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Blow-By-Blow Account of the Fukushima Accident

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the caused-by-late-tps-reports dept.

Japan 259

An anonymous reader writes "In the first few days of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, no one outside the power station knew what the hell was happening. In the 9 months since, information has come out in confusing bits and pieces. Now, finally, we have an authoritative account of exactly what went wrong in the first 24 hours of the accident. It's a harrowing tale of creativity, heroism, and catastrophe. One thing I hadn't realized was just how close workers came to averting the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl."

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Operating system failure (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910886)

Unlike the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, the chain of failures that led to disaster at Fukushima was caused by an extreme failure in the plants operating systems. It was precisely the kind of occurrence that nuclear-plant designers strive to anticipate in their blueprints and emergency-response officials try to envision in their plans. The struggle to control the stricken plant, with its remarkable heroism, improvisational genius, and heartbreaking failure, will keep the experts busy for years to come. And in the end the calamity will undoubtedly improve nuclear plant design.

Does anyone know what OS they used?

Re:Operating system failure (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910936)

It was Dr. DOS ver 5.1

Re:Operating system failure (3, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910952)

CP/M? TOPS-20? Hard to tell.

Re:Operating system failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910978)

QNX

Re:Operating system failure (1)

dmmiller2k (414630) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911004)

I may be wrong about this, but as I read it, the term "operating systems" (plural) seems to refer to the systems that actually operate the nuclear plant. Your question would make sense to me if the original article had read, "operating system" (singular).

Having said all that, I would guess Windows.

Re:Operating system failure (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911084)

I may be wrong about this, but as I read it, the term "operating systems" (plural) seems to refer to the systems that actually operate the nuclear plant. Your question would make sense to me if the original article had read, "operating system" (singular).

Having said all that, I would guess Windows.

You've been atomically WHOOSHED!

(It WAS a joke son, laugh)

Re:Operating system failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37912094)

Yeah, I gotta say if your "joke" is apparently received poorly enough that you have to whoosh someone, the failure is yours, not theirs.

Re:Operating system failure (2)

nemoid (1976020) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911120)

Typically when you're talking about an Industrial Process, the "Operating System" is not a computer OS (Windows, Linux, Mac, etc). But rather, the actual system process (pumping water, generating electricity, etc) that is operating.

Re:Operating system failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911690)

*whoosh*

Re:Operating system failure (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912136)

Oh good, the water pump is working...

Re:Operating system failure (4, Insightful)

nemoid (1976020) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911256)

Oh, and FWIW -- it wasn't a failure of the plant's operating systems, nor their backup systems. As the article describes -- every single one of the plant's failsafe mechanisms and backup systems performed flawlessly. If the article wanted to be honest, it would have read "The disaster at Fukushima was caused by the tidal waves which took out the plant's emergency systems" or something similar.

At 3:27 p.m. the first tsunami wave surged into the man-made harbor protecting Fukushima Dai-ichi, rushing past a tidal gauge that measured a water height of 4 meters above normal. At 3:35 another set of much higher waves rolled in and obliterated the gauge. The water rushed over the seawalls and swept toward the plant. It smashed into the seawater pumps used in the heat-removal systems, then burst open the large doors on the turbine buildings and submerged power panels that controlled the operation of pumps, valves, and other equipment. Weeks later, TEPCO employees would measure the water stains on the buildings and estimate the monstrous tsunami's height at 14 meters.

In the basements of turbine and reactor buildings, 6 of the 12 diesel generators shuddered to a halt as the floodwaters inundated them. Five other generators cut out when their power distribution panels were drenched. Only one generator, on the first floor of a building near unit 6, kept going; unlike the others, all of its equipment was above the water line. Reactor 6 and its sister unit, reactor 5, would weather the crisis without serious damage, thanks in part to that generator.

Blame the sea walls if you want, or the tidal wave, or the earthquake. But the disaster was not caused by a failure of the plants operating systems. The failure of the systems was only a symptom.

Re:Operating system failure (1)

trum4n (982031) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911306)

I agree. Seems to me the weather was a factor.

OK. Let's take the next step in your reasoning. (4, Insightful)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911830)

You're right; the disaster was caused by a normal event. Natural disasters have happened thousands of times in the past and will happen again tens of thousands of times in the future. They cannot be prevented and are mostly unpredictable as well (although we're getting better at the prediction part).

What does that say about the wisdom of building terrestrial nuclear power plants?

Re:OK. Let's take the next step in your reasoning. (1)

nemoid (1976020) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911944)

What does that say about the wisdom of building terrestrial nuclear power plants?

We need to build a impenetrable force field around every power plant?

Re:OK. Let's take the next step in your reasoning. (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912124)

What does that say about the wisdom of building terrestrial nuclear power plants?

We need to build a impenetrable force field around every power plant?

Best idea so far!

And make sure that bald guy from sector 7G is on the outside of the force field.

Re:Operating system failure (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911868)

How about blaming poor design decisions? ALL of the generators in the BASEMENT next to the OCEAN. Sounds like a good plan to exactly whom?

How about the FAILURE of TEPCO to change out the electrically activated hydrogen filters for passive ones, like some their engineers and a bunch of outside consultants suggested years ago?

How about FAILURE of TEPCO and the Japanese Government to update their geologic risk assessment despite recommendations from internal and external staff on multiple occasions.

Yep, other than that, an act of God.

The failure of the systems was only a symptom

Yep, the symptoms of systems failure in design and planning. Hey, one out of three isn't bad....

If this is the best that a major industrial country can do with nuclear power, perhaps we're not ready to play in the big leagues just yet.

Re:Operating system failure (1)

nemoid (1976020) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912134)

How about blaming poor design decisions? ALL of the generators in the BASEMENT next to the OCEAN. Sounds like a good plan to exactly whom?

Not exactly sure what your point is? Six of twelve of the generators were damaged by flood waters. The other 6 were perfectly fine, but it was the distribution panels that were damaged by the flood waters. Just like the distribution panels on the ground floor were destroyed by the tidal wave. Maybe next time they should float everything in the air. Oh, and Nuclear plants are built next to the ocean (and other bodies of water) for a REASON. But I guess you're smarter than all the engineers and architects who build these plants for a living.

How about the FAILURE of TEPCO to change out the electrically activated hydrogen filters for passive ones, like some their engineers and a bunch of outside consultants suggested years ago?

Hydrogen filters? Not exactly sure what you're referring to. I think you're referring to the hydrogen pressure release valves at the top of the reactor vents, which caused the explosions. Yeah, they could have change them out -- but it wouldn't have made a difference in the grand scheme of things. You would have eliminated the explosions, but you still would have vented hazardous materials into the air.... because there was no cooling -- which was the serious problem.

How about FAILURE of TEPCO and the Japanese Government to update their geologic risk assessment despite recommendations from internal and external staff on multiple occasions.

.... and how would that of changed anything? .... yeah, didn't think it would.

Yep, the symptoms of systems failure in design and planning.

"systems failure in design and planning" -- hmmm... get back to me next time you design an industrial process plant.

Re:Operating system failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37912330)

Oh, and FWIW -- it wasn't a failure of the plant's operating systems, nor their backup systems. As the article describes -- every single one of the plant's failsafe mechanisms and backup systems performed flawlessly.

If the article wanted to be honest, it would have read "The disaster at Fukushima was caused by the tidal waves which took out the plant's emergency systems" or something similar.

Blame the sea walls if you want, or the tidal wave, or the earthquake. But the disaster was not caused by a failure of the plants operating systems. The failure of the systems was only a symptom.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the disaster was ENTIRELY the fault of the plant's operating/backup system.

If it wasn't for the operating systems being there in the first place there wouldn't be any radioactive material to have caused the disaster. If the backup systems had all been operational and providing power after the tsunami - there likely wouldn't have been a national+ level problem. What caused the backup systems to fail was entirely predictable (though very low probability of occurrence) and the plant was left exposed and vulnerable to this risk.

If you play Russian roulette (load 1 bullet into a revolver, spin the chamber, aim at own head, pull the trigger), what's to "blame" when you lose? Your argument would be to blame the bullet because it's what actually caused the damage and to argue you were not at fault even though you accepted the risk when starting to play.

I'd argue that you were entirely at fault for losing. While there is a low probability of the bullet being fired (or a large tsunami hitting the area), if the risk is deemed acceptable - the blame when something goes wrong should land on whoever made the risk assessment in the first place. A risk assessment for a nuclear plant should be looking at the once in several hundred/thousands of year type events, the tsunami that hit was well within what should have been considered in the design/safety reviews. See the Tokai No 2 plant - which upgraded its sea wall before the March 11 tsunami and it survived on its diesel backups.

I have one question though... the final words "the failure of the systems was only a symptom." A symptom of what? A symptom is generally an indicator of a bigger/underlying problem - so unless you are trying to say nuclear plant disasters are a symptom of environmental disasters I don't get the point of this. If this is the case, seeing that tsunami's have been around for millenia there should be historic examples of nuclear plant disasters as they are a (hopefully rare) symptom of a tsunami.

Que the Anti-Nukes (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37910984)

Here come all the anti-nuke morons.

Re:Que the Anti-Nukes (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910996)

The summary even fed them a line to make a quip about...

Re:Que the Anti-Nukes (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912028)

Here come all the anti-nuke morons.

Actually, the Fukushima Accident has shattered the credibility of nuclear power more than any of us could ever do, so we'll just let the details speak for themselves.

Re:Que the Anti-Nukes (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912040)

Qué?

Re:Que the Anti-Nukes (1)

PoopCat (2218334) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912160)

GP doesn't know the difference between cue and queue; went halfway.

Re:Que the Anti-Nukes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37912428)

Don't worry - he's from Barcelona...

Re:Que the Anti-Nukes (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912456)

halfwit, n. a careful idiot

What about the tsunami? (4, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#37910986)

Is anyone else besides me annoyed that Fukushima keeps on overshadowing this incredibly catastrophic tsunami?

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911078)

Nope

Re:What about the tsunami? (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911080)

To be expected really from the popular media. Ignore the tens of thousands killed, the hundreds of thousands made homeless/jobless by the tsunami, but hype the shit out of Fukushima because it's "rah-dee-oh-act-iff", people don't understand it, and maybe a dozen people will get cancer from it in 40 years.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911322)

And the best part for the media, there's no way to prove that any particular cancer that shows up in 40 years wasn't from the accident.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912552)

Riiiiight. And the dramatically higher cancer rates don't mean a thing if you can't prove that any given case is directly attributable to the radiation exposure that was caused by the event. Do you really, I mean really, believe such a bullshit rationalization?

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911156)

Is anyone else besides me annoyed that Fukushima keeps on overshadowing this incredibly catastrophic tsunami?

Well it is to be expected. Its not just a media thing but the people affected by both its easier to rail against the Fuushima Daiichi plant than against a freak wave. Its harder to pin your blame on mother nature. Also its something they can probably affect change to avoid it happening again but I dont see what flood defenses you could build to stop a tsunami.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911262)

We could blame the tsunami on George Bush, Microsoft, and Apple.

Re:What about the tsunami? (2, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911432)

People thank God for some of the people who survived. Perhaps we could blame God for the deaths as well.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1)

mcneely.mike (927221) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911720)

Thank God for people like you! :-)

Perhaps we could blame God for the idiots in the world as well.

Re:What about the tsunami? (3, Insightful)

PIBM (588930) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911254)

It's a Tsunami; whatever we did, we could not change the existence of the Tsunami, while the Fukushima problems could all have been solved /prevented a lot of different ways.

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911446)

True, but we could change how the post-tsunami response was carried out. We could change tsunami disaster procedures. We could change the design of high risk buildings along the coast so they slow the down the tsunami instead of being turned into battering rams.

Good food, good sanitation and good shelter are still major problems in tsunami struck areas. The fact that we're STILL talking about Fukushima instead of getting basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers fixed just goes to show how much of a media circus this Fukushima is.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1)

Grave (8234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911998)

[quote] The fact that we're STILL talking about Fukushima instead of getting basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers fixed just goes to show how much of a media circus this Fukushima is.[/quote]

I seriously cannot stand when people use this argument. "We" are not a singular collective with only one focus. Nuclear plant engineers and operators world over need to know the exact details of what happened so that precautions can be taken at the other plants that are in potential flood/tsunami areas. What can those people possibly contribute to rebuilding roads and sewers, or changing the designs of other buildings in those areas? The nice thing about being human is that we're not the fscking borg, and we can actually have a whole crapton of individual pursuits.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911594)

In other words, blame is a popular game. Second guessing always happens after a major disaster. I think it's worth recalling the lesson of the IEEE article, "learn by disaster" (more accurately termed "learn by mistake"). One sometimes has to experience disasters and mistakes in order to know what the real problems are.

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911782)

Japan could have had a completely different outcome had they built high enough tsunami defenses. Those didn't have to be on the coast, they could have been more inland on higher ground.

Not some placed had high enough walls, most did not. 25,000 died.Fukushima is just the "cherry on top" for this disaster.

Re:What about the tsunami? (3, Insightful)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911272)

In the long run, a drastic change of direction of the energy policies of the world's industrialized nations may be a bigger news story than 19,000 deaths.

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911912)

What drastic change? We're going to burn coal and oil for the foreseeable future. We were going to do this anyway.

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911454)

Yea, see tsunamis aren't man made, so we don't really care about that. The fact that a once a century( or longer ) event happened at just the right location doesn't get as much airplay as a man-made catastrophe would.

It's all about perspective here. Who benefits from keeping the idea of nuclear energy as the long-lasting perpetual bogeyman, despite it being the safer of the 3 modern large-scale energy production methods.? Oil and gas, of course.

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911636)

Fukushima was the biggest nuclear explosion since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and caused a tsunami that was barely felt at all on America's west coast. How near-sighted do you have to be to not see that.

Note: satire.

Re:What about the tsunami? (0)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911644)

The tsunami is something we can't do anything about, its not worth really discussing as we can't prevent it from happening. We can morn those who were lost, but thats about it. Even better/earlier warning systems would do little to make what happened less damaging. Bigger seawalls and such won't help because the next disaster will occur where their aren't any walls, or it'll do just like this time, go over the existing walls thought to be safe enough.

We can prevent nuclear plants from melting down when a tsunami occurs though in LOTs of different ways, even so simple as to not build them in the first place (which is not my recommendation, just point out the option). This gives us LOTs of things to discuss.

We don't talk about death as much as we do treatments to keep us alive as we know theres no chance in avoiding death, but we may be able to push it off a little while.

Talking about things you can control is more useful than talking about things you can't ever possibly control (okay, so maybe one day in the distant future we can control them, but certainly not at this point in time is it even worth considering)

Personally, I've experienced so much death recently that I'm glad we hear less about the actual catastrophe than we due the nuclear hiccup, cause lets face it, in the grand scheme of things, this 'accident' wasn't jack shit unless you're a paranoid nut job who thinks this is worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I'm sorry for their loss and suffering, but I'm getting rather depressed myself hearing about all the suffering elsewhere all the time. Sometimes I do really just want to stick my head in the sand and ignore it for a little bit. Again, no disrespect for their loss or suffering, I don't want to belittle the tragedy. I just feel the need to avoid dwelling on it, like I'm sure most of the people effected would love to do as well. If the tides are ever turned, I hope they do the same as needlessly suffering with me won't do them any good, or me for that matter.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1)

spads (1095039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911656)

This is from the IEEE, not some sensationalist commercial news source. They are only concerned with summarizing the (nuclear) disaster course, not just general muck-raking and rabble rousing. Providing industrial analysis is one of their leading functions. Your otherwise valid sentiment is bleeding over onto them unjustly.

Re:What about the tsunami? (2)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911730)

Is anyone else besides me annoyed that Fukushima keeps on overshadowing this incredibly catastrophic tsunami?

Only the contrarians trying to distinguish themselves.

Re:What about the tsunami? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912150)

Probably, but not me. The Tsunami didn't spew radioactives into the atmosphere which were picked up by the jet stream and distributed around the world, including the hot spent fuel that was stored right there.

Re:What about the tsunami? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912494)

Probably, but not me. The Tsunami didn't spew radioactives into the atmosphere which were picked up by the jet stream and distributed around the world, including the hot spent fuel that was stored right there.

If only the Japanese had a comprehensive storage plan like the USA, we'd all be better off.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42219616/ns/business-us_business/t/us-storage-sites-overfilled-spent-nuclear-fuel/ [msn.com]

I wonder... (1)

Tenek (738297) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911046)

How long are we going to be using the phrase "worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl"?

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911112)

Till the next big nuclear disaster.

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911128)

More precisely, till the next one that is bigger than Chernobyl.

oh good grief, get your snark straight! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911906)

How long are we going to be using the phrase

"worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl"

?

Until the next nuclear disaster bigger than Fukushima.

Re:I wonder... (2)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911206)

Also, did they avert that? It seems like this is, in fact, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Perhaps they averted it being the worst nuclear disaster ever, including Chernobyl, but it would have needed to be a lot less disastrous to not be the worst since. So...unless something worse than this but not as bad as Chernobyl comes along, I suspect we'll keep using it for this event for a long time...but there's a good chance the next disaster will be the "worst nuclear disaster since Fukushima" instead...at least, here's hoping....

Re:I wonder... (1)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911348)

Until there's a new worst nuclear disaster since Chenobyl?

Re:I wonder... (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911414)

Well, considering that Chernobyl was the only [wikipedia.org] catastrophic nuclear power plant accident in human history until Fukishima, hopefully forever.

Re:I wonder... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911874)

Seems that you're simply defining "catastrophic" to mean what you want it to mean. Three Mile Island, a core meltdown, seems pretty catastrophic to me, even though it didn't result in much of a radiation leak. I'd count other meltdowns as catastrophic, too, since they effectively destroy the affected reactors. Your own citation says "Serious nuclear power plant accidents include the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011), Chernobyl disaster (1986), Three Mile Island accident (1979), and the SL-1 accident (1961)."

But then again, your source also says "apart from Chernobyl, no nuclear workers or members of the public have ever died as a result of exposure to radiation due to a commercial nuclear reactor incident." So, maybe you shouldn't count Fukushima as being on par with Chernobyl.

Re:I wonder... (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912156)

Well, considering that Chernobyl was the only [wikipedia.org] catastrophic nuclear power plant accident in human history until Fukishima, hopefully forever.

For varying degrees of 'catastrophe' sure. If I were a shareholder in the utility that ran Three Mile Island, I might use that word.

And, unfortunately, it is very unlikely that this is the last major nuclear plant disaster. For fun, look to see how many generation 1 nuc plants sit in a geologically active zone.

And how few generation 2 or 3 nuc plants are being built....

And how many generation 1 plants are running well past their design lives.

worst nuclear disaster (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911520)

>> How long are we going to be using the phrase "worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl"?

True, just simply call it "The worst nuclear disaster"

Nothing new here (2)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911104)

All this was known previously, but you had to read through long reports to get the whole picture. This is a more dramatic summary.

The real issue with Fukushima is that the reactors survived the earthquake and tsunami. What caused the meltdown was loss of electrical power to reactors that required active pumped water cooling and valve control.

Re:Nothing new here (1)

Cramer (69040) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912088)

And the nuts followed a flawed proceedure and shut off the gravity fed cooling system. Turning off the emergency system that does not require power to opperate, but will require power to re-enable, is simply the worst idea ever. Who ever wrote their proceedures never concidered an event where they lose power, or lose the powered circulation pumps. (which could be a due to power loss, structural damage, control system failure, or the pumps being destroyed.)

Re:Nothing new here (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912210)

The real issue with Fukushima is that the reactors survived the earthquake and tsunami. What caused the meltdown was loss of electrical power to reactors that required active pumped water cooling and valve control.

Not really. The REAL issue is that multiple risk factors where known to TEPCO and the Japanese government and they failed to mitigate those risks. Risks spanning decades of time.

The main reason for same: Economics.

That's the real lesson. Nuclear Power can be engineered safely. Whether or not it is depends on a host of factors. As I mentioned before, there are a number of first generation nuclear plants with these and other risks that continue to be run because of economic and political pressures.

Re:Nothing new here (1)

geoskd (321194) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912504)

The real issue with Fukushima is that the reactors survived the earthquake and tsunami. What caused the meltdown was loss of electrical power to reactors that required active pumped water cooling and valve control.

Actually, there is a growing bit of evidence [newscientist.com] That the meltdown was an inevitable result of quake damage, and the tsunami only hastened the disaster.

If you dont like my link, Google Fukushima quake damage and see for yourself. The gist of the story is that certain radiation and instrument readings could only be the result of damage before the tsunami hit, and that those readings imply damage that would have eventually led to meltdown. The tsunami pretty much just sealed the deal, and guaranteed that everything else was in vain.

-=Geoskd

which do you prefer? (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911116)

Coal or nuclear?

Not that I want to present a false dichotomy, but if you were "preference voting", i.e., listing your preferences in order, aside from the rest of the options, how would you order these two relative to one another?

Re:which do you prefer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911172)

Depends on the country, or at least who is in charge of the plants. I don't think my country should have more power plants that are either coal OR nuclear since we have a terrible history of mismanaging both of them. If I lived in France, though I'd support construction of more plants to sell power to neighbors.

Re:which do you prefer? (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911212)

Nuclear first, easy question.

My full preference set is wind, solar thermal, solar PV, geothermal, hydro, nuclear, diesel, natural gas, coal.

Re:which do you prefer? (2)

mtudee (1015229) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911252)

Nuclear first, easy question.

My full preference set is wind, solar thermal, solar PV, geothermal, hydro, nuclear, diesel, natural gas, coal.

Why diesel ahead of the cheaper and cleaner natural gas? We also seem to have lots more natural gas than oil.

Re:which do you prefer? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911368)

Because getting natural gas involves fracking. Otherwise natural gas would be ahead of diesel. There is a similar caveat to geothermal, some plants operate in a way that brings underground toxins to the surface when the turbines are cleaned.

Re:which do you prefer? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911858)

Natural gas may burn clean, but it sure as hell doesn't extract clean.

You clearly don't live on top of the Marcellus like I do.

I'll take a nuclear plant a mile away from me over the commencement of fracking operations any day of the week.

Much of it is due to a clear difference in attitude between the nuclear and gas industries:
Nuclear: "If we fuck up, bad things will happen. So we are going to constantly improve safety designs to prevent bad things from happening."
Gas drilling industry: "We're clean. We're safe. No, the rampant contamination in Dimock wasn't our fault. It was biogenic methane, forget the fact that those wells ran clean for decades before we showed up. It isn't our fault. We're clean. We're safe. Those wells aren't contaminated, you didn't see someone just light their tap water on fire. We don't need to improve because we are AWESUM DUDE!"

Re:which do you prefer? (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911248)

Nuclear.

Build them in job lots, and decommission 2 GW of coal plants for every 3 GW of nuclear we build.

And pick a design or two and stick with them. Rather than making every single one of them unique. Preferably Fourth Generation, but Late Third would suffice.

And seriously start looking at thorium designs. And breeder reactors.

So better make that four designs - one conventional, on thorium, one that can be converted from conventional to thorium, and one breeder. Cover all the bases.

And then try our best to make the people who complain about nuclear power sound like they're in favour of Global Warming continuing unchecked. Just like the anti-nuke knotheads act like people who favour nuclear power are in favour of more Chernobyls.

Re:which do you prefer? (2)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911298)

Coal or nuclear?

Not that I want to present a false dichotomy, but if you were "preference voting", i.e., listing your preferences in order, aside from the rest of the options, how would you order these two relative to one another?

If the choices are only those two, then definitely nuclear.

Re:which do you prefer? (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911352)

Oh, coal, definitely, if we're burning it on MARS!

Seriously, look at France's nuclear program, rewind the U.S. and rest of the world back to 1975 and take a different road - following in France's footsteps and building all new generating capacity from nuclear power. One might argue that we'd have had another nuclear disaster or two between then and now if we had built so many more plants, I'd counterpoint that if we had built so many more new tech based updated plants, we could have retired the ones that we're currently limping along at 150%+ of their original design lifetimes, we might have had fewer accidents instead of more.

Now, take a look at West Virginia, and anywhere else we're extracting coal, take a look at the mercury content of our rivers and near-shore waters, how many rivers in the U.S.A. are safe to eat the fish from today? Take a look at the megatons of carbon-dioxide we're releasing while burning coal for electricity. And, Mr. Fusion, where the hell is my Mr. Fusion? You can't rely on knowing where lightning will strike every time you want to go back 30 years now, can you? Oh, I forgot... /seriously

Re:which do you prefer? (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911616)

Probably you don't know, but France is scattered by regions where uranium was mined once, and a lot of constructions (roads, buildings, private houses) are contaminated due to the use of sterile rocks from U. mines. Not to mention the constant ocean pollution at la Hague, and other wanted and unwanted radioactive releases. Plus poor storage (some wastes are simply sent to Russia, for "storage" in rusty containers outside)

Re:which do you prefer? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912418)

West Virginia isn't the only place scarred by coal mining, and MegaWatt hours generated vs. Megatons of earth strip-mined, nuclear beats coal. My main reference to France was their breeder reactors which make fuel for the next generation of plants without further mining.

Re:which do you prefer? (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911548)

>> Coal or nuclear?

doesn't matter.

accumulating thermal solar + energy saving. Will supply humanity as soon as coal and nuclear are depleted/unpractical, wich is soon.

Authoritative account!?!? Really?!!? (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911230)

Jesus, what the hell kind of article summary is this? I RTFA, and it's all speculation and conjecture. Almost every word of it.

Obligatory Three Mile Island comparison (1)

kriston (7886) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911242)

Three Mile Island sustained an explosion about ten times stronger than the explosions that blew apart the Fukushima Daiichi units. The Three Mile Island containment building involved in the accident sits completely undamaged over thirty years later.

This is the benefit of containment buildings which were not only built to contain radioactivity but also built to survive impact by a Boeing 707.

Why don't all reactors have strong, steel-reinforced concrete containment buildings? I see shattered, wooden studs on those blasted-out Fukushima Daiichi buildings.

Re:Obligatory Three Mile Island comparison (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911300)

The buildings at Fukushima that blew up were not the containment building. They were designed the explode safely, which they did.The Fukushima containment buildings were fine.

Re:Obligatory Three Mile Island comparison (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911452)

I see shattered, wooden studs on those blasted-out Fukushima Daiichi buildings.

And a good thing too. Sometimes the best thing to do with a hydrogen explosion is give its energy somewhere to go.

Re:Obligatory Three Mile Island comparison (1)

kriston (7886) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911700)

Sometimes the best thing to do with a hydrogen explosion is give its energy somewhere to go.

Or not. See the OP.

Re:Obligatory Three Mile Island comparison (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912322)

What does the undamaged roof buy us?

Re:Obligatory Three Mile Island comparison (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911470)

This is Japan. Since the reactor's weren't in the city, they probably figured they were safe from their #1 concern, which is Godzilla attacks.

If this report is as good as the one on TMI... (1)

alispguru (72689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911836)

... you definitely need to read it. I will definitely plow through it soon.

Or how close ... (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911264)

... or how close the designers came to creating the worst nuclear disaster ever?

"....how close workers came to averting...." (1)

stuff-n-things (89988) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911378)

Isn't this the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl? Should the summary read a bit more like 'averting a worse nuclear disaster than Chernobyl'?

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911386)

Bananas!

Nuclear power is pure corporate welfare (0)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911430)

Nuclear fission power plants are not economically viable in a free and fair market, which is why the US government uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize it. It's old, obsolete, lame technology that favors entrenched corporate interests and provides an excuse for the ongoing centralization and militarization of commercial power generation.

If you do no other research at all, PLEASE read this: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9740 [cato.org]

In 2005, as part of the infamous Cheney sellout of national energy policy in closed-door meetings with entrenched corporate powers, the economic landscape for nuclear was completely restructured.

The Price-Anderson act, originally a "temporary" 10-year measure to encourage the development of a nuclear power industry, was re-enacted - this time until 2025. Libertarians paying attention will note that Price-Anderson is a direct affront to core Libertarian principles - it caps liability for nuclear operators and forces taxpayers opposed to nuclear power to subsidize preventable failures.

Per-watt subsidies for nuclear power were also enacted, in the form of 1.8-cent per kilowatt-hour tax credits from new reactors during the first 8 years of operation (costing a projected $5.7 billion in revenue losses to the U.S. Treasury through 2025). This subsidy is necessary in order for nuclear-generated electricity to stay competitive with methane-powered generators, because of the total inability of the nuclear industry to deliver on the "energy too cheap to meter" promises they've been making since 1948.

In the 1980s government audits of nuclear operators determined that many of them were not setting aside decommissioning costs as required by law. The 2005 energy bill retroactively makes this legal, providing strong disincentives to any responsible operator willing to plan for the future.

Occasionally you will hear claims that government over-regulation of the nuclear industry means that licenses and permits are difficult and expensive to maintain. In reality, the industry itself rewrote the rules for licensing application in the 1980s so that permits are cheap, long-lasting and do not require any real commitment. Later policy revisions go even further and reduce the total paperwork by two thirds as well as increasing the speed of review, removing barriers to approval, and increasing the time a permit is valid to 40 years.

Today, nuclear plant licensing is going strong. The period when no new licenses were applied for closely corresponds to the period when lack of taxpayer subsidies and the lapse of Price-Anderson made building plants economic suicide - and the fact that license applications revived almost immediately after the GWBush administration reintroduced them is strong circumstantial evidence that nuclear operators must fleece taxpayers in order to survive in the US market, just as they do in every other country that uses nuclear power.

If you believe in capitalism, free markets, or representative government all this should offend you. The White House and the neo-con wing of the Republican party forced an unconsenting electorate to sponsor a huge market distortion - potentially driving market-selected options out of the competition - in order for their corporate buddies to plunder the public pocketbook.

Re:Nuclear power is pure corporate welfare (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37912012)

Nuclear fission power plants are not economically viable in a free and fair market, which is why the US government uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize it. It's old, obsolete, lame technology that favors entrenched corporate interests and provides an excuse for the ongoing centralization and militarization of commercial power generation.

Actually it is and was up until anti-nuclear dipshits scare mongered the public into making it non-viable in a free market. If you kill all the dip shits who causes these problems, aka anti-nuclear fucktards, suddenly it becomes extremely cost effective. And in fact, by far, THE most cost effective AND safest source of energy known to man. All of that was finally just starting to take place and look up when the ghost of fucktard anti-nuclear morons struck.

THE reason we are still using these old designs, all of which have been addressed in modern designs, is because anti-nuclear fucktards create such a hostile environment, replacement of these reactors is almost never a viable possibility.As a result, reactors which everyone wants replaced continue to be extended because anti-nuclear fucktards make it economically and politically non-viable.

Literally, if you want someone to blame, first and foremost, by a wide margin, you can squarely blame the anti-nuclear fucktards. If they would shut the fuck up, or better, just die, the world would literally be a safer, cheaper place to live.

Anti-nuclear fucktards literally create a world of self fulfilling prophecy and actively interfere with free market economics, politics, and even the engineers who do was safe power. They literally are the worst of nuclear power in every measurable way. Literally, if it were not for them, energy costs would be much lower, unsubsidized, and be generated with more modern, safer designs, all of which would have completely prevented this entire nuclear disaster.

Anti-nuclear fucktards need to shut the fuck up and/or die - whichever is more convenient. Thanks fucktards for making the world more expensive and more dangerous than needs be. You literally have blood on yours hands.

Re:Nuclear power is pure corporate welfare (1, Interesting)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912448)

Interesting; you claim that anti-nuclear "fucktards" are actively preventing the shutdown of nuclear power plants? The operators want to shut them down, but anti-nuclear fucktards won't let them!

And these same "fucktards" are responsible for the Bush administrations' re-licensing obsolete plants that were scheduled for decommissioning? They mounted a letter-writing campaign to Dick Cheney, I guess - Don't close those plants, Dick!

I find your ideas intriguing, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter, which I assume is called "Violent Paranoid Fantasies Weekly".

Radiation Symbol (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911438)

Just how hard is it to put a radiation symbol right side up? What a good way to destroy the credibility of your journalism by implying that you've done so little research into this that you don't even know what the symbol for radiation is, let alone what radiation and radioactivity are.

Yuo FAil It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911488)

Apple to0. No,

cherry picked data (0)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911498)

The data in that summary is cherry picked so it doesn't make bad PR for nuclear power.
For instance, they are careful not to mention evidence that rector one was damaged by the earthquake even before the tsunami struck:

http://www.asianewsnet.net/home/news.php?id=18975&sec=1 [asianewsnet.net]

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-19/fukushima-may-have-leaked-radiation-before-quake.html [bloomberg.com]

Re:cherry picked data (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912082)

+1
The ieee story i strongly biased. they make too much suppositions and "if"'s. The earquake alone damaged much systems also, and containments were broken before the tsunami. Many pipes were ripped away, so probably not a single drop of water arrived on the molten fuel in the first attempts.

Disaster planning (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911684)

It comes down to cost. Trying the plan for that last 5% of disasters that only happen 1% of the time is cost prohibitive. At some point, sad as it may seem, money does become more important than the consequences. I don't think Fukishama will be the last, nor the worst, disaster this population ever sees but it will make engineers a little more careful. For a while.

"if" (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911692)

>> If the emergency generators had been installed on upper floors rather than in basements, for example, the disaster would have stopped before it began

don't think so.

What about earquake damage to these generators ? on upper floors there's more damage.
What about the fuel tanks for these generators ? washed away
What about pumps for cooling ? washed away
What about the sea water for cooling these generators ? clogged by debris... ...

Basically, you can not secure fully a nuke plant against an earthquake and tsunami.

Re:"if" (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911972)

"If" you read the article you would have read the following:

"Only one generator, on the first floor of a building near unit 6, kept going; unlike the others, all of its equipment was above the water line. Reactor 6 and its sister unit, reactor 5, would weather the crisis without serious damage, thanks in part to that generator."

You'd also known that most of the emergency power survived the quake but the flood quickly took them out. Therefore they didn't protect the nuclear plant from a possible tsunami and that was the point of the article.

It is the worst since Chernobyl (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37911702)

"One thing I hadn't realized was just how close workers came to averting the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl."

It was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. It was very close to being worse than Chernobyl.

Re:It is the worst since Chernobyl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37911984)

"One thing I hadn't realized was just how close workers came to averting the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl."

It was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. It was very close to being worse than Chernobyl.

And if they'd done things slightly differently, it would have not happened, or would have been significantly less drastic. Thus they did come close to averting the disaster. Just like I can come close to hitting a home run and still not get one.

Re:It is the worst since Chernobyl (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912122)

And since it's long not stabilized, it will probably be worse on the long term. There is just 10 times more uncontained fuel released. This continues to spread.

Re:It is the worst since Chernobyl (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37912270)

That's a meaningless phrase though. A few days after the whole Chernobyl thing died down, I dropped an ionization style smoke detector on my foot. it was OMFG THE WORST NUCLEAR ACCIDENT SINCE CHERNOBYL!!!!!!!!!!!!

It made me say ow and everything.

As for WORSE than Chernobyl? Not really much chance of that. It could have been worse than it turned out, but it wasn't at all likely to be worse than Chernobyl.

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