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Earth Japan

Robert X Cringely Predicts More Mininuke Plants 430

Posted by timothy
from the make-them-bouncy-and-floaty dept.
LandGator writes "PC pundit Robert X Cringely had a life before writing 'Triumph of the Nerds' for PBS: He covered the atomics industry and reported on Three Mile Island. In this blog post, he analyzes the Fukushima reactor failures, and suggests the end result will be a rapid growth in small, sealed 'package' nuclear reactors such as the Toshiba 4S generator considered for Galena, Alaska. He thinks Japan may have little choice, and with rolling blackouts scheduled, he may be right."
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Robert X Cringely Predicts More Mininuke Plants

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  • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @08:24PM (#35498620)

    I'd be fine with it. I think it's a way to go.

    But nuclear power still has the stigma of Chernobyl. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is going to scream NO at the top of their lungs and most will probably point at Japan's current situation and say "You see why it's a bad idea".

    Again, I'm all for more nuke plants. It's cleaner than coal, and going heavily into solar + wind is a pipe dream. Instead of pumping tons of crud into the air I'm fine with some barrels of toxic waste so long as they don't cut costs on the storage.

    • by AnonGCB (1398517) <7spams@nosPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @08:27PM (#35498644)

      It's funny because what is happening in Japan is exactly why Nuclear Power is SAFE!

      An earthquake 7 times more powerful than the biggest it was built for hit, and all that happened to the reactors that didn't shut down cleanly was a small amount of radioactive noble gases, which decay within minutes. Even if the cores DO melt, they're safely contained in ... wait for it... containment chambers!

      People don't realize the amount of engineering that goes into nuclear to make it safe.

      • It's funny because what is happening in Japan is exactly why Nuclear Power is SAFE!

        An earthquake 7 times more powerful than the biggest it was built for hit, and all that happened to the reactors that didn't shut down cleanly was a small amount of radioactive noble gases, which decay within minutes. Even if the cores DO melt, they're safely contained in ... wait for it... containment chambers!

        People don't realize the amount of engineering that goes into nuclear to make it safe.

        Hey, I know it. But Joe Sixpack is gonna say "But look at their problems now, I don't want that here." Bla bla bla

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Hey, I know it. But Joe Sixpack is gonna say "But look at their problems now, I don't want that here." Bla bla bla

          And that's a completely appropriate response. When weighing the pros and cons of nuclear energy, it's crucial to ask yourself if you are personally willing to live next to a nuclear dump. Otherwise you're really weighing the pros (for you) against the cons (for someone else), which is like apples and oranges.

          • by mug funky (910186)

            ask any Victorian about their willingness to live near Hazelwood (note: Moe is near there...)

          • A nuclear dump? Well I wouldn't want piles of crap sitting around in a vacant lot, but if it was miles below ground I wouldn't have a problem with it. And if I was next to a nuke plant instead of a coal plant, I'd get less radiation...

            So yeah I'd be happy to live near one. But I'm also reasonably intelligent, and understand pretty well what sort of dangers there are and how they're addressed by safety features and the design of the facility.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Darinbob (1142669)

            Are you personally willing to live next to a toxic waste dump from a coal fired plant or a petroleum refinery or even a solar panel manufacturing plant? There's this think about the word "nuclear" that makes people automatically assume the worst.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by NoSig (1919688)
            Of course we are willing to have it next door. Do you really think we are lying when we say we think it's safe, in spite of the abundant evidence rolling in from Japan right now that even ancient relic ford-T reactors are safe in the face of much more forceful attack than designed for including the most serious failure mode possible for these ancient reactors (loss of cooling). Now a coal mine, that you could not get me to live next door to.
          • No, it is NOT a completely appropriate response. Using a 45 year old Gen 1 design, that's performed admirably in this situation, is not a legitimate reason to rail against Gen 4 designs. Where's Car Analogy Guy when we need him to work something up comparing the Model T to the Tesla.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Joe Sixpack should also look at the current mess in Libya and Bahrain. Count the number of lives lost there and compare that to the number of lives lost to the reactors in Japan. How many lives have been lost in wars over oil? Tell me again which energy source is a better choice?

          At the end of the day, we can learn from what's happening in Japan and build even better reactors. What can be done about the despots ruling oil rich countries?

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:19PM (#35499004) Homepage Journal

          Hey, I know it. But Joe Sixpack is gonna say "But look at their problems now, I don't want that here."

          I know. How stupid that "Joe Sixpack" would not want what's happening at the Japanese reactors to happen here.

          Even if the cores DO melt, they're safely contained in ... wait for it... containment chamber!

          The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the primary...wait for it...containment chambers! in the No 2 Fukushima reactor has been breached. Not because of the earthquake (if I'm reading this correctly) but because of the tsunami which overwhelmed the cooling systems causing the fuel to be exposed to air, causing a hydrogen explosion. That's what caused the mini-mushroom cloud that the Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier. But that couldn't happen here because the corporations that build our nuclear plants would never cut any corners on safety because the "free market" insures that every possible safety measure has been taken.

          Personally, I'm going to wait a few months and then eat a bunch of imported Japanese pickles. Maybe I'll get superpowers.

          Seriously, I don't have much of an opinion one way or the other about nuclear power. But it bothers me when I hear proponents ridiculing "Joe Sixpack" for being a little alarmed about fuel rods exposed to the atmosphere and breaches in...wait for it...containment chambers!

          • But that couldn't happen here because the corporations that build our nuclear plants would never cut any corners on safety because the "free market" insures that every possible safety measure has been taken.

            Your sarcasm is well placed. The BWR design with a pressure-supression pool was designed so that a weaker containment system could be built as a, you guessed it, cost cutting measure. This design was been questioned in 1972 by S.H. Hanauer. [nytimes.com] Of course, because of the weaker design and the requirement for many valves and backup valves (which are notoriously unreliable), Hanauer concluded that costs are probably about the same as the safer dry containment system.

          • What I'd been reading about was damage to the buildings that keep the rain off the containment structure, not to the containment structure itself.

            Which of course may have changed by now, and the press coverage is execrable.

            Has anyone found a news source covering the incidents that even makes sense?

            • by anagama (611277)
              Edano [wikipedia.org] press conference going on right now. You can stream an english language translation of NHK from ustream.

              Some of things he's said so far:
              Radiation reached 1000 millisievert around #3 reactor for a while; all personnel were withdrawn at that time but it's lowering so they can go back in; may be a breach in #3 containment; spent fuel pool materials might reach criticality but this is not certain and probably won't happen; pouring in water can create its own risks; TEPCO is providing confusing info;
          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            Containment breach does not automatically equal massive catastrophe for miles in all directions. It's a bad deal but it's not the worst thing that has happened due to this earthquake. I know we shouldn't ridicule Joe Sixpack (he may be president someday), but the "general public" has a tendency to assume that any nuclear disaster is just like Chernobyl, and we still have members of the general public who don't see much difference between Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

          • by wagnerrp (1305589) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @10:26PM (#35499440)

            The nuclear reactors in Fukushima are boiling water reactors. It uses water for coolant, which boils as it flows through the reactor chamber, goes through a heat exchanger, and is recirculated. Since the coolant systems are not functioning properly, they are dumping saltwater into the coolant lines, letting it boil off, and vent out into the atmosphere through pressure release valves. This is releasing radiation, however it is a small amount, and containing elements with short half-lives that will decay rapidly and cease to be a danger. This has been happening for several days

            This steam release is very energetic. It is so energetic that the water is spontaneously disassociating to hydrogen and oxygen. When you get large volumes of hydrogen and oxygen, along with a high temperature source, you're going to have an explosion. There is no way around that, but it is not an indicator that the containment vessel has breached and the core is exposed.

            The reports of a breach in reactor #2 appear to be part of the coolant system. The suppression chamber has developed a crack, which lead to an uncontrolled release of coolant, as the system depressurized to atmospheric. This resulted in a large venting of radiation as it depressurized, but now, the situation is no different than at the controlled steam releases at the other reactors. The containment vessel is still intact. Corium is not flowing out of the containment vessel. There is not currently any risk of it being released and contaminating the ground water.

            • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

              Thanks for the info. This is what I just read, ""After explosions at both Units 1 and 3, the primary containment vessels of both Units are reported to be intact. However, the explosion that occurred at 04:25 UTC on 14 March at the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 may have affected the integrity of its primary containment vessel. All three explosions were due to an accumulation of hydrogen gas," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement today (March 15). "

              I guess "may have affected the integrity of

          • by NoSig (1919688)
            That was the housing outside the containment dome. That housing is not a safety feature which is the whole reason that there are not systems in place to prevent build-up of hydrogen gas outside the containment like there is inside the containment. It could have been done, it just wasn't important to do it since an explosion outside the containment is not a hazard to the reactor and it would only occur in situations such as this which exceeds what the reactor is designed to withstand. Obviously it's bad for
          • by thule (9041)
            The tsunami busted the capability to pump cooling.

            The fuel exposure is not exposure to the atmosphere, it is when the water inside the core drops below the end of the fuel rods. The water dropped below the fuel rod because they couldn't cool the core so they released the steam into the building which decreased the internal pressure. The released steam has high amounts of hydrogen that blew up when exposed to a spark (or other ignition source). As far as I know, the reactor core itself has not be breached
      • by Scareduck (177470)
        This actually doesn't seem to be the case. There are some indications of radioactive cesium and iodine [cnn.com].
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mangu (126918)

          There are some indications of radioactive cesium and iodine.

          Yeah, great. "Some indications" is evidence enough to make them want to shutdown nuclear power entirely, while overwhelming evidence for catastrophic global warming is disputed as "unconfirmed" or something like that.

          If the same criteria were used for CO2 generation as is used for nuclear power, burning fossil fuels would have been outlawed long ago.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Let's not forget things like mercury emission - we only so far managed to pollute most lakes and oceans with coal-sourced mercury. This is actually why governments say to use mercury-containing CFS (compact fluorescent lights), because they will emit less mercury via accidental breakage or dumping of them at landfill, than a regular bulb results in emissions at a coal power plant to supply it.

            We are talking tons of mercury vapors emitted every single year. Hell, I remember that most polluted areas of some c

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            If the same criteria were used for CO2 generation as is used for nuclear power, burning fossil fuels would have been outlawed long ago.

            What!? Are you telling the that CO2 is radioactive, too? Oh crap, something else for me to worry about...

      • Wow, you have a direct feed from the Crack News Network or something?

        Puzzle me this, if only radioactive noble gasses were emitted, why did the Ronald Reagan have to move even though it is miles off shore? Why was there a spike of radioactivity in Tokyo, a couple hundred miles away -- are the winds really traveling 240km per couple minutes? What about the breach in in the containment of reactor two?

        More interestingly, what about the torus half full of water under the reactor -- will the building withstand a steam explosion when the core at some thousands of degrees hits that level, breaches the container, and releases the water? That's a big question that the US Atomic Energy Commission first asked in 1972. [nytimes.com] Cited from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16contain.html [nytimes.com]
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by vakuona (788200)
          Would you really want to be the President who left his warship close to a nuclear incident and have to explain that to a hostile congress, even if nothing came of it. People don't understand nuclear power. They aren't going to understand that the ship was very safe, therefore it is political madness to leave it there.
        • by Fastolfe (1470)

          Allow me to complete some of your sentences for you:

          Puzzle me this, if only radioactive noble gasses were emitted, why did the Ronald Reagan have to move even though it is miles off shore

          "...because the only reason an aircraft carrier would move in this situation is if the radiation posed an immediate deadly risk, and not as any sort of precautionary measure."

          Why was there a spike of radioactivity in Tokyo, a couple hundred miles away -- are the winds really traveling 240km per couple minutes...

          "...because sensors for detecting radiation only detect deadly levels, and there's no way this signal means that the levels detected might be harmless."

          What about the breach in in the containment of reactor two?

          "...because everyone knows that when you put 'breach' and 'containment' in the same sentence, that means Chernobyl!"

          And since you're

      • by anagama (611277)
        And another thing -- what kind of containment is there for the spent fuel pool? You know, the one that's on fire AGAIN.
        • by Hartree (191324)

          It went out on its own.

          Better luck next time.

          • by anagama (611277)
            No one knows if it is out -- what they know is that flames aren't coming out the side of the building right now, though that has happened twice. What is clear is that there is a lot of material in the pool and if it loses its water, that material will be exposed to air. The last time officials said anything about the pool, they said water temperature was in the 80s (C) -- about double what it is supposed to be (I heard this when streaming NHK last night so I don't have a link). And of course, there is no
      • by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:19PM (#35498996)

        I'm pro-nuclear but i'm sick of this downplaying bullshit. Reactors that require actively powered safety systems ARE flawed.

        This entire crises we have had absolute dickheads claiming that the radiation levels are safe at a time when people in the immediate vicinity are being encouraged to evacuate by the authorities. There is a radiation leak. This is a fact. Up to 400mSv/h near the reactor has been confirmed (noticable radiation sickness will happen at 800 and above, but 400 is still very, very dangerous). People need to be acknowledging that fact. Much smaller than Chernobyl but there's no reason to downplay it. There are some heroes right now working in the irradiated zone trying to keep things under control. There are people in the immediate area who should leave for the next few days.

        Assholes like the guy who wrote the following "even if you were standing at the top of the cooling tower you would be fine" and "fukushima is currently safe and will stay safe" should be sent to help maintain the reactors without any protective suit. Link: http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation/ [bravenewclimate.com]

        Enough with the downplaying. The design WAS flawed. People ARE risking their lives to contain it. We should learn from this.

        • by aepervius (535155) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @03:02AM (#35500912)
          1) this was a *SPIKE* of 400 mSv, not a continuous 400 mSv/h. case in point soon afterward it descended to 12 mSv/h and now is at 0.6 mSv/h. This is what happens when you get your news from CNN. Citate : "Japanese authorities told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that radiation levels at the plant site between units 3 and 4 reached a peak of some 400 millisieverts per hour. "This is a high dose-level value," said the body, "but it is a local value at a single location and at a certain point in time." Later readings were 11.9 millisieverts per hour, followed six hours later by 0.6 millisieverts, which the IAEA said "indicate the level of radioactivity has been decreasing." "

          2) Japan *automatically* evacuate people as a precaution, not as a need ! Just like tsunami drill this is something Japan implemented to be on the SAFE side.

          3) radioactivity , a doubling of the normal background rate of Tokyo was measured. Big Fucking Deal. if an inhabitant from tokyo was moving to my region it would take *FIVE* time the background radioactivity they get now per year : about 10 millisievert. And if they were moving to those naturally radioactive hot spring in iran they would get about 80 times the dose.


          While i agree that downplaying the problem is not so good, UPPLAYING it as you made is adding to the fucking media circus fear mongering.


          It is a bad situation at the moment, but not a catastrophal one. The likely scenario at the moment, is that the fuel goes into containment, a bit of radioactivity might escape, but basically the plant will have to be written off, and the REAKL environmental catastrophe will be all the chemical from chem plants washed inshore over crop field by the tsunami, the destroyed towns, and the dead people. The reactor at the moment isn't even a BLIP compared to that.
      • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:31PM (#35499114)
        Let me preface this by saying I'm pro-nuclear.

        An earthquake 7 times more powerful than the biggest it was built for hit, and all that happened to the reactors that didn't shut down cleanly was a small amount of radioactive noble gases, which decay within minutes. Even if the cores DO melt, they're safely contained in ... wait for it... containment chambers!

        You've vastly oversimplified what's going on. First of all, it's pretty clear that the first level of containment (the zirco-alloy cladding on the fuel) has failed. There's been radioactive iodine and cesium detected outside the plant, indicating the fuel rods have at least partially melted.

        Those two can get outside the primary containment vessel because their primary cooling system is broken. Normally there are two water loops to keep the core cool. The inner water loop is a closed system which carries heat from the core to a heat exchanger. There the heat gets transferred to an outer water loop (ocean water in this case), which does the actual cooling. The inner loop water never leaves the plant, and thus not even the radioactive tritium which gets formed leaves the plant.

        When the electrical systems and backups failed, that cooling system ceased to function. The only way they have to cool the core right now is to directly vent the water surrounding the core. Vent the steam, lower the pressure, cool the core. Best case you're releasing radioactive tritium. But since the rods have melted, the water is now in direct contact with the uranium fuel and fission products. That's where the radioactive iodine and cesium come from. Iodine is gaseous (so escapes along with the venting), and cesium is water soluble.

        That's where we were at yesterday. It rated a 5 on the INES nuclear safety scale [iaea.org], which was the same as Three Mile Island. Unfortunately, today has had two very, very bad developments.

        First, there's reports that the containment vessel for reactor #2 is damaged. No confirmation and no details. For whatever reason TEPCO and the Japanese government are being tight-lipped about it. Second, apparently some of the debris broke through the wall of building 4 and exposed a huge, huge flaw in the system. They have spent fuel rods and unused fuel rods sitting in storage pools outside of containment. The only thing protecting them is the water in the pool, and the building walls surrounding them. Walls which have blown apart in buildings #1 and #3, and have holes in #2 and #4.

        Supposedly some of these spent fuel rods in building #4 caught fire (they're still experiencing nuclear decay, so still generating heat; just at a much, much slower rate than in reactors #1-#3 which were shut down recently). The water in the pool is supposed to keep them cool, but with the electricity gone, they suffered the same cooling failure as in reactors #1-#3. It just took a lot longer for the problem to exhibit itself since the amount of heat they were generating was much lower. Anyway, supposedly some of these rods caught fire, which corresponds to the sharp spike in radiation release yesterday. Those radiation readings dropped back down to "normal" again after the fire was put out.

        But if those spent fuel rods have boiled off enough water to expose them to the air, then there is nothing stopping them from heating up. They will melt, possibly catch fire, and worst case they will start fissioning again after melting into a slag at the bottom of the pool. And all of this will happen outside of containment. Basically, the situation right now is only slightly better than what we had in Chernobyl - a hot core exposed to the atmosphere with a fire. That's why the situation was upgraded to a 6 on the INES scale today.

        If the rods catch fire, it'll basically be the same as Chernobyl again. Maybe a bit smaller since the fuel isn't as hot as in

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by anagama (611277)
          It's commentators like you will move nuclear forward. The "nothing to worry about" fanbois on the other hand, are the ones who will ensure its death.

          Personally, I'm divided. I recognize that coal is terrible and disperses its own radioactive elements, but the whole atmosphere of nuclear power boosters makes me think of over-confident people with a deficit of prudence. I could get behind a system that would shut itself down rather than require active cooling, but there would have to be a whole lot of h
        • by hoeferbe (168081) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @12:24AM (#35500224)
          Solandri [slashdot.org] wrote [slashdot.org]:

          Supposedly some of these spent fuel rods in building #4 caught fire

          First off, the fuel pellets in these boiling water reactors are made of uranium dioxide [wikipedia.org] -- a ceramic which has a melting point of 2,865 degrees Celsius and the zircaloy cladding melts somewhere in the range of 1,850 to 1,975 degrees Celsius (depends on which alloy they are using). I could not even find a combustion temperature for either material. That doesn't matter, though, because the temperature of the spent fuel in the pool would be somewhere around 200 degrees Celsius, depending on how long it had been taken out of the reactor.

          So it is unreasonable to speculate that the fuel rods have `caught fire`.

          Secondly, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that an oil leak in a cooling water pump at Unit 4 was the cause of [cachefly.net] the fire the media keeps talking about.

          I would strongly suggest anybody interested in following this event watch that web page and/or this one [world-nuclear-news.org] for accurate, knowledgeable, non-scaremongering reporting. I've heard too many news reports totally screw the facts up. (Like when they reported there was a 3rd explosion when really it was the 2nd explosion that happened in the #3 reactor building.)

      • by evilad (87480)

        A "minor" release (and don't state it like it's a fact just yet) from an earthquake more powerful than design criteria does not make me think "Nuclear Power is Safe" nor even "Nuclear Power is Unsafe." It makes me question the design assumptions. Never mind what was known at the time. With benefit of hindsight, the design assumptions were clearly wrong.

        So. Given what we know now, is it a correct assumption to pay the extra required, such that at-risk plants be designed to tolerate common-cause failures

      • No kidding. 53 Reactors are hit with something people writing the disaster policy probably didn't even dream of. A handful of them are having issues. The survival rate on the sites was probably a near 100%. A lot of places didn't even fair close to that. I would wait though about arguing how bad the situation is though. The record will be set straight eventually and the situation analyzed in great detail. What the news is doing right now is terrible. They are reporting what ever they can get their hot littl
      • I just have to thank you for posting this because I was seriously starting to doubt there was anyone with common sense left in the world. I've been the sole person in my social circles calming everyone down and reassuring them that Japan isn't about to fall into a nuclear holocaust that will be picked up by the wind and spread cancer to every corner of the earth. Officials in Europe have been calling it a nuclear APOCALYPSE. Seriously... apocalypses? For fucks sake... anyway, thank you for restoring my fait
    • Agreed... if you looked at the people inside the Fukushima plant, which was swept by the tsunami; verses people outside the Fukushima plant who're also swept by the tsunami - those inside of the nuclear plant are actually MUCH MORE likely to make it out alive. And that's a 40-year-old plant not designed to handle earthquakes and tsunamis at the same time. That's actually quite amazingly robust.
  • I used to think that to, but if his track record is any indicator, it means I'm wrong.

  • by Zurk (37028) <zurktech@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @08:30PM (#35498658) Journal

    the toshiba 4S is a sodium metal reactor. take that and shove it 30m underground to produce 10MW of power. awesome.
    until you factor in the earthquake and tsunami.
    water + sodium = BIG BOOM.
    and the fact that regulatory approvals take a shitload of time for EACH reactor.
    and you need 1200 of them to even come close to meeting demand.
    and 1200 x 100s of days of regulatory paperwork is much more than 2-4 conventional plants with 100s of days of paperwork each.
    not to mention environmental impact assessments at EACH SITE for EACH of those 1200 reactors.

    the toshiba design needs to use lead and be rebuilt. the legal process needs to change which will take longer than it takes to build conventional plants. in short... NO.

    • by confused one (671304) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:24PM (#35499058)

      until you factor in the earthquake and tsunami. water + sodium = BIG BOOM.

      You fail sir. The 4S reactor is placed 30m underground in a concrete and steel containment vessel. The sodium is encased inside the reactor and cannot come into contact with anything outside the vessel. It's a sealed unit. There is a transfer loop that you pump water in and get steam out. The earthquake would shake it. The tsunami would damage the above ground equipment. And the reactor would be fine, sitting in its containment. I believe (and I'd have to go look to be sure) the Toshiba 4S uses a neutron reflector ring that's coupled with fusible links to the control rods. If it overheats the links melt, the reflector drops to the bottom of the vessel, and the reaction stops. Of course, now you're sitting on a dead reactor that you'd have to send back to Toshiba for refurbishment. Yes, the thing is designed (in principle) to be recycled and refueled at a Toshiba factory.

      • by anagama (611277)

        The sodium is encased inside the reactor and cannot come into contact with anything outside the vessel.

        You fail sir. Nothing can be sealed forever, and it is highly improbable that something would remain sealed for a mere 1000 years.

      • by UnHolier than ever (803328) <unholy_@hot m a i l . c om> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @04:28AM (#35501148)

        You fail sir. The 4S reactor is placed 30m underground in a concrete and steel containment vessel. The sodium is encased inside the reactor and cannot come into contact with anything outside the vessel. It's a sealed unit.

        Only until there is an earthquake strong enough to unseal it. The current reactor was also placed within a concrete and steel reinforcement vessel....

  • Just over the hill from the Silly Valley is the beach community of Santa Cruz, I used to live in. It will never happen there. They have a big sign on the roads stating "Nuclear Free Zone". You can get a lot of pot there, however.
    • We have a church near where I work that has a prominent nuclear free zone sign on it.

      I wonder what they're going to do about the uranium in the granitic rock that some of it is made of.

      But, in any case, I'm sure the sign will make a lot of difference. If someone explodes a nuclear weapon, they'll be sure to do it across the street where there isn't any sign.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      They have a big sign on the roads stating "Nuclear Free Zone".

      Phew! I'll be sure to head down to Santa Cruz to keep safe from any fallout, then.

  • Priorities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @08:31PM (#35498668)

    Thousands died from the quake, and all they are writing about is what's happening in those reactors.

    Every summer more people die of heat stroke than have died from ALL NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS COMBINED since the nuclear industry began.

    With all this melodrama, priorities will be shifted in the public's minds. They will believe that reducing the, so far inexistent, deaths from the Fukushima reactors is more important than reducing the emission of greenhouse effect gases.

    • by LoudMusic (199347)

      People were dieing from heat stroke long before greenhouse effect gases came along.

    • by bug1 (96678)

      In fifty thousand years (or whatever) when the nuclear waste is no longer dangerous, then a reasonable comparison could be made between nuclear accidents and other types of deaths.

      Until nuclear industry is capable of planning thousands of years into the future, it cannot make rational statements about the safety of the industry.

      On top of that, how can an industry plan ahead that far, when it has trouble seeing past its next quarterly results report.

      Nuclear power just isnt suited to our society

      • by Solandri (704621)

        In fifty thousand years (or whatever) when the nuclear waste is no longer dangerous, then a reasonable comparison could be made between nuclear accidents and other types of deaths.

        That the spent fuel is "hot" for tens of thousands of years is a purely political problem, not a technical one. The obvious technical solution is to reprocess the spent fuel. That will turn it into more fuel, as well as reduce the time the final waste products are dangerous to a hundred years or so. The reason we don't reproce

    • Re:Priorities (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:33PM (#35499132)

      The quake is done, people are already dead. Reactors are still having problems and hence are news.

      A quake and tsunami is a purely natural disaster. Nuclear reactors having issues, being man made, can be blamed on people and people's decisions. That makes it news. You know like how a murder is news but someone dieing of old age is not. The story that involves people being bad will win over the story involving nature every time (look at Katrina in the US, the story was mostly about all the human errors and stupidity not that nature made a storm.

      And this sets nuclear back just like TMI did. That's how human's work. Just like every year more people die in car accidents than by terrorist attacks, but guess which one people worry about most. Parents worry about strangers abducting the kid more than crashing the car on the way to soccer practice. "The Science of Fear" has huge numbers of examples.

      There haven't been any direct deaths from the emission of greenhouse gases either, so how is that any different?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Every summer more people die of heat stroke than have died from ALL NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS COMBINED since the nuclear industry began.

      That's a silly comparison. How many people died the last time the hydroelectric plant ran low on water? Your comparison yields no comparative advantage for any generating technology.

      Yeah melodrama. Because the people that do die, die horribly, and large swaths of land become uninhabitable for decades.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam [wikipedia.org]

        "The Dam was designed to survive a 1-in-1,000-year flood (300 mm of rainfall per day). In August 1975, however, a 1-in-2,000 year flood occurred."

        "According to the Hydrology Department of Henan Province,[5] in the province, approximately 26,000 people died from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine. In addition, about 5,960,000 buildings collapsed, and 11 million residents were affected."

        This one incident completly overwhelms all nuc

    • by surfcow (169572)

      Some people might argue that the Japanese in particular take a somewhat different view of radiation poisoning.

      Just a thought.

  • He's right of course, as usual. After the Fukushima Daiichi event, everyone will want one in their neighborhood.
  • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @08:52PM (#35498790)
    TFA

    These Japanese reactors are old and fairly well understood while Chernobyl was brand new. These Japanese reactors had already been in service for 16 years when Chernobyl melted down. In comparative terms there is no comparison — Chernobyl was vastly worse.

    My reading: older, better known reactor designs are safer.

    If I were to predict a clear winner in Japan’s new nuclear future it would be Toshiba with its innovative 4S (Super Safe Small and Simple) reactors.

    My reading: the solution for Japan is to use a new reactor design.

    My mind started to melt down, time for a cold ale to arrest the chain reaction in reaching the level of critical... well... thinking.

    • by mangu (126918) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:02PM (#35498846)

      My reading: older, better known reactor designs are safer.

      My reading: reactors built by capitalist corporations who face massive financial loss when something goes wrong are safer than reactors built by communist dictatorships to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

      • by c0lo (1497653)
        Assuming that I accept your reading as the intended meaning, here comes another (milder) dissonance:
        1. GM-built reactors are better
        2. ... therefore Japan should go with Toshiba's reactors.

        ;) Stop it already, otherwise I'll bill you for the cost of extra ale ;)

      • by Nick Ives (317) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:15PM (#35498946)

        The only loss experienced by corporations will be lost opportunities. If you actually bother to look at how the nuclear industry is subsidised, you'll see that in every country the risk is underwritten by the state. In the event of a massive catastrophe, all the company loses is the capital invested in the plant, the state is left cleaning up for potentially hundreds of years.

        There's no way you could make nuclear power companies liable for the cost of cleanup in the event of catastrophic meltdown. That would require them to put extraordinary amounts of capital into escrow - hundreds if not thousands of times the cost of the plant - and would mean nuclear power would become economically unviable. Even if you mandated insurance, who would underwrite it? The payout in the event of a serious meltdown would cause a meltdown in the insurance sector and.

        Financial service companies were dumb enough to play hot potato with sub-prime mortgages, but even they're not dumb enough to underwrite the risk of nuclear power.

        • Most (all?) civilian nuclear power produces plutonium that ends up in nuclear weapons. That's not just something dictatorships get up to.

      • by Kaenneth (82978)

        But only if those Corporations, and their officers in criminal cases, are actually able to be held accountable; not 'too big to fail'... But in the case of an incident, the politicials would be glad to have a scapegoat.
        Nuclear energy can be safer, cleaner, and all around better than other sources... But then I think about them being run by humans....
        Both Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were caused, or at least made much worse by human operator/manager error. The longer a human controlled system runs the gre

      • by owlstead (636356)

        Yeah, like all those fat cats at the banks - I've heard they are all chewing straw now. Flawed reasoning; it may be disadvantageous to the company, but the short term gains are more important to many people. Just like the fact that keeping those things open is way more advantageous than closing them down at huge cost.

    • by Dan East (318230)

      Exactly. At least with the current reactors engineers know exactly what happens when they are subjected to a massive earthquake and tsunami. They know what works and what doesn't. Existing reactors can be upgraded, protocols and operating procedures refined, etc, to avoid the problems that occurred in Japan.

      Personally I think the weakness is regardless of the amount of redundancy and backup systems, they are all physically and geographically together. Thus whatever external event damaged the primary syst

    • by perpenso (1613749)

      These Japanese reactors are old and fairly well understood while Chernobyl was brand new. These Japanese reactors had already been in service for 16 years when Chernobyl melted down. In comparative terms there is no comparison — Chernobyl was vastly worse.

      My reading: older, better known reactor designs are safer.

      I think you also need to consider the cold war era Soviet system that designed and built Chernobyl. Public safety may have been a secondary consideration to the state's immediate need for electrical power. If the Russian scientists and engineers had worked in a system comparable to the one that the Japanese scientists and engineers had worked in then I expect that we would never have heard of Chernobyl and it would still be generating power today.

    • by mirix (1649853)

      TFA

      These Japanese reactors are old and fairly well understood while Chernobyl was brand new. These Japanese reactors had already been in service for 16 years when Chernobyl melted down. In comparative terms there is no comparison — Chernobyl was vastly worse.

      My reading: older, better known reactor designs are safer.

      I think I put this in another thread the other day. The Chernobyl reactor, the exact same model was first constructed at Leningrad NPP, 1970. So.. RBMK had been running a similar amount of time when the disaster occurred. Not to mention that the soviets were piddling with graphite moderated reactors since the 50s, indeed their first "peaceful" reactor used the same system.

      For as much hate as RBMK gets, it's sort of brilliant, but not without flaws of course. As long as you don't go disabling all the safeti

  • Which Cringley?... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by msauve (701917)
    The pseudonymous one, or Mark Stephens, who absconded with the name from Infoworld? The latter has no credibility.

    Michael Swaine, an early Infoworld columnist, was better than any of them.
  • by clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:37PM (#35499148)
    Just in case ... what minearl would you want to have in plentiful supply near your new nuclear reactor? How about galena [wikipedia.org]. The raw mineral form of LEAD should absorb a few screaming subatomic particles. I think Galena, Alaska is a terrific place for this project.
  • by beaker8000 (1815376) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:46PM (#35499202)

    The Toshiba 4S is a reactor with a 10 MW capacity. The peak summer load in New England is 28,130 MW (see link below). So you would need 2,813 of these reactors. Get 50% of New England's power from nukes and thats still 1406.5. Whats the cost to protect them by the way?

    Sure, its the next best thing for Galena Alaska. For national energy policy, this is completely irrelevant.

    http://www.ferc.gov/market-oversight/mkt-electric/new-england.asp#gen [ferc.gov]

  • Those mini reactors sound like a great idea. Bury some of those around here. I'm in.
  • by prefec2 (875483) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @05:09AM (#35501290)

    I do not know how people think in the US, but in many European countries the idea of nuclear plants even small ones or special sealed ones has not many friends. We have a dense population structure and therefor such things would be even closer to populated areas.With more of these things more can fail and even if their impact is smaller than that of failing reactors, they still can fail. If there is a worst case scenario with a broken containment which does harm to the environment we do not want it. As it has been shown that those things happen.

    As population in many European states does not like nuclear power, nuclear power will not be used for more than 50 years.
       

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