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Japan Earth

Further Updates On Post-Tsumami Japan 369

Posted by timothy
from the virgin-mobile-was-evidently-affected-too dept.
DarkStarZumaBeach points out a frequently updated page from the International Atomic Energy Agency with updates on the situation at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, which reports in terse but readable form details of the dangers and progress there. The most recent update says that the plant's Unit 2 has been re-wired for power, and engineers 'plan to reconnect power to unit 2 once the spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building is completed.' Read on for more on the tsunami aftermath.
Reader srwellman writes "A large plume of radioactive smoke is heading from Japan to the West Coast of the US. Officials claim the plume is not dangerous."

dooms13 suggests (by way of The Register) that the disaster in Fukushima is nonetheless a demonstrated triumph for nuclear safety: "If nuclear powerplants were merely as safe as they are advertised to be, there should have been a major failure right then. As the hot cores ceased to be cooled by the water which is used to extract power from them, control rods would have remained withdrawn and a runaway chain reaction could have ensued – probably resulting in the worst thing that can happen to a properly designed nuclear reactor: a core meltdown in which the superhot fuel rods actually melt and slag down the whole core into a blob of molten metal. In this case the only thing to do is seal up the containment and wait: no radiation disaster will take place, but the reactor is a total writeoff and cooling the core off will be difficult and take a long time. Eventual cleanup will be protracted and expensive."

Something to contemplate while the rescue effort continues: imscarr writes "The coastline of Japan has drastically changed since the earthquake & tsunami. New bays have formed and many areas are completely flooded. These interactive before-and-after images show you the magnitude of devastation. Other photos here."

Adds reader madcarrots: "The Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB), a unit of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), directed by Professor Michel Andre, has recorded the sound of the earthquake that shook Japan on Friday, March 11. The recording, now available online, was provided by a network of underwater observatories belonging to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and located on either side of the earthquake epicenter, close to the Japanese island of Hatsushima."
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Further Updates On Post-Tsumami Japan

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  • by vbraga (228124) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @04:11PM (#35521526) Journal

    Do you think a 30 meters wall is able to survive the impact of a 30 meters tsunami wave? You know fucking nothing.

  • by gamanimatron (1327245) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @04:19PM (#35521648) Journal
    They've learned that fear can be converted directly into money, by way of voters. Who do you think is going to be selling you that coal?
  • by Dan667 (564390) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @04:27PM (#35521794)
    people have short memories, BP just got through destroying much of the Gulf of Mexico with IMHO a much worse Oil Disaster.
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @04:34PM (#35521910)

    I know enough not to build a nuclear plant on a tsunami prone coast that can't be protected by walls.

    If only you were there 40 years ago when this reactor was installed to warn them of the dangers... maybe you could have told them to use a more modern design that doesn't require active cooling to remain safe. Maybe you already have a map showing them exactly where to site the reactors? Or do you have a viable alternative to nuclear in your back pocket?

    Lots of people can use hindsight to show exactly what went wrong in *this* particular incident, but who can tell where the next natural disaster will strike and how it will manifest itself? Did you already tell California to shut down its two coastal nukes? And it's not like nukes are the only power generating hazard out there - TVA was lucky that the billions of gallons of fly ash discharge didn't kill anyone.

    USA officials seem to have a lot of criticism for the Japanese and how they handled this incident, but truth be told, this reactor survived a quake 30 times larger than it was designed for and so far hasn't spun out of control into a large scale disaster. If they hadn't lost power it's likely that this would have been a very minor incident. If the USA wants to criticize, then they need look no further than their own backyard. In California their 2 coastal nuclear plants are designed for a 7.0 or 7.5 earthquake but there's a very good chance that California will have a larger quake in the next 30 years. Oh, and at one of them, they installed the seismic reinforcements backwards [wikipedia.org] and at the other, the entire reactor was installed backwards [wikipedia.org]. Oops.

  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @04:38PM (#35521966) Homepage
    Because it is the worst kind of bullshit scaremongering to report "Radioactive plume crossing towards USA" when the story is "Agency draws up probable route potential radioactive plume would take", in the same way it would be to report "Response plan drawn up to potential terrorist bombing" as "Terrorist bombing".
  • by d3xt3r (527989) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @04:46PM (#35522080)

    A lot of comments here seem to focus on what could have been done differently. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20. That being said, I have a question that I haven't seen asked or answered yet. Why are the spent fuel rods stored in the same buildings as the reactors?

    In the event of losing power, not only do the active rods need to be dealt with, but the spent rods have to be monitored and maintained in the same facility. Wouldn't transporting the spent rods to a less densely populated area that was specifically designed to handle their storage make more sense? It seems that the problems right now getting the reactors under control is being hampered by the severe risks of those containment pools for the spent rods draining.

  • by Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:06PM (#35522430)

    Yes, MIT, which brought us the widely quoted "why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors" blog post early on. What's that? You can't find "why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors?" Oh, it seems mitnse.com has taken that highly rosy, bright and shiny optimistic tract down. Probably because the disaster that it dismissed has slowly happened. You can read that original post with a little googling. Pay close attention to the "worst-case-scenario" at the end.
    Forgive me if I don't automatically accept the rosy outlook of people who are going to college to build and run nuclear plants.

    Has there been breathless overreaction? Absolutely! I still hear crap on the news that makes me facepalm. But at the same time, TEPCO has consistently downplayed the real situation. other actual experts are considerably more worried about the ability of TEPCO to get a handle on this.

  • by compro01 (777531) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:12PM (#35522522)

    Fly it in using what exactly? A pumper truck weighs in at 20+ tonnes. There's no helicopter that will lift that much. Not the Tarhe (9T), not the Chinook (12.7T), not even the Super Stallion (14.5T).

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:29PM (#35522738) Homepage Journal

    Cutting corners to up profits isn't really a big part of Japanese culture

    But it's not "Japanese culture" that's building the nuclear plants. It's corporate culture. And "cutting corners" is part of the corporate DNA. They can't help themselves.

    it held up quite well

    The people who are getting off planes from Japan in Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago's O'Hare airport and setting off the radiation detectors might disagree.

    There are those who have decided that nothing will change their minds about nuclear energy. Everything will be taken as evidence of their point of view. You don't want those people making decisions.

    I'm agnostic about nuclear energy. I think it's a necessary, if transitional energy source that should be used. But under no circumstances should private industry be in charge. Energy is just too important for the private sector to run.

  • by maxume (22995) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @05:37PM (#35522882)

    Fukushima 1 reactor 3 was running on fuel that was reprocessed in France.

  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @06:05PM (#35523282) Homepage

    How exactly do you think this failure mode is a desirable one? There are spent fuel ponds containing more fuel than in the core itself which are in various states of overheating, half of the buildings have been gutted of sensors, pumps, cranes, etc by hydrogen explosions, the core is cracked on the #2, god only knows what's happening in the common fuel pool, the radiation level has been high enough to drive away *helicopters flying high overhead* some days, etc. You call that "reasonably safe"? God forbid we get a recriticality in a spent fuel pool. The explosions left half of them sitting exposed to the air and full of debris.

    This is an INES level 6 disaster, same as the Kyshtym disaster [wikipedia.org] that caused the Soviets to quietly have to remove 30 towns from their maps. The US has ordered a 50 mile exclusion zone for Americans around Fukushima Daiichi -- and the disaster is still unfolding. For comparison, it's under 40 miles from the reactors of Indian Point to Times Square, and far less to the outer reaches of NYC.

    And, FYI, you're applying an observation bias to your "wrong thing at every decision point" argument. if they had done the right thing, you wouldn't have heard about it. There are nuclear accidents all the time. Nearly every reactor has had accidents of varying severity. Only the bigger ones (generally INES-5 and above) make the news. Naturally those are going to be the ones where more than one thing went wrong. And, FYI, both in Chernobyl and TMI, there were many *right* decisions made also. They simply didn't outweigh all of the wrong decisions. And many "wrong decisions" occur during the engineering stage, not the operation stage, but aren't known about until they reveal themselves many years later.

  • Your entire spiel on Banqiao is an elaborate straw man. China has been subject to catastrophic floods for millennia. It has a lot to do with geography, but basically China is flat as a pancake and its major rivers have enormous watersheds. The dam is only part of the problem.

    Meanwhile. devastating as the floods were, the waters receeded(Floods do not make regions uninhabitable). The dam was rebuilt and people's homes can also be rebuilt. Chernobyl on the other hand is a write off for up to 100 years. The Fukushima plant disaster now risks making a 30km radius semicircle of land uninhabitable for decades in one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

    Only nuclear power can inflict that kind of long term, irrecoverable damage in the event of an accident; Can and has, on more than one occasion.

    Would you build one of these plants within 30km of a major city like Tokyo, London or New York? Will you take the risk that the plant will operate smoothly and without incident for 100 years? Will you take the risk with 100-200 such plants near major cities worldwide? Are you prepared to write off one major metropolitan area every thirty years or so?

    I'm not.

    Nuclear energy lost its gloss for me after this incident. Nuclear engineers and particularly private companies cannot be relied upon to keep hot rods cool in an emergency. When the chips are down, they are too likely to fail, and the potential long term damage is simply too much to risk.

  • by LetterRip (30937) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @08:27PM (#35524630)

    Yes, MIT, which brought us the widely quoted "why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors" blog post early on. What's that? You can't find "why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors?" Oh, it seems mitnse.com has taken that highly rosy, bright and shiny optimistic tract down.

    You mean this post?

    http://mitnse.com/2011/03/13/modified-version-of-original-post/ [mitnse.com]

    Still seems to be there. (The original was posted at the blog mortagesatlarge since it was an email to freinds and family - it moved to the MIT blog since the original author found ou it had been publically posted, and asked them to check it for accuracy and if they would be willing to host it)

    Probably because the disaster that it dismissed has slowly happened. You can read that original post with a little googling. Pay close attention to the "worst-case-scenario" at the end.

    I've read it, the worst case scenario was with respect to the reactors. The problems we are seeing, which was not discussed in the original post (and at the time of the articles writing were not known to be an issue), are with the cooling beds for spent fuel, not the reactors.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday March 17, 2011 @10:16PM (#35525474)

    Meanwhile. devastating as the floods were, the waters receeded(Floods do not make regions uninhabitable).

    Floods don't. Hydroelectric dams do [wikipedia.org]. In fact, quite a few more people are relocated for dams [nationalgeographic.com] than from Chernobyl.

    Would you build one of these plants within 30km of a major city like Tokyo, London or New York?

    No. But neither would I build a large hydroelectric dam upriver from them. Nor a coal plant upwind from them. All of these plants are very safe, but there's no sense taking that risk if there's lots of open space in a relatively uninhabited area where you can put the plant.

    Are you prepared to write off one major metropolitan area every thirty years or so?

    We already do far more than that. Coal plant emissions are estimated to kill about 1 million people each year worldwide. Yeah all those deaths are distributed around the world. But 30 million deaths every 30 years would easily exceeds a major metropolitan area.

    Your entire spiel on Banqiao is an elaborate straw man. China has been subject to catastrophic floods for millennia. It has a lot to do with geography, but basically China is flat as a pancake and its major rivers have enormous watersheds. The dam is only part of the problem.

    I wanted to address this last because you're introducing another variable (a good one) into the comparison. Mainly, the presence of the hydroelectric dams cannot be compared against a vacuum where nobody dies. If the dams were not there, those regions of China would experience more annual flooding. Sure, the Banqiao dam failure resulted in a huge number of deaths that fateful day, but we have to also take into account the number of lives saved by the presence of those dams in other years.

    The net effect could be that having the dam actually resulted in a net savings of life. If flooding normally caused 8000 deaths in the region per year, and the dams stopped that for 24 years, then it saved a total of 192,000 lives. 171,000 lives were lost when the Banqiao dam burst. So over those 24 years, there would've actually been a net benefit of 21,000 lives saved.

    But if you do that for hydro, you also have to do it for nuclear. You can't compare nuclear power to a vacuum where nobody dies. If nuclear power plants didn't exist, the need for the power they generate would still be there. Something else would have to provide that power. The most likely candidate is coal plants. Both are the constantly on type of power generation referred to as base load (oil, gas, and hydro plants are usually used to adjust for variability in demand, solar and wind provide a negligible contribution to power generation). So if our currently existing nuclear plants had never been built, we'd most likely be using coal plants in their place.

    Statistically, coal plants cause about 161 deaths per TWh of power generated. Worldwide, nuclear power generates about 2500 TWh per year [world-nuclear-news.org]. Its average fatality rate has bee 0.04 deaths per TWh. So if all our nuclear plants had never been built, and were coal plants instead, we'd be looking at (161-0.04)*2500 = 402,400 more deaths per year from the additional coal mining and pollution.

    In other words, if we analyze safety the way you're proposing, nuclear power saves 400,000 lives each year.

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