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Robots Enter Fukushima Reactor Building

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the our-radioactive-overlords dept.

Japan 244

swandives writes "For the first time, a pair of remote controlled robots have entered a reactor building at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power hopes the iRobot Packbots will be able to provide data on the current condition inside the buildings, although the company hasn't yet released any information on what they found inside."

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244 comments

Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852436)

I continue to conclude: It's not Chernobyl. When all this began I said a worst case would be one or more Tsar Bomba equivalents. We now know it is far less than that. It does not appear that the entire mess will equal one Chernobyl.

There will probably be a greater and more fatal impact: the rejection, in the West, of nuclear power, which will either have dire economic consequences and lead to even more transfer of wealth into the sovereign investment funds of the Near East, or possibly to wars: I point out that our Middle East Wars have been deadly; nuclear power has not directly killed anyone in the United States. There are debates about "extra" cancer cases caused by nuclear power, but I know of no proof that there have been any.

Note that China is not going to halt nuclear power construction. The major effect of Fukushima Daiichi may well be a very great Chinese comparative advantage. Cheap easily available energy and freedom are the keys to economic prosperity: the Chinese are moving toward both. The United States is moving away from both. The results are predictable.

Meanwhile, there is no sign of any danger to anyone outside the evacuation zone in Japan, and indeed not much evidence of danger inside it. Japan will be deprived of some rice farming land for a few years -- perhaps -- and of the energy from the plant. Of course the plant was older and scheduled for retirement to begin with.

The 9.0 earthquake is now said to have been the largest ever recorded to have hit a civilized area.

Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (-1, Troll)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852478)

Queue the nuclear industry PR folks!

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (0, Flamebait)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852518)

I'm pro-nuclear power, but I'm not a PR person. Just realistic about the world's future energy needs.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (5, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852606)

I'm not even pro-nuclear (I'd call it the lesser of two evils), and even I take exception to the assumption that the realists about Fukushima (or Chernobyl for that matter) must be nuclear industry shills.

There is a general trend of alarmist hysteria surrounding nuclear power, and slashdot is one of the few places I read where there are people basically telling the alarmists to stow it. A few of these people shouting down the anti-nuclear sentiment are strongly biased in favour of nuclear power, but most are simply more informed about the risks involved than the general public. Dismissing the anti-alarmist commentators as "nuclear industry PR folks" is essentially throwing reason out the window in favour of fear.

(Just to preempt the inevitable accusation that I am "one of them", my own view is that nuclear power plants should be built in lieu of coal power plants. See the "lesser of two evils" sentiment above. I'm all in favour of solar homes and where local conditions permit I support hydro, geothermal or other means of power collection. In the long run I think fusion offers our best hope. Nuclear power is a stopgap.)

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (1)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852714)

I agree that fusion is our best hope, but it too is nuclear power. However, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you meant that nuclear power from fission is the stopgap.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (0)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852806)

I really think you should try to be less pedantic about such a standard piece of terminology. You might go blind from the high blood pressure.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (4, Informative)

larkost (79011) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853038)

Actually, thus far every design type of theoretical fusion plant would necessarily create radioactive waste, although not as much of it as fission plants. The reason is the same one that the waste-water in the original article is a problem: nuclear reactions work by massive cascades of nutrons randomly hitting atoms in the core. When those nutrons hit the nucleus of an atom (in a way that causes them to be absorbed in the right way), then you get your nuclear reaction, and that in turn produces more neutrons as ersatz-billiard-balls to continue your reaction, plus energy (in the form of heat) that you harvest off (usually with water) to convert into your power-transmission method of choice (usually electricity).

The problem in all of this is that you can't just limit it to your fuel and your energy harvester (water), you wind up with lots of other elements in the reaction chamber that also get bombarded with neutrons. And some percentage of those elements are going to wind up transmuting into radioactive waste.

In the case of a fusion reactor that is probably going to be whatever serves as the reaction chamber wall. Remember, neutrons are magnetically/electrically neutral particles, so you can't contain them using magnets, so you just have to let your reactor wall take the hits, and slowly degrade into radioactive waste. No one has a solution to this problem, and it is unlikely that one exists.

So, there really is no pedantic to call out here. Nuclear energy produces nuclear waste, the only question is how much (vs. the extracted energy), and how bad the byproducts will be.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (3, Interesting)

RsG (809189) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852840)

"Nuclear power" in the vernacular sense means "power generating fission reactors". Mostly because those are the only tech presently used to harness nuclear reactions for electricity. Informally, virtually every member of the public hears "nuclear" and understands it to mean "fission", assuming they know what fission is.

I am aware that a hypothetical fusion power plant would "nuclear" in the sense of the word used by physicists, however I do not generally refer to them as "nuclear power plants" to avoid confusion. When precision in language gets in the way of clarity, clarity should always come first; being correctly understood matters more than being technically correct when dealing with non-experts.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852910)

Er. "would be nuclear", not "would nuclear". And I clearly need to go to bed if I'm making typos that basic.

All energy is nuclear (5, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852998)

Geothermal is also nuclear power. It relies on the intrinsic fission of elements within the Earth's mantle, and legacy heat from prior fission as well as legacy friction from planetary formation. It's implemented by steam turbines also, or turbines driven by the flash evaporation of some other coolant.

The difference betweent fission, fusion and geothermal is that geothermal requires no fuel creation or elimination. You dig two deep holes fairly close together and force water down one of them. The heat of the Earth heats the water, which comes up the other hole - usually as steam or superheated water that will become steam when the pressure is released, but sometimes just as much hotter water. Naturally after the energy gained is tapped, the hot water is then re-injected. For new water some use sewage effluent and solve two problems at once. There is no ash, no spent fuel to rot in casks 100,000 years under close supervision of a non-proliferation task force. There are no mining deaths because there's no mine. There are no refining risks because there's no refining. There's no proliferation risk because there's no nuclear products onsite. The cost of dealing with the emissions are well understood because there aren't any. Geothermal plants require a much smaller geographic footprint than even nuclear plants, because they can mine energy from several miles in each direction and there is no risk.

With geothermal power in the event of a disaster of the worst possible sort: a Geothermal plant is simultaneously attacked by terrorists, crushed by a 10.3 earthquake and inundated by the subsequent 90m tsunami at the exact moment that a Justin Bieber album goes platinum, the worst that can happen is that some steam will vent and electricity will stop being generated, and Justin Bieber gets a slot on Dancing With the Stars. That's not a lot of downside risk, relative to fission and fusion.

There are established economies on Earth that can't provide 100% of their electrical energy needs from geothermal sources. Some parts of Africa, the US East Coast, Brazil. Japan, though? Yes, they could. Their entire nation is a chain of active volcanos. They are geothermal rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852822)

There is a general trend of alarmist hysteria surrounding nuclear power

You mean hysteria like this?

“Fukushima is going to kill 200,000 from increased cancers over the next 50 years.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/110415/fukushima-death-toll-meltdown-chernobyl?page=full [globalpost.com]

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (1)

badbadger (1980784) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853164)

The unnamed 'reputable scientist' Gundersen is probably referring to is probably Chris Busby, who with all due respect has the credibility of the tooth fairy. Gundersen himself spends most of the argument saying how much worse things are going to get and only near the end says that the things he's talking about have - in his likely inflated estimation - only a 10% or 20% chance of happening.

Read about it here and first! (2)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853514)

I predict the rates of deaths from Cancer in Japan will not increase but rather drop off, as ppl will now be more aware of a risk, and more likely to follow though on it!

Treatments will be made cheaper and more widely available, and thus a much lower death rate the other parts of the 1st world!

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852994)

There is a general trend of alarmist hysteria surrounding nuclear power....Dismissing the anti-alarmist commentators as "nuclear industry PR folks" is essentially throwing reason out the window in favour of fear.

Except that there is in fact a lot of nuclear astroturfing going on.

Meet the Nuclear Power Lobby
http://www.prwatch.org/node/7506 ...
Bowman heads the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the main lobbying group for the industry. His remarks (PDF), at a February gathering of more than 100 Wall Street analysts, were part of a presentation on "reasoned expectations for new nuclear plant construction."

Bowman knew it was important to impress his audience of wary potential investors. "We are where we are today because this industry started many years ago on a systematic program to identify what went wrong the last time," he said, "and develop ways to eliminate or manage those risks."

NEI has certainly won bragging rights. Thanks to its persistence, a growing number of commentators and policymakers see nuclear power as the solution to global warming. "Safe, secure, vital," is the mantra...

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (3, Insightful)

Gorshkov (932507) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853148)

Except that there is in fact a lot of nuclear astroturfing going on.

How is it astroturfing if they are a) a group specifically and publicly formed by and for the nuclear industry, b) not hiding who they are, but openly and honestly giving their side of the debate, c) to an audience that is there specifically to hear what they have to say because they WANT to hear what they have to say?

Sorry, but that's just silly. It's kinda like saying the catholic church astroturfs every time a priest stands up and gives a sermon.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (4, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853624)

Meanwhile I object to calling the guys that say "the roof won't blow off" etc etc "realists".
As I see it one of the biggest problems is the expectation of 100% zealous fanboy behaviour or you are out. Suggest a thorium solution on the ground of increased safety? Out the door you go, distinguished career over with the successful project cancelled. Suggest a brilliant way to very cheaply chemically incorporate everything in high grade waste in a stable material? There is no waste problem screams the fanboys - you cannot have your dismal amount of funding so it's going to take you three decades to put the finishing touches on.
Once nuclear power became a way to funnel huge amounts of money from the taxpayers it ceased to be anything other than an excuse for that transfer so it was technologically finished in the USA. What Westinghouse would sell you before Toshiba got involved was little more than TMI painted green. Now it's currently not much better. Meanwhile South Africa has more advanced civilian nuclear technology - derived from that via Germany is the pebble bed reactor in China. India is way ahead. France for all it's troubles and the dead end of plutonium fast breeders and pointless reprocessing is well ahead.
Meanwhile in the USA it's just a cheer squad that pretends it is all perfect and it's rare that some improvement sneaks in from elsewhere (eg. the Toshiba stuff that inspired the AP1000). It's been a dead industry in the USA since even before Carter told them they had to survive on their own merits.

Re:Oh, a nuclear energy thread. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852766)

You're deluding yourself.

The power company reps, governments and media are making that easy, but you're still the one living in delusion. That's a far more dangerous place to be than most realize. The more you believe in lies, the more your mind and soul deteriorate.

If you want to really be a skeptic, you need to dig in earnest into all sides of the story, accurately determine the truth of what you find, contrast and compare, and don't hide behind sophistry or let the fear of being 'wrong' about your initial assumptions determine your thought patterns.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (4, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852486)

The 9.0 earthquake is now said to have been the largest ever recorded to have hit a civilized area.

Because as we all know, Chile, Indonesia and Anchorage, Alaska are composed entirely of backwards tribal villages.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (2, Funny)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852512)

The 9.0 earthquake is now said to have been the largest ever recorded to have hit a civilized area.

Because as we all know, Chile, Indonesia and Anchorage, Alaska are composed entirely of backwards tribal villages.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, given that most of those places are particularly backwards.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (3, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852630)

Ah, yes:

Backwards Chile, [google.com]
backwards Indonesia, [google.com]
backwards Alaska. [google.com]

Nope, no civilization there.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (-1, Troll)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852658)

Having big buildings doesn't make you civilised, it's more about the people and their way of life. Sure, they have skyscrapers, but looking at those images I have no indication of whether they worship uncivilised gods or continually have tribal battles. As far as I'm concerned, they are all still uncivilised locations.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (2, Insightful)

DeathElk (883654) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852724)

worship uncivilised gods

continually have tribal battles

Well that must make us Westerners absolutely prehistoric then.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (2, Funny)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852778)

Are you calling our Lord and Saviour uncivilised?

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852824)

Less of your "our" there buddy, Jerry Pournelle is not my lord and saviour, though I liked his fiction..

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (2)

matthewv789 (1803086) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853136)

Touche. I think the use of the words "backwards" and even "civilized" were not particularly appropriate or helpful; however, the point that this was the strongest earthquake to have hit a densely-populated urban area appears to be correct. To address your response:

The earthquakes in Alaska and Chile happened about 50 years ago, when those areas were much less built up than today.
Valdivia Chile has a much less impressive skyline than Santiago even today, and the epicenter of that earthquake was over 400 miles from Santiago.
The 2004 "Indonesian" earthquake struck off the west coast of Sumatra; Jakarta is on a sheltered side of Java about 1000 miles away.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (1)

Kentari (1265084) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853670)

At the time the earthquakes hit Alaska (9.2, 1964) was basicly empty and it still is (the biggest hit town, Anchorage, had a whopping +-45k population), Chile (9.5, 1960) was not much better (the more recent quakes was a 8.8 and thus not bigger), Kamchatka (9.0, 1952) was also empty and still is and Sumatra (9.1, 2004) is not empty but not heavily industrialised, you didn't see any skyscrapers, high speed railways or nuclear plants in the hit area there. Indonesia may have been developed quite a bit, but Jakarta is a long way from the West coast of Sumatra. You really cannot compare any of these area to Japan.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852514)

Well, it depends on how you define "civilized". Isaac Asimov was forever bypassing the Three Laws by having the robots use different definitions of "human".

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852648)

I remember reading early reports in the immediate aftermath of the quake that suggested it was a global record breaker. Later, these were retracted or forgotten once hard data started circulating (it's actually somewhere on the order of the fifth largest on record).

It's entirely possible that either A) the passage the GP quoted was written before the facts become known or B) Pournelle was going by memory and wasn't up to date on where this quake actually ranked.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (1, Troll)

nzac (1822298) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852538)

Note that China is not going to halt nuclear power construction. The major effect of Fukushima Daiichi may well be a very great Chinese comparative advantage. Cheap easily available energy and freedom are the keys to economic prosperity: the Chinese are moving toward both. The United States is moving away from both. The results are predictable.

Are they? and what accuracy do you give these predictions? I can make predictions of arbitrary accuracy by inappropriately simplifying and generalising of almost anything.

This is a PR piece for fox viewers, its an insult to the intelligence of readers here.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852764)

Yes the results are predicable. China will end up having the world's largest nuclear catastrophe in the world's most largely populated area. Mean while, the non nuclear nations will continue to run just fine.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (3, Interesting)

Zenicetus (1014959) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852888)

"Lucifer's Hammer" (1977), co-authored by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. An otherwise good novel about what a large comet strike would actually do to our civilization, ruined by an ending where the elite Randian/Libertarian survivors save civilization by defending the last remaining nuclear power plant. That's all you need to know about Pournelle's stance on nuclear power. If nuclear power isn't wonderful, then the whole premise of that novel is shot.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (1)

sjwt (161428) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853538)

I would suggest you go and re-read this one idea novel, its is a lot more then that, and they do not save civilization, *spoiler* alert shouldn't be needed here, as you 'claim' to have read it, they may have the last working nuclear plant that they know of, but someone somewhere is still flying Jet plains! In the end they just saved them selves. Civilization is fine else where.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (4, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852916)

First and foremost most of the damage was not actually done by the earthquake itself, most of the fatalities, and the cause of the Fukushima incident was the tsunami, not the earthquake. And even assuming "civilized" means "heavily populated", it still ignores that whole Indian Ocean [wikipedia.org] tsunami that occurred in a heavily populated area.

Actually the fact that the earthquake occurred so close to the shore probably SAVED lives in the end. In the Indian ocean quake, most of the affected areas never actually felt the quake, all they saw was the water receding then a giant wave. Most had no chance to escape. At least in Japan the fact that the quake was so powerful gave an unmistakable warning to the people living near the coast to get to high ground. The closeness of the earthquake to the shore probably ended up saving, not costing, lives.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853084)

So the flooded generators caused the meltdown, and the tsunami caused the flood, and the earthquake caused the tsunami. But what caused the earthquake? Who had the means and opportunity? Who had the most to gain? [gadling.com] Some circumstantial evidence is difficult to ignore, as when you find a trout in the milk.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (5, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852978)

It is not Chernobyl, but still a level 7 disaster with 1/8 the amount of radiation leaked (very very large). Chernobyl is so radioactive that it can't be inhabited for at least a few centuries.

If the core and its steal containment structure is melted with radioactive material with water leaking through cracked concrete from it, then indeed the situation is much more serious. Radiation is going up in the sea outside the plant right after a 5.9 aftershock. This was after it fell when the leak was plugged. This points to a crack through the foundation where this is leaking into the groundwater and sea.

Either way, it is very rational to view this as a catastrophy and these robots will be needed to find out what is going on and how to fix the plant. If the worst fears are true and that the metal reactors themselves have melted then I do not know how it can be fixed. It took 20 years before people could enter the reactor after 3 mile island shutdown to actually see the partial meltdown to confirm it.

Not something to laugh about and forget by any sense of the means

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853012)

Cheap easily available energy

Nuclear energy is neither cheap nor easily available. The strongest argument against nuclear energy is the economic argument. No one wants to factor in the hundreds of billions of dollars of cost after something goes wrong. If even 10% of the resources invested in nuclear (which is trillions of dollars, btw) were invested in PV, nuclear would not be able to compete with it. As it is, the relative pittance that has been invested in solar will begin to give nuclear very real competition within 2 decades. And solar is only one alternative.

Quake wasn't problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853028)

It was the tsunami that took away the people and the diesel generators. Both tsunami victims and the plant were fine after the quake.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (2)

Nedmud (157169) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853210)

Ok, correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't Tsar Bomba famous for being the largest nuclear weapon detonated? I don't see the relevance of it to estimating the consequences of an accident at a power station. The effects in each case are almost entirely incomparable. Sure, they're both "nuclear", and each involves a release of radioactivity. But the distribution of that in terms of isotope mix, time, intensity, location follow entirely different models. Furthermore, Tsar is renowned for its fusion detonation, which AFAICT is largely unrelated to the amount of fissile material required to trigger it -- for all I know the fission bomb component was no larger than average. Using it as the benchmark for "biggest nuclear thing ever" is bizarre and simplistic.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853294)

Note that China is not going to halt nuclear power construction. The major effect of Fukushima Daiichi may well be a very great Chinese comparative advantage. Cheap easily available energy and freedom are the keys to economic prosperity: the Chinese are moving toward both. http://www.thechanelonline.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=65 The United States is moving away from both. The results are predictable.

Jerry Pournelle's *crackpot* view of Fukushima (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853334)

"...there is no sign of any danger to anyone outside the evacuation zone in Japan"

This is truly hilarious. Words delivered with the same sincerity as those uttered by representatives of the cigarette industry back in the 1950's.

Pournelle cleverly avoids comment on the Japanese workers who are now dying a slow death as a result of their efforts to deal with the problem and obviously Jerry cannot wait to see exactly just what problems might emerge from the 9 month project to seal the reactor.

The fact that there is need for an evacuation zone at all should wake dear old Pournelle up to the problem, but he is too old and set in his ways.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853346)

That's nice, Jerry. Here, have some sashimi.

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (3, Insightful)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853358)

Nice to know your crystal ball is functioning perfectly. I know that everyone in China is relieved to know that there will never be a Chernobyl/Fukushima accident in all the reactors that are going to be built in China.

I'm sure that China will avoid the same organizational flaw where the people running the nuclear plans for profit are identical with the people who are making decisions about cost and safety. In Japan, after working at the electric utility TEPCO many managers went to work for NISA, the Japanese government Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Given how the Communist Party dominates all political and economic planning activities, all the regulators will call the shots, and safety will never be compromised to meet production schedules and profit goals.

If you don't want to take my word for it, just ask all the people in China who were poisoned by melamine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal [wikipedia.org].

One analyst, Willy Lam, a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, indicated that CCP's pervasive control over political and economic resources has resulted in the absence of meaningful systematic checks and balances. "Institutions that could provide some oversight over party and government authorities - for example, the legislature, the courts or the media - are tightly controlled by CCP apparatchiks." A Beijing-based consultancy, Dragonomics, concurred that "the problem was rooted in the Communist Party’s continued involvement in pricing control, company management and the flow of information". Independent regulation was lacking or ineffective as local industries' were so intertwined with local officialdom.

The Times noted that while one child in 20 in Shanghai may have kidney damage as a result of drinking contaminated formula milk, on the other hand, "like the emperors of old, the new communist elite enjoy the finest produce from all over China, sourced by a high-security government department."

What could possibly go wrong?

a pretty boneheaded analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853460)

All in all a pretty boneheaded analysis of events that are still unfolding.
Since there is "not much evidence" against anything (in your/his words), I suggest you move to the evacuation zone in Japan right away: buy property now, it will never be so cheap!

We have very little experimental data on nuclear meltdowns, despite the strong memories and high damages caused by Chernobyl and the other (fortunately few) major incidents, so of course there is not hard evidence of anything. But I think that through the deaths, mutations, stories you can get from anybody who experienced Chernobyl we got a pretty good informal understanding that radioactive particles are able to seriously affect the health of individuals and of the natural environment for decades if not for centuries.

It's wisdom that should guide any attempt at dealing with situations like these, when there's not enough knowledge.
Wisdom that is missing in this techno-enthusiast "rational view".

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853580)

Conservative estimates (Areva) point to at least 60% meltdown in three cores, mobilization of about half the cores' inventory of solubles and of essentially all gases.

That's way more material than a Tsar Bomba or three (remember, the Tsar Bomba was high-altitude, 90-something % fusion yield). I'm not even counting the three cooling pools with unknown amounts of water in them which are steaming and outgassing in the open.

Is it more than Chernobyl? Certainly not, in terms of heavy metals and activated carbon released, so the long-term effects (heavy metal toxicity, mostly) will not be as pronounced.

I see, howewver, an estimation of 1T Bq/hr being released. That's definitely going somewhere and with the monsoon season starting, that somewhere is the southwest of Japan (Kanto will be hardest hit, if this is a regular monsoon).

I have reason to believe that additional cancers, birth defects and miscarriages over the next 30-50 years or so will not be correctly reported, nor, indeed, correctly attributed should they be detected. Even simple facts such as radiation measurements are being withheld or obfuscated.

Also, you yourself are spreading untruths. The plant was on an approved 10 year life-extension that had just started. The earthquake was definitely not the biggest earthquake ever and its magnitude at Fukushima was even lower than that, because of distance from the epicenter mainly.

The #2 reactor is cracked. That could not have happened because of the tsunami (not enough energy), nor can it be because of the hydrogen explosion ("wrong" blast pattern). That leaves only one culprit - the earthquake itself, which indeed exceeded the puny 7.5 Richter design maximum.

There is now talk (from TEPCO) of flooding the reactor buildings. They are not designed to hold water in the first place. They are already compromised, structurally, by a massive earthquake, two aftershocks and an explosion each. Will they hold if another quake comes?

No need to answer that, of course. Just go back to your dreams of "energy too cheap to meter".

Re:Jerry Pournelle's *rational* view of Fukushima (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853630)

It would be interesting to have live video streaming online from these robots, so everyone can see. Plus then independent experts in other countries can help make assessments of how best to help out.

In this modern Internet connected world we should have had streaming video from UAV's in there weeks ago. We have the technology, its just not being used at all effectively.

Just a Tsar Bomb (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853666)

" It's not Chernobyl. When all this began I said a worst case would be one or more Tsar Bomba equivalents. "

Well, that's very comforting, after all the Tsar Bomb is just the BIGGEST FRIKKIN HYDROGEN BOMB EVER BUILT.
Yeah, I know residual fallout is smaller in atomic/hydrogene bombs than in dirty bombs, but I still wouldn't make the guy my PR/spokesperson.

Are you crazy?! (5, Funny)

Troke (1612099) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852452)

I object to letting our robotic overlords have control of nuclear material.

Re:Are you crazy?! (3, Funny)

snikulin (889460) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852588)

Don't be afraid, Comrade! Just like my iRobot's Roomba it will totally forget its humanity enslaiving plans when it encounter a loose power cable and start chewing on it.

Re:Are you crazy?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852604)

I, for one, welcome our radioactive mutant robot overlords.

They'll Regret That! (4, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852456)

Thanks to Google. Once they find out that long term disability and on-the-job life insurance does not extend to robots. This will be just one of many stepping stones to the robot uprising, mark my words!

iRobots? (1)

willoughby (1367773) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852460)

Who will be the first to sue this company about the name, the Isaac Asimov estate or Apple?

Re:iRobots? (2, Interesting)

faulteh (1869228) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852544)

iRobot has been building robots for years with no problems with the name.

It is substantially different from crApple products by the fact iRobot products are actually useful rather than shiny technology, and substantially different from Asimov's titicular story, 'I, Robot' in the fact that (a) iRobot's are not 3 laws safe, and (b) it doesn't use 'I, ' but rather 'i' and (c) the company in Asimov's stories is US Robotics which shares the name with another company that you may have used back in the dialup days www.usr.com

I have one of the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaners and hope that there will be future technological advances that allow me to continue on my goal to the state of being a lazy fat c*nt.

PS WTF Japan, you're only NOW starting to use robots help fix the reactor???

Re:iRobots? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852642)

Isn't the real 'WTF' here: 'Japan, you're using AMERICAN robots to help assess and/or fix the reactor!?!?!'

Somewhere deep in a bunker under Siberia, an irony alarm is going off.

Re:iRobots? (0)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853606)

Japans Roboters have refused to go in there, their union said that they don't need to take commands from the meatbags.

Better late than never.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852462)

It's about time. In the Land of the Robots, they finally found a paltry few to send in there.

Re:Better late than never.. (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852732)

Yeah, no kidding! They've been touting their awesome robotics breakthroughs for years, but when it's crunch time apparently it takes a couple of months before they can even get one on the scene. Whoops!

Re:Better late than never.. (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852772)

They've been touting their awesome robotics breakthroughs for years, but when it's crunch time apparently it takes a couple of months before they can even get one on the scene. Whoops!

It's been a couple of months since the Japan earthquake? Really?

Were they properly tested beforehand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852484)

What if they robots are susceptible to radiation and this brings about the singularity?

Finally! (2)

CycleMan (638982) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852492)

With all the stories of robots invented by Japanese over time, I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event. I just assumed that if they were inventing sex robots and elder-care robots and dancing robots which all do things which humans could already do pretty well, that they had run out of things humans couldn't do, like industrial robots and disaster explorer robots. I've lost a lot of respect for Japanese robotics after the length of this delay.

Re:Finally! (3, Interesting)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852536)

The problem isn't the robotics researchers or manufacturers. I can tell you from experience that new technology like the use of robots in emergency management will always take years to come into play. There are so many great ways that technology can be integrated with emergency management, but emergency services will never have the budget and human resources to experiment with and adapt technology to real world applications. The earthquake was a catalyst for change in emergency management in Japan, leading to an immediate requirement for the use of new technology which would have been invested in (with both time and money) when the need became apparent. Personally I'd like to see further developments like this - the use of UAVs for bushfire operations and other disaster reconnaissance, robotic rubble searchers, etc.

Re:Finally! (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852574)

Well, Japanese companies seem to spend their time producing things that are small and efficient and good enough for day-to-day activities.

While in the US, everybody expects the world to turn into a Mad Max movie next Tuesday—so we spend our time making everything as overpowered and heavy-duty as we can get away with.

Still, it's nice that the products of our trillion-dollar defense budgets do benefit someone once in a while.

Re:Finally! (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852720)

I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event.

Me too. After 9/11, there were robots on scene in under 2 days. The iRobot unit being used here is a standard PackBot [irobot.com], of which about 20,000 have been manufactured for the US military.

The worst aspect of this disaster for the future of nuclear power is that it all came merely from a loss of cooling. The plant survived the earthquake. The reactor's cooling system survived the tsunami and continued to function until the battery backups were drained. Loss of cooling caused heat buildup, hydrogen release, and the hydrogen explosions. All the damage you're seeing is from the hydrogen explosiions, not the natural disaster.

A total loss of cooling power could happen for other reasons - a fire, tornado, hurricane, or act of terrorism. There's been a design assumption that no disaster would result in the loss of all power sources. That turns out to be a bad assumption.

Ah, its is nuclear power; it is all about the temp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852980)

Temp is how the whole thing works and also the big problem in nuclear power-- almost every credible threat relates to the cooling; it doesn't have explosions or breaks in things in the cold - there are so many safety measures that are nearly fool proof in the cold!

The waste, well that is another problem its the output waste not related to the plant's operation. The waste doesn't seem to be handled well by most nations. At least they'll have a place to ship it all -- TEXAS is going to privatize nuclear waste dumps and allow them to put them over ground water supplies. good riddance.

Re:Finally! (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853660)

I think the future of nuclear power has been considered to be small reactors that will not suffer from this problem since sometime in the late 1970s. Apart from a pebble bed prototype it hasn't arrived yet.

Re:Finally! (1)

ShoulderOfOrion (646118) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852788)

Those were my thoughts exactly. And equally applicable to other technologies as well. Every time I heard the folks on TV wondering whether or not there was water in the spent fuel pools, I kept wondering why they didn't just talk to the RC helicopter folks, who've been mounting HD cameras on their (relatively) inexpensive gyro-stabilized 'copters for years. Fly one in and have a look.

Re:Finally! (4, Funny)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852832)

With all the stories of robots invented by Japanese over time, I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event.

Give them a break, they had to mod the robot so that it's mouth no longer vibrated sensuously .

Re:Finally! (2)

blindseer (891256) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852838)

It was my understanding that the radiation was too high at that point for any existing robot to operate in that environment. Since radiation levels on this magnitude is rare I suspect that robots designed to withstand such high radiation will not exist for some time.

I have much respect for the mechanical and software advancements that the Japanese have brought to robotics. The problem here is that the electronics, while being very capable in completing computations, lack the capability to function in high radiation environments. I would think that not even outer space rated electronics could handle the amount of radiation coming out of the reactors at that time.

Re:Finally! (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853488)

i guess they still havent solved the issue about who exactly is in charge of Gundam, after the ministry of agriculture denounced the responsibility

Re:Finally! (2)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853672)

I am surprised they weren't doing this on day 2 after the event.

I think they were hoping for reptile sequestration of all the radioactive material.

Allow Me (5, Funny)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852500)

Allow me to be the first to say, "domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!"

Re:Allow Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852632)

Allow me to be the first to say, "domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!"

Do you have insurance Mr Roboto?

What they found inside (2)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852594)

"My God! It's full of stars!"

Re:What they found inside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852624)

They found headcrabs and a crowbar.

Re:What they found inside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852912)

I'm sorry, dipshit, I can't do that.

About Time! (0)

p77gin (919145) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852622)

am surprised they didn't do this earlier? the great western powers have got all sorts of robotic devices and planes and tanks to kill people, couldn't they have given japan a couple to help out people in need? oh but then, that wouldn't earn them dollars would it! ok my bad!

Why so long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852738)

Why didn't someone somewhere already have a number of robots ready to go on short notice.
I would have expected the US army to have rapid deployment robots to nuclear radiation zones.

Re:Why so long (1)

jandoedel (1149947) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853058)

The French have robots specially designed for this kind of situation, radiation proof etc,.. They offered them to Japan a couple of days after the disaster. But Japan refused them.

Re:Why so long (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853122)

probably robots are more expansive than throw-away workers.... (monday morning, not enough coffee - I'm cynical at the moment)

iRobot? (4, Funny)

Sl4shd0t0rg (810273) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852756)

Great, if they are like my Roomba they will bounce from one wall to another in the corner, scream loudly, and then shutdown.

Are they CRAZY?!?!?!? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35852864)

That's EXACTLY what the machines wanted! You've sent them to the mother of all power sources, and mankind to its inevitable doom! Now they will be able to replicate and grow stronger in absolute radiated safety. These fools have just killed us.

TEPCO press material (2)

TopSpin (753) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852964)

The media is getting this material here [tepco.co.jp]. You can find video of RC helicopter flights over the buildings, video of the No.4 spend fuel pool sampling operation right down to the surface of the water, photos of the tsunami water marks on the turbine and reactor buildings and photos of the destruction of outlying structures. Also interesting are photos of the emergency staff and their on-site facilities. Much of this stuff is high resolution photography.

Bender Says (3, Funny)

wa2flq (313837) | more than 2 years ago | (#35852984)

Hey flesh bags, bite my shiny metal radioactive a.....

Oh Fukushima, not Futurama..... Sorry my bad...

Radiation for 6-9 months (4, Interesting)

Silverlok (1792664) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853080)

"Banri Kaieda spoke to reporters on Sunday shortly after Tokyo Electric Power Company presented a road map to cool down the reactors and significantly reduce radiation leaks in 6 to 9 months" http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/17_16.html [nhk.or.jp] It's only 6 to 9 months no big deal right? "Radiation levels measured between the double doors of those reactor buildings was 270 millisieverts in the Number One reactor, 12 in Number 2, and 10 in Number 3. The radiation level detected at the Number One reactor exceeds the national exposure limit of 250 millisieverts for nuclear contract workers." http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/18_03.html [nhk.or.jp] Three reactors melting down and at least one breached , plus several tons of waste fuels rods that have melted or blown away and are still currently boiling off, plutonium found around the plant on the ground , not to mention the dumping of highly radioactive water into the ocean for over a month but no big deal right? http://www.vgb.org/vgbmultimedia/News/Fukushimav15VGB.pdf [vgb.org] If you have a mind to look behind the curtain http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread672665/pg739 [abovetopsecret.com]

Re:Radiation for 6-9 months (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853288)

Wow, that link to VGB is amazing. Awesomely good summary!

The biggest worry I'd have right now is, they keep removing water from the turbine halls but the level won't stay down! Where is the additional water coming from?

kidding (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853218)

As someone who lives in Tokyo and has been following this saga with nervous interest, let me say *about fucking time*.

I couldn't believe when I heard spokesmen on the news two weeks after the incident saying things like "the radiation level has risen suddenly in reactor 2 and there's smoke pouring out of the gaping holes in the structure but since levels are too high to send personnel in to check, at this point we have no idea why."

I mean, are you fucking kidding? I could show up with a parrot drone [parrot.com] sourced off ebay for $300 and be a national hero with salutes of "Are you a wizard?" from all and sunder.

That the people running a nuclear plant are so devoid of imagination and out of touch with modern technology that they can't figure out how to get a remote cam in there at the very least, speaks volumes for Japan. I'm sure it's the only "first world" country where every goddamned bit of government paperwork is just that. Paper. You can go into a local government office and there are no computers on most desks. Yet down the street there's a museum with a singing dancing humanoid robot show.

end rant

Re:kidding (4, Informative)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853524)

There is one serious problem with sending robots there.
All the old BOFH jokes about cosmic rays? It's all true in there.
High radiation levels make bits skip like crazy in high-density memory and CPUs. Your parrot drone's firmware would crash within a mile of the power plant, unless you shield the CPU with enough lead so that it would never take off.

Then try to drive that remotely. The name "radioactivity" is not there in vain. It really creates horrible noise in all radio frequencies, so forget "fly by radio" models. Either it's autonomous, or driven by cable, or you set up a goddamned 100KW radio tower for driving your drone to overcome all the noise.

And then you got a ground drone with all electronics shielded by an inch of lead, driven by a mile long spool of cable unwound from a roll on the back. Now give it a camera that can still see the outside and won't crash due to radiation - possibly analog, with only the CCD exposed, and in such a way that radiation won't pass inside bypassing the lenses. Give it a manipulator arm that has all electronics shielded. Give it a battery that will be able to drive the half a ton of lead, 100kg of wire, and another half a ton of hardware of the device - forget your fancy micro engines, every exposed part must be thick rugged so that electric noise doesn't affect it. Make sure it's radiation-leak proof, because even a small hole in the shield may crash the software.

And now build it. How long will it take you to do it?

Trivia (2)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853396)

After the Chernobyl accident, the team that had created the Lunokhod rovers was asked to build remote-controlled vehicles (RCV) to help clean up. The RCV's first task was to remove reactor debris (chunks of graphite from the core) from a roof, by pushing it off the edge of the roof. The RCVs worked well; eventually though they failed due to the radiation. This despite them being rad-hardened, as the original Lunokhods had been powered by an RTG.

Re:Trivia (3, Informative)

Ruie (30480) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853570)

After the Chernobyl accident, the team that had created the Lunokhod rovers was asked to build remote-controlled vehicles (RCV) to help clean up. The RCV's first task was to remove reactor debris (chunks of graphite from the core) from a roof, by pushing it off the edge of the roof. The RCVs worked well; eventually though they failed due to the radiation. This despite them being rad-hardened, as the original Lunokhods had been powered by an RTG.

RTGs do not produce much external radiation - they are based on alpha-emitter material that is absorbed by the surrounding shielding converting radiation into heat. However, space hardware is rad-hardened because of cosmic rays - natural radiation present in space. This is often not as high-level as can be found near reactor core.

Here is an interesting description of using a robot to fix a high intensity radiaiton source [physorg.com].

Re:Trivia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#35853578)

The Japs are actually using large remote controlled grapples and trucks to cart away debris from the reactor sites. It just isn't in the news, since picking up garbage isn't very exciting.

Damage comparison... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853474)

Could anyone provide figures of property lost value and dead count caused by:

- the Fukushima accident
- the earthquake, excluding the tsunami
- the tsunami, excluding the Fukushima casualties

?

I mean, the power plant problem is a big one, but I'd really like to see how it compares to the big image. Somehow I have a feeling that even establishing a permanent 30km exclusion zone around the power plant, and all the cancer accidents resulting from radiation leaks will not get anywhere near to the number of dead and value of property destroyed in whole towns levelled with the ground by the tsunami wave. Yet we shrug the tsunami as yet another natural event while screaming about dangerous nuclear technology causing a disaster the scale of...

I mean... Fukushima disaster scale is slowly approaching 1.0 Chernobyl events. But how many Tsunami Events is it?

Re:Damage comparison... (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 2 years ago | (#35853676)

Your logic is flawed, but i will try to do so anyway...

fukushima: official 2 deaths due to radiation.
tjunami : arround 10.000 (earthquacke would have caused 100-1000 deaths nobody case to make that difference).
tjernobyl official: 43 according to greanpeace: 100.000+

We welcome our new robotic overlords that can survive there for 25-100 years in a radioactive area. What does i cost to evacuate a 30 km radius for 25-100 years?

so fukushima has easy the potential to grow to 10 times tjunami problem.

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