back to article Fukushima on Thursday: Prospects starting to look good

The story of the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant continues to unfold, with reports suggesting that the situation with respect to the three damaged reactors at the plant may soon be stabilised without serious consequences. The focus of attention has now moved to problems at a pool used to keep …

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and most of the area is still unfit for human consumption....

Yet some people returned there 20 years ago...

and they are still there...

that is to say they are still alive and there :D

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Anonymous Coward

Where's my mushroom cloud icon?

'Fukushima on Thursday: Prospects starting to look good'

Seeing as earlier on in the week it was a 'triumph for nuclear power', things seem to be rapidly deteriorating.

'but it might mean areas having to be abandoned for lengthy periods as occurred after Chernobyl.'

Hang on: Earlier in the week, Chernobyl wasn't a serious accident, according to your article. Now it is? I'm all for absorbing these facts, but they're changing so rapidly...

'But hopefully the facts speak for themselves.'

As opposed to prior articles, then. A step in the right direction for journalism.

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I'm reminded of...

...the (possibly apocryphal) Japanese serviceman who knew the war in the Pacific was lost because the "victories" kept getting closer to Japan...

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Happy

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

Makes me want to get a job at a nuclear reactor actually.

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Lewis..

...I've got 20 fertilised hen eggs here, can you supply me with an accurate chicken count please?

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Pint

Specifics, please!

Chicken count or head count?

If you've got 20 chickens with 23 heads then it's obviously a glorious triumph, isn't it?

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Joke

Not sure about the chickens

But there's at least one cock.

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Some good news

Tepco is planning on have restored a grid connection to the site by the end of today (Japan time), after which any surviving electric pumps can be restarted, which should make things safer, if not quite as lovely as Lewis is suggesting.

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WTF?

I misread...

...that as 'Tesco' on first scan...

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Salt enhanced pumps?

Seriously they've dumping seawater desperately around the place do you really believe much of anything is going to work now ?

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With 20:20 Hindsight...

...may I suggest that plants which are built near natural bodies of water have reactor cores and cooling ponds located below the water level so that in an emergency, water can be dumped in by gravity.

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@ Disco-Legend-Zeke

"...may I suggest that plants which are built near natural bodies of water have reactor cores and cooling ponds located below the water level so that in an emergency, water can be dumped in by gravity."

If these ponds were below sea level, the tsunami would have scattered their contents over a wide area, which would render subsequent re-filling of the pools with water irrelevant.

Putting the pools on top of the solidly built containment structure does at least protect them from tsunamis.

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Health

"There remain no indications that anyone has yet suffered any radiation health effects"

FFS Lewis, will you just fucking stop. Every fucking report you have made has been premature (no, not just the 'hot off the press' bollocks I keep hearing in the comments, just premature) in this area.

I have been very impressed at the robustness of the technology, the ability of plant workers and others to try and cope with the failure of back-ups when they occured and understand the ratio of those who have died or been injured due to other, more immediately physical, causes versus any immediate radiative effects. I am, I guess, what people would call 'pro-nuclear' in general - although not at the exclusion of other directions, and so the lack of any sudden catastrophic event in the plant despite the large amount of damage sustained I find heartening.

I have also been impressed with much of your exposition of the technical side of the incident - even if some of the earlier reporting was, as one commentator so ably put it, "triumphalist" .

What I don't get, especially from someone who has been in the Navy, is your reporting of the health effects in such an absolute manner...

"Whoa - lucky for me I just ducked the very second the radiation went past"

"Agh - the radiation got my shoulder"

..you should know damn well that that is not how it works. Yes, thankfully, the reported dosages outside the plant have been extremely small and the weather conditions and location have helped matters as well. Inside the plant, things have been different - and the reported dosages are consistent with the sort of flux that will involve non-trivial healing in tissues if exposed. As fractionated doses over a period of time, they are very unlikely (statistically) to directly result in harm - but significant levels, even over short time scales, can start a series of damage that is not always easy to stop [0].

The periods of exposure have been short, as far as we can tell so far - but we have very little hard information about it - and thats one of the big problems... without that hard information I just don't see how you can pontificate on the effect in manner that IMO is at best pre-mature, and at worst ignorant and border-line callous.

There seems to be an increasing amount of research published, and coming through, examining genetic and tissue proximity effects as far as cancer susceptibility is concerned - we don't know those factors here - we don't know the actual radiative levels, flux, location or duration of exposure - we don't know the shift rotas of the plant workers and others nor where they were working - we don't even know for sure what, if any, leakage or containment breach has occured and hence the true local conditions.

In short, we know fuck all about a lot of this, and until we do could you PLEASE lay off this fucking omniscient proclamation about the only one (now altered to zero) person who could possibly have anything wrong with them.

"no indications that anyone has yet suffered any radiation health effects, and the prospect is growing that this will remain the case"

No - the prospect is we will only find out if you're right some time in the future - probably years not hours from now. I really hope you are right, but your uncritical and overly assertive statements are not going to have an effect on that, one way or the other.

[0] There is a phrase i've heard numerous times, from physicists and medical personal, which is basically there is no safe dose of radiation - there is invariably damage but, statistically, you can have a pretty good guess at the ability of the body to repair it in time before it becomes a problem. Your body can do sod all about the collision, but it can try and patch it up.

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There is no safe dose

"you can have a pretty good guess at the ability of the body to repair it in time before it becomes a problem."

Your assumption is wrong. Radiation damages your DNA and DNA cannot be repaired. Any DNA damage will be passed onto new cells. Hence radiation damage is accumulative and this is why there is no safe dose .

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There remain no indications that anyone has yet suffered any radiation health effects

In Lewis-land, I suspect that the raising of acceptable radiation levels for workers is a sign that humans have become more resilient to radiation...

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Alert

hard figures

Obviously, actual hydrogen explosions were more dangerous than the radiation. From http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

Radiological Contamination

* 17 people (9 TEPCO employees, 8 subcontractor employees) suffered from deposition of radioactive material to their faces, but were not taken to the hospital because of low levels of exposure

* One worker suffered from significant exposure during 'vent work,' and was transported to an offsite center

* 2 policemen who were exposed to radiation were decontaminated

* Firemen who were exposed to radiation are under investigation

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DNA can be repaired.

And damaged DNA does not necessarily pass damage on to new cells.

You should read up on it, it's interesting.

Google "DNA repair" and also senescence & apoptosis.

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@Boring Bob

"Your assumption is wrong. Radiation damages your DNA and DNA cannot be repaired. "

Partially correct (depends on the damage) - but my description was meant to refer to the repair of the body against the growth of dangerous tissues, not the DNA, e.g. have a look for articles about things like the response to tumour growth (tumourigenesis) and oncogenetic stress. Piss poor description on my part, apologies.

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eltit

"DNA cannot be repaired"

Really? I think you're wrong

http://www.nih.gov/sigs/dna-rep/whatis.html

You should probably read up on background radiation as well, since there is a significant amount of evidence that there is more than just a "safe dose", small doses of radiation may actually be healthier than none (as part of the DNA repair process and radioresistance).

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Funny how a post gets downvoted

for stating facts concurrent with present scientific knowlege but not with pronuker's superstition.

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Kind'a

It has been a while since the days when I was trying to juggle two degrees and writing code for a living, but from the incomplete mol biol Ms degree I recall the following:

First of all, DNA is repaired. All the time. You have to damage both strands. Otherwise the surviving strand will be used to sort things out and there is a whole raft of enzymes that does nothing but repairs. If you have something with enough energy to damage both strands like an alpha particle or high energy gamma radiation the whole cell will be dead so you are not having any new cells from that. Damage which damages just one strand (f.e. low-mid energy beta) is repaired provided that there is not too much of it. Cells that divide fast like immune system, male sperm generation, etc may end up dividing before it is repaired. That is not likely unless the dose is high (that is also why they are affected first).

Second, DNA in eucariotes (including humans) contains 90%+ of material that is never expressed. While there may be circumstances when a radiation induced mutation in that portion is damaging quite often it is not as that portion is still not expressed.

So in order for radiation to have a sufficient mutagenic effect you have to have enough of it so that:

1. The standard repair mechanisms are overwhelmed

2. The mechanisms which the organism uses to kill/clean up defective cells are overwhelmed too.

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Boffin

I don't believe it ..

Lots of these reassuaring feel-good stories coming out about Fukushima. Yet, the fuel rods have melted down, are exposed and there are explosions going on. Stabilised without serious consequences, I don't think so.

This reminds me of the "news" reports that went out at the time of the Gulf oil spill, mainly written by the oil industry themselves. Anything to prevent the banning of future drilling in the Gulf. Same here, I figure the Nuclear industry fear a meltdown in funds more then anything.

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Anonymous Coward

Not over by a long shot

They still have to clean up the whole sorry mess of 4 very badly damaged reactors and an irradiated site, this will cost billions.

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FAIL

Critical Triumph

I think its hard to call this fiasco a triumph for Nuclear Energy. Had the plant shut down and been easy to restore, I would have been convinced, and indeed I initially was. However as the days went by, and with the steps being taken being obviously desperate measures (seawater and helicopter water drops) as opposed to planned contingencies, I would say that we are just lucky there hasnt been a more major catastrophe.

It may well be true that the reactors themselves never risked a Chernobyl style incident, however the warning that "The possibility of re-criticality is not zero" from TEPCO (1), combined with the poor communications to the media and even their own government (2), along with a history of falsifying safety records (3) suggests to me that this plant was being mismanaged. All credit to those who are likely to be riking their health to make it safe, however is it really standard practise to store fuel rods such that the possibility of criticiality is acceptable? I hope Japan and the worlds nuclear industry pays attention. The human factor can screw anything up.

1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12762608

2) http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-03/15/c_13780133.htm

3) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/fukushima-nuclear-plant-owner-falsified-inspection-records/story-fn84naht-1226023073141

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Seriously?

"may soon be stabilised without serious consequences"

Interesting use of the adjective "serious" there. One wonders what would count as "serious consequences". The consequences are surely already serious, not least for the nuclear industry. What is being avoided is the catastrophic.

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Yes Chernobyl is still a dangerous place to be with 1000km...

...Oh hold on, no it not.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12339804

Yes the levels are still higher than normal (but so is Cornwall). Yes it was crap when it happened.

But try to get past the hysteria then make a informed choice.

Also have a little read here...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation

Lets wait and see before making rash decisions, unless you think oil, gas and coal is a safer for the enviorment. Hmm what was that thing about Shell again?

Let the downvotes commence.

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FAIL

On Aussie TV tonight...

...a nuke expert from Imperial College, London, having to make a grovelling apology for saying it was all nothing to worry about a couple of nights earlier. Your move, Mr Page.

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Perspective

I'll stand up for Lewis. What a lot of scaredy-cats you are, people. Sure, no-one wants a nuclear plant to blow up, but the actual health impacts of this have been, and likely will be, minimal.

Compare Bhopal.

Intimate exposure to radiation is bad, of course, but so is intimate exposure to steam, molten steel, acid, carbon monoxide, etc. Radiation should not be in a separate league of scariness, though its invisibility and long term effects tend to make it so.

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Dead Vulture

Minimal...

I sincerely hope you're right.

I also hope the disaster is contained to the plant site and no-one is forced into refugee status because of some marvel and -- to paraphrase El Reg -- "triumphant" piece of tech.

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Compare

There are a lot of posts inviting comparisons with other events or with hyopthetical disaster scenarios for other power scources which is all fine for the longer term decision-making process* but these don't mean that there is no current problem with the reactors in Japan.

I'm not an expert on the subject and don't in any case have any relevant data that I trust to be accurate so it's a great relief to know that "the actual health impacts of this have been, and likely will be, minimal" but that doesn't mean we have to consider the current state of affairs a 'triumph' and abandon any suggestion of rethinking energy policy.

* although I suspect that nuclear power's future depends at least as much on the lack of long-term alternatives as on the reasonable arguments in its favour

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Radiation level given in article wrong

The article states: "Radiation levels at [reactors] Nos 3 and 4 have been recorded as running at between 3 and 4 millisieverts/hour."

This unfortunately appears to be wrong. Tepco states: "Today [20110317], at approximately 10am [local time], we observed 400mSv/h at the inland side of the Unit 3 reactor building and 100mSv/h at the inland side of the Unit 4 reactor building."

Source: <http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11031704-e.html>

Francois Grieu

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Radiation levels are variable

Short-term spikes in radiation levels are likely to continue to be observed, as excess pressure vents for example. Although high levels of radiation have been noted several times, the sources seem to have involved limited quantities of material comprising mainly very short-lived products (such as N16). Radiation levels have fallen quite quickly after the release.

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Fancy guesswork and spin

I am Pro-nuclear power, and I hate when a bad incident gives it a bad reputation. It's true that buckets of water kill more people (mostly small children) than nuclear accidents - but my oh my, a nuclear accident is way more scary.

Anyway, despite these leanings, I still think Mr. Page is a bit optimistic here. Sure, it 'may' work out just fine - but it may not. At this point, declaring "the worst is over" is quite optimistic. Sure, all predictions are basically fancy guesswork, but this could still get worse in a hurry. For example, the rods in reactor 4's pool could reach criticality and begin operating as an uncooled, un shielded reactor core.

I think the most interesting thing is the differnce in waht Japan is saying, and the rest of the world is saying. Japan is definiterly singing Mr. Pages tune, while the UK and the US are evacuating their personel.

Only time will tell, but for Japan's sake, I hope Lewis is correct.

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Grenade

Pro-nuclear

Nuclear power is too expensive. Too costly. Period.

It's also exceedingly cheap in the very short term, the life-time of a nuclear power plant.

A power plant's average cost per kWh is simple: total cost divided by total kWh produced.

That actually applies to all sort of power plants.

Tell us, since you like nuclear power, what is the total cost of running a nuclear power plant? Don't forget to add the storage cost of the nuclear waste.

What?! What do you mean you can't? You're pro-nuclear. You like the thing. It's lovely.

Oh, yes. You're right. Of course, global warning is more expensive. Sure, then nuclear is the solution. Two wrongs always make a right.

Sod our descendants! They should have been born now. It's their fault. Let them pay.

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Headmaster

A title

"Eventuate" Is Not A Word. Not even in Australian English.

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Pint

Thanks, Lewis

I'm not particularly pro-nuke, but I'm constantly amazed by the way that even raising the subject of nuclear power risk analysis evokes such irrational responses from otherwise sane people. (Despite its historically good safety record compared to, say, the coal mining industry.)

In the case of the Fukushima incident, however, even Auntie Beeb seems to unable to be unduly alarmist, despite their best efforts to do so:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12762608

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Happy

The world is full of blind sheep, never thinking, just repeating.

What everyone seems to be missing here is the intellegence to read around a subject. News is always biased, how could it not be when written by emotional beings? The key is to read about things from a number of sources and form your own opinion.

I wouldn't normally join in the commentard parade, but wanted to say thank you to Lewis for writing these articles, even if I don't agree with everything they say. At least he, and the Reg have the courage to form an alternative opinion and perhaps put some perspective on things.

I'd much rather hear from Lewis than the stupid comments Günther Oettinger has made, overreaction by the US (Never done that before have they?!), Angela Merkel desperate to regain ground against the Greens or the French who are so quick to forget the Atol tests.

It would be nice if the mainstream news focused on the burst dam, the erupting volcano, food shortages and affect of snow, but I guess these topics don't sell.

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Things getting worse more slowly

By turning a corner, they may be deteriorating more slowly. The power cabling from the remaining grid has now reached Fukushima, but won't be powered up until tomorrow. When it is powered up, we then have to see which of the pumps sets can usefully move anything: the pumps have to turn (assuming the heat in the area hasn't seized bearings) and the pipework they use has to hold up. But having useful amounts of power at the plant should open a range of possibilities.

We still have the bizarre comment from TEPCO that the probability of re-criticality in the pond of stored fuel rods above reactor 4 is "non-zero". Does this, perhaps, mean that they stacked the rods closer than they should be, depending on the (presumably boron laced) cooling water to keep them non-critical? IF this were the case, then there is potential for a critical reaction outside a reactor vessel - pure speculation, but one interpretation of this bizarre statement.

As for the conspiracy of silence from TEPCO - I don't for a minute think it's misrepresentation, rather that they have no realistic idea what's going on. It may be years until anyone knows the true state of affairs, which will unfold as the plant is decommissioned. This will be a lengthy process - at least there was only one reactor to deal with at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

Lewis is right to state that there has been no harmful civilian exposure, and there probably will be none, but if we get a big fire we could yet have fission materials put into the air.

Oh, and it appears that TEPCO have had a load of boric acid shipped in from Korea - suggests they're all out.

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Boffin

@ V3

Earthquake @ 9.0 magnitude scale = approximate 485 megatonne equivalent nuclear blast(s)

If you had bothered to do any research you would find that the Fukushima site was designed to survive a 5.4 magnitude earthquake - this was orders of magnitude higher on its own - add to that the tsunami damage to the facilities as well as the backbone infrastructure...

As regards the point principle magnitude (which is irrelevant anyway, since it was the tsunami that did for the plants) - having studied geology but not having detailed information about the rock formations and the like in the area I dont know, but it is unlikely to be much less than the magnitude at the strike/shear point on the fault, since the two places are quite close together.

Note on water bombing - why do you think they use sodding great catalinas and B-26 and the like as water bombers? because water is unguided and doesnt stay in a convenient lump like your average civilian-maiming multiple munition weapon - add to that the difficulties of keeping a chopper on station when its all up weight is changing, and the fact its carrying what is effectively a bucket on a string (which is itself affected by directional, windage and other forces), and I would like to see you manage better...

Now, listen carefully children, cos this is the important bit...

1. These reactors are the oldest type of BWR currently in service. More modern variants, and more modern reactor systems have been developed since these were installed (1971 onwards)

2. They Scrammed sucessfully, and maintained power and residual cooling for a decent period after, the failure was due in part to the tsunami having taken so much infrastructure out that the plants were unable to get supplies of diesel fuel and other requirements.

2a. IF THERE HAD BEEN NO TSUNAMI THERE WOULD MOST LIKELY NOT HAVE BEEN THE CASCADE PROBLEMS we now see at the plants... Alot of the major problems caused in the plants can be tracked back to the results of the Tsunami event, not so much to the earthquake itself.

3. The radioactivity released is to an extent more than Three Mile Island - that only became a 'disaster' because of gormless media hype and over-reporting. It looks as if this is going to happen again - not least because of the medias bright idea to talk to talking heads, who themselves are having to educated guess the situation because they dont have access to the data.

4. Chernobyl II cannot happen with these reactors - it is impossible - it is, as the chaps at monty python would say "a dead radioactive parrot'. The reactors in Japan are of a different design, have protective systems that werent welded together from secondhand Wartburgs and have not suffered a total core meltdown - not to even mention the fact that the Chernobyl reactor was in an active condition (ie it was supercritical) when that accident happened. The Japanese reactors were not, having scrammed, which means the heat within the system is of magnitudes lower than with the Chernobyl site - which was operating (under test) at the time of the disaster.

5. "It is unlikely that Nuclear power has a future" - umm, again with the No. Thorium reactors are just beginning to be actively developed and will probably be what is used in future installations. Small scale nuclear systems have also been trialed for several years - the smaller a reactor the easier it is to make and the safer it can be made. More to the point, when people stop wasting energy, then so much energy will not be needed. Then and only then will nuclear plants be either superceded or be extraneous to requirements.

6. "Nuclear plants are dirty and polluting and dangerous" aka the gormless ill-educated greenpeaceatard plainchant winge... The only difference between a coal/gas plant and a nuclear plant is that if you so feel the urge you can go visit and look at nuclear waste - coal & gas plants puke out tonnes and tonnes of pollution all over the world, but because you cant see it and (more importantly) the media dont orgasmically splatter it all over the internet every five minutes people seem to have the concept that coal/gas plants are all snuggly with mother nature.

Not to mention the fact that people that are nowhere near places at risk from even minimal radioactive contamination are now crapping themselves because the media is feeding them with worst possible situations based on the guesswork of the functionally illiterate & the vaguely remembered plots of 1970's disaster movies.

It is true that Nuclear power creates waste - but the difference is that it can be seen and quantified and to an extent controlled - not so much with other forms of energy. When the Thorium based systems come online even this will be reduced substantially.

Im not number one fan of Lewis Page it has to be said - but of all the different reports and the like I have read, the ones on this site are the least liable to win the "oops-there-wasnt-really-a-meltdown" award for journalistic excellence.

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@Jemma

> Earthquake @ 9.0 magnitude scale = approximate 485 megatonne equivalent nuclear blast(s)

That is at the epi-centre....

> If you had bothered to do any research you would find that the Fukushima site was designed to

> survive a 5.4 magnitude earthquake

This is almost certainly incorrect! NO nuke plant in Japan is designed to such a low standard. An M5.4 quake is - literally - a regular occurrence in Japan - I can't think of ANY buildings that are designed to such a weak spec, let alone a nuke plant, which are usually at least capable of an 8 or so.

I would be curious to know what the correct figure is - but it is certainly in excess of a piddling 5.4. (I heard one figure of 7.8 and another of 8.1 - I would be curious to track down a confirmed figure )

And you have not addressed the point - which is that it is the magnitude at the site that is relevant, not the magnitude at the epi-centre.

You also appear to believe that the earthquake and tsunami are unrelated events.... Curiouser and curiouser....

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@Jemma

You are a patronising git (listen children indeed)

The issue is not whether the plant exceeded its design criteria. It's whether those design criteria were set at appropriate levels. As somebody else has pointed out, if anybody designed a reactor to survive an earthquake of magnitude 5.4 in a seismically active location such as Japan would be criminally irresponsible. Even in the UK there was a magnitude 5.2 earthquake in 2008, and in Japan such events are very frequent.

However, the actual magnitude of the earthquake is not even that important. As everybody knows, the magnitude of an earthquake is a poor guide to the damage that is done - what really matters is issues such as the ground level acceleration rates and vibration ampilitude, ground conditions, depth and distance of the epicentre and much else. In this case the epicentre of the earthquake occurred some distance away under the sea,

The other point is the ludicrous separation of the issue of earthquakes and tsunamis. Those are not independent events - or at least they aren't for this type of events (there are other causes of tsunamis besides earthquakes including underwater landslips and volcanic explosions). Whatever the case, tsunamis are a known risk factor in Japan. Indeed the very work is Japanese, and there is plenty of archaeological and geological evidence of much larger tsunamis in several locations round the Pacific. Indeed we had one in 2004 where the tsunami reached about 25metres in some places. Even if in 1970 the world was not aware of this, they certainly were by 2011. Where was the risk assessment on coastal located nuclear power stations in 2004? It was surely known at that point a tsunami anything like the 2004 one would disable the emergency cooling systems of these reactors. No, it stinks of complacency and short term financial expedients overruling proper safety considerations. TEPCO have got form on this - they have been found guilty of cover-ups. However, the Japanese regulatory authorities cannot escape free of this either - did they turn a blind eye. This cannot be seen as a hindsight issue - the risk of tsunamis was known, and following 2004 nobody could pretend that they didn't have a wake up call. Instead somebody gambled, and they now have an extremely expensive and damaging mess to clear up.

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Again with the NO

The epicenter was less than 200 miles away from the Fuku' site - given that solid rock is a good conductor of the various types of earthquake wave, and yes there are more than one, the difference between the two are negligible.

Ummm, I am really beginning to wonder if you have that organ that is commonly known as a brain... listen carefully for I shall say this only once...

Earthquakes and Tsunami's ARE two separate ecological geological incidents. They can be related - this is true, and in this case they happen to be. But if you have a 'quake on a landlocked fault line - you dont have a Tsunami. You have an earthquake. The same follows, you can have a Tsunami without a directly associated earthquake (I am not even going to start on about nuee ardente and pyroclastic flows, both of which can have the same effect as a Tsunami, plus 600F gas clouds).

I have not addressed the point magnitude because it is actually irrelevant to the situation. True the earthquake scrammed the reactors (and you should be bloody grateful it did by the way) but the subsequent problems have been caused by non critical cooling issues, which in turn have generally been caused, so it appears, by the results of the tsunami - for example, the inability to refuel the diesel generator sets in the first instance - which itself has helped make the problems worse since the systems that would have maintained cooling have now themselves been damaged by heat and explosions/fires.

I say again... if the earthquake had been on land - at the same distance from the reactors as has been the case with the underwater event we actually have - there is a good chance that the reactors would have remained managable and the situation would have been a short term blip, that we didnt and the situation is as it is now.

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Anonymous Coward

Gormless media hype & over-reporting

> that only became a 'disaster' because of gormless media hype and over-reporting.

A "triumph" for nuclear accident reporting...

I can hear the click revenue radiating from the ensuing debate...

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@Jemma

So I see you don't address the laughable claim you made about the plant being design for a 5.4 magnitude earthquake? Also, who one earth suggested that all earthquakes cause tsunamis? However, this one did and about 80% of tsunamis result from such events.

Also, for your information, when it comes to making structures earthquake resistant, then you wnat them built, or at least tied into bedrock. The effects of unstable soil substructures, such as are found in Mexico City, are to greatly amplify the damaging effects of an earthquake, not to mitigate them. Indeed these Japanese plants are, apparently, built on bedrock.

As for being grateful that the reactors went through an emergency shutdown, I should bloody well hope so. If basic safety mechanisms like that don't work then we are all screwed. What has clearly happened here is that the risk assessment with regard to tsunamis was botched. The tsunami, severe as it was, was nothing like as large as the 2004 Indian ocean one from a similar magnitude earthquake. Following the 2004 tsunami, the US authorities carried out a comprehensive study of the exposure of nuclear plant to tsunamis. You can find it here (along with other relevant reports).

http://nei.org/newsandevents/information-on-the-japanese-earthquake-and-reactors-in-that-region/reactor-designs/

It mentions the Japanese and their tsunami risk assessment procedures, but it is less than clear what studies were actually performed. The suspicion that I have, which is rather reinforced by TEPCO's history of cover-ups is that the risk assessment was compromised by short-term financial considerations. Now this may have been colluded with by the Japanese regulatory authorities, but what we can clearly see is that the failure to protect the secondary power supplies sufficiently has lead to a huge financial impact, even if the health impacts turn out to be modest.

It's not as if people didn't know about this stuff. The reliance of GE boiling water reactors on active cooling was well known. Indeed one of the reasons that the UK went for Magnox and the AGR was because it could be passively cooled. Of course there are several designs now that can be passively cooled in such circumstances.

There will have to be a study into what went wrong here - it's not a matter of whether the plant met, or exceeded its design criteria, but whether the fundamental risk assessment was accurate, and especially if it was compromised by short term financial considerations. Covering up mistakes is no way to resolve this, and if somebody seriously takes the line that this was unforeseeable, then it's going to raise huge issues of trust over future nuclear investment. If this one can't be forseen, then what else might there be? The biggest unknown to many of us is just how vulnerable plant is to terrorist action. Clearly the disabling of emergency cooling was enough here, and a Mumbai-style assault from a small boat would do that, especially as many nuclear facilities are conveniently placed on the shoreline.

My old University (Imperial College) does a great deal of work on the designs of earthquake-resistant structures. They also model (in my days physical models) of the hydrodynamics of shorelines for such things as storm surges, tsunamis and the like. If you really want to know about this stuff rather than making it up, I'd suggest spending some time actually studying this stuff first before addressing people as "children". When you've grown up a little, then maybe we can trust you with a kindergarten.

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"this is not the general perception around the world"

The general perception around the world has been coloured by the mass media running hysterical headlines about nuclear explosions and catastrophic meltdowns, none of which actually occurred, but that mustn't get in the way of a good sound-bite or headline must it?

Honestly, a tsunami kills tens of thousands and all the mass media care about is trying to turn a successful battle to shut down reactors in adverse conditions into a nuclear disaster. You can just tell the mass media were gagging for a meltdown.

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Taking the middle ground

In trying to find the truth frmo any news nowadays, it requires effort. Generally this tends to be reading articles from 4 or 5 different sources and piecing together the truth from the opinion.

Many news articles only give the part of the truth that makes their stance on the story work, which means the final article often presents a distorted version of the full and true story.

It seems to me that this is also the case here: Most of the worlds media want to publsh their own version of a horror story in order to sell more and gain the attention of the public. Unfortunately, this gives very little opportunity for the casual reader, or even the more widely read, to piece together what is really going on.

What we have needed in this case, and what I believe this writer has given us, is a series of articles heavily slanted to the other side from the general media articles. By reading all together, I think we can finally begin to see what the true picture is.

I therefore believe that articles such as the three currently written by this author, are essential, as they present far more clear and researched facts overlaid with opinion than most others. Certainly they are biased towards the benefiots of nuclear, however unlike most other articles, the author is clear about this and is not hiding his views. This makes it far easier to disect fact from opinion.

I'm sure the author has missed some important facts and has probably presented some others in a manner which supports his opinion, however unlike most of the worlds media, at least he is making a good attempt not to sensationalise the story and is trying to get us all to think rationally about this.

I for one hate the disaster-centric reporting that we are generally subjected to and find this author's articles refreshing. I don't believe all that is written here, but am thankful for the way in which the information is presented that allows me to make my own decision about what I believe the true position is.

As with all news stories/articles, they may over time be proven to be incorrect/incomplete or perhaps even an accurate depiction of what actually happended. It's clear to me however, that the better researched, better referenced and sourced the information is, the higher the chance the article has of being proven accurate. This series of articles in my opinion has the highest incidence of referenced and sourced information of any I have read to date on this story.

Bravo.

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Hooray, another nelogism to stand alongside "Triumph"

> "without serious consequences"

Sure, evacuating a 20km radius isn't serious, hell, we do that every day just for fun. Tens to hundreds of millions of damage and cleanup bills isn't serious, I spend that much down the pub on a Friday night. And pouring water over the *outside* of a reactor containment vessel to try and cool it down isn't a desparate last-ditch attempt to stave off disaster, it's a routine failsafe redundant backup mechanism operating exactly how it's supposed to, right?

Your entire series of articles is a triumph (in the original sense of the word) of wishful thinking over evidence.

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Evacuating

> Sure, evacuating a 20km radius isn't serious, hell, we do that every day just for fun.

Many parts of Japan do it every year as practice. Given that Fukushima is one of the more geologically active parts of the country, they probably have evacuation drills.

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http://mitnse.com/

Facts...

http://mitnse.com/

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