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Fukushima Meltdown Might Have Come With Earthquake, Not Tsunami 172

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

    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.
    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:Uh... summary? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @05:32AM (#36163608) Journal

    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.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @07:29AM (#36164002)

    Exactly. Nuclear energy is safe. Every accident that ever happened is just a unique occurrence that could NEVER happen in *insert country of residence*. And when it's going to happen anyway, it's the fault of anti-nuke activists because they wouldn't let us build new and improved reactors. We would have totally built those despite the massive profit margins we have with the old ones. Honest!

  • 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 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 jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @08:23AM (#36164254) Homepage Journal

    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 since that's impossible, it's too dangerous to allow them.

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @08:29AM (#36164300) Homepage Journal

    I know Americans aren't very familiar with good regulation, but geez.

    Your argument amounts to, 'because it's financially preferable to keep old nukes running, we can't trust government to make sure new, safer ones are built'.

    So, are you saying that nothing potentially dangerous should be built unless there will always be a financial incentive for people to build safer versions all the time?

  • 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 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.

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

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @02:52PM (#36169332) Homepage

    If the containment vessel isn't leaking, how is all of the highly-radioactive, plutonium-bearing water accumulating outside of the containment vessel?

    Lots of very respected sources are reporting that there was damage to the containment vessel in reactors 1 through 3, quoting multiple figures in the government and TEPCO. I'm going to trust their ability to cross-check their reporting more than your "linked report" which is just a second-hand summary of news reported by one source, not some official document.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas