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Earth Japan

Robert X Cringely Predicts More Mininuke Plants 430

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 AnonGCB ( 1398517 ) <> 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.

  • by Zurk ( 37028 ) <zurktech AT gmail DOT 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.

  • 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. [] Cited from: []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:21PM (#35499018)

    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 countries have mercury index for outside air!!! I'd take nuclear with its problems over inability to breathe and guaranteed early death. Cleanest air in Europe is in France for a reason. China, of course, will be building their 160 nuclear power plants, maybe more. 100+ will be passively safe and many orders of magnitude safer than current designs in operation around western world. It is up to the western world if they want safe, secure energy, or rely on the Saudi prince to be kind enough to sell them some.

    And of course you are correct w.r.t. CO2 and global meltdown. CO2 is resulting in a meltdown that will affect generations and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people. Some of us are just too narrow minded to see it.

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

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:22PM (#35499036)
    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 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 [], 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

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