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TEPCO: Nearly All Nuclear Fuel Melted At Fukushima No. 3 Reactor

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the bit-warm-in-here dept.

Japan 255

mdsolar (1045926) writes "Almost all of the nuclear fuel in the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant melted within days of the March 11, 2011, disaster, according to a new estimate by Tokyo Electric Power Co. TEPCO originally estimated that about 60 percent of the nuclear fuel melted at the reactor. But the latest estimate released on Aug. 6 revealed that the fuel started to melt about six hours earlier than previously thought. TEPCO said most of the melted fuel likely dropped to the bottom of the containment unit from the pressure vessel after the disaster set off by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami."

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So.. what? (5, Insightful)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625551)

This article really doesn't explain why this finding matters. TEPCO themselves said they do not know how this will effect the decommissioning process for the reactor, if at all. The only thing that seems to be different is that they now believe some of the fuel is still inside the pressure vessel, and it's not clear that they didn't already know that to begin with. It doesn't seem like anything will really change until TEPCO actually sends people in to get a look at it.

Re:So.. what? (2, Interesting)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625569)

I see this as qualified good news. A power plant had a total meltdown but the world didn't end. There was no China syndrome situation. Maybe we can start to talk about nuclear risk more pragmatically.

Re:So.. what? (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625605)

Maybe we can start to talk about nuclear risk more pragmatically.

Ha. Hahaha. Ha.

Yeah. Also, maybe we can go down to hell and make some snow angels. Then get on our swines and fly off to a peaceful middle east.

Re:So.. what? (2)

confused one (671304) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626519)

My version of Hell... would be cold. I'd expect ice and snow.

Re:So.. what? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626839)

Well, yeah, that describes the lowest level of Dante's hell...

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625629)

Maybe we should also talk about the costs then? Nuclear is EXPENSIVE.

Re:So.. what? (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625661)

eh. [wikipedia.org]

Any difference looks a lot smaller than the markup I've ended up paying for things like going through an energy co-op instead of straight from the generating company.

Re:So.. what? (4, Insightful)

Wycliffe (116160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625777)

eh. [wikipedia.org]

Any difference looks a lot smaller than the markup I've ended up paying for things like going through an energy co-op instead of straight from the generating company.

Those numbers are almost meaningless. The nuclear numbers for the most part don't include the cost of cleanup operations
like what happened in Japan or Chernobyl. They might include a little bit paid to the government for disaster recovery but that
would quickly get used up in a real disaster. Likewise coal doesn't include environmental damage and oil doesn't include all the
military needed to keep oil stable. Even solar and wind have some negative affects. We do need to talk about cost but we
need to talk about ALL the costs not just the operating costs but all the externalized costs as well.

Re:So.. what? (2)

beltsbear (2489652) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626209)

Unfortunately the price of Coal fired power is meaningless for the same reasons. The price of the cleanup of the pollution is not included. Even natural gas powered plants produce enough CO2 to warrant a cleanup cost. Sure, the cleanup is nowhere near the plant, and it might not be now (like nuclear) but in the end someone will pay.

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626229)

Even solar and wind have some negative affects.

Negative affects? Oh, you mean solar and wind are moody and refuse to work sometimes.

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626401)

Negative affects? Oh, you mean solar and wind are moody and refuse to work sometimes.

Solar doesn't work half the time. Wind rarely gets above a small fraction of the theoretical power, because the wind is too fast or too slow. Wind massacres flying wildlife. Both take up huge amounts of land and look ugly.

Re:So.. what? (1)

DeathElk (883654) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626813)

Re:So.. what? (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626307)

We do need to talk about cost but we
need to talk about ALL the costs not just the operating costs but all the externalized costs as well.

We don't need to talk about costs at all. Costs are measured in the monopoly money we call "currency", and subject as they are to the vagaries and panics of the financial classes, are not an indicator or metric which we should rely on when planning our energy policies.

We need to talk about watts, mega-watt hours, materials, hours of labour, and disposal of waste. We need to talk about physical things, things we know, understand, and can do in the physical world. Not about intellectual casino chips which are magicked in and out of existence like pixels in a video game.

Energy policy is a long game that humanity is playing with the forces of the natural world. Our (dysfunctional) systems of money are about as relevant as our spoken languages in this debate.

Re:So.. what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626903)

So, if we don't use currency in your magic world, what common denominator do we use to compare things that are not the same... such as the environmental costs of using coal versus the labor cost of decommissioning a power plant?

Yeah, we get it. Money is the root of all evil, controlled by evil elites, yada-yada-yada. But until you come up with a better abstraction layer for value just stay out of it.

Re:So.. what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626427)

Those numbers are almost meaningless. The nuclear numbers for the most part don't include the cost of cleanup operations like what happened in Japan or Chernobyl. They might include a little bit paid to the government for disaster recovery but that would quickly get used up in a real disaster. Likewise coal doesn't include environmental damage and oil doesn't include all the military needed to keep oil stable.

So what you are saying is nuclear is even cheaper, but that externalities are just paid for more immediately than for fossil fuels? Is that it? Or maybe you don't like paying for mistakes immediately and have your grandkids pay for it instead?

Compared to coal, nuclear seems far safer option. The worse possible accidents with nuclear seem to only affect local areas, whereas business-as-usual operation of coal, gas and oil operations seem to cause global issues. Even discounting the multitrillion dollar Global Warming issue, how much compensation can I get for not being able to safely eat fish out of any lakes in continental US?

http://www.epa.gov/hg/advisori... [epa.gov]

Oh right ... who eats fish anyway.

Re:So.. what? (3, Funny)

bidule (173941) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626673)

Even solar and wind have some negative affects.

Do not anthropomorphize power generators. They don't like it.

Re:So.. what? (1)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626789)

The total amount of radioactive material put out by a coal power plant is actually larger, per unit of energy produced, than a nuclear power plant. And in a nuclear plant, the radioactivity is confined; even disasters like what happened at Fukushima-Daichi only release a relatively small amount of nuclear material into the environment. Whereas in coal the radioactivity is open to the environment. That's not to mention all the heavy metals that coal produces. Enjoy the mercury in your tuna, courtesy of china's booming economy.

Re:So.. what? (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626909)

The total amount of radioactive material put out by a coal power plant is actually larger, per unit of energy produced, than a nuclear power plant.

No it isn't. The claim that it does can be traced to a single paper written in 1978 by a scientist at Oak Ridge National Lab. The paper only considered nuclear plants during normal operation. Yet more than 98% of radiation from nukes is released during accidents, which the paper ignores. The paper also ignores the biological characteristics of the radiation. Nukes emit radioactive cesium, iodine, and strontium, which tend to bio-accumulate. Nearly all the radiation in coal is thorium, which has no biological role, and just remains inert in the ash.

There are plenty of good reasons to oppose coal. But "radiation" isn't one of them.

Re:So.. what? (2, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626235)

Maybe we should also talk about the costs then? Nuclear is EXPENSIVE.

No. Nuclear is an economy on a different scale than than non-renewables.
It costs more going in, but you get more coming out.

If we could just stop the unwarranted fear of the technology from dictating public policy, it'd be even more economical.

Re:So.. what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626277)

No, I'm not sure if we're frightened enough. I think if you polled most american's right now, The number one fear would be gluten, followed by vaccines.

Re:So.. what? (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626477)

in USA there was an uptick in something called a Lebron. I haven't figured out what it was, and frankly since the world didn't melt down, I figure it was irrelephant.

Re:So.. what? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626907)

No, I'm not sure if we're frightened enough. I think if you polled most american's right now, The number one fear would be gluten, followed by vaccines.

Actually, right now you need to put Ebola on the top of the list, but that's just for the next few days. Once the media stops covering it, your list is about correct.

Re:So.. what? (1)

mspohr (589790) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626697)

Nuclear is dying because it is just too expensive... not from FUD. Even if there was no opposition from environmentalists or fear in the general population, people wouldn't invest in nuclear power.
New nuclear plants cost about $10,000 / kw and their appears to be a negative learning curve so they get more expensive over time.
Solar and wind plants cost less than half that and are getting much cheaper very quickly... plus free "fuel" for the life of the plant and minimal decommissioning costs.
Add in nuclear fuel costs and decommissioning costs and the occasional $500 billion disaster (covered by federal insurance - ie. taxpayers) and nuclear is just too expensive.

Re:So.. what? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626895)

Maybe we should also talk about the costs then? Nuclear is EXPENSIVE.

Compared to natural gas? You got that right. At least for all the really old nuclear plants here in the US of A, which is why they are starting to shut them down

Re:So.. what? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625839)

I see this as qualified good news. A power plant had a total meltdown but the world didn't end. There was no China syndrome situation. Maybe we can start to talk about nuclear risk more pragmatically.

Can we start by discussing the wisdom of building them near the coast in earthquake prone areas known to suffer regular and massive tsunami disasters?

Re:So.. what? (2, Interesting)

Chas (5144) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626253)

As soon as we can discuss TEPCO being idiots for ignoring their engineers and not building the infrastructure as required.

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626769)

You mean US engineers and GE building a known bad design?

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625995)

China syndrome?
In this situation that would be a Falkland Syndrome, close enough: http://www.antipodr.com/ [antipodr.com]

Re:So.. what? (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626495)

I think that's the syndrome where all of USA imports contain lead or other toxic chemicals.

In other random thoughts, this would a great way for Japan to get rid of their waste.... just export it super cheat to USA in all their products. Maybe in that generations PlayStation and call it the PS-235.

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626245)

yep.

"Safety System Worked As Designed.

Nucleophobes Outraged Over Lack Of Outrage" isn't a headline we'll see, however

Re:So.. what? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626419)

I see this as qualified good news. A power plant had a total meltdown but the world didn't end.

"The situation is far worse then we thought, but is didn't cause an apocalypse. Good news!" Riiiiight.

Maybe we can start to talk about nuclear risk more pragmatically.

Sure. The risk of fusion-as-we-know-it, including the unsolved problems of radioactive waste and weapons proliferation, are so high that, pragmatically, any sane society should abandon it as a dead end and put resources into renewables (including perhaps orbital photovoltaic), efficiency, and research into fusion and accelerator-based "energy amplifier" systems -- i.e., systems with a Big Red Switch you can flip to turn them off. It's only a romanticism with the Big Science of Splitting The Atom, a desire to normalize military nuclear technology, and the incredible profits can be made when the costs are externalized, that keeps the idea alive.

Idiot speaks: "So.. what?" (4, Interesting)

dtjohnson (102237) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626507)

A large amount of radioactive material was released into the ocean where it will remain in the food chain for decades. Approximately 100,000 people are unable to return to their homes and a large area of land in a country where land is scarce and precious is uninhabitable. But...that's just the short term. Long term: Japan will have to deal with electric power shortages for years until their power generation can be rebuilt with new technology. Hundreds of billions of dollars will have to be spent over the next 20 years to decommission the mess at Fukushima and attempt to decontaminate the surrounding downwind land. All of this was avoidable...but happened because the resident village idiots were able to prevent realistic plans from being implemented for electric power generation at Fukushima. The Onagawa power station was closer to the earthquake epicenter and yet it survived undamaged thanks to a losing battle by the resident village idiots to ensure that it was built according to their idiot plans. They lost at Onagawa but 'won' at Fukushima. Idiots who said...why spend a lot of money on a bigger seawall at Fukushima? Idiot engineers at GE who said 'there's no need for a failsafe design for something that will never happen,' and idiots who say 'what's the big deal about a meltdown?'

Re:Idiot speaks: "So.. what?" (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626913)

A large amount of radioactive material was released into the ocean where it will remain in the food chain for decades.

what isotopes are you talking about.. Some of this stuff is centuries before it goes away... Oh, and never mind that in Japan they currently occupy the only two locations where nuclear weapons have been used.... So, I'm not so sure this is as totally bad as folks claim.

Re:So.. what? (4, Insightful)

Mr_Wisenheimer (3534031) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626597)

Yeah, and maybe we can talk about about abortion pragmatically too . . .

The average member of the public has an emotional, visceral reaction to things such as GMO, global warming, nuclear power, et cetera. You might as well be talking about abortion, because Joe Sixpack doesn't understand things like nuclear physics, cost-benefit analysis, risk analysis, et cetera.

After September 11th, the average American was more worried about being personally harmed by terrorism than bad driving, even though outside of a few major cities, the risk of dying in a terrorist attack was almost non-existent.

That is why there is such a disconnect between the public and scientists (and the scientifically literate) on these matters. It's easier to scare someone about strangers molesting their children than it is about their children dying or having a worse life because of global warming, even though the former is a remote probability and the later is almost inevitable.

Re:So.. what? (0)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626925)

That is why there is such a disconnect between the public and scientists (and the scientifically literate) on these matters. It's easier to scare someone about strangers molesting their children than it is about their children dying or having a worse life because of global warming, even though the former is a remote probability and the later is almost inevitable.

You had me until that thing about global warming.... That sir, is still debatable, at least in terms of being "man made" and what the future dangers might be.

Re:So.. what? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625725)

Meh, it's an mdsolar submission - so the inference you're expected to draw from it is OMG TEH NUCULAR IS BAD!!ONEONE!

Tell me again how many people died as a result of radiation leaks at Fukushima.
And how many died as a result of the tsunami.
And compare & contrast the relative panic and news coverage of the two.

Bah.

Re:So.. what? (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625929)

The tsunami continues to be a very big deal in Japan. More so than the nuclear accident at the time, and rivalling it now. The thing is the tsunami happened and that was it. Things are being done to improve safety and rebuild, but for the people left alive there isn't much on-going danger.

Fukushima, on the other hand, continues to release contaminated material and water into the environment, continues to suck up vast amounts of money with no limit and no end in sight, and continues to prevent full clean-up and re-building in the areas around the plant.

Both were terrible tragedies, but in the end Fukushima is going to cost more and last a lot longer. It also lead to the discovery of problems at many other plants, and brought into question many of the assumptions that were made about safety. The tsunami raised safety questions too, but the solution is clear: stronger defences, earlier warnings, move away from some areas. The way forward for nuclear is not so clear, so there is still a lot of debating to be done.

Japanese people have a far better understanding of the issues than you give them credit for, and I'd go as far as to say many of them have a better understanding than you.

Re:So.. what? (1, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626291)

The tsunami continues to release contaminated material and water into the environment too. The debris washed into the sea wasn't all biodegradable and green. And things like lead and mercury have a much longer half life than things like tritium. The two events aren't compared fairly and this just another example of that.

Re:So.. what? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626385)

Tell me again how many people will die next time a nuke goes rogue close to a 30 million citizens city in California.

X people will die (X greater 1) in car accidents trying to flee the city.

And a year later in a /. discussion you will explain us calm wordily: 'there was no death to the accident, the panic amoung the people fleeing, caused more deaths than the radiation! (Erm, no death, more than ... a contradiction)

You know, we use(d) to say in Germany: "What does concern me nuclear plants or nuclear power? In my home the electricity comes from the plug in the wall!"

Re:So.. what? (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626509)

And now its gas from that nice mr putin now

Re:So.. what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625779)

It's mostly just a hate'n on TEPCO thing; they downplayed the degree of fuel damage in #3 and now their gamma detectors are showing that the fuel melt was nearly total, so we have another reason to say bad things about "capitalism" and stuff.

I knew it was total in the first week. #1 is a puddle too. Eventually they'll find #2 is also a total melt down. It's physics. They lost cooling so the fuel melted. The pattern history shows us it that the engineers and managers error on the rosy side, and when they finally get a direct view inside the vessels they find it's much worse.

TMI-2 was the same; there were supposedly credible people arguing whether any core damage happened as all, right up till they stuck a camera in there and found half the core slagged.

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626691)

It doesn't really matter though. We already knew some of the core was melted and in the containment vessel; now we know all of it is. The cleanup problem is still the same, there's just a bit more to clean up.

Re:So.. what? (1)

confused one (671304) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626513)

No one's going to actually go in and look at the reactor (or what's left of it) for a long time. What it does tell us is that most of the fuel is in the bottom of the containment vessel, and not hanging in the reactor pressure vessel. While TEPCO how they will use that information today it will affect their decision making process as they move forward.

Re:So.. what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626623)

It is way to hot for a human to examine.
This is why we are waiting for the robots (in development).

Re:So.. what? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626939)

Actually, we are waiting for the radioactive components to decay so we can safely get close enough to deal with this. Robots may help us get a jump on the clean up and containment efforts, but they won't be able to do much of the work.

and the real bad news is... (4, Informative)

Cardoor (3488091) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625577)

considering that the recently passed 'state secrets' law in japan effectively gags anyone from talking about fukushima in an honest way, the fact that this is being released at all probably means it's just to warm up the public for the real shoe to drop..

oh, and in case you don't know the law... here it is. [npr.org]

Re:and the real bad news is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625885)

I agree that both this law and Mr. Abe are despicable, however it does not seem to "gag anyone from talking about Fukushima in an honest way".
What am I missing here?

More worrisome is the fact that Japan still has a long, respected tradition of suicide, especially within the military domain. They should never be trusted with nuclear anything.

Re:and the real bad news is... (0)

brambus (3457531) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626163)

law in japan effectively gags anyone from talking about fukushima in an honest way

Wow, that's some beautiful mental gymnastics there, going from a law intended to protect government/military secrets and lobbied for heavily by the US and linking that to Fukushima. Don't forget to stop by the booth and pick up your tinfoil medal.

Re:and the real bad news is... (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626481)

Since 'the incident' the police is knocking on doors of young couples living in the Fukushima area and in the fall out zones north east of it, telling the couples: " you know, you should consider to have no children" (Or move away to the far south or Hokkaido)

Yes, that is not at all or at least rarely in the news, certainly not in the west.

Japan is disrupted in a 'put head into sand', 'don't lose faith/face', 'but we have to do something', 'we don't know how to cleanup', 'we don't know how to punish TEPCO (would mean lose face)', 'but we have to do something' attitude ... and the 'let live goes on' attitude.

In Chernobyl the death toll over all is estimated to be a million, roughly. /. posters claim it was 3 or 5 ... I witnessed 1986 about a few ten thousand ... it was news every day on TV. I really wonder how people in our days with straight face claim only a few people died.
Luckily the initial disaster in Fukushima was far away from this. However the long term issues we only will know in 30 years ... plus.

Re:and the real bad news is... (1)

imikem (767509) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626931)

Those noted nuclear apologists at the World Health Organization state that "up to 4000" people could die due to exposure to radionuclides released by the Soviets' stupidity at Chernobyl. But hey, everyone alive in 1986 will eventually die, so maybe we should just count everyone, right?

Meanwhile coal (like that sweet lignite that Germany is digging up now) goes on killing at least HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EVERY YEAR*, yet people seem only to care about teh ebil raydeeayshun. Maybe the coal casualties aren't as dead or something.

It is way past time to grow up and stop pissing and moaning about nuclear.

* According to Forbes, the figure is about 300000/yr in China alone.

Re:and the real bad news is... (2)

jd (1658) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626165)

I wouldn't worry too much about Fukushima, per se.

It's the fact that the State Secret law passed days after the abandonment of the pacifist sections of the Constitution, at a time Japan desperately needs to get rid of masses of deadly radioactive material, that you need to concern yourself with.

Is anybody surprised? (4, Insightful)

thsths (31372) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625625)

In case of a nuclear accident, the industry will always downplay and deny everything that is not perfectly obvious. Has always been, and probably will always be. This is the main reason I do not trust nuclear power that is run for profit.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625669)

You trust only state owned and operated [wikipedia.org] nuclear power then. Wise choice. o_O

Re:Is anybody surprised? (-1)

jd (1658) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626139)

The union of the two sets is not equal to the universal set of all nuclear power options.

Your argument is therefore irrelevant. Please meme and try again.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625711)

Yep, and they'll lie about every aspect of every impact to protect against insurance losses later. Just assume that they're lying. They probably lied about the casualty and fatality counts as well. In fact, the world probably did end and we're all actually dead and living in a new world now.

Don't swallow their bullshit. Check if you are dead. Do it now.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (1)

Minwee (522556) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625877)

In case of a nuclear accident, the industry will always downplay and deny everything that is not perfectly obvious. Has always been, and probably will always be. This is the main reason I do not trust nuclear power that is run for profit.

Whereas non-nuclear power that is run for profit has always been quite trustworthy.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (1)

thsths (31372) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625991)

Non-nuclear power has well known consequences. An important one for coal is the release of mercury, lead and radon (!) into the atmosphere. Of course industry has downplayed it, but it is very easy to verify.

As for state owned power - it depends on whether you trust the system. If it is totalitarian, so is the management of power plants.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626145)

also... rarley you read numbers about the death tolls of every technology involved...

be it as it may. as long as people thrive for power and wealth nothing will change for the good. i'm just glad that we get an elon musk every now an then.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (1)

blue9steel (2758287) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626375)

Non-nuclear power has well known consequences. An important one for coal is the release of mercury, lead and radon (!) into the atmosphere.

Oh, and enough radioactive carbon-14 to make nuclear power look safe by comparison.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626133)

Gathering some straw for your argument there?

It's pretty safe to say that you shouldn't blindly trust anything, that has long lasting repercussions on the environment, that is run for profit.

It always seemed suspicious that almost exclusively light water reactors were in use. Those are the cheapest kind of reactor but also the most fuel inefficient. Canada and India at least use mostly, the more expensive, heavy water reactors, which can use alternative fuel cycles.
And then there's the breeder reactor, a concept as old as nuclear power, a reactor type that was meant to power our future. But what happened to it? It's rather simple. They're even more expensive than HWRs.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626089)

In case of a nuclear accident, the industry will always downplay and deny everything that is not perfectly obvious. Has always been, and probably will always be. This is the main reason I do not trust nuclear power that is run for profit.

Right, because coal is working out so safely for us.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Is anybody surprised? (2)

TheSync (5291) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626611)

I do not trust nuclear power that is run for profit.

Uh, was Chernobyl run for profit?

Re:Is anybody surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626793)

Yes, in a way it was. Just because it was owned by the state doesn't mean that they're a non-profit organization.
They too thought that further security measures and observations of regulations were too expensive and therefore necessary. Have you seen pictures of the reactor in Chernobyl? It was practically a reactor inside of a glorified barn.

Re:Is anybody surprised? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626945)

In case of a nuclear accident, the industry will always downplay and deny everything that is not perfectly obvious. Has always been, and probably will always be. This is the main reason I do not trust nuclear power that is run for profit.

So Chernobyl was ok with you? Yikes, you might want to rethink that..

I think this means (1, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625657)

fuel at the No. 3 reactor began melting at 5:30 a.m. on March 13

I think this confirms that that they should not have flooded the reactor with seawater because the meltdown had already happened by the time they made that decision. They flooded the reactor on March 15th, as a last ditch attempt to prevent a meltdown. But it was too late to save the reactor since the fuel was already completely melted. So all the seawater did was let more nuclear material escape.

Or, alternatively, they should have flooded it with seawater days ahead of time. The tsunami was March 11th, so perhaps had they made that decision on March 12th it would have been in time to prevent the worst of it? Ehh... maybe not.... the reactor foundation was probably already damaged by that point. :-(

Re:I think this means (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625721)

Consider that we are only realizing this now though, years later. Lack of information was a huge problem at the time. When the plant was in crisis and people couldn't get near the reactors to check them there was a lot of guesswork.

The reason they didn't flood with seawater earlier was that they were pumping water in with fire engines. That was an established emergency procedure but failed to work because the cooling system was damaged and once again a lack of information lead to much of the water being syphoned off into storage tanks. They didn't know it wasn't working at the time though, and even when they realized couldn't understand why so it wasn't clear that flooding with seawater would actually help.

Re:I think this means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625795)

They knew and lied about it. The hydrogen explosion & release of caesium-137 made it obvious.

Meanwhile on slashdot the 5-insightful pro-nuclear shills were attacking anyone saying a meltdown was obvious. You can go look at the posts in the threads, they are still there for everyone to see how wrong they were then & now.

Re:I think this means (1)

Dins (2538550) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626091)

Meanwhile on slashdot the 5-insightful pro-nuclear shills were attacking anyone saying a meltdown was obvious. You can go look at the posts in the threads, they are still there for everyone to see how wrong they were then & now.

Pro-nuclear shills vs. anti-nuclear shills!

Film at 11:00!

Re:I think this means (1)

thsths (31372) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626019)

Consider that we are only realizing this now though, years later. Lack of information was a huge problem at the time.

Yes, but that is a well known problem. In every core meltdown, lack of information has been a serious issue. Guess why? Because the sensors melt, too. An expert may be able to guess what is going on, but it is beyond the skill of a typical operator.

Re:I think this means (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626381)

Hmmm, I wonder what sort of remote sensors could be used in the situation? I guess if neutron and gamma ray detectors could be built with decent spatial resolution, then that might work. A nuclear plant undergoing a meltdown is no doubt a high noise environment, but you still might be able to image its interior with infrasound.

Re:I think this means (1)

jd (1658) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626111)

I can accept that, but with reservations.

A lack of timely information lies at the heart of all nuclear accidents, large and small. It would seem to follow that to improve safety, you'd want to improve on sensors - the number, resilience and backups.

They were using helicopters, IIRC, which raises the question of what cameras and other sensors could have been used on those helicopters to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.

Did they try firing simple rockets into the reactor core? Something capable of carrying a rad-hardened instrument package and a transmitter capable of being received by a helicopter. A camera, a spectrometer, a thermometer even. Something that would extend their knowledge of the problem.

If they failed to make any real effort to prepare an adequate sensor grid in advance and failed to take basic steps to minimize uncertainty, then blunders from a lack of knowledge can't be blamed simply on that lack of knowledge. It stops being one of those things and starts looking like a massive failure and disastrous incompetence.

Re:I think this means (1)

tinytim (25110) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626463)

Firing simple rockets into the pressure vessels... with a hardened sensor package that was shielded enough to withstand the impact but yet exposed enough to measure the environment... with a radio that will work in the presence of massive amounts of ionizing radiation. Certainly we have enough unobtainium by this day and age.

Re: I think this means (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626575)

I was about 100 km from Fukushima when it happened, the reason they didn't flood the reactors with seawater right away was that the president of TEPCO, who before the earthquake was famous for being a cost cutter, wanted to save the reactor because if they flooded it it would never produce power again. He only reluctantly agreed to have it flooded after it was clear not doing so would result in an even bigger catastrophe. The dude should be hung for what he did.

Re:I think this means (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625759)

Cooling down a molten core to the point where it solidfies reduces emissions quite enormously, especially when the containment (such as a Mark I BWR containment), wasn't designed to stay fully sealed after a meltdown. Otherwise, when the hot molten core just sits there, more aerosols (maiinly Caesium) are created and eventually scattered in the environment.

When this containment was designed, back in 1958-1962, it was sufficient to ensure that there would be no catastrophic numbers of casualties after any potential reactor accident. (Something they did remarkably well, given their limited experience.) It was not designed to prevent contamination of the environment during accidents involving a core meltdown, unlike more modern designs or pressure water reactor containments, that just so happened to be large enough to stay sealed with a molten core inside, even though this wasn't a specifically set design goal back when the earliest of those were designed.

All of this could have been prevented, if there had been filtered containment vents that could have kept the containment otherwise sealed.

Re:I think this means (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625975)

The containment buildings were supposed to contain everything, but they were damaged by hydrogen explosions. The hydrogen gas was supposed to have been vented, but the battery powered venting system stopped working after the disaster. Some consideration was given to venting into the atmosphere, but it was decided not to. A bad choice in hindsight, but they thought that their emergency cooling measures would work.

Re:I think this means (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626199)

The containment buildings were supposed to contain everything, but they were damaged by hydrogen explosions. The hydrogen gas was supposed to have been vented, but the battery powered venting system stopped working after the disaster. Some consideration was given to venting into the atmosphere, but it was decided not to. A bad choice in hindsight, but they thought that their emergency cooling measures would work.

I don't know much about Japan... but in the US most plant upgrades have been denied permits by the feds because of work done by organizations like Greenpeace. If I didn't know better, I'd think they were intentionally trying to cause accidents to further their anti-nuclear agenda.

Re:I think this means (2)

sphealey (2855) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626941)

- - - - - but in the US most plant upgrades have been denied permits by the feds because of work done by organizations like [organization parent poster doesn't like] - - - -

Nuclear power plants in the United States with operating licenses undergo a continuous process of upgrade and modification, will continue to do so throughout their operating life, and in some cases continue to receive upgrades after retirement if in safestore mode. Over the last 20 years enormous effort has gone into simplifying and rationalizing the designs of the post-TMI era, standardizing operations, and improving backup systems. A current challenge is replacing the 1960s/70s era control and instrumentation systems which, while rugged and highly reliable, cannot be maintained as there are no longer sources of spare parts, with modern C&I systems. All while avoiding the fragility and instability of COTS electronics.

It is true that the finance world on Wall Street has made it difficult to begin new from-scratch nuclear plants in the US (although a few are currently underway) due to serious doubts about ROI during the financed lifetime, but that's another issue entirely.

sPh

Re:I think this means (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626173)

fuel at the No. 3 reactor began melting at 5:30 a.m. on March 13

I think this confirms that that they should not have flooded the reactor with seawater because the meltdown had already happened by the time they made that decision. They flooded the reactor on March 15th, as a last ditch attempt to prevent a meltdown. But it was too late to save the reactor since the fuel was already completely melted. So all the seawater did was let more nuclear material escape.

Or, alternatively, they should have flooded it with seawater days ahead of time. The tsunami was March 11th, so perhaps had they made that decision on March 12th it would have been in time to prevent the worst of it? Ehh... maybe not.... the reactor foundation was probably already damaged by that point. :-(

Armchair quarterbacking something this complex is a tad ridiculous don't you think? This reactor survived one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded. People were freaking out, the government was threatening to take over the plant, and worst of all they feared the earthquake was so strong that it had broken the containment vessel. Thank God it survived mostly unscathed.

If there's one thing we can say in hindsight it's that there would have been almost no release of dangerous materials if there had been proper waste disposal/storage and it had been a modern reactor. So lets take care of those two things on all of our remaining reactors and avoid this problem in the future.

Re:I think this means (4, Insightful)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626617)

That is incorrect.
The mag 9.5 quake was 450 miles away.
Ar the place of the reactor the quake was not even mag 6 ... the surrounding power pillions failed, shutting off the plant from external power.
The plant itself was damaged by far enough to be unable to produce its own power and cool itself.
And then the Tsunami hi tits emergency power.

So, claiming the 'plant survived' a '.... how was your words? Ah: "This reactor survived one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded." '

No, it certainly did not. It is smoldering in its ashes.

Not only was it NOT EVEN HIT, by the 'worst natural disaster', but it got destroyed by its wake (1 thousand times weaker than the a actual disaster/quake)!! Or actually as wake implies by the water of the tsunami.

Even if there had not been a tsunami, the plant was destroyed. What is so fucking difficult in accepting that? Sure, the emergency diesel power likely had prevented a 'disaster'.
But the plant never would have gone online again.
Claiming 'it survived the biggest catastrophe in mankind' is bullshit, and is a disrespect to the dead of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, or the simple earth quakes of the last 100 years.

Google/Wikipedia for it. The official death toll is never even close to the 'unofficial' one. And all those quakes certainly qualify your brain dead definition of 'biggest disasters naturally recorded' ... Fukushima was no such thing yet. It will be in 30 or 50 years when the radiation death will start piling up.

Re:I think this means (1)

DeathElk (883654) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626885)

Design a system to be idiot proof, and they will simply design a better idiot.

Stupid Website (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625709)

As if asahi.com wasn't already borked from the canal story, we link to them again?

They promise! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47625851)

They aren't lying this time!

I am still waiting... (1, Flamebait)

jd (1658) | about a month and a half ago | (#47625913)

Back when the accident happened, a significant number of Slashdotters were saying that no meltdown had occurred, that there was no significant structural damage, that no radioactive material would reach the sea, that the incident was overblown and that the plant would be largely still operational.

At this point, the discussion is not about how thoroughly the facility has been totalled but in what way.

I don't care that there was limited data available at the start, drawing conclusions from data you don't have (aka making things up) is not an excuse. If you don't know, don't pretend you do. It is because TEPCO pretended that they knew that the world lacks much-needed nuclear power. It is because TEPCO made things up rather than obtained data that an accident was possible. Don't be a TEPCO.

For those who defended the company, who downplayed the crisis as a nothing, who ignored any available information that didn't suit their preferred outcome, I am still awaiting an apology.

An apology for deliberate pollution of the debate
An apology for every post by every sceptical slashdotter modded to oblivion for the purpose of stifling debate
An apology to Slashdot itself for so abusing the moderating system
An apology for depriving the community of your own thought processes
An apology for not once, in all subsequent Slashdot debates, conceding that honest debate is superior to dishonest control

Maybe, by 2024, pride and conceit will be at levels where this is possible.

Re:I am still waiting... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626005)

Oh, jd (1658)! I so very, very badly want to shove my fetid cock deep into your Bayer Aspirin hole. I want to make babies in your rectum! Please, please, please!!!

What say you? What say you? What say you? What say you? What say you? What say you? What say you? What say you?

What SAY YOU? WHAT SAY YOU?!?!

Re:I am still waiting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626195)

I know 'Don't Feed the Trolls' and all that, but I sincerely hope that this particular AC doesn't live anywhere near me. Dude, get some help...

Re:I am still waiting... (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626281)

You're new here, aren't you.

Re:I am still waiting... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626443)

with a 4 digit slash ID, that joke fails on him.

Re:I am still waiting... (1, Troll)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626321)

Back when the accident happened, a significant number of Slashdotters were saying that no meltdown had occurred, that there was no significant structural damage, that no radioactive material would reach the sea, that the incident was overblown and that the plant would be largely still operational.

God, we're sure lucky to have someone so intelligent as you to save us from ourselves... lets review the first article on slashdot about Fukushima so we can let you revel in our combined humiliation:
http://hardware.slashdot.org/s... [slashdot.org]

What's this? The post had meltdown right in the title? How could this be?!!?
Oh that's right, you're full of shit.
And just to make it clear, if you read through those posts... the Slashdot consensus at the time was the same as yours: The worlds over... big corporations just killed us all.

The current death toll of the disaster: 0
With 1 worker who died of esophageal cancer... so maybe 1
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

Long term affects:

Predicted future cancer deaths due to accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima are predicted to be extremely low to none.

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2... [nature.com]

Your reactionary statements are not based in fact.
Nuclear power is fairly safe, modern reactors literally CANNOT melt down.
The nuclear industry is prevented from upgrading their plants to safer models because people like you panic and protest.
Japan moved to coal to replace the power lost due to the loss of nuclear power:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com]
24,000 people per year died because of polution from coal fired power plants:
http://www.catf.us/fossil/prob... [www.catf.us]

get a clue

Re:I am still waiting... (0)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626657)

You are certainly the last person who knows, get to know, or ever will know how many people died to the Fukushima disaster.

Why do you believe you know 1 person died? Did you meet him on his dieing bed?

Nuclear power is fairly safe, modern reactors literally CANNOT melt down.
How retarded is that? Do they not can melt down? Or is it rather harmless if they melt down? Or do you mean, actually, the running reactors we have right now, 'can melt down', but are not 'modern'? Or do you indeed believe a modern reactor can not melt down?
All the question marks indicate: you are wrong! As long as it is not a fusion reactor, it can melt down. The open question remains: will it breach its containment vessel ...
Oh, a complete different question ... yeah, should have guessed you now try to weasel yourself out.

Re:I am still waiting... (0)

iggymanz (596061) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626425)

We're waiting for an apology from you for all the tech you use that actually caused death in their construction: the tall buildings you've been in, the power lines that have electrocuted linemen, the people who died in testing some of the drugs you used.....but there is no reason we should apologize for an downplaying an incident that caused zero deaths.

You are a dishonest debater, a whiner, an illogical person. You are owed nothing but ridicule.

Re:I am still waiting... (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626439)

Ah, yes, the demands of apologies for things that didn't happen and words that weren't said. And I have yet to see any evidence of pro- or anti-nuke modding on Slashdot.

An apology for not once, in all subsequent Slashdot debates, conceding that honest debate is superior to dishonest control

Why don't you set a good example for us?

Re:I am still waiting... (1)

sphealey (2855) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626949)

Valid points. Can't help but note the same group is out downmodding any comment pointing this out.

sPh

The man who saved Onagawa (5, Insightful)

Old VMS Junkie (739626) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626123)

It could have been worse except for one determined engineer, Yanosuke Hirai, who insisted on a higher seawall for the Onagawa plant. A good article can be found at http://www.oregonlive.com/opin... [oregonlive.com] . I have a quote on my wall from Tatsuji Oshima, one of his proteges. "Corporate ethics and compliance may be similar, but their cores are different. From the perspective of corporate social responsibility, we cannot say that there is no need to question a company's actions just because they are not a crime under the law."

Great article!!! (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626603)

This needs mod points!!!!

This is why we need NEW reactors (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626437)

Seriously, the mistake that everybody is making is stopping new ultra-safe reactors from replacing these old second gen reactors. Companies like Transatomic can make it so that the reactor can not fail.

Re:This is why we need NEW reactors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626499)

I heard those reactors are as sink proof as the Titanic.

can not fail (4, Insightful)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626501)

Isn't that what they said about these reactors?

Explains the neutrons (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month and a half ago | (#47626465)

"The estimated start of the fuel melting is roughly consistent with when neutrons were detected near the front gate of the nuclear plant, according to the officials."

is anybody listening? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626585)

The plant shut down so safely that it served as an evacuation center in Onagawa

this is the standard to which nuclear power plants should be built.

RADIOACTIVE IS RADIOACTIVE! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47626737)

I was easily sucked in by the "carbonal" or whatever briefly-trending reactor fuel a few years back; fact is, even if it's "just" a hundred years half-life or what the fuck ever... IT'S STILL RADIOACTIVE, OVER THE MAJORITY OF AN ORGANIC LIFETIME.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO NOT BE ABLE TO GARNER AND EXPLOIT ALL THE ENERGY WE CREATE EVEN JUST BY DRIVING OUR VEHICLES AND SUCK OFF THE GENERATED ELECTRICITY TO POWER EVERY THING, EVERY WHERE, ANY TIME.

NO EXCUSES.

if a cockroach was truly exposed the levels of a full-on test-block/bombed-city/exposed reactor sites with hundred-year half-lifesk, no, it won't fucking outlive its own lifespan. so for those of you "well we'll just reincarnate ourselves through cockroach" types. FUCK OFF.

DO NOT FUCK ANY MORE WITH OUR WORLD.

IT IS NOT YOURS TO FUCK UP.

WE CAN DO THIS WITHOUT THAT FUCKING BULLSHIT! it just fucks off the current oligarchy. so the fuck what? create the new oligarchy! then fight them the fuck off! keep bumping off the weakest player! fuck off the repubs this fall in the US! THEN ON TO SOMETHING BETTER!

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