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Japan Plans To Scrap Nuclear Plants After 40 Years 229

Posted by timothy
from the over-the-hill-gang dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news as carried by the San Francisco Chronicle: "After the nuclear meltdown of the Fukushima plant, 'Japan says it will soon require atomic reactors to be shut down after 40 years of use to improve safety.' If, however, a nuclear plant is deemed still safe it may continue operation."
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Japan Plans To Scrap Nuclear Plants After 40 Years

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  • if it ain't broke (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alphatel (1450715) * on Saturday January 07, 2012 @06:57PM (#38625418)
    I promised my neighbors I will stop burning cow dung after 10 years, unless I deem it doesn't still smell like sh*t.
  • In Other Words... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CrazyDuke (529195) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @06:59PM (#38625430)

    Japan will continue to use nuclear plants after 40 years after some political/financial lubrication and rubber stamping a safety report, just like every other first world nation with old plants in the news lately.

    War is peace; Freedom is slavery, etc...

    Mmm...chocolate rations...

  • Makes Sense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jrmrjnck (2231848) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:02PM (#38625444)
    So... inspect old plants and shut them down if they're not operating safely. That sounds oddly reasonable.
  • by quantaman (517394) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:02PM (#38625448)

    You're missing the point.

    Older plants don't have as many safety features as newer plants, as well existing safety features may degrade as they age. So instead of plants simply getting older and less safe they're proactively saying "this plant will be shut down by X unless you can prove it's still safe enough to continue".

  • Re:So, no change? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:03PM (#38625452)

    No, it means that now, a plant has to be shown to be unsafe to be shutdown. With the changes, a plant has to be shown to be safe to qualify for an extention. It basically means more inspections.

  • OTOH... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:16PM (#38625534)

    will soon require atomic reactors to be shut down after 40 years of use to improve safety.' If, however, a nuclear plant is deemed still safe it may continue operation."

    That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean? At the end of 40 years, a plant is either safe or unsafe. If safe, they can keep going. If unsafe, why was it still running?

  • by lightknight (213164) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:47PM (#38625748) Homepage

    Indeed. It's our weird world of thinking -> "We won't build new nuclear power plants (which are safer, and benefit from technology advances), because nuclear power is unsafe; but we will continue to operate the older nuclear power plants (which are less safe, and are slowly crumbling) because we have already spent the money building them."

    There are days when I think the inmates are running the asylum.

  • Re:OTOH... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:49PM (#38625752)

    That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean?

    It means that they expect plants to be worn down by use. Plants that are less worn are deemed less likely to be a problem, even if they have fewer safeguards. Plants that are both worn and with fewer safeguards will (ostensibly) not be tolerated.

  • Re:OTOH... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by VanGarrett (1269030) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:55PM (#38625792) Homepage

    Do you believe that a nuclear plant goes into operation immediately when the last construction worker on-site finishes his final designated task? That seems a bizarre way to run things, in any country. The nuclear plant is inspected prior to commencing operations, and is presumed safe until its next inspection. Can you know before the box is open, whether Schrodinger's cat remains alive? This is not a new thought-experiment.

    The decision that Japan has made, is that 40 years is a reasonable length of time to check in on a nuclear plant, to see if it still meets current safety standards. It may no longer meet standards because of normal wear and tear on the facility, or it may be because the standards have been raised. Seeing as the previous modus operandi was to build a nuclear plant and let it continue until it explodes, I'd say that this is a clear and marked improvement.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @07:56PM (#38625798)

    There are days when I think the inmates are running the asylum.

    You have just described how democracy works.

  • Re:OTOH... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quantaman (517394) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:31PM (#38626004)

    will soon require atomic reactors to be shut down after 40 years of use to improve safety.' If, however, a nuclear plant is deemed still safe it may continue operation."

    That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean? At the end of 40 years, a plant is either safe or unsafe. If safe, they can keep going. If unsafe, why was it still running?

    People like you are why I always feel the need to write long pedantic posts :/

    First lets establish the obvious in that safety isn't a binary condition, it's a continuum.

    Now older plants are less safe for two reasons. 1) they were built when the technology was less advanced, 2) they are old.

    Now if a plant is unsafe enough it will obviously be shut down before the 40 year mark, the only reason to believe otherwise is if you're being deliberately obtuse.

    However, we're looking at the situation where a plant is safe enough that there's no immediate reason to shut it down, but if someone started the ball rolling and did a really tough safety inspection it might end in the plant being shut down.

    What this law does is start the ball rolling.

    I'm sorry to sound snippy but comments of the type "I'm going to misinterpret a statement so I can make a clever remark" really bug me and detract from the discussion.

  • Re:OTOH... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:34PM (#38626014)

    That also implies that if a plant is unsafe, it still gets 40 years. Otherwise, what does the time limit mean?

    You're missing the point. The plants were up to contemporary safety standards when they were built. They aren't now - not because their safety standards have necessarily decreased, but because contemporary safety mechanisms are so much better.

    This is saying that older plants must measure up to modern safety techniques, you can't "grandfather" in an old plant, just because its been operating for a long time.

  • Re:OTOH... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Surt (22457) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @08:37PM (#38626032) Homepage Journal

    Right .....
    And, of course, Fukushima was less than 3 months over 40. If the tidal wave had been 3 months earlier, everything would have been fine?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @09:13PM (#38626234)

    I remember reading Asimov's 'Foundation'; where people after colonising the whole galaxy, fell into lackluster apathy and gave up on their knowlege of science, abandoning nuclear energy in favour of combusting carbon based fuels. I'm glad Asimov's not alive to see the day when the human race lives up to the end of days scenario he thought so terrible before even touching the stars.

  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @09:44PM (#38626366)
    Seems to me we had multiple reactors hit with a giant earthquake AND tsumani and aside for the major news not a lot of people died. Seems evidence to build more nuclear for me. I swear the anti-nuclear hippies must be funded by big oil cause I can't see any reason not to keep building safer and safer plants till energy is basically free.
  • Re:OTOH... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@world3. n e t> on Sunday January 08, 2012 @12:56PM (#38630066) Homepage

    Seeing as the previous modus operandi was to build a nuclear plant and let it continue until it explodes, I'd say that this is a clear and marked improvement.

    Be serious. They ran them until they were deemed unsafe or uneconomical. No-one thought that such a large tsunami would ever hit Fukushima, or any other the other places where tens of thousands of people were washed away. Clearly that was wrong but there were regular safety inspections and they did deem to the plant fit to continue operating.

    The real problem is that nuclear power is so expensive that that power companies and governments are reluctant to build new facilities when they can keep the old ones running. Governments are also unwilling to impose further regulation, e.g. forcing Fukushima to upgrade its emergency cooling systems, because ultimately the cost gets passed on to them or their citizens. Obviously power companies won't do anything safety related unless forced to by regulation or insurers since it affects their bottom line and shareholder dividends.

    We need to start making better use of our fusion reactor. It is fuelled for a few billion years and all the management, running and waste disposal is outsourced with the energy beamed directly to us in vast quantities. The fusion plants work the same way as nuclear and most other energy types, i.e. using fusion power to generate steam that drives turbines. They are totally safe too, the worst accident possible being a high pressure steam or molten salt leak.

  • Re:OTOH... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday January 08, 2012 @05:13PM (#38631854) Homepage Journal

    Maybe most power plants do. But most power plants aren't nuke plants. So when they fail after 50-100 years, they don't nuke a quarter of Japan. Or Europe. Fukushima and Chernobyl did. Damn right they're not smartphones.

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