Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, still a massive problem, still under-reported by our Village betters, still every data point we get on the extent of the disaster is “worse than previously thought.” And now some eight months plus after the accident, we get a clearer picture.
Molten nuclear fuel at Japan’s Fukushima plant might have eaten two thirds of the way through a concrete containment base, its operator said, citing a new simulation of the extent of the March disaster.
Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said their latest calculations showed the fuel inside the No. 1 reactor at the tsunami-hit plant could have melted entirely, dropping through its inner casing and eroding a concrete base.
In the worst-case scenario, the molten fuel could have reached as far as 65 centimetres (2 feet) through the concrete, leaving it only 37 centimetres short of the outer steel casing, the report, released Wednesday, said.
Until now, TEPCO had said some fuel melted through the inner pressure vessel and dropped to the containment vessel, without saying how much and what it did to the concrete, citing a lack of data.
“Almost no fuel remains at its original position,” TEPCO said in the report.
And we’ll find out of course eight months from now that this “worst case scenario” was exceeded by reality. This stuff doesn’t cool off overnight, folks. Remember, we took TEPCO’s word that there was no meltdown originally, then a partial meltdown, now yeah, this stuff ate through two feet of concrete possibly and enough has gotten out into the Japanese countryside to seriously poison the surrounding area. Yeah, this is the nightmare that just will not stop.
Meanwhile, 8% of Japan’s land mass is contaminated by radiation. That’s just what they’re admitting to. Japan insists it’s from the plumes of radioactive steam, but what if we find out later that some of this stuff breached the concrete as well? TEPCO’s credibility is more than shot.
I’m in the not-necessarily-against-it camp when it comes to nuclear power– but the industry, apparently, just can’t stop lying about the risks. And not just the theoretical risks, which are serious enough, but also the right-here-on-the-ground risks. It’s a pathology that’s the mirror image of the anything-nuclear-is- bad camp. I’d say they deserve each other, except that there’s an actual issue here involving the future of the human race.
I would bet the reality is far worse than what they call a worst case. Some of the environmental damage will/can not be known for decades to come. We really need to concentrate on solar, wind, geothermal, ocean wave or anything less deadly to our planet.
What you don’t know is going to hurt you.
Bureaucracies lie. Can’t trust them. The Japanese don’t trust TEPCO or the government, and that’s new.
But the groundwater is not a long way down. The melted core must have been contained or the pixie dust would be sprinkling us now. There is no way to be certain of anything in this regard. What is certain; nukes are nearly dead to the public. So they have that going for them.
I think that the Japanese government is colluding with TEPCO to lie to the Japanese people. If the citizens come to the same conclusion, there is likely to be an overthrow of government in some form or another.
In the meantime, I wish them all the good luck in the world and really hope that their children are not contaminated.
I don’t think much has changed.
“The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) reported that tiny quantities of relatively harmless Xenon-133 and Xenon-135, a nuclear fission by-product with a half life of a little more than five days, were registered near the second reactor. At the same time it has been reported that no increases in temperature, pressure or radiation have been registered.
The nuclear fuel of the second reactor followed the fate of the first and third, melting down and burning through the contour of the reactor. Experts say that at certain conditions nuclear fission could restart and lead to a new meltdown, but the likelihood of such an event is next to zero. They even question the fact that the gas that was registered has been radioactive Xenon as the quantity of it was too small and there is a room for mistake in conclusions.
A truth about nuclear power operators one can rely on is they lie. They lie overtly, covertly, by commission, and omission. They’ve lied so long, and so often, they’ve forgotten what truth is.
So in Japan, is this known as “the Brazil Syndrome”?
I seem to remember a claim that the West Coast radiation detectors were out.
How much radiation has reached the United States?
I strongly suspect that it is a measurable level. And further the government knows about the level. And that the government and media are colluding to keep this information from the U.S. public.
I don’t think people should panic, but we deserve to know the truth.
Tone in DC
At this point, if I live anywhere north or east of Osaka, I’m looking to emigrate.
What they aren’t showing us:
Same page here: I’m very pro-nuclear power (to be brutally frank about it, it’s the only currently realistic, non-fossil fuel ‘bridge technology’ to get us to 2100 with our current civilization intact). But I don’t trust a single private enterprise in this country to build, run and monitor a nuclear plant. Most here agree that the MBA mentality has proven toxic to the economy, the job market and the financial system– just imagine how much damage that same mindset could do in a hypothetical future America that gets 40-70% of its electrical power from nuclear.
If it were up to me, the US Navy and DoE would be directly in charge of all US nuclear power plants (with Marines guarding them). That’s a little too WW2 for current tastes, however, so I never expect to get my wish on that one. Barring that, the US could handle nuclear power the way France does, with a quasi-private, highly regulated monopoly (much like the old AT&T, back when it was The Phone Company). But that viable solution, too, is now considered Soshulist and un-American.
TEPCO used to be one of the most respected private enterprises in that industry, and now even they end up being “ambiguous” about how much they know regarding long-term damage because of this accident. Good luck getting any public support to build any plants in this (or even the next) decade.
So, sadly, right now it looks like Coal will be King again, before too long.
@Judas Escargot: Coal is much more dangerous. What about thorium reactors?
@Judas Escargot: Didn’t they do some sketchy things with spent rod storage? I suspect the respect they had was out of ignorance of how they do things and not based on them earning it.
I definitely can understand why some people are dead set against nuclear if they think the only way to get it is via for profit private enterprise. Those fuckers don’t care about anything else.
Well, this is inevitably the issue you come up against when discussing nuclear power. When the project is run by benevolent and ever-prudent archangels, you have a certain cost/benefit trade-off of cheap electricity and toxic waste. But we use don’t wise and reliable nuclear fairies to run these plants. We have investors looking to make a profit or states looking to save a buck.
So when you talk about the future of nuclear power, its not enough to ask “Would you feel comfortable with a plant in your back yard?” You’ve got to ask “Would you feel comfortable with a plant in your back yard if it was run by Enron?”
The problem is that coal is the likely substitute. The greenhouse gas consequences are terrible, and the cost in human lives is substantial (both from extraction and pollution.) I’d take renewables over nuclear in a heartbeat, but have a sinking feeling that this won’t be the most popular option.
China is pumping out solar so fast and so cheap that its practically killing the industry. That said, the market is currently glutted with the product and price of production has been regularly on the decline. Coal can’t make that claim.
Its also worth noting that clean drinking water is slowly becoming an issue in the US. The dirty industries – coal/nukes/nat gas – regularly pollute water resources. Demands for electricity and for water are eventually going to start butting heads.
I honestly don’t see coal in the long game. It was fine when we had lots of wild natural resources and limited development, but the burden on the land is just not going to justify development into the future.
Yeah, but Cain said something funny, and Kris Humphries may be gay, so shut up about this.
Yes it is– your average coal-fired plant emits more background radiation than a (properly working) nuclear reactor.
Also a fan of thorium: Three times more plentiful than uranium, and enables the design of self-moderating, liquid-core reactors that can’t melt down. But building useful reactors will take billions of dollars in research funds– another reason I’m not hopeful. No private enterprise is going to undertake that level of risk. And our current government certainly isn’t going to support them, either (the Right hates any long-term spending, period; the Left has reflexively hated nuclear since at least Reagan).
As a one time supporter of nuclear power¹, I’ve come slowly to the anti-camp.
The requirements for running nuclear energy power plants exceed our engineering abilities. We can’t mine uranium safely, we can’t build nuclear plants safely, we can’t run the things safely, and we can’t store spent fuel and other radiation contaminated ‘residue’ safely.
We need electric power and we need more of it every year. We need to re-vamp the US power grid before it falls over. We need to redesign the US power industry to accommodate alternative (sic) electricity generating systems developed since 1955 using the tools, techniques, and methodologies discovered and developed since 1925, to pick a date. (I note the single biggest barrier to adding wind and solar plants is high energy transmission line load balancing which is a Hard Problem under the current system.)
There are other things we need to do but those are enough to get me into a lot of trouble! :-)
The single biggest barrier to moving to a new electric system is the ‘wetware’ between people’s ears. People want to draw as much electric power as the want, anytime they want. They don’t want to pay the monetary costs under an overall NIMBY decision making environment. Along with this is a barrage of propaganda, by all sides, spreading half-truths and flat-out lies, making it impossible for a rational public discussion of the engineering problems, issues, trade-offs, impacts, and costs of constructing a modern electrical power system. Toss in a dysfunctional Public and Private Financial Sector and we’ve got the basis for a Real Mess in the not too-distant future.
¹ A standard opening to a criticism, often 100% bullshit. In this case it happens to be true. You can accept or reject that, as you wish.
Chill out. Anybody could check this with hand-held equipment.
Cliff in NH
Crowdsourced radiation maps of japan:
I still use Xe133 for lung scan as a Nuclear Medicine Tech.. Its inert so, yeah thats not too bad. But this news is really a dodge for the beta emitting Cesium thats everywhere:
Cesium-137 and strontium-90 are the most dangerous radioisotopes to the environment in terms of their long-term effects. Their intermediate half-lives of about 30 years suggests that they are not only highly radioactive but that they have a long enough halflife to be around for hundreds of years. Iodine-131 may give a higher initial dose, but its short halflife of 8 days ensures that it will soon be gone. Besides its persistence and high activity, cesium-137 has the further insidious property of being mistaken for potassium by living organisms and taken up as part of the fluid electrolytes. This means that it is passed on up the food chain and reconcentrated from the environment by that process.
and some a-hole commentor told me earlier this week that I was “preposterous” for saying it was a deadzone for 300 years?
They were storing spent rods in pools, on site, instead of removing them to safer facilities. I’m not sure why. I wonder if they have the same political problems in Japan regarding nuclear waste storage. No one really wants that in their backyard, understandably.
Another reason I wish that funds could be diverted to research– there are plenty of modern reactor designs that create much less waste. But learning how to build those new plants would take billions.
People can even build one for themselves, if they don’t trust the Man to count alpha and beta particles correctly.
The Moar You Know
@Carl Nyberg: I have a radiation monitor here in my office. We dug it out of storage, figured out how to convert serial bus to USB, fed it into our weather station and have been watching it like a hawk since this went down. The only time that it registers an increase in radiation is when we turn on the florescent lights.
We have noticed two significant things:
1. It registers a jump (about 30% of background) when we turn on the fluorescents, as I said. WTF are these lights putting out?
2. It goes down about 50% when we take it outside. So we’ve got some natural radiation from the concrete walls, which is to be expected.
If you are truly worried about this, the Gamma Scout guy in Germany makes the gold standard radiation detector. They aren’t cheap and they have been backordered since the disaster, but they’re what everyone uses and they are well worth the money. We now use ours as part of our weather station feed.
What he said.
We can no longer afford to create electricity by burning stuff. But the problem with wind and solar is that the power output is not constant, and tidal doesn’t always generate peak power when it’s needed, due to the position of the moon.
What we need is a type of power that can be ramped up or down as needed when the wind changes, the clouds move, or high tide is at the wrong time. Nuclear would be the best for that, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. We’ve never been able to deal with the waste products properly, and when things go horribly wrong…
tl,dr: for me, Nuclear power is like the Hollywood cliche that the only one who can crack the code in time is the Super-genius serial killer on death row. Yeah we need it, but that doesn’t mean I trust it or like it.
The Moar You Know
Radiation detector linky goodness.
They’re not cheap but its pretty cool seeing what’s radioactive and what is not.
Aye, there’s the rub. Not to mention the ideology of the day, where we as a society are apparently no longer allowed to do anything unless it makes some asshole rich.
The “Free” Market is an excellent servant, but a terrible master.
FWIW the first CONUS detection of Fukushima fallout was reported from a California Air Resources Board monitoring station a few blocks from where I work, a few days after the tsunami. I don’t recall which radionuclide it was.
IIUC the collection stations detect a whole suite of contaminants, including but not limited to radionuclides.
I’d bet we receive far more radioactive fallout from Chinese coal plants than we have from Fukushima. This is not intended to diminish the ghoulish tsunami outcome; rather, a sad reality of the true toll of burning coal, which is horridly polluting.
Here’s a site with just what is really happening and yes it’s worse than we are being told. If you wonder around the site you find other fun stuff about nukes here in the us.
@Judas Escargot: Thorium reactor development is a long-term project. Happily, India is investing the billions to develop them. Perhaps we can benefit from their investment. Gosh. Who would’ve thought?
Fact of the matter is is that coal is killing us. And the rest of the environment. Solar, tide and wind is cool stuff, but in MHO it’s a step backwards. Energy has always been about more concentrated and less expensive, right? (Power too cheap to meter).
Solar isn’t there, yet. Given the lack of funding it will be some time before it is.
Wind, on the other hand, is “here” IF you think Systems. A specific location to too variable for continuous supply a system of wind power plants – think the Rocky Mountains – can provide what is necessary:
1. If they are properly located
2. If the transmission infrastructure has the necessary load balancing and power storing/emitting “capacitors” in-line
ETA: 3. If enough spare capacity is built to ‘take up the slack’
Conservation, conservation, conservation. there I gave you three ways do ease the burden of energy production. In the past forty years I have cut my energy consumption to 1/4 what it was.Its beauty is that it can be done right now by each of us at no dollar cost.
I’ve read good things about thorium reactors. Does anyone know about any big downsides to them I haven’t heard about yet?
Americans don’t seem to do Public Infrastructure unless it is tied to the military … thinking of the interstate highway system … or, as you say, “some asshole getting rich.” Unfortunately, the military is not, yet, interested and the costs of a re-design and re-build of the US power system are too large for private funding.
So many good investments that would also provide economic stimulus.
Our country has been lobotomized by axis of Rush-Murdoch-Kotch
Don’t count out power storage. Considering the various estimates of how many research and investment dollars would need to be invested to produce nuclear plants with a better level of risk, I think it’s debatable whether those dollars would be better spent on nuclear or on making large scale storage a reality.
There was also a study out a few months back that said that if the transmission infrastructure was there, then wind power for an entire region like the East Coast is actually reliable enough, even though it’s highly variable in any one location.
(I see Anoniminous has covered many of the same points.)
Thorium is cheap and plentiful only because there is limited demand. Start building thorium reactors, in the number required, and both of those will change, upward.
Also, there’s still the problem with waste disposal starting with the mine tailings and going through reactor disposal. Cost Accounting all the “externalities,” such as the medical costs for the increase in cancers in and around the mining and ore processing locales, makes thorium very expensive versus other options.
The needed break-through in nuclear power generation is fusion. Which we don’t know how to do. Researchers have been “ten years away” since the mid-60s and it looks like we’ll be “ten years away” for the rest of this century.
Don’t be sillY Everyone knows if you are trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it the only solution is to pour faster, it is not possible to make the hole smaller!
We really need coal-fired nuclear plants with natural gas boosters so that everyone can get in on the act.
I find it fascinating that the ‘magic of the market’ crowd don’t apply this same criteria to nuclear power. The fact is that nuclear power is financially unviable as a private enterprise because no one will finance construction of a new plant without liability risk mitigation. The cost of self-insuring would be greater than the rate of return and if it was possible to buy such a guarantee in the private market, the pricing would be such that no one would purchase the power. So nuclear operators rely on government guaranteees and limits of liability, but in response the nuclear industry doesn’t want any regulation or accountability. You better believe that if they were insured in the private market the insurer would effectively own them because if that policy was terminated the nuclear company would default on its debt. So long as strict rules regarding reserve requirements and provisioning are maintained for insurance companies, this actually one area where I would love to see a ‘free market’ response in this case. And we haven’t even addressed off-site waste disposal costs that the government has agreed to incur on the industry’s behalf. While I don’t mind nuclear and believe that there is a sufficient policy rationale for subsidizing nuclear through guarantees and limits of liability, what gets me is the industry’s chutzpah is fighting oversight through regulatory capture of the NRC.
Related to storage batteries: Can anyone explain to me why it’s not possible to convert the energy in a lightning bolt into usable power, and shunt it into a battery to be doled out as needed?
And one of the unfortunate side effects is that their unwillingness to talk about the risks winds up inhibiting their ability to talk about safer designs. After all, if the current plants are 100% safe and can never have problems, how can they possibly be worried about reducing the non-existent risks? I’ll be willing to accept their promises about safety the day they stop demanding limits on their liabilities in the event of a disaster- including personal liability for the corporate officers.
“It’s alive; It’s ALIVE!” (Sorry but somebody had to.)
I’m no EE but will speculate that scaling a system to “harvest” and store lightning energy would be so bloody expensive it could never pay for itself, given lightning’s capricious nature. Could you charge up a gazillion big capacitors with lightning? Maybe.
Also, too, we haven’t completely abandoned the notion of fusion power, but it always seems several Friedman Units down the road.
What you said. Also, nuclear plant risk isn’t scalable so the “dream” of lots of small, standardized plants scattered around the globe simply isn’t a viable approach from a risk management standpoint.
@Anoniminous: Fusion is far closer then you know – the NRL Nike program has passed a major review by three dozen outside (and international experts and has a proven path to a full scale fusion power plant; don’t rule out General Fusion (another NRL idea being done in Canada) that no one has found a flaw with – they have (barely) enough funds to slowly build it (they are tesing every major component first to be sure they aren’t missing something – hence, that will take a few years to get their proto-type plant working.) Iter is being built in France and in no way a power plant it will create stable fusion energy (just way too costly – it is a working test bed.) Even the joke NIF facility (really just a weapon test lab) will create a high energy output fusion explosion(will get close to break even.) Fusion has come a long way and could be achieved if the country wanted.
I posted a detailed statement on fusion power and it is in moderation? By the time you bother to read it the post will be burried so deep no one will see it. That is really not fair or proper – you need to post it at the end of current posts or else that is total bs and you are not making any sense.
My post that I’m in moderation is now in moderation, too? What gives?
Ok – every post I make will be silenced by being buried; that is just great.
I thought we all agreed “No more science posts from Zandar” because he’s an ignorant tool who knows precisely nothing about science, the scientific process, or critical thinking other than what opinions he can blatantly people much smarter than he is.
The one statement that really iced me in school was once a radioactive material has started to decay “Nothing stops radiation”.
Its also never heard, felt, tasted, seen, or smelled (smelt?).
Guess, I won’t ever go to Japan for a vacation.
Actually, the DoD is rolling out solar power on its installations as a pilot project (I believe). This is apparently pissing off gooper congresscritters who can’t believe that the military is doing such a faggy granola-crunching thing. Also working on biofuels.
Terry Pratchett used to be the Press Officer for some nuclear power stations. He started writing the Discworld novels because he wanted to do something more reality-based.
1. A lightening strike has positive and negative electron flow that plays hell (technical term! :-) with the design. Basically you have to construct two parallel power plants and hope impedance doesn’t get in the way of switching back and forth ‘tween ’em.
2. “Lightning can have 100 million to 1 billion volts, and contains billions of watts.” (Quote from the link) If NOAA can’t give a number on the watts, nobody knows, and it’s kinda hard to design stuff if you don’t know the design and safety parameters.
[Note: it’s considered double-plus UnCool to electrocute the plant workers.]
Love the Discworld series and his other writing. Bit of evidence for the thesis we live in a hostile Universe is his early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Speaking of jobs … This …:
The report goes on to state:
Those are 300,000 GOOD jobs which at the Rule of Thumb for such things would go to create and/or support an additional 1.5 million jobs.
Thanks for posting – still lost on why it was moderated … .
It may be possible but not practical. One problem with lightning is that all the energy is packed into a very short time, so the power (i.e. energy per time) is very high. That means you need some kind of insanely robust system to handle a lightning bolt and not get fried, and reuse is very important for a practical power system. I think there are also likely to be problems designing a system that can both absorb a huge amount of power in a short time and dispense it over a period of days or weeks until the next storm, and setting up an isolation system so you can be taking in these huge energy spikes without letting destructive voltage spikes into the distribution system.
Those are probably all solvable problems, but the solution you come up with is likely to be impractically expensive. Remember, even if you can get enough energy from lightning to provide for your power needs, you’ll need enough storage to keep you going between storms. Unless you live in a placed where powerful lightning storms are more common than sunshine, that means you’re going to need more storage capacity. In many places, it’s going to require a lot more. Those storage capacity issues are going to make it impractically expensive even if you can solve the energy capture problems at competitive prices.
I belong to the Fit Center here in Tucson. Some of the machines show how many watts you are generating when spinning, walking, jogging, raising and lowering arms, etc. Even my 65-year-old body is capable of generating almost a Kw on the Nu-Step in 10 minutes. Why not hook up gyms and exercise facilities to the existing grid? OK, I’m kidding, but we can look much more seriously to all sorts of ways of generating power.