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Fukushima: Removal of nuclear fuel rods from damaged reactor building begins (www.theguardian.com)
113 points by matt4077 8 days ago | hide | past | web | 50 comments | favorite





I've been following TEPCOs media site casually for years. They actually used to have a really great media site showing the latest work being done on decommissioning but its gotten more and more closed off over the years as people care less and less. They used to post these really cool PDFs with technical detail.

https://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/news/library/archive-e.html

For example, the video referenced in the news article is the first video on the TEPCO archive. Worth a watch, the screenshot really doesn't do it justice.

They still post media, but it tends to be more PR stuff of complete work rather than ongoing work.

Here is another cool video :

https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/news/library/archive-e.html?vide...

A robot inside Unit 2 scrapping up samples of the melted-down core. Talk about cutting edge extreme environment robotics!


Note that this is the fuel from the cooling pool of reactor building #3. The cooling pool of reactor building #4 has already been emptied. And the we are still not ready to remove the heavily damaged fuel from the reactor cores.

It’s also worth noting that the cooling pool is not inside the protective container that houses the cores. As such, if the water were to drain off these pools, it would possibly render Tokyo uninhabitable for a very long time. That danger was mitigated a while ago, but moving the spent and spare fuel is still a major factor in making the site safe again.

Tokyo Or Fukushima? Isn't Tokyo 150 miles south of the plant.

Yes. Not sure why I’m being downvoted. There is no question that if the spare/spent fuel were exposed to air, the resulting radiation would have required evacuation of a 150+ mile radius. They originally brought in an elite firefighting team to refill the pools for this exact reason.

No question that they would have evacuated, sure. But also little question that it would not have been required.

It's interesting how fearful nuclear energy makes people. The worst disaster in the history of nuclear energy, Chernobyl, will over the full course of time cause 4,000 premature deaths as estimated by the IAEA. This figure includes first responders sent in by the USSR with inadequate protections.

"A United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) study estimates the final total of premature deaths associated with the disaster will be around 4,000 mostly from an estimated 3% increase in cancers, which are already common causes of death in the region." Interestingly, the most common cancer it caused was thyroid (due to the Iodine-131 released), which has a 98% survival rate. [1, 3]

Whereas, currently, burning of fossil fuels is killing 7.3 million (1825 Chernobyls -- 4x the total number of civil nuclear reactors on Earth) per year.

"According to the World Health Organization in 2012, urban outdoor air pollution, from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass is estimated to cause 3 million deaths worldwide per year and indoor air pollution from biomass and fossil fuel burning is estimated to cause approximately 4.3 million premature deaths."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_due_to_the_Chernobyl_di...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents

[3] https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/thyroid-cancer/statistic...


Where can I find information about the potential requirement for evacuation within a 150+ mile radius? I didn't downvote, just interested in learning more.

I recommend the Nova episode about the 3/11 incident, which is streaming on Amazon Prime. Also, lots of sources online discuss the machinations behind the press conferences: http://world.time.com/2012/02/29/panel-government-told-peopl...

More like 80 km or 50 miles US Advisory Zone and a 20-30 km evacuation zone initially. The actual pattern is a 50 km by 12 km trace extending NNW.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_reaction_to_Fukushi...


Here's the video footage for anyone who's interested:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3Jr4_MaCbA


Has this disaster improved robot tech. Might it help on Mars.

Before we think about Mars I suggest we should first get our shit together on this little planet.

Why do people always respond this way to space exploration but not other stuff? I seldom hear "Maybe we should stop making movies until we get our shit together" even though Hollywood has a budget about the same size as NASA's or slightly larger.

I used to say the same about the NFL vs cancer research. As in: "Perhaps we should divert all of the money we spend on football each year into cancer research until we cure it."

The fallacy is that even though both are ostensibly valued in "dollars", at the scale they operate at (society wide), they are not necessarily fungible. You might spend 1 football and get only 0.09 cancer researches. Or they might not be interchangeable at all. I don't have the numbers even to start to make that judgment.

Space is probably just an extreme example of this as it feels "expensive" and seems to directly effect the life of most people very little.


> I used to say the same about the NFL vs cancer research.

As someone who works in a cancer research-related role, it's nice to not think about work when I leave the office. I would also hazard to guess that many cancer patients enjoy the distraction of various types of entertainment.

Now we can certainly do some refocusing, but I would generally hope that as a civilization and species we can talk and chew gum at the same time.


While I disagree with any sort of binary "we should do X and not Y" arguments, it is worth considering that once mankind has off-planet opportunities this planet will become significantly more dangerous.

One of the benefits of nuclear weapons is that they make everyone have a significant risk, including the belligerents who traditionally got to hide away, protected and immune. If the people who push the button, so to speak, have options beyond Earth, it makes the prospects much more dim.


Much like how bunker-buster nukes allowed for penetrating nuclear bunkers to stop that from happening (being able to "push the button" and hide away), the militaries of the world will most definitely create something that will restore Mutually Assured Destruction in that scenario.

I think you might be reading this as a different objection than it was meant as. People specifically respond this way about Mars because the context is that Mars is seen as the most viable colonization target, and colonizing Mars is the same kind of challenge as saving life on Earth from climate change, but a much higher level of difficulty. The effort spent to make movies could not possibly be spent fighting climate change, but the effort spent trying to make Mars habitable absolutely could be spent trying to keep Earth habitable. That's why it's brought up in the context of Mars specifically.

That makes sense if we imagine we have some fixed pool of climate fighting energy we can spend in one case or the other but I'm not at all sure why you would want to adopt that model? Climate change on Earth is more a political matter than a technological one and so the PR resources used by Hollywood seem to me to be more applicable to fighting climate change than the engineering resources space exploration uses.

But more to the point, we're not actually spending any money on terraforming Mars right now. It's just something people talk about. What we are doing is sending robots to Mars to explore. And hopefully at some point we'll be sending better robots or even human scientists who'll want a pre-assembled base put together by robots. Worrying that the terraforming efforts people might get up to in 50 or 100 years will take away from the steps we need to be making now for climate change is premature.


Colonizing Mars is a stupid, fundamentally impossible idea.

> I seldom hear "Maybe we should stop making movies until we get our shit together" even though Hollywood has a budget about the same size as NASA's or slightly larger.

People are somewhat free to spend their money on what they choose. Taxes, not so much.


Wait, fundamentally impossible? If you were to say it were technologically impossible or economically impossible I think I might be inclined to agree with you, we're a long way from a self-sustaining Mars colony being feasible. But what fundamental limits are there that couldn't be fixed with a proper application of technology? We know how to build centrifuges to simulate gravity and radiation shielding. We know all the elements necessary for life are present on Mars and I'm not seeing any fundamental problems with keeping people alive, though there are certainly a lot of things that need to be figured out.

I don't think colonizing other planets in the solar system is a good strategy for giving the human race a second chance because its only a very narrow range of disasters that could wipe out all humans on Earth but spare a colony on Mars.

But there's an incredible amount of science to be gained through more exploration of the solar system. Comparing the atmosphere of Earth to that of Mars and Venus has helped a lot in understanding the details of global warming and ozone depletion. We don't know exactly how fundamental science research is going to pay off but it has before and I'd argue that there is actually something of fundamental value in understanding the universe better.


> Comparing the atmosphere of Earth to that of Mars and Venus has helped a lot in understanding the details of global warming and ozone depletion.

Research for the purposes of improving life on Earth may be a good use of tax payer dollars.

Establishing a colony is a whole other thing, which implies sustained human existence in a location for the purposes of either species propagation/continuation or resource extraction.

Mining things in space and sending them home to Earth is science fiction nonsense. The energy required means it's fundamentally impossible to have a profitable operation resource extraction from a colony.


It's fun dreaming about becoming an interplanetary species. It's not fun thinking about cleaning up a huge mess created by tragedy of the commons.

That's said, Earth at its worse is still probably infinitely more livable than Mars at its best


> That's said, Earth at its worse is still probably infinitely more livable than Mars at its best.

Except for taxes. Anybody, who will live on Earth and be above average, will need to support other living beings (humans, animals, fish, forest, grass, birds, insects) with his taxes, otherwise we will have dirty cloak with few billions of angry and hungry living beings, which can dig you out of any bunker.

At Mars, it will be hard to survive without external support for about century, but much lower taxes and self selection of educated people with high IQ can make it booming.


Are the homeless in san francisco forced to support other humans?

Yep, in form of 6% sale tax.

I suggest we do both, as fast as possible, in case either doesn't work out.

If we can live on Mars we just may have a chance of getting our shit together on this planet. A ton of the renewable technology we have now is a result of our progress in space. Group psychology, recycling, energy conservation, food waste reduction, and sustainability are all goals of a space colony. Everything we need to help maintain our own planet.

In addition understanding why Mars is a frozen wasteland and why Venus is a molten lead hothouse can lead to revelations about our own climate to help us avoid destroying our own climate.


...or the other way around: get a self-sufficient backup-colony up somewhere else before we totally loose our shit on this one!

It's not zero sum here... some people can work on one thing, and others in another.

the best way to do the latter might be to colonize another planet and lead by example.

https://www.dw.com/en/japan-slams-tepco-for-false-informatio...

it appears that there were three mainstream sources of radiation measurement at the time of the accident, and in the following days, each showed a very different set of readings. The subsequent panics, and scandals, are a convoluted mess of conflicting data. In fact, a non-profit sent individuals to the area in later months, buying them inexpensive radiation detectors, to get another set of readings. True to political form around the world, this article above seems to be "blasting" the Tokyo Power Company TEPCO for the opposite of what happened ? at which point ? opaque




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