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TEPCO Confirms Partial Meltdown of No.2 and No.3 Reactors

Unknown Lamer posted more than 3 years ago | from the that's-not-very-good dept.

Japan 209

blau writes with an article in NHK World. From the article "The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says findings show that fuel meltdowns may have occurred at the No.2 and No.3 reactors within days of the March 11th earthquake. But it says both reactors are now stable at relatively low temperatures." TEPCO is also now blaming the tsunami for most of the damage rather than the earthquake.

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relatively low temperatures (3, Insightful)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230712)

Relative to what? The sun?

Re:relatively low temperatures (2, Interesting)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230734)

Relative to what they'll eventually admit they were.

Seriously, is anybody else getting sick of this constant down-playing the severity of the situation? I understand the idea that you don't immediately run to the worst-case scenario and cry that the sky's falling, but this is ridiculous.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230818)

Is it downplaying, or simply a lack of insight as to what's going on inside there?

Re:relatively low temperatures (4, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231434)

Well, if you followed the discussion over at physicsforum.org, which is populated by quite a lot of nuclear engineers, it seemed to be relatively clear from the onset that the cores at 1-3 had at least partially melted down. Reported water levels left not much room for speculation there. TEPCO is not exactly known for playing it straight, so yeah, I would call that downplaying.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231662)

The daily reactor status updates [jaif.or.jp] from Japan Atomic Industrial Forum have stated core and fuel damage (or in some cases unknown status) for all three reactors since within days of the accident.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231918)

True, but core damage does not necessarily mean meltdown. The story at the point was that the damage was partial loss of the zircalloy cladding. This counts as first containment level, basically. That the local temperatures were high enough for actually melting the fuel was not admitted at that point, but pretty much clear from the reactor status.

Re:relatively low temperatures (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231698)

Yeah, that was fairly obvious. You don't need to be a nuclear scientist (just someone who knows what historical accidents have been significant, which ones haven't, and what made the difference) to realize that TEPCO weren't being honest, but it helps if you are to understand what they were being dishonest about.

What bothers me, more than TEPCOs dishonesty (which, frankly, is only to be expected when a company relies on image as much or more than products), is the number of people here who went around marking those questioning TEPCO statements in previous discussions as trolls. Sorry, but the science doesn't leave much room for debate. It seemed to be mostly by pro-nuclear fanbois who failed to understand you could be ok with the technology but suspicious of the implementors. I hope they are now willing to admit their errors and apologise for their abuse of the moderation system.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231700)

Well, it seems like every one of their press releases ends with "but now everything is fine again, don't worry", as the situation worsens.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230850)

Like that time Tepco ran a geiger counter on a piece of material and found a radiation spike 10 million times above normal? Then they realized the person running it had only made a single test which turned out to be inaccurate [bbc.co.uk] , and everyone laid into Tepco for inducing panic?

There are more dangerous things in the world than not knowing exactly what is meant by "relatively low".

Re:relatively low temperatures (2)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230896)

Yeah, so you double- and triple-check it. But at some point "looks like things have been worse than we'd previously thought" starts to sound suspiciously like "looks like things have been worse than we'd previously admitted".

Re:relatively low temperatures (2)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230972)

But at some point "looks like things have been worse than we'd previously thought" starts to sound suspiciously like "looks like things have been worse than we'd previously admitted".

Then you run into the possibility that you are wandering into conspiracy theory land. They might not be admitting things, but at the same time they might have had no clue either.

Re:relatively low temperatures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231052)

It's not a conspiracy that corporations will lie & cover up their messes.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231108)

You have no proof that they're deliberately covering things up. So at best it is conjecture to be kept at arm's length, not believed wholeheartedly.

Re:relatively low temperatures (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231598)

They do have a history of covering things up - a history that spans decades. While it is conjecture, there is quite some historical support to it. At least enough to trust them no farther than you can throw them.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231864)

True enough. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. However, in this case, this is the more useful quote: Each fact is suggestive in itself. Together they have a cumulative force.

Re:relatively low temperatures (2)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231234)

It is a conspiracy that commonly occurs. Conspiracies are common and frequently busted. Several people agreeing on lying on things to pursue their own interests form a conspiracy. Not admitting the severity of the accident before the elections was a conspiracy. Conspiracy is not a synonym for "crazy theory", it is a word that has a meaning. A lot of human groups will conspire if given the occasion.

Re:relatively low temperatures (2)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231358)

at the same time they might have had no clue either

When all the real nuclear experts are joining with the armchair nuclear experts and saying "you know, there could very easily be a much bigger problem here than they're admitting to", the people who are actually supposed to be experts who are operating this particular nuclear power plant (and who we're sort of relying on to properly handle the situation and hopefully foresee and deal with its complications) don't really get to use ignorance as an excuse when everyone finds out "hey, apparently things were much worse than they previously admitted to".

Re:relatively low temperatures (2)

gdshaw (1015745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231168)

Like that time Tepco ran a geiger counter on a piece of material and found a radiation spike 10 million times above normal?

Yeah, so you double- and triple-check it.

No, at the radiation level that they thought they had measured, you run.

Re:relatively low temperatures (4, Insightful)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231556)

It's on both sides of the fence.

Some article came out shortly after stating that the radiation being emitted into the atmosphere was X% that of Chernobyl... when it was really 1/10th the percentage stated. You have people spreading panic and fear, as well as people saying "see this is why nuclear power is evil."

Meanwhile you have people there saying "no alarm, nothing to see here" and later that day we find out something major happened or people were being burned by the radioactive water.

So you have fear mongers and people trying to sweep it under the rug. It makes it very hard to get an accurate picture of what's going on.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231380)

They said "stable at relatively low temperatures." "Stable" for a reactor generally means 100C or lower. Higher than 100C, if a pipe bursts and you lose pressure, the water can flash into steam, exposing the core to air again - an unstable situation. At 100C, a pressure loss would drop the temperature below 100C, the water remains liquid, and the situation is stable (at least until the water boils off).

100C is relatively low compared to the temps required to melt the fuel. But it's still hot enough to kill you, so calling it "cool" wouldn't be accurate either.

Re:relatively low temperatures (5, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231482)

If you look at their temp gauges over at the TEPCO website, this is definitely not the case here. Especially at unit 3 there are still temperatures over 200 ÂC and they do not really get them down, even with constantly increasing water injection rates. For some reason, they started borating the water again last week - wonder why that is, if recriticality is not even remotely possible, as by their statements.

Re:relatively low temperatures (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231922)

The heat has to be caused by the level of neutrons striking fissile material. It's the only source of energy beyond the natural decay. Ergo, to reduce the heat is going to require absorbing neutrons. At 200'C, the water will turn to steam but the boron won't be doing anything, giving you a nice coating. It might do something, depends on what it's like inside.

Re:relatively low temperatures (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231998)

Nope. Pure decay heat without criticality is mostly caused by decay of fission products - going via alpha/beta/gamma decay routes. For example 131I -> 131Xe + beta + gamma + antineutrino. Free neutrons are only involved in the fission itself - be it at the natural rate, which will not be influenced by boron, or by a chain reaction. If you inject boron, you at least suspect the possibility of a chain reaction going on.

New news? Don't think so (3, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230750)

Many of the status reports from early on indicated a partial meltdown. (It was described as "fuel damage" - but that's meltdown).

So how is this news? We already knew the fuel rods had suffered from partial melting/damage. It's almost a given when you see status reports indicating fuel with only partial water coverage.

Re:New news? Don't think so (4, Funny)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230964)

You don't get it. It melted down. That means that no one can live in Japan ever again. Millions will die, This disaster makes the actual Earthquake and Tsunami seem like nothing!

Re:New news? Don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231230)

No, you don't get it. It means we are all doomed! The radiation will all escape and blanket the Earth and extinguish all life on the planet. The rapture is in progress man, it's time to panic!

Re:New news? Don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231944)

This would be funny, were it not for the 1800 tons of nuclear fuel in various stages of burnup that are involved.

Re:New news? Don't think so (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231844)

Oh no!
There goes Tokyo....

Re:New news? Don't think so (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232046)

Fuel damage is not necessarily meltdown. The story was that the fuel damage was damage to the zirkalloy cladding, which they hardly could deny after the hydrogen explosions. In a suffciently cooled environment, that means that your fuel pellets drop out of the rods and collect at the bottom of the RPV, but do not necessarily melt. So far, that was the official story regarding the damage. Given the water coverage data, I completely agree that melting was a given from the first days, they just did not admit it.

Re:New news? Don't think so (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36232098)

In the initial days of the reactor problems, there was concern that some of the core in reactor #1 might not have been fully covered by water, and that some fuel damage may have resulted -- as in a part of it. The claim was that a relatively small fraction was affected before they restored cooling water levels to normal levels, and that the core, while damaged, was largely intact. The "news" over the last week is that the entire core was uncovered for hours (the gauges were not functioning properly under the conditions), the core heated to 2800C or so, and most of it melted and pooled in the bottom of the reactor vessel. And now there is evidence the same thing has happened in reactor #2 and #3. That's meltdown for 3 out of 3 of the reactors operational at the time the tsunami hit.

If you think there isn't a difference between what was initially claimed in the first week of the reactor problems and what is being claimed now, then you haven't been paying attention. Up until the last week the potential for substantial amounts of the core being melted down and flowing into the bottom of the reactor vessel was only speculation by outside experts familiar with the situation. Now TEPCO has data confirming that is likely what has happened. That's the news: that this isn't theoretical anymore. It's likely.

None of this changes the external results of the disaster in terms of radiation release and so on. It's not like knowing it was a full-blown meltdown changes what has already happened. But it does change how difficult it will be to control and clean up (e.g., you can't pump water in and around the hot fuel as easily if it is a blob of solidified lava and metal), and it provokes serious questions about the ability to monitor exactly what's going on inside a reactor during a crisis. If you couldn't reliably tell that the reactor was actually in the process of melting down, then how can you react to the situation appropriately? It's like having faulty instrument readings while you're trying to safely land a plane with no visibility. The TEPCO crew could be the best reactor operators in the world, but if they don't know what is going on in there, they would be thoroughly borked.

It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (0, Troll)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230756)

The big losers here are the population of Japan who can't get a straight answer about the risk to their health. I cringe to think of the birth defects and illness this will cause.

The reactor meltdowns were unintentional, but the CYA done by TEPCO executives should be considered criminal.

Good luck to Japan on building something that will last 10,000 years to contain that mess. You tiny island depends on it.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36230800)

Go away troll. The long term effects of this to the population: Nothing.

The levels are so low for the population that they're laughably small. It's *barely* above background levels..you get more dosage in a single flight across the country.

I hope you're right. (-1, Troll)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231014)

Aside from your name calling the next decade or two will prove if you are correct. Please don't let Rush Limpballs tell you what to think.

Radiation isn't a mystery. It's effects are predicable and tragic.

I'd rather not see the tragic consequences of chromosome damage on future generations of Japanese children, or leukemia and various cancers in the existing population.

Re:I hope you're right. (1, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231040)

Yeah, radiation is tragic. Like that time we used it to kill the cancer that would have killed my grandmother. That was truly tragic, oh wait no the complete fucking opposite.

Even Chernobyl did not cause the level of issues you are claiming.

Apples and Oranges (2)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231334)

Really?? Are you serious???

You should know very well there's a big difference between nuclear medicine and what was released by the Fukushima reactors. If you don't please beg your parents to send you to a different school before it's too late.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231466)

Your comment said Radiation, it did not exactly seem to differentiate.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231586)

Every material emits some level of radiation. It should go without saying they are not all equally dangerous. You think it's necessary to qualify that?

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231664)

I think when speaking in general terms like you are doing you should not be surprised when someone calls you out on it. You are acting like chicken little here.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232008)

Well, yes, since no material can exist at absolute zero, all materials emit some form of radiation. And, yes, they aren't all equally dangerous. The danger also varies with context. Alpha particles are of no particular significance externally, but an alpha emitter that is ingested can cause serious damage. A high energy gamma emitter is usually nasty no matter where it is. You've also further complications (radioisotopes can also be toxic in and of themselves, regardless of the radiation hazard, as can their daughter products whether those are radioisotopes or not).

It isn't necessary to qualify, or at least it shouldn't be because all of that is common knowledge.

As I mentioned elsewhere, though, there are fanbois who confuse healthy skepticism with unhealthy paranoia, thus becoming paranoid and delusional themselves. Any true nuclear proponent is a proponent of the technology and the science, not any given implementation or any given implementor.

Re:Apples and Oranges (2, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231510)

Mate, give it up. Criticizing the holy nuclear industry will get the bury brigade into full motion. Fastest way to get a troll mod, even faster then posting goatse.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231734)

Criticizing is fine. TEPCO did a total shit job, from the lack of sea walls adequate to the job, to the lack of cooling that would be adequate until generators could be restored. Vermont Yankee is another site that should be shutdown until new responsible owners are brought in. What will get you a troll mode is acting like fucking chicken little, the sky is not falling.

Re:Apples and Oranges (1)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232176)

Mate, give it up. Criticizing the holy nuclear industry will get the bury brigade into full motion. Fastest way to get a troll mod, even faster then posting goatse.

You got that right. It's like talking to a brick wall.

I'm amazed that some people think there will be no long term effects, or seem willing to be complicit in efforts to spin concerns away.

Perhaps a certain individual who is so certain everything is A-OK should consider investing in de-valued Japanese real estate.

Re:I hope you're right. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231356)

It's amazing how fast you dorks moved on from "nothing happened at Fukushima" to "Fukushima isn't anywhere near as bad as Chernobyl" and then on to "OK so the radiation release is of the same order of magnitude as Chernobyl, but Chernobyl wasn't a big deal anyway".

Re:I hope you're right. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231546)

I never said nothing happened. We knew it melted down shortly after the incident began. The claims I am making are that this is not the end of the world. It is not the same as Chernobyl, not even in the same league. I take it you are too young to remember but Western Europe had radioactive rain falling not too long after. Parts of Northern Europe still have high enough levels of contamination that you can't pick wild mushrooms. That does not mean that Chernobyl made all the children born after it mutants either.

Re:I hope you're right. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231576)

How does this, in practical terms I mean, compare to Chernobyl? Does this mean there's an area of Japan now that will not be habitable for decades/centuries? Is this area the size of a city, or more like the size of a building complex? Decades from now, are brave souls going to be wandering around a deserted area taking photos of the remains of buildings and explaining to the youngins how Fukushima became a household name?

Or is more like "yes, the numbers are bad, but it was contained." ... ?

I apologize for my ignorance, but I don't apologize for asking questions.

Re:I hope you're right. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231784)

So long as it does not get worse, there will be no Zone of Alienation in Japan. There will be some buildings that probably end up entombed in concrete. Odds are the fuel will be left in them or placed in Casks. People will be allowed back to their homes in a timescale measured in months not years, decades or centuries.

If it does get worse, say there is another huge earthquake and tsunami, it could get worse. Still probably not to the level of Chernobyl, since material was not shot into the sky.

Re:I hope you're right. (2)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232110)

We don't have enough data. Radioactive caesium in the soil can require wholesale decontamination because it's readily taken up by plants and makes its way into the food chain. Can. If it's all in the topsoil and you get a cloudburst, you're minus the topsoil and the problem. The newspapers aren't exactly publishing the levels of Americium or Polonium. Nor is there a vast amount of data on just how deep some of the underground contamination was and what the geology is like. If the contaminants are more likely to be flushed out to sea or trapped by naturally-occuring filters, it's a very different situation from if they're going to constantly cycle within living organisms.

Re:I hope you're right. (1, Troll)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231146)

Fossil fuels are more dangerous.

Nukes can be done safely, they just weren't in this instance, and the designers of this plant are directly to blame for that.

Re:I hope you're right. (0)

fnj (64210) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231544)

All, right, what stupid retard moderated parent troll?

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231132)

The long term effects of this to the population: Nothing.

So those people are back in their homes and spending money in their local economies and the children are not having their education delayed and their parents' jobs are going swimmingly?

While they may not get cancer for another 40 years because of this, the economic statistics won't add up to "nothing".

This isn't to say that this accident is a reason not to install nuclear power. Far from it. But it is proof that certain people have in the past done little to ensure robustness in nuclear systems, and people in the future need to place "2. robustness of safety systems" just below "1. start a nuclear reaction" on the requirements list for nuke plants. Their estimate of the cost to them is infinitesimal compared with the cost to the community they are putting at risk, even if the risk does not end up causing physical harm.

Tepco is actually phenomenally lucky that only their own employees have died, and the winds have been carrying the bulk of the danger out into the ocean.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231162)

The problem is the possible cost to the community is so high it might as well be 0. By that I mean if the possible cost is 1000 times what the plant is worth, it makes it less important to add more safety than if the possible loss was 0.5 times the value of the plant. In the latter case they might actually have to pay. So knowing they can't be made to pay they can take larger risks.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231548)

There's a difference between "can't be made to pay" and "can't be made to pay the whole thing."

They can be made to pay as much as they can afford. If they think that's worth risking, then they're just crooks.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231642)

Which means after the risks hit 1 x "What they can be made to pay", there is no economic incentive to ensure any more safety. Then add in that the company will be paying not any individual losing his savings and you get into a position where the people making these decisions may well be the ones least impacted. If an engineer makes a mistake that causes an event like this he is never going to work in that field again and is going to be working flipping burgers. If a CEO makes a decision that causes an event like this he is never going to work again since he makes millions a year that is not a big deal.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (5, Insightful)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231142)

The long term effects of this to the population: Nothing. The levels are so low for the population that they're laughably small.

Don't pretend like 0 is the number of people affected by this meltdown. Nobody has been "laughing" since they got kicked out of homes they lost millions of yen for. It's not like someone's going to give that house back to them, nor their cash. School closings smack in the middle of the Japanese school year also mean lots of disrupted youths.

With Japan's prior issues with unemployment, fukushima was the straw breaking the camel's back for many souls now banned from living somewhere safe and known to them. But nobody is talking about the local lives in the cone of influence of the actual meltdown.

Because, you know, all gunshot wounds only hurt locally and we can just ignore the pain if we concentrate on the body parts not hurting. Right?

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231366)

Don't be stupid. You're comparing apples to oranges. The OP's post was in regards to *radiation*. No economic damage, or health concerns for other reasons. That was what my comment was in reply to.

Of course there is massive economic damage. There will be more damage from the *scare* of the nuclear boogie man than the reactor itself. People going to the hospital after taking Anti-Rad meds and stressing themselves out.

There's massive damage due to the massive mother-nature event that occurred. There's massive damage done over-time due to the *over protective* safety measures..the evac zones radius isn't based on science, it's based on policy that's based on the idea that *it's better safe than sorry*...never mind the dosage would allow a nuclear worker to work year round and not approach the *time to leave* limit. There'll be more damage due to the fearmongering being done. But the radiation being emitted will not cause people to grow third arms or have birth defects or cancer. Anyone harping that is a fearmonger, and needs to be called out on it.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231646)

But the radiation being emitted will not cause people to grow third arms or have birth defects or cancer. Anyone harping that is a fearmonger, and needs to be called out on it.

Your bullshit sounds right until you realize the really dangerous stuff (ie, plutonium) weren't even measured. Japan is pretending the only crap that comes out of Fukushima are Iodine and Cesium, while there are over 50 different radioactive particles being released into the ocean and underground water channel, which is connected to various farmland/forest/hot springs/reservoir.

Doesn't take a genius to predict what happens when the Japanese pregnant women start eating fruits grown with plutonium/etc contaminated water.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (3, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230866)

The big losers here are the population of Japan who can't get a straight answer about the risk to their health. I cringe to think of the birth defects and illness this will cause.

Well, I haven't heard of any 3rd parties reporting anything unusual or notable regarding radioactive contamination above or beyond what has been reported already (and TEPCO can't exactly hide stuff that escapes the site.) Surely if it were so horrible then there would be accurate and reasonable reporting on the "true" radiation levels rather than what is reported, but I'm not seeing anything. And anecdotal rumors and information being spread via social networks (especially in a country like Japan that loves rumors) is suspect.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (-1, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231016)

You cringe to think of the 0 people who will be seriously impacted?
Is that because it hurts your nutbag talking points?

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231436)

0 people. Im sure that includes the villages that had to be quarantined. moron.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231644)

Of course. No seriously impact. Except for thousands of evacuees and a massive economic damage. That is now. The thyroid cancers come later. Dude, the whole you dug yourself into is so deep by now that you might get your personal china syndrome here. Sometimes the point is reached where simply admitting to be wrong instead of digging on might be the best solution.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232006)

Even thyroid cancer is realistically not that bad, I say this as someone who is basically just waiting for that diagnoses. I have the precursor nodules. It is slow moving and slow growing, normally speaking. How many cases of cancer are worth not using coal? How many coal miners and asthmatics do you want to trade for each cancer death?

The reality is all of these power solutions have risk, and yes this will have a high economic cost. So does the deaths of those coal miners. Plug it into a spreadsheet and tell us what you get.

Sure we could have safer power than coal or nuclear but it would be so expensive that it would cost economic growth. That would surely kill people unable to get their medicines when their jobs no longer exist in the new reduced economy or keep their homes warm in the winter due to heating costs. Nothing is free, just tell us how you want to pay for it.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (4, Interesting)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232140)

It is true that thyroid cancer is probably the best choice if you get to select which cancer you get. Survivability is very good. I don't want to discourage you, but I have a couple of friends who lost their thyroid, which may or may not be related to us growing up in on of the fallout hotspots of Chernobyl and getting a healthy dose of rain at exactly the wrong time. They all survived, but having to adjust and readjust your thyroid hormone medication all the time can be pretty shitty. Mood swings, depression, life-long dependency on medication. So, even though a vast majority survives it, the impact on your life is not exactly fun. Regardless of our differences on certain matters, you have my best wishes for getting through that if it should strike you. Regarding coal - there are alternatives. I am not saying to abandon all nuclear power overnight - but a controlled phasing out over 2-3 decades leaves ample room for replacement by natural gas, solar thermal, geo thermal, biomass, smart grid demand control and so on, and so on.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231088)

You do realize that the deaths due to radiation from this incident are well... zero. This was no Chernobyl. Yes, the immediate area will likely be unsafe for some time, but by any rational measurement, the worst that happened was the tsunami, which sadly has been pushed to page 5 by "OH MY GOD, RADIATION LEAK, GODZILLA ATTACK IMMINENT!!!!"

Do you realize... (0, Flamebait)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231400)

...the effects of this won't be understood for years to come?

Being flippant or quickly dismissive is cynical at best, ignorant at worst. If you are a cynic please work on that. If you are an idiot please stop voting.

Re:Do you realize... (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231500)

Being hysterical or panicky is foolhardy at best, ignorant at worst. If you are a fool please work on that. If you are an idiot please stop voting.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (1)

berwiki (989827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231448)

I hardly felt like the Tsunami was pushed back to page 5.

Maybe you need to tone down your sensationalism as well.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (1, Troll)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231538)

Nice way of instrumentalizing the tsunami victims for your agenda. The mark of a great personality.

Re:It would be funny if it weren't so damn serious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231516)

All, right, what bloody brainless moronic twit moderated parent off topic?

Old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36230762)

Um, stop me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it obvious months ago that there was a partial meltdown? What's the new news?

The new news (2, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230990)

Japan has increased by 20 times the permissible level of radiation for schools, to the limits permitted a German nuclear worker. Thousands of parents are protesting, which in Japan is a pretty big deal. The Fukushima plant is out of places to store radioactive water, more storage is weeks away, and they still need to pump water to keep the fuel cool. The evacuation area may expand again. The slaughter and disposal of livestock in the evacuation zone has begun. Nobody really knows whether or not the fuel is burning through all three primary containment vessels on its way to massive contamination release.

Re:The new news (1, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231130)

The Germans are notoriously picky about that sort of thing. Give us the number, or compare it to the levels allowed for a French nuclear worker or a US nuclear worker. Of course livestock are being destroyed, they can no longer be sold and as such are not worth feeding. It is not still burning, and it will not make it through the concrete slab. That is why it is the last level of containment. This was a huge disaster but there is no need to act like it is the end of Japan. It still has not killed anyone, and probably never will.

Re:The new news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231444)

it will not make it through the concrete slab

So why bother to keep pumping water into the core?

Re:The new news (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231572)

So that you can get people back into their houses in a year rather than in a hundred years.

They need to cool the cores so they can permanently contain them. Hopefully they can still be dry casked, but it might not be possible anymore to move the material for a while.

Now blaming? (4, Insightful)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230778)

As I recall, the blame was on the tsunami since day one. Sure, there was a brief moment of "The earthquake may have been more responsible than initially thought" a few weeks back, but that didn't seem to amount to much.

planetary decimation not fast enough for some? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36230864)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGb7Bs1OdtI

release the hounds

Anime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36230916)

So, nuclear mutant anime now??

Cracked Vessel (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36230988)

I had heard that the Earthquake cracked the containment vessel, so even if there was no tsunami, there still would have been an overheating of the fuel rods and leakage of radiation/melted slag

Re:Cracked Vessel (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231166)

I heard that about Reactor 1, not 2 and 3 and from the sounds of it, they aren't sure that this was the case even for reactor 1.

Still, its possible that the earthquake cracked 1 and the tsunami screwed up 2 & 3.

Re:Cracked Vessel (3, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231178)

Maybe, if the earthquake also knocked out the cooling systems.

But it didn't, so it's likely they could have pumped enough water to keep the rods from melting at all, though they would have had a hell of a time sealing the crack.

The fact is that losing electricity to the pumps led to a cascade of catastrophic explosions turned a cracked vessel from a bad thing into a months-long nightmare. And that fact points to naive, negligent, or deliberately penurious design.

Loss of power was the big problem. (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231622)

Mod parent up.

Some pumps were still running after the earthquake and tsunami, and they continued to run until the backup batteries ran down. Loss of power was the real cause of the disaster. If they'd some backup power source that worked, the reactors would have reached cold shutdown in a day or two, there would have been no hydrogen explosions, and no core melting.

This is really important. A plant could lose backup power for many other reasons: fire, flood, hurricanes, terrorism, contaminated fuel, tank leakage, transformer damage, maintenance outages, or exhaustion of fuel supplies. Hospitals and data centers with backup power have at times lost power for all those reasons.

Read NUREG/CR-6890, "Reevaluation of Station Blackout Risk at Nuclear Power Plants " [nrc.gov] , from 2005. Volume 2, page 22, has the line "Risk is evaluated only for critical operation, not for shutdown operation. External events, such as seismic, fire, or flood, are also excluded." That, as we know now, is an overoptimistic assumption. The NRC does a statistical analysis on backup power sources, assuming independent failure of separate units, and computes the odds accordingly.

Nuclear plants that need power to reach shutdown need power sources as tough as the containment vessel. That's now very clear.

Re:Loss of power was the big problem. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231968)

would have reached cold shutdown in a day or two,

Really? It was my impression that even when scrammed there's enough self-reacting of a "spent" fuel rod that it takes weeks or months for the temperature to decrease to where you can remove it from a vessel, even to move to the pond to continue cooling until it's "cold". And these weren't spent rods, they were mostly in the middle of their lifecycles.

If you are dishing out blame (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231248)

Blame the jerk(s) who designed/approved 3 nuclear powerplants next to the sea in a tsunami zone and thought it was a good (million dollar) design idea to put the critical backup generators (that must never fail) in a basement, like what could possibly go wrong ?

the mind boggles

Re:If you are dishing out blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231744)

The 'backup generator failed' theory was just a scape goat.

Tepco blamed the backup generator because they wanted to protect the image of nuclear power and save money from reinforcing every nuclear plant in the country.

New radiation data within the first few hours after the quake (the data Tepco refused to release earlier) indicated the plant and the core was already cracked before the tsunami hit the plant.

http://www.fairewinds.com/updates

Re:If you are dishing out blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36232152)

I get tired of this, so forgive me being blunt.

Blame the jerk(s) who designed/approved 3 nuclear powerplants next to the sea...

Thermal power stations the world over are, wherever possible, usually built next to a ready supply of cooling water. That means a river or the sea.

... in a tsunami zone...

So, combined with the point above, pretty much any suitable site in Japan?

...and thought it was a good (million dollar) design idea to put the critical backup generators (that must never fail) in a basement, like what could possibly go wrong?

Where would you put them? I'm not defending TEPCO's placement choices but simply criticising something without making a suggestion is the hallmark of the armchair expert and usually adds nothing to a discussion. I'll say one thing in favour of putting them in a basement though: there's no chance of them being washed away.

the mind boggles

As does mine, but that's because I'm in the middle of reading the Weightman report and I've been bowled over by how complicated a subject this is. What I do understand is that greater minds than mine decided on the best place to site backup generators, yet Mistakes Were Made. I know that's not saying much but it seems a safe assumption.

Re:If you are dishing out blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36232216)

Where would you put them? I'm not defending TEPCO's placement choices but simply criticising something without making a suggestion is the hallmark of the armchair expert and usually adds nothing to a discussion. I'll say one thing in favour of putting them in a basement though: there's no chance of them being washed away.

Simple, either build them up high or not build them at all. It's not like nuclear energy is the only source of energy available.

Tepco's Just Looking for a Scapegoat (3, Interesting)

BBF_BBF (812493) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231258)

Tepco is shifting blame AGAIN.

The Tsunami knocked out the power, but if it knocked out the valve control systems and pumps, why didn't all three reactors melt down at the same time?
How come they started overheating when their back up batteries ran out of power. With the first reactor's batteries failing earlier due to tsunami damage. Mere coincidence? I think not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Fukushima_I_nuclear_accidents [wikipedia.org]

The reason the reactors overheated and melted down was because power was not restored to the reactors' emergency cooling systems before their batteries ran down. If Tepco didn't try to handle everything internally for the first few days, they would have gotten power hooked up to the cooling systems much sooner. The Japanese Self Defense forces could have flown in some generators if requested and if they didn't have any I'm sure the US Military would have been glad to help out and airlift a few generators to help avoid a nuclear meltdown.

The key is that Tepco didn't request any aid from outside sources till it was too late and was forced to by the Japanese government.

From what I can see it's a case of ineptitude by Tepco employees that made this situation much worse than it should be been.

Re:Tepco's Just Looking for a Scapegoat (5, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231488)

The Tsunami knocked out the power, but if it knocked out the valve control systems and pumps, why didn't all three reactors melt down at the same time?

Unit 1 is a 460 MW reactor. Units 2 and 3 are 784 MW reactors. They have totally different ratios of heat generated to cooling capacity. This is why you're seeing reports for unit 1 coming separately, while reports for units 2 and 3 are (generally) coming concurrently. (The rest of your stuff about TEPCO being negligent, I agree with.)

Re:Tepco's Just Looking for a Scapegoat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231690)

It has come out since that the place where the connections would have had to be made to the electrical system was under salt water in the basement of the buildings. It was not a problem of the wrong kind of plug as initially reported. It all relates to a tsunami 3x as high as the plant was designed for. (based upon the understandings of the 1960s as to max heights of the waves. Since the plants were built there was a discovery that in 869 there was an event very like the march 11 event, as well as 2 earlier events about 1000 years apart. In essence the folks in the 1960s did not look for this black swan. But if you go to google earth you find had they moved the plants back 500m then they would have escaped, yes a channel for cooling water would have been needed but.

Re:Tepco's Just Looking for a Scapegoat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231934)

Because the reactors are of different vintages, sizes, fuel loads, and so on? Think of this as a big, awful, unintended experiment with 3 operating reactors that were *NOT* the same. Now we're going to shut off the power simultaneously and observe the result of coolant failure: that they successively blow themselves up at different times with hydrogen explosions in different parts of the structure, and the fuel melts down at different times. Of course the results aren't going to be the same. Even if the reactors were identical the fuel loads would be different over time.

I will note that any unintended reactor experiment where 3 out of 3 operational reactors have almost an hour to shut down gracefully (before the tsunami hit and power was cut) and still manage to melt down is a pretty big failure by all sorts of measures, especially when the tsunami was within the range of historical ones, such as the one that happened on this coast in AD 869. It's way too early to tell if there was an operational failure on the part of TEPCO, but it was certainly a design failure not to be prepared for events within the scale of historical ones at that site.

Re:Tepco's Just Looking for a Scapegoat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231958)

If someone for saw the need for battery backup at all; why only 6 hours worth?
This seems to be a useless number number to me. If you need power you are likely to
REALLY need power. 6 hours - 6 days more like; 6 weeks well perhaps not so much.

Re:Tepco's Just Looking for a Scapegoat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36231972)

I think you underestimate the amount of power needed, not to mention the difficulty of hooking that power up to systems that have been flooded with dirty seawater.
Portable generators generally top out in the low MW range.

bad title (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231624)

Since when is "may have" the same as "confirms" ?

Re:bad title (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231816)

You must have loved the title on another recent Slashdot article, "Swiss to End Use of Nuclear Power", which despite the very conclusive sound of the title, was really about some people in the Swiss Government *talking* about trying to get the Swiss to stop using Nuclear Power. Nothing had at all been passed into law or set as official government policy yet.

I've long since given up worrying about Slashdot titles. They're almost worthless, except to give you a general sense of what sort of topic you're dealing with. Complaining about them is pointless. They'll not get fixed, and the editors won't do any better job in the future.

Re:bad title (1)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231896)

Since when is "may have" the same as "confirms" ?

.. since reactors world wide are run by an industry lobby, that tries to give out as little bad news as possible.

Let me translate:
An accident may have occurred: We had an accident, but don't know how bad it is.
This might affect civilians: If for sure will affect civilians, but hopefully not at a scale significant enough to change things.
We are looking into the possibility of evacuations: My family is already out of here, but getting you out is too expensive.
Nuclear energy is still the safest energy: Don't ask for measures to make it safer.

Did trying to prevent meltdown, make things worse? (1, Troll)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231678)

As I've watched the news about Fukushima, I have wondered if by trying to avoid fuel meltdown, did they make matters *worse*?

I admit, I really have limited knowledge about what went wrong or could have gone wrong. I'm definitely not a nuclear engineer.

But, from the news, it seems like the biggest source of problems was caused by hydrogen explosions. The hydrogen explosions happened because steam from the cooling water, under high heat and pressure, interacted with the Zircalloy fuel cladding, which caused the oxygen to bind to the alloy, and the hydrogen to become H2 gas, which could then build up in the pressure vessel (and ultimately the containment when it was vented from the pressure vessel into the containment, I think?).

This, then, finally ignited, causing the explosions, causing damage to the containments, causing radioactive release.

So, now, my question is, why not just evacuate all the water and steam from the reactor, so that there's no (well, very little - you probably couldnt' remove 100% of the water) hydrogen present in the reactor, then just let the fuel melt to the bottom and harden into a non-critical mass? What's so terrible about the fuel melting down? It happened at TMI, and didn't become a major disaster?

Is it possible that the cure was worse than the ailment, in this case?

Re:Did trying to prevent meltdown, make things wor (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231910)

The problems are multiple.
1. Is the containment vessel solid? Will this burn through?
2. If the melted fuel gets hot enough to burn you will get radioactive smoke, and such into the air.
3. You are reducing the shielding to nearby people, by removing water that would be in the way.
4. If you made the wrong and not industry standard choice, do you go to jail?

Probably lots of other issues as well.

Re:Did trying to prevent meltdown, make things wor (0)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232028)

"1. Is the containment vessel solid? Will this burn through?"

If you've evacuated the water, steam, and whatever air might have been in the reactor, wouldn't there be very little oxygen left in the reactor in order for the fuel or other materials to burn (in the normal sense of burning - oxidation)?

I suppose it could still 'burn through' in the sense that it could denature/melt the materials due to very high heat from the fuel. But, I've read that the meltdown at TMI only resulted in the fuel melting a small fraction of an inch through the containment which was, I believe, over an inch think. Hasn't it been pretty much shown that melted fuel does not produce enough heat to burn through a good containment?

I guess in the case of Fukushima, plant operators had no way of knowing if the containment had been damaged already by the earhquake, and if it *had* been damaged by the quake, perhaps letting it melt would allow the molten fuel to escape through a breech in the containment vessel, into an area where air was present (or, even just allowing the air to enter in, allowing enough oxygen to be present for fuel or other materials to really burn)?

Re:Did trying to prevent meltdown, make things wor (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232196)

1. Is the containment vessel solid? Will this burn through?

If the answer to that is "no, yes", then it isn't a containment vessel.

2. If the melted fuel gets hot enough to burn you will get radioactive smoke, and such into the air.

If it's exposed to oxygen, or the air, it isn't in a containment vessel, or you blew it open by putting water in.

3. You are reducing the shielding to nearby people, by removing water that would be in the way.

The water is not for shielding. The water is for cooling.

Re:Did trying to prevent meltdown, make things wor (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36231984)

The problem is that it could melt through the earth into the water table. Imagine what would happen if something that hot and dirty melted its way into the water table... untold radioactive steam explosions would then ensue!

Re:Did trying to prevent meltdown, make things wor (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36232056)

Yeah, no. It would have to burn though a huge amount of earth. Not gonna happen. If it got through the concrete slab that would be bad enough. Contaminated water would then seep into the water table and the water supply might be made undrinkable.

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