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Further Updates On Post-Tsumami Japan

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the virgin-mobile-was-evidently-affected-too dept.

Japan 369

DarkStarZumaBeach points out a frequently updated page from the International Atomic Energy Agency with updates on the situation at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, which reports in terse but readable form details of the dangers and progress there. The most recent update says that the plant's Unit 2 has been re-wired for power, and engineers 'plan to reconnect power to unit 2 once the spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building is completed.' Read on for more on the tsunami aftermath.Reader srwellman writes "A large plume of radioactive smoke is heading from Japan to the West Coast of the US. Officials claim the plume is not dangerous."

dooms13 suggests (by way of The Register) that the disaster in Fukushima is nonetheless a demonstrated triumph for nuclear safety: "If nuclear powerplants were merely as safe as they are advertised to be, there should have been a major failure right then. As the hot cores ceased to be cooled by the water which is used to extract power from them, control rods would have remained withdrawn and a runaway chain reaction could have ensued – probably resulting in the worst thing that can happen to a properly designed nuclear reactor: a core meltdown in which the superhot fuel rods actually melt and slag down the whole core into a blob of molten metal. In this case the only thing to do is seal up the containment and wait: no radiation disaster will take place, but the reactor is a total writeoff and cooling the core off will be difficult and take a long time. Eventual cleanup will be protracted and expensive."

Something to contemplate while the rescue effort continues: imscarr writes "The coastline of Japan has drastically changed since the earthquake & tsunami. New bays have formed and many areas are completely flooded. These interactive before-and-after images show you the magnitude of devastation. Other photos here."

Adds reader madcarrots: "The Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB), a unit of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), directed by Professor Michel Andre, has recorded the sound of the earthquake that shook Japan on Friday, March 11. The recording, now available online, was provided by a network of underwater observatories belonging to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and located on either side of the earthquake epicenter, close to the Japanese island of Hatsushima."

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Tsumami? (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521454)

Is that like a tsunami mommy?

One of the five basic tsu-tastes (3, Funny)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521502)

Tsumami [wikipedia.org] as opposed to tsusweet, tsusalty, tsusour, and tsubitter.

Re:One of the five basic tsu-tastes (1)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521824)

Tsumami [wikipedia.org] as opposed to tsusweet, tsusalty, tsusour, and tsubitter.

I'm sure many people are feeling quite tsusour at the moment. You might even say they are tsubitter about it. ;-)
Sorry, I couldn't resist

Re:Tsumami? (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522058)

It means a snack you have with drinks. Japan went out drinking last night, apparently.

doesn't god et al protect the babys/all of us? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521456)

absolutely not. only the chosen ones claim intervention by beings (themselves includead) on chariots of fire, virgin (do monkeys have a hymen?) birth etc.... other civilizations remember it differently (torture, being experimented on, breeding rituals etc...), however are familiar with the 'chariots', which are still in use today, having been co-opted by,, never mind.

we were created to protect/thrive ALL the bips. no other reason. we know that? why continually 'divvy 'em up'. if we fail them, again....

Don't be too proud (0, Troll)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521470)

Of the technological terror you've created.

Above all, don't pat yourselves on your (so far) only minimally irradiated backs. It's not over yet, not by a long shot. And while defense in depth has worked to a significant degree I will be you those engineers responsible for siting ALL the backup generators seaward of the reactors are having second thoughts. As are the geologists who suggested that a 5 meter tsunami was as large as need be covered for, despite pretty clear geological evidence of 30 meter waves in the past and the longstanding knowledge that specific wave heights vary with a large number of variables.

Why the hell nobody thought of putting a 30 meter wall in front of a reactor complex is beyond me. No, you don't have to seal the whole coast - just in front of those glowing things.

Nature will yet throw us something unexpected. Bet on it.

Re:Don't be too proud (3, Insightful)

vbraga (228124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521526)

Do you think a 30 meters wall is able to survive the impact of a 30 meters tsunami wave? You know fucking nothing.

Re:Don't be too proud (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521556)

I know enough not to build a nuclear plant on a tsunami prone coast that can't be protected by walls.

Re:Don't be too proud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521792)

Wise after the fact. Face it: you couldn't build a wall out of lego.

Re:Don't be too proud (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521892)

Face it, they cut corners to make more of a profit. And talk about stupid, tsunamis happen all the time in Japan, this was built "after the fact." Are you seriously surprised that there was a tsunami of this size in Japan? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_tsunamis [wikipedia.org]

Face it, tsunami heights top five meters almost all the time.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522140)

Cutting corners to up profits isn't really a big part of Japanese culture, especially 40 years ago with anything having to do with nuclear safety. Your accusations are as insulting as they are unfounded.

This was a worst-reasonable-case external hazard for a nuclear reactor, and it held up quite well. Much like Three Mile Island, there doesn't seem to be much harm done here, aside from the economic value of the plant itself. This whole CNN-fueled panic over a non-crisis is a sad diversion away from the real disaster (the thousands killed by the tsunami) and the relief efforts needed on the coast.

Re:Don't be too proud (2)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522202)

Cutting corners to up profit

THAT is bean-counter territory. every color and nationality has them; and the engineers take shit.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522222)

You do know this plant was built by GE, right? And that three engineers [wikipedia.org] quite in protest over the unsafe design? Excuse me if I'm not concerned about insulting an American megacorporation.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522406)

GE did the designs. Lots of companies were involved in the construction, with GE, Toshiba and Hitachi supplying the reactors.

Re:Don't be too proud (5, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521910)

I know enough not to build a nuclear plant on a tsunami prone coast that can't be protected by walls.

If only you were there 40 years ago when this reactor was installed to warn them of the dangers... maybe you could have told them to use a more modern design that doesn't require active cooling to remain safe. Maybe you already have a map showing them exactly where to site the reactors? Or do you have a viable alternative to nuclear in your back pocket?

Lots of people can use hindsight to show exactly what went wrong in *this* particular incident, but who can tell where the next natural disaster will strike and how it will manifest itself? Did you already tell California to shut down its two coastal nukes? And it's not like nukes are the only power generating hazard out there - TVA was lucky that the billions of gallons of fly ash discharge didn't kill anyone.

USA officials seem to have a lot of criticism for the Japanese and how they handled this incident, but truth be told, this reactor survived a quake 30 times larger than it was designed for and so far hasn't spun out of control into a large scale disaster. If they hadn't lost power it's likely that this would have been a very minor incident. If the USA wants to criticize, then they need look no further than their own backyard. In California their 2 coastal nuclear plants are designed for a 7.0 or 7.5 earthquake but there's a very good chance that California will have a larger quake in the next 30 years. Oh, and at one of them, they installed the seismic reinforcements backwards [wikipedia.org] and at the other, the entire reactor was installed backwards [wikipedia.org] . Oops.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522094)

Do you know how often tsunamis larger than five meters hit the coast of Japan? Anyone who lives there could tell you the last time a tsunami this size or larger hit, a ten meter tsunami hit Okushiri in 1993, and before that, another ten meter tsunami hit Wajima in 1983. I'm not criticizing Japan, per se, I am criticizing the cost cutting tendencies of the nuclear industry, which could have a perfect safety record if they cared to.

Re:Don't be too proud (2)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522186)

Aiming for a perfect safety record, or in general setting the bar too high, just causes people to game the system (just look at the games that go on with Japan's homicide police given the expectation of 90%+ solution rates for murders). Aiming for safe failure modes makes much more sense, and this plant was quite reasonable in that regard.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522216)

Nothing has a perfect saftey record. ever. The longer something is around the more likely problems will develop. Here they were hit not only a major quake which as saftey indicates they shut down for, but then got hit by a wave of water strong enough to move a cargo ship miles in shore.

No wall would have stopped that, as the wave would go around, the wall and then flood back into the wall still destroying the generators. That's if the wall wasn't knocked down on top of said generators by the shear force of the wave to begin with.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522262)

Then don't build it on the coast! And listen when your engineers tell you it isn't safe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GE_Three [wikipedia.org]

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521854)

Yeah, a 30-metre wall is ridiculous, especially because there are so much easier and cheaper options. If the backup generators were placed further up on the hill above the plant they would have been fine. This part of the coast is relatively steep-sloped, so it didn't even have to be very far away -- still inside the fence around the Fukushima plant site. Problem solved. Risk averted. No "big engineering" needed. Worst case, you have to reconnect them. Also, 30m is a bit extreme. From what I've been reading in the literature, the worst historical tsunami along this stretch of coast are "only" in the ~5-7m range, unless you're in a bay with a shape that is particularly effective at focusing the wave (and the nuclear plant is on a broad point, not a bay, and the obvious solution here is: don't build the plant at the head of a bay).

Why nobody thought to take adequate measures against this *known* scale of historical tsunami is something for which heads will probably roll in the subsequent investigations. Not designing for this level of tsunami is simply foolish on this coast.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521860)

I do think it might have been wise to keep the generators on high ground (or deep underground) in a coastal area prone to typhoons and tsunamis. Why they didn't do this is beyond me (seriously, who doesn't plan on a tsunami on the Japanese coast??).

Re:Don't be too proud (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521886)

Yes. And I know more than you. But don't let me convince you - just look at the concrete buildings still standing right next to the harbor. Look at the bridges, hospitals and schools that survived. Oh it will be expensive. And you'll have to fill it with earth, to take the weight. And it will crack. But it can be done easily.

Re:Don't be too proud (2)

Helphin (1978910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521598)

A 30 meter wall would be the same height as a 10 story building... It might also stop the water from leaving the area thereby causing more problems. These things are usually designed with pretty good safety factors and with redundant systems. If it were just the earthquake or just the tsunami we probably wouldn't have this scenario, its the combination of both that caused it... Do remember an earthquake of this magnitude is a 1 in 1000+ year event. It's not realistic to plan for those when the life of your reactor is 50 years...

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521740)

Making that assertion with no reference to the costs or consequences of the 1000+ year events is just insane. It might not make sense to plan for 1000 year events, but no trivial analysis could possibly demonstrate that.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521918)

The big problem I have (with my retrospectascope) is that they KNEW that there were very large tsunamis in the past. They KNEW that predicting wave height in any given place for any potential tsunami is impossible. Putting up a 100 foot or even a 100 meter concrete wall isn't especially difficult - it's a bit expensive but it's certainly do able. They KNEW that 'predicting' earthquakes is very imprecise and so far has an rather poor track record.

So tumble that through the ringer of planning and funding a major engineering endeavor and you end up with some engineering assumptions that look pretty damned stupid.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522310)

t might not make sense to plan for 1000 year events

we DO when the radioactive crap will be here for thousands of years.

Re:Don't be too proud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521756)

Then you bulldoze it in pause mode and hope that the microwave or fusion plants are unlocked by then?

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

eviljolly (411836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521832)

To be fair, 50 out of 1000 is still a 1 in 20 chance. You can't plan for everything though.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

Helphin (1978910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521992)

Agreed, you certainly can't plan for everything and you do try to plan for the worst case. That's why there's not just one backup system but a few different ones and the plant is designed with bigger safety factors than normal. Also each backup system is maintained by different personnel so the "human factor" can partially be taken out of the equation. It's impossible to have something that's 100% resistant to everything...

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522394)

And yet, in a region known for frequent ten meter tsunamis, the last one in 1993, they built the backup generator directly at sea level, on the coast, and designed it to withstand a five meter tsunami. Maybe because it was cheaper to do it that way. If you are the CEO who decides to do something like this, and people die, you will not face prosecution. But if you don't make your shareholders rich next quarter, you WILL be out of a job. It doesn't take genius insight into human nature to tell what will happen, given those incentives.

Re:Don't be too proud (3, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522142)

1/1000 chance per year = .999 annualized chance of normal operation .999^(~436 reactors) = 1 in 3 annualized chance of meltdown somewhere in the world.

Clearly your numbers are off, but still, the point remains the same: when it comes to things with great potential for harm, you need a far higher standard than just 1:1000 chance of disaster. What's an acceptable rate of time for a 50% probability for an INES Cat. 6 event? 1:500 years? Each reactor would need to have an annualized INES Cat. 6 failure probability of 0.000317% (a 1 in 315,000 chance).

Great risk requires great caution.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522336)

Except in this case there was no great harm, due to proper planning. When the dungheap hit the windmill, the failure mode was reasonably safe. Great risk comes from building a Chernobyl-style reactor. The best way to limit risk is to make the reactor fail as safely as possible, not arrogantly assume you can anticipate all the rare sources of risk and declare that you're not vulnerable to any of them!

There are modern designs that really take this to heart. While a "pebble bed" reactor perhaps isn't the ideal design for a for-profit power plant, it's a great example of starting from a fundamentally fail-safe design so that you're not trying to kid youself that you've thought of every possible risk.

Three Mile Island was a great object lesson in the importance of usability to design (the staff did exactly the wronng thing at every decision point), but also a lesson in how safe non-communist reactors are (the staff did exactly the wronng thing at every decision point -and still no one died).

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

Helphin (1978910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522370)

That's not quite right. According to your math a 1 in 1000 year event affects a reactor every 3 years and leads to a meltdown. A 1 in 1000 year event could be a magnitude 6 earthquake depending on where the reactor is built so it might have no effect.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522388)

thanks for the numbers.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522282)

Do remember an earthquake of this magnitude is a 1 in 1000+ year event. It's not realistic to plan for those when the life of your reactor is 50 years...

so with 1000 reactors across the globe(442-6 in operation, 65 in construction), you can have one of these every year ?

Re:Don't be too proud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521784)

Or, you know, put backup generators and fuel tanks underground. That's what they do in the US.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35522074)

Streamlined bunkers of reinforced concreted with Stirling engines [wikipedia.org] powering the emergency systems would probably have been a much better idea. Doesn't necessarily need external air supply and a damn lot easier to fix than diesels should something go wrong.

Re:Don't be too proud (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522366)

What the hell are you burning without air to run this Stirling engine?

What do you plan on using as your source of cold?
The delta between the hot side and the cold is going to need to be fairly high to make that practical.

Misleading in the extreme (5, Informative)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521508)

Reader srwellman writes "A large plume of radioactive smoke is heading from Japan to the West Coast of the US. Officials claim the plume is not dangerous."

The linked source does NOT validate that assertion whatsoever. [nytimes.com] The 'plume' is a forecast of the way a plume would take shape across the pacific, if it were to exist. No-one is saying that there is a radioactive smoke plume of any magnitude, including undetectable. It is a weather forecast, meant for internal consumption by various national nuclear agencies for contingency planning and leaked to the NYT, nothing more.

Re:Misleading in the extreme (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521778)

So weather forecasts are automatically NOT predictive? I understand weather pattern estimates don't always pan out, but they are generally more accurate than not. What point are you trying to make, other than just being needlessly contrarian?

Re:Misleading in the extreme (5, Insightful)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521966)

Because it is the worst kind of bullshit scaremongering to report "Radioactive plume crossing towards USA" when the story is "Agency draws up probable route potential radioactive plume would take", in the same way it would be to report "Response plan drawn up to potential terrorist bombing" as "Terrorist bombing".

Re:Misleading in the extreme (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35522038)

You still miss the point - there is no "plume of radioactive smoke" to be moved by weather. It was a simulation
of how a block of air moves from japan to the west coast. There is no plume for it to move, and if there was
the model did *nothing* to model the actual dispersion of radiation and particles during that journey.

Re:Misleading in the extreme (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522156)

So weather forecasts are automatically NOT predictive? I understand weather pattern estimates don't always pan out, but they are generally more accurate than not. What point are you trying to make, other than just being needlessly contrarian?

I can't believe this AC post was modded up and the GP modded down. Fridaynightsmoke is making an important clarification from TFA (and even TFA doesn't emphasize this point nearly enough): there is no plume. The prediction is based on the hypothetical situation of a constant emission from nuclear plants in Japan, simply predicting where that radioactive material would travel. He's not questioning the weather prediction at all. He's pointing out that the report says, "If there were a worst case scenario plume, which so far isn't the case and almost certainly won't be, where would it go?"

Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (3, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521596)

From New York to Germany, politicians are proposing shutting-down nuclear plants.

Talk about jumping to rash conclusions. What are we supposed to use for power once the oil/coal becomes scarce and as expensive as silver? We need nuclear power as a replacement fuel (and supplemented by solar).

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (5, Insightful)

gamanimatron (1327245) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521648)

They've learned that fear can be converted directly into money, by way of voters. Who do you think is going to be selling you that coal?

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1, Flamebait)

Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522126)

Yep,

I clicked on a CNN video of the explosion at the plant, and was conveniently served an ad about "Safe, Clean, Coal"

I nearly retched.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (3, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521672)

Welcome to media hype and the anti-nuclear nuts run amok. By the way, next time they trot out the "experts", jot down the names and do a search. You'll find most of them are linked to anti-nuclear groups.

Not running amok (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521802)

Welcome to media hype and the anti-nuclear nuts run amok.

They are not running amok so much as running away from the industry shills and misguided nuclear enthusiasts, who, when each new batch of egg hits their face, remind us that raw egg can be very good for the skin.

Re:Not running amok (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522416)

Nothing wrong with nuclear power if its done correctly. I seem to remember liquid sodium cooled reactors that are safer than any of the water reactors, yet you anti-nuclear people wont allow these safe reactors to be built to replace the less safe water reactors. Good work, you basically made a self fulfilling prophecy.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521896)

This isn't flamebait, it's incredibly accurate. It isn't specific to anti-nuclear groups but people that want to control others via fear. You know "BEWARE OF NUCLEAR FALLOUT IMMINENT!" etc etc.

For real news read here - http://mitnse.com/ [mitnse.com] - ,where, everything is calming down.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (4, Insightful)

Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522430)

Yes, MIT, which brought us the widely quoted "why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors" blog post early on. What's that? You can't find "why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors?" Oh, it seems mitnse.com has taken that highly rosy, bright and shiny optimistic tract down. Probably because the disaster that it dismissed has slowly happened. You can read that original post with a little googling. Pay close attention to the "worst-case-scenario" at the end.
Forgive me if I don't automatically accept the rosy outlook of people who are going to college to build and run nuclear plants.

Has there been breathless overreaction? Absolutely! I still hear crap on the news that makes me facepalm. But at the same time, TEPCO has consistently downplayed the real situation. other actual experts are considerably more worried about the ability of TEPCO to get a handle on this.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522180)

Wish I had some mod points left for you.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522396)

anti-nuclear groups = pro big oil and coal

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521760)

>>>oil/coal becomes scarce and as expensive as silver?

That would be ~$160,000 per barrel. I suppose oil will never reach that high.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521888)

>>>oil/coal becomes scarce and as expensive as silver?

That would be ~$160,000 per barrel. I suppose oil will never reach that high.

Is that by weight or by volume?

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521952)

That would be ~$160,000 per barrel. I suppose oil will never reach that high.

Fight enough wars for it and it will.

As for the grandparent; you're supposed to sit in your community yurt and shiver.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522218)

That would be ~$160,000 per barrel. I suppose oil will never reach that high.

Fight enough wars for it and it will.

Nope. Because you can synthesize it from a lot of other stuff far cheaper than that. (Proven sources include garbage, sewage, and crop waste.) Potential replacements become more numerous if you're replacing the various refined products piecemeal rather than replacing the crude oil feedstock itself.

Oil is used because it's CHEAPER than the alternatives. Once it gets more expensive the usage switches to alternatives (after a short startup time) and demand goes away.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35522228)

African or European barrel?

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (4, Insightful)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521794)

people have short memories, BP just got through destroying much of the Gulf of Mexico with IMHO a much worse Oil Disaster.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521796)

Exactly. When coal and oil get up there (it will take awhile for coal to get there as we have massive amounts of it and costs 10-50 bucks for 4-6 tons of it). It will not be a matter of 'oh maybe we should use nuke power' it will be matter of how much can we bring online.

We need better cheaper designs. Newer designs that take these sorts of problems into account. The plant in question is a 1960's design with shove in the dirt in the mid 70s. Even back then there were questions about the design.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521988)

On the upside, the anti-nuke environmental wackos are having a fucking field day. Nothing beats some good Chicken Little scare tactics and a convenient radiation boogeyman to advance your hippie agenda.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522434)

are you saying there is nothing wrong with nuclear power ? are you saying absolute safety is even physically possible ?

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522026)

Stupid move. Any nuke plant you shut down will have to be maintained as though it's running while you wait for a decade or more for the fuel to be unreactive enough to be transported off-site. You might as well make money on the electricity it can generate while that's happening, and you would be better off retrofitting it with a gravity-fed flooding mechanism with an inlet a long distance away and behind significant shielding.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

sirsnork (530512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522164)

And when the earthquake cracks the inlet tube and all the water dumps before the reactor?

Nothing is ever fullproof. You do the best you can with the money you have and the ideas/plans available.

Personally I'm more impressed the facility came throught he quake unscathed, and ironically it's the lack of power thats the problem.

So, how can a nuclear power plant not have power when a reaction is still occuring, thats the thing thats confused me here. It's a power plant, and yet the cooling pumps are powered exclusivly by an off-site feed? Shouldn't there be redundant connection to these pumps, at the very least so the facility is self sufficient?

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522040)

You? You'll be jacked into port 12B888 on pylon zed-zed-plural-zed-alpha. 200 watts of continuous thermal output as long as we have enough beer and donuts in intravenous form.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522056)

interesting. I double-replied to the same post without noticing. I need to get into the lab and clear this shit out of my brain for the rest of the day.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

ZeRu (1486391) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522338)

From New York to Germany, politicians are proposing shutting-down nuclear plants.

I wonder, what would those clueless politicians say if, instead of Tsunami, Japan was hit by a meteor?
Better not to tell them about "Laws of Gravity", or they might appeal to change them.

Shit is bound to happen to our world from time to time, in form of earthquakes, tsunamis, meteors, no matter what we do, and most of the time we can't do anything to prevent it - only minimize the consequences, and you can't say that Japanese didn't do everything in their effort to minimize radiation leaking.

Re:Shutting down nuke plants is a bit foolish (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522380)

The mass hysteria over nuclear power is ridiculous. If any of these people would pick up a physics textbook they would realize Fukushima is not dangerous to anyone but the Japanese in a 100 mile radius of it. Furthermore, an earthquake followed by a tsunami is not something that most mainland nuclear reactors need to worry about. As I have heard, the reactor did well until the tsunami hit. Ok, so we shouldnt build nuclear reactors on the coastline in an area prone to tsunamis, lesson learned, now apply the lesson and stop bitching about one of the cleanest and highest yielding energy sources within man's reach.

water and electricity.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521628)

the whole thing has been flooded and douched with salt water, better not stand too close to the fuse box when they fire that thing back up ..

Re:water and electricity.. (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521994)

It's not starting back up. Ever. If the salt water wasn't enough, the potassium borate that they were pumping in (remember the report of the US delivering "coolant"? boron is a neutron absorber, it's not normally in the cooling water, it's used when the cooling water isn't working, and it gums up the core) was. Those reactors are useless forever now.

Re:water and electricity.. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522324)

Those reactors are useless forever now.

If any didn't actually have something melt (and the water didn't have significant cobalt) they COULD be cleaned up and restarted. But it would be SO expensive that it's far cheaper to build new ones. (Post-apocalypse approval process and all...)

astroturf in action (4, Interesting)

0WaitState (231806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521666)

This link:

Bad Oehmen: Confirmation Bias, Sources & Astroturfing [ritholtz.com]

Describes the curious case of how a reassuring first time web post ("Why I am not worried about Japans nuclear reactors") from a guy working on a liason project at MIT in a non-nuclear engineering or physicist role somehow got reposted 30,000 times in one day.

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

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

Re:astroturf in action (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521806)

If that article was anything but innocent, the people behind it were really bad at what they were doing. It only took the fuel rods catching fire for the article to look a little too relaxed about the situation, a day or 2 after it had been published.

Re:astroturf in action (1)

0WaitState (231806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521926)

The point is that a clueless don't worry be happy posting from a very-non expert was picked up and broadcast over the web 30,000 times in one day, while being misrepresented as coming from an MIT nuclear scientist. This guy had literally zero history of posting on the subject or credentials in the space, yet his first-time posting got promoted very energetically.

Re:astroturf in action (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522034)

Yeah? By calling it astroturf, you are saying that someone with an agenda spread it on purpose.

30,000 internet people is nothing, it is a non-statistic, it is well explained by the article simply sounding credible and spreading around.

Re:astroturf in action (0)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521958)

Um, first, "meltdown" includes any melting of the fuel rods, and is bad mojo even if you subsequently cool them.

Second, there are reports that containment has been breached in at least one of the reactors.

Third, when the spent-fuel pools dried up and caught fire, that was just like the containment being breached, in terms of the radiation and radioactive stuff that gets into the outside world.

Fourth, the hydrogen explosions so far blew building materials skyward; at the point where they happen the fuel isn't yet exposed to open air. (they were because of deliberate hydrogen venting from the core, which implied that the core was running overly hot and not just boiling the water but decomposing it (turning the fuel rods' zinc cladding into ZnO2 and releasing hydrogen)).

So, the cores have melted, they have lost their water, containment has been breached, nuclear fires are burning, and it's all GE's fault, because, as you say, the beancounters seem to have ruled the design committee and chased the safety engineer away.

Re:astroturf in action (1)

0WaitState (231806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522350)

I think we're mostly in agreement as far as what is happening on the ground at Fukushima. There are genuinely different degrees of meltdown, that somewhat map to the higher numbers of the 1-7 scale.

What I am trying to address is the non-sensical prattle about how it can't/won't be as bad as Chernobyl because there's no graphite and the reactor didn't explode. Hydrogen explosions from oxidized zirconium (and oxidized uranium at the next "bad shit happens" temperature threshold) will work just fine to create a radioactive particle plume, that may be smaller or larger than Chernobyl's.

People have this idea that if the molten reactor core isn't visibly red hot from above that "it's not a chernobyl" and therefore can be put out of mind. That's right, it's not a chernobyl. It's something different, it's not over yet, it is still a critical situation getting worse every day, and it could end up worse than chernobyl.

Re:astroturf in action (2, Interesting)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522326)

Coupled with the ongoing debacle with the plant in Japan, stories like this really make me wonder if I ever should have changed my position on nuclear power.

A few years ago [slashdot.org] , my views on nuclear energy began to shift. Part of this was due to "self-education" on nuclear power, and finding out from many online sources that nuclear energy was "totally safe", and that the dangers were "overblown", and that the public was simply being irrational and hysterical.

But over the last few days, watching the reactors in Fukushima explode one by one, seeing hundreds of thousands of residents forced to evacuate, and witnessing engineers from one of the most technological and disciplined countries in the world fail to simply keep something cool, I begin to wonder if my faith in the nuclear industry was misplaced all along. I'm beginning to think I was simply conned by a kind of passive nuclear industry PR campaign, and that nuclear energy is simply too dangerous to justify the benefits.

Nuclear power has lost a lot of credibility with me over the last few days. Now, I'm not sure if I should ever have given it any.

MIT Nuclear Engineering Department's assessment (3, Informative)

ahodgkinson (662233) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521684)

The MIT Department of Nuclear Engineering has a web site, updated regularly, which acts as a hub for information about the nuclear crisis, including helpful background information.

See it at: http://mitnse.com/ [mitnse.com]

Re:MIT Nuclear Engineering Department's assessment (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522002)

Your sig is stunningly appropriate to this thread.

Re:MIT Nuclear Engineering Department's assessment (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35522060)

Oh, you mean this reputable site?

"Because mitnse.com was registered yesterday, through wordpress.com. That was a Sunday, right? And while the contact information says it’s for MIT, the admin contact is given for an independent contracter, with the contractor’s phone number. The contractor is a graphic designer who has done prior work for the department. (here’s his site: http://www.subbiahdesign.com/web/index.html

There are only a couple of links from the department site – added well after normal working hours on Monday night.

Before “mitnse” killed the comment and rss functions on this wordpress.com site, you could see that rss feed said the site was “maintained by students” in the NSE department. No such students have identified themselves. And while the originally, highly erroneous post has been redacted, the editors have not seen fit to identify themselves.

So – “students” on the site, “experts” in the announcement of it."
http://geniusnow.com/2011/03/15/the-strange-case-of-josef-oehmen/

Re:MIT Nuclear Engineering Department's assessment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35522364)

The MITSNE.com site appears to be malware.

Tsumami is delicious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521754)

That tsumami taste is extra savory. (typo in title)

Auto shutdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521866)

What I would like to know is if they could have prevented any of these problems by not shutting down all the plants right away.. What kind of problems would have resulted if a few of the reactors were left Online?

Re:Auto shutdown (1)

atrain728 (1835698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522116)

I am not a nuclear scientist, but it would seem possible to me that given the amount of excess energy currently being dealt with at these reactors, they could have stopped the primary reaction (as they did) and continued to generate electricity to power the cooling systems. If the continuing radioactive decay is energetic enough to bring the core up beyond 3000C (the melting temperature of the fuel), couldn't it run the generators sufficiently to run the cooling system?

I'm sure there is a limitation here, but I'm not really certain as to what...

Not sure what their priorities are. (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521868)

It's taken them nearly a week to get a police truck with a water cannon there (and it didn't work).

Why the fuck wasn't there a way to fly in a pumper truck, a generator, a long hose, and a ladder, to flood that building on Saturday or Sunday?

Are they so married to their procedures that they have no clue at all when thinking outside the box will save their asses? Do they have no foresight to try something preventive instead of waiting for the same sequence of disastrous results to occur in every reactor building?

Re:Not sure what their priorities are. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522018)

Why the fuck wasn't there a way to fly in a pumper truck, a generator, a long hose, and a ladder, to flood that building on Saturday or Sunday?

You go ahead and run it.... The problem is that closeup you're dealing with enough radiation to kill a human in minutes. Even if you were brave enough to drive the truck there, you might not survive long enough to get out, pick up the large, heavy hose, hurk it up several flights of non existent stairs, bolt it down and turn it on. I'm a bit surprised that we don't see any robotics at least trying to get close. Possibly the thermal and radiation environment precludes anything not specifically designed for this sort of behavior.

I'll bet we see some next time.

Re:Not sure what their priorities are. (1)

0WaitState (231806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522086)

Maybe they were distracted cause of 10,000+ people killed, 300,000+ homeless in freezing temps, no power anywhere, fires burning, streets blocked 5 miles inland, yadayadayada.

BTW, onsite radiation is measured in the 100s of millisieverts/hr. You want to by the guy manning that hose? Also, the volume of water put out by a high pressure firehose compared with what is needed to cool 3 reactors and refill 4 reactors' spent fuel ponds is kind of like trying to fill your backyard swimming pool by pissing in it. Drink lots of beer.

Re:Not sure what their priorities are. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35522154)

Priorities tend to get changed when your infrastructure is swept away by a 30ft tsunami. How are you supposed to get huge trucks and generators out to this nuclear plant when literally every road has either been swept away, buried by huge debris, or at the bottom of the pacific? Their only operations have been conducted with helicopters, which are currently being stretched beyond means with all the destruction they need to tend to.

Re:Not sure what their priorities are. (2)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522238)

If only they could have used your giant head to block the tsunami that wiped out a large part of their nation..

Re:Not sure what their priorities are. (1)

stjobe (78285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522444)

In case you've missed it, the area was hit by the largest earthquake in recent history and a 30ft tsunami.
It might not be as easy as going to the corner shop to get that equipment in there with all the surrounding land in ruins and 11.000 people dead or missing.

New inlets, loss of sand (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521940)

The most impressive thing to me is the creation of new inlets, and the loss of sand. I wonder how long (if ever) before the sand bars will reform.

BTW, they landed a plane [af.mil] at Sendai Airport. I imagine it will be a long time before normal operations are established there though. AFAIK, those military transports can take off and land on anything that's flat and not too muddy.

Evac (2)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35521950)

I was online this morning with a few people from Japan.
I found out that American schooled people are being evacuated, and that all of the "Military kids" of the higher echelons have already been moved out of the area.
Of course, these could just be rumors, but one guy was pretty convinced he was being evacuated today.

march 9 ... 12011 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35521980)

10.000 years after the accident, Fukushima habitable again ?

Re:march 9 ... 12011 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35522160)

It's probably 100,000 years and more land, but what is the rent on 500 square miles of land for 10,000 years?

Spent fuel stored on site? (4, Insightful)

d3xt3r (527989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522080)

A lot of comments here seem to focus on what could have been done differently. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20. That being said, I have a question that I haven't seen asked or answered yet. Why are the spent fuel rods stored in the same buildings as the reactors?

In the event of losing power, not only do the active rods need to be dealt with, but the spent rods have to be monitored and maintained in the same facility. Wouldn't transporting the spent rods to a less densely populated area that was specifically designed to handle their storage make more sense? It seems that the problems right now getting the reactors under control is being hampered by the severe risks of those containment pools for the spent rods draining.

Re:Spent fuel stored on site? (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522408)

As far as I know, transporting spent fuel rods is hazardous and therefore very expensive. They therefore make things cheaper by storing them on-site.

Re:Spent fuel stored on site? (3, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 3 years ago | (#35522414)

The spent rods are only "spent" in the sense that they are not useful for producing large amounts of electricity. They are still very radioactive and still generating a lot of heat. So they leave then in the pools for a few years with active cooling until they are easier and safer to transport to whatever processing place they go to. You question still seem valid though since one would presume a "fresh" rod would be even hotter. Or are they not hot until subjected to neutrons in large quantity? What's the mechanism there if they don't start out super hot?
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