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Japan

Fukushima Meltdown Might Have Come With Earthquake, Not Tsunami 172

Posted by timothy
from the but-the-tsunami-helped dept.
formfeed writes "As the data from the Fukushima reactor is being reviewed it looks like the meltdown happened much earlier: '[T]he fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor were completely exposed to the air and rapidly heating five hours after the quake.' Apparently, the earthquake had caused a crack in the containment vessel. Which means, that even without the generators failing, the meltdown might still have happened. With this new data, it seems a similar incident could happen in an earthquake zone even without a tsunami."
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Fukushima Meltdown Might Have Come With Earthquake, Not Tsunami

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  • Uh... summary? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zalas (682627) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @05:20AM (#36163548) Homepage

    Article:
    The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said it is studying whether the facility's reactors were damaged in the March 11 earthquake even before the massive tsunami that followed cut off power and sent the reactors into crisis.
    Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source at the utility on Sunday as saying that the No. 1 reactor might have suffered structural damage in the earthquake that caused a release of radiation separate from the tsunami.
    Summary:
    Apparently, the earthquake had caused a crack in the containment vessel.

    I'm not sure how the summary writer came to that conclusion... Shouldn't we wait for an actual report/finding before stating that?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sollord (888521)

      Welcome to /. leave facts at the door along with all thoughts of compromise as your solutions and knowledge are always right on all topics

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by ozmanjusri (601766)

      Shouldn't we wait for an actual report/finding before stating that?

      This slow release of news is just salamitaktik to reduce public outcry. Tepco have known from the start that the reactors melted down and breached containment.

      Of course, as usual with reputation engineering, it's only made things much worse. This was an international incident from the beginning, and resources from around the world should have been used to mitigate the damage.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Tepco have known from the start that the reactors melted down and breached containment.

        Your evidence for this, in particular focussing on your technical term "known"? What sensor readings would they have had that would tell them containment has been breached, considering that simultaneously they also had shutdown operations happening, switchover of circulating systems, ground accelerations from the quake itself and aftershocks ...

        But hey, I just have to work with much simpler sensor systems in a not-much

    • by Kilrah_il (1692978) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @06:00AM (#36163714)

      You should be modded -1 Factual or -1 On-topic :)

    • Re:Uh... summary? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by he-sk (103163) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @07:44AM (#36164078)

      Here's a better writeup:

      Mainichi Daily News: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110517p2a00m0na008000c.html [mainichi.jp]
      taz (German): http://taz.de/1/zukunft/umwelt/artikel/1/tepcos-verteidigung-broeckelt/ [taz.de]

      According to these articles, reactor no. 1 experienced some kind of problem (sudden drop of pressure) 10 minutes after the earthquake and well before the tsunami struck. The crew then had some troubles with the cooling system of said reactor but the articles are pretty vague in that regard. This is according to TEPCO's own reports.

      Anyway, I've always maintained that the assertion that the earthquake did no damage in Fukushima (and therefore other nuclear plants are "safe") was nothing but a myth pushed by nuclear apologists in their own self-interest. It's nice to see some factual reporting backing up my thesis, by the nuke operator no less.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        To me this does seem like a major design defect. The reactors were designed to withstand large amounts of lateral acceleration, but not as much as the earthquake cause. It is somewhat understandable that such a large tsunami was not anticipated but this is not the first magnitude 9 earthquake since accurate record keeping began.

        Other plants have been inspected and 99% of them are fine, although that was expected since they were further from the epicentre and thus were exposed to less lateral movement. If th

        • by schwaang (667808)

          Nuclear is dangerous but Japan is in a difficult position because it has little in the way of natural resources like oil, gas and coal with which to generate electricity. There is also the "benefit", if you can call it that, of having the facilities to manufacture weapons grade uranium very quickly which allows Japan to remain a non-nuclear country but have the ability to rapidly arm themselves if the situation deteriorates that far.

          Speaking of war, in all the press coverage of earthquake-proofing the react

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            Probably because, in war, no sane military is going to be shooting at the nuclear plants; it would be as bad, if not worse, as setting off an actual nuke.

            Worst case, they'd be looking to take out the power switch yard, a much softer target, which would prevent the distribution of the power and therefore force the plant to shut down.

            • As we have seen lately, the keyword there is 'sane'. Unfortunately, sanity is not a prerequisite for having an army, running a country, or starting a war. (Sanity may not even be particularly useful in those scenarios.) Some parts of the world seem to my untrained eye as a basically a contest to see who's the craziest b.....d in the neighborhood. Whoever wins becomes boss - for a while.

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                Look at nuclear weapons - despite quite a few countries having them at this point, none have been used. Countries with working nuclear reactors also tend to have functioning militaries, to the point that competency would be required in a military attack against them.

                Competency and sanity do tend to go together, at least when it comes to the low level of sanity it takes to know [i]not to bomb or shell a nuclear plant[/i].

                • by vrt3 (62368)

                  Look at nuclear weapons - despite quite a few countries having them at this point, only a few have been used.

                  FTFY.

                  The world is afraid some rogue state like North Korea might launch a nuclear attack, but so far only one state has shown it is willing to go the whole way and actually do it. It's not North Korea, China, Iran, Pakistan, ..., but much closer to home (for most Slashdot readers). I'll leave it to others to comment on what that might or might not tell you about the sanity of that state.

                  • by Firethorn (177587)

                    Doh!

                    Yeah, I should have more said 'none have been used since the effects of radiation became more well known'. Like I said though - you don't actually have to bomb the nuclear plant; just the switching yard for the power. Losing the grid connection will cause it to SCRAM automatically; they aren't designed to dump the power locally.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Well I don't think there are any nuclear facilities that would survive having an airliner flown into them either so... Yeah, basically if there was a real war we would be screwed, but realistically I don't think it is likely. Countries with a modern high-tech military are basically at a standoff with each other because the consequences of even a conventional war would be utter devastating for both sides. That leaves countries like North Korea, but I don't think even they are mad enough to start a real war w

            • by riverat1 (1048260)

              In the US in the 1960's nuclear power plant containment domes were designed to survive a Boeing 707 being flown into them. Of course there are other parts of the plant outside of the containment dome that could be affected.

            • by schwaang (667808)

              Considering that the example of utter devastation in WWI didn't prevent WWII, and considering that the global political landscape can shift within the 50-ish year lifespan of any reactor (rise of China, re-alignment of the Middle East, etc.), and considering the proliferation of nuclear reactors into possibly unstable countries (India, Iran, China, etc.) it's hard to claim that war is an unlikely threat to nuclear reactors. IMHO. History is long and unforgiving.

              Consider also the revealed history of possi

              • by AmiMoJo (196126)

                In WWI a lot of soldiers were killed but most of each countries civilian populations were untouched. There were a few attempts like the bombing of London by airships and very long range artillery but nothing on the scale of the mass bombings of WWII.

                That is the key difference. When WWII came around it was possible to target factories and other infrastructure that were previously impossible to get at.

        • by Rei (128717)

          To me this does seem like a major design defect. The reactors were designed to withstand large amounts of lateral acceleration, but not as much as the earthquake cause. It is somewhat understandable that such a large tsunami was not anticipated but this is not the first magnitude 9 earthquake since accurate record keeping began.

          But you see, that's not acceptable. You can't just account for known unknowns. You also have to factor in the risk of unknown unknowns. It's simply not good enough to say, "We've

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            You have to pick some cut-off point, otherwise there is no limit to the safety features required.

            • by Rei (128717)

              But that limit should not be "What we've already seen happen, plus a couple feet". When the disaster potential is on such a great scale, you need to assume "we ain't seen nothing yet." And if that assumption is too expensive? Then you don't do it.

          • My great-grandaddy was an engineer/doctor/botanist in India in the mid-1800s. One of his claims to fame was a bridge over a river canyon, which had been washed out repeatedly. So he walked 100 miles upstream and 100 miles downstream, and interviewed the chiefs and the elders of each village and tribe along the river, asking how high the water went in their lifetimes, in their ancestors lifetimes, and in their legends. He assembled a 500 year history of the river's floods. Then he had the new bridge buil

      • Re:Uh... summary? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jafac (1449) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @01:46PM (#36168484) Homepage

        Well, it was also fairly obvious given the following:
        - Among the long history of safety procedure fraud at Fukushima, by TEPCO, were instances where repairs were performed using procedures that were not approved by standards, but signed off as otherwise. (therefore - plant infrastructure which may have been *designed* to withstand certain g acceleration forces of an earthquake in 1971, may not be able to withstand those forces 40 years later, after these un-approved, but fraudulently certified repairs.) - The article which mentions these variances does not provide specifics.

          - When Unit 1, and 3 exploded, the roofs of the building blew off. This indicates that the hydrogen had been generated in a reactor core at over 2200 degrees C, in the presence of water, and escaped the primary cooling system, venting into the reactor building's structure through the particle scrubbers, and exploded. A hydrogen explosion is not good, of course, but only indicative of a loss-of-cooling, at a minimum. Many experts will say that hydrogen generation is pretty much a sure sign of melting; it's not precise, but when you're in the ballpark, in a nuclear reactor, things can get very unstable very quickly, (like, milliseconds-quickly). None of these units had instrumentation, or controls, or active cooling going on. As hot byproducts are released - they have much lower melting points than the Uranium fuel, and they can migrate around, and collect in different states (or chemically react with eachother, and have a completely different set of properties - and these properties could be caustic, or explosive) . . . and cause hotspots, regions of high flux. (while some byproducts absorb neutrons and slow the reaction down). Pretty much all bets are off, as far as predicting what's going to happen.

        Strictly speaking, hydrogen generation does not mean melting HAD to happen. But in this situation, it was highly improbable that melting wasn't happening in conjunction with that.
        (and the hydrogen generation did not necessarily happen at the time of the explosions - the explosions happened later).

          - When Unit 2 exploded, the explosion blew out the side of the base of the building, through the condenser, in the primary cooling. This means that the hydrogen collected and ignited in the primary cooling system. This also means that there was enough heat in the condenser to provide ignition. This could have been due to excessive steam pressure, (compression-ignition) - with oxygen leaking IN through structural cracks. It strongly suggests that Unit 2 was damaged structurally, (the concrete torus), in the quake. It could be that thermally hot byproducts or corium caused the ignition in the RPV, maybe with an oxygen isotope (I don't know if this is possible or not, probably not), or dissasociated water,(weird isotope chemistry?) or the ignition source made it's way into the torus (which would mean, holey RPV+holey primary cooling = open core). I can't really say what the ignition source could have been, but the presence of oxygen is the crazy bit, and the simplest explanation is structural issues in the concrete (or connecting cooling pipes/valves).

        I think it was pretty idiotic and foolish (okay. . . unprofessional?) for TEPCO to state, in the immediate aftermath of the first hydrogen explosion, that they knew that the RPV was intact. They couldn't get instrument readings, or even a visual inspection for many days after that explosion to even get a half-assed confirmation of that statement. It was this kind of fumbling around and PR mismanagement that does the most damage to the industry's credibility. It would have been better for them to state what they definitely knew - what data they had, and the range of possibilities that it could have meant. That first hydrogen explosion was absolutely the time to press the panic button and evacuate residents.

    • by Chas (5144)

      Remember the first rule of yellow journalism.

      If there's no news to be had, generate an eye-catching, inaccurate headline.

      Then make shit up.

      "Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source"

      This is essentially a license to freely spew anything. Regardless of the facts.

      Now comes the time when they attempt to rewrite what actually happened, and replace it with a "nuclear horror" scenario.

    • by jbengt (874751)

      Summary:
      Apparently, the earthquake had caused a crack in the containment vessel.

      I'm not sure how the summary writer came to that conclusion... Shouldn't we wait for an actual report/finding before stating that?

      From TFA:

      The utility said on Sunday that a review of data from March 11 suggested that the fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor were completely exposed to the air and rapidly heating five hours after the quake.

      and

      Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source at the utility on Sunday as saying that the No. 1 reactor might have suffered structural damage in the earthquake that caused a release of radiation separate from the tsunami.

  • by borrrden (2014802) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @05:23AM (#36163566)
    Nowhere in TFA does it say that the earthquake caused the damage to the reactor that led to it melting. Also, I doubt it is even possible for it to melt in the 40 - 50 minutes it took for the tsunami to arrive. It first has to evaporate or otherwise evacuate the water inside the reactor, and then heat up to about 2800 C to melt. What the article is saying is that the rods had melted much sooner than initially thought. The timeline changed, not the reason. They are also looking into possible complications that may have occurred in the initial hour (there is another report that the cooling systems were manually shut off after a pressure drop, as per the instructions for such a scenario), but nowhere does it suggest that the earthquake, and not the tsunami, caused the crisis. The closest it comes to that is saying that the earthquake may have "damaged" the reactor, but gives no speculation on the effect that it would have had on the cooling system. A crack in the containment vessel without any cracks in the reactor pressure vessel would not have been an issue.
    • by thePig (964303)

      It need not melt in the 40-50 minutes as you suggest. When the tsunami came only the diesel generators failed. The battery backup was still working. Only when the batteries wound down was the effect of the tsunami felt - i.e. generators were offline. So, there was ample time for the meltdown due to structural damage to occur.

      I am not sure about your other points - only pointing out that the timeline need not be as stringent as you were mentioning.

      • Battery Power (Score:5, Informative)

        by mdsolar (1045926) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @06:45AM (#36163880) Homepage Journal
        There is a detailed diary here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703509104576330531564264132.html [wsj.com]

        "Documents released by Tepco Monday showed the isolation condenser— an emergency cooling system installed on Reactor No. 1 before the quake as a final resort in case of a total loss of power—worked only sporadically, if at all. Tepco officials explained that somebody appears to have manually closed the valves on the condenser soon after the March 11 quake—but before the tsunami hit about an hour later—to control the fluctuating pressure inside the reactor. Reopening the valves required battery power, so those valves likely couldn't be opened because the tsunami damaged the backup batteries.

        If the valves hadn't been shut, things might have turned out differently. Temperatures in the reactor climbed faster than initially expected, causing more and faster damage. Tepco admitted this week the problems at Reactor 1 were far worse than originally thought. Its new projection shows fuel may have started melting rapidly only five hours after the March 11 quake. By 6:50 a.m. March 12, the fuel was likely in a heap at the bottom of the vessel. "

        Battery power was lost apparently.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DrBoumBoum (926687)
        No, the batteries provide nowhere near the power required by the cooling system, this was explained on slashdot a few weeks ago by a guy working with the pumps (sorry no time to find the comment now). The cooling system consumes a large amount of the total electrical output of the plant (something between 10 and 20 percent, again from memory), no battery setup can provide this amount of energy. The batteries are only used to power the instrumentation and control mechanisms (valves etc).
        • by Hartree (191324)

          Depends on what part of the cooling system. The main cooling pumps indeed do take a lot of electric power.

          One of the backup systems, the RCIC, uses residual steam pressure to inject cooling water into the reactor. The valves and controls for that system require electric power, but batteries can supply that.

    • If they lost cooling at the moment of the quake, they'd have to deal with roughly 10MW thermal. Heat of vaporisation for water is about 2kJ/g, so at 10 MJ/s we get vaporization of 5 kg/s. For 40 minutes between quake and tsunami, we have 2400 s, giving us 12 tons of water evaporated. That is definitely lower than the whole content of the RPV, so we won't get a dry core and total meltdown there, assuming that there is no other path for coolant loss than evaporation. Partial exposure of the rods with partial
      • by rrohbeck (944847) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @07:30AM (#36164008)

        If there was a crack at the bottom of the RPV, the pressure would have pushed water out rather quickly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fierlo (842860)
        Except that decay power is about 7% or so right after shutdown. I'm not entirely sure where you got the 10 MW thermal. Unit 1 is a 480 MWe reactor. If you generously assume a 50% efficiency (it wasn't)...

        480/0.5*0.07 = 67.2 MW thermal

        More likely it's in the mid 30s (or even low 30s) for efficiency, so you end up around 96 MW thermal immediately after shutdown.

        • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @08:32AM (#36164324)
          Yeah, that was a brainfart - I wanted to shoot for order of magnitude only, so I originally planned to set 10% of total thermal power. That somehow got garbled into 10 MW. So I undershot it by a factor of 10. You are right, with losing about 150 tons of water, the core would probably fall dry within the hour given a loss of circulation immediately after scram.
        • Reactor 1 is 1360MWt. Approximate decay heat at shutdown is ~6.6% ~ 90MW. After 10 mins, it's ~2.2% = ~ 30MW, after 1hr, it's ~1.5% = ~ 20MW.

          The original poster failed to convert MW to kJ. 1MW/s = 2000 kJ/s, failed to adjust for the water temperature/pressure (heat of vaporization is lower at high temp&pressure), and failed to adjust for the rapid decrease in decay heat during the first hour.

    • by sribe (304414)

      It first has to evaporate or otherwise evacuate the water inside the reactor...

      I'm thinking possible crack in the reactor vessel, and that the fucktard OP doesn't know the difference between reactor and containment vessels.

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @06:06AM (#36163744) Journal

    While I am not sure about the quality of this article and its unclear how some of these conclusions are reached should this events be corroborated later this is a big deal. If true it kinda throws out some of the hey it stood up to way more than was ever expected, these things really are safe narrative.

    • I know it's bad but I like to repost and ponder in insight over the content of one the very first comment [slashdot.org] that was posted about the disaster:

      It's funny because what is happening in Japan is exactly why Nuclear Power is SAFE!

      An earthquake 7 times more powerful than the biggest it was built for hit, and all that happened to the reactors that didn't shut down cleanly was a small amount of radioactive noble gases, which decay within minutes. Even if the cores DO melt, they're safely contained in ... wait for it... containment chambers!

      People don't realize the amount of engineering that goes into nuclear to make it safe.

      As I always say: containment chambers indeed!

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @07:56AM (#36164116) Homepage Journal

    Mitsuhiko+Tanaka [google.com] was an engineer who led Fukushima's building of the reactor vessel. He told Japan's government following Chernobyl's explosion that he had helped TEPCO cover up the fact that the reactor vessel was damaged during its manufacture. Japan's government ignored him and continued to relicense Fukushima for many years past either his warning or Fukushima's designed lifecycle.

    This is the problem with nukes: the people in its industry and government cooperate to protect the corporate profits rather than the public even when those two interests are in conflict. Regardless of technical solutions to technical problems (which cost money and are ignored when the corporation can get away with it), the problem that's proven impossible to solve is the failure to properly regulate the rich essential monopolies owning or running the nuke plants.

    Which is a problem not just where earthquakes and tsunamis are the particular risk. It's a problem in countries like Russia, Japan and the US.

    That is the risk that nuke boosters never admit: the risk of human error in the regulation and oversight, not just the engineers. These nukes are too risky for our corruptible industrialists and government people to be trusted with.

    "There's no difference between theory and practice - in theory. In practice, there is a difference." - Yogi Berra (paraphrase)

    • by L0rdJedi (65690)

      You realize that is a problem with any industry when government is close to the people that run anything, right? Nukes, oil, coal, "green" energy. You name it. When government gets in bed with companies, they end up looking the other way every time.

      • You realize that is a problem with any industry when government is close to the people that run anything, right? Nukes, oil, coal, "green" energy. You name it. When government gets in bed with companies, they end up looking the other way every time.

        What you say is true. The key distinction is that when something goes wrong with those other industries, you don't ruin all the real estate value in an area the size of a small state.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      Yep, we can't trust our government or companies to do anything competently. For our own safety, we should clearly ban:
      - Nuclear plants
      - Coal plants
      - Oil plants
      - Cars
      - Supermarkets
      - Highways
      - Bombs
      - Guns
      - Tanks
      - The police
      - The fire service
      - The public health service (outside the US)
      - Banks
      - Trains
      - Computer components
      - Boats
      - Aeroplanes
      - Busses

      I mean it's either that, or come up with some kind of system for keeping these entities accountable, so that we would be able to benefit from these things. But sinc

      • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @10:57AM (#36166082)

        Yep, we can't trust our government or companies to do anything competently. For our own safety, we should clearly ban:

        Nuclear plants are unique amongst these things in that their failure modes are:

        1) rapid
        2) complex
        3) expensive

        The speed comes from the energy density of the core, which is many orders of magnitude higher than for any other power source. A typical nuclear plant contains something like the equivalent of 100,000 boxcars of coal in its fuel rods, and while only a tiny fraction of that can be released over a reasonably short interval, only a tiny fraction has to be released over a relatively short interval to ruin the core.

        Reactor kinetics are complicated and the cooling and control systems more-so. Complexity is a bigger issue in second and third generation designs--one could even say that the whole point of fourth generation designs is to engineer out as much complexity as possible. However, there is always going to be a fairly high level of complexity for anything beyond the "nuclear battery" type reactors (which to my mind are probably viable sources of energy in the long term.) The high energy density and consequent rapid pace of events during failure mean that the humans involved in the process are going to frequently make bad choices.

        The cost is the big problem: a failure in a coal plant results in some nasty chemicals released into the environment, maybe some people burned in a steam explosion or the like. But it is very hard to create a coal plant disaster that writes off the capital investment or exposes the operator to the kind of widespread liability that nuclear disasters do.

        So anyone who is not innumerate realizes that the risk-cost/benefit trade-off for nuclear power is very different from most other technologies. The benefits are significant, but a long, long way from "power too cheap to meter", which was the original promise of nuclear power. The costs are having an event like Windscale or Chernobyl or Fukushima every decade or two. For numerate people, the trade-offs involved are not a slam-dunk on either side.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Ironically, with new plant technologies, none of the events are even possible.

          • by mosb1000 (710161)

            Any nuke plant can suffer a breach of containment.

        • by jez9999 (618189)

          an event like Windscale or Chernobyl or Fukushima every decade or two

          Ludicrous to compare these with modern plants. These were all extremely old, and very badly run.

          • by RQuinn (521500)

            It's ludicrous to expect that any plant won't be badly run.

          • by mosb1000 (710161)

            What you're not getting is that most plants are not "modern" at all. In fact, depending on what you mean, none of them are are since they haven't build any Generation IV nukes yet.

            Also, Chernobyl Reactor 4 had only been operating 3 years before it exploded, so it's not like it was extremely old when it went up. It was state of the art, and brand new. Obviously it was poorly run though.

        • by Solandri (704621)

          The cost is the big problem: a failure in a coal plant results in some nasty chemicals released into the environment, maybe some people burned in a steam explosion or the like. But it is very hard to create a coal plant disaster that writes off the capital investment or exposes the operator to the kind of widespread liability that nuclear disasters do.

          So anyone who is not innumerate realizes that the risk-cost/benefit trade-off for nuclear power is very different from most other technologies.

          The problem

          • by radtea (464814)

            All you're doing is saying that concentrated dangers are more worthy of avoidance than distributed dangers simply because they're concentrated.

            Not at all. I'm saying that coal plants fail in ways that are cheaper than nuclear plant failures. This is trivially true. I don't know of any case in the past fifty years where a coal plant failure has led to a complete loss of capital investment of the kind that routinely happens in relatively trivial nuclear plant disasters. If Fukushima were a coal plant it would be back in operation today, not written-off.

            This has nothing to do with danger, which is fairly trivial in both cases, albeit greater for

      • Yes, and the limitations of human institutions will have an equally grave impact for humanity for each of the items on your list . . .

        I honestly think some people have a mental disability which prevents them from assessing risk rationally. They will be the end of us all.
    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @08:48AM (#36164460) Homepage Journal
      Unfortunately this isn't an isolated incident in Japan and really the only question was when, not if, something like this would happen. It's a pretty open secret that government has been in bed with TEPCO and the like for quite some time now, and that most "inspections" were mostly rubber stamp affairs. Hell, as recently as summer of 2003 there was a shutdown of a large number of reactors in the Tohoku region because it was found that managers were intentionally papering over gross safety violations. You would have thought that would have spurred the public into action, but it really did nothing.

      You also have cultural issues at play. People like to point out how there was virtually no looting after the tsunami, and rightly so, but the downside of that same culture is a lack of whistle-blowing. Japan is still in many ways a Confucian society, and as such there is very little in the way of whistle blowing. And even when there is, people tend not to believe the whistle blower over his "superiors" at work because well, they are his superiors......

      That being said, I would be willing to bet Japan goes from the rich country with the worst nuclear safety record to having one of the best. The Japanese throughout history have been a society that is very poor at initiating change, but the best at adapting to it, unfortunately it takes a huge shock for them to really change anything. Case in point, their air safety record. Japan used to have one of the worst air safety records around, but thanks to a string of major accidents in the 60s, and one huge accident(deadliest single airline crash in history) in the 80s, they now have probably the best air traffic safety records on the planet. There have been no passenger deaths in Japan since 1994, and there has only been one fatal incident involving a cargo jet. Considering the amount of air traffic both in Japan and from abroad, that is pretty damn impressive. Doubly so when you consider how small the airports are and how many flights they have to get in and out. The airline industry suffered from a lot of the same problems the nuclear industry does, rubber stamping, no whistle blowing etc. Hopefully this will serve as a wakeup call to the Japanese much in the way the major air accidents did.
      • by sycorob (180615)
        The other thing that Japan is known for is going from cheap, low quality cars to having some of the highest quality cars in the world. Was there a "shock" event that caused that as well? Genuinely curious.
      • by gullevek (174152)

        Actually they are not really a Confucian society. That never picked up here.

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      Actually, if you read reputable news sources Tanaka claims he had concerns in mid 70s the vessel wasn't strong enough to withstand stress of coolant failure. But the tinfoil hat blog sites have done the usual rumor monger / distortion thing with that. He became an anti-nuclear activist and regarding Fukushima mostly is criticising how TEPCO and the government are mishandling the situation.
  • Japan is now on the fast-track for new green, renewable technologies after this latest disaster.
    Let's hope that they can help save the planet and themselves with their ingenuity, precision and technological advances.
    • by mdsolar (1045926)
      Japan has a fairly well developed liquefied natural gas infrastructure. This may prove useful as the Sabatier reaction is used to soak up excess wind energy.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      No they aren't. There are people talking about it, but even the most basic look at the logistics make it impossible to do. Japan is already pretty efficient.

  • by Agent0013 (828350) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @09:47AM (#36165072) Journal

    I wouldn't say that I am anti-nuclear, but I do think it can be dangerous. Especially with the corner cutting that a lot of corporations try to use to save money. I was struck by this news on how many times I saw a pro-nuclear slashdotter post how the power plant had survived the earthquake just fine. Many people were saying how it was an amazing triumph of engineering that it could withstand the quake that was ten times what it was designed for. If only they had put the pumps up on stilts or someplace where the tsunami would not have caused the damage, everything would have been just fine. I guess that was just a bunch of wishfull thinking now huh? Sure, I understand that at the time it had looked like it survived the earthquake without damage. But you end up losing some credibility and start to look like a fool when it turns out you were completely wrong because you didn't yet have all the facts.

    • by bidule (173941)

      I wouldn't say that I am anti-nuclear, but I do think it can be dangerous. Especially with the corner cutting that a lot of corporations try to use to save money.

      Well, when there are coal mining accidents at least it does not affect the public at large, otherwise it's the same corporate behavior whatever the energy source.

      Many people were saying how it was an amazing triumph of engineering that it could withstand the quake that was ten times what it was designed for.

      That still leaves 3 more reactors on the "triumph" side. And I wonder how no.1 would have fared if the valve hadn't been close, if it was human error. There's not enough information to form an educated opinion yet.

      But you end up losing some credibility and start to look like a fool when it turns out you were completely wrong because you didn't yet have all the facts.

      Then again, the previous stories were filled with rabid anti-nuke (or trolls, same thing) who said things semantically equivalent to "OM

  • So what you are saying that *maybe* the plant failed during the largest earthquake in recorded history, that was far beyond the building specifications that the plant was built to resist, rather than after when it got hit by the largest tidal wave in history? This is also the first time in history that this has happened.

    I bet the plant wasn't built to resist a direct comet strike either.

    That all said, you can bet any new plants will have much more rigorous earthquake building specifications which is a good

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've always been a big nuclear supporter of safe nuclear power, and, by safe, I mean ones where the core can reliably melt down to puddle with very minimal impact on the environment around. The thing that bothers me is that I used to believe our current nuclear plants could do this. I am no longer convinced. Indeed, I am openly concerned this is not the case.

    In the four cases of partial core meltdowns we have now seen (the Three Mile Island reactor and the three Fukushima reactors), the zicronium fuel rod c

  • It was the tsunami that removed there ability to use the pumps. And crack does not equal meltdown.

    It's not good, but it is critical to be as factual accurate as possible. To many emotional and political crap mixed in.

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