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 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. sore head

    proof by blatant assertion

    Continually throughout this thread there seems to be an assumption that TEPCO are accurately reporting the situation.

    I think, bearing in mind not only their track record, but also that of the nuclear power industry in general that you should wait

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Interesting article ...

      ... in that lefty, ecotard rag the WSJ about TEPCO falsifying their safety records:

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703363904576200533746195522.html

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Yes.

      And thereby hangs the seed of people's distrust of nuclear plants and their "overestimation" of the risks when they go wrong.

      While the first Page missive on this unfolding fiasco was rather condescending to the worried masses and very reasoned in the argument as to why they were worrying needlessly, it was inevitable that the real situation would devolve around people's lying about what was going on and how bad things are, and that the situation would turn into a word-eater for anyone not screaming that the sky was falling.

      And all because the people who should be dealing with the issue are more concerned with making it all look fine. It was those concerns that caused the confinement of the hydrogen that resulted in multiple explosions (and in terms of public panic I would think that radioactive steam is bad, but exploding radioactive steam is much worse).

      The real issue here isn't how undangerous it will all turn out to have been 20 years down the road, it is the seeming gravitational attraction the industry has for unmitigated liars when it all starts to go pear-shaped.

      There's really no place for optimists in the nuclear power generation business.

      And for what it's worth, I am a long-time proponent of nuclear power generation. But not when it's being run by these bastards.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      First hand information

      My step-son, who is a USN reactor specialist, has been on site at Fukushima. While he refuses to be specific, he tells me the reports are largely soothing fictions to calm the public, and we should not believe anything we hear or see on the news.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Nuclear FAIL

    If this is a nuclear "triumph" I hope i'm nowhere near if there is ever a nuclear "catastrophe"...

    Where did it all go right, Lewis?

    The reg has seriously discreditted itself with poor analysis and shoddy reporting of this appalling situation. Shame on you!

  3. lee harvey osmond

    yes, but even so ...

    ... does this mean that the team that wrote Stuxnet is going to get fired because their product failed to deliver?

  4. Fred Goldstein

    What a river in Egypt!

    Lewis is displaying truly remarkable denial. Perhaps he'd like to visit the site and, using kitchen tools, take out the spent fuel rods from the boiled-away pool and take them back to his house. On a remote island somewhere.

  5. CADmonkey
    Flame

    How very dare you?

    We don't want your steenking 'facts' here.

    1. Greg J Preece

      Wow, you are full of it

      El Reg are one of the few media outlets reporting this story with any level of calm or scientific analysis. Most places are just banging on about explosions and nuclear material without putting any of it into context.

      People seem to have decided that the situation is all down to this being a nuclear reactor, and not a nuclear reactor hit by several extremely powerful natural disasters. Given the extraordinary circumstances, the facility seems to have performed astonishingly well, and desperately trying to claim that this is a "catastrophe" makes you look like an imbecile.

      With the country in ruins and tens of thousands dead, you're all pointing to another potential incident and screaming about how appalling it is. As if nothing else happened in Japan that day... Way to miss the real catastophe, moron.

    2. mmiied

      releisum fail

      the earthquake was a disaster

      the why the plant was engerneared and maned was a triumph that prevented a catastrophe

      but are the oil refinarys still burning? I would like to see ANY other moden power plant or isdustral sector hold up and not release toxins or the like

      radaition is not realy much more dangrouis than hear and fire it is just we can not sence radioactivity so do not know to move away

    3. Thomas 4

      Sigh

      One thing a lot of people have overlooked in these articles on El Reg is that Lewis is basing his articles on the information available to him, whether its from World Nuclear News, science journals or astrological predictions. If a statement he makes today turns out to be incorrect due to a lack of information on his part, like a government witholding certain details for example, it's not really fair to crucify him because of it.

      I've been following events closely through a number of articles on a number of websites and while there's no denying it does take a pro-nuclear stance, at least it doesn't seem to revel in the destruction while crying about the Hugh Manatee.

      1. Lomax
        FAIL

        Loss of electricity = extreme?

        I agree that there is a fair amount of hysteria, but calling the loss of electricity supply "several extremely powerful natural disasters" is revisionist in the extreme. ALL the problems at Fukushima are directly related to the loss of power to the cooling systems. NOT damage caused by the earthquake and NOT damage caused by the tsunami - just plain and simple loss of power. Yes, the back-up generators were flooded, but had there been an alternative power source we would not be facing this disaster. Go back and look the sequence of events again!

        1. Greg J Preece
          FAIL

          @Lomax - You are kidding, right?

          "I agree that there is a fair amount of hysteria, but calling the loss of electricity supply "several extremely powerful natural disasters" is revisionist in the extreme. "

          To me, calling a force 9 earthquake a "loss of electricity supply" seems revisionist, but OK then, let's call it an initial loss of electricity, caused by...? Oh, and by the way, I love how:

          "ALL the problems at Fukushima are directly related to the loss of power to the cooling systems. NOT damage caused by the earthquake and NOT damage caused by the tsunami"

          ...is followed immediately by...

          "Yes, the back-up generators were flooded"

          Hmmm. Was that by the tsunami, by any chance?

          ", but had there been an alternative power source..."

          There was. Mains, followed by generators, followed by batteries and mobile generators (the latter of which was where it went really wrong). Partly because of that event. Oh, what was it again?

          "Go back and look the sequence of events again!"

          Perhaps you should.

        2. Highlander

          The generators had a backup...or don't you read well?

          The site had battery power for 8 hours. i believe that is approximately twice the norm for the industry. So, let's get this straight. Earthquake happens. External power is lost, reactors scram, cool down begins, backup generators kick in to continue cooling. Then...Tsunami hits, 7+ meters, generators are flooded, and fuel supplies are destroyed. On-site battery backups kick in, cooling continues on reduced power until the batteries fail.

          Remember, the severe earthquake and Monster tsunami essentially destroyed all the local infrastructure around the plant, you know, useful things like power lines and roads. So, it has taken some days to get to the point where external power can be restored and where external equipment can be brought in. It's not like you can simply fly it in either, where do you land? A landing zone has to be established first. So the Nuclear facility was essentially operating without any external support for 72+ hours, which is far longer than the possible duration of it's battery systems.

          The true heroes on site managed to rig a temporary cooling system using the site's fire fighting equipment, creative thinking considering all the other cooling systems were no longer usable. The primary concern was the scram'd reactors, which were still comparatively hot. Te spent fuel pools are concerning, but early in this saga, they were not the top priority. the fact that they now are the top priority suggests that the reactors themselves are now safer than they were some days ago.

          Look, it's easy to say that the plant should have been over engineered for a larger earthquake or larger tsunami. that kind of hindsight is really easy. The point I think is that the plat survived the single worst natural disaster that has ever befallen Japan or any industrialized western economy, a twin strike from a huge earthquake and a huge tsunami. If you would like to tour the US west coast and examine the preparedness of our nuclear facilities, I don't think you'll find any as prepared as Fukushima Daiichi was.

          As others have pointed out, the horrible distortion of coverage of this issue has distracted the world away from a humanitarian calamity. The people of Japan need our help. The entire country has rolling blackouts because of the national shortfall in electrical production. Areas in the north east of japan are running out of critical supplies and whole towns have been washed away. That's not even including the hydro electric dam that failed during the earthquake and the subsequent flooding. Fukushima Daiichi is a huge story, yes, but compared to the scale of the disaster and calamity on-going, it's really not the biggest story there at all.

          What distresses me most about the media coverage of the nuclear power plant issues is that the media in general has displayed an absolute lack of integrity. they simply exist to funnel the latest sound bites from various commentators to the screen. There is very little research, investigation or analysis of the information available. I guess it's easier to lead with scare stories about clouds of nuclear material than it is to research and evaluate. Whatever happened to objective reporting and analysis of facts? I've endured story after story in the news which are nothing more than second hand reports of other media stories that are scare stories based on second hand reports of statements made by 'experts' who are briefed on the situation by people who take their information from the media reports...talk about a vicious cycle.

          Twice now major media outlets have reported breaking news about fires at one or other of the facilities, and yet the 'breaking news' was 6-8 hours out of date, and the fires were already extinguished. It took more than 4 hours for any western news source to report on the helicopter water dumping operation happening, I watched it live on NHK online. The western media seems to love running self referential stories about how they are withdrawing to such and such a safe distance, or how one western government or another is advising it's citizens to flee the nuclear fallout. It's all bogus crap.

          You and others may not like the more positive spin given the facts here, but it does counter the overtly doom laden information and false-hoods elsewhere.

          1. Horizon3
            Thumb Up

            A Bright Light in a deluge of darkness

            @Highlander ... Thanks for your common sense post.

            3 out of 4 posts in this thread are done by fools that cannot dispute the information provided, so they attack the author. This is either ignorance or cowardice on a scale usually attributed to a poor education or inadequate parentage. I don't know about the UK but in the US we call it trolling a thread.

            I have seen a lot of "what does this have to do with tech?" posts, Folks it doesn't get much more high tech than a nuclear power plant! About the only thing higher in technical issues are nuke powered colliders and manned space missions.

            And as highlander stated, if you are relying on the media for your information, you deserve to be mislead and misinformed, they are in over sensationalizing high gear and are hours if not days late in their "reporting" and 8 times out 10 their information is false, misleading or outright lies.

            Lewis has been getting his information from reliable and accurate sources. I can tell from reading them that the sources are from NEI, TEPCO, The Japanese Govt., MIT and quite a few others.

            What purpose would any of these entities have in downplaying any hazards? If they lied it would come out eventually, and contrary to some of your "opinions" they do care about their reputations. Unlike the present day media they depend on their credibility to earn a living or maintain their status as a credible regulating body.

            You can automatically exclude any UN sources or the US NRC (except for on the ground personnel) The NRC is run by an Obama political appointee who hates the nuclear industry, he was put in place by Obama to wreck it, not improve it.

            Good fact sources:

            MIT: http://mitnse.com/

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

          2. ARaybould

            Reasonable answers to the wrong questions

            Higlander's case is that the plant staff has done an excellent job, given the circumstances, and I do not wish to argue with that. The issue, however, is whether inadequate preparation and complacency exacerbated those circumstances and created significant additional risk, turning what could have been a demonstration of the safety of nuclear power into a reason for continuing concern over how it is managed.

            He says that hindsight is easy, but in this case, so too would foresight have been. Earthquakes and tsunamis of this magnitude and greater are expected, and their consequences are well-known; as another commenter pointed out, the 2004 Indonesian tsunami should have acted as a wakeup call, even if Tokyo Electric Power had underestimated the risk to that point.

            We also have credible reports from the Wall Street Journal that TEPCO delayed taking effective action to stabilize the situation out of concern for its investment in the plant. If confirmed, this would also confirm that TEPCO was unable to manage the crisis effectively, as prioritization of concerns and decisive action are important parts of crisis management.

            Highlander questions whether US plants are as well-prepared as were the Japanese ones. It is simply a logical error, however, to think that any alleged lack of preparedness elsewhere justifies TEPCO’s lack of sufficient readiness: it is the wrong measuring-stick. Furthermore, Highlander has apparently missed the irony in his questions about nuclear safety elsewhere, given his pro-nuclear stance.

            I, too, am unimpressed by the quality of journalism. One issue is that the media failed to pick up clues, from the factual evidence, that TEPCO’s public assessment of the state of the plant was repeatedly and unrealistically optimistic, so the bias has not been uniformly pessimistic. Nevertheless, I am prepared to accept that is has been pessimistic on balance, but, once again, it would be a logical error to conclude that there is consequently nothing to be concerned about.

            Mr. Page’s questioning of apocalyptic, disproportionate and uninformed reporting is valuable, but his unfortunate practice of responding to speculative, biased editorializing in a like manner has robbed him of the chance to be the voice of reason here, and puts him in the same camp as the people he claims to despise.

            Even if things turn out as well as Mr. Page predicts, it does not mean that concern is unwarranted. For every technological disaster, there are an order of magnitude or more of incidents that betray the risk without themselves turning disastrous, and there are risks that are predictable even if they have not been realized yet. As a former worker in the nuclear industry who believes it could be our best response to global warming, I am concerned by the frequency with which that industry tends to downplay these warnings. TEPCO’s failings do not, of course, prove that other operators are unprepared, but there is other evidence on that issue.

        3. The Cube
          WTF?

          @Lomax - Stop talking out of your arse and come back to planet earth please

          Yes, the loss of electrical power to the cooling pumps is the proximal cause of the problems, however your other two statements must have been muffled by your trousers.

          "NOT damage caused by the earthquake" - Well, except that three of the four reactors were online and generating power when the quake hit and tripped the safety systems which took the reactors offline and dropped the control rods - removing primary onsite power generating capacity - ooh look, loss of electrical power.

          "NOT damage caused by the tsunami" - Well, except that the backup diesel generators and their backup generators were taken out by the Tsunami wave and any remaining diesel fuel on site now has rather too much sea water in it - ooooh, look, another two losses of electrical power.

          Now of course you missed out on blathering "NOT due to the loss of power grid connections to the site" - which of course was another act of the earthquake driven Tsunami.

          So returning to your mindless drivel of "but had there been an alternative power source we would not be facing this disaster." - Which of the alternate power sources are you moaning about precisely?

          1) The other nuclear generators on site

          2) The main utility power grid connections

          3) The backup diesel generators

          4) The backup backup diesel generators

          5) The backup batteries in case all of 1, 2, 3 and 4 simultaneously fail which didn't hold out for long enough to let the onsite staff recover enough of the site infrastructure from the earthquake and tsunami damage to sort out replacement power.

          Whenever a site like this is built there are a set of criteria determined for what scale of event(s) the site must be able to ride through with minimal external damage, they didn't predict an event of this scale so the site was not designed for it. Presumably you would also be moaning if Godzilla had marched up the coastline smashing up reactors with an American submarine he found in the water and saying that was also due to negligence in the design and that they should have Godzilla detectors and Godzilla guns on the reactors?

          Perhaps you think they should have a helicopter on permanent hover above the site with a containerised generator set and a sub in a hardened bunker with a nice big extension cord to connect up to its onboard reactors next time there is an enormous earthquake and tsunami wave?

          Now of course in a modern reactor design (not a 40 year old design) there are additional backup backup backup backup passive safety features such as large gravity feed tanks of coolant water which can trickle feed the cores during their secondary decay period but then, we know a bit more about reactors now than they did then.

          So far these effected nuclear sites have done less damage since the earthquake than Goldman Sachs do before breakfast.

        4. fatchap
          WTF?

          Backup to the Backup

          So that sequence again for you folks:

          Unprecedented, massive earthquake and Tsunami cause three things at the same time:

          1 power supply to cooling pumps is knocked out

          2 backup diesel pumps are damaged

          3 roads and transport infrastructure messed up, lots of folks wake up to find themselves dead

          At this point the backup to the back diesels kicked in, battery powered pumps (they would be the alternative power source you are screaming about).

          The plan was always that should the power fail and the diesel generators fail the batteries would tide the plant over until replacements or repairs could be used. Because of point 3 it is tricky to get the replacements on site or to repair the generators.

          So what part of this whole thing was not caused by the earthquake Lomax?

        5. Tom 13

          @Lomax

          The quake caused the loss of power, the tsunami caused the backup generators to be flooded out. So no, it was not just a simple loss of power. You may be entitled to your own (wrong) opinion, but you are NOT entitled to your own set of facts. The diesels WERE the backup.

      2. Will's
        Flame

        Dam nation

        >With the country in ruins and tens of thousands dead, you're all pointing to another

        >potential incident and screaming about how appalling it is

        Strange how nobody has been shouting about the real loss of life from renewable energy in the region.

        Hydroelectric Dam + massive quake = Actual death.

        But even the few news reports that feature it rapidly run away to scream about the nuclear disaster unfolding

        1. Anton Ivanov
          Thumb Up

          Actually, there japanese engineering has also been supreme

          Frankly, once again, the japanese have shown some spectacular feats of engineering there as well. The amount of damage to hydroelectrics is spectacularly low as well.

          When all is said and done they should put up a few monuments to the people who designed their infrastructure. They deserve them.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Dead Vulture

        Lewis is *deliberately* self-deluded, so it's not an excuse.

        Choosing to take only information that agrees with your pre-judged conclusions, aka "cherry-picking the evidence", is the essence of self-delusion. It's not an excuse that he failed to inform himself from multiple sources, it must have been the consequence of some deliberate choice. WNN and IAEA are just reporting what TEPCO tells them with about a 12 hour delay (and it should have been obvious to anyone who compares the press releases that that's what they were doing - when I checked all the sites, at Lewis' suggestion, neither of them had anything beyond what was stated in TEPCO's releases and a bit of commentary based on the assumption that TEPCO's information was truthful and complete), and TEPCO's statements have very obviously been deliberately vague and omitted vital pertinent details at times, details that nonetheless did make it into other news reports. For example, the news that they were relying on a bunch of passing fire-tenders that they flagged down and begged to help has been available(*) since Sunday (not through TEPCO, but through other news sites easily googled), but there was no mention of it in Lewis' first article posted lunchtime Monday: it just says ...

        "The plant operators thus bit the bullet and fell back on yet another backup system: they injected seawater mixed with boric acid"

        Well, sorry. Begging up a few passing fire engines to pump water around for you is not "yet another backup system"; it is the equivalent of pissing on the warp-core to stop it blowing up, it is evidence of final last-ditch desparation measures. That information was available, but Lewis failed either to find or to report it. Similarly, this very article says "TEPCO admits that portions of fuel rod continue to be uncovered at times", when in fact what TEPCO have admitted is that at two reactors the entire cores have been at least 50% uncovered for a prolonged time.

        It is hard to see these as anything other than deliberate omissions for the sake of spin. That's not an unfortunate lack of information, it would be a voluntary decision to ignore inconvenient facts. If you kid yourself, *you* are responsible for your subsequent errors.

        (*) - Earliest reference I could find to fire tenders being relied on for pumping: Sat 12th. -

        http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/japans-earthquake-hit-nuclear-plant-may-be-in-meltdown-say-experts/story-e6frf7jx-1226020327791

        I didn't read it myself until Sunday, but it was certainly no secret by Monday lunchtime when Lewis' first article went up; many people reported it, but not Lewis.

    4. Intractable Potsherd
      Thumb Down

      @ Fred Goldstein ...

      ... what on earth do kitchen tools have to do with this? Lewis has not once over-simplified the difficulties being faced with once this unprecedented crisis is over. However, he has countered the ignorance being spouted elsewhere, including by American "specialists". If you wish to call that denial, then fine, and I shall wear the badge with pride.

      1. Fred Goldstein

        He is downplaying the risk

        and acting as if press reports, from practically everyone else, are exaggerated. Radiation is escaping and the local radiation is preventing people from getting in and fixing things. His wild-eyed optimism is unjustified, and brings disrepute on the news coverage here.

    5. Boring Bob

      Safer than coal

      2,433 coal miners died last year in China alone. Nuclear power is safer than it appears.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Troll

        Safer than ...

        This from the same people who brought us -

        "Good News - Chernobyl cleanup provides huge boost to USSR economy providing jobs for 500,000!"

        "USSR donates 1400square kilometres as nature park in goodwill gesture to plants and animals, wishes to thank Chernobyl."

        "Doctors and Genetics researchers offered once in lifetime research opportunity thanks to enourmous radiation leak."

      2. Gav
        Badgers

        How safe does it appear?

        When those 2,433 coal miners died in China, who else died? Was there any threat to the health of millions of uninvolved persons many miles away? Was there any danger that those who tried to save them may die years from now, as a direct consequence of simply being in the near vicinity? Were acres upon acres of farmland put out of use due to coal dust? Did they have to fill the mine affected with concrete and encase it in lead for the next thousand years, just in case anyone else stumbled over it?

        Didn't think so.

        Nuclear energy may be unavoidable, and other energy sources may have their dangers, but a body count of miners is a facile argument.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Grenade

          How safe does it appear?

          Try drinking the water down stream from a chinese coal mine, and then see how long you live.

          There is a reason for all the discoloured rocks in the river beds in our old coal mining towns.

        2. Anton Ivanov
          Flame

          Actually, there was

          Read a proper and unbiased article somewhere on the amount of _RADIOACTIVE_ material which is dumped into the atmosphere by a coal burning plant without proper filters (which is the case in China). That is besides all other pollutants.

          1. Arthur Dent
            Happy

            Actually...

            "Read a proper and unbiased article somewhere on the amount of _RADIOACTIVE_ material which is dumped into the atmosphere by a coal burning plant without proper filters (which is the case in China). That is besides all other pollutants."

            That's a good idea.

            About 6 decades ago Otto Frisch wrote a short piece on the safety of coal burning plants, pointing out the very severe pollution with radioactive material that they generate. At the time he held the Jacksonian Chair of Natural Philiosophy at Cambridge University, and a few years earlier he was one of the authors of the Frisch-Peierls memorandum (which described how to use conventional explosives to obtain criticality at lower mass, and the effects the resultant fission explosion would have, including a good description of the fallout) so he should probably be regarded as fairly well qualified on topics like radioactive pollution. Maybe Lomax could read his "On the safety of coal burning power stations" (I think that was the title) if he can find a copy and the words aren't too long for him.

        3. Tom 13

          You might not be familiar with a little coal place here in the US.

          Goes by the name of Centralia. There's been a coal fire in the abandoned coal mine for going on a century now. Odorless carbon dioxide has killed entire families as they slept in their homes. Some homes have suddenly collapsed into pits opened beneath them by the fire. So yes, coal has in fact caused at least one known disaster on par with your examples, but very few people cry about it the way they do potential nuclear threats.

          Frankly, I think it is the denial by people like you of actual realities worse than potentialities that causes the vehemence of responses to your posts.

    6. Intractable Potsherd
      Happy

      Triumph ...

      ... no deaths due to radiation, no long-lasting damage to land, four reactors all in one, albeit very second-hand, piece. All this following one of the worst earthquakes in recorder history and a tsunami that would have been unbelievable if it had been seen in a movie. Add in the possibility that this happened at the worst possible time, i.e. just after one of the reactors had been de-fuelled for maintenance, and the possibility that there may have been some corner-cutting with the back-up systems, and this is a serious, never-to-be-forgotten triumph.

      Failure - well, you know what failure would have been. Don't be silly.

    7. David Pollard

      I don't know about the kitchen tools ...

      ... and I can't speak for Lewis, but if all those angry Reg readers who support Fred Goldstein's suggestion will club together to sponsor a couple of tickets I'd be delighted to go to Japan.

      For a few decades now I have been on record as saying that I'd be happy to have a suitable quantity of vitrified nuclear waste in my garden; or even under the house, come to that. (Somewhere in the region of 2 to 5 kW with a suitable heat-pump seems appropriate.) Distributed storage could make it too difficult to use for nefarious purposes and domestic central heating from the decay heat would be close to carbon neutral.

    8. wim
      Thumb Down

      funny how Lewis swings

      Needless to say this is not the general perception around the world - but hopefully the facts speak for themselves.

      the negative reporting is perception

      the positive reporting are facts

      I think it would be prudent to wait a month or six before we establish what is a fact and what is PR spin.

  6. Aged Cynic
    Unhappy

    Good News but still not Great News?

    As they say in the aviation industry...

    A GOOD landing is one you can walk away from,

    but a GREAT landing is one where they can use the plane again

    Should my brakes fail while descending a long and steep hill, I might be grateful to the designers of the car's airbags and crumple zones - but I'd still be mad as h*ll at whoever under-specified that braking system.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, mate. You're in the nuclear industry now.

      If some people die of cancer in a few years, it's a triumph for nuclear power (because cancer is a big killer in the civilised world, so according to our author it's fine to kill a few people with it, so long as it can't be statistically and directly tied to the event).

      If the situation is still partially out of control, it's good news.

      One shudders to think what the situation would have to be for the article's author to label it 'a disaster'. Rivers of molten plutonium running through Toyko probably wouldn't cut it.

    2. Marcus Aurelius
      Flame

      Analogy Wrong

      The Nuclear plant was the victim of the crash. To use your car analogy, the situation is not like that of a cars brakes failing, its like the car was hit side on by a monster truck at 80mph.

      In those situations, you thank God and the car manufacturer if you walk away unharmed, even if your car is a write off, not blame the manufacturer for being there in the first place.

    3. Willington

      @Aged Cynic - Poor Analogy

      If you want to stick with the car-down-a-hill analogy then you'd better add some black ice and a runaway articulated lorry pushing you from behind. The disaster here was a massive earthquake and a tsunami, the brakes on this car were not under-specified.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        known hazards

        What if you live on an icy hilltop with heavy lorry traffic?

        What if the reactor had been built on a fault line and an unprotected beach? Oh wait.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        "the brakes on this car were not under-specified."

        The specification called for survival after a 6.5m tsunami.

        The real tsunami was a little bigger than that.

        How on earth is that NOT under-specified?

        1. Poor Coco

          It's about the nature of engineering

          This disaster — remember, there have only been 4 recorded 9.0+ earthquakes in the last century — was a larger magnitude than had been considered likely to happen in the life of the plant. And, for the first 40 years of its life, it was perfectly valid. Even now, when it was utterly overwhelmed, it demonstrated graceful failure and was thus a triumph.

          However, in the light of 2011 events, I bet all Japanese plants will have to withstand a design earthquake in the 9.0–9.2 range in the future; and also perhaps an 8 metre tsunami.

          As inadequacies in current design become evident, design procedures are updated. This is what China's announced it's doing, and that is a good thing, isn't it?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            "demonstrated graceful failure and was thus a triumph."

            You are Lewis Page under a pseudonym. It's statistically impossible for two people to be that brainless in one hundred years.

            "As inadequacies in current design become evident, design procedures are updated."

            That would be a good thing if it actually happened.

            What more often happened in the late 20th century was that PHBs and beancounters said "The odds of (xyz) occuring are negligible, you're wasting money, don't cater for it". Sometimes it worked OK for a while, sometimes it didn't.

            Three reasonably well documented examples of when it didn't work are the space shuttle Challenger, the Nimrod crash in Afghanistan, and flight AF447.

            Go away, sad man.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            "remember, there have only been 4 recorded 9.0+ earthquakes in the last century"

            That's one every twenty five years. And these plants were intended to have a 40-year life span. So they should have been designed to expect it as a fairly high probability during their operating life.

            Therefore underspecified.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Therefore underspecified."

              It's bad enough when folk try to confuse the issue with logic, but when you add arithmetic into the picture too, how on earth can hopeless cases like Poor Coco (4 events in 100 years vs 40 year operating lifetime = nothing to worry about) be expected to cope?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Starting to talk about the real issue at last

      A very good point but I must take issue with Lewis for making me sound like David Icke.

      Is nuclear power is "good" or "bad" is the wrong question.

      "Are nuclear power station designs from the 1950s appropriate today?" would be better.

      Man + dog are calling to block all new NP build and they have got a point because the real informed debate is not taking place.

      Another aviation parallel. From 1903 to 1913 John Dunne built primitive aircraft with swept wings. His aim was to produce aircraft with inherent stability. This approach was ignored by the mainstream aircraft industry until the 1950s. Today, the vast majority of passenger airmiles are flown in airliners with swept wings (inherent stability!). It took the aircraft industry 40 years to learn this lesson.

      What's the IT angle? The code I gouge out today can be obsolete tomorrow. It's time that nuclear power station designers learned that lesson and started seriously looking at designs with inherent stability (negative thermal runaway - no more excursions) LFTR - PBMR to name but two.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        Inherent stability?

        While I largely agree with the thrust of your post, I have to say you're off the deep-end aerodynamically speaking. Swept wings are not, of themselves, inherently stable - hit up Wikipedia for "dutch roll" - and the reason they are used on airliners is efficiency at transonic speed, not stability. Do note that virtually all light aircraft, gliders, and pretty much everything that doesn't travel at appreciable fractions of Mach 1 are still built with straight wings. The F14 even has variable sweep wings, and it UNsweeps them for landing - for extra lift and stability. Engineers are not stupid, and they don't ignore good design through sheer dogma.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Ref: "whoever under-specified that braking system."

      One of the issues is that this quake was of a higher magnitude than was previously thought possible for this area.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. V 3

    Figures please

    > given the undisputed fact that both quake and tsunami

    > hugely exceeded the levels

    > the powerplant had been designed to take

    Can you give some figures for that please, rather than just announce it is ”undisputed” ?

    The relevant figures are the magnitude of the quake as it was experienced AT THE FUKUSHIMA SITE - (not at the quakes epi-centre), on the one hand and the size of quake STRIKING THE SITE DIRECTLY, that the plant was designed to withstand, on the other.

    Your article didn't mention them, but since you regard them as undisputable, I can only assume you have them.

    I would be grateful if you would share them with us.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Stop

      Try looking at the past analysis articles...

      All the details are mentioned in the previous reports... Try reading them...

      1. V 3

        Really? Where please....

        I have read the previous reports very carefully and can find no reference to any such figures.

        One report referred to the 8.9M (as it was then) at the epicentre, but the epicentre value is besides the point - it is the value at the site that is relevant.

        And if the figures that @Steve X quotes are correct, the acceleration at the site, or around the site - he did not quote a site figure - may have been in excess of the acceleration at the epicentre (or at least of the figures I have seen quoted for the acceleration at the epicentre)

        Which article is it in? (This is a neutral question - I am simply curious - I can't find it.)

    2. Steve X

      Figures

      According to Wikipedia, Fukushima Unit 1 was designed for peak ground acceleration of 0.18g. According the the USGS website the peak acceleration at siesmic stations around Fukushima varied from 0.3g to 0.6g. I'd say that confortably fits the definition of "hugely exceeded ". The tsunami wave topped the sea wall that was supposed to protect the generators, so that certainly "exceeded" the design parameters, whether that was a "huge" excess is somewhat academic at present.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @ V 3

          Wait, so you're saying that the wall was somehow designed to block waves taller than itself? Design only becomes implementation once it's complete, up until then it's still design, it's not like they didn't know how big the wall was when they built it. If the wave was bigger than the sea wall than it exceeded the design parameters.

          1. V 3

            @Anonymous Coward

            >If the wave was bigger than the sea wall than it exceeded the design parameters.

            That's like saying "if the earthquake knocked the house down, it must have been because it exceeded the design parameters for the house." That clearly does not follow. What it did was knock the actual house down.

            Do you KNOW what the designed height of the wall was? No - you know that the ACTUAL height, as it was built, was less than the height of the wave. And that is all you know.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @ V3

              You didn't read my post properly, I said design only becomes implementation once it's complete. If the wall was built to a certain height then that was it's design, design's often change on the fly during a project's life cycle. We are not talking about estimated strength or some other modelled parameter, we're talking about height. The engineers building the plant will have known full well how tall the wall was built (I'm sure they had distance finders) so that WAS their design, and it was exceeded.

              1. V 3

                @Anonymous Coward

                > I said design only becomes implementation once it's complete.

                And a very puzzling thing to say it is... Because it makes no sense - and surely it is not what you mean.

                The claim that you really want to make is that the implementation IS the design, for parameters such as height. But of course, that is not true. It is just a bit harder to make a mistake

                >The engineers building the plant will have known full

                >well how tall the wall was built (I'm sure they had

                >distance finders) so that WAS their design, and it was exceeded.

                The builders may well have known how tall it was - probably - but that doesn't mean it was the designed height!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ground acceleration

        "According to Wikipedia, Fukushima Unit 1 was designed for peak ground acceleration of 0.18g. According the the USGS website the peak acceleration at siesmic stations around Fukushima varied from 0.3g to 0.6g"

        Interestingly, in the recent Christchurch quake, which was only a 6.3, they recorded ground acceleration exceeding 2G. That quake was very shallow and practically right next to the city. Their previous 7.1 last September had ground acceleration of over 1.2G. So, while the Japan quake was large, the ground acceleration was not that high, and they were lucky that the epicentre was some distance offshore (which of course contributed to the more destructive tsunami).

        The original design spec does not seem that stringent, and I doubt whether it would comply with current codes. The building codes for any future plants would need to take into account secondary damage scenarios.

    3. Jon 52

      quake vs tsunami

      The quake didnt do that much damage so the arguemnt 8.2vs 9.0 is slightly less important than the tsunami predicion. It was 7m not the 6.5m in spec, it was the basement flooding that meant loss of backup power (a lot of switch gear in the basement.)

      If they had thought to put the generators higher in the building to prevent flooding it would have been better

  9. Lomax
    WTF?

    Are you for real?

    "Fukushima on Thursday: Prospects starting to look good" - Earth calling Lewis Page! Did you watch the video of those desperate and futile water dropping attempts? Four drops of 7,500 liters each, most of which missed its target by a mile. Each of these pools require 150,000 liters to safely cover the fuel rods. They also had to abandon the attempt at using a police water cannon to spray water into the spent fuel pools as radiation levels are now so high that they cannot get close enough with the truck. I don't know what planet you are on, but the reality here on earth, Mr Page, is that there has been no significant change in the situation at all - which under the circumstances can only be considered a complete and utter failure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Did you read page 2?

      You didn't, did you?

      1. Ian Stephenson Silver badge
        Pint

        Im surprised...

        .. they even read the title before frothing.

        <---- the froth I like.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Yes he's for real, but are you?

      That would be the water canon that has now returned to the scene would it?

      You do understand that the "increased radiation levels" that have been seen so far have all come from isotopes with extremely short half-lives (e.g. hours or days) and that until the plant is fully under control this kind of withdraw/return stuff is going to go on as needed?

      Naturally things aren't being helped by the scientifically remedial media shouting "We're all going to die" because they think radiation=abandon area for 1000+ years.

      If you can't be bothered to take the time to understand the science, please stop bothering to comment too.

      I vote that anyone in the media who can't take the time to learn about the science be banned from using anything more complicated than a pencil and pad. That way we might get some more balanced reporting.

      1. Lomax
        Boffin

        Short-lived?

        Plutonium Pu-239 has a half life of 24,000 years.

        1. smylar
          FAIL

          @lomax

          Who said anything about Plutonium - only one reactor is running with Plutonium (MOX fuel) - I believe it is reactor three - besides it is pretty much a non issue unless the core detonates spectacularly (unlikely) - it being a heavy metal so likely to remain non gaseous, so it will sit in the core and be easily dealt with. Long half-life materials generally are more stable, therefore less radioactive, though I am unsure how radioactive plutonium is (different with different isotopes anyway Pu-240 is more radioactive but has a much shorter half life).

          It is Indeed the short lived stuff causing the problem as they are isotopes of light elements in a gaseous form allowing it to escape easily

          1. Lomax
            Boffin

            @smylar

            Get your facts straight before you attempt to patronise me with your limited knowledge. The problem here is not so much the cores themselves as the spent fuel pools. There are currently about 1500 fuel rod assemblies in the cores of reactors 1,2 and 3 together - but there are more than 11,000 fuel rod assemblies in the storage pools. In addition to the six pools inside the reactor buildings, there is a large storage pool elsewhere on the site. The fuel has been re-stacked by TEPCO in order to fit more fuel in the pools. This implies the use of boron separators and/or boronic acid in the cooling water, particularly in the densely packed pool of reactor building #4 - which in addition to large quantities of older fuel contains 500 assemblies which were only recently removed from the core (and which are more active than the older spent fuel).

            Now, Japan has run out of supplies of boronic acid and are awaiting shipments from abroad. And if, as seems to be the case, some pools have been completely drained, the boron sheeting will have been destroyed. Because of this dumping sea water is not likely to be effective in shutting down activity, in fact, since water acts as a neutron moderator, it could well have the opposite effect. At the very least, if the fuel has been damaged by heat, dropping water will release steam containing radioactive material from the fuel rods. It is a desperate last ditch attempt and little else. The fuel would need to be moved but the location of the pools (they are on the top level of the buildings) and the damage to the manipulating equipment (i.e. it is completely gone) makes this next to impossible.

            According to Tokyo Electric, 32 of the 514 fuel rod assemblies in the storage pond at reactor No. 3 contain MOX fuel. MOX fuel, especially after being used, also contains large quantities of Pu-240 as well as Pu-239.

        2. Ryan Kendall
          Pint

          Heavy Metal can fly

          Unless the uranium oxide pellets are exposed from their casings, and material is on fire, i doubt it will go anywaye.

          http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation

          1. smylar

            Fire

            Yes, indeed it can fly, powdered plutonium/uranium that is on fire is a problem. So far there has been no indication the cores are on fire and are mostly intact.

            But you would still need to combine it with a really big fire, like the Chernobyl graphite fire to throw it far and wide

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Fire?

              You mean like the ones they've been battling at Fukushima?

            2. Ian Stephenson Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Fire

              I'd be interested in seeing how you manage to get Uranium Oxide or Plutonium Oxide to burn in an Oxygen atmosphere.

              It's one of the reasons to use the oxide rather than the metal or other salt itself.

              Bad analogy coming up:

              Take magnesium ribbon burn it - very pretty bright flame.

              Now take magnesium oxide, yes the ash from the ribbon will do, burn it - what do you mean you can't?

              Now Iron oxide/Aluminium mixed is a special case- I dont think that Zirconium/MOx produces a thermite reaction. Bloody stupid design if it did.

        3. Daniel B.
          Boffin

          @Lomax

          ... and Plutonium can't fly by itself, can it?

          It's all explained, right there, in page 2 I believe. It also explaines why the ugly stuff was able to "fly" from Chernobyl; I don't see flying graphite outside Fukushima No. 1, do you?

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ok, Let's all quote irrelevant figures.

          Rb-82 is used in some cardiac PET scans to assess myocardial perfusion. It has a half-life of 1.273 minutes. I can wiki too!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Re: Yes he's for real, but are you?

        "That would be the water canon that has now returned to the scene would it?"

        What? They're using holy water now as well?!

  10. arkhangelsk

    In a world of despair

    ,,, it is interesting how the facts, or most of the same facts, can be stated in such an optimistic fashion compared to the rest of the world's media.

    If only for that, Lewis should be applauded here. Gloom and doom doesn't do anyone much good. Let's see if they recover after they get main power going.

    1. Psyx

      "Gloom and doom doesn't do anyone much good."

      You'd prefer sunny optimism in your reporting of industrial accidents and in the design of nuclear reactors?

      I think I'll certainly stick with abject pessimism in the later, and I'd prefer impartiality in the first.

      1. arkhangelsk

        I'm all for

        ...impartiality in the international investigation when the dust clears.

        But while the struggle is still ongoing, I'm actually for reports that are truthful (as perceived) or even a bit on the sunny side. Panic is a legitimate concern, and there's little else pessimistic information would do anyway.

        Right now, all else being even, in general foreign experts are considered reliable, while Japanese experts are considered to have conflicts of interest. While I won't deny the Japanese have conflicts, the foreign experts are working on extremely little information (a fact they blame the Japanese for, but nevertheless leaves them poorly qualified to comment), and worst of all, have no responsibility and yet a conflict of interest.

        To be blunt, they can hardly lose by making the most pessimistic assessments that are even marginally supported by the facts at hand.

        If things don't go to their worst-case, they won't get castigated. They will just mumble "Well, we were lucky" or "Good work, Japanese". Given our mentality, the world will forgive them for "conservative, worst case thinking". Any panics their irresponsible, ill-substantiated statements cause will be blamed on the Japanese nuclear authorities for "not being open enough". No skin off their backs.

        (And no, giving them more information is not the answer, because now they'll use the increased information to make worse case assessments now given the aura of being more substantiated by more info).

        It is only if they try to be more optimistic, and things go bad could they get castigated for "underestimating the situation", not using 'proper', worst-case thinking. Blah.

        The media, not even being experts, have even less responsibility and are even more inclined to go worst case for the same reasons, plus of course that the worst case has better news value.

        It is only those that are actually in it that are pressed under conflicting, instead of one-way forces. In such an environment, to be one of the minority that tries to impose a calmer interpretation on what's going on is an act of bravery that deserves only praise. Even if Fukushima goes Chernobyl tomorrow, I stand by my statement.

        I don't always agree with Lewis, but nice series, man!

  11. TeeCee Gold badge
    Badgers

    Tomorrow:

    Huge mushroom seen over Fukushima.

    Lewis writes an article for El Reg pointing out it's nothing to worry about, it's actually an invasion attempt by giant alien fungi and Godzilla's been called in to sort it out.

    Icon, 'cos this is all Web commentardary on croudsourced news fluff and we'll only know who's really right once the dust settles. Ideally non-radioactive dust at that.

  12. jacckk
    Happy

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

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

  13. byrresheim

    Surely you are jesting?

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

    That has been a quarter of a century ago, and most of the area is still unfit for human consumption. And that was a largely unpopulated area, not a coastal strip with an enormous population density and an equally great importance for the overall productivity of an industrialised nation.

    While I sincerely hope that you are right in your optimistic assessment of the situation, I can only stand in awe before your misundersimate of the consequences in case things continue to go wrong.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    how much does the Arab world pay

    to stoke the nuclear fears? What is wrong with people that are so programmed against nuclear power that they want, no..NEED the disaster to be epic and deadly and terrible for centuries to justify their phobias?

    I can understand weirdness from religion, like saying God punished Japan with tsunamis because of tentacle hentai. That attitude gets the derision it deserves. But the "religion" of the anti-nuclear crowd, hyping and hoping and praying that each positive fact they hear is wrong, dreaming that the Japanese will be "punished" for daring to use nuclear power in defiance of Mother Earth, seems to be allowed a free pass for its ignorance and dangerous stupidity.

    If one were to develop a solar facility that had the average daily output of a single one of these reactors (it'd have to be, what, a n eighth the size of California?) and hit it with tsunamis and earthquakes, the pollution damage of shattered glass, mirror coating foil, scalding steam (or whatever working fluid chosen) would instantly be greater than anything already or predicted to occur in Japan.

    Hit the Aswan or Three Gorges with the stresses of Fukushima and see how many millions of acres are destroyed, topsoil permanently eroded, and people killed. We won't even touch what would happen if this had gone off in the Gulf of Mexico, Persian Gulf or any South American oil fields.

    But that's all common sense. Hippies killed more of the planet driving out-of-tune VW microbuses to a single anti nuke protest than Three Mile Island did in its worst dreams. People b*tching about nuclear radiation crank their cancer potentials an order of magnitude higher than a Japanese downwinder everytime they pack a bowl with Mexican ditch-weed.

    Stupid is as stupid does. Gotta keep Saudi by-blows well funded with personal jets, designing artificial islands,and keep Al-Jazeera on the air. Jihad isn't cheap and the Middle East has nothing of value other than oil. A nuclear powered First World is the biggest threat they can imagine.

    Keep up the good work El Reg. While LP can be a bit snarky in his military appraisals (I hear him and 007 had some interesting discussions during their SBS commando academy days) his series of updates on the Japanese nuclear situation is spot on.

    Flames because that's what psychopathic nucleophobes fap to in their dreams.

  16. sabroni Silver badge

    Lewis..

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

    1. Willington

      @AC 14:51 GMT

      Thank you. There's so much phobia and scaremongering here from the anti-nuclear lobbyists I thought I was on the wrong site. It's nice to hear a reasonable voice again.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Tomorrow

      Nuclear reactor != Nuclear bomb hence != Mushroom cloud. But hey, don't let reality get in the way of some good hyperbole.

      1. Jolyon

        Reasonable?

        Did you reply to the wrong post by mistake?

        There's lots of perfectly rational discussion on here but suggesting anti-nuclear religions and conspiracies puts that post into a different category, surely?

        Mind you I don't think there are any anti-nuclear lobbyists here either (would seem like a curious backwater for their work) so maybe you are on the same wavelength.

      2. Basil Short_Trousers

        re: re: Tomorrow #

        @Anonymous Coward who incorrectly stated. " Nuclear reactor != Nuclear bomb hence != Mushroom cloud".

        That statement is a misunderstanding of the science. If a reactor core ever reached criticality (which shouldn't happen at Fukushima), the heat released by the nuclear reaction would cause the fissile material to expand, which would make the nuclear reaction sub-critical again within seconds. In other words, there would be a small localised explosion, but the act of exploding would stop any further nuclear reaction (which is nothing like a bomb).

        A good example is Chernobyl where criticality happened and the explosion ruined the reactor building, but that was it, it was nothing like a nuclear bomb and there wasn't a mushroom cloud. The radiation that spread from Chernobyl was not due to the explosion, but was due to the graphite fire that lasted for days afterwards (graphite was unique to the Chernobyl reactors).

        Lewis Page's Fukushima articles offer some clarity in the fog of media-led hysteria and ill-informed commenting, they should be broadcast around the Internet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          re: re: re: Tomorrow

          Er, your statement is a misunderstanding of relational operators. != means 'does not equal', I just didn't think I'd need to explain that on an I.T site.

          1. Basil Short_Trousers

            re: re: re: re: Tomorrow → #

            Oh yes, oops! Oh well... I can't see the relational operators for the nuclear commentaries :-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          graphite

          I'm no expert, but wikipedia tells me that there is graphite in the core of Dungeness B,

          Hartlepool, Heysham 1, Heysham 2, Hinkley Point B, Hunterston B and Torness.

          I believe not having secondary containment was unique to Chernobyl (or Russian designs anyway).

          There also appears to be cracks appearing in the graphite.

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5149650.stm

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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?

    4. Intractable Potsherd
      Pint

      Thanks, AC ...

      ... that was an inspired post!

      <-- you probably need one of these now.

    5. lee harvey osmond

      "Chernobyl ... most of the area is still unfit for human consumption."

      That doesn't add up.

      If I was in the habit of eating soil, I'm not sure how bothered I'd be about how radioactive it was.

    6. Naughtyhorse

      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

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      fap incoming

      area of california = 423,970 km^2

      solar radiation = 1360 W m^2 (http://www.acrim.com/)

      so the solar radiation falling on 1/8 California at noon midsummer is of the order of 72,074,900 MegaWatts.

      Your solar power plant would have to be made out of wood to be that inefficient.

      A current solar thermal plant at spain needs 550 000 m^2 to produce 50 MW(http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/13/spain-solar-power). That is about 1/2 a square kilometer. So to make 500MW (the equivalent of a nuclear reactor would require 5 km^2 of califormia or about 1/100 000 of California). It would be in the middle of the desert where no-one would ever be bothered with it). And it would provide power when demant peaks (its all air-con down there), so in some ways more useful than a nuclear reactor that basically provides base-load.

      (Of course to get these sort of capital intensive things built we would have to figure out how to use it as a machine of war. Maybe someone could figure out how to fry sattelites with it when its not generating, and then the planet will fill up with them).

      So don't accuse the other side of "religion" if you yerself don't like "facts". Physics is harder than google+wikipedia.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ jim 35

        You're right, physics is harder than google+wikipedia, but along the same lines the guardian does not qualify as an impartial source for any figures involving nuclear vs "renewable" power.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Flame

          Re: @ jim 35

          "You're right, physics is harder than google+wikipedia, but along the same lines the guardian does not qualify as an impartial source for any figures involving nuclear vs "renewable" power."

          How original: The Guardian is nothing but a playpen for hippies and eco-liberals because it's not run by some rich bloke with a "hawkish" editorial policy and an open invitation to 10 Downing Street. It seems to me, however, that they at least aggregate and redistribute quite a bit of useful data without any editorial icing on top, and it's merely a case of checking where they got it from, Wikipedia-style.

          But then it's just so easy to throw shit at such an organisation and watch like-"minded" people squeal with delight at the audacity of the "critique".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            re: Re: @ jim 35

            You're an idiot if you think the guardian is any less biased than any other major media outlet, just because their editorial policy is aimed at a different section of society doesn't make them crusaders for truth and justice.

            1. JP19
              WTF?

              Read and comprehend

              Are you a moron? He admitted to the Guardian's bias.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @JP19

                Where exactly did he admit this bias? And if he had why would that make me a moron? I was making the point that figures gleaned from the guardian were not a neutral source of information and he was disagreeing with me. If he was trying to claim that the guardian was an unbiased source of information by admitting their bias surely that would make him the moron. Of course that doesn't appear to be what he was doing, which makes you the moron. In future I suggest you follow your own advice and try reading and comprehending.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        But there's one serious drawback...

        ...solar doesn't work at night, and it's performance is compromised by clouds and moreso by inclement weather. That could make people enduring a Sierra Nevada blizzard (or even just a cold NorCal winter night) a bit uncomfortable.

        1. C 2
          FAIL

          RE: But there's one serious drawback...

          Ah, but one form of solar DOES work at night .. you missed it by about 30 years.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCGVTYtJEFk

          Some proposed variants of this design can run for 6 DAYS on stored heat at over 3/4 of their rated output.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ TeeCee

      You muppet.

      You are the classic symptom of the actual problem with this incident; stirring up pure hysteria purely because it's a nuke. You can't tell the difference between power nuke and bomb nuke, but you go spouting off anyway.

      For the record, I'm not a huge fan of nuke power, and this incident is hardly great news, but I at least know a real problem from one whipped up by the mostly ignorant story-hunting media.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Grenade

        Re: @ TeeCee

        You don't do sarcasm then?

        I was trying to tap into the "OMFG EVERYWUN WILL DIES" hysteria elsewhere (I see you got that bit) while contrasting it with the rather OTT the other way "Keep calm and carry on" message from Lewis, which even I (as a bit of a fan of nuclear power) am beginning to have trouble taking seriously.

        Personally I reckon the real truth will end up being somewhere in the middle, toward the "nowhere near as bad as it could have been, but not great" end of things.

        I thought the tone should have flagged that firmly in the "heavy sarcasm" category of things. Sorry if that didn't come across well, I never guessed that there were people round here who thought that Alien fungi and Godzilla were ever likely to crop up as actual reported events in a serious news piece.

        Also note that I never even suggested that there might be a nuclear explosion. It turned out to really be a giant alien, remember?

        1. Ammaross Danan
          FAIL

          Problem with sarcasm

          "You don't do sarcasm then?"

          The problem with sarcasm is context and point-of-view. Even though you /meant/ it as sarcasm, doesn't mean that the frothies won't take it as a launching point for validation. I could state that "after a few thousand writes, your flash will die!" and any SSD frothies will rally behind me. I completely ignore the wear-leveling and the like that make my otherwise-true statement short-sighted. Commentards may not realize that a nuclear reaction intended for a bomb is impossible in a BWR reactor, as many of the key components are entirely absent. However, not everyone knows, even remotely, how a nuclear bomb works. They don't even know what "heavy water" is. Therefore, off-base comments are sources for scaremongering, be they sarcastic or not.

    9. nichomach
      Thumb Up

      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...

    10. RichyS
      Joke

      Not sure about the chickens

      But there's at least one cock.

    11. byrresheim
      Troll

      Are you serious or a troll?

      Spot on reporting? Mr. Page's reporting of the powerplants state has been - on the internet no less - constantly lagging behind my very conservative newspaper in print. That in itself is an achievement, but not one to be proud of.

      Trouble with you pronukers is that you have no failure-criterion for your pseudoscientific superstitions. Economically nonviable? Dangerous to run? Waste disposal unclear? Nevermind.

      In case reality bites - as it does now - instead of simply being silently ashamed or - heaven forfend - questioning some of your superstitious assumptions you start calling names ("psychopathic nucleophobes ").

      If all else fails, its the Arab's fault.

      Given that the idea of you and your ilk of a serious nuclear incident is perilously near armageddon I can assure you nobody wishes for that just to make you change your mind. It would defeat the purpose, would it not?.

  17. Mike Richards Silver badge

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      I misread...

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

    2. Glenn 4

      Salt enhanced pumps?

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

      1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

        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.

        1. Bilby

          @ 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.

  18. Tim Parker

    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.

    1. Boring Bob

      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 .

      1. Jolyon

        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.

      2. Tim Parker

        @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.

      3. Ian Yates
        FAIL

        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).

      4. byrresheim
        Thumb Up

        Funny how a post gets downvoted

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

      5. Anton Ivanov
        Flame

        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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      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...

    3. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
      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

  19. Anonymous Coward
    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

  20. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  22. Steven Jones

    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.

  23. Chris Long

    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.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    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.

    1. Name 7
      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.

    2. Jolyon

      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

  26. fgrieu

    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

    1. David Pollard

      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.

  27. Prive8 Citizen

    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.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Name 7
      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.

  28. Bernard Lyons
    Headmaster

    A title

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

  29. Dunstan Vavasour

    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.

  30. PyroMoth
    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.

  31. Quxy
    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

  32. Jemma Silver badge
    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.

    1. V 3

      @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....

      1. Jemma Silver badge

        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.

        1. Steven Jones

          @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.

    2. Steven Jones

      @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.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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...

  33. Si 1
    Thumb Up

    "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.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    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.

  35. Big Catastrophe
    Thumb Up

    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.

    1. Haral Heisto

      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.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The eternal optimist

    Lewis, sure is a storage pool is always half full, type of guy!

  37. There's a bee in my bot net

    http://mitnse.com/

    Facts...

    http://mitnse.com/

  38. ian 22

    Nuclear power: a pact with the atomic devil?

    Its going on a week since this 'celebration' began, and we are still collectively looking into the bottomless pit of hell that is Fukushima.

    Lewis (and that font of Truth, TEPCO) tell us the protective pentagram is nearing completion. How nice we've perhaps dodged another bullet. If the technology has worked, even if heroic measures were required, that is good news, particularly for those impressed by hardware specifications. I remember reading an analysis that set the rate of nuclear power plant catastrophes at 1 in 10000 years. There's an impressive number, eh?

    In the meantime, the rest of us who are only interested in getting on with our lives in safety, will be left to compare piccies of Chernobyl and Fukushima. They are eerily similar.

    1. Jemma Silver badge
      FAIL

      Umm... again with the NO

      The two are not similar, other than the fact they involve two nuclear plants...

      Chernobyl - RMBK type - graphite moderated reactor - already at the time known to be problematic in certain situational envelopes (look up K-19 and associated articles) - especially so when it was basically running without any form of containment bar the building it was in.. which was to all intents and purposes built from second hand Wartburgs.

      Also this was a new, not well understood installation. More to the point the top of the reactor was open to air - thats right - no pressure vessel. Reactor go bang - gases and smoke/steam vent direct to atmosphere

      Fukushima - BWR type - water moderated, graphite controlled reactor - well understood, well built, well maintained and hardened against 5.4 mag earthquakes. Full primary pressure vessel, multistage failover and emergency control systems.

      If you look carefully at the pictures of the damaged buildings at Fuku' you will notice that the damage has a cut off that is very regular - because the buildings were designed that way - hydrogen rises, hydrogen goes bang very readily with air/oxygen (a common mixture when zircalloy overheats) - design the upper outside building to shatter (like a fireworks factory) and the pressure will be directed away from areas you want to be protected like the primary pressure vessel.

      Pictures of damage that look similar to the naked eye dont mean that the damage in the two instances is the same - thats why photoanalysts get paid alot of money by the militaries, because those pictures need to be interpreted properly.

      Fukushima doesnt look pretty - but then neither would most places after what happened - the issue with nuclear plants and the like is that most of the great unwashed dont have a clue what can happen and what is dangerous and what isnt...

      I'll bet you were one of those wondering if the thing would go up like a nuclear bomb.... *sigh* to answer that, No, it cant - a nuclear bomb requires enrichment of 95% and a specially designed implosion trigger - nuclear reactors work at either unenriched (CANDU) or levels of at most 7-8%.

      Maybe some of you people should spend a little time doing research before you howl armageddon - go wikifiddle and keep out of the way of people whos nickname isnt '85'...

      1. byrresheim

        well ...

        look, don't tell us for the umpteenth time that a BWR can't do a BMRK. Rather tell us whether the spent-fuel-pool _on_top_ of reactor 4 is holding water or not.

        And by the way: the BMRK was seen as a proven concept by many. Until ...

      2. Dave 42

        charter member - great unwashed

        It must be pretty tough *sighing* all the time at the idiots that surround you - too bad that so many folks know more than you. But you might not have noticed.

        Check the photos - reactor one is cut off nicely, Not reactor 3 or reactor 4 which has a nice hole low down. Plus reactor 3 blew things sky-high - not the nice "balloon explosion" of reactor 1.

        mark 1 GE BWRs - noted to be a poor design, several of the GE engineers resigned in protest when it first went out. If it loses power - it blows - simple. And so does any stored fuel. Oh Well, they all have backups - like Fukushima. But then maybe only tsunamis cause total power loss.

        And the hydrogen - yep, created when the zircaloy cladding burns (reducing the steam) - not a good thing (another great design feature). If this hydrogen production possiblity really was part of the reason for the empty buildings why were vents not designed in, instead of the (you imply) planned explosions. Plus why were the stored fuel assemblies stored high up in the buildings?

    2. Marky W
      Go

      Boo to the downvoter

      That's a excellent and jolly interesting site

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coffee/keyboard

        Nuclear Blogshite

        Written by someone who apparently has a relative with some knowledge of the nuclear industry... which will probably be copy and pasted ad verbetum by an attention seeking would be journo from an online cash strapped red top UK tech blogsite in a vain attempt to increase their ad-generating pageviews....

        1. There's a bee in my bot net

          You didn't read it did you...

          Maintained by the students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT

    3. byrresheim

      afraid half full won't cut it this time,

      those pools need to be full and well cooled or else ...

    4. bubba-bear
      Flame

      Even when the pool is empty

      The pool is even full when empty and smoking.

    5. C 2
      Boffin

      RE: http://mitnse.com/

      You'd really like this one then

      http://www-nds.iaea.org/relnsd/vchart/index.html

  39. GrahamT
    Troll

    NIMBY?

    There is probably a need for Lewis Pages, but Not In My Back Yard.

  40. V 3

    Figures

    So you don't have a figure for the Fukushima Dai-ichi site itself? (There is a wide disparity in the figures you quote - 0.3g to 0.65g, so I am curious how far away from the actual site these stations were.)

    Aside from that - fascinating - given that that the peak ground acceleration at/close to the epicenter is reported to have been 0.35g. (Is that figure still accepted?)

    Your USGS figures suggest that areas at various places around Fukushima (but you don't have figures for the plant itself...), 172km away, may have undergone an acceleration of almost double that of the epicenter.

    Might you have a link for that? I have looked on the USGS website and can't find any reference to it.

    >The tsunami wave topped the sea wall that was

    > supposed to protect the generators, so that certainly

    > "exceeded" the design parameters,

    No! - what it exceeded was the implementation - quite different. (You can't deduce design parameters from the conditions under which an implementation failed - and then use that to determine that the forces that lead to the implementation failing must have been in excess of the design parameters - at least not without begging the question... )

    1. Poor Coco
      Boffin

      The figures are reasonable

      The range in accelerations is due to the varying structural and geologic parameters at different points in the plant. No two parts of the plant will have the same local damping coefficient or elastic modulus, and so different parts of the plant will accelerate differently (and also deform differently). Unless there was only one accelerometer in the plant, which is a ridiculous idea, it makes perfect sense that a range of maximum accelerations was reported.

      The amplification of waves away from the epicentre can occur for various reasons relating to soil mechanics. The 1985 Mexico City quake was awful not because of the quake itself but the amplifying effect of the sediments the area rests on.

      The above being said, I haven't tried to verify his figures either.

  41. a_mu

    risk anaylsis

    what was the risk anaylsis of the plant ?

    was a quake followed by a tsunami allowed for ?

    what level earth quake / tsunami ?

    Now if it was say a water plant design, then i'd say, yep design it for the once every 50 or so years expected quake. If it leaks water, then oh dear, but not much long term damage.

    but a nuck plant,

    I'd have expected it to be designed for the biggest expected set of disasters, plus a VERY big safety margin.

    Or am I wrong, and you just build to the spec and don't look at the system

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Risk Analysis

      Who cares? When you can just pay an army of PR propagandist bloggers like Lewis here to sway public opinion?

  42. celticguy75
    Alert

    We're Doomed*

    *Not really, but it's more fun to say we are.

    First off - Earthquake & Tsunami hitting Japan was absolutely terrible. My heart goes out to everyone there, and especially those who lost loved ones.

    Now onto my point, it's sharp, so beware.

    Nuclear Power isn't going to go away. No matter what we say or do, most "civilised" countries power demands far outstrip the supply. Coal/Oil etc is a finite supply, and the amount of pollution and the human cost (in health, lives & survival) it generates (both in the extraction & consumption of the source) outweighs the nuclear alternative.

    Personally, I'd love for someone to come up with a way to harness Solar, Wind & Wave energy that can A) Satisfy demand, B) Be safer than Nuclear power, C) Be cost effective & D) Not have a massive impact on the available land & water.. Sadly, we have to live now, and the only real solution is Nuclear. It's not pretty & it's the stuff of horror stories, but we have to live in the real world here.

    The situation in Japan is extremely tenuous. Nobody that isn't right inside the plant knows exactly what is happening minute by minute. We're relying on speculation that the cooling pools are completely empty, or partially empty, or that we're 10 seconds/minutes/hours/days/weeks etc from disaster. As far as I'm concerned, Japan, and the world, are very fortunate that the design succeeded and that the safety protocols in place have worked for the most part. They're now working VERY hard to resolve the issues that are presenting themselves.

    Instead of preaching the end of the world, and disparaging the industry, why can't we simply acknowledge one thing. There are men & women right now bravely risking their own lives to ensure our safety. Frankly, that's the amazing part. Despite the worst event in 1000 years to befall the country, the Japanese people maintained a huge amount of calm stoicism and simply obeyed the protocols. If this incident had happened anywhere else, I think there would have been a greater panic & loss of life.

    Lewis' article may be singing the praises of Nuclear power, but how is that worse than preaching the message that we're all doomed, that Tepco are responsible for not having a miracle cure to a natural disaster that nobody could really foresee happening, and for doing their level best to minimise panic. Yeah, they may well be lying about the seriousness, but when you have a population already suffering massively, do you really want to add to the panic? They're doing what they need to do, so let them get on with it and fix it, stop bleating about this being akin to Chernobyl & the fart in the wind (by comparison) that was 3 Mile Island.

    So for what it's worth, Thank You Lewis for trying to relieve some of the panic that appears to be gripping the world. Bolstered by irresponsible journalism, it just serves to foster fear and anger.

    I've got to say one last thing, and that's to the people on this site that absolutely delight in being controversial. You know who you are, and that you leave comments on here that don't help in any way shape or form. It's boring, obvious and frankly childish. Grow up please and stop being a pain in the arse.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lies lies and more lies

    Who do you believe? El Reg and Co saying that its all going to be OK, or the rest of the news media who proclaim it's a disaster?

    Neither of them!

  44. Eenymeeny
    Thumb Up

    Prize for best summary of news today goes to this article

    Well-written and a good summary of the available information.

    To those generall shouting "Chernobyl" at any opportunity they get I suggest the following:

    - Go and get a fully 100% eco/green/renewable electricity contract for your domestic power (good luck on that in the UK especially)

    - Then go and do the same for every single item of technology (esp.) that you chose to purchase, i.e. ensure that all your tech goods and purchases are entirely nuclear-free

    - Then please present your lifetime membership of the Green Party or equivalent body (e.g. Greenpeace)

    Then stop posting here, since I highly doubt that The Register runs all its servers on wind power.

    Get some perspective: nuclear power is here to stay because YOU are using it because there is simply no feasible alternative for our huge, power-hungry populations.

    Lobby the Govt. for change but your wasting your breath on a tech forum.

    1. Michael Chester

      I wish to propose another entrant

      I think this is the best summary of events I've seen so far:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sakN2hSVxA

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Safety margins cost money

    "I'd have expected it to be designed for the biggest expected set of disasters, plus a VERY big safety margin."

    Seems reasonable at first, given that 100% safety is never achievable.

    Now ask the bean counters what effect it has on the cost of constructing and operating a nuclear station, and thus what effect it has on the profitability of nuclear electricity, and what effect that has on the size of the nuclear industry.

    Is there a problem somewhere?

  46. Beachrider

    This article is irresponsible...

    It reads more like some dogmatic blog.

    If even one person ignores Japanese warnings (to say nothing of the more-severe Washington DC warnings) because of this irresponsible reporting, they should knock this guy's nuts off. This is like when Palin showed gunsites on a congresswoman and avowed no responsibility when an unstable person (who acknowledged seeing Palin's TV stuff) actually shot the congressman. It is almost as bad as GW Bush telling us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

    We all have to be careful about overdoing the gloom-and-doom, but we cannot influence people to take irresponsible actions from what is written...

  47. MinionZero
    WTF?

    I've held off from commenting until now but now I have to say something

    @"reports suggesting that the situation with respect to the three damaged reactors at the plant may soon be stabilised without serious consequences."

    That's assuming you buy into the theatre for our benefit, of watching a few helicopter water drops done just a few times. Oh all's going to be better now, nothing to see here, move along. Which is exactly what they want us to do. Look away now, nothing to see here, move along. That’s the way a politician would handle a problem. Politicians think about how problems look and how to down play it. A politician just like a party leader, who is apparently in control of the problem now.

    This is more down playing but in this case its very much government stage management of events to get the world's media to look away. Lets review the power company & government down playing highlights from the past week. At every step the nuclear industry (worldwide) and most of their two faced expert puppets (who's jobs are on the line if they say anything critical in the media) have proceeded on TV to down play what has been going on at each new escalation of the problem. Don't forget just a week ago, if say a 1 metre sized puddle of coolant water was found in one of our reactors, it would very likely have become front page news. That would have been seen as very serious. (Obviously its not life threatening, but as a sign of a mistake, its unmistakable). Well we are very far beyond puddles of coolant water now.

    It was also bloody obvious even on Friday night (due to the finds of Isotopes of Caesium & Iodine in the grounds around the reactors) that the only way you get these found in sufficient quality is from broken open fuel rods. Yet they didn't at first want to admit that. Even now they are only just starting to admit to some fuel rod damage. They also held back for days on telling us the full truth about how far the cores were exposed. They didn't even at first want to admit the cores were exposed at all. Well we are far beyond that as well now.

    Also with reactor one, for hours the company tried to described the roof of the reactor building as just partly collapsed, yet as they spoke the world watched videos of the building being blast over hundreds of square feet!. Didn't look like a collapse. Yet the point is, without that video, we would have just heard their words. Oh roof partly collapsed, oh yes right.

    They also held back for days on telling us the cores were partly melting. Any word of melting was shot down. Yet its very clear we are into that as well now. Currently they admit there is some damage to the fuel rods. They don't want to admit the word melting, oh no can't have that word, but finally they admit some fuel rod damage. For example that’s after reactor 2 suffered no coolant water what so ever, for many hours and that is the most intact building remaining from reactors 1 to 4.

    They also failed to maintain constant cooling more times than I can count for the past week, even though they also started off with mostly intact reactor buildings (even after the Tsunami), yet now their reactor buildings and equipment inside are badly burnt and blasted, yet they expect us to believe just dropping water from a helicopter a few times is going to allow them to get the situation under control, when they couldn't control cooling even with mostly intact reactor buildings! BULLSHIT! World class political stage management at its finest.

    Plus by the way, here's a good example of a two faced expert puppet. i.e. @"If someone can explain to me how those heavy particles, the heavy metals and even the non-gaseous fission products can be carried over a wide area, I'd like to hear it” … Perhaps he has never heard of the scientific concept we like to called “dust”. After all these clumps of atoms we call dust can carry in the wind. Alternatively, if he has heard of dust, then the two faced bastard is simply trying to imply there is no way it can be carried in the wind, all because his real goal is to promote what he wants at any cost including very evidently lying and being two faced to get his own way.

    Anyway, The reactor buildings are a total mess and a lot of equipment is in there that they will need to maintain reactor cooling, so I don't see they will be maintaining it. Even if they try to repair cooling, the workers will take weeks to repair it and so be exposed to a lot of radiation in this time so I don't see how they will repair cooling. Helicopters, water hoses and steam venting isn't constant cooling and the rods will continue to degree as they continue this process.

    Anyway, how far this goes no idea, but my guess is they are going to end up having to fill the reactors in. I don't see how they will get the damaged (and/or partly melted) fuel rods out let alone the serious health implications for anyone trying to do that kind of work, so I can't see them even trying. So they will have to end up filling them in instead, but it will go further before they are at that point. But it won't be a China Syndrome as that's fiction, it'll instead be more leaks followed by a messy & dangerous process to fill them in leaving regional consequences (say 50km) for decades. Certainly no farming & farm animals in that range and possibly even double that range. Plus that’s before you add in the effects to the local fishing industry, which again will prevent food being produced for the whole of that area.

    Anyway, I hope you can see I'm trying to be level headed about what is happening. Please note for example I say nothing about being for or against nuclear power. I also say nothing about the biological effects of radiation. (I know for example, a few mSv is safe). I'm instead focusing on the events of the past week and the way politicians want to stage manage events, to control how things look to us citizens. These helicopter water drops are stage management. They sure as hell are not constant reactor cooling. Not even close.

    As for "soon be stabilised ", only the media theatre will be stabilised soon, as they look away and worry about something else to grab the headlines. Meanwhile the accident has months to play out, all with more leaking and contamination of hundreds of square km of land and many thousands still displaced and all before they finally end up filling it all in completely and then get around to cleaning up the area around the buildings, which will finally bring an end to any dust etc.. around the buildings being a problem in the wind.

    1. Poor Coco

      Case study...

      ...The USA after Three Mile Island. They haven't built any more since then, afaik. The cost of the plants rocketed and they became instantly uneconomical.

      Not that the Merkins lack nuclear reactors, that's another story entirely.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Is it cheaper to build better or to pay for deaths

      That argument is balancing the costs of building a safe plant of how much it will cost to pay for killing people. The problem is that large corporations are allowed to make those financial decisions for the people who may get killed by those decisions.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cheap tricks

      I'd agree with most of that , with the exception of "World class political stage management at its finest.". I thought it was some of the cheapest, most implausible political theatre (more amateur dramatics) I've seen for a long time, right up there with Tory Boy's "we're all in this together". Perhaps the Japanese just aren't used to the levels of mendacity we take for granted from our barely elected unrepresentatives.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Political stage management etc.

        "It was also bloody obvious even on Friday night (due to the finds of Isotopes of Caesium & Iodine in the grounds around the reactors) that the only way you get these found in sufficient quality is from broken open fuel rods."

        If it was so obvious why do you need them telling you?

        "Yet they didn't at first want to admit that. Even now they are only just starting to admit to some fuel rod damage. They also held back for days on telling us the full truth about how far the cores were exposed. They didn't even at first want to admit the cores were exposed at all. Well we are far beyond that as well now."

        Did it occur to you that maybe they just don't know? Would you volunteer to go there an take a look at the cores yourself? If you do that, please, try to call us back immediately, because you will only have few minutes left to live after that exposure.

        Anyway, people, do you get some sort of pleasure from trying to interpret every bit of information in the most pessimistic way, even when common sense suggests otherwise? Is it like watching horror movies? Or are you just angry at the world because it does not take you seriously?

        1. MinionZero
          FAIL

          @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          @"If it was so obvious why do you need them telling you?"

          They lie to us, can't you see that's wrong? Doesn't the concept of telling the truth appeal to you then, because clearly you've overlooked its importance. The lies in this world make it harder to make the necessary (and often difficult) decisions in life needed to help avoid and reduce problems. The liers so often make life harder for others all for their own gain.

          @"Did it occur to you that maybe they just don't know?"

          There's a lot they don't know and there’s a lot they do know but the problem is they choose to hide some of what they do know. Learn to see there is a difference. Try reading some history to look at so many examples of past events where people in their kind of situation hide what is happening, very often for years before the truth finally comes out. Also if you have any kind of scientific background (as many TheReg readers do), then its bloody obvious they are lying and withholding information. Its stage management. Try also reading up on politics & PR about how they stage manage the release of information and then you will be able to see the warning signs of stage managed information release.

          @"do you get some sort of pleasure from trying to interpret every bit of information in the most pessimistic way, even when common sense suggests otherwise?"

          Try also readying up on "Cognitive Dissonance" because you've just given a perfect example of it. How is it common sense to only want to interpret information in only a positive way because by doing that you leave out half the information. You only want to see and hear the positives so anyone saying anything other than positive happy happy thoughts is someone you evidently get annoyed at and in doing so, you are closing your mind to what they say. Ask yourself why you even interpret people as pessimistic. Do you only want happy thoughts in your head, can't you take bad news. Have you never heard of "Hope for the best, plan for the worse".

          If your world view is simply "Hope for the best" and don't even want to think about planning for anything other than that, then you are not scientific in your world view and that kind of closed minded attitude will eventually trip you up in life, as you will fail to foresee situations where you needed to have thought up contingency plans ready to *avoid* things getting worse. Learn to see planning for the future as a positive, as avoiding problems isn't a negative. It should be common sense, but clearly in your case it isn't.

          I can only conclude that you are young and that you have more to learn in life, because there are obvious gaps in your thinking.

  48. calumg
    Flame

    No new facts here

    I guess Lewis is trying to be original and well researched here but it's just a positive spin on everything that's been reported elsewhere. The only reason the nuclear disaster isn't "all that bad" is merely because it pales in comparison to the tsunami. However the accident is bad by anyone else's definition. We may be over the worst, we may not be, but Lewis's confidence is not yet justified. I don't think any mainstream media are claiming anything other than an eventual expensive cleanup, so what has Lewis added here?

    What I would agree on is that this accident should not necessarily put us off nuclear power (provided that the operators bear the cost of long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel) . Nothing is without its risks.

  49. tas
    Thumb Up

    Explaining Japanse nuclear issues the proper way!

    Young Japanese people don't have Lewis Page to help them know all is "starting to look good". Instead they rely on Nuclear Boy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sakN2hSVxA) - highly recommended for all ages!

  50. John 62

    Why shut down?

    My question is why did the plant have to shut down? By shutting down, they lost their primary source of power for cooling. Was it in case there were dangerous aftershocks?

    1. Steven Jones

      @John 62

      The power stations all shutdown automatically as they are designed to do, both because of the direct affect of the earthquake (you want to drop the rods before damage is done by vibration as it might then become impossible). Also the plants lost contact with the grid anyway, and you can't really run under load with those conditions.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Well the "Hooray Nuclear" party is in full swing here....

    Just some quotes from workers' relatives (from the Telegraph):

    One daughter said her father had accepted his fate "like a death sentence". Another woman said her husband was fully aware he was being bombarded with potentially deadly radiation. He sent her an email saying: "Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while."

    Party on guys

  52. llamazj

    Rotten journalism

    What kind of rotten journalism is this? Simply taking the current best case scenario and presenting it as fact is not journalism but bullshit. I hope you did at least some background research this time, and your Australian professor does not turn out to be a professor from a field of expertise that has nothing to do with nuclear science whatsoever again, like your MIT guy.

  53. Dibbles
    Thumb Down

    Another Nay here

    I've avoided the fisticuffs until now - Lewis's first article on the reactor situation (Monday?) was pretty sober and considered stuff. The thing is, events have moved on, the torus for at least 1 reactor has now split, it would seem, and the story is no longer the same.

    It's good to have a dissenting view: I can only imagine what the UK rags are making of this story at the moment, and frankly I'm glad I don't have to put up with the drivel. But like Michael Moore, or Stalin, there is such a thing as going too far, as arguing that really, it's all a storm in a teacup TOO much.

    It is a serious situation. Adverse things are going on. It's not exactly a failure of the nuclear power safeguards, as the devastation was beyond what was built for; but it's still sub optimal, and there are some fairly serious repercussions. Some acknowledgment of these points would be appreciated, in the interests of balance!

  54. zerocred
    Thumb Up

    I appreciate the contrarian view.

    Keep it up. Let's hope everything ends as well as it can.

  55. Chris Miller

    An excellent programme on BBC Radio 4 this evening

    Material World (one of the few programmes that justify the licence fee): "discusses the engineering design of nuclear reactors, the health implications from radiation exposure, the risk management and safety considerations of the siting of facilities to the likely impact on the world's nuclear industry. Guests include Professors Andrew Sherry and Richard Wakeford of the Dalton Nuclear Institute in Manchester, oncologist Professor Gerry Thomas of Imperial College, London, and Malcolm Grimston, a nuclear energy expert from Chatham House."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zf4j5

    They sound very much closer to Mr Page than the rest of the "OMG RAYDEEAYSHUN WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE" media. Highlights include Prof Thomas claiming that the (cancer) effects of Chernobyl were far less than initially expected (principally thyroid cancers among young children living nearby on an iodine-poor diet and readily preventable by the use of iodide tablets)and the statement that US astronauts are permitted a career exposure of 2,500 mSv (although taken all at once, this would be close to a fatal dose).

  56. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Bravo

    Regardless of whether you think Lewis and The Reg are pro nuclear one thing that they are doing should be applauded.

    They are one of the few mainstream Uk sites actually trying to collate and analyse the events unfolding in Japan. Ok it's via an Op Ed piece but even taking these bits away it's still an attempt to collate and quantify the events.

    This is far superior to most of the UK western news sites and some of the more mainstream organisations should hang their heads in shame.

    BBC I'm looking at you. Why are Rick and Lewis at a small tech oriented site putting your coverage to shame with one or two articles a day compared to you vomiting babble?

    The Reg's coverage of this issue should be applauded.

    Well done all!

  57. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Unhappy

    So here we are again....

    I remain generally pro-nuclear, but this situation is far from stabilized.....

    -As of about 12-15 hours ago, there were the following casualties among the plant operation and security at Fukushima: 5 dead, 2 missing, 23 injured, 20 cases of acute radiation poisoning.

    -TEPCO itself was saying that the chance of "re-criticality" among the spent fuel rods at unit 4 "was not zero". Meaning that it is possible that the remaining uranium in these fuel rods could be enough to start a new nuclear chain reaction in the uncontained storage pool.

    -The four worst-hit units have all been through explosions and/or fires in the last week. The pictures of unit 3 that they keep showing on TV look like the unit is comepletely trashed. Will the main cooling pumps and piping even work if utility power is restored?

    - five or six hours ago, radiation levels were about 300X normal 30 KM north of the reactor.

    -The USGS says that the tsunami that took out the backup cooling at Fukushima was basically a 1000-year event, with the geologic record showing that the last one of that size hit in 889 or some such year. Given that the average life cycle of a nuke plant seems to be 60-70 years, that means that not designing for a 1000 year tsunami left the Fukushima plant with about a 6-7% chance of experiencing this kind of event in its lifetime. Is that an acceptable level of risk? I'm not saying that it isn't, but was that a conscious, informed design decision when the plant was made or subject to its last seismic upgrade?

    1. Chris Miller

      Brave choice of handle

      But I should stick to marketing, if I were you. You're clearly good at making up numbers.

      Actual numbers from the IAEA web site (release timed 17 March 0115UTC, I can't find any later info): 0 dead, 2 missing (presumably dead), 13 seriously injured (including broken limbs), up to 5 with radiation exposure (one of which is said to be 'significant'). This is not to trivialise the position, but most injuries were caused by chemical explosions and we are looking at > 15,000 killed by the tsunami - anyone know how many may have died at the burning refinery?

      The reactor buildings certainly present a sorry sight, but the cladding blown off the top (as it was designed to do, in order to reduce damage to the structural protection) gives no real indication of how damaged pumps etc may be.

  58. Lord.Lucan
    Go

    In case anyone is interested

    Not too sure who is tweeting this, but intreresting none the less. Esp the video from the helicopter.

    http://twitter.com/TepcoDisaster

  59. Charles Thornton
    Pirate

    Perhaps Mr Page might like to read Mr Pallast

    Because he was involved in N plant inspections

    http://www.gregpalast.com/no-bs-info-on-japan-nuclearobama-invites-tokyo-electric-to-build-us-nukes-with-taxpayer-funds/

    The item is primarily lambasting the Obama WH but contains this nice tid-bit:

    "Last night I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.

    These safety back-up systems are the 'EDGs' in nuke-speak: Emergency Diesel Generators. That they didn't work in an emergency is like a fire department telling us they couldn't save a building because "it was on fire."

    Perhaps Mr Page would like to respond to Mr Pallast

  60. This post has been deleted by its author

  61. Will 30
    Flame

    Wot no wires?

    A nuclear plant lives and dies by its instrumentation, and every famous nuclear reactor accident (Windscale, TMI, Chernobyl) is a story of operators confused by faulty or inadequate instrumentation - either missing the obvious (in hindsight) for hours/days, or making terrible blunders which make things worse because they misinterpreted stuff from the control room.

    I do not look at the pictures of those reactor buildings with their tops blown off and feel the slightest bit encouraged that as soon as the power is back on it's going to be a simple matter of setting a few switches and getting everything back under control from the comfort of a desk

    somewhere.

    My bet would be that everything electrical in the top of those buildings is now bust - if the explosions didn't break it, and the fuel fire didn't burn it, then air-dropping seawater should have done the trick.

    I'd be surprised if it's ever back in control in any way more than "we built a thick enough concrete box around the whole lot that we're not going to worry about what's inside." Much like Chernobyl, there'll be the undiscovered remains of a few blokes in there too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Don't worry, electrics not on fire...they're safely underwater.

      In a flooded basement.

      That's a pretty "triumphant" place to put your main switchgear, in a tsunami-prone area, and is the main reason why it's taken so long to be able to reconnect the power.

  62. captain veg

    Hosed

    Apparently a few guys playing a hose over the reactor buildings is enough to keep it safe. Clearly we've all been taking these risks far too seriously for the past half century.

    -A.

  63. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Curiously

    Japan has developed various robots and remote operated human shaped remote workers (partly for nuclear emergencies) for *decades*. Those with long memories may remember an exhibition of them in London in the early 90's.

    I am *amazed* (given how long this crisis has been running) that *none* of them have been deployed to simply *walk* some fire hoses up to the cooling ponds and the reactor buildings.

    Left arm not even sure *which* kimono right arm is up perhaps?

  64. Patrick 8
    Headmaster

    No one cares what acedemics say! Welcome to the real world!

    Acedemics and Phenomoly Dumbs (PhD's) hold no weight in the real world. Only children stuck in schools and desperate industries looking for PR spin material pay them any heed. Which one is Lewis?

    The rest of us have joined and lived in the real world where we found these acedemics are flat out wrong and could never survive let alone thrive being developmentally challenged coddled in their safe acedemic environment free to pontificate on ideas that never get to face reality and end up starting tn believe their wild ideas as reality and disconnect from the real world.

    We don't need them or these armchair experts spouting crap when they have no real world expertise.

  65. Dave 42

    This article is a joke - right?

    What's this guy's talk about spent rods gently heating???

    over at the MIT site it's mentioned that each spent fuel assembly (even after weeks) produces about 4 Megawatts of residual energy (about 5000 HP) day in and day out, and this is enough to boil off about 40 tons a water a day - no wonder the pools are dry. And that's just one assembly!

    Sad that if the GE mark 1 BWRs lose power (for whatever reason) they blow up - simple. Plus any stored fuel goes up too. Oh well , all these plants have good backups. Like Fukushima.

    Also for those knowing commentators (like our friend here) who say it's over-reacting to call Fukushima Chernobyl-like. Well, yes... Chernobyl didn't have tons and tons of spent fuel stored above its reactors in open tanks, chernobyl was only 1 reactor melting down, not 4 melting down, Chernobyl was in a deserted area, not next to 26 million people and the core of a good percentage of the world's economy. So it's clear it's not a Chernobyl level incident - we can all rest easy.

  66. sisk Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    No credibility

    Lewis lost all credibility with me when he said that a situation which prompted the evacuation of thousands from their homes posed 'no public health risk'. If there's no public health risk, why did they evacuate people? Hell, even the Japanese government is saying this is the worst thing to happen to Japan since Nagasaki. There's nothing worse than a shill who also happens to be a reporter.

    Tell ya what, design a reactor which has 0 risk of radiation escaping and give me something better than Yucca Mountain to deal with the speant fuel rods for the next 5000 years and I'll get behind nuclear power. Till then I can't in good conscious support it.

  67. cnapan
    Pint

    How deep is that 'bottomless pit'?

    "we are still collectively looking into the bottomless pit of hell that is Fukushima"

    ...gushed an earlier contributor.

    What are you going on about?

    Even when America dropped 2 nuclear bombs on Japan, *designed* to blow up like a nuclear bomb rather than power hospitals and heat houses, the cities were rebuilt a few years later and you can now go and stand at the epicentre of those explosions.

    Meanwhile, on planet earth today, over 3000 people died in road traffic accidents.

    Last week, tens of thousands of people got killed by a wall of water.

    ...and if we keep burning fossil fuels, then in a few generations, the land which was temporarily inundated by the tsunami will be at the bottom of the see all the time, with countless millions killed through starvation and resource wars.

    The bottomless pit of hell is being built today on the back of fluffy coal and gas. Only you don't get to froth about that because the attention span of the media can't hang around for that story.

    As soon as you can work out how a crowded country like Japan can run a modern economy on solar power in the middle of a japanese winter, come back and tell us that Nuclear isn't *now* the least environmentally damaging option.

    If I were alive in 200 years, I can tell you quite straight that if faced with either:

    a) A planet whose main cities and significant areas of agriculture had succumbed to rising sea levels and climate change, and

    b) Story books filled with about 10 or 20 episodes of media hysteria accompanied by very modest loss of life on occasion.

    ...

    Well it's (b) isn't it?

    That's why I support Nuclear now. The alternative is orders of magnitude worse...

    I need a drink. (Don't worry - though it'll kill more people today than have ever died in nuclear plant incidents, I'll be careful!)

  68. mr-tom
    WTF?

    Twitter

    Well I for one am reassured to learn that Tokyo Electric Power Co have opened a twitter account today.

    I can think of absolutely no better way that they could be spending their time right now...

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iOAhBWPQmKiUn41fS_CG3UQvjd0Q?docId=CNG.af94279f2de063afb3fd0d2db3261792.ae1

    On the up side, finally an IT angle...

  69. Jenkins

    Casualty

    From the article:

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

    From:

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11031710-e.html

    - 2 workers of cooperative firm were injured at the occurrence of the earthquake, and were transported to the hospital.

    - 1 TEPCO employee who was not able to stand by his own with his hand holding left chest was transported to the hospital by an ambulance.

    - 1 subcontract worker at important earthquake-proof building was unconscious and transported to the hospital by an ambulance.

    - The radiation exposure of 1 TEPCO employee, who was working inside the reactor building, exceeded 100mSv and was transported to the hospital.

    - 2 TEPCO employees felt bad during their operation in the central control rooms of Unit 1 and 2 while wearing full masks, and were transferred to Fukushima Daini Power Station for consultation with a medical advisor.

    - 4 workers were injured and transported to the hospital after explosive sound and white smoke were confirmed around the Unit 1.

    - 11 workers were injured and transported to Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station after explosive sound and white smoke were confirmed around the Unit 3.One of the injured workers got medical treatment on March 16th, but the worker reported a flank pain. We required to the offsite center that the worker should be transported to the hospital. After that, the helicopter of JSDF arrived and transported the worker to the FUKUSHIMA Medical University Hospital at 10:56AM

    - Presence of 2 TEPCO employees at the site is not confirmed.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Point proved

      Nice of you to re-inforce Lewis' point although I suspect that wasn't the intent.

      From that list we currently have 1 worker with confirmed radiation exposure and even that is 1/10 of what's considered dangerous.

      The rest of the casualties are the same as probably hundreds of rescue workers in Japan - injuries and deaths from quake/tsunami wreckage and stress.

    2. Bonobody

      @Jenkins Casualty → #

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

      ------------------------------------------------------------

      - The radiation exposure of 1 TEPCO employee, who was working inside the reactor building, exceeded 100mSv and was transported to the hospital.

      ------------------------------------------------------------

      Cumulative dose = 100.0 mSv (10.00 rem)

      Excess lifetime cancer risk = 0.500% (1 : 200.0)

      (source: http://www.wise-uranium.org/rdcri.html )

      ------------------------------------------------------------

      "Once we exceed doses of 250 mSv, radiation poisoning becomes a serious risk. These levels are much higher than the population of Japan can expect at the moment, though workers in the area are legally allowed to reach this threshold. Doses between 1000 and 2000 mSv results in acute radiation sickness, doses above 8000 mSv are fatal. "

      (source: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/17/957303/-Radiation,-Cancer,-and-the-Linear-No-Threshold-Model )

      -----------------------------------------------------------

      btw, I assume you are familiar with the fact that smoking e few cigarettes gives you a much higher risk of getting cancer in later life. As for the other two workers who started to feel bad, there is no confirmation that it is in fact radiation-sickness. They could have just as well suffered from exaustion or overheating due to heavy protective gear they were wearing over prolonged periods of time..

      So at this moment in time mister Lewis Page's words aren't that far from the truth...

  70. Stuart Duel
    FAIL

    Clean: no. Green: no. Cheap: no. Safe: no.

    Most of the posts on this topic are from people in the U.K. and most of the remainder from North America, which would place a good proportion of you reasonably close to a nuclear power plant. Would all you apologists for the nuclear industry still be cheerleaders if this disaster was unfolding at a plant near you? Would you be having a picnic in a park with a good view of events, or running for your lives, just in case?

    To accuse the anti-nuclear crowd of wishing for a huge nuclear disaster in Japan is mischievous at best and I find the suggestion absolutely disgusting. We want this situation to come under complete control ASAP with no more loss of life and no radioactive legacy but we all know that won't be the case. Many people currently working at the plant will die, some from long and agonising deaths, but because it will be one here, one there, in the years and decades to come, and not hundreds all at once, the media would have moved on and no one will really know or notice the true calamity from what has transpired up to this point.

    What also won't be reported as it fades from the media spotlight and the wider pubic attention is the enormously long, drawn out, dangerous and expensive process as these damaged reactors and all the now contaminated infrastructure are disassembled and buried in a great big concrete hole to be kept "safe" for the next few thousand years.

    If control is lost at a traditional fossil fuel power station it, well, stop right there! You don't loose control of such things - they simply shut down. There is no out of control reaction, no need for any sort of cooling. Any fire is extinguished with water. There is some mess to clean up, proper bunding will contain any chemical runoff, wrecked machinery you can send to the recyclers if you're a good company, dump if you're lazy. There is no need for a guarded tomb in a seismically and politically stable location for the wreckage. Not that I'm a fan of dirty fossil forms of energy production either. Humans have been burning stuff to generate energy in one form or another for over 2000 years, so there's nothing new or clever about it by any stretch. Splitting atoms to do exactly the same thing - boil water - is madness.

    Back to Japan, what is currently being reported as good news? The same thing that was bad news a few days earlier: that radiation has increased a bit in the last 24 hours. Remember a few days ago 'good news' was radiation levels dropping.

    There is nothing cheap about nuclear energy. It requires massive investment, massive subsidies from governments and massive costs when it's EOLd. Every link in the chain of the process from mining, processing, transporting, generation, storage, decommissioning and disposal involves highly dangerous radioactive material. And you'd be surprised how often leaks occur somewhere along this chain. It is an industry shrouded in secrecy, mis-information, deceit, cover-ups and wishful thinking. ironically on top of that, considering the main argument used to support the industry, it is still a very carbon intensive process.

    1. Chris Miller
      Thumb Down

      Yes, fossils fuels are perfectly safe </irony>

      Judging by the time of posting, you may well be in the US and so may not have heard of Aberfan - I suggest you Google it. More recently, in the UK we've had Buncefield (admittedly oil, not coal) and the earthquake/tsunami seems to have caused several refinery problems in Japan (they don't use coal, for geographic reasons) - although this hasn't generated much media coverage, probably because they can't write "IS THIS THE END OF THE WORLD?" headlines.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  71. Highlander
    Megaphone

    For the next twit that suggests this is as bad as Chernobyl...

    Radiation levels measured at Chernobyl ranged from 10s of sieverts to 100s of sieverts. not mili sieverts, and not micro-sieverts. Milisieverts were measured inside the heavily shielded control room at Chernobyl.

    So far at Fukushima, radiation has been measures only in micro and milisieverts. There was, quite literally a thousand times more radiation emitting from Chernobyl during that event. Fukushima is vastly different, not least because the elevated radiation readings are not constant, they spike and fall.

    Additionally, the radioactive material at Chernobyl was the nuclear fuel burning off with the graphite reaction moderator for days. It was long lived material. The material that has been released so far at Fukushima has consisted almost entirely of very short lived isotopes that decay long before they become an issue for health, but exist long enough to spike a radiation reading.

    Now, obviously the outcome of this remains to be seen, but at present, the problems at Fukushima are by no means the same or similar to the problems experienced at Chernobyl. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool or a liar. That doesn't mean that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is a piece of cake, of course it's not, but drawing comparisons with Chernobyl is simply foolish at this time.

    1. Name 7
      Grenade

      Drawing comparisons

      Do I note a change of tone?

      So, let's see:

      - Nuclear material on fire open to the elements;

      - Helicopters attempting to put said fires out;

      - Surrounding area evacuated and no-fly zone imposed;

      - Systematic lack of information;

      - Increasing nervousness of foreign governments.

      Yep, no point in drawing hasty comparisons, no siree.

    2. byrresheim

      Right you are - this is not Chernobyl

      a) the problems built into this type of BWR differ significantly from the problems built into BMRK-1000. They are therefore going to fail along quite different mechanisms

      b) the emergency has not played out yet and will not be played out for a very long time. Look up Windscale I (I know, it's called differently by now, but that should give you pause to think as well, should it not?), the core of which they did not dare work on for half a century (links below).

      All we know is that there are huge potential risks. Neither the mechanisms leading to a realisation of those risks nor the risks themselves are identical to Chernoby.

      To give you one example - look it up instead of calling names, costs you the same intellectual energy - the bulk of radionuclids spewed forth by Chernobyl are relatively shortlived compared to those that might be propagated if one or more of those spent-fuel-pools fails catastrophically.

      Then the dust particles produced in the Chernobyl fire were relatively lighter compared to the particles to be expected when the casing of spent fuel rods ignites, and they were propagated by a fire that by all probability was burning a lot hotter than what can be expected from oxydising fuel rods. That in turn meant that the Chernobyl particles were dispersed over a larger area, thereby mitigating somewhat their noxic effect. If the spent fuel ignites in Fukushima, it is to be expected that the radioactive dust affects a relatively smaller area but in a measurably higher concentration.

      While Chernobyl was situated in an area of relatively low population density and of relatively low economic importance the same cannot be said of Fukushima.

      Important: pointing out a risk does not mean that one wishes for that risk's realisation. Equally jumping the bullet once or even several times does not equate to bullets being inherently harmless. It is this sort of superstitious thinking that makes discussing the problems of nuclear energy so tedious.

      -----------------------

      http://www.theengineer.co.uk/in-depth/getting-to-the-core-issue/267995.article

      http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/iacs/nusac/131005/p18.pdf

      1. Highlander

        Since you're so hot on comparisons...

        Care to compare the BWR in Fukushima to the core that burned at Windscale? Go on, it'll help.

        You go right on believing the doomsayers, but please don't forget to turn all your lights out. after all, without Nuclear energy, we'd all have to sacrifice a few lights to keep the TVs on....

  72. Aloysius Shiplap
    Boffin

    Deja-vu

    I start to be amused by the article series on the fawlty far-east nukes and Lewis' optimistic view.

    Hey guys - that's simply "Comical Ali...reloaded".

  73. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Some perspective

    http://www.benlovejoy.com/journeys/chernobyl/exclusion/index.html

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @John Smith 19 re robots

    Q: How much electronics is there in readily available robots?

    A: Lots

    Q: What fabrication technology does it use?

    A: MOS, probably CMOS.

    Q: What happens to (C)MOS electronics when subjected to non-trivial doses of radiation (ionizing radiation or neutron flux, take your pick)

    A: It stops working, often quite quickly, iirc often because the insulating oxide layer is penetrated.

    Now that doesn't necessarily mean that some kind of shielding couldn't be improvised for some of this stuff, but the real answer is to use a different kind of fabrication technology, or designs with built in radiation resistance, such as Xilinx and Actel's rad-hardened FPGAs, but then you need the sensors etc to go around them, and so on.

    Sorry John, not as easy as you seem to think. They must exist though because they've been used elsewhere. Maybe the existing ones are too radiologically hot to be redeployed to another incident after they've been used in anger?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      AC@09:48

      I think I mentioned they were *designed* for nuclear emergency response so I'm guessing the engineers working on them were aware of the special environmental hazards of these sorts of sites.

      As it happens I've a working knowledge of the sort of precautions used for space radiation proofing.

      It starts with avoiding stages in the chip fab sequence that are especially vulnerable to ionising radiation and particle damage. Actmel are know for supplying devices (especially FPGAs) to use this approach. SOS and SOI high resistance substrates also help.

      Follow on guidelines relate to chip layout and spacing certain elements far enough apart so they do not interact. At subsystem level it moves into redundancy and voting systems to detect flipped bits and/or stuck at nodes. About this you'll be looking at watch dog timers to re-boot the whole thing if it goes haywire. Lastly if that *still* doesn't cut it they put it in a solid metal box.

      Rad hard versions of various processors are available. Systems demonstrating operation at krad levels (give 1 rad is the energy level needed to kill mammalian cells that would certainly kill humans) exist. The SPARC architecture (being public domain) being a regular candidate for this and at *least* up to at least 400Mhz parts are available. Perhaps not powerful enough to self-navigate around a wrecked nuclear reactor but quite capable of feeding images and receiving control commands through a fibre optic link.

      Rad hard electronics is a small, specialized area and prices are high. Experimenters working on both space instruments and those for use use around particle accelerators have *long* been studying ways to use cheaper parts to save money while *some* companies have looked to offer radiation resistance by tweaking their processes as long as they don't have to warp them too far.

  75. Raving
    Happy

    GE's Dim wit

    Oh good. The electricity is scheduled to be turned back on in reactor buildings 2 3 & 4 by Sunday.

    No problems then.

  76. lc3christopher

    how to cool the reactor

    The weather is cold so get a commercial snow making machine like they use at the ski resorts and blow snow on this hot SB to cool it down.

  77. jake Silver badge

    Gawd/ess, what a palaver ... And a note to Lewis ...

    Several kinds of commentards on this subject:

    [1] Clueless idiots. (Obvious to the cognizant reader).

    [2] Anti-nuke folks. (Mostly religious fundies of one stripe or another).

    [3] So-called "greens". (None of whom could actually live off the land, even if their lives depended on it ... they obviously have no clue as to how the real world works).

    [4] People with enough knowledge to be dangerous, but not enough to actually understand what they are commentarding on. (Most of the Press, and people regurgitating what they have read elsewhere).

    [5] People who think they know what they know, but don't grok that what they know just ain't so. (Loud-mouthed idiots ... again, easy to pick out ... Thank you, Sam Clemens).

    [6] Educated folks, trying to educate the ineducable, probably tilting at windmills. (Me, for one).

    Lewis: Might want to drop this series before Sarah knocks your head for six ... But I hope you don't, because it's giving me a listie of idiots to filter on ;-)

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Gawd/ess, what a palaver ... And a note to Lewis ...

      [7] Lofty sorts who believe they have a clear overview of it all and may not actually be as smart as they think they are. (And who need to tuck their full stops back inside their parentheses.)

      [8] Weary moderators.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        @jake

        As they say in Russia - you are not at risk of dying from modesty...

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Vlad & @Sarah

          Vlad: No. I am not. Kinda helps me get ahead in the world.

          Sarah: I think I addressed your [8]. (Full stop).

      2. adrianww
        Stop

        And don't forget...

        [9] Weary readers who did comment on another article that they really wished that all the argumentative buggers would stop making such a damned racket and just wait until some clear, reliably reported, verifiable facts (remember those?) emerged from the current godawful mess.

        The aforementioned weary readers should probably just stop coming back in the vain hope that someone, somewhere might have said something apposite, useful or informative along the way. That really doesn't seem to be happening much, if at all. (Keeping on coming back is part of that whole human "triumph of hope over experience" thing I suppose...)

        Let's all just agree on one thing shall we? Fukushima is just one very nasty part of a very nasty, massive humanitarian disaster for the people of Japan and, right here right now, no amount of pro/anti nuclear frothing and fuming about the subject is going to help them in any way whatsoever. It just makes the frothers and fumers look like they're missing the bigger picture and are, perhaps, being slightly silly.

        No? Oh, alright then, suit yourselves and let the extended game of silly buggers continue...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ...your towel.

          True, but I really feel that the article's author has done massive dis-service to El Reg - by way of partisan over-optimism and jumping the gun - and that's worth highlighting. Sure: The facts are there, but spoiled by rose-tinted glasses which are huge - even in comparison to other opinion pieces by the author.

          It's worth pulling up and drawing attention to, because it's very, very bad journalism. And I don't want El Reg's standards to slip this low. C'mon Editor: Can we please demand higher standards in future?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        /agree

        I'd hate for us to have a nuclear accident without proper punctuation!

  78. teknopaul Bronze badge

    foobar

    On a technology note, I will be replacing all my foobar code with fuku.

    cat src.c | sed -e 's/"foo"/"fu"/g' | sed -e 's/"bar"/"ku"/g' > src_2011.c

  79. Marcus Aurelius
    Flame

    The future

    I think the next generation of plants is going to have to be built, however difficult, to a new standard, which can be best expressed as:

    Can a plant be designed such that if absolutely everything gets screwed, it will die/close down in a manner which does not place anyone outside the plant at risk?

    It is perhaps an absurdly impossible standard to achieve, but with the current round of nuclear doom-mongers, nothing less will be accepted.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Headmaster

      @Marcus Aurelius

      "Can a plant be designed such that if absolutely everything gets screwed, it will die/close down in a manner which does not place anyone outside the plant at risk?"

      You're a bit behind the curve. They are sometimes referred to as "Walkaway" or "inherently" safe designs and *some* of what have been called Gen IV designs have this approach as well.

      What you're talking about is designing in thermal/chemical/nuclear/mechanical feedback mechanisms that shut it down instead of making the situation worse.

      BTW the BWR's have *some* of this built in. Water level goes downs, moderation goes down (water is both moderator and coolant) -> reactivity goes down. Unfortunately *not* fast enough or far enough so that (in the worst case) air cooling is good enough to dump the residual heat.

      Other tactics would (if implemented, AFAIK no one has *built* a reactor to these designs) include using thermal balance in that hot water rises, cold water falls. Too much heat lightens the water (or other fluid) in the reactor and pulls in a supply of cold coolant using natural convection (some US submarine reactors are *reputed* to use this, at least as an optional mode as it is extra quiet but those who know won't be talking). The cold coolant could also be dosed with Boron to really shut it down fast.

      1. Horizon3

        @John Smith 19 New Designs

        What you are describing is a Natural Circulation Boiler, they have been used since boilers were invented.

        A prime example is your drip coffee maker.

        All conventional power plants use this method, and most larger Waste Heat (combined cycle) Plants do as well. Conventional forced circulation boilers are only useful in very small applications, ie Nuke Subs. The larger plants such as in Conventionally Fueled AC Carriers and power generation plants are of the bi-drum natural circulation type with forced circulation as an alternative, usually used for rapid cool down for an emergency repair.

        Contrary to popular belief and as some have posted here, you don't just walk up to a conventionally fired power plant and throw the "off switch". A large gas/oil or coal fired plant takes days sometimes a week or more to cool down in stages, or the thermal shock will wreck it otherwise.

        The Mk1 BWR has this built in, but it is really too small to be practical (The Torus) at the bottom is the cool water storage, It is only good for a couple of hours protection, because it lacks a means of dissipating the accumulated heat (a method to cool the circulated water) and once it approaches the same temperature as the hotter water around the core circulation stops.

        Another bogey man I have seen tossed about by the media and some here is persistent fires, what media is blabbing about is not fire or smoke, it's vented steam. Although there was a fire in building 4, TEPCO and others have stated it was not fuel related, but was from auxiliary equipment. The fact that there have been explosions from H2 is due to the lack of ventilation of the buildings, they are normally vented by induction fans that pull the air in the buildings out through filters and then up the vent stacks that everyone has seen, without power to the plant these fans do not work. The buildings that blew up are nothing more substantial than your average metal warehouse or shop building everyone sees every day, they are just insulated sheet metal panels on a steel skeleton. The resulting explosions although spectacular to look at posed no real danger to the reactor containment, because the pressure generated by the explosions was nowhere near that required to damage them, or the cooling equipment, most of the pumps, switch gear, etc. for cooling is underground and NOT located in the building proper. About the only thing inside the building itself is ventilation ducts, lighting, fire suppression sprinklers and gear for handling the fuel bundles.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But...

      You jest, but that's not a bad design policy. If we're dealing with something that is capable of rendering a significant portion of your country uninhabitable should it go horribly wrong, then it's best to plan for the worst-case scenario, and then some. Sure: The engineers might have done a good job of building to specs, but the fact that those specs have been shown to be optimistically low is a valuable lesson.

      Risk assessment was poor, clearly.

  80. MaXimaN
    FAIL

    Prospects starting to look good

    ...as Japan raises the accident level at Fukushima from four to five - as in "accident with wider consequences."

  81. This post has been deleted by its author

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "... but hopefully the facts speak for themselves"

    They generally do indeed, and should we find any pristine, unspun factettes kicking around that remain miraculously untainted by association with TOPECO, the nuclear energy industry, their rather sweaty advocates or the Japanese government, we'd be happy to pass them on you you Lewis. With every day that passes, yours are looking a little more threadbare than an overused government slogan.

  83. JetSetJim Silver badge
    Flame

    The Japanese have released a much better summary of what's going on

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sakN2hSVxA

    1. Werner McGoole
      Coffee/keyboard

      Brilliant!

      Haven't laughed so much in ages.

  84. Leona A
    Unhappy

    Alert Level Raised

    From BBC News "Japan has raised the level of nuclear alert from four to five on a seven point international scale. " "A spokesman said it was made because of the condition of reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the plant. "The cooling function was lost and the reactor cores were damaged. Radioactive particles continue to be released in the environment," he is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying. " So everything is fine isn't it?

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      No, everything is not fine

      And never will be at that plant. I believe, reactor blocks 1 - 4 are total write off. Blocks 5 and 6 can probably be used again but its just a conjecture.

      However the upgrading of the alert level is just a delayed reaction by the Govt administrative machine. "The cooling function was lost and the reactor cores were damaged. Radioactive particles continue to be released in the environment," is just a restatement of known facts and nothing new has actually happened today to trigger raising the alert level. They should have done it earlier, but I guess they were busy.

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    hopefully the facts speak for themselves.

    if the hopefully the facts speak for themselves. as you say , then here's a fact

    "Japan Raises Severity Rating of Nuclear Disaster:March 18, 2011"

    do they raise the threat level today if there's less risk, unlikely, and even more unlikely 24 hours ago.

    http://www.voanews.com/english/news/asia/east-pacific/Japan-Raises-Severity-Rating-of-Nuclear-Disaster-118228669.html

    "Japan has raised the severity rating of its nuclear disaster, as firefighters continue efforts to cool highly radioactive fuel rods at a nuclear reactor complex crippled by last week's earthquake and tsunami.

    Japan on Friday increased the severity of the crisis at the Fukushima site from 4 to 5 on a 7-point international nuclear event scale.

    Firefighters are dousing water on damaged reactor buildings with powerful hoses. But they have to limit their time inside the complex due to the high radiation levels.

    Japanese engineers also are extending an emergency power cable to the nuclear reactor complex. A steady supply of power could enable workers at the Fukushima plant to get water pumps working again.

    Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, says Japan is racing against time to cool the overheating reactors. Amano arrived in Japan Friday to meet with top Japanese officials and learn how the IAEA can help with the crisis."

    "The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Japanese authorities have told them they have successfully laid a cable line to reactor number two at the nuclear plant. However, it is not clear how close workers are to actually restoring power."

    "The cooling problem is particularly critical at the number three nuclear reactor, where the risk of an increased level of radioactive leaks is considered especially high.

    The risk of radiation poisoning has already forced the evacuation of more than 200,000 people who lived within 20 kilometers of the reactor site. Many are in makeshift shelters, with inadequate food, water and other supplies, in frigid winter weather. "

    and see the picture slide at the bottom of this 2 day old link to see just a brief example what conditions these more than 200,000 evacuee's are living in right now today...

    http://www.voanews.com/english/news/asia/IAEA-Chief-Heads-to-Japan-to-Assess-Nuclear-Crisis-118105754.html

    1. Horizon3
      Alert

      Update from NEI

      UPDATE AS OF 09:00 P.M. EDT, FRIDAY, MARCH 18:

      A World Health Organization spokesman said that radiation levels outside the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan are not harmful for human health. He said the WHO finds no public health reason to avoid travel to unaffected areas in Japan or to recommend that foreign nationals leave the country. He also said there is no risk that exported Japanese foods are contaminated with radiation.

      The Japanese government issued an advisory on Tuesday for people to evacuate from a 12-mile zone around the plant, and also told people living within an 18-mile radius to stay indoors. Radiation levels at the plant boundary have been declining in the last day or so.

      Link to Original Article http://is.gd/YITDcr

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even the Daily Mail seem to be more pragmatic than this lot

    It's kind of worrying when the hysterical alarmism is coming from Reg commenters and the more sensible appraisal is coming from the Daily Mail of all places!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1367289/Japan-truly-disaster-biblical-scale-right-worry-nuclear-angle.html

  87. Sapere Aude!

    Decision Making under uncertainty at a nuclear emergency

    The only applicable quality criteria of an information is the clear definition of its source.

    Knowledge contrary to information has different quality criteria, the like which are discussed here ad infinitum in relation to information.

    Decisions for measures to help to reduce the health risk to the population in such events are per se decisions under uncertainty.

    Wondering what decision support system would/could be used at a similar incident in Europe (that includes the UK):

    http://www.rodos.fzk.de/rodos.html

    (no worries, the web site is in English, its a EU wide project).

  88. Paul RND*1000

    Health effects

    "All being well, nobody else will have their health damaged in any way"

    Except for the people in the USA, driven by fear-mongering "news" coverage, who are now eating potassium iodide tablets like they were made of delicious chocolate covered candy.

    This whole affair has reminded me of two things: most news reporting is worthless at best, dangerous at worst; and the nuclear industry could really benefit from just being up-front and honest instead of trying to make things sound less bad than they are.

    1. Highlander

      In defense of the folks involved in Fukushima...

      After the total power loss at the plant within about 8 hours of the quake/tsunami, there was precious little information available to anyone, and once the venting of steam resulted in hydrogen explosions that damaged parts of the complex happened it wouldn't matter what anyone said, no one would believe that they were giving all the information. The nuclear industry exists in a catch 22. People in general know so little about radiation and radioactive material that just about any statement they make will be mis-interpreted badly and perceived as far more threatening than it is. Part of that perception is the industry's own fault, but the majority of the fault lays at the feet of the news media that do a freaking terrible job of reporting/analyzing/explaining news involving Nuclear physics.

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    build a tsunami wall, place you emergency generator below it , human fail

    "R. Colin Johnson

    3/14/2011 8:05 PM EDT

    How the fail safe measures failed

    "Backup power initially worked, but failed when the sea wall protecting the site was found to be no where near high enough to stop the tsunami from flooding the generators," said Mary Olson, a nuclear waste specialist at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "Of course, the generators should not have been placed in low-lying areas behind the sea wall--that was clearly a human error."

    "

  90. solaries
    FAIL

    Nuclear Safety in Japan

    I just finish reading about Japan nuclear safety record in New Scientist and one word it stinks in the article it stated that between 1995 and 2007 about seven nuclear accidents at lest one as bad as Chernobyl. What the government and the companies record was a disgrace down playing the hazards and out right lying about the problems and death of several workers at the plants where they worked. Anybody who listen to these people and know about the accidents must saying gallows humor jokes among themselves and fellow citizens. Nuclear power is a menace to safety in Japan.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019