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Samurai-Sword Maker May Cool Nuclear Revival

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the can't-cut-it dept.

Power 317

NobleSavage sends a story from Bloomberg about Japan Steel Works Ltd., a company that still makes Samurai swords, and how it may control the fate of the global nuclear-energy renaissance. "There stands the only plant in the world, a survivor of Allied bombing in World War II, capable of producing the central part of a nuclear reactor's containment vessel in a single piece, reducing the risk of a radiation leak. Utilities that won't need the equipment for years are making $100 million down payments now on components Japan Steel makes from 600-ton ingots. Each year the Tokyo-based company can turn out just four of the steel forgings that contain the radioactivity in a nuclear reactor. Even after it doubles capacity in the next two years, there won't be enough production to meet building plans."

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317 comments

Hm (4, Funny)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749880)

So what I want to know is... can they make me a sword out of uranium? Now THAT would be sweet.

Re:Hm (4, Funny)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749944)

True, a uranium sword would be sweet, but what happens when you grow that third and fourth arm? Sure, you'd think the extra gripping power would be 'handy' on your sword now. But what happens when they deliver that bad boy and in your first uranium sword fight they both go critical mass... Did you ever think of THAT?!

Maybe depleted uranium.

Re:Hm (3, Informative)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749966)

Depleted uranium is still bad for you. See this. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hm (2, Informative)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750186)

Yeah, I read that article. But if you honestly think that I was replying to an earnest post with anything but jest, you should really find a new sense of humor. Also, having a density of about 19.1g/cm3, it tends to be just over twice as heavy as sword steel (at 7.8g/cm3). Your 2kg sword would be 4.8kg and tire you and your four arms out quite nicely.

Re:Hm (3, Informative)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750284)

The wiki article you linked states itself that DU is less toxic then many other common materials like arsenic. The statistical evidence linking birth defects to soldiers is dubious at best. This is pretty much a case of DHMO-itis, i.e., irrational fear over something not inherently dangerous. DU, like DHMO [wikipedia.org], are feared because of their mystique (in the case of DHMO-a ominous sounding acronym).

Re:Hm (5, Informative)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750614)

That's incorrect. The US Military admitted there were 'some unknown dangers' associated with DU after Dr. Doug Rokke (US Army Physicist) got cancer and is suffering numerous other ill effects from radiation poisoning whilst leading efforts to clean up the radiation after the first Iraq war. He also has explained that the US Military actively suppressed a WHO study which showed DU has the same effects as normal uranium on the human body. I only know because his brother, General Irving Rokke was the Dean of my college and I got to speak with him. I also learned about how the US and UK have been pressed about the issue numerous times in the UN and have used their comfy chairs on the UN Security Council to veto any sort of punitive action.

Re:Hm (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750004)

That would be ridiculously heavy, and very unwieldy.

Re:Hm (5, Funny)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750034)

Psh, you're missing the point. URANIUM SWORD! And we could create uranium sword wielding robots. This has badass written all over it and highlighted with AWESOME.

Re:Hm (1)

steveo777 (183629) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750252)

See, NOW you're talking. Heck you could put a tiny, tiny reactor with some sort of altered universe inside the sword to power some sort of mechanical arm for your body. You know, to take out the robots in the eventual uprising and attempted overlordedness they would attempt to attain.

Re:Hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750502)

As funny as it might sound, the presence of radioactive material in the blade steel ir the reason "swords of Damas" where kept sharp and strong for so many centuries.

Re:Hm (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750518)

Uranium is very dense stuff - about 19 g/cc. Compare that to 11 g/cc for lead and 7-8 g/cc for steel. It's not terribly strong, either.

So, yes, a uranium sword would be pretty sweet, but you wouldn't be able to wield it very well or, if you could, it would get all dinged up the first time you used it.

Re:Hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750634)

That would be like, the worlds first light saber. I believe that may be what Madame Curie was working on in secret, and it didn't end too well for her.

sounds like a way to re-start (5, Interesting)

gravesb (967413) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749916)

This sounds like an area where American metal working could enjoy some sort of renaissance. I wonder what the start-up costs for such an endeavor are, what the future growth and profit margins are, and where such competency could be applied outside of reactors and and swords. But, with low skill metal working being outsourced, such specialized skills might be a place for America to specialize, especially as the dollar continues to fall.

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750236)

If there are multiple companies putting up $100M a pop for future production, I'd say there ought to be a solid business model in there somewhere.

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750580)

If the things themselves cost £100 million, you're going to need to spend billions to get a plant capable of building them up and running in any sort of reasonable time frame, when you think of everything that would be needed. Then there are the personnel. You can't just magic up experienced workers for this sort of task.

I doubt it would be profitable for quite some time.

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750670)

You can't just magic up experienced workers for this sort of task.

No, but I can buy 10,000 experience points real cheap on ebay.

Change the design (2, Interesting)

dj245 (732906) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750280)

I work reasonably closely with manufacturers of all sorts of marine equipment. Lifeboat davits, cranes, winches, diesel engines, etc. The most common thing they do when they can't source a part is change the design. This encourages innovation, and usually the new design is safer than the old one anyway. If you're waiting on a part for 2+ years for a crane, are you going to wait and see if someone else starts manufacturing them? No. You're going to change that design (maybe 6 months, probably less) and build it.

Nuclear engineering may be a lot different since everyone wants to stick with what has worked in the past, but can't getting the parts to build something usually results in a new design in my experience.

Re:Change the design (5, Informative)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750522)

The problem here is not wanting to stick with currently proven designs, but the hideous cost of certifying a new design. It is so expensive to re-certify a project after a design change people really don't want to do it often.

The certification process probably makes the design safer, but it also disincentives innovation in ways that would horrify someone used to the rapid pace of consumer electronics.

On the other hand, the kind of reliability standards we see on consumer electronics would horrify me if they ever happened be applied to a nuclear facility or an airplane.

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (0, Flamebait)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750292)

FTFA: The mixture is poured into a blackened casing to form ingots 4.2 meters wide in the rough shape of a cylinder.

Those Cajun chefs could do that in a heartbeat, along with the blackened catfish, etc... OooooooEeeeeeee!

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (1)

us7892 (655683) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750308)

There will be no revival. Too many environmental restrictions to building such plants!

Not in my back yard!!

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750428)

There will be no revival. Too many environmental restrictions to building such plants!
I am the dread samurai Robert-san. There will be no revival. I have come for your swoooord!

(Though a bit late for a Holocaust cloak, one would think, and perhaps the component is a little large for a wheelbarrow)

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (5, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750424)

This sounds like an area where American metal working could enjoy some sort of renaissance.

How? We have no industrial base anymore. It's the "information age", we're a "service economy", remember? Actually making steel is, like, so 1970s.

U.S. Steel [wikipedia.org] now makes about as much steel now as it did in 1902. The once-mighty Bethlehem Steel [wikipedia.org]? Gone. National Steel [wikipedia.org]? Kaput.

We traded our ability to make stuff, for our ability to by cheap imports at Wal*Mart.

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750514)

I see a market need for the "service" of turning iron ore into 600-ton ingots.

Re:sounds like a way to re-start (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750980)

It's definitely a niche ripe to be filled.

The biggest problem with US steel is, appropriately U.S Steel [wikipedia.org]. If we could get some more modern , high-tech, and agile steel producers we could restart the whole industry here. But it's all unions and subsidies and dinosaurs right now, and there is no sign of that changing any time soon.

4 per year (1)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749920)

If they can't meet demands now, and they will be backlogged for years to come, I'm wondering why 5 years to catch up is even remotely important at this point? And, you know, if the business goes south you can still make swords afterwords.

Re:4 per year (3, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749964)

Swords are not exactly a growth industry. If they are genuine samurai swords, they can't be exported, and if they aren't, they are practically worthless (about the same price as the cheap Spanish ones they sell on QVC).

The 5 year gap is important because during that 5 years, they'd expect to be able to increase capacity while other forgers would still be getting started.

However, the problem is China and its vast natural resources. Japan, unfortunately doesn't have the natural resources to do this cheaply for very long. As China (and I suppose Korea) get their furnaces running, the customers will start looking to cheaper pastures.

Re:4 per year (5, Interesting)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750096)

However, the problem is China and its vast natural resources.
I honestly don't know about China's natural resources, but they seem to be consuming so much that they need to import steel and metals in scrap form from the US like gangbusters. I think this is because it's currently cheaper to refine it from scrap than mine it, but at this point China's resources, whether vast or otherwise, aren't as big of a sticking point as some people would think. Of course, their labor -- now that's definitely a cheaper pasture!

Re:4 per year (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750338)

I honestly don't know about China's natural resources, but they seem to be consuming so much that they need to import steel and metals in scrap form from the US like gangbusters.
The US really doesn't export any steel to speak of, except for finished products. China imports an enormous amount of iron ore, primarily from Australia, less so from Brazil, mostly because their own mining operations have not been able to keep pace with their need for steel. The US imports about 2M tons of unfinished steel per month, about 600,000 tons from Canada, about 200,000 from China. (http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/steel_index.html) Chinese exports have really dropped off in the last 2-3 years as internal expansion has just been crazy. Chinese steel producers added more capacity last year than the entire US production. If/when their internal expansion slows down, their steel industry is going to have a lot of excess capacity.

Re:4 per year (4, Insightful)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750106)

Major questions , with the track record as of late from China would you trust a major piece of a nuclear puzzle to them ? I mean it really. And with Korea , I don't know if I would trust them as well.

The Japanese firms for steel have a really good reputation for forging some of the best parts in the world. Even the Spaniards and Americans can not produce such quality steel.

I don't think I would want to be near a Chinese forged reactor core any time in my life. QC does not seem to be their strong point.

Re:4 per year (5, Funny)

Zerth (26112) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750198)

>I don't think I would want to be near a Chinese forged reactor core
>any time in my life. QC does not seem to be their strong point.

On the plus side, it is very likely to come coated in lead.

That's good in this case, right?

Re:4 per year (2, Interesting)

PONA-Boy (159659) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750542)

If they are genuine samurai swords, they can't be exported
That is incorrect. Nihonto, swords MADE in Japan can be exported following specific procedures as outlined HERE [nihontokanjipages.com]. It is more difficult, I've found, to IMPORT a sword into Japan. This is especially true if you are importing Nihonto.

The "practically worthless" swords, from a Japanese perspective, would be anything NOT made in Japan. Most of the cheap wallhangers that you see out there in the marketplace are from China, believe it or not.

Japan, WWII, allied bombing, and nukes (4, Insightful)

rjamestaylor (117847) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749922)

These story elements (Japan, WWII, Allied bombing and nuclear technology) usually have a different theme than protecting the world from the hazards of nuclear fission gone awry.

+1 Ironic

Re:Japan, WWII, allied bombing, and nukes (4, Funny)

morari (1080535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749972)

Godzilla only serves as a warning of the hazards of nuclear fission gone awry, right?

Re:Japan, WWII, allied bombing, and nukes (4, Interesting)

discogravy (455376) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750766)

this is ha-ha-only-serious in a way; the godzilla movies serve as a kind of metric for japanese societal attitudes towards nuclear power. immediately post-war, gojira is a monster created by radiation that comes and terrorizes tokyo but within 20 years or so, he's japan's protector from outside alien monsters (mothra, gamera, etc) and is japan's big scaly mascot (with annoying "go-get-'em-pop!" godzilla-baby, godzuki.)

May be a stupid question... (5, Insightful)

Tom90deg (1190691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749924)

But can't you make more places to build them? I realize that you may need specific hardware to forge this stuff out of one piece of steel, but seems to me that if you really needed them, you could make more than one factory.

Re:May be a stupid question... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750012)

Actually, the hardware isn't as specialized as you might imagine. I'm making them with my iPhone in my back yard. I'll sell one to you for $100M.

Re:May be a stupid question... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750046)

I would think that, although not as time consuming to build as a factory for say microchips, building a high quality factory that can produce high grade components generally takes a lot of time (especially if you have to design it from scratch). When those metal components need to be the size of houses, it takes even more time.

For comparison the new British Airways terminal in London took 20 years from planning to completion.

Sure it's "just a time game", but so is the need for alternative power sources.

Re:May be a stupid question... (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750304)

Your british airwars terminal comparison is interesting, but it's important to keep in mind that in a project like that, the majority of the work was spent doing something other than design and construction. When you've got a big public project like that, the amount of politics, meetings with every single person who should be involved, every person that thinks they should involved, and every person who wants to be involved just because they like to complain, it takes forever and it sucks.

Not to say that a factory that produces nuclear reactor parts wouldn't have some politics to deal with, but in a lot of ways, it's much more straight-forward than a public airline terminal.

Re:May be a stupid question... (2)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750786)

The story says the following:

Areva would be able to produce the ingot itself with an investment of about 100 million euros ($155 million), he said as workers coated the inside of a Japan Steel reactor shell part with stainless steel to prevent rust.


It also says companies are making $100 million down payments...

Something tells me that this will rapidly develop into a non-story from its current status as an advertisement for the solicitation of venture capital.

Nuke China, Do It NOW !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749932)



Nuke China, Do It NOW !! Bomb those mofos back to the stoner stone age !!

That's nothing (3, Funny)

Ilan Volow (539597) | more than 6 years ago | (#22749956)

The guys who make Swiss Army knives have nearly perfected fusion reactors. That can open wine bottles.

I checked their whole site.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749958)

..and did not find a single piece of information that says they create Samurai swords.

Re:I checked their whole site.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750102)

If you have to ask - you don't qualify for one. They might say something on the JP side of the site - away from gaijin eyes.

Obligatory (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22749980)

I for one welcome our new Nuclear Samurai Overlords.

Its only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750008)

a matter of time before some company starts making cheap ripp-offs of these, and there will be enough of these puppies on the market to fill everyones needs.

maybe some company from japan or so... wait, nevermind...

#1 Reason why this will never be mass-produced: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750060)

There can be only one!

Candu (5, Interesting)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750068)

As I understand it CANDU reactors don't even use a pressure vessel as such, but instead uses an assembly of pressurized tubes. One for each fuel bundle. This design was chosen precisely because it eliminated the need for this type of technological bottleneck and it is still in use today. I think tfa neglects to mention that there are several reactor designs that aren't dependent on this particular company.

Re:Candu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750312)

"an assembly of pressurized tubes"

In parallel... or series?

Re:Candu (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750382)

Candu's do indeed have a containment vessel (Called the "Calandria"). Pressure tubes are actually used in Candu's because use heavy water as a moderator, and because it facilitates online refueling. All reactors have many forms of "pressure vessels".

However, this story is completely fictitious, and a more than a little ridiculous.

Notice how they make it through the entire article without naming this "Central part" of the pressure vessel? Or explain WHICH "pressure vessel" they are talking about (what? you think there is one "pressure vessel" in a nuclear station?) Or explain what this part does?

Nuclear operators spent a huge amount of time thinking about suppliers and spare parts. This is because stations are designed to operate for at least 40 years, and most companies can't operate in those time frames. They don't use single source parts. There are quite a few companies in the world that make nuclear grade steel. Most are in North America.

This story is complete baloney. I can't tell whether it's intended to bash the nuclear industry, or promote Japan Steel, but I'd bet on the last one .

Re:Candu (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750636)

Did you even read the article? The bit about the samurai-sword making was just a lead-in for the rest of the article. The story is accurate, and this is one of the problems with restarting the nuclear industry in the US. The pressure vessel for a PWR is very large, and has to be made with high quality and precision. We used to make them in the US when the industry was booming, but since there was no market for them after the 80's they all went out of business. Making a PWR pressure vessel is not as simple as converting your average car factory over. These are 500-ton blocks of solid steel that have to be heated to 2000 degrees, and then machined into the precise requirements of a reactor vessel. That is no easy task.

Re:Candu (4, Informative)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750472)

A CANDU reactor still has a large steel Calandria surrounding the pressure tubes. I'm not sure off the top of my head of its dimensions but I imagine it is bigger but less thick then a typical PWR pressure vessel.

And the reason why the CANDU was designed was because it runs on natural, unenriched uranium. It had nothing to do with the design of the pressure vessel. When the first CANDU's were being built, the US was still manufacturing PWR pressure vessels and there was no problem in that area.

Re:Candu (3, Informative)

some_hoser (656003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750604)

The CANDU was designed with two main differences: Heavy Water Moderator -Lets you use natural uranium -Safer than graphite Pressure Tube Design -To avoid needing heavy manufacturing capabilities -This has nothing to do with ability to use natural uranium The Caladria is indeed big but does not need to be forged in one piece (or be as thick) as it does not have to hold in a significant amount of pressure (unlike the pressure vessel, naturally).

Re:Candu (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750680)

Yeah after reading up a bit I think you are right, that was one of the selling points of the CANDU design, although I never heard about that before today. I still say that the main motivation behind the CANDU design was its ability to run on natural uranium though, as Canada did not have the ability to enrich uranium themselves and they did not want to have to depend on the US.

Re:Candu (3, Interesting)

Cecil (37810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750902)

Partially, I think the idea was that they could sell this reactor to other countries without the risk of nuclear proliferation associated with enriched uranium, although the relatively difficulty of attaining enriched uranium was also a factor I think it had more to do with the proliferation risks than the actual sourcing of the material. This was unfortunately justified when India used their Canadian/US-built CIRUS research reactor to create enough plutonium for their first nuclear bomb [wikipedia.org]. Being strongly against nuclear weapons in any form, Canadians generally felt pretty betrayed by this, and the concept behind the CANDU reactor was cemented.

Re:Candu (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750744)

As I understand it CANDU reactors don't even use a pressure vessel as such, but instead uses an assembly of pressurized tubes. One for each fuel bundle.

True. You get complete separation of the coolant and the moderator. Most reactor designs don't do that.

This design was chosen precisely because it eliminated the need for this type of technological bottleneck and it is still in use today.

No, it was designed for very high safety, and (more importantly) that it can run on naturally occurring uranium without isotope enrichment. There are 2 kinds of uranium, U-238 and U-235. Only the U-235 is fissionable, and it naturally occurs about 0.7% of the time. Most nuclear reactor designs need enrichment to around 2-3% to function. To build bombs, you need to enrich to over 90%.

Of course, the same enrichment technology to go to 3% can be used to go to 90%. What is stopping you from enriching further? Nothing. That is why so many people are concerned about Iranian claims of only enriching uranium for nuclear reactors.

If your country is planning to secretly develop nuclear bombs under the cover of peaceful nuclear technology, CANDU is not the way to go, because you don't need enrichment.

Strangely enough, the CANDU reactor doesn't do so well with international sales.

Re:Candu (2, Informative)

Froster (985053) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750836)

Exactly right. The reason that CANDU uses pressurized tubes rather than a large reactor vessel is because Canada lacks the ability to manufacture a large vessel. It hasn't been too much of an issue though because Canada has built enough CANDU reactors for a peak of 100+ TWh of power, and currently around 85 TWh of power

Not copied yet? (1)

slawo (1210850) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750120)

What is strange is that there are no chinese company claiming i can do the same for cheaper... They always copy anything they can (at least so claim the japanese people I meet)
Surely they must be protecting their production processes to still be the only ones in asia to produce that.

Re:Not copied yet? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750410)

Nah,
But this has several things going for it.
Counterfeits are not likely (I mean at 4/year it's going to be difficult to slip one into the chain)
Clones are not viable: Still expensive to produce, no likely buyers (tried and true only "for teh Win!")
Even if someone considered using a clone, all the world's NRCs would require destructive testing of at least one maybe two or three units before vetting them and approving for use.

The Chinese rip off all sorts of stuff, but they're not stupid. They can't compete in this arena.
-nB

The only one for sure? (3, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750134)

I am puzzled. In last thirty years, our country in the heart of Europe has independently manufactured about twenty five complete reactor units. And we're not exactly the pinnacle of the world's engineering, even though compared to our neighbours, we might be pretty good. I would expect USA and other western countries having much more resources than us to be more independent in this respect. Now it may be that the qualiry criteria have been tightened up a little, but still, USA, for example, is a huge country. Don't tell me that a country capable of delivering people to Moon and space probes to the outer Solar system can't manufacture even a single bloody reactor vessel.

Re:The only one for sure? (1)

szo (7842) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750816)

I'm sure it's not the only one. The Hungarian power plants reactor shell was made by Skoda for example.

Re:The only one for sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750884)

Unfortunately we sold our soul to the lowest bidder... China.

{Song on my Pandora right now: Megadeth - Peace Sells, but who's buying?}

A touch sensationalist (2, Insightful)

Illserve (56215) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750162)

There weren't any factories that built Apollo's when we decided to go to the moon but somehow we managed.

I think someone will be on top of this problem when the money is there.

Aerospace plants are one thing.... (2, Interesting)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750568)

, they are relatively "clean", and employ lots of white collar/upper middle class workers. Most communities were glad to have them built nearby. Especially, when they were helping "beat those commies to the moon".

A heavy steel forging operation, OTOH, would face opposition because of the smokestack emissions, and the ingrained idea that we don't need workers who actually MAKE anything anymore, when we can base our entire economy on shuffling money around and suing each other.

Slightly sensationalist summary I feel (4, Informative)

hairykrishna (740240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750176)

There are alternatives. Most of the current running PWR pressure vessels were cast in multiple (2 or 3) pieces and welded together. The Russians cast their own pressure vessels. There are also other reactor designs despite PWR being the overwhelming favourite for new build.

New nuclear build is not going to grind to a halt because this plant can't keep up.

Re:Slightly sensationalist summary I feel (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750512)

Indeed... There's alternative designs to the current water based systems that are inherently safer than
the current designs. Nobody's looking into them for development because the current designs are "good enough"
which may make it a GOOD thing. If there's insufficient parts for the PWR design, perhaps they'll consider
a pebble bed design instead.

Re:Slightly sensationalist summary I feel (3, Insightful)

QuantumPion (805098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750726)

New nuclear building will not grind to a halt, but it may be slowed/delayed a few years until more of these factories come online. And when the decision makers are trying to decide what kind of power plant to build to meet energy needs, a 2 year delay for the queue to get your pressure vessel because China has dibs on the next 40 may lead you to conventional sources (gas/coal/etc).

Sounds like a game mission... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750212)

Commander we need that factory.
It's the only factory in the world that can produce nuclear reactor cores.

If you complete this mission we will get a +20% bonus in our nuclear plants.

You can't let the enemy have that!!!

fission is a bad idea anyway (2, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750230)

Nuclear fission is a poor solution anyway. Inherent safety problems, limited fuel supply (on the order of a century or two at most, perhaps much less), security concerns (both weapons technology proliferation and terrorist targeting concerns), unsolved waste disposal problems - the only reason this gets the support it does is because the military-industrial complex loves nuclear technologies, and some technical types who grew up on science fiction have a romantic attachment to Harassing the Power of the Atom.

We should be devoting our resources to efficiency, renewables (including orbital photovoltaic), accelerator-based thorium reactors [harvard.edu], and fusion. Building new fission reactors is a distraction from the real solutions.

Re:fission is a bad idea anyway (2, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750476)

And if it takes a century to develop the replacement technology, do we freeze in the meantime?

Re:fission is a bad idea anyway (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750824)

And if it takes a century to develop the replacement technology...

Efficiency improvements and increased use of renewables don't have to be developed. They're here. They just need to be deployed. Rather than putting that money into building fission reactors, put it toward equipping homes with high-efficiency heat pumps (ground-source ones in cold climates), good insulation, a PV module or small windmill, and efficient appliances. We also need investment in mass transit - and in community planning so people don't have to drive all over creation to get shit done. This is all stuff we could do right now, today, without needing to wait in line for a steel factory in Japan to make special reactor vessels.

Orbital photovoltaic could be done in twenty years if we had the will. (Hell, ten if we really got busy, total WWII-style mobilization.) It's an engineering problem, not a science one.

Accelerator-driven nuclear technologies, IIRC, also have most of the basic science worked out and fall into engineering rather than science problems.

The only thing I mentioned that might take a century to work out is fusion. (Yeah, I know, it's just twenty years away [google.com]...)

For Japan..- maybe (1)

Dark_MadMax666 (907288) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750384)

You know not only Japan has the know how of making nuclear reactors. There is Russia, France and even US. Though arguably only Japan has semi decent nuclear energy policy .Us has the most retarded policy of the bunch and France recently went the dumb way as well.

Toshiba's small reactors (1)

n5yat (987446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750464)

Who needs giant containment vessels anymore? Toshiba has already announced the design of a small reactor capable of powering a single building or a neighborhood of homes. Why build giant nuclear reactors when we could have a distributed network of small power plants.

Re:Toshiba's small reactors (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750578)

Why build giant nuclear reactors when we could have a distributed network of small power plants.
Because Apple bought up the entire supply for their iPods. It's the hard drive thing all over again.

Re:Toshiba's small reactors (2, Insightful)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750674)

Check out your neighbors' back yards. Based on even that superficial check, how many of them would you trust to maintain a small nuclear power plant?

Doesn't add up (4, Interesting)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750550)

If it takes three weeks to forge one vessel, why can they only produce four vessels per year?

Also, the forging is described as a cylinder, which leaves the top and bottom of the pressure vessel. How do you weld 30 cm thick steel? ISTR reading about submarine construction (which use a pressure hull maybe a few cm thick) where welding the hull sections had to take place at night because daytime operations would overload the local power grid. These vessels would be even more difficult to weld correctly.

REACTOR vessel vs. CONTAINMENT vessel (4, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750594)

I think the article confuses the reactor vessel with the containment vessel.

A reactor vessel is a large-room-sized steel vessel, that holds the fuel and steam transfer pipes and so forth and is subjected to huge internal pressures in normal operation.

A containment vessel is the building-sized concrete structure that gives many reactors buildings their impressive dome shape. It is only important in the case of an accident, when it might be subjected to pressures on the order of an atmosphere or so. It is intended to hold in or contain any radioactive materials released after an accident has occurred.

Interestingly enough, in light of his demonization by anti-nuclear factions, it was Edward Teller who was largely responsible for insisting on containment vessels, a nice simple brute-force protection measure.

Every reactor has a reactor vessel, but not all reactors have containment vessels. Some reactors, such as Chernobyl, and, in the United States, GE boiling-water reactors such as the one in Plymouth, Massachusetts have very ordinary-looking block-like buildings rather than containment domes. These reactors are designed to "suppress" pressure in an accident rather than "contain" it, by the use of engineered mechanisms that open valves at the right time and direct steam through big tanks of water, cooling it down and condensing it.

Re:REACTOR vessel vs. CONTAINMENT vessel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22750842)

Just to add on some info

BWRs (boiling water reactors) and PWRs (pressurized water reactors) typically have different containment types.

For a BWR, there is the primary containment that surrounds the reactor vessel. On a rupture of the reactor vessel this containment takes the steam/water released and provides the new barrier. The reactor vessel is good for pressure on the order of 1350 psig. The primary containment (designed to quench the released steam by directing into a pool of water) is good for pressure on the order of 60 psig.

There is an additional barrier, the secondary containment to account for the primary containment having some small leakage. That's a reactor building and just looks like a large building. It encloses the primary containment, so you won't see the primary containment from a picture or a drive past a BWR site. It's able to withstand pressure on the order of inches of water. It takes the leakage and processes it through a charcoal adsorber bed to minimize any radioactive release making it to the public on a catastrophic accident.

I'm not expert enough to know enough about the design of PWR containments (other than that they are different), so I'll leave that to someone else.

they're not building the containment vessels (2, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22750778)

for nuclear reactors. they're building them to ENSLAVE WHALES

maybe the japanese are trying to NUKE THE WHALES?

first fake scientific research, now this?

will the japanese stop at nothing to satisfy their insatiable whale flesh thirst?
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