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30 Years To Clean Up Fukushima Dai-Ichi

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the blasting-it-into-the-sun-is-not-a-viable-option dept.

Japan 342

0WaitState writes "Damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant may take three decades to decommission and cost operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. Relatedly, Japanese officials and power plant operators are now working on the problems involved with disposing of 55,000 tons of radioactive water. '... international law forbids Japan from dumping contaminated water into the ocean if there are viable technical solutions available later. So the plant operator is considering bringing in barges and tanks, including a so-called megafloat that can hold about 9.5 megalitres. Yet even using barges and tanks to handle the water temporarily creates a future problem of how to dispose of the contaminated vessels.'" Yesterday's 7.1 aftershock caused brief power losses at three other nuclear facilities, and small volumes of contaminated water spilled, but no significant radiation leakage occurred before the problems were resolved.

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Dispose of that water .. (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759104)

Have they considered putting it in cans and selling it at gas stations with a big glowing F on it?

Fukushima - For Radiant Health! It'll make a Monster out of you!

marketing has an answer for everything!

Re:Dispose of that water .. (4, Informative)

Ruie (30480) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759222)

Have they considered putting it in cans and selling it at gas stations with a big glowing F on it?

Fukushima - For Radiant Health! It'll make a Monster out of you!

marketing has an answer for everything!

This has been tried before [orau.org] ...

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759504)

Have they considered putting it in cans and selling it at gas stations with a big glowing F on it?

Fukushima - For Radiant Health! It'll make a Monster out of you!

marketing has an answer for everything!

This has been tried before [orau.org] ...

Also reminds me of irradiated dimes [orau.org] just sink a bunch of those nearly worthless aluminium Yen coins in the water and fund the clean-up by selling them on eBay.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

Myopic (18616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759644)

That is exactly what I thought of, because I just read The Poisoner's Handbook. Did you read that? It's a good science/history novel.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759246)

What exactly is "radioactive water"? Is it water with radioactive solutes in it? Or is it tritiated water? If it's the former, then they could just evaporate it and deal with the precipitate as solid waste. If it's the latter, it's not a big worry anyway, tritium emissions can't even get through a sheet of paper.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759464)

If it's the latter, it's not a big worry anyway, tritium emissions can't even get through a sheet of paper.

If it's the latter, they should sell it. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Dispose of that water .. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759480)

tritium emissions can't even get through a sheet of paper

Those are the dangerous emissions. They don't get through paper because they loose all their energy damaging it, which does not much for paper since it is already dead. Its the reason why the protective gear used near nuclear accidents is so thin, its enough to keep the alpha radiation from reaching your body, once ingested however there is nothing between it and your vulnerable cells.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759612)

How about they free the tritium via electrolysis, making 3H2 gas. Then use the tritium gas to hydrogenate something that will end up as a solid that you can contain and bury.

Unfeasible, unfortunately (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759682)

Are you aware how radioactive tritium is? The amount involved is actually tiny. Which means you would have to electrolyse almost all the water to get it out. Deuterium in contrast is relatively common, which is why it is possible to get D2O using electrolysis. Incidentally the best thing to hydrogenate is solid uranium.

For years the British Government demanded that waste tritium be discharged as tritiated water...which is the worst possible solution. As a gas, you can collect it relatively easily. Once in water, it is very difficult.

Re:Unfeasible, unfortunately (3)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759874)

just to do the math :4.4 kilowatt-hours of electricity to split one litre of water with electrolysis.

so for 55000 tons of water it would take about
242000 MW hours of electricity to split it all.

Not a show stopper but quite a lot.pretty much the full output of a large power plant for a few weeks.

just thinking a bit outside the box: how reasonable would just adding some kind of gelling agent to it so you end up with a tank full of 55000 tons of strawberry flavoured radioactive jelly?

far less risk of a leak and a hundred or so years down the line it's pretty much safe again.

Re:Unfeasible, unfortunately (1)

onepoint (301486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760254)

As silly as your idea sounds, it's somewhat of a right idea. find a way to make the fluid more solid and containable. store it deep somewhere, and in 200 to 1000 years it's less of a hassle.

I would think that mixing it with concrete and use the bricks to make another reactor building, keeping the toxins all within a defined area of risk.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759510)

It's radioactive water . Period. It makes giant monsters. Don't you know ANYTHING about science? Duh.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (2)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759516)

" can't even get through a sheet of paper."

until you drink it...

I'm very much in favor of nuclear power, even after the recent event but with it's 12 year half life(making it a far far more potent source than stuff with 20K year half lives but a far longer term problem than the stuff with a half life of days ) and the fact that it's part of water and easily mixed with drinking water and readily absorbed into the body it is a fairly dangerous substance.

I'd be interested how concentrated that 55K tons is. If it's not very concentrated then a few decades in a holding tank would be all you'd need.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (5, Informative)

Zeio (325157) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759606)

Alpha particles can be breathed and actually is the most ionizing of all the ionizing radiation.

Alpha particles are extremely dangerous but are not penetrating.

The worst vector is to have an alpha emitter embedded in living tissue.

You must understand radiation exposure is not the same thing as exposure to hot particles or hot particles embedded in vivo.

There is a terrible misunderstanding going on. Sure, you could eat dinner next to a solid block of plutonium if its not critical its just a metal brock that emits some radiation. There used to be uranium paints and glazes used on cookware. Atomized and superheated fission products or fission products in salts and compounds embedded in vivo is a bloody mess. Its porrly understood and you can't use "x-rays, cosmic rays, plane flights" and trash like that to compare. The rays aren't that dangerous. The hot particles are very very dangerous because they can become part of your own biology and emit, even at low levels, inside your body.

So much for your sheet of paper. If that was the cause, Radon wouldn't be remediated and people would just enjoy sniffing alpha particles.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (4, Informative)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759736)

yes, the GP is probably what people are talking about when they accuse the pro-nuclear side of being cavalier about radiation.

Plutonium with it's 20K half life is mainly dangerous as a heavy metal, iodine-131 with it's (if I'm remembering this correctly ) 8 day half life is at least gone after a few months.

but that 12 year half life is a pretty bad one, too long to expect it to be gone in a reasonable time but short enough to be a really nasty source of radiation.

Storing it shouldn't be too much of a problem at least, it's not a source of neutron radiation so it shouldn't leave it's container radioactive and since it's an alpha emitter a plain old water tank is good enough to shield people outside from the radiation but it's a bad one when it escapes into the environment and gets drunk by people.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760298)

Sorry, but the toxicity of Pu is mainly radiotoxicity. The chemical heavy metal toxicity is quite negligible compared to that. No problem handling a subcritical solid sphere of Pu - but as soon as you get particulate matter or soluble Pu ions, you want to stay the heck away from it. It has a long biological halflife and tends to get you cancer real quick when in the body.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759816)

"x-rays, cosmic rays, plane flights"

You forgot "bananas".

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760074)

"x-rays, cosmic rays, plane flights"

You forgot "bananas".

So put it on a big yellow barge and call it The Banana Boat and everyone will understand?

I bought some radioactive stuff at the Trader Joe's last night - I fully understood the risks, thanks to Slashdot.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759824)

Sure, you could eat dinner next to a solid block of plutonium if its not critical its just a metal brock that emits some radiation.

I see what you did there, and I rove it so much.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759946)

Indeed. You can't stress that enough. The part of labwork I hated most was working with Tritium-labels. Sure, that plastic shield holds back all the alphas, but stuff gets aerosolized and that is not particular fun. Labeled nucleotides are the best fun of all - ingest the shit and it gets incorporated straight up into your DNA. Hell yeah.

Re:Dispose of that water .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759614)

Smartass. Sheldon, is that you??

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759496)

Nuka-Cola Quantum!

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759544)

I'm kind of glad nobody else thought of the easiest, and to me and my love for Cascadia, least favorite solution: Barge it across the ocean and up the Columbia to irrigate the already radioactive but potentially biologically useful and unique Hanford Reservation (there have been two unique species found there in the last 40 years, both of whom could use a bit more ground cover, even if it's radioactive grass).

Re:Dispose of that water .. (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760256)

Fuka-Cola Quantum?

Space... not the final frontier? (1)

Schwhat (1993980) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759118)

So freezing it and blasting it into space to let it become some comet isn't an option? That's sad we are depriving another alien civilization of super heroes and zombies.

Re:Space... not the final frontier? (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759290)

I suspect that you would run into two major problems:

1. That volume of water is massive and lifting mass out of our gravity well is damn pricy. You could probably give it a funeral sarcophagus shielded with several centimeters of gold for corrosion-resistant radiation absorption for the same money.

2. Heavy launch is not an entirely safe procedure. From time to time, something breaks and the cargo ends up burning up in the atmosphere. If the cargo is deliciously radioactive, that would be an issue. (and, if it isn't, a teakettle is a much cheaper way of dispersing it into the atmosphere...)

Re:Space... not the final frontier? (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760062)

OK, so freeze it and ship it to Antarctica. Because we all know there's no such thing as global warming...

Re:Space... not the final frontier? (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759406)

1) Push the barges over Ghadaffi's "line of death". [wikipedia.org]

2) spray the water along the US mexico border to create an inexpensive border wall. Not only is it unhealthy to cross, but the INS can track you down from the radioactivity.

3) dehydrate it? There's plenty of heat from those fuel rods.

4) feed it to the whales so the japanese will stop eating them.

Re:Space... not the final frontier? (1)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759466)

I think the easier option would probably to mix the water into concrete, then burying the radioactive concrete somewhere.

Japan's problems (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759122)

1. Aging population
2. Fear of outsiders which limits immigration and cross-breading
3. Nuclear radiation

Japan will only exist in history books by 2100.

goatse g oatse go atse goa tse goat se goats e goa (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759158)

The weird thing is that the Pacific Ocean is so big that they could probably pump it into the depths and the radiation increase would be completely irrelevant.

Not the most responsible-sounding thing to do and I'm not advocating it, just saying that it's weird how just dumping it into the middle of the largest ocean available would probably end up hurting fewer people than any competing kind of disposal.

oblig (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759182)

The solution to pollution is dilution.

That's what the miners tell me, anyway.

Re:oblig (1, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759346)

The solution to pollution is dilution.

That's what the miners tell me, anyway.

A mining engineer once explained the difference between Hazardous Waste and Toxic Waste -

Hazardous means harmful in high concentration, e.g. grain alcohol is fairly harmless below 5% by volume, but fairly hazardous above 90% by volume.

Toxic means harmful in any concentration. Plutonium is the most toxic substance known - even one atom will be harmful, even if not readily apparent.

Re:oblig (3, Interesting)

locofungus (179280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759670)

Plutonium is the most toxic substance known - even one atom will be harmful, even if not readily apparent.

Except that the facts don't agree with you.

Plutonium is a lot less toxic than something like dimethyl mercury.

It's definitely not something you should eat or inhale the dust but it's no more toxic than a lot of other substances, many of which are contact poisons.

Tim.

Re:oblig (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759992)

Well, dimethyl mercury is probably Nr. 1 on my list of stuff I will not work with in a lab, ever. No Sir, find someone else to handle that shit. Outright scary stuff. Plutonium, while indeed a lot less toxic, is not far beyond though. The chemical toxicity doesn't concern me there, but ingestion of an alpha emitter with a long biological half-life is not on my agenda, either :P

Re:oblig (0)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759892)

Toxic means poisonous. Hazardous means harmful. It could be corrosive, or explosive, or toxic, or oxidizing, or radioactive,or dangerous in some other way. You're mining engineer buddy needs to go over his WHMIS training again.

Re:oblig (1)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760052)

Plutonium is the most toxic substance known - even one atom will be harmful

What a load of bullshit.
Please mod this post down!

Re:oblig (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760262)

If you consumed raw, non-fissile uranium or plutonium, it would be passed through your system as solid waste before it could cause any real damage by irradiation. Even if a few particles stuck in your system, they are not radioactive enough in their natural state to be harmful to you. You would probably succumb to heavy metal poisoning before you experienced any radiation poisoning.

If it is instead a byproduct of fission, or a substance which is analogous to something your body readily absorbs, such as Iodine, or it is a highly radioactive fission byproduct, it will emit MUCH more radiation and is dangerous at any reasonably high concentration. Whether inside your body or not. Alpha emitting radioactive materials are not that dangerous outside your body, as the radioactive release can't penetrate much of anything - certainly not your skin.

What people often discount is that once an atom has emitted an alpha radiation particle or two, it is usually rendered into another radioactive element which will then emit a beta particle or two, followed by a gamma particle or two. It doesn't magically become non-radioactive. Gamma radiation is extremely good at penetrating objects, and is dangerous even outside the body at higher levels.

Filtration (2, Informative)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759184)

Wait a few weeks for the Iodine to decay, filter out the Ceasium and any inert heavy metals that might have been picked up. Pump now pure water into sea.
As for the storage barges: they're only intending to store lightly contaminated water in them (to make room in the internal tanks for more heavily irradiated water), so irradiation from decay will be minimal. A good rinse should be sufficient to clean them of any radionuclides hanging about.

Re:Filtration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759490)

Alternatively, they can use the cleaning tech of Ukraine and Belarus, and just declare the contaminated zone "safe" in a few years. That works very well, and allows substantial savings over your proposal.

Re:Filtration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35760202)

Then again we could just nuke the whole fucking site.

Re:Filtration (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760214)

Wait a few weeks for the Iodine to decay, filter out the Ceasium and any inert heavy metals that might have been picked up. Pump now pure water into sea.

If it were that easy, nobody would be worried.
 
(Protip: You can't filter out elemts dissolved in water.)
 

A good rinse should be sufficient to clean them of any radionuclides hanging about.

Thereby creating *more* contaminated water to handle.

Halflife? (3, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759216)

IANANS (I am not a nuclear scientist), but isn't this issue largely controlled by the radioactive material's halflife? If what ever it is that is causing this issue has decayed to the point that it poses no significant risk after 10 years, would the containment vessel be any more radiated?

-Rick

Re:Halflife? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759310)

Already taken by "I am not a nutritional substitute".

Re:Halflife? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759484)

Unfortunately, while the radioactive iodine has a half-life of only eight days or so, the radioactive cesium has a half-live of over thirty years. Radioactive cesium isn't as harmful as iodine (it doesn't accumulate in the thyroid gland forever) but it is water-soluble, unlike (for example) a noble gas, and will increase the risk of cancer if it makes its way into the water supply or the fishes' food chain or what have you.

Re:Halflife? (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759536)

So if it is cesium in the water that is causing this issue, is it possible to either filter or distill the cesium out?

-Rick

Re:Halflife? (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759750)

And they could use it to build very accurate clocks and watches, with natural glow-in-the-dark faces!

Re:Halflife? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759908)

Sure. There's currently about nineteen million gallons of the stuff, with more being created every day the shit leaks out of the reactor's cooling containment or wherever the hell it's leaking from.

Might take a while to filter.

Re:Halflife? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760054)

Filtering is out, because not all of it is particulate, but rather in solution. Distillation would work, though. Personally, I'd opt for ion exchange - would probably get the highest throughput. In either case, you will have to set up a plant for it. That will take time. Properly treating the water will take a lot of time too, as you don't want to accumulate so much material on your ion exchange resin that you can't handle it safely, so you will go through a lot of resin, do a lot of replacement. Same with distillation, you probably only want to distill small batches, Dispose of the crap, go for the next patch.

Re:Halflife? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760104)

Slashdot is mixing things for fun and foment. The reactors and associated equipment will take 30 years.

The water is only a problem in that it is easy to filter, so the government sort of insists that they filter as much of it as possible before releasing it into the environment, but the filtration plant is offline or not operating at full capacity.

Is 30 years a long time? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759250)

Is 30 years a long time? Just wondering.

Could someone put 30 years into perspective for me? How long does it take to clean up the byproducts from a coal plant, even given routine conditions where there is no earthquake or tsunami or explosion? If a coal plant was decommissioned in 1981, is it reasonable for me to assume that all its poisons are gone now?

Re:Is 30 years a long time? (5, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759384)

Could someone put 30 years into perspective for me?

No problem, I can put it into units that most Slashdot readers are familiar with.

The Library of Congress is 211 years old, so 30 years is around .14 Library of Congresses.

In comparison, a 2TB hard drive is around .2 Library of Congresses (printed material only).

So, in conclusion, Fukushima's cleanup is less than one 2 TB hard drive.

Mod parent up! (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759566)

That is one of the best LoC measurments I have ever seen! Kudos to you good sir!

-Rick

Re:Is 30 years a long time? (1)

blueturffan (867705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759660)

Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up mod points.

Very well played

Re:Is 30 years a long time? (1)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759716)

That's the sort of science I like to see! -Cave Johnson.

Re:Is 30 years a long time? (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759936)

The Library of Congress is 211 years old, so 30 years is around .14 Library of Congresses.

In comparison, a 2TB hard drive is around .2 Library of Congresses (printed material only).

So, in conclusion, Fukushima's cleanup is less than one 2 TB hard drive.

Each slashdotter needs to start sending one old drive, and let distributed computing solve this problem in parallel 2,000,000 times faster than those poor sods in the protective suits.

GO GO GO!!!

Re:Is 30 years a long time? (3, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759404)

The major difference is containment. Hazmat equipment for dealing with chemical spills is much more effective than the gear for dealing with radiation. It does depend which type of particles you're dealing with, but some of them are pretty nasty and can penetrate thick concrete walls.

Nuclear clean up can take a really long time, just because the exposure is harder to manage and the steps involve more complicated. The world famous Hanford Site was last shut down in the late 80s, and we're still barely into the process of getting the site cleaned up. Granted it was established in the 40s for the purposes of creating nuclear weapons, but the site itself is still a mess and it's likely to still be a mess in 30 years at the rate things are going.

Hanford clean up [wikipedia.org]

Re:Is 30 years a long time? (4, Interesting)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759846)

I have a small property in a city in a small, ex-communist country that had a large (4 boilers, 4 turbines) coal plant in operation until about 1992. Since I go there from time to time, I can tell you pretty well how things went year by year.

When operation stopped (for various reasons, mostly lack of money and lack of cheap fuel after the collapse of COMECON), the plant was left to the elements. Until about 2002, the plant became a scrap iron mine -- the gypsies from the neighboring villages would come in, break shit up, cut out the metal and move it away. When iron became scarcer, they started to break up the buildings, piece by piece, extract window frames, nails, etc. Around 2002, the only thing that remained was a pile of rubble, mostly broken bricks, and a smokestack.

Surprisingly, the rubble started to disappear about 2003. I have no idea what has happened to it, but the mountain of broken bricks has halved by 2004, and almost gone by 2005. In 2006, the smokestack was pronounced a hazard, and a demolition grant was obtained from the government to destroy it. It became a small brick peak where the mountain used to be, but in another year those bricks were gone too.

In the end, the city government got an EU grant for "eco tourism area", spent a small amount of money (in the one to two million euros range) on removing the few remaining concrete blocks and , had some Dutch organization test the soil. Since they got a certification that allowed them to cultivate organic vegetables on part of the territory, I assume it wasn't very polluted.

So, in less than 20 years, the plant was gone completely.

Is this what you wanted to hear?

Re:Is 30 years a long time? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759930)

Could someone put 30 years into perspective for me?

30 years is long enough for Britney Spears to be born, grow up, and start a "music" career.

The Daily Chimpout (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759320)

Today, featuring The Glorious Texas Deposition Chimpout [youtube.com]

filter the water (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759338)

Why can't the water be filtered and distilled, leaving behind the nasty stuff. Its not the water itself that is radioactive, it is the particulates in it. Reverse Osmosis obviously isn't a solution, but steam distillation might be.

Nuclear economics (4, Insightful)

mspohr (589790) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759354)

Nuclear power has never been economic. It has only existed because of massive government subsidies (research, fuel, insurance, waste disposal, etc.). Also, unlike other technologies, the cost per watt of installed power keeps increasing, not decreasing. This latest disaster will only make it more expensive. Already wind and solar are cheaper per watt of installed power without all the nasty nuclear uncertainties. I doubt that you will see any new nuclear plants in the US solely because of the cost. No sane investor would fund a nuclear power plant now.

I rather think that this is a good thing.

Re:Nuclear economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759430)

Tell that to Georgia Power -- they are building new reactors and making the rate payers pay for them ahead of their completion.

The same is true of other sources (4, Insightful)

wiredog (43288) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759454)

Consider the costs of coal. The radiological problem of the coal ash. The excess CO2. That cost, right there, is not being accounted for.

Re:The same is true of other sources (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760132)

Jesus, how often does this prop up again? There IS NO radiological problem of coal ash. It generally gets used as additive for concrete and in road construction, at least around here. If a batch is deemed contaminated - usually by heavy metals from certain coal sources - it is used as filler and construction material in mines below the water table. I'll give you the point on CO2, though - that is indeed an unaccounted for externality.

Re:Nuclear economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759552)

Wind and solar do not scale though. If you capture too much of the Sun's energy (yes, wind is driven mostly by the Sun) then you will affect the Earth's climate in very bad ways.

Re:Nuclear economics (0, Troll)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759650)

Wind and solar, while definitely on the rise, will never completely replace base load power generation such as nuclear plants. Nuclear power plants can only be satisfactorily replaced by other base power sources such as coal-fired or natural gas-fired. Of the mentioned, nuclear is by far the cleanest and safest method of generating power. [typepad.com]

I would like to repeat that statement, maybe it does penetrate the thick skull of ignorant people: Nuclear is the cleanest and safest base-load power generation by a HUGE margin. [typepad.com]

Re:Nuclear economics (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760306)

Not to mention you have the issue of actually mining and shipping the stuff. The amount of uranium and/or plutonium that needs to be shipped is relatively small and it can be stored for long periods of time relatively easily. Now compare that with coal. Really the only economically viable places for Japan to get coal are China, which has already limited exports of natural resources it considers to be "valuable" to it's own industries, The United States which is a pretty long ways away(even further when you consider a lot of the coal is on the east coast of the US), thus shipping in that much coal is expensive, or Russia, which may be Japan's best bet for getting coal, but the seaways between Japan and Russia are vulnerable to attack from both the North Koreans and the Chinese.

Nuclear power is really the only feasible long term power source for Japan. Without any other natural resources to fall back, they are quite vulnerable to what their sometimes unstable, and often antagonistic, neighbors do.

Re:Nuclear economics (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760324)

A Wind+Solar+NG filler system is price competitive with Nuclear today, needs little fuel (only when both wind and sun in some area are low), is risk free and has little environmental impact.
So why, again, would anybody build new nuclear plants?

Re:Nuclear economics (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35760336)

Yeah it wont replace base power load generation UNTIL PEOPLE LIKE YOU GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS AND WE START DEPLOYING IT MASSIVELY!

But we wont. You just keep repeating your talking points.

Whole fucking country could be on 100% clean renewable energy by now. If we shot a few of the first people to start spouting shit like "will never completely replace base load power generation such as nuclear plants".

Just keep repeating it until it's true.

Re:Nuclear economics (1)

scross (1621251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759672)

For those seeking some figures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source [wikipedia.org]

Interesting to note that wind power seems more competitive than I had thought - all the estimates seem to show onshore wind is cheaper than, or as cheap as, nuclear power. However, solar appears to be considerably more expensive than wind or nuclear.

Re:Nuclear economics (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759678)

Nuclear power has never been economic

Citation needed. Oh and please define 'economic'.

Re:Nuclear economics (2)

Xelios (822510) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759710)

Wind and solar provide variable power. Which is fine so long as you have sources of continuous power running in the background. There's really only a few possibilities for this backbone; fossil fuels, hydro, geothermal and nuclear. Hydro and geothermal are very location-sensitive, fossil fuels are running out and create a lot of pollution, nuclear is expensive. But you gotta pick one, so which will it be?

Thanks to public perception, we're still picking fossil fuels, but one day relatively soon nuclear will become the cheaper option. It's inevitable that the price of fossil fuels will continue to rise as supply dwindles and demand grows. Eventually we'll have to make the switch to another continuous source of power, maybe fusion will show up in time, but somehow I doubt it.

Re:Nuclear economics (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760160)

Wind and solar provide stochastic, but predictable power, which, over the grid averages out and can indeed provide baseload. If you go solar thermal, you got a large buffer in your molten salt reservoir, so you get even less stochastic influence.

Re:Nuclear economics (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760252)

You can cheaply store energy in molten salt [sandia.gov] for a week. That, combined with an upgraded, national power grid to distribute power beyond regional weather patterns, should allow us to replace most of the base load with variable sources.

Some of the rest could be filled in with hydro... a reservoir is a huge energy store, and more reliance on local solar/wind would let us keep the reservoirs topped up for when we need them.

Then coal would be a last resort. After all, nature can absorb CO2, we don't need to eliminate carbon emissions, just reduce them to a sustainable level.

All that said, I'm not opposed to nuclear either. $12 billion cleanup is an awful lot, yet the US consumes 21e6 barrels per day, which at current pricing is over $2e9 per day or $14e9 per week... that is, a $12e9 cleanup is less than we spend on crude oil alone in a single week - not counting the environmental and geopolitical costs of oil. Expensive solutions are viable for expensive problems.

Re:Nuclear economics (2)

chitokutai (758566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760316)

I think most people would agree that if there is a better, cleaner solution for power generation than nuclear, then we should use it.

But from where I sit in Japan, experiencing rolling blackouts, darkened train stations, closed shops, and missing food items, that source of electricity absolutely needs to replace the millions of kilowatts that it takes to run an operate a modern society currently provided by nuclear energy. The whole of eastern Japan is in conservation mode and yet they are still telling us we will be roughly 20% short to meet typical summer consumption. Tokyo, as I'm sure any city would be, is a greatly changed place without electricity.

Megalitres? wtf? (1)

citylivin (1250770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759450)

Whats wrong with saying 9.5 million litres? Why use an obscure term like megalitres? Is it just because americans don't get the metric system?

Re:Megalitres? wtf? (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759624)

Why even use liters at that point... cubic meters is much more descriptive... or Tons if you must!

Re:Megalitres? wtf? (1)

Cap'nPedro (987782) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759664)

9.5ML is an SI unit. The 55 kilotons should be expressed as 55ML (using water's density=1000 kg/m^3). So we can see at a glance that they need 6 tankers at the moment.

We avoid exponents this way. Or the short scale/long scale "billion issue".

Re:Megalitres? wtf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759778)

Why, of course it is.

We people in the real world like to poke fun at Americans by stating things in "obscure" terminology so we can have a good ol' laugh around the table while drinking tea and wearing monocles like the classy gents we are.
Good show ol' chap, good show.

Re:Megalitres? wtf? (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759870)

I did stop to wonder how much a megalitre was :)

Re:Megalitres? wtf? (2)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760250)

Megalitres is an obscure term? I suppose if you're american. Pretty much every other country that uses SI or a form of SI along side imperial(Canada), uses it for large fluid volumes.

I'm assuming... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759462)

I'm assuming that the eventual plan will involve some sort of distillation or RO process: 55,000 tons of water is not something you would want to have to safely entomb somewhere; but the actual volume of long-term nasties must be fairly small(worst case, it could not be greater than the volume of the fuel on site, and any materials that it has been in long term contact with for a sufficient time to render them radioactive, and it doesn't appear to be worst case).

While not terribly cheap, the technology for separating dissolved compounds from water(to fairly extreme degrees of purity, in the case of water for lab/analytic use) is very much off-the-shelf. Similarly, gross screening of a volume of treated water for radioactives should be doable with a Geiger counter, and fine screening should be within the realm of any decently equipped testing laboratory.

It isn't going to be cheap, and the end result will be a small pile of serious unpleasantness and a rather larger one of equipment that isn't worth decontaminating; but it doesn't seem like a fundamentally hard problem.

Radioactives in water not the big problem. (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760264)

While not terribly cheap, the technology for separating dissolved compounds from water(to fairly extreme degrees of purity, in the case of water for lab/analytic use) is very much off-the-shelf.

Right. That was done at Three Mile Island. Bear in mind that you can't make water itself radioactive; hydrogen and oxygen don't have any radioactive isotopes with long half-lives. (The longest, 15O has a half-life of 122 seconds, so it's gone within an hour.) All the radioactivity is in dissolved solids. So the process looks a lot like desalinization - the water is forced through membranes that catch all the solids. Eventually, you have dry salts, which you put in casks and bury in some desert or hard-rock cave.

That's the easy part of the problem, though. Remember that the reactor buildings are wrecked from the hydrogen explosions. All the fuel rods in the spent fuel pools have to be carefully moved to some other location, probably newly built spent fuel pools nearby. In 3-5 years, they'll have decayed enough for dry storage, and they'll be put into casks. They can then be moved off site.

This leaves the reactors themselves. Units 1,2, and 3 still haven't reached cold shutdown. Until that's achieved, cleanup can't even start. The situation isn't even close to safe until all three reactors are in cold shutdown, not leaking, and have redundant cooling. Look at the status reports at the Japan Industrial Atomic Forum [jaif.or.jp] . Until all the red squares turn yellow, there's a sizable risk of things getting worse.

Decommissioning the damaged reactors will be really tough. They're too damaged to de-fuel, and they need constant cooling, so they can't just be encased in steel and concrete. I don't know what will be done.

This is much, much worse than Three Mile Island. At TMI, the control room was up and running through the whole episode, they reached cold shutdown in a few days, they never had an explosion, and radioactivity was confined to the containment vessel.

Send Ships to Bangledesh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759550)

Send the ships to Banledesh. They're already being killed by the ships that they're currently breaking up [cbsnews.com] . How much worse could it be?

Still big problem (1)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759580)

I understood that they are currently keeping the rectors cool by pumping 500 tons of water per day into the reactors. But it's not a closed loop system. The water becomes contaminated by the damaged fuel rods, and flows out through cracks in the containment chamber. So basically, the radioactive water will continue to be released. The only long term solution is to get the regular cooling system working again. However, it's probable that the cooling system was damaged from the hydrogen explosions and the salt deposits from the sea water.

Make an exception (1)

Xelios (822510) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759600)

Buy a barge, fill it up, float it to the middle of the Pacific and scuttle the ship. I think the international community can make an exception this time, all things considered. Other 'viable technical solutions' carry their own risk, and those risks will be continuous over the next 5 years or more, near population centers instead of out in the middle of the ocean.

Re:Make an exception (1)

goertzenator (878548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760010)

Or just pump it out of the barge over the period of a month or so while driving around the Pacific. Seawater is already naturally radioactive, and I doubt spreading this barge-full of radioactive water around would make any difference.

Re:Make an exception (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760022)

Not like I have a solution to pose, but given that air currents in a hurricane move tons of cloud masses through thousands of kilometers, what's to prevent ocean currents from doing the same and poisoning our fish?

Peeing in the pool does not just affect the pee-er's area. Remember the Big Gulf Oil Spill of 2010?

5 year cleanup plan (1)

AnonymmousCoward (2026904) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759656)

I say that for 5 years, every scientist in japan works on the problem of trying to separate radiation from water (or the air too for that matter). Surely with all their expertise and everyone working on the problem, a solution could be found that would be beneficial to them and the rest of the world. I honestly don't understand why we can't filter water to become non-radioactive. Scientists have come up with ways to do the craziest things (like viewing atoms)...so why can't we solve this problem? Are there just not enough people working at it?

brawndo (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35759722)

Its got what plants crave

12 billion (1)

papasui (567265) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759730)

Seems surprisingly cheap to me for what is essentially the #1 or 2 largest nuclear disaster of all time.

Wasn't the BP spill supposed to take a long time? (1)

howardd21 (1001567) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759834)

It seems like the Gulf of Mexico is already pretty much back. I would expect a manmade object's mess on land to take longer than something under the huge GOM, but 30 years? Is Three Mile Island clean?

Re:Wasn't the BP spill supposed to take a long tim (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760208)

TMI is clean - but cleaning up a single meltdown in an intact containment building took em close to 10 years. Here we have 4 reactors in variable states of core damage, dried out spent fuel pools with the fuel of at least one probably thrown around by an explosion, water washing out core material - yeah, I guess 30 years might be a good estimate.

Re:Wasn't the BP spill supposed to take a long tim (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35760328)

The Gulf of Mexico is "pretty much back" if you ignore the layer of oil siting on the seabed right now...

Am I the only one? (1)

Servaas (1050156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759848)

That thinks, meh dump it in the ocean. Think these people have had enough shit poured over them we can cut them some slack when it comes to the environment. This would kill a lot of fish, I know.

Just think of the benefits (1)

killmenow (184444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35759998)

In the next five to ten years, they will be discovering a lot of new fish species off the coast of Japan.

Homeopathy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35760090)

Dilute the water 10,000X and sell it in "health" stores. Idiots will buy it for exorbitant prices. Profit.

Cheap, huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35760142)

So, let's talk about nuclear energy being cheap, again?

How many plants must be made safe to compensate for this hole in the budget?

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