Reporters were allowed into the Fukushima Daiichi complex for the first time this week and found a “grim and shambolic” scene, according to the Guardian. The Times has a short summary of a new, detailed report[pdf] of the first few days at Fukushima.
One of the best resources for Fukushima aftermath information is IEEE Spectrum’s Fukushima page, which includes an interactive map of the impact of the accident on Japan, a comparison of Fukushima, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and a 1, 10 and 100 year forecast of the future of the site.
Spectrum is fairly pro-industry but those links are all just the facts. The site and the surrounding 3 square km of land probably won’t be used in 100 years, the 20 square km evacuation zone will be cleaned within 10, and the first set of concrete tombs will have been built in 10.
A question for all. If given the opportunity, would you go to Fukushima? Not me. I wouldn’t risk my health.
One factoid jumped out at me: It will take 30 years (at least, I’d add) to decommission the plant.
Do they file 6,381,420 lawsuits in Japan like they would in the US?
I took a look at some of the videos the press produced and scratched my head a bit at the reports they posted. They seemed to concentrate on the unimportant bits like trucks smashed by the tsunami left where they ended up and not on the work being done to cool the reactors and keep them under control. I’m surprised nobody explained to the reporters that moving any wreckage is only done if it is helpful in controlling the reactors, to provide access to essential areas of the site and prevent or reduce leakage of contamination around the site itself. If the wrecks, damaged structures etc. aren’t causing a hazard or getting in the way of necessary work then they will be left in place until later, much later. Moving them would expose workers to more radiation and disturb the resin coatings sprayed over most of the site to seal dust and particles in place.
Where the engineers need access they have cleared rubble and junk away from inside buildings or roads to allow heavy construction equipment to be brought in. The rest of the rubble is not a priority right now.
How do you mean? As a visitor (um…no, probably not) or to help clean up (like to think I would, not sure)?
Probably not & that will slow down the desire to come clean quickly or to clean up the mess.
But then they do have a tradition of having top executives actually resign in disgrace with no golden parachute or slipping into some cushy slot at another company. Would that we had that here.
mmix, mmix, mmix; dude
Spectrum is the house organ of IEEE – The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. “…is fairly pro-industry”? Please. It is the industry; at least, from the perspective of the practitioners. Here ya’ go Spectrum magazine.
Why yes, I am a card-carrying member.
ETA: Hell, gotta boast somewhere; no-one in the current workspace cares, they’re all coders; I’m sorry, they’re all software engineers.
Long ago, I had a membership to IEEE’s engineer guild?/group?/whatever (I forget what they refer to it as, now – it’s been awhile)
Anyway, it used to be that you had to have this membership to get this magazine.
I used to get both Spectrum, and Computer – They were great – pretty informative, very sciency =P
I’d hesitate to call them pro-industry so much as not-political.
99% of the stuff they’d cover was research, in any case. Unless pro-research is pro-industry, I have a bit of trouble swallowing that line.
Also, too: I don’t receive these magazines anymore and they may well have changed.
@Tom Levenson: The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is in the process of decommissioning a Magnox nuclear power plant in Wales. It will be at least another eighty years before the site is clear and the decommissioning process is complete. Basically they’re taking the long view, allowing most of the radioactive materials in the reactor building itself to decay naturally while the structure remains intact. This will simplify the final site clearance operation. Curating the site for a few decades is not an expensive process compared to a prompt “hot” decommissioning operation.
The Japanese usually build their reactor plants in clusters, unlike the UK. They employ a faster decommissioning process so the site can be reused more promptly to build new reactors on the same site. I’ve not seen anything in the press recently about it but they are decommissioning one of their earliest power reactors at Tokai, a Magnox design like the reactor in Wales. Decommissioning started in 2001 and was expected to be complete by the end of this year, a period of ten years.
If the damaged Fukushima reactors take only thirty years to decommission then I’ll be surprised but I don’t see a longer timescale as anything to worry about as such.
@henqiguai: as long as we’re in a pissing match….
I’m primarily a “software ‘engineer'”.
I don’t know how long you’ve been a “card carrying” member, but there are plenty of people in the software field who read Spectrum, and are members of the IEEE clique =)
IEEE has “Computer” magazine as well, just sayin’
I was half expecting/hoping/wishing godzilla or mothra to emerge from the Fukushima meltdown.
(I’m a little disappointed, but I’ll live)
How can they be predicting a timeline for cleanup when the meltdown is still occurring? They don’t even know the true conditions inside the reactors. Color me cynical, but the IEEE is an industry group. I’m taking their predictions with a big grain of
Been a member entirely too many years.
And yes, I have also been subscribing to the Computer society for (too many) years as well. In further support of your comment I would note that IEEE’s Computer society is one of the largest computer and software special interest groups in the world.
My snide crack (we’re beyond simple snark in this instance) has to do with the widespread (US) industry disdain for anything outside the current programming fad-of-the-moment. A seemingly extreme case – current co-workers’ attitudes range from “university degree programs are pointless, just get out there and code” to a holder of a combined MS/MBA with a specialty in computer science being completely contemptuous of any, and I mean any, theoretical training or research in the field (in particular he is incensed about the discrete mathematics and set theory training requirement because you can’t seamlessly use it to write SQL queries; in his opinion).
Yes, your colleagues are idiots. SQL is all about set theory. I thank God every day at work for 1960’s New Math and it’s obsession with sets. Your colleague didn’t understand the question or has no idea what a set is. As for discrete math, I had the opposite reaction: F**k calculus. Probability, iteration, and Boolean algebra — now we’re getting into something useful!
The three-way comparison of TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima lists a total of 30 deaths from Chernobyl. Given that the true number (even the WHO whitewash cited 4000 deaths) is orders of magnitude greater, I’m not sure why I’m supposed to take this seriously.
@gaz: I was half expecting/hoping/wishing godzilla or mothra to emerge from the Fukushima meltdown.
The adjective “shambolic” suggests something more… Lovecraftian.
As for cleanup of the rubble, there may not be any. It’s contaminated, and it’s easier and safer to leave it in what is already a nuclear waste site (albeit an unplanned one) than transport it to a storage facility. Search for pictures of Pripyat for examples.
Do you mean Fukushima ‘the reactor itself’? Hell, no. If you have an accident like this, you assume the site itself is lost. As was mentioned above, if you’re just disassembling a perfectly functional nuclear plant you leave it to sit for decades just to be sure.
Do you mean Fukushima ‘the currently evacuated area around the plant’? Sure. Why wouldn’t I? This wasn’t Chernobyl, where there was no cap on the reactor and crap got sprayed all over the place.
I didn’t find this site particularly informative, MM. This is sound bite information. Sound bite information is even less useful in describing a nuclear incident than in describing legislation. @LarryB: provides an excellent demonstration of that right above, by showing how the average person can’t tell the difference between waste cooling more slowly than expected and an ongoing nuclear catastrophe.
One other thing. It is probably in the nuclear industry’s interests to underplay the accident. It is in the Japanese government’s interests to overplay it, in terms of protective measures like decontamination and evacuation zones. That is what gets you reelected. It’s rather like how TSA regulations are affected by terrorist threats, except this is a major Japanese cultural issue. The guy at the top MUST pretend to be superman.
There is no ongoing chain-reaction fission in the reactors as far as the engineering staff and scientists at Fukushima can tell. The short-halflife Xe-133 and Xe-135 detected in gas samples taken from the reactor could have been from ongoing moderated fission but were probably from spontaneous fission of uranium and plutonium in the fuel elements.
(see the underlined section of the report on reactor 2)
The true condition inside the reactors themselves is not well known but some information is available. The key indicator is the temperature measured inside the pressure vessels which is now below 70 deg C and dropping due to the flow of cooling water through the reactors. Running at 100% power reactors 2 and 3 put out over 2300 megawatts of heat, over 90% of which was from fission (reactor 1 is smaller and put out about 1400 MW of heat energy). If any significant amount of active fission was still going on then those core temperature readings would not be as low as they are as a lot more heat would be being produced.
There are two other reactors on the Daiichi site, numbers 5 and 6. They suffered no loss-of-cooling or structural damage during the earthquake and tsunami and they are currently in cold shutdown. It is possible but not certain that those reactors might be started up again in the future. It wouldn’t be soon though. At Tchernobyl there were another three RMBK-4 reactors on the site which continued to run for another decade after the events of 1986 when reactor number 4 burned out and spewed contamination over a wide area.
Background radiation levels measured on the Fukushima Daiichi site boundaries continue to drop, more slowly now a lot of the short-halflife elements have decayed into insignificance. No serious effort has been made to actively decontaminate the site yet as the workers have been concentrating on bringing the reactors under control and mitigating the release of more contamination into the environment.