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Fukushima Meltdown Might Have Come With Earthquake, Not Tsunami

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the but-the-tsunami-helped dept.

Japan 172

formfeed writes "As the data from the Fukushima reactor is being reviewed it looks like the meltdown happened much earlier: '[T]he fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor were completely exposed to the air and rapidly heating five hours after the quake.' Apparently, the earthquake had caused a crack in the containment vessel. Which means, that even without the generators failing, the meltdown might still have happened. With this new data, it seems a similar incident could happen in an earthquake zone even without a tsunami."

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172 comments

Coons (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163492)

Why do niggers always cry during sex? The mace.

Uh... summary? (5, Insightful)

zalas (682627) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163548)

Article:
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said it is studying whether the facility's reactors were damaged in the March 11 earthquake even before the massive tsunami that followed cut off power and sent the reactors into crisis.
Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source at the utility on Sunday as saying that the No. 1 reactor might have suffered structural damage in the earthquake that caused a release of radiation separate from the tsunami.
Summary:
Apparently, the earthquake had caused a crack in the containment vessel.

I'm not sure how the summary writer came to that conclusion... Shouldn't we wait for an actual report/finding before stating that?

Re:Uh... summary? (2, Informative)

Sollord (888521) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163572)

Welcome to /. leave facts at the door along with all thoughts of compromise as your solutions and knowledge are always right on all topics

Re:Uh... summary? (1, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163608)

Shouldn't we wait for an actual report/finding before stating that?

This slow release of news is just salamitaktik to reduce public outcry. Tepco have known from the start that the reactors melted down and breached containment.

Of course, as usual with reputation engineering, it's only made things much worse. This was an international incident from the beginning, and resources from around the world should have been used to mitigate the damage.

Re:Uh... summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164102)

Tepco have known from the start that the reactors melted down [...]

Yes, and they were very forthcoming with this information (because this is not a BIG DEAL [TM])

[reactors...] breached containment.

[citation needed]

AFAIK, all the "leaking radioactive material" stories are about the spent fuel pond(s) not the reactor cores.

Re:Uh... summary? (3, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164804)

[reactors...] breached containment. [citation needed]

'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.
Now the company is worried that the molten pool of radioactive fuel may have burned a hole through the bottom of the containment vessel, causing water to leak.
“We will have to revise our plans,” said Junichi Matsumoto, a spokesman for Tepco. “We cannot deny the possibility that a hole in the pressure vessel caused water to leak”.'

AFAIK, all the "leaking radioactive material" stories are about the spent fuel pond(s) not the reactor cores.

Leaking?

"United States government engineers sent to help with the crisis in Japan are warning that the troubled nuclear plant there is facing a wide array of fresh threats that could persist indefinitely, and that in some cases are expected to increase as a result of the very measures being taken to keep the plant stable, according to a confidential assessment prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

"The document also suggests that fragments or particles of nuclear fuel from spent fuel pools above the reactors were blown “up to one mile from the units,” and that pieces of highly radioactive material fell between two units and had to be “bulldozed over,” presumably to protect workers at the site. The ejection of nuclear material, which may have occurred during one of the earlier hydrogen explosions, may indicate more extensive damage to the extremely radioactive pools than previously disclosed."
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/asia/06nuclear.html?_r=2&hp [nytimes.com]

Re:Uh... summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165968)

Now the company is worried that the molten pool of radioactive fuel may have burned a hole through the bottom of the containment vessel, causing water to leak.

They're saying there "may have" been a breach - not that there "was" a breach.
What's really strange, is a lot of reputable sources are reporting this wrong. [nature.com]

In fact, a note from the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) quotes Banri Kaieda, the nation's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister, as saying that it is "a fact" that there were holes created by the meltdown. That would likely mean at least some of the uranium fuel is now lying on the basemat below, or perhaps even outside the concrete containment.

But nowhere in their linked report [jaif.or.jp] does it say anything about a breach in the containment vessel.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said it is a fact that the
water injected into the No.1 reactor leaked away because of a hole or holes
created by the meltdown.
[...]
The operator, TEPCO, said on Thursday that most of the fuel rods in the reactor are believed to have melted and sunk to the bottom of the reactor's pressure vessel.
TEPCO says the melted fuel has apparently cooled, even though much of the injected water is leaking through holes at the bottom of the vessel.
Under a plan decided last month, the utility was to fill up the containment vessel with water and set up a system to circulate the water through a heat exchanger.

Not that I can really blame them too much for mixing up some of the terms, considering how many different "vessels" there are.

Though, it does seem TIME [time.com] got it right:

It's important to note, however, that the worst has not come to pass, nor do experts believe that it will. In that scenario, all of the rods would have fully melted, collapsed, and burned through the pressure and containment vessels, causing a large radioactive leak outside.

WSJ too: [wsj.com]

Within 16 hours, the reactor core melted, dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel and created a hole there. By then, an operation to pump water into the reactor was under way. This prevented the worst-case scenario, in which the overheating fuel would melt its way through the vessels and discharge large volumes of radiation outside.

The nuclear industry lacks a technical definition for a full meltdown, but the term is generally understood to mean that radioactive fuel has breached containment measures, resulting in a massive release of fuel.

I'd like to read more about your second link, but it says the NRC report is "confidential". Got a closer-to-the-source link? Or at least a newer one? (the report is from March)

Re:Uh... summary? (2)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166830)

Putting your head up your ass doesn't make what you say true.

This was a big deal - level 7 nuclear disaster.

The containment vessel was breached.

The spent fuel rods became radioactive because their pools became depleted.

Plutonium has been leaking into the sea.

Moron.

Re:Uh... summary? (4, Funny)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163714)

You should be modded -1 Factual or -1 On-topic :)

Re:Uh... summary? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164092)

While on the topic of moderation, why do people always confuse "Insightful" and "Funny"?

Re:Uh... summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164498)

Because "Funny" no longer gives karma. "Insightful" is the closest thing without being too much of a stretch.

Re:Uh... summary? (1)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 2 years ago | (#36167136)

Karma is totally overrated... I've got my +1, and I haven't written anything useful in YEARS... :-)

Re:Uh... summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164998)

Because you lead a sad, humorless enough of a life where the two are always mutually exclusive?

Re:Uh... summary? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163738)

Nice try, top nuclear experts already predicted the core has melted days after the event due to plutonium being detected miles away from the reactor:
http://www.fairewinds.com/content/fukushima-one-step-forward-and-four-steps-back-each-unit-challenged-new-problems [fairewinds.com]

Re:Uh... summary? (5, Insightful)

he-sk (103163) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164078)

Here's a better writeup:

Mainichi Daily News: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110517p2a00m0na008000c.html [mainichi.jp]
taz (German): http://taz.de/1/zukunft/umwelt/artikel/1/tepcos-verteidigung-broeckelt/ [taz.de]

According to these articles, reactor no. 1 experienced some kind of problem (sudden drop of pressure) 10 minutes after the earthquake and well before the tsunami struck. The crew then had some troubles with the cooling system of said reactor but the articles are pretty vague in that regard. This is according to TEPCO's own reports.

Anyway, I've always maintained that the assertion that the earthquake did no damage in Fukushima (and therefore other nuclear plants are "safe") was nothing but a myth pushed by nuclear apologists in their own self-interest. It's nice to see some factual reporting backing up my thesis, by the nuke operator no less.

Re:Uh... summary? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#36165440)

To me this does seem like a major design defect. The reactors were designed to withstand large amounts of lateral acceleration, but not as much as the earthquake cause. It is somewhat understandable that such a large tsunami was not anticipated but this is not the first magnitude 9 earthquake since accurate record keeping began.

Other plants have been inspected and 99% of them are fine, although that was expected since they were further from the epicentre and thus were exposed to less lateral movement. If this quake damage is confirmed they will be forced to close more reactors since there isn't much that can be done to improve their structural strength. Hamaoka has already been shut down over these concerns and it seems unlikely that the older reactors there will ever be used again.

Nuclear is dangerous but Japan is in a difficult position because it has little in the way of natural resources like oil, gas and coal with which to generate electricity. There is also the "benefit", if you can call it that, of having the facilities to manufacture weapons grade uranium very quickly which allows Japan to remain a non-nuclear country but have the ability to rapidly arm themselves if the situation deteriorates that far.

Re:Uh... summary? (2)

Chas (5144) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164198)

Remember the first rule of yellow journalism.

If there's no news to be had, generate an eye-catching, inaccurate headline.

Then make shit up.

"Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source"

This is essentially a license to freely spew anything. Regardless of the facts.

Now comes the time when they attempt to rewrite what actually happened, and replace it with a "nuclear horror" scenario.

Re:Uh... summary? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164470)

Cite me anything where Kyodo reported wrongly. They've been following Fukushima since Day 1.

Re:Uh... summary? (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164780)

Summary:
Apparently, the earthquake had caused a crack in the containment vessel.

I'm not sure how the summary writer came to that conclusion... Shouldn't we wait for an actual report/finding before stating that?

From TFA:

The utility said on Sunday that a review of data from March 11 suggested that the fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor were completely exposed to the air and rapidly heating five hours after the quake.

and

Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source at the utility on Sunday as saying that the No. 1 reactor might have suffered structural damage in the earthquake that caused a release of radiation separate from the tsunami.

Re:Uh... summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165184)

Summary: 'had'. Story: 'might have'.

Summary: 'crack'. Story: 'structural damage'.

Re:Uh... summary? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#36167504)

This utility has, so far, always said "might have" when they meant "have". They knew right away that there had been a meltdown, but instead of admitting it, they waited until it had been proven by a visual inspection. And for future reference "structural damage" is jargon for crack when you are referring to a containment vessel.

Re:Uh... summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165718)

ARTICLE: Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source at the utility on Sunday as saying that the No. 1 reactor might have suffered structural damage in the earthquake.

SUMMARY: Apparently, the earthquake had caused a crack in the containment vessel.

Are you still not sure how the writer came to that conclusion? If you have such a difficult time connecting the dots it's no wonder that you are pro-nuclear.

Misleading Title As Usual (3, Informative)

borrrden (2014802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163566)

Nowhere in TFA does it say that the earthquake caused the damage to the reactor that led to it melting. Also, I doubt it is even possible for it to melt in the 40 - 50 minutes it took for the tsunami to arrive. It first has to evaporate or otherwise evacuate the water inside the reactor, and then heat up to about 2800 C to melt. What the article is saying is that the rods had melted much sooner than initially thought. The timeline changed, not the reason. They are also looking into possible complications that may have occurred in the initial hour (there is another report that the cooling systems were manually shut off after a pressure drop, as per the instructions for such a scenario), but nowhere does it suggest that the earthquake, and not the tsunami, caused the crisis. The closest it comes to that is saying that the earthquake may have "damaged" the reactor, but gives no speculation on the effect that it would have had on the cooling system. A crack in the containment vessel without any cracks in the reactor pressure vessel would not have been an issue.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (2)

thePig (964303) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163700)

It need not melt in the 40-50 minutes as you suggest. When the tsunami came only the diesel generators failed. The battery backup was still working. Only when the batteries wound down was the effect of the tsunami felt - i.e. generators were offline. So, there was ample time for the meltdown due to structural damage to occur.

I am not sure about your other points - only pointing out that the timeline need not be as stringent as you were mentioning.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (1)

borrrden (2014802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163848)

Yes, but without the tsunami the diesel generators would have been working.....that is the point. For the meltdown to have occurred solely because of the earthquake would have meant it had to melt before the tsunami hit. TEPCO is saying the meltdown occurred around 16 hours after the earthquake.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164838)

No, the tsunami did not take out the battery backed up pumps, only the emergency generators. The pumps kept working on battery power, reportedly for about 8 hours. The point is that, according to the data released by TEPCO, the water level dropped and exposed the fuel rods in reactor 1 before the pumps stopped working.

Battery Power (5, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163880)

There is a detailed diary here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703509104576330531564264132.html [wsj.com]

"Documents released by Tepco Monday showed the isolation condenser— an emergency cooling system installed on Reactor No. 1 before the quake as a final resort in case of a total loss of power—worked only sporadically, if at all. Tepco officials explained that somebody appears to have manually closed the valves on the condenser soon after the March 11 quake—but before the tsunami hit about an hour later—to control the fluctuating pressure inside the reactor. Reopening the valves required battery power, so those valves likely couldn't be opened because the tsunami damaged the backup batteries.

If the valves hadn't been shut, things might have turned out differently. Temperatures in the reactor climbed faster than initially expected, causing more and faster damage. Tepco admitted this week the problems at Reactor 1 were far worse than originally thought. Its new projection shows fuel may have started melting rapidly only five hours after the March 11 quake. By 6:50 a.m. March 12, the fuel was likely in a heap at the bottom of the vessel. "

Battery power was lost apparently.

Re:Battery Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164266)

Here's another WSJ article [wsj.com] along similar lines, but I didn't bump into the subscription thing.

Unit 4 explosion from Unit 3 hydrogen (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164388)

You can get to the whole article from a google search I think. The most interesting thing from the article you linked for me was this:

"According to Tepco, hyrogen produced in the overheating of the reactor core at unit 3 flowed through a gas-treatment line and entered unit No. 4 because of a breakdown of valves. Hydrogen leaked from ducts in the second, third and fourth floors of the reactor building at unit No. 4 and ignited a massive explosion."

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (3, Informative)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164100)

No, the batteries provide nowhere near the power required by the cooling system, this was explained on slashdot a few weeks ago by a guy working with the pumps (sorry no time to find the comment now). The cooling system consumes a large amount of the total electrical output of the plant (something between 10 and 20 percent, again from memory), no battery setup can provide this amount of energy. The batteries are only used to power the instrumentation and control mechanisms (valves etc).

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165626)

Thats what he said, that the battery power was need to operate a valve

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (2)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36167284)

Depends on what part of the cooling system. The main cooling pumps indeed do take a lot of electric power.

One of the backup systems, the RCIC, uses residual steam pressure to inject cooling water into the reactor. The valves and controls for that system require electric power, but batteries can supply that.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163858)

If they lost cooling at the moment of the quake, they'd have to deal with roughly 10MW thermal. Heat of vaporisation for water is about 2kJ/g, so at 10 MJ/s we get vaporization of 5 kg/s. For 40 minutes between quake and tsunami, we have 2400 s, giving us 12 tons of water evaporated. That is definitely lower than the whole content of the RPV, so we won't get a dry core and total meltdown there, assuming that there is no other path for coolant loss than evaporation. Partial exposure of the rods with partial melting is still possible, though.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (4, Interesting)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164008)

If there was a crack at the bottom of the RPV, the pressure would have pushed water out rather quickly.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (3, Informative)

Fierlo (842860) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164150)

Except that decay power is about 7% or so right after shutdown. I'm not entirely sure where you got the 10 MW thermal. Unit 1 is a 480 MWe reactor. If you generously assume a 50% efficiency (it wasn't)...

480/0.5*0.07 = 67.2 MW thermal

More likely it's in the mid 30s (or even low 30s) for efficiency, so you end up around 96 MW thermal immediately after shutdown.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (4, Interesting)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164324)

Yeah, that was a brainfart - I wanted to shoot for order of magnitude only, so I originally planned to set 10% of total thermal power. That somehow got garbled into 10 MW. So I undershot it by a factor of 10. You are right, with losing about 150 tons of water, the core would probably fall dry within the hour given a loss of circulation immediately after scram.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164596)

Here is a trace of rx vessel water level and temperature over time. The water was below the bottom of the fuel in about 4.5 hours. I suppose it could just be boiling off with the pressure relief valves venting steam to the torus, but my first impression is that there was probably a small break loca caused by the earthquake. The apparent failure of the isolation condenser is interesting - some early US BWRs had these but they were generally disfavored (some even removed) because they are a heat exchanger with primary coolant on one side and the atmosphere on the other. They are a single point of failure that can circumvent containment and were (as I recall) difficult to design for seismic purposes. By way, as a noob and an AC, the link isn't in html - maybe some moderator will fix it.

http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu11_e/images/110515e10.pdf

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (2)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#36165788)

By way, as a noob and an AC, the link isn't in html - maybe some moderator will fix it.

You REALLY must be new here... /. mods have one job: to create misleading and false headlines and ensure that summaries are less accurate when they are posted than when they are submitted. In this case, they have for some reason replaced "pressure vessel" with "containment vessel", presumably to make it clear to absolutely everyone that they know nothing about the technology of nuclear power.

That's an excellent link, though, and the data indicate that the scenario described in the article is pretty unlikely--the water level is clearly stable until significantly after the tsunami. No amount of fiddling with the calibration on the gauge is going to affect that: the curve is flat, then starts to fall an hour or so after the tsunami.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166314)

Reactor 1 is 1360MWt. Approximate decay heat at shutdown is ~6.6% ~ 90MW. After 10 mins, it's ~2.2% = ~ 30MW, after 1hr, it's ~1.5% = ~ 20MW.

The original poster failed to convert MW to kJ. 1MW/s = 2000 kJ/s, failed to adjust for the water temperature/pressure (heat of vaporization is lower at high temp&pressure), and failed to adjust for the rapid decrease in decay heat during the first hour.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164220)

Yes, the summary goes too far and confuses issues. However, in the last couple of days news reports have been saying three things that are new: 1) that the fuel in reactor #1 appears to have almost completely melted down, 2) that this led to a breach of the containment vessel, such that TEPCO won't be able to circulate cooling water in the way originally planned, and 3) nuclear experts have been suggesting that with such a serious failure in reactor #1, there is a good chance that the state of reactors #2 and #3 are in the same state: i.e. almost complete meltdown.

The reports I've seen and heard were suggesting that the meltdown was in progress within the first 4 or 5 hours -- i.e. AFTER the tsunami, yes, but well BEFORE the complete cooling and control failure once the battery backup systems ran out. I think that's the new point that is surprising: that the battery backups even when they were working were not sufficient to prevent a meltdown from occurring. Things were already too damaged. Whether from the earthquake or the tsunami will be hard to disentangle, but things were significantly worse than TEPCO initially thought or publicly stated.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166330)

No, as I said above, but this time I found back the relevant comment [slashdot.org], the battery backup system is for "for instrumentation and control only, NOT [to] run the large scale cooling equipment". So from my understanding the coolant circulation stopped as soon as the tsunami hit because 1. the main power was taken out by the earthquake 2. the diesel generators were taken out by the tsunami (fuel tanks gone) 3. the decay heat steam pumps could not or were not used for whatever reason. At that moment there was no way to avoid a meltdown.

Re:Misleading Title As Usual (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166144)

It first has to evaporate or otherwise evacuate the water inside the reactor...

I'm thinking possible crack in the reactor vessel, and that the fucktard OP doesn't know the difference between reactor and containment vessels.

Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163618)

That is the reason you don't build nuclear reactor in earthquake zones..

Unless you are HARDCORE!!

Re:Well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165902)

Or just stupid.

Kind of offtopic, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163664)

My Facebook news feed is being spammed with this story. It's up to about 10 postings right now and climbing.

Re:Kind of offtopic, but... (0)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163748)

My Facebook news feed is being spammed with this story. It's up to about 10 postings right now and climbing.

Facebook news...the new oxymoron.

You must have the patience of a saint to be able to weed through all that to find news...

Springs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163740)

Why not build reactors on those massive springs like in Cheyenne Mountain??? Yes I mean the whole reactor site. Don't tell me it can't be done.

Re:Springs (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163906)

The primary reason this happened was that the coolant pumps (and diesel engines powering them) stopped.

Earthquake pretty much forces the huge, massive and ultra-precise steam turbines of the power plant to stop - these things require micrometer precision while in operation, so leaving them running is not an option - as effect primary power source of all systems is gone. Instead, backup power kicks in, diesel generators power up the coolant pumps and keep the core cool. But diesel engines need lots of air and if they get flooded, they stop.

In this case building the backup power and pumping stations on a high roof or elevated terrain would suffice. Sure -some- leak might have happened due to the earthquake but since the pumps would remain operational, there would never be overheating, explosion, extra water could be safely pumped in using normal systems and sealing any potential leaks could be done as a common repair.

Primarily, there would be no radioactivity leak. Reactor coolant water by itself is quite safe, being very clean it contains no material that could absorb radioactivity/become radioactive. It's the contamination from molten reactor material, debris, dust, ash and so on, dissolved in the water that carries the radioactivity. So even the coolant leak is not dangerous if water can be resupplied and is kept clean.

Quality of sources (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163744)

While I am not sure about the quality of this article and its unclear how some of these conclusions are reached should this events be corroborated later this is a big deal. If true it kinda throws out some of the hey it stood up to way more than was ever expected, these things really are safe narrative.

Re:Quality of sources (2)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164280)

I know it's bad but I like to repost and ponder in insight over the content of one the very first comment [slashdot.org] that was posted about the disaster:

It's funny because what is happening in Japan is exactly why Nuclear Power is SAFE!

An earthquake 7 times more powerful than the biggest it was built for hit, and all that happened to the reactors that didn't shut down cleanly was a small amount of radioactive noble gases, which decay within minutes. Even if the cores DO melt, they're safely contained in ... wait for it... containment chambers!

People don't realize the amount of engineering that goes into nuclear to make it safe.

As I always say: containment chambers indeed!

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163746)

No. No. No!! That's not possible, 'cause that would mean every Nukkular Plant is' in danger, IT WAS DA TSUNAMI!! REPEAT AFTER ME!!

Re:No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163986)

This is a bit of an old news, but it is especially amusing being followed by the report from yesterday that none of Germany's supposedly aircraft-collision-safe reactors will actually survive a direct hit by an aircraft. I'm sure the situation elsewhere is worse -- Germany and Japan are the tech powerhouses most obsessed with safety on the surface.

The whole nuclear "industry" is just a sea of unsafe practices and lies, covered by a powerful lobby and corrupted governments.

Re:No. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164002)

Exactly. Nuclear energy is safe. Every accident that ever happened is just a unique occurrence that could NEVER happen in *insert country of residence*. And when it's going to happen anyway, it's the fault of anti-nuke activists because they wouldn't let us build new and improved reactors. We would have totally built those despite the massive profit margins we have with the old ones. Honest!

Re:No. (2, Insightful)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164300)

I know Americans aren't very familiar with good regulation, but geez.

Your argument amounts to, 'because it's financially preferable to keep old nukes running, we can't trust government to make sure new, safer ones are built'.

So, are you saying that nothing potentially dangerous should be built unless there will always be a financial incentive for people to build safer versions all the time?

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165262)

For one, I'm not American. Also, my argument amounts to "because it's financially preferable to keep old nukes running, we can't trust corporations to make sure new, safer ones are built".

As for governments, no I do not think we can rely on them for regulation, since even in regulation-heavy EU countries, we have regular scandals with ignored maintenance schedules and politicians eating out of the energy lobby's hands. The old-energy industry is too big to be regulated in a trustworthy manner.

Re:No. (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164302)

What you say is so obvious it doesn't even need mentioning. Trying to reason with the joe-six-packs luddites is an exercice in futility anyway.

What really happened (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163820)

Another nuclear shill paid to spread disinformation by admitting only part of the truth. What really happened is obvious when you think about it. Neither the Tsunami or the Erthquake caused the meltdown. I have important and reliable data that actually the meltdown started even before the earthquake. Engineers then used the remaining power of the facility to intentionally cause the earthquake and the tsunami so they could blame the meltdown on natural causes. You heard it here first.

What really really happened really (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36163952)

"You heard it here first." .... dont think so

dont take credit for tripped out stuff you copied from glp. ::rastabannana::

It has been never assumed that tsunami caused it (0)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#36163878)

Way to fabricate news. It has been always assumed that quake caused it.

Re:It has been never assumed that tsunami caused i (0)

RCGodward (1235102) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164604)

Yeah, and we've always been at war with Eurasia... or is it Eastasia?

Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164116)

Mitsuhiko+Tanaka [google.com] was an engineer who led Fukushima's building of the reactor vessel. He told Japan's government following Chernobyl's explosion that he had helped TEPCO cover up the fact that the reactor vessel was damaged during its manufacture. Japan's government ignored him and continued to relicense Fukushima for many years past either his warning or Fukushima's designed lifecycle.

This is the problem with nukes: the people in its industry and government cooperate to protect the corporate profits rather than the public even when those two interests are in conflict. Regardless of technical solutions to technical problems (which cost money and are ignored when the corporation can get away with it), the problem that's proven impossible to solve is the failure to properly regulate the rich essential monopolies owning or running the nuke plants.

Which is a problem not just where earthquakes and tsunamis are the particular risk. It's a problem in countries like Russia, Japan and the US.

That is the risk that nuke boosters never admit: the risk of human error in the regulation and oversight, not just the engineers. These nukes are too risky for our corruptible industrialists and government people to be trusted with.

"There's no difference between theory and practice - in theory. In practice, there is a difference." - Yogi Berra (paraphrase)

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

L0rdJedi (65690) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164194)

You realize that is a problem with any industry when government is close to the people that run anything, right? Nukes, oil, coal, "green" energy. You name it. When government gets in bed with companies, they end up looking the other way every time.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164656)

You realize that is a problem with any industry when government is close to the people that run anything, right? Nukes, oil, coal, "green" energy. You name it. When government gets in bed with companies, they end up looking the other way every time.

What you say is true. The key distinction is that when something goes wrong with those other industries, you don't ruin all the real estate value in an area the size of a small state.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164878)

You realize that is a problem with any industry when government is close to the people that run anything, right? Nukes, oil, coal, "green" energy. You name it. When government gets in bed with companies, they end up looking the other way every time.

What you say is true. The key distinction is that when something goes wrong with those other industries, you don't ruin all the real estate value in an area the size of a small state.

Eh? Deepwater Horizon doesn't count?

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#36165104)

Not really. Things are already more-or-less back to normal in the gulf. A nuclear exclusion zone would have a much bigger long term effect on property values.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165316)

You've not watched gasland yet, have you?

How about several states, all at once?

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36166228)

IMHO (personal):

My 6-month kid can drop the pacifier or knife the same way. I wouldn't worry about he dropping the pacifier; I wouldn't give him a knife. Likewise, who gave the Politicians a reactor?

So, it's not the same problem. You're either naive (*) or you're malicious. I can't tell; what I know is the OP is right, "people" are always the weakest link; I contend Murphy's Law is not something to be taken lightly, however.

(*) /. requires bad ortography.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1, Insightful)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164254)

Yep, we can't trust our government or companies to do anything competently. For our own safety, we should clearly ban:
- Nuclear plants
- Coal plants
- Oil plants
- Cars
- Supermarkets
- Highways
- Bombs
- Guns
- Tanks
- The police
- The fire service
- The public health service (outside the US)
- Banks
- Trains
- Computer components
- Boats
- Aeroplanes
- Busses

I mean it's either that, or come up with some kind of system for keeping these entities accountable, so that we would be able to benefit from these things. But since that's impossible, it's too dangerous to allow them.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165242)

That's a hell of a strawman. Tall and fat like a slashdot troll.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165750)

Wouldn't it be easier to simply ban Government?

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165920)

After they fail spectacularly, how many of the above continue to be deadly for longer than mammals have existed?

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 2 years ago | (#36167036)

After they fail spectacularly, how many of the above continue to be deadly for longer than mammals have existed?

I hope you don't really think nuclear accidents can do anything like that, since that would mean you're actually talking about something you don't understand. I'm actually hoping you're trolling.

Isotopes with long half-lives aren't very radioactive. Isotopes with short half-lives are very radioactive. Isotopes with long-half-lives are around a long time. Isotopes with short half-lives disappear quickly.

This means that anything left after 220 million years (the time span you mentioned) will be extremely weakly radioactive, if at all. If left undisturbed, such a substance would most likely be much, much less radioactive than the body of any human who has ever lived.

In actual reality, Hiroshima and Nagasaki already have fine radiation levels. The worse contamination in Chernobyl (outside the plant area) will most likely go down to normal levels in decades, or centuries at most. It's thoroughly contaminated, but on the time scale you mentioned it's no more radioactive than anything on Earth.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (5, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166082)

Yep, we can't trust our government or companies to do anything competently. For our own safety, we should clearly ban:

Nuclear plants are unique amongst these things in that their failure modes are:

1) rapid
2) complex
3) expensive

The speed comes from the energy density of the core, which is many orders of magnitude higher than for any other power source. A typical nuclear plant contains something like the equivalent of 100,000 boxcars of coal in its fuel rods, and while only a tiny fraction of that can be released over a reasonably short interval, only a tiny fraction has to be released over a relatively short interval to ruin the core.

Reactor kinetics are complicated and the cooling and control systems more-so. Complexity is a bigger issue in second and third generation designs--one could even say that the whole point of fourth generation designs is to engineer out as much complexity as possible. However, there is always going to be a fairly high level of complexity for anything beyond the "nuclear battery" type reactors (which to my mind are probably viable sources of energy in the long term.) The high energy density and consequent rapid pace of events during failure mean that the humans involved in the process are going to frequently make bad choices.

The cost is the big problem: a failure in a coal plant results in some nasty chemicals released into the environment, maybe some people burned in a steam explosion or the like. But it is very hard to create a coal plant disaster that writes off the capital investment or exposes the operator to the kind of widespread liability that nuclear disasters do.

So anyone who is not innumerate realizes that the risk-cost/benefit trade-off for nuclear power is very different from most other technologies. The benefits are significant, but a long, long way from "power too cheap to meter", which was the original promise of nuclear power. The costs are having an event like Windscale or Chernobyl or Fukushima every decade or two. For numerate people, the trade-offs involved are not a slam-dunk on either side.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166858)

Ironically, with new plant technologies, none of the events are even possible.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

DrBoumBoum (926687) | more than 2 years ago | (#36167436)

Unfortunately those new plants are at present no more commercially viable than breeder reactors or fusion reactors.; they look nice on paper and in the lab but they aren't going to be a solution to any of our problems anytime soon. And going to full-scale, on-the-field deployments of an unmature technology without doing all the necessary research, testing, tuning, etc, before might not be the best of ideas; in fact it is precisely what has been done with current nuclear reactors, with the consequences we're facing now.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 2 years ago | (#36167302)

an event like Windscale or Chernobyl or Fukushima every decade or two

Ludicrous to compare these with modern plants. These were all extremely old, and very badly run.

Fault Tolerances . . . (1)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166226)

Yes, and the limitations of human institutions will have an equally grave impact for humanity for each of the items on your list . . .

I honestly think some people have a mental disability which prevents them from assessing risk rationally. They will be the end of us all.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164292)

True. The public utility companies will always protect their short-term profits at the expense of safety. But this solvable. You just need to create a system where the CEO of the utility knows he's going to do jail time if there are any problems. Then safety will become the top priority and the shareholders won't matter.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (2)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164552)

Actually it's more likely you just couldn't find a CEO anymore. Shareholders want profits, a CEO won't keep his position for long if always spending them on "safety".

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164618)

Even faster CEOs won't take on such personal liability, at least not without compensation levels that make the current ludicrous levels look cheap.

They'll take a job at the local investment bank instead, where the only safety issues are paper cuts and RSI from counting the bags of money.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (4, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164460)

Unfortunately this isn't an isolated incident in Japan and really the only question was when, not if, something like this would happen. It's a pretty open secret that government has been in bed with TEPCO and the like for quite some time now, and that most "inspections" were mostly rubber stamp affairs. Hell, as recently as summer of 2003 there was a shutdown of a large number of reactors in the Tohoku region because it was found that managers were intentionally papering over gross safety violations. You would have thought that would have spurred the public into action, but it really did nothing.

You also have cultural issues at play. People like to point out how there was virtually no looting after the tsunami, and rightly so, but the downside of that same culture is a lack of whistle-blowing. Japan is still in many ways a Confucian society, and as such there is very little in the way of whistle blowing. And even when there is, people tend not to believe the whistle blower over his "superiors" at work because well, they are his superiors......

That being said, I would be willing to bet Japan goes from the rich country with the worst nuclear safety record to having one of the best. The Japanese throughout history have been a society that is very poor at initiating change, but the best at adapting to it, unfortunately it takes a huge shock for them to really change anything. Case in point, their air safety record. Japan used to have one of the worst air safety records around, but thanks to a string of major accidents in the 60s, and one huge accident(deadliest single airline crash in history) in the 80s, they now have probably the best air traffic safety records on the planet. There have been no passenger deaths in Japan since 1994, and there has only been one fatal incident involving a cargo jet. Considering the amount of air traffic both in Japan and from abroad, that is pretty damn impressive. Doubly so when you consider how small the airports are and how many flights they have to get in and out. The airline industry suffered from a lot of the same problems the nuclear industry does, rubber stamping, no whistle blowing etc. Hopefully this will serve as a wakeup call to the Japanese much in the way the major air accidents did.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

sycorob (180615) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166932)

The other thing that Japan is known for is going from cheap, low quality cars to having some of the highest quality cars in the world. Was there a "shock" event that caused that as well? Genuinely curious.

Re:Cheap, Defective Containment Vessel (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36165190)

Actually, if you read reputable news sources Tanaka claims he had concerns in mid 70s the vessel wasn't strong enough to withstand stress of coolant failure. But the tinfoil hat blog sites have done the usual rumor monger / distortion thing with that. He became an anti-nuclear activist and regarding Fukushima mostly is criticising how TEPCO and the government are mishandling the situation.

The good news... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164466)

Japan is now on the fast-track for new green, renewable technologies after this latest disaster.
Let's hope that they can help save the planet and themselves with their ingenuity, precision and technological advances.

LNG (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 2 years ago | (#36164916)

Japan has a fairly well developed liquefied natural gas infrastructure. This may prove useful as the Sabatier reaction is used to soak up excess wind energy.

Re:The good news... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166832)

No they aren't. There are people talking about it, but even the most basic look at the logistics make it impossible to do. Japan is already pretty efficient.

Financial meltdown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36164532)

That's my misread of the headline, Financial Meltdown might have come with earthquake, not tsunami. Really?

Time for some slashdotters to eat crow (5, Insightful)

Agent0013 (828350) | more than 2 years ago | (#36165072)

I wouldn't say that I am anti-nuclear, but I do think it can be dangerous. Especially with the corner cutting that a lot of corporations try to use to save money. I was struck by this news on how many times I saw a pro-nuclear slashdotter post how the power plant had survived the earthquake just fine. Many people were saying how it was an amazing triumph of engineering that it could withstand the quake that was ten times what it was designed for. If only they had put the pumps up on stilts or someplace where the tsunami would not have caused the damage, everything would have been just fine. I guess that was just a bunch of wishfull thinking now huh? Sure, I understand that at the time it had looked like it survived the earthquake without damage. But you end up losing some credibility and start to look like a fool when it turns out you were completely wrong because you didn't yet have all the facts.

Um so what? (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#36165168)

So what you are saying that *maybe* the plant failed during the largest earthquake in recorded history, that was far beyond the building specifications that the plant was built to resist, rather than after when it got hit by the largest tidal wave in history? This is also the first time in history that this has happened.

I bet the plant wasn't built to resist a direct comet strike either.

That all said, you can bet any new plants will have much more rigorous earthquake building specifications which is a good thing.

Keep in mind (1)

Gonzodoggy (118747) | more than 2 years ago | (#36165352)

that this was a 9.1 quake. Those 40 year old reactors were only designed to take an 8.1. It's amazing they held up as long as they did.

What bothers me (the zycronium fuel rod claddings) (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165784)

I've always been a big nuclear supporter of safe nuclear power, and, by safe, I mean ones where the core can reliably melt down to puddle with very minimal impact on the environment around. The thing that bothers me is that I used to believe our current nuclear plants could do this. I am no longer convinced. Indeed, I am openly concerned this is not the case.

In the four cases of partial core meltdowns we have now seen (the Three Mile Island reactor and the three Fukushima reactors), the zicronium fuel rod casings have shown themselves to be a major liability. In all cases, they reacted with the hot steam to produce hydrogen gas, which has then posed a non-insignificant threat to the containment structure. In the case of the Fukushima reactors, we saw this actually happened to unit 3, and on day 3 of Three Mile Island incident, there was significant concern that an accumulated hydrogen bubble would explode damaging the containment structure.

I realize that one in four (25%) is not yet enough samples to exactly pinpoint the probability of containment failure due to the explosion of accumulating hydrogen gas. However, combined with the fact this has been a major concern in all partial core meltdowns experienced so far, it is a figure we should all be concerned with. Containment failure due to hydrogen explosion is not an insignificant failure mode during meltdown, and I have yet to see it mitigated to any reasonably acceptable level.

So, to the nuclear industry out there. Zycronium cladding for the fuel rods is currently used in pretty much every installed reactor. I realize it was chosen due to its low neutron-capture cross-section, but, in operation, it has shown itself to be a significant liability during partial meltdown. It is time to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative that does not have this problem. Even if that means a degradation in performance. Until I see this happening, you have lost my support.

Thorium reactors wouldn't have been affected.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36165818)

Thorium reactors wouldn't have been affected by an earthquake either. Their inherent safety, the abundance of reactor material and the cost effectiveness totally trumps existing nuclear designs as well as solar and wind power for ultimate sustainability.

Neutrons make Steel Brittle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36166098)

This is a common problem for reactor vessels that are exposed to a neutron flux for a long period of time. I could imagine this happening if the vessel wasn't ever annealed and re-hardened.

umm, not quite the simple (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#36166794)

It was the tsunami that removed there ability to use the pumps. And crack does not equal meltdown.

It's not good, but it is critical to be as factual accurate as possible. To many emotional and political crap mixed in.

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