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Fuel Rod Removal Operation Begins At Tsunami-hit Fukushima

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the slow-and-steady dept.

Japan 101

rtoz writes "TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has started removing fuel rods from a storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor building of Tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power station in Japan. The first of the fuel-rod assemblies at the plant's No. 4 reactor building was transferred from an underwater rack on the fifth floor to a portable cask. This step is an early milestone in decommissioning the facility amid doubts about whether the rods had been damaged and posed a radiation risk. 22 unused fuels will be moved to the cask a task which is planned to be completed by November 19. After being filled with fuel, the cask will be closed with a lid, and following decontamination, will be taken down to ground level and transported to the common spent fuel pool on a trailer. It is planned to take approximately one week from placing the fuel into the cask at the spent fuel pool to storing it in the common pool. The entire removal of all fuel inside the Unit 4 spent fuel pool is planned to take until the end of 2014."

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101 comments

Finally! (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 8 months ago | (#45456707)

Good. It's about time to get those fuel rods out of there.

The US needs Yucca Mountain. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better to have fuel rods inside a mountain than at reactor sites. After all, Yucca Mountain is in an area so isolated that it used to be used for above-ground testing of nuclear weapons.

Re:Finally! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45456729)

I propose we store the nuclear waste in Southern California, as it has less culture that Yucca Mountain, and is already contaminated with parasitic organisms.

Re:Finally! (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#45461349)

Why didn't you just say Hollywood then?

Re:Finally! (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 8 months ago | (#45462125)

I propose we hire the Mafia to step in and finish the cleanup. On time and under budget.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45462199)

if you're wondering [dailymail.co.uk]

Re:Finally! (4, Interesting)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45456811)

I'm still waiting for an announcement about some scientist "discovering" that subduction zones are a good place to bury stuff that you don't want to worry about seeing back up any time soon.

Re:Finally! (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 8 months ago | (#45456893)

Although those subduction zones move about as fast as human fingernails grow.

Re:Finally! (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 8 months ago | (#45456999)

It's better than not moving at all.

Re:Finally! (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45457013)

Good, since it's hard enough to drill through 3 miles of water, you probably wouldn't want the hole to move 5km for every km you drill.

Re:Finally! (0)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#45457259)

Well, it would be cheap and easy just to dump spent fuel in the deep ocean, and while the hippies would have a cow, they're going to anyhow. We're saving the spent fuel because it's valuable. If we ever want to return to the 50,000 or so nukes we had at the peak of the cold war, we'll need it all.

Re:Finally! (1)

umghhh (965931) | about 8 months ago | (#45458409)

as for ocean disposal of nuclear waste Russians or specifically Russian navy gave example how to do it. The savings would be enormous....

Re:Finally! (1)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 8 months ago | (#45458971)

There is a reason why there is a difference between "reactor grade" and "weapon grade" plutonium.

Re:Finally! (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 8 months ago | (#45458977)

I think dumping that crap in the deep ocean is a monstrous idea, but if it would keep it away from the types who could contemplate returning to "the 50,000 or so nukes we had", then it might be the lesser of two evils.

For what it's worth, Wikipedia says the U.S. built over 70,000 warheads, though it doesn't say how many were operational at any one time.

Re:Finally! (1)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#45459057)

From memory, the peak was actually 50K world total at any one time, half ours. Now we're down to 2500 IIRC.

I'm not sure that dumping spent fuel in particular in the deep ocean would actually be a problem (assuming you age it 5 or so years, then vitrify it, before transport, which should be done with any scheme). It's quite heavy, so it won't wander around, and no one's going to be harvesting it for nefarious purposes (or harvesting it using nefarious porpoises) if you dump it deep enough.

Re:Finally! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45461611)

...and no one's going to be harvesting it for nefarious purposes (or harvesting it using nefarious porpoises) if you dump it deep enough.

I wouldn't be so sure. There was a Russian sub that sank, K-219, and she came to rest about 6,000m down (18,000 feet).

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

In 1988, the Soviet hydrographic research ship Keldysh positioned itself over the wreck of K-219, and found the submarine sitting upright on the sandy bottom. It had broken in two aft of the conning tower. Several missile silo hatches had been forced open, and the missiles, along with the nuclear warheads they contained, were gone.

(Personally, it seems rather likely that it was the US who achieved that. Not too many others have the resources for that kind of shit.)

Re:Finally! (1)

lgw (121541) | about 8 months ago | (#45465167)

Yeah, I don't see having the technology to work at 6km down without having the tech to make your own nukes. That was surely the US Navy's "research sub" built to tap undersea cables (which does actually do a lot of research these days).

Re: Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45460381)

Deep six is a risk but if covered by barge after barge of harbor dredgings the eventual leakage would be slowed.

The largest risk on some list is fools digging it up an scattering it where people are.

A mile or two of seawater combined with tens of meters of sand and mud might be better than any of a dozen hair rained ideas. Least of which are spalling fixers

Re:Finally! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 8 months ago | (#45457261)

Forgive me if my knowledge of earth science is lacking, but don't the chunks of crust that get subducted tend to turn to blobs of magma and eventually erupt from the adjacent volcanoes?

I realize we're talking about geologic timescales here (and I'm not sure, but I think the half-life of the waste in question is a few orders of magnitude shorter), but we should probably do some quick arithmetic to make sure we're not creating (extra-)radioactive lava...

Re:Finally! (2)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45457389)

If you bury it two miles down the crust, by the time it gets subducted, melted, churned by lava currents, and potentially finds its way up a magma chamber (considering you wouldn't bury it in the subduction zone nearest active volcanoes), I don't think the original 50000 tons will be more than traces.
Uranium is heavy, it won't be the first element to float to the top of the mantle. Most of the others will have decayed while being subducted.

Considering that Mount St Helens blew about 3km3 of material (not all of it being new lava), managing to get hit by a chunk of subducted Uranium would earn you a special prize in $Afterlife.

Re:Finally! (2)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 8 months ago | (#45457457)

My knowledge of earth science is also lacking. What bothers me is that by dumping spent fuel rods into subduction zones, we're effectively throwing away quite a large amount of fuel for newer reactors. I realise that U and Th aren't exactly hard to come by, relatively speaking, but is it really easier to dig it out of the ground than to reprocess what we already have on hand?

Re:Finally! (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 8 months ago | (#45458235)

Apparently so. When we first started making reactors reprocessing was the norm due to the high cost of fresh fuel. Advances in uranium mining and refinement brought the price down dramatically, to the point where the reprocessing plants already in existence were no longer cost effective to operate. Lets hear it for externalizing the cost of nuclear waste disposal.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45456851)

What does one have to do with the other?? Off-topic much?

There is very little difference storing waste (ie. future fuel) at nuclear plants or some other place. It just sits in dry casks and is quite safe as long as nuclear plant remains staffed.

Anyway....

Reprocessing (1, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | about 8 months ago | (#45456927)

Nuclear reprocessing [wikipedia.org] . Perfectly feasible, routinely performed in other countries, disallowed in the United States for purely political reasons.

Another great legacy of Jimmy Carter, one that's particularly ironic given his qualification in nuclear submarines, and the fact that he regarded Hyman Rickover as one of the people that most shaped his life.

Re:Reprocessing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45457657)

That's not a legacy of just "Carter" nor is it ironic.

Re:Reprocessing (1)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45458289)

Things have changed a lot since Carter was president. Any president can reverse it at the stroke of a pen. I really wonder why it hasn't been reversed since it's a bit late to close the door on proliferation now.

Re:Reprocessing (4, Insightful)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#45458353)

Reagan reversed the ban Carter imposed on commercial reprocessing of spent fuel in the US in the early 80s. Nobody has funded a reprocessing operation (other than the lines used to produce weapons-grade materials from military breeder reactors) in the US for various reasons; raw uranium is cheap, nobody wants to use MOX fuel for cost and operating licence reasons and the US government is in charge of making spent fuel go away for which the generating companies pay a levy, currently over $30 billion dollars over the past few decades (it's what paid for Yucca Mountain).

Re:Reprocessing (4, Insightful)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 8 months ago | (#45458421)

disallowed in the United States for purely political reasons.

From that which you linked:

In March 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reversed its policy and signed a contract with a consortium of Duke Energy, COGEMA, and Stone & Webster (DCS) to design and operate a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication facility. Site preparation at the Savannah River Site (South Carolina) began in October 2005.[11] In 2011 the New York Times reported "...11 years after the government awarded a construction contract, the cost of the project has soared to nearly $5 billion. The vast concrete and steel structure is a half-finished hulk, and the government has yet to find a single customer, despite offers of lucrative subsidies." TVA (currently the most likely customer) said in April 2011 that it would delay a decision until it could see how MOX fuel performed in the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi.[12]

Sounds like no-one's interested because it's prohibitively expensive even with big subsidies from the Gov't.

Re:Reprocessing (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#45458585)

Reprocessing and MOX manufacture is expensive, a lot pricier than using cheap freshly-mined uranium ore in a once-through operation. The big win with reprocessing is that it vastly reduces the mass and volume of dangerous waste needing dealt with, even after vitrification and encapsulation. That makes final disposal a lot cheaper and simpler as well as reducing proliferation worries since none of the resulting waste is at all suitable for nuclear weapons development.

Re:Reprocessing (1)

Xolotl (675282) | about 8 months ago | (#45458779)

Pretty much every other nuclear country reprocesses, either themselves or by sending it to be reprocessed. It's only in the US that very little fuel is reprocessed (some is).

Re:Reprocessing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45463039)

Isn't the irony that you in your "Go nukes!" mood are passing judgment on Carter who actually worked on cleaning up the 1952 spill at Chalk River, while you have made no such contribution to society?

Re:Finally! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45456929)

Won't be an option until the hosting state's senator is no longer majority leader

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45461729)

bingo

Re:Finally! (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45457007)

Lets hope they make it before the next major quake. Losing Japan would be a terrible tragedy.

Re:Finally! (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#45458937)

Yeah... Unfortunately Japan doesn't have anywhere to store them long term yet either.

Re: Finally! (1)

Badblackdog (1211452) | about 8 months ago | (#45460405)

The Japanese are never going to dump radioactive material in the ocean. Hello!!! GODZILLA the Japanese.

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45462423)

Here's a recent CNN news story [cnn.com] about why we don't have Yucca Mountain. The answer is Harry Reid unilaterally blocking it and appointing staunch anti-nuclear activist as the head of the NRC.

Mikado (0)

bob_super (3391281) | about 8 months ago | (#45456719)

Anyone else feels that any mistake would be like playing a giant underwater Mikado [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Mikado (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45456803)

More like radioactive pachinko.

And then? And then? (5, Informative)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 8 months ago | (#45456777)

They keep saying "first we'll do this and then we'll do that" with the spent fuel.
But the one question no one seems able to answer is what you ultimately will do with all that toxic spent fuel. Simply speaking there is no answer, no plan for what to do with nuclear waste from any plant damaged or otherwise.

Re:And then? And then? (4, Funny)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 8 months ago | (#45456799)

Leave it in an unlocked car in Lewisham. It'll be gone in an hour.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 8 months ago | (#45457493)

And, in a couple of weeks, a sizeable number of Lewisham hoodlums will also be gone.

It's a win-win.

Failing that, we could always just flog it [youtube.com]

Re:And then? And then? (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 8 months ago | (#45458485)

I like your style, sir!

Re:And then? And then? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45460641)

Leave it in a locked car in Toronto, labeled "crack" and it's gone in 60 seconds. FTFY

Re:And then? And then? (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | about 8 months ago | (#45456835)

They will do what they always did. Bury it somewhere and pretend it never existed.

Re:And then? And then? (1, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 8 months ago | (#45456903)

No plan?

You realize Obama didn't actually kill Yucca Mountain in any legal way. He just defunded it. The next sane president will restore it's funding without so much as consulting congress.

Re:And then? And then? (1, Interesting)

doom (14564) | about 8 months ago | (#45457157)

At a guess, spent fuel from Fukushima isn't likely to end up in the US, and while re-opening Yucca Mountain would probably be okay (you guys know we have another similar salt-dome repository, solely used by the military, right?) I suspect that the present method is okay, too: stashing it in casks out in the parking lot of the reactor facilities.

In any case, it would be really cool if you anti-nuclear guys would get over the notion that this stuff is somehow magically evil. It's a relatively small quantity of admittedly nasty stuff, but unlike your average poison it gets less poisonous while it's sitting around, it's pretty easy to detect leaks with simple equipment, and as designed, it all stays sealed up and you have the luxury of deciding where to put it. If only all industrial waste was like this.

Re:And then? And then? (3, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#45458503)

No-one takes in another country's nuclear waste, at least not spent fuel or reprocessed waste. Britain and France used to reprocess spent fuel from Japan but the recovered uranium and plutonium was reformatted into fresh fuel elements and they along with the waste from the reprocessing operation has been returned to Japan [sellafieldsites.com] .

Re:And then? And then? (1, Funny)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 8 months ago | (#45458509)

it gets less poisonous while it's sitting around

Yeah, quit bitching about Uranium fucking hippies, it's half-life is only 4.468 billion years and we can probably store this stuff without most of it leaking so STFU about it already.

Re:And then? And then? (1, Informative)

doom (14564) | about 8 months ago | (#45459623)

"Yeah, quit bitching about Uranium fucking hippies, it's half-life is only 4.468 billion years"

If it was just Uranium they wouldn't be spent fuel rods. Try taking a look at this, you might get what I'm talking about: Fission_product [wikipedia.org] .

Re:And then? And then? (0)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about 8 months ago | (#45460093)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_waste#Front_end [wikipedia.org]

The main by-product of enrichment is depleted uranium (DU), principally the U-238 isotope, with a U-235 content of ~0.3%. It is stored, either as UF6 or as U3O8

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium-238 [wikipedia.org]

Half-life 4.468 billion years

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium#Safety_and_environmental_issues [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium#Health_considerations [wikipedia.org]

Re:And then? And then? (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 8 months ago | (#45461601)

Reading comprehension fail? "The main by-product" doesn't mean "the only by-product". There is a lot of dangerous crap in there (Caesium, Strontium, Technetium) besides depleted uranium.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

doom (14564) | about 8 months ago | (#45469481)

Yup, and my original claim was just that spent fuel rods get less toxic the longer you hold on to them, not that they would become perfectly non-toxic any time soon. The rule is that the hot stuff decays fastest-- and the Uranium isotopes are not the hottest stuff.

It's not like I'm telling the guy I think he should eat the stuff (though if he's so inspired, I would not object...).

(The link that claims the majority of spent uranium is stored as Uranium Hexafluoride is interesting, I have trouble imagining why you would do that... it sounds like half-way reprocessing... why wouldn't you continue all the way?)

Re:And then? And then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45462047)

The longer the half-life the less radiation it emits over a given time. it's the stuff with short half-lives you should worry about.

Re:And then? And then? (2)

kriston (7886) | about 8 months ago | (#45456935)

Really? Of course the question has been answered. Yucca Mountain is politically dead right now but is the best engineered solution. Since the politics are so toxic around that problem, and we have an arbitrary national ban of reprocessing spent fuel due to a non-existent plutonium proliferation risk, we're now looking at salt mine encapsulation.

So we're left with: unproven subduction zone dangers to back up an arbitrary political decision on Yucca, a bizzaro-world fuel reprocessing ban, and unproven salt mine safety to address the political blockage of the other two solutions.

There are there completely solid answers to this problem. What are the common obstacles? I'll leave that to you.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 8 months ago | (#45457091)

what you ultimately will do with all that toxic spent fuel.

Weaponize it. Which, incidentally, is why we can't have nice things like Thorium reactors.

Re:And then? And then? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#45458629)

You can generate weaonpized fuel to Thorium reactors, it's just harder.

Re:And then? And then? (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 8 months ago | (#45457557)

Every feasible / scalable energy source we have has some kind of "undesirable" output.

The options tend to be "output that you have to filter, scrub, and / or capture, and is completely useless" for non-nuclear sources. Nuclear has the benefit of delivering your "waste" already packaged, and its actually useable down the road.

Not really seeing the problem. What to do with it? Stick it somewhere, reprocess it, etc. What do you do with the waste from coal?

Re:And then? And then? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#45458979)

Geothermal is ideal for base load and has no "undesirable" output. Japan has vast untapped geothermal resources. Solar thermal collectors are also more or unless "undesirable" free and suitable for large scale base load.

Wind and solar PV with sodium sulphur batteries are not bad either, as the batteries can be completely recycled.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 8 months ago | (#45460133)

Geothermal works in some places and IIRC all of the "suitable" places are being tapped already. If we could power the world on geothermal that would be wonderful, but reality intrudes.

Solar thermal collectors are also great, except for the incredible amount of land they require, as does solar PV, which is why we dont power the world on it.

Re:And then? And then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45462319)

Solar thermal collectors are also great, except for the incredible amount of land they require, as does solar PV, which is why we dont power the world on it.

Have you ever heard of this modern invention called a "roof"? Some people use that location to put their solar PV panels.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45457613)

Simple answer: recycle the fuel and bury what you can't use.

Re:And then? And then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45457639)

They keep saying "first we'll do this and then we'll do that" with the spent fuel.

But the one question no one seems able to answer is what you ultimately will do with all that toxic spent fuel. Simply speaking there is no answer, no plan for what to do with nuclear waste from any plant damaged or otherwise.

There are answers to the question [wikipedia.org]

, but given an audience who can only believe there are none, it's not worth talking about them to an audience that denies observable things.

Re:And then? And then? (2)

symbolset (646467) | about 8 months ago | (#45457747)

eBay.

Re:And then? And then? (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 8 months ago | (#45458055)

Plenty of countries answer this all the time. [wikipedia.org]

Re:And then? And then? (1)

kriston (7886) | about 8 months ago | (#45460757)

We need to repeal the illogical and bizarre nuclear spent fuel reprocessing ban in the United States. We don't need Yucca, salt mines, or dry cast storage if we could just reprocess it.

The rest of the world has already been doing this for decades. There's been no proliferation, since it's not possible. The only challenge is transportation, but hold on, the dangers of transportation are exactly the same whether the spent fuel is reprocessed or not. It still has to move to its destination: high-level waste burial or reprocessing plant.

This form of energy works. It's clean. While I wish political horse-trading between Obama and Nevada didn't temporarily shut down Yucca, but we really need to repeal the ban on reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in the USA.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 8 months ago | (#45462131)

I would be much more content with the transportation of a spent fuel rod than the frequent transportation of some other interesting things, like a 30 tonne isotainer of HF acid which will frequently make rounds wherever there are oil refineries. There's far more scary stuff out there than radiation, but we don't put a scary looking logo on it so people think it's ok.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

imikem (767509) | about 8 months ago | (#45462721)

But... well... RADIATION!!! Ohhh Noooees!!!11

Seriously, people are stupid enough that they don't realize they are getting "more" radiation dosage from their home smoke detectors than from fission power plants and their spent fuel. Which is of course practically unmeasurable compared to natural background, plus whatever all the coal plants in the world are spewing out. Giant fucking thanks to China, Germany, and Japan for really jumping on the "clean energy" bandwagon in a big way.

For what my opinion is worth, thorium LFTR [wikipedia.org] seems to me the way forward.

Re:And then? And then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45458105)

what you ultimately will do with all that toxic spent fuel

Put it in dry casks on secure property and leave it be. It's not that complicated.

Re:And then? And then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45458191)

Why can't we hurl it at the sun?

Re:And then? And then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45462097)

Too expensive, and also wasteful. Nuclear waste is (mostly) just nuclear fuel we haven't got around to using yet. Admittedly there are some obstacles to using it as fuel, which are appropriate reprocessing and/or building suitable reactors, but it is probably a better way to handle it than launching it into space. And really it isn't so dangerous that we need to, it would be perfectly safe if we just buried it somewhere that is geologically stable and won't pollute the water table, the reason that doesn't happen is purely political.

Re:And then? And then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45462163)

And piss off the Mole People? Are you crazy?

Capcha: Tribal

Re:And then? And then? (2)

nojayuk (567177) | about 8 months ago | (#45458291)

The Rokkasho reprocessing plant [wikipedia.org] started test operation about a year ago, based on a prototype reprocessing operation at Tokai. When it's up to speed Rokkasho will reprocess about 800 tonnes of spent fuel a year. Simply speaking you're totally wrong.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45458385)

We have several good answers. The best IMHO is reprocess it so the 95% that is good nuclear fuel can be used to provide vast amounts of energy with no CO2. The remaining 5% will decay to a safe state in 200-500 years (depending on how safe you insist on) or we could further process it into useful isotopes for medical and industrial applications.

Re:And then? And then? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#45458609)

simple:
There are nuclear reactors that use the 'spent' fuel. The by products of those reactor return to background radiation level in 200-500 years depending on what the original source was. 500 year?

Maybe... (2)

lagomorpha2 (1376475) | about 8 months ago | (#45456867)

I realize this is hindsight but maybe the Ring of Fire isn't the best place to build nuclear reactors? Not that the Japanese have much option there if they want nuclear power.

Re:Maybe... (1)

future assassin (639396) | about 8 months ago | (#45457133)

After eating really hot chilli my nuclear reactor works just find around the ring of fire. Never had a leakage problem.

Re:Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45457179)

What the hell else are they going to use? Their non-existent coal and natural gas reserves?

Re:Maybe... (1)

Jamie Ian Macgregor (3389757) | about 8 months ago | (#45459801)

dolphin and whale oil.

One down... (1)

umdesch4 (3036737) | about 8 months ago | (#45456921)

...1512 to go. Watching this from my armchair on the west coast of North America, I can't help but feel extremely nervous about all this.

Re:One down... (1)

umdesch4 (3036737) | about 8 months ago | (#45456977)

Sorry, that should be 1532, the numbers have changed since they first announced they were doing this. I guess they miscounted initially. Now they're up to 1331 spent and 202 unused, depending on who's numbers you're reading.

Re:One down... (2)

MiniMike (234881) | about 8 months ago | (#45457335)

Sorry, that should be 1532, the numbers have changed since they first announced they were doing this. I guess they miscounted initially.

Or maybe they just broke a few, and now they count them as two. By the time they're done, they'll claim to have removed 1752.8 fuel rods.

Re:One down... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45457925)

Depending on who is numbers you're reading? I thought you said you were in North America, what, you're from Mexico?

For the literacy-challenged, it's whose. Get your GED, son.

Re:One down... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45457943)

I can't help but feel extremely nervous about all this.

Why? It's just moving rods of metal around. Believe it or not, that is a solved problem.

Re:One down... (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#45458647)

The only think you should be doing is finding a drift partner...

Extremely dangerous operation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45456957)

I keep seeing headlines that this is an extremely dangerous operation. As far as I can tell, the only thing dangerous about it is TEPCO is doing it. Those guys could fuck up a urine test.

It's a start, but there is a LONG way to go (3, Informative)

bobbied (2522392) | about 8 months ago | (#45456991)

They are just starting to move fuel assemblies which where removed from their reactors prior to the earthquake. Where it will be a good thing to get these things out of the leaky cooling pools the real work has still not started. It's not really going to be possible to start working on the reactors which melted down for a few more years. Even then, it won't be possible for humans to approach so the work will require invention of remotely operated tools that can deal with the unique situation, and tasks necessary to clean up this mess.

It took 14 years to decommission Three Mile Island after the accident there which was exceedingly less complicated because the containment structures where not blown open and there was only one reactor involved. We are decades away from being done here with multiple reactors at least partially melted down, sea water being used for coolant and the extensive damage to the containment structures.

This is a great start, but until they get all of the high level material into an inherently stable condition and/or offsite we won't be able to breath easy. Keep it going TEPCO."

Re:It's a start, but there is a LONG way to go (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45457161)

Correction: They are just starting to remove fresh, un-used/un-irradiated fuel bundles. These are almost pure uranium with so low radiation under normal circumstances they are handled with thin rubber gloves (that blocks alpha). About only way to scew up with them is to drop them from a height over something else. They're leaving the harder stuff - the freshly unloaded reactor core - last, so this theater will be lasting for around a year until things get really "hot". With luck they'll get to drum it up as a great success-story and proof of nuclear power's safety at least until then.
For the really difficult stuff - the fuel bundles damaged either before or during the accident, the recycled plutonium fuel assemblies, the three irradiated fuel storage pools above the melted down reactors, and the three melted coriums itself that haven't even been located as of yet - there isn't even a firm plan for as of yet.

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Take it back in time - they'd be able to use it (2)

Timothy Chu (2263) | about 8 months ago | (#45457209)

"I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by."

- Doc Brown

Biznat3h (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45457239)

has brought upon eyes on the real another charnel c0nversation and things the right niggernees? And

something's missing from the news release (3, Insightful)

swschrad (312009) | about 8 months ago | (#45458201)

I didn't see the expected statement that these idiots will parade the hot rods through downtown Tokyo to reassure everybody they have the situation well under control.

posting to revert mistaken mod :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45458709)

pls ignore

Tick... tick... tick... (0)

msobkow (48369) | about 8 months ago | (#45459481)

Boom!

Wait, wait..UNused Rods??? (2)

IonOtter (629215) | about 8 months ago | (#45459777)

Hang on a moment, unused rods are non-radiating. They're *ready* to start working, but they won't start radiating until they're brought together in a core. That's called "criticality", or "going critical", which is a self-sustaining reaction.

Prior to core insertion, unused rods are handled in open air, without any shielding, and can even be touched without a problem. You definitely don't want to bring them close to another fuel bundle, nor do you want them anywhere near a neutron reflector.

That would be a Bad Thing.

The only way this would be a threat, is if any of the debris in the storage pool damages the fuel bundles. Such as bending them and bringing the rods within criticality range of each other. Or if some stray metal got down inside the storage slots, acting as a neutron reflector and creating a hot-spot.

Outside of that, unless I'm wrong about unused fuel not being hot, then this is just a scare story.

Re:Wait, wait..UNused Rods??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45460803)

They are not quite "non-radiating", they obviously are a neutron source. Perhaps not a strong enough one to be very dangerous on their own, but far from non-radiating.

Re:Wait, wait..UNused Rods??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45461367)

The summary as well as TEPCO's press release are misleading. TEPCO says that they are moving 22 unused fuel rods. However, these are only some of the fuel rods stored in the spent (sic!) fuel pool at reactor 4, which have been stored together with spent fuel in the same pool (does anybody with more knowledge of the subject know whether this is "good practice" in the industry?).
An article from heise.de (http://heise.de/-2048384) states that "Arbeitskräfte sollen die 1331 abgebrannten sowie 202 unbenutzten Brennstäbe einen nach dem anderen mit einer Spezialvorrichtung in einen castorähnlichen Behälter hieven." (Workers are going to move 1331 spent fuel rods and 202 unused rods).

Re:Wait, wait..UNused Rods??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45462387)

It makes sense that they want to test out the procedure first on 22 of the 202 safest, unused rods; and then when that works, start again with the most dodgy or bent ones (race against the clock when the next earthquake comes; that fuel pool is high above the ground!)

Re:Wait, wait..UNused Rods??? (2)

cazzazullu (645423) | about 8 months ago | (#45462435)

Yes. Now imagine 1500 used rods, totaling 250 metric tons of spent fuel, mixed with 200 brand new shiny unused ones, lying in a large pile of mikado in a damaged pool on bent supports 30 feet above the ground, partially cooled by seawater that is eating away the zirconium rod housing, and with the roof collapsed on top of it. What could possibly go wrong...?

Re:Wait, wait..UNused Rods??? (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 8 months ago | (#45462947)

Of course they are radiating. Otherwise "criticality" would not be possible. It just means that there is so much fissile material that a sufficient amount of neutrons released in a fission will cause another fission. Decay occurs in every radioactive isotope - they are named "radioactive" for a reason.

Will move again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45464297)

The "common pool" at fukuhima is huge. like two story levels under water.
no word yet on how much is already inside the "common spent fuel pool", but i'm guessing
it's a five digit number in tones (it's been there since the 70s?)
good thing this quickly moving dangerous stuff that can be reasonably safely moved from
30+ meters up to ground level, but the "common spent fuel pool" is not the end all solution at all.
i hope it is really solid ... else it itself could turn into a "reactor 4 fuel pool" problem only a magnitude larger?

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