they build any that could assist with such an obvious catastrophe? FFS Japan: get with the program!

Sarcasm at it's finest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515246)

The moment the USA tells it's people to run slowly but steadily, it is time to run like you never ran before.

Really? (0)

deepershade (994429) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515286)

America overreactting and freaking out about something?
Color me shocked.

Someone should tell the US media that growing testicles doesn't cost money.

tell me if my understanding is wrong but: (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515288)

the big error was in having the diesel generators in the basement. they got swamped by the tsunami. lesson: put the back up generators on the roof. or one on the roof and one in the basement, if you are afraid of a terrorist rocket

now the japanese are dumping water on the reactors with helicopters and fire hoses, which is amateur hour because apparently the pressure in the reactor makes it hard to get water in there. an analogy i heard is it is like trying to weakly push water into a balloon full of air (without popping the balloon, might i add)

therefore, the only real emergency solutions i see, correct me if i am wrong, is either: 1. get some new backup generators there asap, or 2. run some emergency electrical lines to the power plant asap

they need to power that water cycling equipment, asap

or rather, get it done 3 days ago ;-(

i'm sorry japan, this is quite bad, i feel for your proud nation and this apocalypse. i am somewhat of a movie buff and have always admired your cultural output from afar, i often attend movie screenings at the japan society at 47th st in nyc. i even got to ask questions from the audience with famous japanese directors, like sion sono and go shibata, translated and answered, which was quite thrilling

i will try to make a donation there. there's no other word to describe what is happening to your country: it is an apocalypse. i am very sorry

Re:tell me if my understanding is wrong but: (1)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515368)

Part of the problem is that reactor is an older design whereby it even needed generators, whereas newer ones do not need to be made "actively" safe. This design should really have been decommissioned and replaced by something more capable of standing up to the earth opening up beneath it. The reasons why it wasn't replaced I don't know, nor if it Should have been (best guess is it should). The removal of needing generators to actively cool the plant remove one of it's major single-points-of-failure.

Re:tell me if my understanding is wrong but: (2)

zarzu (1581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515418)

therefore, the only real emergency solutions i see, correct me if i am wrong, is either: 1. get some new backup generators there asap, or 2. run some emergency electrical lines to the power plant asap

Incidentally, this is what they are doing. But since power isn't restored just by clapping your hands, they're doing whatever they can to delay meltdowns and spread of radiation.

fuel rods are explosive (1)

gordona (121157) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515302)

The fuel rods in these reactors are made from a zirconium compound. This compound is explosive above 2000 deg. There are tons of this stuff to go boom spreading the radionuclides from the tons of the spent fuel, into the atmosphere. Is this shades of "On The Beach"? But, not to worry, the government says we are safe just like they said the environment around the WTC was safe.

Japan nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35515348)

that is the opinion of ONE man out of millions. Don't give it more weight than it deserves. It is too early to say, with certainty, that the Japan nuclear corporation is guilty like BP:http://www.footholdshoes.com

Let's be precise here (1)

Nailer235 (1822054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515374)

The summary says that "the fuel could combust." I'm not a nuclear engineer, but is this statement accurate? The article made it seem as though the fuel would reach very high temperatures, and things AROUND it would catch fire (and then carry the radioactive materials in the smoke). It didn't sound as though the fuel itself was going to combust, just that it would melt.

the media (5, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35515456)

This disaster has destroyed what little faith I had left in the media. It's disgusting what they are doing right now.
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