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229 comments

if it ain't broke (5, Insightful)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625418)

I promised my neighbors I will stop burning cow dung after 10 years, unless I deem it doesn't still smell like sh*t.

Re:if it ain't broke (5, Insightful)

quantaman (517394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625448)

You're missing the point.

Older plants don't have as many safety features as newer plants, as well existing safety features may degrade as they age. So instead of plants simply getting older and less safe they're proactively saying "this plant will be shut down by X unless you can prove it's still safe enough to continue".

OTOH... (5, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625534)

will soon require atomic reactors to be shut down after 40 years of use to improve safety.' If, however, a nuclear plant is deemed still safe it may continue operation."

That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean? At the end of 40 years, a plant is either safe or unsafe. If safe, they can keep going. If unsafe, why was it still running?

Re:OTOH... (4, Insightful)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625752)

That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean?

It means that they expect plants to be worn down by use. Plants that are less worn are deemed less likely to be a problem, even if they have fewer safeguards. Plants that are both worn and with fewer safeguards will (ostensibly) not be tolerated.

Re:OTOH... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626148)

40 years is too long. Think about it, a plant coming online in 1960 would still be operating until 2000.
A more reasonable timeframe would have been 30 years top, or even 25 years. But as we all know nuclear plants are costly, very costly tio build so better run them until they explode or are obsolete (and tend to explode the same).
We all know how this will end, by 35 years some CEO will upgrade the plant and it will go on for the next 40 years or until disaster strikes. It is not a good policy. A good policy is to state that a nuclear plant will not operate under any circumstance more than 30 years. The licence being not renewable. After 30 years you dismantle and build a new power plant with the state of art technologies.
And so on and so forth until be have a viable fusion reactor (if ever).

Re:OTOH... (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626782)

Oyster Creek [wikipedia.org] came on in 1969 and still has until 2029.

Re:OTOH... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625780)

If they can't guarantee a safe lifetime of 40 years, they won't build it in the first place.

Re:OTOH... (4, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626032)

Right .....
And, of course, Fukushima was less than 3 months over 40. If the tidal wave had been 3 months earlier, everything would have been fine?

Re:OTOH... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626328)

The tidal wave was expected to happen 1000 years later, actually.

Re:OTOH... (1)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626794)

I think you forgot to close your sarcasm tag. Or have I missed the story on Slashdot about the 100% accurate tidal wave prediction technology they are using?

Re:OTOH... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38627018)

Tsunami, people. Not tidal wave.

Re:OTOH... (1)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627114)

Indeed, I'm ashamed for simply echoing the GP. -_-;;

Re:OTOH... (4, Insightful)

VanGarrett (1269030) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625792)

Do you believe that a nuclear plant goes into operation immediately when the last construction worker on-site finishes his final designated task? That seems a bizarre way to run things, in any country. The nuclear plant is inspected prior to commencing operations, and is presumed safe until its next inspection. Can you know before the box is open, whether Schrodinger's cat remains alive? This is not a new thought-experiment.

The decision that Japan has made, is that 40 years is a reasonable length of time to check in on a nuclear plant, to see if it still meets current safety standards. It may no longer meet standards because of normal wear and tear on the facility, or it may be because the standards have been raised. Seeing as the previous modus operandi was to build a nuclear plant and let it continue until it explodes, I'd say that this is a clear and marked improvement.

Re:OTOH... (2)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625924)

Are you seriously so naive to believe they only inspect nuke plants after 40 years?

In the US, it's a continuous process:

Under a program initiated in 1977, resident inspectors are stationed at each nuclear power plant. There are at least two resident inspectors assigned to each site. Resident inspectors provide first-hand, independent assessment of plant conditions and performance...During the course of a year, NRC specialists may conduct 10 to 25 routine inspections at each nuclear power plant

- US Nuclear Regulatory Commission [nrc.gov]

Re:OTOH... (1)

NibbleG (987871) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625988)

One would think that as well as routine inspections, there is a semi-annual process to make sure the plant is still safe. Regardless of the raised standards since the plants construction. I would believe that Japan's idea is: A) Plant must meet current safety standards. B) Plant must continue to operate within criteria for "safe" operation. C) Plant must meet semi annual inspections. D) After 40 years if plant still meets/exceeds current safety standards it can remain open. Of course, as per slashdot, I did not read the article.

Re:OTOH... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626192)

Continually inspected to ensure the safety standards are low enough to keep the plant running.

Re:OTOH... (1)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626818)

Which is the point the GG*P allures to. If there are continual inspections, what does the optional 40 year limit actually mean? If the plant was deemed unsafe at the last inspection, it is shut down before 40 years are up. If the plant passes its inspection as usual after 40 years, it can continue to operate as usual.

Re:OTOH... (5, Insightful)

quantaman (517394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626004)

will soon require atomic reactors to be shut down after 40 years of use to improve safety.' If, however, a nuclear plant is deemed still safe it may continue operation."

That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean? At the end of 40 years, a plant is either safe or unsafe. If safe, they can keep going. If unsafe, why was it still running?

People like you are why I always feel the need to write long pedantic posts :/

First lets establish the obvious in that safety isn't a binary condition, it's a continuum.

Now older plants are less safe for two reasons. 1) they were built when the technology was less advanced, 2) they are old.

Now if a plant is unsafe enough it will obviously be shut down before the 40 year mark, the only reason to believe otherwise is if you're being deliberately obtuse.

However, we're looking at the situation where a plant is safe enough that there's no immediate reason to shut it down, but if someone started the ball rolling and did a really tough safety inspection it might end in the plant being shut down.

What this law does is start the ball rolling.

I'm sorry to sound snippy but comments of the type "I'm going to misinterpret a statement so I can make a clever remark" really bug me and detract from the discussion.

Re:OTOH... (5, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626406)

First lets establish the obvious in that safety isn't a binary condition, it's a continuum.

This needs to be expanded on. Safety is not only a continuum but it's an ever changing continuum as new standards for what is deemed "safe". I work at a plant which is quite unique around the world. It's unique in that we've never had a death on site. Does that mean we're safer than other sites? Hell no.

Looking back at our history we had scaffolders holding onto the top of a tower with one hand with no safety harness on and with the other mounting a scaffold pole. We had a really old control room with a large window facing the plant less than 10m away. We've never had an incident that has damaged that building but that doesn't mean it is safe. We had to build a giant cement bomb proof bunker for our new control room and more recently move all day staff off site.

When the plant was built there was no emergency shutdown system. Now 50 years later we still use some of the original kit but with a number of SIL rated shutdown systems in addition to the modern control system. Not to mention 50 years worth of changes in process design, check valves and relief valves in critical positions, a massive relief flaring system, etc.

That point I am trying to make is that if you build a site and maintain a site perfectly to the standards of the day it was designed then eventually it will be deemed unsafe simply because you're ignoring years of changes in standards and lessons learnt from the process safety industry.

40 years ago you weren't held liable for not putting up a wet floor sign either.

Re:OTOH... (1)

distilate (1037896) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627030)

True, continuous upgrads with technology help but unless these are done very carefully and well documented they could introduce new issues when they interact with some obsure poorly documented part of the origional system. Some of these plants are being modified after those who designed and created them have been burried and since no documentation is perfect I say some documentation died with the origional designers.

Re:OTOH... (-1, Flamebait)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626660)

"First lets establish the obvious in that safety isn't a binary condition, it's a continuum."

Sure, some plants are safer than others, so it's a continuum in that sense. But, there must be a regulatory threshold which creates a binary condition - a plant is either safe enough to operate, or it isn't. Speed isn't a binary condition, either, but there's a speed limit above which it's illegal to operate, and below which it isn't.

"I'm sorry to sound snippy but comments of the type "I'm going to misinterpret a statement so I can make a clever remark" really bug me and detract from the discussion."

Oh, and fuck you, too.

Re:OTOH... (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627072)

Now if a plant is unsafe enough it will obviously be shut down before the 40 year mark, the only reason to believe otherwise is if you're being deliberately obtuse.

That is an incredibly and ironically stupid thing to say in the aftermath of Fukushima, where we've got an ongoing problem with a plant which was past its government-mandated shutdown date.

I'm sorry to sound snippy but comments of the type "I'm going to misinterpret a statement so I can make a clever remark" really bug me and detract from the discussion.

What about your comment of the type "I'm going to misinterpret reality so I can make a clever remark"?

Re:OTOH... (3, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626014)

That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean?

You're missing the point. The plants were up to contemporary safety standards when they were built. They aren't now - not because their safety standards have necessarily decreased, but because contemporary safety mechanisms are so much better.

This is saying that older plants must measure up to modern safety techniques, you can't "grandfather" in an old plant, just because its been operating for a long time.

Re:OTOH... (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626046)

"Safety" is not a boolean value.

i think he gets the point completely (-1, Flamebait)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625570)

"we have used a bunch of bullshit phrases and PR garbage to somehow make a press announcement about the concept of having long term, ordinary safety inspections, and shutting down plants that are unsafe, because holy shit, thats how things are fucking supposed to operate, if we werent a bunch of corrupt, grab assing douchebag 1 percenters"

Re:if it ain't broke (0)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625726)

No, the parent gets it exactly right. They're explicitly stating that they'll shut down the plants after 40 years for safety reasons, unless they don't. Which is just like saying nothing at all. They were actually better off saying nothing since implicit here is that aging plants perpetually renewed have long since become a safety problem, and the power of regulators [wikipedia.org] to shut the decrepit unsafe plants down is nil.

Re:if it ain't broke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625744)

Shouldn't the policy be that "any plant will be shut down after 0 years unless it is proven safe enough to continue"?
Why should "40 years" matter one way or the other? To me the policy seems like nothing but an attempt at a comforting sentiment that "old broken dangerous things should be shut down" but is unspecific enough to invoke any specific actions.

Unless of course the current policy is that dangerous plants can operate indefinitely, in which case waiting out their 40-year anniversary seems an inadequate change.

Re:if it ain't broke (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625786)

Yeah, you're completely missing the point! Rules were made to be broken! What?

Re:if it ain't broke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626200)

> You're missing the point.

No, you are. You are either a teen, an exceptionally naive grown man or worse, a malicious guy.

> Older plants don't have as many safety features as newer plants, as well existing safety features may degrade as they age. So instead of plants simply getting older and less safe they're proactively saying "this plant will be shut down by X unless you can prove it's still safe enough to continue".

You think than humans just work like that? You think governments simply work well?

Don't you think Fukushima reactors were deemed safe?

May I be wrong, please.

Re:if it ain't broke (2)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626510)

I can't find the link but I thought the existing plants were already past their expected lifespans, but were still operating because the authorities deemed them safe enough to continue operating. So how does this new wordplay change anything?

Re:if it ain't broke (0)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625972)

Yeah..And if the neighbors don't like the smell, they can get used to it, just like the Japanese people can get used to a little bit of non lethal radiation :/

--
If you play with plutonium you 'might' get radioactive

makes sense (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625422)

well, people have to reapply for their driver licenses after certain amount of time, this makes some sense.

But I am looking for the people to overthrow governments and finally to take the power into their own hands and to restart economies by looking at things that we've been prohibited from looking into. I want a nuclear powered car, dammit!

In Other Words... (4, Insightful)

CrazyDuke (529195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625430)

Japan will continue to use nuclear plants after 40 years after some political/financial lubrication and rubber stamping a safety report, just like every other first world nation with old plants in the news lately.

War is peace; Freedom is slavery, etc...

Mmm...chocolate rations...

Re:In Other Words... (4, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625748)

Indeed. It's our weird world of thinking -> "We won't build new nuclear power plants (which are safer, and benefit from technology advances), because nuclear power is unsafe; but we will continue to operate the older nuclear power plants (which are less safe, and are slowly crumbling) because we have already spent the money building them."

There are days when I think the inmates are running the asylum.

Re:In Other Words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625796)

The inmates had the sense to leave the asylum.

We're stuck with the staff, who is crazy enough to work there!

Re:In Other Words... (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625890)

So, where did the inmates run off to? Seriously, I am almost sober enough that I might want to follow in their footsteps / escape plan. ^_^

Re:In Other Words... (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625798)

There are days when I think the inmates are running the asylum.

You have just described how democracy works.

Re:In Other Words... (-1, Offtopic)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625870)

"The best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill.

"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." - George Carlin

And then...

"I will tell you: It's three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the -- what's the third one there? Let's see. ... OK. So Commerce, Education and the -- ... The third agency of government I would -- I would do away with the Education, the ... Commerce and -- let's see -- I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops." –Rick Perry, at the time frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

"I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed." - Mitt Romney, talking to people in Florida in 2011. What he left out: Mitt Romney is independently wealthy to the tune of $200 million in the bank, and never has to fear homelessness or anything else, basically ever.

"I have two grandchildren – Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

"I have two grandchildren – Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American." - Newt Gingrich. Apparently he hasn't the brainpower to realize that "secular atheist" and "radical islamist" governments are contradictory.

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." - Rick Santorum. Pretty much self-explanatory.

Re:In Other Words... (0)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625954)

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." - Rick Santorum. Pretty much self-explanatory.

His cynicism turns me on. I wonder if he'd be interested in a gay relationship?

Re:In Other Words... (1)

CrazyDuke (529195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626218)

People tend to project upon others the same impulses and motivations they themselves hold. So, when they see someone doing something that they themselves would do as a prerequisite for some behavior, they assume that the other person is doing it for that very result. So, it is possible. Maybe he secretly wants to have a big gay family orgy or something.

However, human behavior is not so simple as to assume the above to be true. For instance, people who have suffered trauma often assume that a prerequisite event associated with prior trauma heralds an imminent re-occurrence. Some people just have a weird way of thinking. Some people just like to screw with other people's hearts and minds. Etc...

In my amateur opinion, I would say it ups the chances off average, though.

Re:In Other Words... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627174)

>>Apparently he hasn't the brainpower to realize that "secular atheist" and "radical islamist" governments are contradictory.

I won't criticize your brainpower for copying and pasting the same quote twice, as it was an honest mistake.

But the two are strange bedfellows. Secular atheists are generally on the side of Palestinians, whereas evangelical Christians and Mormons generally take the side of Israel. Why would Christians support Jews and atheists support Hamas? Hell, you tell me. But that's how the world is.

Re:In Other Words... (2)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626008)

Does anyone else wake up in the morning, spend a moment thinking through all the various systems of rule the human race has conceived of, and feel that none of them are satisfactory? Not one of them.

Democracy when you're younger -> everyone gets a vote, everyone is intelligent / cares to carefully understand or weigh each issue before casting a vote.
Democracy when you're older -> why am I always in the minority? if everyone is intelligent, why are they constantly voting for plans that will backfire in a year or so? why do people espouse no desire to learn anything outside of their chosen field? why is justice always being streamlined? why is everyone seemingly so happy to remain a part of / go along with a group, even if it means they will suffer for it? why is acting stupid in vogue? why am I finding out that everything I've been taught is a complete lie?

And so on. As per Penny-Arcade, sometimes in order to hurt someone very badly, you need to tell them terrible lies.

Re:In Other Words... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626326)

While my comment was admittedly cynical, I do believe in democracy (maybe because I'm still young :) ). People have, in fact become much more educated over time. 100 years ago most people spent 4-8 years in school, now it's 12-20 years. Society developing, and in places where democracy has been around for long enough (like in Western Europe) it starts to stabilize and become more and more effective. Sadly, this is a very slow process, and sometimes I get the feeling that bureaucracy, legal and financial systems and even technology develops (and gets more complicated) faster than society can learn.

What I meant in my comment is that the of the leaders are tied in this matter because the public opinion became anti-nuclear after the Fukushima hysteria.

Re:In Other Words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626336)

Been there. It becomes really creepy when you notice that these people are willfully and deliberately empowering the dysfunctional jackasses that end up in power.

It seems to go:
1. Empower assholes.
2. Sit back and watch as the assholes make asshole decisions.
3. Complain, but claim that nothing can be done about it because the assholes are in power.
4. Silence anyone that tries to do anything about any of it.
5. Put more assholes in power.
6. Etc.

This way, they get the asshole benefits without the hit on their conscience. When something bad happens, well, there was nothing they could do about it: It's the assholes fault!

Re:In Other Words... (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626010)

The operators of the existing plants would want to keep them running in any case. Simply because those plants are already paid for, so keeping them running longer typically means to get higher profits. This would apply if you wanted to build new gas-fired plants, offshore wind parks or new nuclear power stations.

If you want to replace old nuclear plants, you have to say: "These plants are unsafe to operate, we need something else, be it energy X, Y or Z". There is no way any energy supplier would replace a plant just because they can build one which is safer as long as the old one is assumed to be safe already.

Re:In Other Words... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626402)

Indeed. It's our weird world of thinking -> "We won't build new nuclear power plants (which are safer, and benefit from technology advances), because nuclear power is unsafe; but we will continue to operate the older nuclear power plants (which are less safe, and are slowly crumbling) because we have already spent the money building them."

If you won't build the new ones, won't continue running the old ones, and can't or won't build enough conventional capacity to take up the slack, what are you going to do, go back to living in the dark?

Re:In Other Words... (2)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626616)

Japanese are evolving to radiation already anyway.., a mummy in Japan now carries geiger counter to prevent parking their baby-coach in a radiation hotspot. See GeigerMama.com (no joke) http://geigermama.com/ [geigermama.com] .

The voters are running the asylum (0)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627010)

The voters are running the asylum but I can see how you can confuse them with the insane. The simple fact is that democracy of the masses is ill suited to complex issues where "cheap vs expensive" is only a tiny aspect of a much larger puzzle. Nuclear power isn't unsafe by the nature of nuclear power but by the nature of the enormous costs and length of time involved. You can't build or operate a nuclear plant within an election cycle so cross-party support must be arranged and this invariable can only be achieved by lubricating the system. Bribes? Not directly, more the old boy network being used to extreems. Officials get jobs on boards of directors and appoint people they think got the right frame of mind (IE the same as them) and "trust" their fellow chaps.

If Fukishima had been a coal plant it would have belched forth tons of polutions and the coal might have been spread all over the place when the tidal wave hit. But these are managable. A nuclear reactor by its very nature when it goes wrong goes wrong in a big way. It has no room for compromise and half-hearted decisions. Fukishima should have been build with better protection but it wasn't because the people that were supposed to oversee it were all tied to its success.

Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts. Some things just attract corruption. Not outright corruption with clear bribes as in say Italy where corruption is the expected norm but that veneer of corruption that means the chance of the right decision being made is very very small.

Nuclear power is unsafe not because of physics but because of human nature. Sooner or later someone will try to safe money by cutting corners. And that will go right 99% of the time... just a pity that the 1% of the time is noticed around the world.

So, no change? (2)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625434)

Doesn't seem like a change, unless they presently don't shutdown an unsafe plant before 40 years.

Re:So, no change? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625452)

No, it means that now, a plant has to be shown to be unsafe to be shutdown. With the changes, a plant has to be shown to be safe to qualify for an extention. It basically means more inspections.

Re:So, no change? (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625588)

It sounds like they're saying they'll all be shutdown in 40 years unless they're safe. Thus making it sound like if they are newer than 40 years they don't have to be safe. Of course that's from the summary which so often has little or nothing to do with the article.

Makes Sense (3, Insightful)

jrmrjnck (2231848) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625444)

So... inspect old plants and shut them down if they're not operating safely. That sounds oddly reasonable.

Re:Makes Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626942)

that's what I thought, and they are also somewhat looking at U.S. guidelines of a 40 year permit slightly modified. I do apologize that the title should have the words "of use" in there (just surprised that my submission was accepted).

Huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625456)

Make up your mind. Either you pre-determine 40 years or you don't. This is a 100% political announcement.

What if you have a LIFTR or some other Thorium reactor which is good for 45 or 100 years? What if the current Toshiba local reactors which can be installed in Russia or China but not in USA or Japan due to arbitrary regulatory rules become downright popular?

BTW may I please have a Toshiba reactor in my back yard? I promise to charge small rent for the underground storage and electric grid easements. :)

JJ

Wait, what? (2)

F69631 (2421974) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625462)

40 years old nuclear plants will be shut down, unless they're still safe. --> 40 years old nuclear plants that are no longer safe will be shut down

One would assume that this has been the policy all along. Hell, if a nuclear plant is deemed "no longer safe" they should shut it down whether it's 20, 40 or 60 years old!

The government said Friday that it plans to introduce legislation in the coming months to require reactors to stop running after 40 years. Japanese media reported that the law may include loopholes to allow some old nuclear reactors to keep running if their safety is confirmed with tests.

The proposal could be similar to the law in the U.S., which grants 40-year licenses and allows for 20-year extensions. Such renewals have been granted to 66 of 104 U.S. nuclear reactors. That process has been so routine that many in the industry are already planning for additional license extensions that could push the plants to operate for 80 years or even 100.

Japan does not currently have a limit on years of operation. It had planned to expand nuclear power before the meltdown, but has since ordered reactors undergoing routine inspections to undergo new tests and get community approval before they can be restarted. The new restrictions mean that only six Japanese reactors are currently running.

So, they'll keep doing what they have always been doing, except that they now introduced arbitrary time limit, which they can circumvent if they want to.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625536)

I also thought that's what they were doing as well, and that Fuku has recently passed it n-decade review?

Re:Wait, what? (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625928)

Fuku was suppose to be replaced in Mai..........
While I have not payed any attention to if there has been any effort to actually complete this plans, I sort of assume Fuki will be running for more years after stabilization because it would be even worse PR to build another plant.... Or at the least that is what the Germans are telling me, so the Japanese might think differently.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626842)

Have you actually seen any pictures of "Fuki" since March 2011? That thing is in no condition to be run. Hell, it's in no condition to shut the windows at night! The best you can hope is that it stays halfway upright until the fission material has been discarded as safely as is possible at this stage.

Japan's energy future (2, Interesting)

FishTankX (1539069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625466)

It'll be interesting to see if Gen 3+ and Gen 4 nuclear reactors will be allowed longer terms of lease, given that they have less parts to fail and more passive saftey systems. I think that nuclear could really be a keystone of Japan's nuclear energy future. That, and the Japanese have done research on how to extract uranium from the sea after Uranium prices spike in the future once easily mineable resources become exhausted. If we don't get breeders or thorium running, Japan has done the research.

http://www.jaea.go.jp/jaeri/english/ff/ff43/topics.html [jaea.go.jp]

Japan's only major energy resource is the sea. And the sea has enough Uranium to keep Japan ticking long after their population dwindles away due to their low birth rate.

Re:Japan's energy future (-1, Troll)

Sarius64 (880298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625494)

Don't worry. I'm sure Jane Fonda or Oprah will show up and provide relevant insight that the cowards in Congress can use to get elected another term. Unless, of course, they can use the information to get in on the ground floor of eight or so IPOs, first.

Re:Japan's energy future (1)

ooshna (1654125) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625608)

I think that nuclear could really be a keystone of Japan's nuclear energy future.

Ya don't say.

Re:Japan's energy future (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626072)

They are way more expensive than wind generators.
And forget about the "base load" vs "intermittency" argument.

Re:Japan's energy future (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626446)

They are way more expensive than wind generators.
And forget about the "base load" vs "intermittency" argument.

Firstly [citation needed] and while you find one for how nice and "cheap" wind power is I'll find you one for how nice and cheap nuclear is. This is afterall Japan where they don't have the governmental and insurance overheads of the USA.

Secondly, ok lets forget the baseload argument. Japan doesn't have the land to put enough wind farms up to power its population. Run the numbers. It just can't happen unless you start to put wind farms out at sea which double screws your supposed "cheaper" argument.

Thirdly, we forgot the baseload argument. And since you decided to forget this quite key point on purpose let's just assume right now you have no power engineering experience at all and call it a day.

Thanks for trolling.

Re:Japan's energy future (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627132)

It'll be interesting to see if Gen 3+ and Gen 4 nuclear reactors will be allowed longer terms of lease

You'll have to tell me - I'll be pretty old forty years after the first Gen 3+ plant gets finished (AP1000 under construction in China) and most likely well over 100 and dead some 40 years after a Gen 4 reactor gets built.
Extraction of Uranium from seawater is nothing other than an as yet unapplied joke so long as there is a lot of very easily mined ore full of Uranium, Copper, Silver and Gold (eg. Olympic Dam, South Australia). Is Uranium was worthless that ore would still be mined.

Passing an inspection to stay running is NEW?! (2)

gregmac (629064) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625488)

So what have they done up to this point? Shouldn't all plants require safety inspections, all the time, and if they're not up to standards they get shut down? Age of the plant shouldn't matter at all -- in fact, a plant built 50 years ago should be held to the same standards as a plant built 2 years ago. It doesn't matter if putting generators in the basement next to the ocean was deemed to be okay in 1967. If current standards say your backup power has to be protected from tsunamis, then the plant has to be fixed, or shut down.

Re:Passing an inspection to stay running is NEW?! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625628)

just pay a bribe to pass.

Re:Passing an inspection to stay running is NEW?! (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627150)

Yes.
This is about making an announcement for the sake of it and continuing as usual, just like when Germany pretended they were getting out of nuclear power for reasons other than not wanting to spend the money to run the things.
I'm not sure about how the standards apply for non-nuclear thermal power stations in the USA. There are huge thick books full of case studies of what happens when you run various power station components to destruction and they are all US examples. In places where they actually care about having a working power station in a decade there are regular inspections - typically every three or five years on the high temperature pipework. Some of the techniques of remaining life assessment of high temperature, high pressure pipework came directly from the nuclear industry.

why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625510)

won't Japan acknowledge its inferior engineering in protecting its plants?

Re:why? (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625620)

The engineering was fine, they just didn't have a backup backup generator that was hardened against tsunami. It surprises me a bit that nobody thought to plan for that eventuality being located where it is, but they didn't. The plant itself survived a significant earthquake and only had troubles because it couldn't cool down when it lost power.

Re:why? (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626144)

The engineering was fine, they just didn't have a backup backup generator that was hardened against tsunami.

So it wasn't fine. It could have been protected merely by locating the site a little further inland.

Take the village of Aneyoshi - it was basically wiped out in 1896, suffered major destruction in 1933, and in 1960 they were fine because they had moved to higher ground by then. So that gives us around 30 years between major tsunamis - the Fukushima site would have had to assume at least one during the intended operating period. Not planning for that was a major flaw. It doesn't by itself indicate that the reactor _type_ is unsafe, but the design of the site was not correct.

Re:why? (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626222)

No, the design of the reactor complex was fine, they could also have engineered a taller wall to protect against it as well. At some point you do have to draw a line as to how over engineered you're going to be. Based upon what was understood about the risks they built what they could, and considering that the wave was substantially larger than what they were anticipating things went quite well.

I'm just surprised that they didn't have a secondary backup generator in case something happened that prevented the primary backup generator from working or for periods when they needed to take it apart for maintenance.

Re:why? (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626344)

Based upon what was understood about the risks they built what they could

They assumed the risks so their site would be viable, and they put protections in place which were not too expensive to run the reactor economically. This was a very large tsunami, yes - but the site was not where the waves were highest. A smaller quake could have occurred at a worse location, and the site would have been hit even harder.

The Fukushima plant assumed a max wave height of 5.5 meters. That's less than historically reported wave height. The Onagawa nuclear power plant was 75 km closer to the epicenter, but it was built at 15 meters above sea level.

According to this: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-25/tsunami-risk-well-known-to-nuclear-engineers-regulators-who-failed-to-act.html [bloomberg.com] - Three [tsunamis] in the past three decades had waves of more than 10 meters. So they actually regularly get tsunami waves higher than the max assumption made for that site.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626550)

Sigh, you might want to actually know something before you start posting. Earthquakes and their accompanying tsunamis do not come on a regular basis. If anything having three in recent decades makes it less likely that there will be one of similar size in the near future as the energy would have been dissipated.

The Onagawa plant being closer to the epicenter does not in any way shape or form suggest that it should have been more heavily damaged as neither plant had issues coping with the earthquake. The plant in question did have issues coping with the water.

Re:why? (1)

Sneeka2 (782894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626892)

The plant in question did have issues coping with the water.

So... the engineering was fine then?

Not sure why engineering is judged on a sliding scale here. Did the plant survive a massive but not unprecedented earthquake/tsunami or didn't it? Japan is one of the few countries on earth that's plagued by earthquakes on a regular basis, every once in a while a massive one. Shouldn't the absolute worst case have been part of the planning? If it was, then the planning obviously wasn't good enough. If it wasn't then why the heck was that thing built in the first place?

Re:why? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626332)

Locating the site farther inland requires more pipes to be dug, which bring in cold water from the ocean. Longer pipes are at a greater risk from earth quakes breaking them.

The only flaw in the building layout was locating the emergency generators in an underground bunker that was designed to be protected against earthquakes. That bunker was flooded by 20 feet of water drowning the generators.

instead of guessing about the engineering specs why don't you look them up? They put the generators in a location such that if the reactors buildings were damaged then the generators would be safe. that saftey came at a cost of being flooded SO they built a wall to keep water out. That wall wasn't tall enough and the bunker filled with water.

Re:why? (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626356)

The Onagawa nuclear power plant was 75 km closer to the epicenter, but it was built at 15 meters above sea level. It did fine. Maybe you want to look that up? Maybe if you try to designs and one performs far worse than the other (under better circumstances), that's some indication which design is better?

Re:why? (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626852)

That wall wasn't tall enough and the bunker filled with water.

I love this 'I'll build a wall to keep out [hurricanes|tsunamis]' mentality that Japan and the folks in New Orleans have - I think it shows great chutzpah!

What will happen to radioactive waste? (2)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625524)

They are dependent on nuclear energy obviously, and 40 years is probably quite a feat. But after those 40 years, when there is radioactive waste that will last for thousands, and after leaving certain zones inhabitable for centuries... was it worth it?

Re:What will happen to radioactive waste? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625586)

Yes, considering how little effort it takes to protect people from nuclear waste, and considering the ridiculously low death toll nuclear power has had up to now.

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

Either that or you can take the much more deadly solar power (serious) or another poison. Or live energy free.

Did you know that the spent fuel can be reused in new LFTR reactors? No? Didn't figure you would.

We'll all keep trotting that article out until you either decide that humanity should have nothing more than campfires for heat, or you shut up.

Re:What will happen to radioactive waste? (1)

Superken7 (893292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625868)

I was trying to put what I thought was an interesting, provocative yet reasoned argument which questions the effectiveness of the nuclear energy "path". Looks like someone got irritated and can't discuss "like adults do".

Back to my point, if you will, leaving zones of the planet inhabitable for centuries is a very high prize many aren't willing to pay. Who says deaths/twh is the correct metric? Oh, maybe that is one of the reasons this news: they would like to find a better energy source!
BTW, color me suspicious about that article, which says: "a death at one of the japanese nuclear plants following the 8.9 earthquake". *A* DEATH? If you didn't know, radioactivity doesn't instantly kill you. How many were killed or damaged the *instant* the explosion occurred at Chernobyl? Exactly. That article was written March 13, 2011.
Also, how about taking into account thousands of homeless, costs of recovery, environmental costs of radioactive leaks, environmental costs of radioactive wastes, etc etc etc and you end up with one Fing big disaster, which is what Fukushima is any way you want to look at it.
Of course, one could argue that this was due to the earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami, which was followed by the Fukushima incident. But it is about the risk. A very high risk, judging by the unfortunate results of Fukushima. Shit DOES happen, as everybody can see.

Now, I'm not saying they should magically stop being dependent on 40% (or 80% or whatever it is for every country) of a country's energy source, like many politicians claim, because it is unreasonable. But one must take into account the costs, the consequences, and ask: is it worth it? Should we move away or further invest in nuclear energy?

I think it is a question worth asking, discussing and worth thinking about. So I won't shut up, mind you.

Re:What will happen to radioactive waste? (1)

arose (644256) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626930)

Yes, considering how little effort it takes to protect people from nuclear waste, and considering the ridiculously low death toll nuclear power has had up to now.

The first rule of nuclear power is: you don't talk about the liquidators. The second rule of nuclear power is: the energy costs don't include the ridiculous amounts of economic strain that a major accident creates.

Re:What will happen to radioactive waste? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626470)

You are also assuming energy is the only reason the Japanese build nuke plants, it's not. Apart from the "national pride", there is a much more subtle reason Japan continues to invest in nuclear energy, it basically gives them access to nuclear weapons without actually having nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are of course banned by law, but most experts seem to think that thanks to the nuclear power industry in Japan, Japan has the material, equipment, and expertise to produce nuclear weapons in less than year. Now their ability to mount them on warheads is much less clear, probably depends mostly on how much help they have received and/or would receive from the Americans because pretty much all of the Japan Self Defense Force's limited rocket supply are American. However just the vague threat of being able to produce nuclear weapons, combined with being under the American defense umbrella, is probably enough of a deterrent for the time being.

I expect the Japanese conservatives to continue to push for at least some nuclear power precisely for this reason. They are in a dangerous corner of the world, and it is unclear how much longer the Americans are able and willing to keep Japan under their nuclear umbrella....

and he hireing homer simpson to besafety inspector (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625624)

Also cm burns will be the new CEO.

Scrap stupidity (0)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625696)

Why not just scrap stupidity in how nuclear power plants are installed, and the technologies that are used ... as well as the politicians that get bought out to support it (yeah, corruption exists in Japan, too). First of all, a plant right next to the sea shore would just asking for trouble. Also look into Thorium for the reaction process, which has fewer risks and more advantages compared to Uranium.

Re:Scrap stupidity (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625776)

Also look into Thorium for the reaction process, which has fewer risks and more advantages compared to Uranium.

Care to show me an active, commercial scale Thorium based reactor? There aren't any. India is presumably working on one.

Personally, I would rather take my chances with a well defined, well researched, well engineered technology than one that has yet to see the light of day in real world terms. By all means, do the damned research - make and run an 10 GW Thorium reactor and get back to us.

The problem isn't engineering - it's politics and economics. Politics in that companies running nuclear plants had managed big time regulatory capture (especially in Japan). That blew up in their face when both TEPCO and the Japanese government remained asleep at the wheel for over a decade. Recall that there were numerous geologic studies that indicated that Fukashima wasn't safe as originally built. TEPCO didn't want to put the money into the plant and the government didn't want to bother TEPCO. Just a couple of million dollars of sea wall and spare generators might have saved countless billions of dollars. Economics in the fact that the US government, at least, is basically insuring the nuclear power industry because private insurers think the risks too large. That makes non nuclear "alternative" energy less competitive that it should be. To really solve the problem for the long term, the playing field needs to be as flat as possible. For long term survival of nuclear power, the industry really needs to figure out a way to make the plants less expensive because they're really pricier than it looks. And solve the waste problem, but that, again, is more political than anything else.

I'd like my Unicorn now......

Great Semantics (1)

VonSkippy (892467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625832)

I find that statement very reassuring, unless with future data, it's not.

If, however, a nuclear plant is deemed still safe (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38625938)

Funny

Safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625948)

Nuclear reactors can only be so safe, it's inherent with what materials they're working with. Even if the systems themselves are fool-proof, as an article I read the other day had pointed out, human beings are the weak links in the chain.

The irony here is people will buy the next new iPod, computer technology, game console, etc. and yet when it comes to progressing in regards to fuel and electricity, where's that same enthusiasm? We trust all our digital information, finances, and a large percentage of our social lives with these computers, iPhones, etc. and yet it's too much to ask us to make a change in regards to energy when it can result in so many catastrophes.

Something isn't right about the logic behind this...

Meaningless (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38625984)

They've pledged to decommission them under a duration-based circumstance, unless they determine they should not be decommissioned under a set of circumstances that they should be using exclusively to determine decommissioning anyway. In other news, the sky is either blue or it is not, depending on the relative positions of the earth and the sun, and the presence or absence of cloud-cover, atmospheric contaminants, etc. So if you can't see the sky, it implies that one of these factors is reducing sky visibility. Or your eyes are closed.

Oh great (1)

mok000 (668612) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626080)

Hey, that's great. In fourty years I'll be dead.

What a joke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626108)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

R and D of nuclear reactors (2)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626204)

If you look at the history of the Research and Development of nuclear reactors you will notice they were scaled up from test reactors to full sized commercial reactors very quickly. Speaking in general terms if you look closely at the design of most commercial reactors they just look like big versions of the test reactors. Even the AP-1000 and the EPR reactors suffer from a plethora of design inadequacies that demonstrate the full life cycle of a reactor was not considered.

I reason this because the simplest and most obvious design change to Nuclear reactors would be to build them underground which would mean any nuclear accident would be automatically contained and the entire facility sealed off and, if necessary, flooded with water. It would also mean decommissioning and disposal of the reactor could take place in-situ and that would avoid the energy costs (around one third of the reactors lifetime output) incurred. I've only ever seen an IFR reactor design underground but there are many other safety features that can be applied.

The argument for Nuclear Power generally ignores the entire nuclear industry paradigm and focuses on reactor technology as the answer, whilst the argument against focuses on the consequences of an industry that was rushed into existence based of the premise of nuclear weapons production. But I believe there is a middle ground based on spent fuel containment and a proper infrastructure to support it.

There is little doubt that Fukushima would be much easier to deal with now if the spent fuel pools were empty but the truly sobering thought is that US reactors of the same design have up to five times the density of spent fuel contained in those pools and the same type of accident in one of those reactors would almost certainly result in a un-contained plutonium fire.

It is possible to build a much safer nuclear industry but it would start with an international effort that incorporated the Joint industry findings the NRC commissioned AND the EPR design enhancements applied to all new reactor designs. That and a proper infrastructure program to handle spent fuel would answer most of the arguments the critics have of the Nuclear industry.

It's really only attributable to the arrogance of the 50's thinking that leaves legal artifacts like the Price-Anderson act in existence long after it's use by date and demonstrates that announcements such of these are as insincere as the regulatory enforcement that led Japan, and the world, into this mess in the first place.

Re:R and D of nuclear reactors (2)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627082)

I reason this because the simplest and most obvious design change to Nuclear reactors would be to build them underground which would mean any nuclear accident would be automatically contained and the entire facility sealed off and, if necessary, flooded with water.

Not quite. After shut-down the core continues to produce heat at 6% of nominal output. This heat must be transported away, or you will get a meltdown. If you build teh reactor underground, this gets much harder. Building underground also does not really help prevent contamination much, because the pressure inside the containment building can get quite high, meaning you want to vent it ( European reactor operators have filters that can catch most of the radioactive aerosols released during an accident, in order to relieve pressure while only emitting minor amounts of radioactivity ).

Another issue with building underground is that it increases costs, which is money that could otherwise be spent on more effective safety measures, such as catalytic hydrogen scrubbers, redundant cooling systems, larger containment volume, etc...

I remember reading Asimov's 'Foundation' (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38626234)

I remember reading Asimov's 'Foundation'; where people after colonising the whole galaxy, fell into lackluster apathy and gave up on their knowlege of science, abandoning nuclear energy in favour of combusting carbon based fuels. I'm glad Asimov's not alive to see the day when the human race lives up to the end of days scenario he thought so terrible before even touching the stars.

How is nuclear not safe? (1, Insightful)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626366)

Seems to me we had multiple reactors hit with a giant earthquake AND tsumani and aside for the major news not a lot of people died. Seems evidence to build more nuclear for me. I swear the anti-nuclear hippies must be funded by big oil cause I can't see any reason not to keep building safer and safer plants till energy is basically free.

mod up parent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38627162)

i heard they actually are.

There are different kinds of nuclear reactor (1)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626652)

I'm not an expert on reactors but I don't this attitude of there being a 'nuclear plant' as if there were only one type there are different types and even the growing popularity of liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs).

  Canada, where I live, has plants using natural uranium in vessels that are not pressurized and they work fine without all the drama.

  Japan can do as it pleases of course I understand why but everyone else is freaking out over misinformation.

Reading isn't that hard... (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#38626824)

Obviously, Japan HAS been running Nukes for the LAST fourty years, and now AFTER 40 YEARS OF SAFE OPERATION they will close nukes they deem unsafe, and ones they deem safe will remain in operation.

What exactly is the news here? They will close 'unsafe' power plants and keep 'safe' plants up and running. Did Japan knowingly keep unsafe power plants online?

Old News is No News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38627026)

Book'em Dan O'.

40 years from now no one at Fukushima or even inside the Diet or any other place in what was called Nippon will be around except their corps to raise a stink.

Nuclear = Stupid. (0)

crhylove (205956) | more than 2 years ago | (#38627060)

Solar is clearly the way forward. We've made HUGE advances in the last few decades!

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