Nuclear Emergency in Japan


"Truely" is not a word.
Has declared state of emergency, now:…

Here's the Guardian on it:…
Godzilla next?
Dang, Canuck. I swear I didn't see your comment. Our hive mind provides comic relief this worried morning...
But remember gang...nuclear energy is SAFE!!!! LOL!!! HA HA HA!!!

gus! stop making me laugh, now is not the time! (but I was, when I saw your link...)
I don't know how to properly explain to a friend how this is more important than reporting the big waves in So Cal. They are not seeming to understand the global impact if something terrible "truely" does happen. Maybe it's unnatural selection.

Off to get some twinkies! Good luck out there everyone!
@6 "But remember gang...nuclear energy is SAFE!!!! LOL!!! HA HA HA!!!"

A possible nuclear meltdown killing thousands of people, really anything to laugh.
But I thought their nuclear reactors were so safe and nothing could go wrong. Time to build more here...

Does anyone know how you can mitigate overheating when the cooling system breaks down?
@6 oops.. didn't see that.
Let me throw some more confusion in the mix. Some sources are reporting that what failed was the diesel generators which supply electricity to the emergency cooling pumps and that those pumps are running on battery power now, and the military will be flying in more batteries. Fully charged, I hope. As for why they're not just flying in an unbroken diesel generator, no explanation.

The detail on this story is inconsistent and conflicting. I'm hoping for the best, but expecting something much, much less.
Yeah, I saw this a few minutes ago:

"Kyodo News Agency: BREAKING NEWS: Fukushima nuclear plant under control: Edano (00:33)"

But how reliable that assessment is I don't know.
So when this results in minimal damage and no deaths, will the people here that fear nuclear for some reason go back and check the actual statistics and see how many more people die or are sickened or environment damaged in the production of other energy forms that are extant now that they apparently prefer? How's that coal, oil and natural gas doing? Nuclear is our least worst option and if you're going to condemn it for something going wrong, and apparently quickly controlled, after one of the worst earthquakes on record, I look forward to your immediate condemnation of all other forms of energy production.
@14, i hope that information is good. i really do.
@15 Lol. Because Chernobyl is a thriving metropolis right now eh? And strontium in baby teeth in Vermont is perfectly acceptable? Fuck that. I don't condemn solar, wind, or newer hydroelectric nor do I have any illusion that those cause no impact. Where to put the waste? I am still waiting for a solution on that since we built Yucca but Nevada doesn't want it.
Nuclear is the only economically feasible option for a post-industrial world. The material needs of traditional burning fuels along with the accompanying air pollution make them a poor choice for world-wide power generation. Wind and solar power, so far, produce relatively little energy.

New generations of nuclear reactors are far safer than those made before the seventies, which interestingly enough compose most of our nuclear power panoply. The resistance against the construction of new, new generation reactors has had the effect of ensuring that older, less reliable reactors remain in use, rather than being replaced with safer ones.

I would love to see radiation (light) power come into its own, as would I also fusion power, but the research in these technologies has yet to produce a compelling enough breakthrough to replace the need for fission reactors.

So it goes.
@6 don't you mean Fukushima?
@18, Yes, in our fevered need to consume like parasites, we'll need nukes to continue that trend. I know that the Japanese have actually been at the forefront of creating new, efficient nukes--the much-hyped Toshiba 4S comes to mind. But why ignore the fact that material science has come leaps and bounds since the 70s as well re: solar? Also, thin film technologies would allow us to collect efficiently from many surfaces if we were willing to make a fraction of the investment we will in a nuclear program. There's an advantage to having distributed forms of generating energy.
Also, are you confident in a nuclear program in the US given the current penchant to privatize all forms of that industry including regulatory oversight?
Oh, those poor, poor people! The pictures of this are just awful. Gah.
@20 Your last question raises an interesting point. Nuclear power, absent absolute safety-related regulation and control, is too risky in a world of corporations who are only focussed on making their quarterly profit numbers, saboteurs looking to inflict mass casualties, and traffickers seeking valuable contraband.

If a) nuclear power stations were operated in the public interest by a public agency, and b) actively safeguarded by the military, and c) said military took responsibility for retrieving, reprocessing and sequestering all spent or contaminated materials, and d) were actively and openly monitored by a truly independent civilian third party, I'd be a lot more comfortable about the idea. But, so far, on my wish list, that's zero for four.
As a utility worker who knows just enough to sound stupid about it, I think renewables are great. I would like to see solar panels on every appropriate location in the nation, as well as wind turbines.

The trouble is their transitory nature: The sun comes and goes according to cloud cover, the wind blows and then doesn't. The wind turbines at the Columbia Gorge create much energy, but usually at night when the power is not as needed, and they cause fluctuations in the distribution system, which makes it hard - and much more expensive, ironically - to keep the base spinning reserve (the generation available at a moment's notice to meet demand) constant.

With that said, nuclear and fossil generation are extremely problematic. I hate coal for a variety of reasons, but it's forgiving - you can make a mistake, or have an accident, and it's not the end of the world. Nuclear, on the other hand, is the most expensive method ever conceived to boil water, and unforgiving - Cherynobl being a great example of that. Even if a nuclear power plant is running trouble-free, it's still using vast amounts of water to keep it cool, and there's the literally eternal question of waste.

Efficiency and conservation are great responses, but they are not enough. In fact, it's been shown that too much efficiency leads to greater consumption.

It is, in short, a quandry. There's too many people on the planet, and too few resources, and those resources are being overwhelming used by people like us. What to do?
Catalina, wonderful, wonderful. Thanks.
@23 actually, cloud cover has minimal impact on solar radiation here. Overcast day you still get 70 to 80 percent from solar.

You can store variable energy in any water pumping system (push water uphill, use to run turbine later) such as a dam or water tower. Gravity works like that. Other systems (batteries) sound keen but have side impacts (e.g. car battery has to be pushed so mpg drops). Water doesn't complain, it's just there.
@23: Chernobyl's design was uniquely poor in many respects -- it had no meaningful containment building, and its control rod design caused power levels to *increase* slightly when the control rods were initially inserted into the core. It bore more resemblance to 1940s U.S. military reactors than to any commercial U.S. nuclear plant. It's an example of a worst-case scenario -- a complete core meltdown combined with a fire and steam explosion -- and one that's extremely unlikely to happen in any western country.

There are certainly problems with nuclear power -- waste disposal is a huge political football, and when subsidies are taken into account it's a hugely expensive way to produce power. ("Too cheap to meter" turned out to be quite a joke.) The actual plants have proven pretty safe, though, even in the face of occasional mismanagement.
Will Dear, you're being far too residential in your thinking. You're right that a variation like that doesn't make much of a difference in a single family house that is tied to the grid, but it can wreak havoc in large scale solar installation feeding into a transmission/distribution environment.

As far as the pumped storage idea, some hydro facilities can do that and some can't or don't. There are all manner of concerns/considerations there, from flood control, to irrigation supply, to fish environments.
You're too kind, Catalina. What you should have said is "Will, you're an idiot" and then explained why.

Also, cloud cover is not the biggest problem in the area with solar energy. The angle of the sun in winter, tree cover, other buildings, mountains, etc. all render solar impractical for most residential applications here. Will would know that if instead of shooting his fool mouth off about stuff he has no understanding of he'd actually, you know, paid a solar consultant to work up some charts on his house.

Of course, solar has killed far more people than nuclear in this country.
Actually, solar does OK here, even in the winter on cloudy days, as long as there is no shade pattern. One of the biggest solar implementers in the world is Germany, and they have even less solar radiation than we do. (The leader in the US is - or at least, was - New Jersey. Isn't that weird?)

Of course, solar's buddies are conservation and efficiency, but too many people don't bring them along, and that makes for a disappointing experience for everyone involved.

I once visited the home of a big developer here in Seattle who was convinced his meter was incorrect because his bill was so high, despite his impressive solar array. But his very large house had a front yard fountain, a hot tub he kept running 24/7, extensive landscape lighting, and three 80's-era sub-zero refrigerators (which were notoriously inefficient)

@28 Compare Germany's insolation to ours and note their increasing capacity. We don't have the advantage in insolation that the rest of the US have, but it doesn't mean we can't still collect something that contributes to our overall energy capacity. Also, I am thinking about the future, not just about what one can do with their house or cabin. Panels will be around, but other materials that can bond directly to windows and some rooftops will come around soon.
it's how you make a godzilla
There's another problem with nuclear power: Fuel supply.

Nuclear energy is non-renewable and, believe it or not, it's not as though tons of uranium are just lying around for the taking. If most of the world switched from coal to nuclear, we'd have the same problem we have with oil.

Most of the world's nuclear fuel is in Canada and Russia. What would happen if those two countries became the 'Uranium Cartel'?
D'oh! Most of the world's nuclear fuel is in Canada and Australia, not Russia.
@32: Well, maybe some Americans would be able to find us on a map. At last.

(Hint: WE'RE UP HERE.)
@33: And I think we'd make an awesome cartel. We've already got the requisite funny hats and accents.
It's not that we can't find you on a map; it's just that we can't think of a single reason why we should even bother.
@36 Most Americans can't bother looking up from their teevees/laptops/smartphones.
radiation levels have surged inside the plant, 1000x more powerful than before the quake. the cooling system failed. more people being evacuated.
Yep, I've been following this too, but thanks for updating this thread. It's bad alright, and from what I've been reading, it looks like there's a good chance it's going to get a whole lot worse.
@23: What to do? Don't have kids. Or, if one must propagate one's genetic material, just have one.
This could be the worst nuclear disaster in Japan since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.