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Japan Suffers its Worst Nuke Plant Accident Ever

Roblimo posted more than 14 years ago | from the sometimes-you-get-burned-when-you-play-with-fire dept.

News 283

Cy Guy writes "I'm sure there will be many more stories on this soon, for now, here is the wire story." An update sent in by cheetah: "It appears that someone mixed about 6 times too much uranium into a fuel processing tank. For the latest info click Here"

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Why... (2)

Darksky (58431) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647613)

... were they using 16 kg of the stuff when they know that can produce a criticality?

Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647619)

It seems that an amazing amount of ignorence was displayed by the people involved. Since it was a reprocessing plant rather than a reactor, there doesn't seem to be a lot of relevance to the debate over nuclear plants. (And who cares if you're first post or not?) - Lawrence Person

"Abnormal reactions"? (2)

Ledge Kindred (82988) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647623)

Is that politico-speak for "China Syndrome"?

Not good. Especially with Japan being such a densely populated country.

-=-=-=-=-

More coverage and stuff (2)

BOredAtWork (36) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647626)

CNN is now saying that the reaction may still be going on. Citizens are told to stay indoors, and this thing may reach critical mass (imminent self-sustaining meltdown) within hours.

I'm no expert by any means, but I'm guessing that Japan's geographic isolation is a Real Good Thing right about now...

--

What?? (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647628)

Those living within a six-mile radius of the plant were told to stay indoors.

What?? If the air is contaminated, then staying indoors won't change a thing. If atoms in the air are radioactive, everyone's gonna get it anyway. As for direct radiation from the central, the only thing that can help is: 1) shielding, and 2) distance. Thinking whether you're indoors or outdoors will make a difference is like thinking a layer of normal clothes will protect you from a bullet.

They wouldn't get me to stay indoors following this. I guess the people from the surrounding village don't really know what's going on.

If the Japanese Government acts so irresponsibly, this could get a lot worse...

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

What exactly is the result? (1)

urajah (88367) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647689)

Is the reaction still going on or is it over?

Re:Why... (2)

billh (85947) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647691)

Isn't it obvious? Someone let Mr. Sparkle into the plant.

cue Godzilla... (0)

zonker (1158) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647693)

the streets of Tokyo are in panic!


"Gojira! Gojira!" The people cry...


cue the tanks and airplanes...

hehehe ;)

really sad... (1)

Mr. Penguin (87934) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647694)

The really sad aspect of this story is what the people involved are being advised to do. I have heard reports that the Japanese government has issued an announcement that everyone should stay inside their houses and keep the doors locked. I am sure that is incredibly effective against radiation. Also, people have been advised that if they are to get any radioactive matter on their skin, they should wash it off immediately with soap and water. To me, that sounds useless. I don't think it would do any good.
Brad Johnson
Advisory Editor

Re:first post! (0)

Darksky (58431) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647696)

A score:1 is default for non-anonymous postings, and it is too new to have been moderated.....
read userfreindly for some funny "first post" stuff in the last 2 days.

Radiation Levels 15000 Times Normal 2km From Plant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647700)

According to Reuters, radiation levels have now reached 15,000 times normal 1.2 miles from the site of Thursday morning's nuclear accident. ``As of late Thursday night, 3.1 millisievert of neutrons per hour, or about 15,000 times the normal level of radiation, was detected two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the accident site,'' an Ibaraki Prefecture official told Reuters

God damn (1)

Dr. Sp0ng (24354) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647702)

Hmmm... I'm not liking all these fun events that are happening near Y2K... well, it makes me feel better about my high credit card bills, anyway :-)

"Software is like sex- the best is for free"

Re:Why... (0)

zonker (1158) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647704)

hahahaha! what was it, a light bulb and a fish or something that made mr. sparkle? i forget... funny episode though! ;)

Cruelty. (1)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647709)

Frankly, I hope the pair of morons that thought putting SEVEN times the normal amount of Uranium in the processing batch die a horrible death from the radiation. Not only did they endanger themselves, but all of their co-workers and potentially 35,000 other people if there is indeed a continuing reaction! This is natural selection at its finest; Be a moron, get irradiated and die.

I would think Japan would be a little anxious over nuclear anything, after that little bang back in the forties. I sure would be.

Yahoo following the story - link (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647710)

Yahoo is following [yahoo.com] the story on this page.

location (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647718)

According to the Manchester Guardian [newsunlimited.co.uk] 150 people lived within a 350 yard radius of the facility.
To have a facility like this in a residential area was asking for trouble.

crack reporting and circular definitions (1)

eries (71365) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647721)

Criticality is the point at which a nuclear chain reaction becomes self-sustaining, similar to what happens inside a nuclear reactor.

Anyone care to explain what that means? Anyone out there with some real nuclear plant experience that can give us the lowdown on what really happened (or may have happened). All I got from the article was "something really bad happened, and it has major political ramifications for Japan" - what's up with that?

Oh (Answering my own question) (2)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647723)

The CNN article [cnn.com] was clearer on the subject. They were told to stay indoors because the water that had leaked from the plant had evaporated and it started to rain radioactive rain. My god, that sounds ugly.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Before you get all excited (4)

konstant (63560) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647725)

I have a feeling some of the more extreme technophiles/conservatives are going to chastise us for being alarmed by this sort of accident. Generally, after a nuclear mishap, the pattern goes like this:

1) BOOOM
2) a number of people are rushed to the hospital
3) liberals run around screaming "Look how awful nukes are!"
4) conservatives tilt their Laz-e-boys up a notch, puff on their pipes, and make devastating comments about "Luddites"

But look folks, nuclear technology really is a technology unlike most others. Only genetic modification has as much potential for literally wiping out the human race if somebody forgets to carry the two. We all know from experience that even experts make miscalculations, and that sometimes the results are hazardous. Generally, these are tragic but containable. They are what you might call "acceptable losses" on the path towards improving the lot of our species.

But I'll be damned if waking up each morning to a pitcher of radioactive milk is acceptable to me. Just a single reactor in Russia threw the world's food supply into havoc for months. And mistakes like Chernobyl have happened before and will happen again. Every once in a while somebody fucks up. It's just that, with nukes, the ramifications are so very large!

The reason that we don't see more accidents like this in Japan is not because nuclear energy is, on the whole, safe. It's because most people have extreme NIMBY reactions to nuclear facility proposals. People are scared of nuclear technology, and I think rationally so. The development of a clever scientific pet trick is not enough justification for its deployment. We do not have to do everything that we can do.

I'm sure that statement alone will be enough to moderate me down on slashdot ;)


-konstant

Re:first post! - here's my retribution. (1)

phrawzty (94423) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647726)

Ok, i'll never do that again, i promise. My conversion to geekdom is complete now, i suppose. And as retribution for being a "first post loser", i'd like to contribute this comment, completely on-topic, and relavent. :)


Nuclear power is an amazing tool. Sadly, it is a tool that we simply do not have the technological prowess to to control. Even sadder, this hasn't stopped us.

There is no way to assure safety when dealing with nuclear power, or nuclear concepts as a whole. We're still a long way from "cold fusion", and even then the danger will never be eliminated. We're dealing with the very basic building blocks of reality as we know it - it cannot possibly be safe.

Many countries turn to nuclear power a (relatively) cheap and efficient way to power their land. Many do not have a choice. For countries who do not yet have nuclear power, it has become a sort of "watermark" for the economic evolution of their country. This *has to stop*.

Nuclear power is *not* safe, and it never will be. There are lots of options - the most popular and well-known include Solar and Wind power units. Organizations like the EPSEA [epsea.org] and Fraunhoer ISE [ise.fhg.de] have been pushing and making immense progress in the solar power field - proving it as a viable source of power. Wind power has been used since the dawn of civilization, and is so prevalent and useful now that companies like Wintec [wintecenergy.com] are popping up everywhere.

It's time we realize that nuclear power isn't a safe option. Not for us, not for our children, not for earth. It's that simple.


.------------ - - -
| big bad mr. frosty
`------------ - - -

Wire Report Updated (1)

jpowers (32595) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647728)

It's getting worse...

Re:really sad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647731)

Why do you thing washing radioactive particles would be useles? That is exactly what you should do if you contaminate your skin with radioactive material.

Re:really sad... (1)

Hiro_Protaganist (87503) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647732)

You have to cut the RAD's any way that you can. You do get some more protection from staying inside than outside. How much depends on the material of the house. What else can you do at this point? Maybe lead based paint would be a Good Thing :)

Re:really sad... (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647736)

As was pointed out earlier, the reason people should stay indoors is because of the possibility of radioactive rain.
As for the 'wash it off'; that's exactly what you should do. Radioactivity isn't some sort of ephemeral aether that can't be detected; it has a physical presence, and if you get it on your skin you should wash it off ASAFP.

Re:What?? (1)

Paradox !-) (51314) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647739)

I think part of it is to control the local's reaction. (no pun intended) If everyone is inside, and they need to evacuate, it's a helluva lot easier to do, street-by-street etc. If people hear about a nuclear accident, and the authorities DON'T tell them to stay inside (for whatever reason) the first people driving out of the area like bats out of hell are enough to cause a panic. More people would probably suffer/die as the result of a panic than of the accident itself...at THIS point.

War (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647741)

I once had this crazy teacher that made us come up with a plane to effectively end the world. My group of buddies and I thought it would be a good idea to accidentially have a nuclear accident and sell glow in the dark produce. The produce would of course be ingested and do its job.

This may sound insensitive but.... (1)

SmileyBen (56580) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647743)

I hope this doesn't sound insensitive, but surely in the general scheme of nuclear disasters this isn't really an enormous catastrophy. There are warnings that it might yet cause a meltdown. If that happens then it will be a terrible, terrible, terrible event, but as it is it sounds like they've survived well and been lucky. Surely nobody thinks that 19 people injured (even killed) is a disaster of true nuclear disaster proportions?

(And yes, I know, that did sound insensitive...)

Re:More links and stuff (2)

webslacker (15723) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647745)

ABC News [go.com]

CNN [cnn.com]

Yahoo News [yahoo.com]

It also looks like the US military's going to be called in.

Re:Cruelty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647747)

> Be a moron, get irradiated and die

Judging from your inane comments you're probably up next.

Re: Video report in Real Media (1)

webslacker (15723) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647748)

From BBC: [bbc.co.uk]

BBC RealVideo report shows damage to roof (1)

Aliera (19724) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647750)

http://news.bbc .co.uk/olmedia/460000/video/_461668_ghosh1300_vi.r am [bbc.co.uk] Damn, I hate to slashdot the BBC... Anyway, the report says that the explosion blew a hole in the roof, and gives an aerial closeup of a blurry something that may or may not be a hole in the roof.

don't dwell on the present. (1)

Hobbes_ (78793) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647751)

Someone said the exact same thing about the earthquake in Taiwan when the deathtoll was about four (at the very start).

I would like to know how many KRads we looking at?

Re:What?? (0)

phil reed (626) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647755)

If the air is contaminated, then staying indoors won't change a thing. If atoms in the air are radioactive, everyone's gonna get it anyway.

The chances that the air itself are radioactive are minimal - the mass wouldn't be contacting that much air. Keeping indoors would reduce contact with radioactive dust.

I agree, though - time to scoot. The further away, the better.


...phil

Re:crack reporting and circular definitions (1)

The Light Eternal (91791) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647757)

Criticality means that there's enough Uranium in a specific batch that the normally radiating neutrons coming out of the Uranium atoms have a statistical probability of 1 of contacting another Uranium atom and causing it to burst out more neutrons, hitting more atoms, causing more neutrons, hitting more atoms, ad nauseum.. basically, criticality is the point where there's enough Uranium to cause a chain reaction.

Psychological (1)

garver (30881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647759)

You are probably right, staying in or washing your hands won't help much, but I don't think keeping people out of radiation is why the gov't is asking them to stay in.

Nuclear incidents are scary to everyone. People freak out. Its kind of like flying vs. driving. Flying is much safer, but it doesn't seem safer (you hear everytime their is a plane crash) so people freak out in planes and not cars.

So, if I had to keep the public in control, I would give them something to do and let them think they are safe. Telling them to stay in and give them a prescription for helping themselves (washing their hands) help calm them down.

Sure, it isn't entirely forth-coming, but the last hting you need is a riot during a nuclear incident. That would only bring on curfews, patrols, etc. and more people in the danger zone.

"Nuclear technology" (1)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647761)

I agree with some of your points, but I have to wonder how knowledgeable you are, given your lumping of fusion (relatively harmless) with fission (potentially dangerous) in your phrase "nuclear technology".
---

Criticality in layman's terms (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647762)

Consider the atoms pretty much stable, like mousetraps with two ping pong balls on each in a large room. Throw a ball in the room and a few might set each other off. Now concentrate the atoms together into critical mass and the first ball thrown will trigger an ever growing action. Balls will be popping all over the place into a meltdown.

What is being done? (3)

Outland Traveller (12138) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647765)

I know that I'm ignorant about what is going on over there right now, as I've only read the Reuters wire and a CNN report.

However, from this information it appears that Japan:

1. Is not prepared for this kind of disaster
2. Is not reacting to it in an aggressive fashion.

It is strange to me that given the repeated nuclear safety problems they have had over there that they do not have a plan in place to deal with a nuclear emergency. Why are they asking the US Military for aid? What kind of aid are they looking for? It seems like they don't even know what kind of help they need.

Also, the action that appears to be taken so far seems to contrast starkly with the Russian firefighters who gave their lives to try and stop the Chernobyl disaster. Some officials are saying that they don't know whether or not the reaction will become self sustaining or not. It seems to me that if there is a chance this emergency could turn into something similar to a reactor meltdown people should go in there and do everything they can to smother the reaction before it becomes any worse. Taking a "wait and see" attitude with something like has the possibility of frigthening consequences.

Some people have questioned the value of telling people to remain indoors. This was probably done to avoid a widespread panic that would clog all the roads and hamper efforts to bring the situation under control.

Perhaps we'll get more useful information in the days ahead.

Re:Before you get all excited (1)

Tarnar (20289) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647766)

Just think of it this way, Nuclear Power works in theory. Then again, so does anarchism, ditto to Communism, Democracy, etc.

Yes nuclear power is cheap. And it's pretty safe if you take the right steps. But the problem at hand is that even relatively minor accidents become much larger, simply due to the forces at work.

So what if you throw some extra coal in the furnace in a coal plant? You'll cough out some extra sulphur because the burning is less clean. That generally doesn't kill everyone within a few miles of the site. But throw some extra uranium on the pile and watch the fireworks start.

We're dealing with very powerful forces that we really don't know how to deal with. Even the 'safest' reactors will screw up, usually at the fault of the guy behind the button. Idiot proof just won't do it.

Incidently, I smell a Darwin Award, with commendations for almost wiping out a small town too (and now I feel ill having said that)

Re:first post! - here's my retribution. (1)

PagoPago (96360) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647767)

I think it's too strong a statement to say that we will never be safe.

I think it is safe to say we aren't ready to handle it now, at least with our present technology and economic systems.

I personally, would like nuclear technology to be something that gets a lot of study, but that isn't implemented by economic interests. It just isn't safe to use in a system of economic compromises.

Besides which, why should we assume we need to use up all the fissionable material now? Maybe we'll be better capable of using it in a few centuries if we wait.

Re:Oh (Answering my own question) (2)

phil reed (626) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647768)

You think that's ugly?

From CNN: The workers at the plant reported seeing a blue light, and then they became ill.

If there was enough radiation to see Cherenkov radiation IN THE AIR, then those guys aren't just sick, they're dead.

All around, this sounds like a very ugly situation.


...phil

Re:What exactly is the result? (2)

Jburkholder (28127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647769)

Last report I heard was that there were possible still ongoing "criticality incidents" but that workers could not re-enter the plant becauske of 4000x the 'normal' radiation, but that when they could go in, they would drain the water from the tank where the stuff was being processed (35 lbs instead of the normal 5lbs) in order to stop further reactions.
Scary shit.

Re:crack reporting and circular definitions (2)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647770)

I'm not a physicist, but for no particular reason I have been on a tour of a reactor, and still seem to remember some related elementary foo...

How much do you remember about nuclear fission (which, presumably is what happened in this incident, since the conditions would seem completely inadequate for fusion)?

The splitting of an atom can free neutrons, sending them in various directions. Depending upon various conditions (such as the amount of fissionable material, the presence or absence of materials that either absorb or reflect the neutrons, and so forth), these neutrons may or may not collide with other atoms. These collisions can induce more splitting, leading to the possibility of a self-sustaining chain-reaction.

Incidentally, the NY Times/Associated Press [nytimes.com] article mentions that the workers thought they saw a blue glow. Dunno about you folks, but this reminded me of Cerenkov radiation. For more info on that, see this page [umr.edu] .

Re:really sad... (1)

Snok (87317) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647771)

I don't think those advices are so bad after all. Staying indoors is a good idea, as opposed to getting stuck on the highway. The radioactive dust will settle as any other dust. Wind is bad, and it's windy outside. Also, it's always easier to calm people down if you make them think they can do something about their situation, anything at all. If people are calm, it's safer for everyone, even if the calming procedures are themselves next to useless. Can you say "duck and cover"?

Re:crack reporting and circular definitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647772)

I am not an expert.. but here is how I understand it. As you may know, the nuclear chain raction happens when the neutron(s) given off from the decay of one atom trigger the decay of additional atoms, and so on. This can only happen once a certain number of decays happen within a certain area, and is affected by the speed of the neutrons, amongh other things. IN a nuclear reactor, rods of uranium fuel are inserted in a honeycomb fashion. In the spaces in this honeycomb, carbon 'control rods' are inserted to slow the reaction. They do this by absorbing neutrons, hence preventing them from contributing to the chain reaction as a whole. In other words, they are used to regulate the rate of the chain reaction. The slowing-down of these neutrons by a substance like water or heavy water aids the reaction. I'm not sure why this is. In other words, a small amount of uranium may be radioactive, but if a certain 'critical' mass of this uranium is reached (enough of it in a small enough area), the reaction accellerates itself, and the amount of radiation goes way way up.

Re:Before you get all excited (3)

cancrman (24472) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647773)

You make it sound like nuclear technology is inherently evil. Ummmm....It's not. Yes it's true that it has its downsides, but so do a hell of a lot of other things. I'll just touch on a few here

Oil -> Air Pollution -> We all die slowly and eventually run out of fuel
Coal -> Air Pollution -> We all die slowly and eventually run out of fuel
Hydro -> Environment Damage -> Fish all die (& everything that eats those fish)
Solar/Wind -> Not effective -> We all freeze
Nuclear -> /Possible/ accidents -> We all die slowly

So, sure nuclear energy can fuck us up. But so can a lot of other things that we are already using. Nuclear power is a clean, cheap, & long lasting source of energy. Ok, I wouldn't want one in my backyard. But it is still a necessary evil at this point.

Pete
I can see through time -Lisa Simpson

Re:Cruelty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647774)

Please, read again what you've written there. Read it, think about it, think about the families of these men, imagine it had happened to someone you love. After that, be a man and write an excuse, could you?

Natural selection? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647775)

Excuse me, but would YOU live next to a nuclear material processing plant? No matter how cheap it was or how many assurances I got that it was completely safe, I wouldn't go anywhere near it for any amount of money. I know enough about technology and people to know that both are fallible. Anybody that ignores the danger deserves whatever they get.

Re:crack reporting and circular definitions (1)

ibbieta (31756) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647776)

I for sure am not an expert but I did spent some time studying nuclear reactions in college. Take the following with a grain of salt, therefore.

A nuclear reactor relies on a few things to create energy from radioactive decay. Of course, one of those things is Uranium (isotope 235 ususally, some 233, and the very common 238 to create Plutonium). Uranium by itself will not cause a self-sustaining reaction, a "catalyst" needs to be used. Water happens to work quite well as a catalyst (as well as graphite which contributed greatly to the Chernoble thing a few years back).

It sounds like, from the reports, that some suicidal moron added enough quality Uranium into some water to start a chain reaction that became self-sustaining. Now, since water acts as sort of a fuel for this reaction, it is hard to put out once started.

Very simply, somehow someone started his own little nuclear power plant.

Hydro-electric Power is not safe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647777)

The world will not be a truely safe place until all Hydro-electric plants are closed! Thousands (Perhaps millions?) have lost their lives throughout the course of history due to catastrophic dam breaches. Of course, let's not forget the evils of the sun (It has been, of course, Mankinds greatest dream to one day destroy the sun...) and solar power. Ooooh! Windpower! With all those whirling blades something unpleasant is bound to happen... Personally I like my power from good-old coal burning power plants! With extra Sulfur! -- Just an A.C. enjoying his smoggy afternoon :)

Re:Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647778)

It was probably another metric conversion error [slashdot.org] , they though they were putting in 16 pounds. B^}

Re:Before you get all excited (3)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647779)

The amount of radiation released by this accident is tiny compared to the millions of tons of slightly radioactive fly ash spewed out of the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants in China.

China consumes ~25% of the world's coal production.

-jwb

What's the Blue Light? (2)

minority (23819) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647780)

The injured in the plant said they saw a 'Blue Light'. I know very little about nuclear. In fact, any one can explaint this to me?

p.s. As far I know, that 'blue' in Japanese should be color between Green and Light Blue.

Re:Before you get all excited (1)

mmontour (2208) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647781)

So what if you throw some extra coal in the furnace in a coal plant? You'll cough out some extra sulphur because the burning is less clean.

Some extra radioactive Thorium, too...

http://www.em.doe.gov/tie/fall30.html [doe.gov]

TANSTAAFL.

Re:What?? (1)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647782)

Sorry, I wasn't clear. Yes, I meant particles of dust, not the air itself. That's what I meant by 'atoms in the air', and not the atoms of the air itself.

"There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

Gotta get some lead. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647783)

The gov says stay in....haha....no, get some lead suits and run. This is serious....people should be allowed to flee....run...cause radations is very fast.

Re:crack reporting and circular definitions (2)

Bobort (289) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647784)

It works like this:
Uranium (even highly enriched in U235--the fissile isotope) has a very long half life and thus isn't very radioactive. From a radiation standpoint, it's not too difficult to handle. I operate a nuclear research reactor, and I have held new fuel elements in my hands. Anyway, the way nuclear fission works is that a neutron hits a U235 atom and it splits apart into two lighter fragments and releases on average 2.4 neutrons, and also lots of energy and radiation. These neutrons then go off and start other fission reactions -- a self-sustaining chain reaction. There are many factors that control whether the reaction is self-sustaining, such as the amount of U235 present, geometry (a tight sphere will react more readily than a bunch of spread-out lumps), moderation, etc. Sub-critical means the reaction isn't self-sustaining. This is the "normal" state of things (there are always fissions happening, but at a very low level). Critical means it is exactly self-sustaining. It means a steady state. Supercritical means it's more than self-sustaining -- the rate of reaction is increasing.
Anyway, criticality accidents have happened all too many times before. The usual result is that the people who were initially exposed die of massive radiation exposure, but it's probably not much of a danger to people beyond that. This is entirely different from a "meltdown" or "China Syndrome" accident. Criticality accidents are usually (I think) caused by a change in geomerty that wasn't supposed to happen. I remember hearing about one in which fissile material mistakenly made it into a centrifuge. It was sitting at the bottom of the centrifuge in a subcritical geometry. When they turned it on, it got flung up against the walls of the container, and for a brief instant passed through a supercritical geometry and then went subcritical again. Of course, this killed the operator of the centrifuge. When they sent people in to investigate, one of the things they did was to turn off the centrifuge (since nobody who witnessed the accident was alive, they didn't really know what had happened). Of course, this caused it to go critical again for a brief moment, severely injuring the rescue party.

Re:Before you get all excited (1)

reverse solidus (30707) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647785)

It's not so much a question of whether nuclear power is dangerous or not. Of course it is. It's a question of whether nuclear power is more or less dangerous than other forms of power generation. Coal and oil fired plants have huge risks associated with them, both in operating the plants themselves, and with the infrastructure necessary to keep them running.

Radioactive milk on your breakfast cereal, or radioactive carbon in your lungs? Nasty kind of choice to have to make, but it's better than sitting in the dark.

Re:What's the Blue Light? (0)

Darksky (58431) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647786)

Nuclear reactions give off very high energy radiations, and blue (actually violet) is the highest enegry wavelength of visible light. If they saw a blue light, then they are going to be some very sick puppies....

Article about 'Criticality' (2)

"Zow" (6449) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647787)

MSNBC has a good article [msnbc.com] on Criticality. Doesn't quite explain how it differs from a total meltdown or fision blast, but it does explain how it happens and gives a little history.


-"Zow"


Re:What is being done? (1)

wnknisely (51017) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647788)

I remember reading in Wired yesterday about the problems that Japan is having with Y2K issues, since nobody will publically say that another person is responsible - for that would cause too much shame in the culture. The article mentioned the slow response to the Kobe Quake as a similar example where uniquely Japanese cultural issues had hampered response time.

It seems to me that we might well be seeing the same sort of thing right now. (Japanese authorities don't seem to be reacting as fast or as hard as we might expect authorities to react in this culture (USA))

Ironic (1)

HuangBaoLin (13109) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647789)

I'm actually surprised that in a country like Japan, the most anal in the world, that something like this could happen. They don't cut corners like US contractors. (Part of their zero-defect rule) Guess no ones perfect. And you know that Japan is in trouble when they ask the US military for help. Even through all the earthquakes and other disasters, the Japanese have never asked the US military for help. Scary. My prayers to all those affected. (I hope people in the high-tech industry have enough heart to realize the human factor in these tragedies, rather than speculate how this will effect their industry, like they did with the recent earthquakes in Taiwan)

- Huang Bao Lin

a situation our country has never experienced (0)

synaptic (4599) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647790)

"The situation is one our country has never experienced," he told a news conference after an emergency meeting of the government, called by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi who set up an emergency task force.

Hrm, Fat Man and Little Boy? Times sure have changed. Now they're nuking themselves.

Not the job to have... (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647791)

Personally, I feel a tad sorry for the people who made this monumental cockup....
I've seen quite a few posts here saying that they're morons and deserve everything they get...
Well, I wonder just how many people on here actually have 100% perfection in everything they're doing...
As was said in the articles, they put too much Uranium in with Nitric acid...
This could have been from a faulty reading on the levels of acid, it could have been from a myriad different reasons, including just plain memory lapse...
The big difference with this as compared to most jobs is that in your every day office job, you can screw up monumentally, and not have more effect that gettin' called up in front of your boss, and maybe ending up out of a job on your butt...
A screwup in the more sensitive areas of the nuclear industry has the world looking at you, environmental catastrophe. And in the case of several people, you lose lives...
Rather than blaming, I just hope that someone finds out the real cause of the accident, puts a procedure in place, hires a few people to think up possible accident scenarios for the future... And makes things less likely to happen in the future...
I say "Less likely", because, no matter how small the chances of accident are.. There are still chances...
I really just hope that loss of life out there is as minimal as it can be, along with damage to health and environment...
I wish them all the best... And hope that things go well for them...

Just a thought, for what it's worth,

Malk

Re:crack reporting and circular definitions (2)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647792)

(Man, did this thread ever attract lots of comments! Take a few minutes to write, and half a dozen people slip in.)

Briefly: The critical state is where each fission event emits neutrons which create, on average, one more fission (a "chain reaction", like falling dominoes). "Fast" (high-energy) neutrons are not as easily captured by U-235 nuclei as "thermal" neutrons (neutrons which have energies similar to the kinetic energies of particles in bulk materials). This last part is important.

As for what really happened, we're going to be at the mercy of relatively unsophisticated reporters and editors for some time, but it appears that some spent enriched fuel was being reprocessed chemically to separate it from fission waste products. Since the fuel is normally in the form of uranium oxides (extremely high-melting), it must be dissolved in acid to make it soluble at room temperature. Most acids are far from pure (they contain a lot of water), and the hydrogen in acid or water is a good moderator for neutrons. The uranium alone wasn't a problem, but adding it to a solution with lots of neutron-slowing hydrogen raised the neutron capture efficiency to the point where the tank went critical; in effect, it became a nuclear reactor. This is accompanied by lots of pretty blue Cerenkov-radiation light and killer doses of neutrons.

The reaction will stop when the solution gets too concentrated (not enough hydrogen to slow the neutrons) or too spread-out (too many lost neutrons to continue the reaction). Throwing in a neutron absorber like boron would fix it too. If the Japanese have a bomb-disposal robot capable of getting to the tank and dumping some boric acid into it, that would probably get rid of the immediate problem. Then the difficulty becomes one of cleanup.

Of course the big problem is how the workers got 8 times the usual quantity of uranium into the tank against all procedures. Somehow I don't think they were being as orderly and efficient as the stereotype of the Japanese would suggest.

Nope, I don't work in the biz, but I've spent lots of time listening to old pros talk shop.

Re:What's the Blue Light? (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647793)

Cerenkov radiation maybe?

If the reactor is in water, you could get a cool blue glow as the neutrons hit the water exceeding the speed of light.

George

Re:Oh (Answering my own question) (1)

mmontour (2208) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647794)

Adding to the ugliness, they were mixing the uranium with nitric acid (from the CNN story).

As for the blue flash, that is indeed bad news. A while ago I was watching some documentary about the early days of the US nuclear program, and there was a similar event where somebody slipped while assembling a plutonium bomb core. The two halves bumped together, causing a blue flash, and delivering a fatal-within-a-week radiation dose.

Actually, re-reading the article, it's possible that the blue flash wasn't in the air, since they were mixing this stuff in a tank of water. So maybe it's not quite as bad.

Re:first post! - here's my retribution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647795)

Hmm... fireworks kill lots more people every year. Let's ban them too. Oh, and automobiles -- internal combustion engines that burn petroleum are NOT safe and never can be. For that matter, petroleum refining is NOT safe and never can be...

Fact is, nothing is safe. And nothing can be. Everything has risks. Nuclear power offers us the chance to concentrate the nastiness, rather than spreading the products of combustion in the atmosphere, or polluting our water with the nasty stuff that solar panel production produces. Sure, accidents happen and people get hurt, but does it really matter whether it's nuclear waste, oil or coal soot or trichlorowhatis that gave you the cancer?

Remember there is a normal level of radiation... and several hundred times that is safe for limited exposure.

China... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647796)

It would be South-Atlantic syndrome in Japan...

Nuke/Coal (3)

dattaway (3088) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647797)

The way I see much of the controversy over nuke plants is that they directly compete with coal plants, coal mines, and the many jobs coal creates, or the more expensive alternative, petroleum fired generators. Humans have an affinity towards energy, so it looks like we will be generating it one way or another. Pick your weapon.

A coal plant is opening up 15 miles from where I live. This is good for me as my payscale suddenly shot up as they were looking for workers. Tell you the truth, I would rather have a nuke down the street. It all has to do with the air I breathe and the massive amounts of ground being dug that were a great habitat for wildlife and hunting.

Not that I'm complaining, electricity will be very cheap for manufacturing plants. Good paying jobs will be abundant and those who already are employed will see property values skyrocket. The price of land has doubled for the last few years.

Re:Cruelty. (1)

bungalow (61001) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647798)

Truly morbid question:

Could these be the next Darwin Award winners?

The Reason. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647799)

They were hoping Gojira would appear.

NCC Reports System Ran WinNT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647800)

When Japan's new MS - Active Nuclear Monitor crashed and had to be restarted a possible hole was found in the software. According to key witnesses (Somebody named HAL?) the MS - Active Nuclear Monitor had a bit of a problem with the Active Size Monitor, so the sysops had to restart the service but a memory leak in WinNT caused some of the data to reside and some Active Size Monitor Reported the wrong size to Active Nuclear Monitor and then caused a small nuclear problem. NCC sources say there is a work around on Microsoft website....look some where in the knowledge base. Note other plants are running MS Active Nuclear Monitor also, but three have been testing the new KNukeMon 1.1.2. on FreeBSD. They say the system is like three hookers for the price of a doughnut? What ever that means. Stay tuned for more details.....

Re:Before you get all excited (1)

Karrots (14012) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647801)

You forgot about the Matrix.

I mean if we were all in the Matrix who cares we just live our life as normal. But the stupid Resistance messes everything up everytime.

I mean look at Star Wars. If there wasn't a Resistance there would be no problem because people wouldn't know any better.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Justin Motion (15085) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647802)

The plant where they process the fuel for a nuculear ractor has little to do with the debate over nuculear power? Just how many twists of logic did you have to apply to arrive at that conclusion? It might not be a nuculear power plant, but they're still dealing with high concentrations of unstable atoms. And when they overdumped into the tank, they likely STARTED a nuculear reaction in the tank. A slow one, but relitivly uncontained.

Radiation is your friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647803)

You seem to picture radiation as some magical force, that cannot be stopped...

perhaps parent should put infants in Microwave ovens to shield them.

It may STILL be critical! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647804)

Jesus that's a long time for an uncontrolled
reaction. For a comparison of other criticality
accidents and their durations check out:

http://www.enviroweb.org/enviroissues/nuketestin g/accident/critical.htm

Chernobal is still critical.....burning away
through the ground towards the water table.
Ain't easy to put out a nuclear fire.

Re:Anyone willing to do a criticality calculation? (2)

jimhill (7277) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647805)

The Japanese government is reporting that the solution in question is uranyl nitrate enriched to 18.8 weight percent U-235 in a concentration of about 370gU/l. There are about 50L of solution (16kg of uranium) in a stainless steel tank with about a 50cm diameter and 3mm wall thickness, to a depth of about 26cm. Outside the wall is a 2.5cm-thick water bath.

k-effective for this is about 1.04. Removing the water bath lowers k-effective to about 1.0, so it's a good first step. If you don't understand any of the above, you may safely return to your state of antinuclear hysterical panic.

Re:Before you get all excited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647806)

What about Nuclear Fusion? What are the side effects of that? Torential downpours after a meltdown? :-)

Re:revising history (1)

mu (9557) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647807)

Not hydrogen implying fusion bombs. The bombs were uranium or plutonium based, I forget which, but they were fission weapons.

Re:really sad... (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647809)

"Duck and Cover" was to make the skeletons easier to clean up afterwards. Not sprawled out across the floor, just roll the neat little ball into the bodybag. . . wow, that was pretty nasty. Is there a moderation selection: -1 morbid?

"The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."

Maybe I should stay under my bed till 0/0/00 :-P (3)

Daniel (1678) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647810)

Is it just me, or have we gotten..um..more disasters than usual this year? I mean..

-> Severe doughts on the eastern coast of the US. Floods in the midwest. Floods in the East from Floyd (a good bit of New Jersey and North Carolina was still underwater last I heard).
-> Three major earthquakes almost on top of one another: Turkey, Greece, Taiwan.
-> Political unrest and instability in Russia. Political unrest in the Middle East. Kosovo. East Timor. Other places that haven't gotten so much coverage (which I naturally can't remember)
-> More stuff I've forgotten.
-> This.

And the following events haven't even happened yet!

-> Massive civil disruption by Christian fundamentalists and cults of all descriptions who believe the end of the world is imminent.
-> Computeres miscalculating the date and causing planes to fall out of the sky, eletricity to shut off.
-> Microsoft releasing Windows '00.

Clearly these are Signs! The only thing for sensible people to do is to get a lifetime's supply of cookies and HIDE UNDER THE BED until the clock rolls over!

</SILLY>

Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood a little..

But in all seriousness this has not been a good year. I think the only disaster that hasn't happened yet is launching of nukes -- or perhaps a tornado in downtown NYC.

Daniel

Re:Natural selection? (1)

Darksky (58431) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647811)

Japan has a large population and a tiny surface area. You live on earth, earth is bombarded by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, UV radiation causes skin cancer...if you get skin cancer you deserve what you get.

3-eyes fish coming soon (1)

vinh (31094) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647812)

Accidents happen.. I don't really blame the guy who put more uranium than needed. (Assuming they don't hire morons to work in a nuclear factory!). Even so if they hired a moron, who's to blame, the moron or the moron who hired the moron? :)

Anyway, it's sad that a human error caused that accident. The japanese nuclear factory must be built very very solidely because of the earthquake zone, from an archetectural point of view. Ironic it "exploded" because of humans and not of nature.

Anyone willing to do a criticality calculation? (2)

Anonymous Shepherd (17338) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647813)

For Slashdot?

Assume 16kg of high quality Uranium, reactor grade, and essentially unlimited amounts of nitric acid in solution.

I think that's what reports indicate happened.

Work into this that the workers actually saw the blue glow, and hypothesize that if it actually is Cerenkov radiation what minimum amount of uranium or nitric acid is required.

Thanks!

-AS

Cherenkov Radiation(Was: Re:What's the Blue Light) (2)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647814)

It's the light emitted by water when it is bombarded by intense gamma radiation. the same thing you see in physics textbooks when they show pictures of nuclear waste under water. Uraniaum will not normally produce this, but when it fissions, most of the energy is emitted as gamma rays and xrays. the guys who were unlucky enough to see this are screwed, I don't think it's possible to survive standing in front of a nuclear pile that suddenly goes critical. They must have absorbed a massive dose, because it appears they started feeling ill immediately. Not a good sign.

^. .^
( @ )
^. .^

draining the water off.. (1)

dickens (31040) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647815)

Hopefully someone thinks of sending in a 'bot to do that soon...

Maybe they mixed ... (1)

Thrakkerzog (7580) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647816)

metric and english units!




Sorry, it had to be said! ;-)

Re:crack reporting and circular definitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647817)

Water is a moderator. The neutrons when first released are moving fast and have a high probability of escaping without reacting with other Uranium atoms. Hydrogen interacts with the high-energy neutrons to form low energy neutron which have a higher probability of causing secondary reactions. Water has a high amount of Hydrogen, H2O.

Water also is a positive feedback loop for a reactor. As the water heats up it expanses and allows more high energy neutrons to escape which causes a slow down in the reaction which generates less heat which cause the water to cool down which moderate more neutrons which speed up the reaction which generates more heat ...... Feedback.

As you follow the story you will here the talk about removing the water. This is a attempt to cause the reaction to slow down and stop. The problem here now is that there is a LOT of latent heat in the Uranium mass. As they take of the water there is a possibility of the remaining water to flash to steam. You end up with a massive steam explosion, which will scatter the plant. But the Uranium mass is not in a configuration to release heat effectively so you start getting hot spots inside the mass that will actually melt the Uranium. Dammed is you do and dammed if you don't.

Re:Before you get all excited (1)

zmooc (33175) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647819)

First of all: I'm not an expert. Everything I say is based on what I've heard a long time ago.
Tsjernobyl is once again used as an example. It's a very bad example. The type of reactor used in Tsjernobyl is a very bad design. All modern reactors are designed in such a way that an accident as in Tsjernobyl is impossible. They are fundamentally different from the old Russian reactors. The accident in Japan didn't happen on a nuclear plant; it was some weird factory...not sure what they do. Anyway...as far as I know no major nuclear accidents have happened with modern nuclear plants. All arguments I've heard against nuclear energy are based on false arguments. Anyway...i do think there is one major problem about nuclear energy. This problem is the storage of large amounts of highly radioactive waste.

Re:Before you get all excited (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647821)

There are quite some theories about the political implications of nuclear science/power. They say that _every_ industry working in the nuclear branch has to evolve a system of totalitarism.
And this IMO absolutly true, you have to contol anything and you mustn't be truthfull to the outside i.e. the population and politicians - the latter only if they are not part of the nuclear industrial or political system, i.e. the normal representative.
There are to many facts hindering the openess of a system which works in the nuclear business, for example
  • nuclear garbage, nobody wants to have it near his home
  • transport of nuclear material, nobody wants be near that
  • the ability to produce nuclear weapons, i.e. you have to have very high security measures everywhere. This gives the ability to stop any information flow to the outsite.
  • money: a corporation which admits _any_ failures is in strong danger to be history the next day. It's just to expensive to pay thousands of people getting ill by relativly small escaping quantities of radioactivy.

This is REALLY BAD! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647829)

First off my inlaws live less than 100 miles from the site in Kamakura. Secondly my wife and I are going there for her little brother's wedding in three weeks!

I was there during the 1997 incident. What a debacle. They had a leak and fire, people got really sick. Citizens worry. So what does the government do? They take a school field trip through there a day later! Here I am watching NHK news one afternoon and I see all these little kids in their little yellow hats, with there teachers, strolling around the compromised plant! I think my brain actually locked up. I couldn't believe it. Put little kids in there to show everyone how safe it is.

I called my wife, here at work, and told her what was going on. "Why don't you check a Japanese web news site?", I say. Well according to Yahoo Japan's headlines, it is a "well, don't go outside for a while and it will be OK" kind of deal. Nothing to worry about. Lovely. Gotta go call my inlaws.....!!!

Criticality in solutions of heavy isotopes (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647830)

...is easier to achive than you think.

(Snarl, network here is on the fritz, apologies if this comes through multiple times - connection reset by peer before anything actually gets submitted, I'm assuming...)

Anyone working at a nuke plant, especially a fuel processing plant, knows this. This incident appears to have been caused by stupidity of truly mind-boggling proportions.

If you're ever working with heavy isotopes (i.e. fissionables) in solution, the water or other solvent in which the compounds are dissolved can act as a moderator, and the amount of uranium or other fissionable matter required for criticality drops precipitously.

I did a few summer terms at a research reactor at a university. This reactor was often used to create compounds for medical use as well as other research. Preventing this type of incident was discussed in one of the most heavily-underlined-and-boldfaced sections of text in the book.

Any time you have to work with heavy unstable isotopes in solution, it's imperative that you know exactly what you're dealing with. That means you need to know both the nuclear (cross-sectional) and the chemical properties of both solvent and solute, AND the shape of the container, AND the concentrations expected at any stage in the dissolution.

Those latter two are particularly counterintuitive - but are glaringly obvious in hindsight, as they're significant factors in the mean distance (i.e. free path) between particles of the heavy isotope in the solution, a key determinant in criticality.

To give an example of what can go wrong - take a beaker of water and drop in a spoonful of brown sugar. Pretend the sugar is fissionable.

At the start, you have a subcritical mass of brown sugar. Safe enough to hold in your hand. At the end, the sugar is distributed evenly enough through the water that even with the water's moderating effect, it's subcritical. Safe enough to work with.

Walk away from the beaker and come back in 5 minutes. Observe that there are regions in the beaker of varying concentrations. At least one of these concentrations will be the "right" concentration to minimize the mass required for criticality. If the volume of that region is large enough, it goes critical in that region and it's game over.

For an even better version of this game, imagine you can stir it quickly enough so that this is never a risk. Mix it in a baking pan, so that the liquid is never deeper than 1cm, and most of the neutrons fly out the top and bottom of the pan. Give it to your friend, who pours it into one of those nice flasks with the spherical bottoms. The spherical shape allows many more neutrons to be absorbed. Your last thought is that "Safe enough to work with" only means "safe enough to work with in this container". Game over.

Or just carelessly leave the pan under the fume hood over the weekend. Or toss it in the freezer, and discover that as it freezes, the capacity to hold the material in solution changes, and some of it precipitates out. In either case, don't expect to get any work done on Monday morning, though.

Of course, now that I've gone through the hard ways to have this accident (about which anyone working in this environment would still know), putting seven times as much solute in the solution would also be a good way to screw it up.

Scary thought: If they could see the Cerenkov radiation - and weren't looking at the tank - it means the radiation flux through the fluid in the eyeball was high enough to cause a visible blue glow. That's a lot of radiation.

Remember all those "how to build your own atomic bomb" plans, that all worked out to "this won't give you a nuclear detonation, but it'll make one unholy hell of mess"?

The Japanese have just become the test case. While we're not talking about levelling cities or nuclear explosive yield, in terms of the physics involved - an uncontrolled chain reaction in a critical mass - the Japanese have arguably just nuked themselves, in the same sense that the Americans nuked them twice earlier this century.

It's a banner week for Darwinian Stupidity in the sciences, folks. First we lose a $125M space probe because two engineering teams didn't know the difference between metric and Imperial measure, and then a couple of Japanese fuel processing guys manage to top our blunder by accidentally building and activating something that's the fundamental equivalent to the core of an atomic bomb.

The Blue Light is Cerenkov radiation. (3)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647831)

Nobody's gotten this entirely right yet... the blue light is Cerenkov radiation, which is created when charged particles like electrons (NOT neutrons) move through a medium faster than light travels through it. (Obviously this cannot be done in free space, but it can in water, in glass, and other media.) Much like an object moving through air faster than the speed of sound creates a sonic boom, a charged particle going faster than the local speed of light creates a "photic boom". Just FYI, some electronic devices such as Travelling Wave Tubes work on not-dissimilar principles.

How do the electrons get moving so fast? When a gamma ray bounces off an electron, the electron can recoil at high speed. This phenomenon is called Compton scattering, if I'm not mistaken.

Re:Before you get all excited (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647832)

Burning coal doesn't put radioactive carbon in your lungs; C-14 decays with a half-life of less than 6000 years, and all coal is many millions of years old. C-14 is created in the atmosphere when cosmic rays bombard nitrogen, not in coal seams. Accordingly, coal contains no detectable amounts of C-14. Tramp thorium, uranium, radium, polonium... sure. Just no C-14.

Location an issue for many more dangerous things. (1)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647833)

There have been a great many bystanders killed in explosions of chemical plants and oil refineries in the last ten years or so; people live across the road from those installations too. It's not feasible to completely isolate everything that might be dangerous.

revising history (1)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647834)

According to National Public Radio, Japan is especially sensitive to problems like this since the US dropped two hydrogen bombs on Japan during WWII.

Re:Criticality in solutions of heavy isotopes (2)

Tau Zero (75868) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647836)

Moderator...

Just as a comment, I've heard that atomic scientists once used Cerenkov radiation to locate beams in cyclotrons... by sticking their heads inside the machines! I can't be sure of the truth of this or not (having no primary source), but it would be funny if the Doctor Science comment about "sticking your head into the beam of a linear accelerator" had some basis in fact.

"blue light"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1647838)

thats strange.. they said the workers saw a blue light. do they have windows controlling that place?

Re:God damn (1)

bungalow (61001) | more than 14 years ago | (#1647840)

(donning asbestos suit and rosary)
I've been praying extra hard for the last few months. I don't KNOW WHEN its gonna happen. Maybe not in my lifetime. Maybe not before my 7th-great grandchildren's lifetime, but I'd rather trust in God in such precarious times.

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