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Engineers Find Nuclear Meltdown At Fukushima Plant

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the that's-not-got-much-meltdown-in-it dept.

Japan 664

fysdt writes "Engineers from the Tokyo Electric Power company (Tepco) entered the No.1 reactor at the end of last week for the first time and saw the top five feet or so of the core's 13ft-long fuel rods had been exposed to the air and melted down. Previously, Tepco believed that the core of the reactor was submerged in enough water to keep it stable and that only 55 per cent of the core had been damaged."

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664 comments

Nothing to see here (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110100)

Nothing to see here, move along. Everything is fine. Radiation is good for you.

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110306)

Your snide comments aside, this really isn't a problem. The reactor is housed inside of a containment vessel, which means that the melted material should be contained. There has been some evidence that there were minor cracks in the vessel, but as far I understand it, they were sealed weeks ago.

The big deal here is that instead of being able to remove the rods and cleanup the site, they now have a building that has a puddle of radioactive material at the bottom, which may be too difficult to clean up, so as a result, I would expect that they will probably just seal this up and leave it there for the rest of time. But it shouldn't pose any danger to the outside world.

Re:Nothing to see here (4, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110346)

Well, the question arises - where the fuck did the 6 tons water per hour go that they pumped lately if the containment only has minor cracks AND the fuel is not covered by water? Carried away by magic unicorns?

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

PeterKraus (1244558) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110596)

Not to say this isn't a huge issue. Although I've been pretty skeptical about the whole scale of this disaster, and I'm pro nuke, if there really were 5 feet of fuel rods hanging around in the air, that's quite ridiculous and obviously very dangerous.

But why is then the article talking about "if the lava melts trough the vessel"? Aren't the fuel rods themselves already sticking out of the floor? That's what I imagine about "oh lads just walked in and _saw_ shit".

Oh right, this is the Telegraph. Lets mislead people even more. I don't even know what's true now.

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110362)

this really isn't a problem. The reactor is housed inside of a containment vessel, which means that the melted material should be contained. There has been some evidence that there were minor cracks in the vessel, but as far I understand it, they were sealed weeks ago.

We have to take it on faith that those were the only cracks, and that they were sealed completely and permanently.

Re:Nothing to see here (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110450)

Can a containment vessel actually contain radioactive material that is in full melt down?

Has it ever been tested in real life?

Does the containment vessel have cracks?

Do those cracks lead to "the outside world"?

Re:Nothing to see here (2)

PeterKraus (1244558) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110684)

According to an MIT blog (mitnse.com), and data based on nuclear test, and 3 mile island, a molten core eats trough steel and concrete at a fairly slow pace, and the containment is designed to contain full meltdown for months.

Here is the article: http://mitnse.com/2011/03/17/on-worst-case-scenarios/ [mitnse.com] Bear in mind it was published in March.

Guys at the MIT might be wrong though.

Re:Nothing to see here (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110744)

Did they put cracks into the containment vessel like the magnitude 9 earthquake did in Japan? That just might speed things up. I'm pretty sure even the MIT guys would agree with that.

Re:Nothing to see here (0)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110502)

Hey ass-hole the containment vessel was cracked, it leaked plutonium into the sea. That's a danger to the outside world.

And the bigger problem was the spent fuel rods! They were housed outside the containment vessel and where giving off radiation. The spent fuel rods were the bigger problem because the pools they were sitting in, were losing water!! That's why they spent all that time shooting water into the plant. Not to cool down the core but to prevent the spent fuel rods from starting up again.

Call us when you stop being an ass-hole.

Re:Nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110772)

Hey arse hole the sea already had plutonium in it, how many grams did this add across the 1.36716364 × 10^18 cubic meters of seawater? Your lack of brain cells is more of a danger to the general outside world.

nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferred (1, Insightful)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110104)

News 11.

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110140)

Nuclear can be safe, but never will be. And wouldn't be affordable if it was. Not that it's affordable anyway if the cost of containing the long-term nuclear waste was factored in.

Oh... News at 11.

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (4, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110374)

Let's define safe though. Coal power dumps tons and tons of pollutants into the air, so it has long term safety effects (acid rain, global warming, etc). Solar power is generated using panels made with toxic substances. Wind power kills thousands of birds each year. No matter what you do, there will always be some risk and the goal is to minimize it, not eliminate it.

I think that a 40 year old nuclear plant suffered a magnitude 9 earthquake followed by a gigantic tsunami and only suffered a partial meltdown is a testament to the amount of safety, planning, and engineering that goes into these plants. This series of events has only made me feel safer about nuclear energy. Afterall, if that's what it takes to cause a problem at a 40 year old plant, then what would it take to cause a problem at one designed with the latest techniques, expertise, and equipment?

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (3, Insightful)

AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110490)

No, the goal *should* be to eliminate the risk, with the maturity to know that it never will be. You start aiming to only "mitigate" risk, and you start having a few who take it to heart, but many who use the ambiguity to cut corners and trade risk for profit. Stick with the unambiguous goal, and a realistic understanding of what it means.

Otherwise, I agree with you.

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (0, Troll)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110588)

You really are a douche bag...NUCLEAR REACTORS PRODUCE NUCLEAR WASTE! Where the hell have you been? And the reactor design was not safe. They raised safety concerns about it back in the '60s but the manufacturer did not want to address the problem because it would have cost money. Time for you to take that nuclear reactor out of your ass.

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (2)

lordandmaker (960504) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110714)

"And the reactor design was not safe. They raised safety concerns about it back in the '60s but the manufacturer did not want to address the problem because it would have cost money. Time for you to take that nuclear reactor out of your ass. "

Surely this only further reinforces his point?

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (3, Informative)

EastCoastSurfer (310758) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110832)

You really are a douche bag...NUCLEAR REACTORS PRODUCE NUCLEAR WASTE!

They actually produce very little waste (much less than the crap spewing from coal or from producing solar panels). Go education yourself here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123690627522614525.html [wsj.com]

Key quote:

What remains after all this material has been extracted from spent fuel rods are some isotopes for which no important uses have yet been found, but which can be stored for future retrieval. France, which completely reprocesses its recyclable material, stores all the unused remains -- from 30 years of generating 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy -- beneath the floor of a single room at La Hague.

The supposed problem of "nuclear waste" is entirely the result of a the decision in 1976 by President Gerald Ford to suspend reprocessing, which President Jimmy Carter made permanent in 1977. The fear was that agents of foreign powers or terrorists groups would steal plutonium from American plants to manufacture bombs.

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110734)

What toxic chemicals are used to make solar panels? Silica, silicon, aluminum, copper, lead-free solder?

Re:nuclear can be safe; short term profit preferre (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110814)

a single turbine kills fewer birds than 2 un-spayed/neutered cats over the same period.

for that matter, sky scrapers kill more birds each year.

funded by mr burns and his kickbacks. (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110152)

News 11.

funded by mr burns and he made profit buy paying for kickbacks as they are cheaper then paying to fix the broken plant.

and? (1, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110122)

"Nuclear Meltdown" - these two words were used to scare the public away from nuclear power for half a century now. So, what now? So the uranium and zircaloy melted in some cases, and? So they melted, nothing is exploding, nothing is happening. Sure, more radiation is released, but again, so what? It's more radiation, is plutonium and uranium being spread around? What's going on? What should we be scared of now?

Re:and? (3, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110142)

What should we be scared of now?

The inevitable invasion of pink unicorns.

Re:and? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110250)

The FSM will protect me from the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

Re:and? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110608)

... which lives in a teapot in orbit between Mars and Jupiter! I know it's true; Krsna told me!!!!

Re:and? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110170)

nothing is happening. Sure, more radiation is released

"No but yes". Cs-137.

Re:and? (1, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110196)

Sure, it's released, sure, it's not great. Who is dying? The stuff is flowing into the ocean, which always had nuclear materials in it, diluted in water, so there will be some more now. Horror.

Re:and? (-1, Flamebait)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110396)

Hey, how about, to prove the safety and harmlessness of Cs radionuclides, you lace your breakfast cereal with it, preferably daily? Either you prove your point, or you rid us of your stupidity without ever having to admit that you are an idiot. Win-Win for you, ain't it?

He would never agree to that (1, Troll)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110496)

People like roman don't care how many people die as long as he does not have to actually put a face to the numbers.

Re:He would never agree to that (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110584)

I don't know where you are coming from with that, I am perfectly fine with faces on numbers.

Re:and? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110510)

Well, if you collect all that water from the ocean right now, and filter out the Cesium and Uranium and other such heavy metals, then you lace your cereal with that daily, you will end up with certain problems on your hands.

I, on the other hand, am not interested in filtering out various poisons from the oceans and eating them. But you keep with your flaming and trolling.

It's bad for you. (3, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110316)

Sure, more radiation is released, but again, so what?

It's bad for you.

Re:It's bad for you. (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110618)

so you are saying I shouldn't be drinking the water from the plant right now, and maybe wait until it's diluted with more ocean water, and then drink it? I don't actually like drinking ocean water that much though...

Re:It's bad for you. (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110798)

So is pollution from coal power, which estimates say kills between 10,000 and 30,000 people per year (depending on which sources you want to believe).

Yet there are no news stories about that. Not even a mention in any of the fear-mongering stories about the "nuclear meltdown," not that I've heard. This was one of the worst nuclear power disasters in the history of the world. Does it even have a death toll yet?

If people want to talk about the safety of our power options, I'm all for it. But such discussion must be rational and honest. If all that people are trying to accomplish is fear-mongering, well, I guess that's their right, but nobody should take them seriously.

Re:and? (1)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110412)

How about: The human species has never been here before, and no one really knows how things will progress from this point on.

Although, if you want something specific to be scared about, how about a huge steam explosion when the fuel hits the water table.

Re:and? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110480)

so they found 5/13 feet or ~ 40% core damage instead of 55%. The summary makes it sounds worse.

Re:and? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110546)

What should we be scared of now?

The fact that the nuclear industry appears to be full of people who have no idea about accurate risk assessment?

Re:and? (4, Insightful)

Platinum Dragon (34829) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110622)

What are you going to do with that molten mess? Remember; it's basically all radioactive waste now, good luck finding a country that will take it. Nope, that witches brew of toxic heavy metals is staying there for a long, long time. An earthquake-resistant, tsunami-resistant structure is goin to have to be built and maintained for, oh, the next few thousand years.

If nuclear reactors were treated as lackadasically as fossil fuel-burning facilities have been until recently (and may still be), you bet your arse there would be many more deaths and sicknesses. The paranoia exists because we know very well what an uncontrolled release of radiation, or a power excursion in an operating reactor, can do.

Re:and? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110698)

This should be concern for the company, there should be no limits set by governments on liability (like the few tens of millions of dollars liability cap they had or have in USA for deep water oil drilling).

It's really the company's problem - they have to figure out how to take that and store it or reuse, whatever.

Re:and? (1)

colfer (619105) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110682)

A fantastic amount of heat is created, which further melts the control structures used to dissipate heat. The only thing keeping it together is massive amounts of water, which cannot cool off the melted-together blobs very well. Then when it finally cools, the surrounding structure will have to be taken apart with cranes and jackhammers, while not exposing workers for more than a few minutes per year.

The mistake was right at the binning, at not putting all effort to cooling right away. Containment, leading to hydrogen explosions, was a cautious and disastrous choice. Company management announced after the first explosion there might be second explosion, and let it happen. Perhaps there was no other way, but I doubt it. Once the buildings exploded, the cooling problems became more difficult.

It seems the fear of small amounts of radiation led to much higher releases which will indeed kill people over the next 200 years or so.

Only 55%? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110174)

I'm no nuclear expert, but if someone were to tell me that in the accident I only damaged 55% of my body, I wouldn't feel terribly good about it.

Re:Only 55%? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110378)

I'm no nuclear expert, but if someone were to tell me that in the accident I only damaged 55% of my body, I wouldn't feel terribly good about it.

Unless of course you were pulled from the rubble caused by a 9.0 earthquake where you could have easily been killed, then you might feel better about it.

Re:Only 55%? (1)

OopsClunkThud (1305241) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110552)

So the previous estimate was that 55% of the core had been damaged. They found that 5ft of the 13ft long cores were damaged. 5/13*100%=38.5% Sounds like it's not as bad as expected. Still a long way from good, but not really news.

The "I Told You So" Thread? (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110180)

Is this where we get to tell all the "Nuclear Power at Any Cost" folks "I told you so?" Nuclear power can be safe and inexpensive, but just plugging your ears and yelling "LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" whenever anything goes wrong is not going to get us there.

Re:The "I Told You So" Thread? (0)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110368)

They won't pay attention. They're like birthers: they are always right and everyone else is always wrong, no matter what.

The article is ambiguous as to whether the molten fuel is still in the vessel or has escaped, partially or totally. The possibility of a blob of molten nuclear fuel in a full blown fission reaction melting its way through the subsoil and into groundwater, contaminating everything in its path and blowing a very dirty plume of steam into the atmosphere is not welcome news.

Re:The "I Told You So" Thread? (4, Interesting)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110478)

I don't think there have been any "Nuclear Power at Any Costs" types. Everyone who wants it also wants it to be safe. Of course, the anti-nuke people would like you to think that any and all nuclear supporters wouldn't give a damn when one had a failure.

The possibility of a blob of molten nuclear fuel in a full blown fission reaction melting its way through the subsoil and into groundwater, contaminating everything in its path and blowing a very dirty plume of steam into the atmosphere is not welcome news.

No, but at the same time it isn't very likely. I mean, unless you have evidence to back up your fear-induced claim. Certainly it would have happened now if it were that out of control.

Re:The "I Told You So" Thread? (3, Insightful)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110472)

Imagine where we'd be if that attitude was present in the past.

Steam!? High pressures? Sounds lethal, let's give it a miss... Internal combustion engine!? That liquid fuel might catch fire, people could die...

Yes there are risks, but if anything, what Fukushima went through proves it's not as dangerous as people might think, even when it goes wrong (well it didn't go wrong, it suffered an earthquake and tsunami). It's not like there are fuel rods in the ocean and mushroom clouds kicking off. Hopefully this will take the edge off the word meltdown in the same way that we're not really phased by boiler explosions any more.

Re:The "I Told You So" Thread? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110660)

i don't think nuclear power can ever be "inexpensive" taking into account decom and waste disposal/storage expenses. It's pretty darn good besides.

Re:The "I Told You So" Thread? (0)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110672)

1. Run around screaming that the sky is falling.
2. Wait until a satellite deorbits.
3. ???
4. Profit!

Sensors? (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110184)

Why do they only know now? Are there no cameras/water level sensors/etc... that could have told them this remotely? Or does something about the technology preclude that from being feasible or useful?

seeing is believing (1)

Budgreen (561093) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110198)

Funny... I wonder how they *saw* the rods.. did they pop off the reactor cap and take a peek in and measure it? lol I am going to assume that when they went in and re-calibrated the water level gauges they found the level to be below where the fuel normally is so it's a good assumption the fuel has broken/melted/fallen down the the bottom of the pressure vessel since it's still being cooled by the lower than normal level. but for how long?

Do the maths (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110200)

Jeez 5ft from a 13ft rod is 38% so what you are telling us is that there is actually less damage to the core than TEPCO had estimated.

Nuclear power arguments (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110210)

This entire disaster has been framed as a failure of nuclear power almost every time it comes up. People don't seem to say this was a failure of management or engineering in these discussions. Why do you suppose that is?

Re:Nuclear power arguments (5, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110288)

The point is that given the inevitability of human error and insatiable greed, is nuclear the best option? This is the point the anti-nuke crowd has been making. Yes, it CAN be done safely...in theory. But, what happens when corporation A figures that regulation X hurts profits too much so they lobby to get it waivered, and regulation Y is weakly enforced, so they just ignore it altogether?

Personally, I like the idea of nuclear power. I just don't trust it in the hands of any organization with a profit motive.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110370)

Considering that the Fukishima plant is a worst case scenario, you got nothing to fear, so yeah....

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

rhakka (224319) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110616)

yeah, nothing to fear. that's why dangerous levels of radiation are found in seaweed 40 miles away and tens of thousands of animals are being killed, because there is *nothing to fear*. I see.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110384)

Because here on Slashdot profits are evil, except for when it come you paying you. Dumb socialists that post here.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110738)

I think most would aver that NET profits are evil; which is somewhat axiomatic, since gross profit margin is essentially a measure of the exploitation of others -- I don't think anyone here thinks that gross profits are necessarily evil.

-AC

Re:Nuclear power arguments (3, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110400)

The point is that given the inevitability of human error and insatiable greed, is nuclear the best option? This is the point the anti-nuke crowd has been making. Yes, it CAN be done safely...in theory. But, what happens when corporation A figures that regulation X hurts profits too much so they lobby to get it waivered, and regulation Y is weakly enforced, so they just ignore it altogether?

Personally, I like the idea of nuclear power. I just don't trust it in the hands of any organization with a profit motive.

But coal power is also handled by an organization with a profit motive. If we stop letting corporations run nuclear plants, it means we open new coal plants. Given our current level of inevitable human error, nuclear power has the lowest cost in human lives of any power source. Even with our big mistakes and the disasters we've seen, it just can't compete with the "working as intended" performance of coal:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html [nextbigfuture.com]

Re:Nuclear power arguments (2)

rhakka (224319) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110670)

it is simply not true that we must choose between nuclear and coal.

the technology for conservation is far beyond what we are utilizing right now. to say nothing at all of the half a dozen clean and renewable energy sources that are within twice the cost of nuclear energy per KWH.

that's the twice the cost of nuclear energy with NO CATASTROPHES to clean up, that is. I would be interested in seeing what the final cost tally from fukushima would do to the expected cost per KWH were it all borne by TEPCO instead of the japanese government. Including relocation, rebuilding, etc.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110704)

nuclear power has the lowest cost in human lives of any power source

The difference is that coal plants have "accidents" and nuclear plants have "disasters."

Re:Nuclear power arguments (2, Informative)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110420)

Irrelevant. You can make the same argument about coal power, and coal is actually WORSE than nuclear in both radiation output and toxic byproducts that need disposal. I don't see any anti-nuclear idiot bitching about coal.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

arthurh3535 (447288) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110580)

Irrelevant. You can make the same argument about coal power, and coal is actually WORSE than nuclear in both radiation output and toxic byproducts that need disposal. I don't see any anti-nuclear idiot bitching about coal.

That would require them to realize that nuclear power is going to be required if we don't want to be paying 50% of our wages for electricity and oil sometime in the future. Humanity here on Earth needs a greater source of usable energy and oil/gas is not going to cut it over the long term. Neither is just fission over the very long term, but hopefully we have a few means of escaping gravity before things get that serious.

Concentration? (1)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110668)

The damage caused by a toxic substance correlates to the level of exposure and the concentration of these substances that end up in individual people.

I think we would all be much happier if Fukushima Dai1 were a coal plant at this point . . .

Re:Nuclear power arguments (3, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110746)

Well, the media may not be picking it up, but there's lots of environmentalist types complaining about the use of coal-fired plants too, due to the fact that it's one of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions contributing to global warming, and can turn the areas near where it's mined into wastelands.

The green folks are pretty clear on what they want to see: widespread use of wind and solar power.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (5, Informative)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110632)

The problem wasn't the technology or the construction. The only flaw I saw in the entire setup was that the system SCRAM'd without backup power to run the cooling system. What this failure points out is a critical failure in site planning and design for site specific conditions. This reactors was built at sea level on the side of the island hit more times than any other by Tsunami's where there are 600 year old (600!) markers saying don't build below this point because a Tsunami destroyed everything below the marker and it appear that although they took into account earthquake engineering they didn't even account for a Tsunami hitting the plant.

Had they taken the Tsunami incident into account they could have either built the plant with sea walls and significant concrete protection for the generators and backup systems or they could have built the plant above the markers. They did neither, so the reactors began building up latent heat from the reactions when the backup cooling system and generators were destroyed by the Tsunami. The key thing here though is that the safety systems and containment vessels prevented a full blown disaster. Sure there was radiation released that will wash into the ocean and dissipate entirely within a year. Sure the reactors have been poisoned and ruined and many people have been displaced but outside the plant operators there will likely not be a single death from radiation. That's an amazing achievement given the glaring site and design problem.

The point of this disaster and what people need to learn isn't that nuclear is bad, it's that site specific conditions need to be taken into account when designing the plant. You need to design for the 100 year storms and disasters to be fully avoided and make preparations and planning probably out to the 500-1000 year events. (for those that aren't aware thats the re-occurrence interval. It doesn't mean it happens every 500 years, it means there is a 1/500 chance of it happening that year). What needs to happen in Japan is an inquiry into why this plant was built at this site (in particular given those 600 year old monuments up the hill from the plant), why it wasn't designed to survive a Tsunami and Earthquake of this magnitude and what happened to make all this possible. Then they need to evaluate every other plant and it's site and make sure they are all designed to survive natural disasters. It's easy for the press to focus on the scary of the nuclear aspect while ignoring the site and engineering failures that made this accident possible.

You can't simply take a "safe" design and slap it down at any location without taking into account local and regional disasters and site specific conditions that could compromise the safety systems. This is basic engineering and how this plant was built at this location without accommodations for a Tsunami is astounding to me.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110692)

Personally, I like the idea of nuclear power. I just don't trust it in the hands of any organization with a profit motive.

Profit motive has nothing to do with it, and it is entirely unclear why anyone would think it did.

What is required to make nuclear power at all viable is strong, independent regulatory oversight. Without that it doesn't matter if the reactor is run by socialists--as Chernobyl was--or social democrats--as Fukushima was--or corporatists--as Three Mile Island was. In every case it has been the failure of strong, independent regulatory oversight that has been the enabler of disaster.

It is simply stupid to point your finger at one particular form of social organization and claim that if only everyone let YOU (or people very much like you) be dictator of the world then everything would be OK. This is demonstrably false. We are all corruptible (I know I am).

The problem is that nuclear reactors, due to the power density of the core, are always going to be ready to do something terribly messy and expensive, although not particularly dangerous compared to coal. And regulatory oversight will always go through lax periods, although it will rarely be as lax in social or liberal democracies as it will routinely be in socialist or corporatist states. But that means with the widespread use of fission power failures like Fukushima are inevitable, and no amount of proclaiming that you are free of one particular motive for cutting corners is ever going to change that. It just muddies the waters around the serious debate we ought to be having about how to power the world without nuclear (expensive and messy) or coal (cheap and dirty) energy.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110780)

I don't trust anyone with a profit motive.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

Sepultura (150245) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110834)

But, what happens when corporation A figures that regulation X hurts profits too much so they lobby to get it waivered, and regulation Y is weakly enforced, so they just ignore it altogether?

But hasn't that been a problem with coal and petroleum? And haven't those industries created their share of "disasters"? Yet we continue to rely on them and largely overlook the negatives seemingly because it's more familiar and easy to understand.

And if you're argument is that we should switch completely to solar/wind (assuming that was even possible, which it isn't), do you really believe that the industry will be ran by mom-and-pop businesses that are primarily concerned with public welfare? I'm quite sure they can manage to create their own problems/"disasters", though perhaps not of the type that inspire doomsday movies like with nuclear energy.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110330)

Because failure of management or engineering at a nuclear power plant is still a failure of nuclear power. It's the nuclear power that causes the problem, not the management. If management or engineering fails at a wind plant, it doesn't require the evacuation of entire cities, potentially for decades.

And because we know that management and engineering DO fail.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110434)

safety costs money, people don't purchase energy on the basis of safety, management and engineers have to make compromises to deliver product at a price that doesn't include a safety premium.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110688)

Posting anonymously because I've moderated this discussion...

Energy should be heavily regulated because maintaining enough competition in markets to drive costs down is completely inefficient. The cost issue is a side-effect more of the government getting involved or not. Also, low energy costs allow other businesses to earn profits. There would be only a very small computer industry is electricity cost $800 per kilowatt hour. Prices of $0.15 per kilowatt hour make things much easier for the secondary market to bare.

Ultimately, it comes down to a compromise of making it safe (which costs money) and making it cost-effective (which conflicts with the safety goal). I'd be willing to guess that the electricity market could double their prices (for the benefit of safety improvements), though, and the market could bare it.

The only ethical thing to do then . . . (1)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110768)

if people are not willing to pay for safety, is not build things that are extremely unsafe without sufficient safety mechanisms.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110500)

because management and engineering failures are always going to happen

the absurdity is not in condemning the entire concept of nuclear power, the absurdity is believing nuclear power can ever be handled with foolproof management and engineering in human society

in other words, other people skip right by condemning only management and engineering failures, and go right on to condemn the entire concept of nuclear power. and this is logical and correct, since management and engineering failures are ubiquitous and always will be

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1, Interesting)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110646)

in other words, other people skip right by condemning only management and engineering failures, and go right on to condemn the entire concept of nuclear power. and this is logical and correct, since management and engineering failures are ubiquitous and always will be/blockquote.

And by that retarded logic, society and all progress (starting from the discovery of fire) should be condemned. Ban civilization, it can cause bad things to happen as a result of human nature!

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

BaronHethorSamedi (970820) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110586)

Because nuclear power doesn't exist independently of management or engineering.

Incidentally, I tend to favor nuclear energy, but it doesn't operate in a vacuum. Your question actually does a pretty good job of framing the broad points of the debate--in theory, nuclear power is clean, safe and efficient. In practice, it's run by complex human organizations. Any complex human organization has the potential for failure at some point along its chain of obligations, and in the case of a nuclear reactor, the potential cost of a failure (no matter how small the chance of that failure occurring) is very steep, as Fukushima is demonstrating. Splitting hairs between the power itself and the structures on which it depends seems painfully semantic when catastrophe actually strikes.

Re:Nuclear power arguments (1)

BumpyCarrot (775949) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110604)

Because the idea that such widespread human concepts are at fault is more terrifying than blaming a science that mystifies the general populace.

"Safe" energy doesn't exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110266)

Before jumping on the bandwagon about how "dangerous" nuclear is, go read the actual statistics from the World Health Organization:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

Everyone seems to think it's "worse" because nuclear accidents happen all at once and the news can sensationalize them. In terms of the actual deaths per TWh, nuclear is the safest by a very wide margin.Even if 1000 times as many people died from nuclear, it would STILL be safer than coal or oil in most countries.

...and the world didn't end?!?!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110276)

...and the world didn't end?!?!?!? But...but..but... I keep hearing from the anti-nuke crowd that a MeltDown is the most horrible thing that can happen, and will result in Bajillions of deaths.

Geeks for Nukes (3, Insightful)

WheezyJoe (1168567) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110486)

Listen Slashdotters: there is no reason why we humans cannot have a safe, viable nuclear power program. Yes, nuclear energy is dangerous, but we have the science and the engineering know-how to build and manage safe, reliable power plants using nuclear energy.

Well, when I say, “we”, I mean some people. Okay, a very few, highly educated people, and yes, people who might require salaries higher than an electricity utility would pay. And even if they did get the salaries they deserve, these people might find the day-to-day management of a power plant to become supremely boring in the long run, and yearn for something more challenging than what’s available in the outskirts of the country where most nuclear power plants reside.

So, does that leave us with a very big reason why people cannot have a safe, viable nuclear power program? Because there are not that many people talented enough to design and safely operate nuclear power plants, because these same rare and talented people would rather get paid to do something else, and because utility companies would rather pay less educated people less money to operate the machinery they don’t completely understand? (picture: the taxi driver with the check-engine light on: “yeah, it’s been like that”)

This could be sad. Really sad. Realizing the limits of society’s capabilities as being the limits of most people rather than the limits of the few mutants among us who qualify as nuclear engineers. Scott Adams notes in The Dilbert Principle that we are nearly all the idiot beneficiaries of a few mutant smart people who make gadgets that are easy for the rest of us to use. But nuclear power plants can’t be made as safe and disposable as a car, an iPad, or even a table-saw. In a nuclear power plant, little things like a lit check-engine light really matter and have devastating consequences.

In the short term, the problems of safe nuclear power can certainly be solved. The right people with the right talents can be hired and put to work. That’s not the problem. The problem is, can the right people be maintained months and years after routines get boring, cost-cutters start cutting, and discipline erodes as the most talented move on to newer and more exciting things?

Put short, is it inevitable that nuclear power plants will have accidents because it simply isn’t practical to maintain sufficient interest (including money and talent) in them to keep them running safely?

Re:Geeks for Nukes (1)

KliX (164895) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110664)

What do you mean by 'sad'? Engineering is partially about the machine and process, and partially about navigating the human factor too.

Any engineer who can't do both is shit, and their designs not worth building.

Re:Geeks for Nukes (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110762)

You really don't have a clue do you. The problem is the salary of nuclear plant employee. The problem is with the corporation that manufactures the nuclear reactor not wanting to build a very safe reactor because it will eat into profits. A safer reactor - and they exist - would not have had this problem. It's all about safety and training and Fukushima lacked both.

Problem with units in reports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36110530)

Not Anonymous but skip oliphant, philosophical bozo.

The Telegraph says 5 Feet.
  From the BBC: "But a spokesman for the power giant said when a faulty gauge had been repaired, it showed water levels in the pressure vessel 5m (16ft) below the level needed to cover fuel rods. "

Also of interest: "He said there was likely to be a large leak in the pressure vessel, possibly caused by the fallen fuel.

"As for a meltdown, it is certain that it has crumbled and the fuel is located at the bottom (of the vessel)," he added.

The water is said to be leaking into the containment vessel and from there into the reactor building.

Experts said the announcement from Tepco did not mean that the situation at the plant had worsened because it was likely that the fuel had dropped to the bottom of the core soon after the 11 March earthquake. "

See: "Setbacks at Japan nuclear plant"
At:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13374153

Re:Problem with units in reports (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110638)

5ft is correct. The report from TEPCO is 1.7m ~ 5ft. 5m is incorrect, and it fact is greater than the length of the fuel rods.

Isn't 5/13' less than 55%? (2)

ruiner13 (527499) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110640)

If 5 ft. out of the 13 ft. rods were melted down, wouldn't that be 38.5%? So wouldn't that be less than the 55% they thought was damaged? So this is good news then? Did subby fail at math? I'm confused...

these posts are so dumb (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110724)

all the posts belittling the supposedly uneducated sheep who condemn nuclear power. all i see are socially inpet criticizing those who have a better grasp of human nature and how it does, and always will, interact with nuclear power

technological overconfidence. an inflated sense of technological familiarity, technophilia, deriving much personal worth and smug satisfaction from one's one personal mastery of technology, and from mankind's mastery of technology in general, etc.: it's all blind, ignorant hubris

the problem is, accidents happen. they always do. no long winded speech on safety will alter the inevitable. corners are cut, economic considerations bypass longterm challenges, things break and fall apart over time. eventually, you have a nuclear accident

and with nuclear power, when you have an accident, it stays with you for centuries. that's the big problem with nuclear power

nuclear power presents longterm effects outside of the realm of mankind's normal psychological considerations. mankind, in a way, isn't built to handle nuclear power safely. and i'm glad you, slashdot user xyz, can understand the longterm implications. the point is, in the normal psychological continuum, it is accurate to say that average human nature doesn't. and so an intelligent person makes decisions not based on the intellect of a select rare few, but on the average scale of intellect (not being able to understand this point, btw, means you probably aren't within the realm of intellect of those select few, at least when it comes to social intelligence)

i'm not saying we have better alternatives. and nuclear is great, when it works. and it works 99% of the time. but the problem with nuclear, when it doesn't work that 1% of the time?

unlike every other power source, really terrible consequences stay with you for centuries. and so that 1% changes everything about nuclear power in ways that any conscientious person finds very troubling and sobering

nuclear is a wonderful source of power... except when all hell breaks loose. and even though when all hell breaks loose is very rare, the huge consequences of all hell breaking loose simply means nuclear power (specifically, fusion, not fission) is going to go extinct. and should go extinct

sorry, deal with it

Where is all the water going?? (2)

slyborg (524607) | more than 2 years ago | (#36110760)

So it seems clear at this point that all three of the damaged reactors are leaking water, meaning, logically, that the containments are breached in all of them. Building 4's spent fuel pool also is suspected to be leaking. Where are the tons of water they are pumping in every day going? The turbine building basements so not have infinite capacity, and that much water won't evaporate at any speed from inside underground spaces...

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