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Nuclear Disaster In Japan Could Have Been Mitigated, Say Industry Insiders

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the can't-plan-for-every-possibility dept.

Japan 204

Hugh Pickens writes "Some insiders from Japan's tightly knit nuclear industry have stepped forward to say that Tepco and regulators had for years ignored warnings of the possibility of a larger-than-expected tsunami in northeastern Japan, and thus failed to take adequate countermeasures, such as raising wave walls or placing backup generators on higher ground. 'March 11 exposed the true nature of Japan's postwar system, that it is led by bureaucrats who stand on the side of industry, not the people,' says Shigeaki Koga, a former director of industrial policy at the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry. Eight years ago, as a member of an influential cabinet office committee on offshore earthquakes in northeastern Japan, Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus of seismology at the University of Tokyo, warned that Fukushima's coast was vulnerable to tsunamis more than twice as tall as the forecasts of up to 17 feet put forth by regulators and Tepco, but government bureaucrats running the committee moved quickly to exclude his views from debate as too speculative and 'pending further research.' Then in 2008, Tepco's own engineers made three separate sets of calculations that showed Fukushima Daiichi could be hit by tsunamis as high as 50 feet. 'They completely ignored me in order to save Tepco money,' says Shimazaki."

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But so could anything (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317357)

Any disaster could be averted with extra millions and millions spent on it, it's just balancing risk and reward.

Re:But so could anything (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317375)

Any disaster could be averted with extra millions and millions spent on it, it's just balancing risk and reward.

Now apply to Justin Bieber and/or the heat death of the universe.

Re:But so could anything (5, Insightful)

Ardeaem (625311) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317379)

Any disaster could be averted with extra millions and millions spent on it, it's just balancing risk and reward.

Come on, don't be dense. The claim here is precisely that they weren't balancing risk and reward - they were overweighting their own immediate gains and underweighting the future risks, which were mostly to other people.

Re:But so could anything (5, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317429)

In economic terms it is called "externalizing". Shifting risk to others is the hallmark of capitalist economies. The same is true of any enterprise. If you have a risk, find a way to shift the cost onto someone else. The public is always a good place to shift the risk to. If you get caught with your pants down it is easy enough to declare bankruptcy and emerge a "new" entity to continue shifting the risk. These plants aren't going anywhere and given today's energy demands will be up and running in no time.

Re:But so could anything (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317579)

It is not restricted to capitalist economies.

Have to remind people that Chernobyl, still ranked as the world's worst nuclear disaster happened in the Soviet Union.

Wait for the first Chinese nuclear accident and it will be a whopper. Somehow they managed to copy technology from the West yet stripping out safety measures that exist, aka the high speed train technology they stole from France, yes improperly implemented and stripped out safety features.

Re:But so could anything (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318105)

Afaik Chinese are mostly copying Russian tech in this regard, just like they do with weapons.

Re:But so could anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317597)

Shifting risk to others is the hallmark of all economies.

FTFY

It's the hallmark of human enterprise in general, regardless of culture, society, government, or economic system.

Re:But so could anything (-1, Troll)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317503)

That is the goal of capitalism

Re:But so could anything (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317801)

That is the goal of capitalism

^^^^^ The (mindless rhetoric)/meaning ratio of this post approaches infinity.

Re:But so could anything (5, Insightful)

Courageous (228506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318143)

Obviously the risk was that they lost their entire investment, and then that very thing materialized. What can happen here is a sort of delusion, where the assessors of the risk only see the reward, and not the actual risk.. even to themselves. That's why you need objective third parties, even when the risk is only to your business. The fact that there were lots of other people being risked only makes the inability to actually assess risk properly that much more dangerous.

Penny-wise and Pound-foolish, as the saying goes (4, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317715)

And this disaster is costing Tepco and the Japanese government at least Billions of dollars, quite possibly upwards of a Trillion dollars when all's said and done.

If I were an owner, I'd rather like to protect my investments from Billions of dollars of permanently destroyed plants, cleanup and damage (property and potentially health related) claims by making a few millions of dollars of investments.

For every penny they saved before, they are spending hundreds of dollars now.

Crank or coverup (0, Troll)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317363)

Given any position, in a large enough world, there exists at least one crank proposing everything, therefore there exists evidence for .. every position. This is not really very informative.

Re:Crank or coverup (5, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317399)

there's a big difference between a crank somewhere in the wide world, and your own engineers that you hired for their expertise related to your enterprise.

Re:Crank or coverup (5, Insightful)

burne (686114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317437)

After the fact there's no shortage of people telling you they told you so.

But if somebody tells me a grand total of 13 different backup-generators dotted around the site and five battery-backups might all simultaneously fail due to various reasons he would have an extreremly hard time convincing me.

Engineer or not, if his story depends on assuming a whole chain of unlikely events I'm probably not going to believe him. It's just human nature.

Re:Crank or coverup (5, Insightful)

Guppy (12314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317481)

But if somebody tells me a grand total of 13 different backup-generators dotted around the site and five battery-backups might all simultaneously fail due to various reasons he would have an extreremly hard time convincing me.

Replace "dotted around the site" with "all the in the same basement". And the depletion of all battery backups again was not independent, with a direct causual link both to the upstream generator failure, as well as the disruption to roads and infrastructure which delayed the arrival of additional resources.

http://www.blog.voximate.com/blog/article/1058/failover-backup-systems-redundant/ [voximate.com]
"The risk analysis may calculate the risk of each backup generator failing and then estimate the risk of all of them failing simultaneously by multiplying each generator’s risk of failure together, concluding that the risk of them all failing simultaneously is statistically very, very low. However, such an analysis assumes that the backup generators are all independent systems. As this crisis has demonstrated, the backup generators were NOT independent of each other. Because they were all in the same coast-side, sea level location, they all shared the common vulnerability of being shut down simultaneously by the same tsunami. Therefore, the actual risk of them all failing simultaneously due to a tsunami was equal to the risk of a single one of them failing due to a tsunami. Since all thirteen backup generators in actual fact failed when hit by this tsunami, the risk that each backup generator would fail when hit by a tsunami of this size appears to have been 100%."

stochastic pedantry (1)

nten (709128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317961)

The quoted article correctly identifies that the individual probabilities of failure were in fact highly coupled and not independent random events. The last statement is a common error though. Just because a tsunami of this size caused each of the generators to fail, does not mean that a tsunami of this size was certain to cause a failure. Because all statistical problems can be phrased as D&D problems (core 2 rules of course), this could be stated that the tsunami needed a 2 to hit and got it, but there was always that 1 it could have rolled and some series of odd but finitely possible events would allow the generators to continue operating. In this case it was not a d20 but a d1e6 or higher, still with a 2 to hit, but the possibility it could have missed does not go to zero simply because it didn't miss.

Re:stochastic pedantry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318089)

While i agree with this from a practical standpoint, nuclear safety analysis does not allow you to use these types of analysis to determine if you have to or do not have to defend against something unless the probability is less than once every million years at a minimum and the consequences are not significant.

In this case, the probability is much greater than 1e6 and the consequence is a common mode failure. Because plants are not designed for common mode failure (only single failure), this instantly makes common mode failure significant.

  I'm a nuclear engineer and work with our safety analysis

Re:Crank or coverup (1)

burne (686114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318273)

"all the in the same basement"

Assuming that TEPCO kept the basic BWR Mark 1 layout, one of the generators would be high up inside the 'heavy' part of the building, opposite the spent fuel pool. In the hydrogen-explosions Units 1, 2 and 3 lost their 'top' which is a relative thin structure (secondary containment). The bottom half of the building (the environmental shield) is much stronger, and houses one of the backup generators, high up in the building. As far as I know the second generator is next to the piping well, underground, between the reactor-building and the generator-hall. The thirteenth generator was located landsite from the high voltage switching area, some distance from the sea.

Re:Crank or coverup (5, Interesting)

mad flyer (589291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317545)

The fun fact with this accident was the number of people telling you so BEFORE the accident...

And the number of idiot saying it was a 1 in a 1000 year event... while the last huge tsunami at this place was 1100 years before... AND SO WAS FOOKING OVERDUE. And when you check with the previous tsunami in 889 (around) it's exactly the same extend and the same level of flooding.

So it's not even telling so before...

It's just looking back at the previous shrine comemorative of the event and going back to the drawing board...

The bigger problem is that these irresponsible bean counting punks discredited the whole nuclear industry. Areva should ask compensation from Tepco because of potential reduced business opportunities.

Re:Crank or coverup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317701)

And the number of idiot saying it was a 1 in a 1000 year event... while the last huge tsunami at this place was 1100 years before... AND SO WAS FOOKING OVERDUE.

Umm, I'm not sure you understand how probability works...

Re:Crank or coverup (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318213)

And the number of idiot saying it was a 1 in a 1000 year event... while the last huge tsunami at this place was 1100 years before... AND SO WAS FOOKING OVERDUE.

Umm, I'm not sure you understand how probability works...

But then again, tectonic drift isn't random. Energy built up from hindered movement eventually has to be released and the historic record does say something about how the plates in a region tend to behave...

Re:Crank or coverup (2, Insightful)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318017)

Just because you flipped a heads does not meen you are overdue for tails. A 1 in 1000 year event remains that at any one year. Same goes for asteroids. We are overdue for a 1 in a million year event there as well. We are overdue on pole reversal, ice age and so on ...

Re:Crank or coverup (4, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318355)

That's only true when the annual probabilities are independent. In the case of asteroids, that's probably a reasonable approximation. But tsunamis are generated by earthquakes, and the probability that you have a large earthquake in year n is not independent of whether you had a large earthquake in year n-1. When, specifically, a quake is going to happen is pretty random, but energies build over time until released.

Re:Crank or coverup (2)

Courageous (228506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318161)

while the last huge tsunami at this place was 1100 years before... AND SO WAS FOOKING OVERDUE

While I appreciate what you are trying to say here, probability doesn't work like this.

The above statement reflects the same sort of erroneous thinking that is expressed by those folks who hover around roulette wheels thinking that if it comes up black 3 times in a row, the fourth time is now more likely to be red.

Not at all true, ...

C//

Re:Crank or coverup (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318227)

Absolutely wrong. It is not a random event, it is periodic event with a random component.
This type of event is caused by relative motion between plates - stress builds up in fairly linear manner and is relieved periodically. The probability of a quake rises continuously over time so if there is an average period of 1000 years then risk is rising much faster after 1100 years than it was after 900 years. The annual probability of a quake will eventually get into the 1 in a 100 ( or lower) range and the quake will be consequently bigger due to increased pent up stress.

Re:Crank or coverup (0)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318359)

While I appreciate what you are trying to say here, probability doesn't work like this.

Probability doesn't, but earthquakes do.

Negligence, pure and simple (4, Interesting)

Kyusaku Natsume (1098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318185)

Only TEPCO's nuclear power stations suffered heavy damage by tsunami in Tohoku's coast. Japan Atomic Power Co's Tokai NPS and Tohoku Electric Co's Hamaoka NPS survived the quake and tsunami with minimum damage. Hamaoka survived despite being closer to the epicenter, and Tokai NPS didn't get much damage thanks to heeding the advice of experts in 2006-2007 that said their seawalls were too low for the tsunamis that could affect the coast and raised them. TEPCO did nothing. It was TEPCO's regulatory capture and negligence what made this ecological and economic disaster to happen.

Re:Crank or coverup (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318007)

There will always be people predicting disasters. What about the engineers who made predictions that the other power plants would get hit by a meteor and cause a thermonuclear explosion? If you chase every dire prediction nothing would ever get built. Yes sometimes something slips through the cracks .. but overall there is a benefit to ignoring some of the crank stuff unless there is specific evidence that a tsunami was going to strike.

Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (2, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317373)

Stop being afraid of nuclear.

Deaths per terawatt-hour for all energy sources [nextbigfuture.com]

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317391)

It has nothing to do with how many people it kills *now*. Eventually things like air polution will clear up if we stop doing it, the Earth has a natural cycle that restores things to order when there isn't something (like us) mucking it up, that is how life has survived here for billions of years. Nuclear is permanent damage to the world and ecosystem, radiation can't be contained or controlled by many natural means, and nature has no clue about how to fight it in most cases. Nuclear accidents can do what nothing else can do, ruin the planet, at least as far as life as we know it is concerned. Even in places like chernobyl where nature has learned to adapt to the radiation there is still a high estimated mortality rate, as evolution wasn't meant to keep up with such rapid genetic contamination and the resulting mutations.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317457)

That post is all sorts of stupid.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317699)

And yet it got modded up for awhile. *facepalm*

Mods on crack and all that.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317551)

WTF kind of bullshit is this "nature has no clue", "evolution wasn't meant to", etc. crap you spew?

Yes, radiation "permanently damages" the ecosystem, whether or not we run nuclear reactors. And yet, things seem to work just fine with natural radiation, and even in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster worse than any conceivable failure of any modern reactor, as you try to point out, nature has adapted (not "learned to", you idiot) with only a high estimated mortality rate. It's not a barren zone where nothing can live.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (-1, Flamebait)

mattr (78516) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317455)

Stupid to say this on the first year remembrance of the worst nuclear accident in Japan's history. Fuck you.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (3, Informative)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317489)

Stupid to say this as Japan is the first country to get nuked. Twice.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317491)

Stupid? Tactless maybe, but it's precisely at moments like this that we need to get a sense of perspective. The TEPCO catastrophe is recent and very visible and people have the natural tendency to ignore things that aren't. But there are invisible killers too, or even just less photogenic ones. A blasted apart nuclear reactor and an enormous exclusion zone are much more impressive than say elevated CO2 levels or coal exhaust (which is also radioactive). Yes. But our actions should be governed by actual expected harm, not by which things produce exciting TV footage.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317519)

Absolutely! Appeals to emotion should always carry more weight than statistics!

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317757)

Well, Mark Twain didn't say "Lies, damned lies and emotions", did he?

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317941)

Shut up your fucking idiot! - Abraham Lincoln

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317523)

How come?
Can't we talk about it just because it is the worst?
Or should we be quiet and remember all the people that died in this cataclysmic nuclear event....

Go and look up the numbers just for fun.

How dare you! HOW DARE YOU! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317539)

How dare you not mention that today is actually the 124th anniversary of the Great Blizzard of 1888, in which over 400 people along the American eastern died, and commerce was severely disrupted.

To add further insult to the injury you have caused us, today is also the 148th anniversary of the Great Sheffield Flood, in which 250 people were killed.

It's extremely rude of you to focus solely on the incident in Japan, while ignoring these other disasters.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317571)

If you have read the article you would have noticed that the statistics were updated with the one death that might have been connected to that accident.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317477)

Thats a fucking retarded statistic.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (5, Insightful)

rvw (755107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317509)

Stop being afraid of nuclear.

Deaths per terawatt-hour for all energy sources [nextbigfuture.com]

I live in the Netherlands. We have two nuclear powerplants here, plus a bunch of them close enough in Belgium and Germany. If one of these plants has a serious accident, it could harm millions of people. And even if it isn't a medical problem, as we might be able to move all those people to safer places, the socio-economic problems will be enormous, and the problems we're facing with Greece now will be small compared to this. Look at Japan, where they considered evacuating Tokyo last year. They didn't make this public until recently, but think about that. What if they had to leave Tokyo and stay out for the next 50 years?

There is no other energy source that can create problems on such scale in such a short time.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (4, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317533)

consider this : if any of these in Holland/Belgium/Germany/France have an accident on fukushima scale, the economy of about 50 million people would be destroyed; taking the rest of the world's economy down with it.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317535)

Actually if we screw up really badly we might have to move out of the Earth to survive. Unfortunately there's currently no good place to move to.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318079)

And given the current economic, social and religious fervor against science, there's no way we're ever going to find a second, third or even fourth refuge for humanity. We're in an all our eggs in one basket scenario being run by people who put short term economic gain over plain common sense competing with those who would try to return the world to a state where there are almost no people in the world whatsoever so the technology and energy consumption can go back to a sustainable, sustenance level. All I can say is I'm glad I'm old enough that I'm just seeing the beginning of all this. And I weep for the children of our day when I think of how bad it's going to be for them in the future. Do something to save the children, put some older wiser heads that don't think in terms of balance sheets and ideological dreams in charge for a change; some good old fashioned pragmatists.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317913)

So how many tidal waves do you have there?

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (5, Insightful)

cryptolemur (1247988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318197)

Oh, but people aren't allowed back to Fukushima or the surrounding area not because of the tsunami. It's because of the reactors were left without cooling too long.
People are not allowed back to Chernobyl area because, in the end, the reactor was left wihtout cooling for too long.

See a pattern here?

It's not the tsunami's, or crew making 'human errors', it's the inherent nature of the reactors to go critical and melt when left without cooling. And there's more ways for that to happen than any engineer has ever imagined... even algae growth in the seawater used for the secondary system can force the engineers to shut down the reactor before they run out of cooling water...or heat wave that preheats the same water.
So many external parameters completely out of the control of anybody.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (2)

burne (686114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318309)

The last one was some time ago, but it separated the UK from mainland Europe, some 8000 years ago.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storegga_Slide)

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317947)

There is no other energy source that can create problems on such scale in such a short time.

Perhaps, but most of the other energy sources that can scale to the same size create problems on such a scale over longer periods of time (coal pollutants, oil and smog, etc.). So the question is: do you want to be guaranteed to pay a price now (fossil fuels), or you want only a chance (!) of having to pay a price later (nuclear)?

And while renewable sources certainly help, AFAICT, they currently can't handle the total load needed to meet demand.

So if you want to have power come out of your plug you current choices are nuclear or fossil (in addition to some mix of renewables). Which do you want: guaranteed pollution that makes people sick and kills them, or a chance of a nuclear event?

Those are your choices at this moment in time. (The future is another matter which one can move towards, but we need to satisfy demand now.)

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (4, Informative)

ductonius (705942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318277)

All I see in your post is a bunch of "ifs", "mights" and "maybes".

Your brain seems to be operating on nothing but ignorant fear. Proof of this is when you said: "There is no other energy source that can create problems on such scale in such a short time."

Hydroelectric dam failure has already created worse disasters in a smaller amount of time. Coal slurry pond failure has also already created larger disasters in shorter periods of time. Normally operating coal plants are creating a larger disaster over a larger area over a longer period of time as we speak. Even if you count the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear energy has killed fewer people per TW/h than any other source of energy.

You seem to show ignorance of both nuclear and conventional energy sources. Your lack of insight and understanding have created a preference for larger assured disasters that you can understand easily over smaller possible disasters that are difficult for you to understand.

I would recommend you inform yourself and reexamine your opinions.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318289)

If one of these plants has a serious accident, it could harm millions of people. [...] There is no other energy source that can create problems on such scale in such a short time.

Obviously you haven't looked at the statistics on coal. It's estimated to kill about a million people a year worldwide. But since the deaths are distributed and not attributable to a single accident, people's emotional reasoning considers it safe.

Yes worst-case scenarios do have to be considered. But for some reason they seem to be considered only for nuclear. If we considered them equally for other power technologies, hydro would be regarded as the most dangerous power source [wikipedia.org] , and we'd subject it to more scrutiny and safeguards than nuclear. And worst-case scenarios need to be considered in perspective. If you over-emphasis them, you come to irrationally fear flying and drive instead, even though statistically you are much more likely to die from driving.

In terms of people killed on average, nuclear is the safest technology. In terms of worst-case scenarios, nuclear is not the worst. And in fact our current most-popular technology is worse than the nuclear worst-case. What exactly is the problem?

Look at Japan, where they considered evacuating Tokyo last year. They didn't make this public until recently, but think about that. What if they had to leave Tokyo and stay out for the next 50 years?

Of course they were considering evacuating Tokyo. Considering it is the responsible thing to do. That doesn't mean the scenario is realistic, it just means that the people in charge (government officials) didn't have the background to answer the question, and did the responsible thing and were advised by those who could answer it. Nagasaki and Hiroshima each had an uncontained nuke go off directly above them. They were never abandoned, and both are thriving cities today. There is being cautious about worst-case scenarios (e.g. don't build a nuclear plant near Tokyo). And there is making up reckless and unrealistic sky is falling scenarios to fit your desired conclusion.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

mad flyer (589291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317521)

Lies, big lies and statistics... There is always a retard to get almighty behind some numbers.
Look, the number of unicorn killed by nukular is also quite low. Now look at the clusterfark that the region around the plant is, compare this to the size of Japan and STFU. Or if you want to have fun, calculate how much of Japan would be unlivable if the death per terrawatt-hour was the same as coal.

Yes, nuclear is SAFE (0)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317599)

Irregardless to design, implementation, or governance. Look at the blog post. End of story. We don't need to do anything else or ask any questions.

If you are critical or skeptical about anything nuclear related, you are simply afraid. The technology itself is simply safe and no other factors will ever mitigate that. All designs, implementations, and governance structures are equally safe. Now STFU, and give your money to the industry.

Re:Yes, nuclear is SAFE (1, Interesting)

Idou (572394) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317787)

Hate to reply to my own post, but I realize that even with the level of extreme sarcasm I intended to include in my parent post, most ./-ers will take it as sincere and will agree with it without much thought. . .

I wonder if this is how Colbert felt at the Bush correspondence dinner . . .

Nice straw man you've built, there. (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318129)

It ought to work well as a scarecrow, too.

I also didn't say — or imply — anything which you attribute to me. The simple fact is that other sources of energy — ridiculously and absurdly, even solar — have more deaths per TWh than nuclear. It's a simple fact.

If we're serious about addressing the world's energy needs while moving away from fossil fuels, nuclear MUST be a part of the discussion, because it's not all going to be wind farms, hydro, and solar panels.

It's about energy density [wikipedia.org] . But be my guest and keep vilifying nuclear in the face of the evidence. And speaking of "dense", in case you don't get it, this doesn't mean there shouldn't be safety and oversight. It means we should look at the true risks of nuclear vs. the long term risks from other energy sources, particularly fossil fuels...not only in terms of deaths (which, compared to other energy sources, are minimal [wikipedia.org] ), but the risk from unstable geopolitical situations, wars for resources, and so on.

It's not like we're going crazy building new plants in the US; we just approved the first new nuclear plant in three decades [yahoo.com] . That's ridiculous. Meanwhile, China has at least 25 reactors under construction [world-nuclear.org] , with many more planned...

Re:Nice straw man you've built, there. (4, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318351)

Deaths per terrawatt hour is not a useful metric. Even if that number is certain to be higher with everyone favorite whipping boy, coal or oil, natural gas, solar whatever there is very little that can go wrong with those which would render a large area unlivable all at once. The deaths and health costs they create are spread over time. Society can budget for and deal with those costs and even cope with the occasion colamity.

With neuclear on the other hand the absolute costs might be less but the potential to have bear them all at once exists and it could very well be a back breaker for any society, that is the prespective you have to use.

Think of it like this cancer will over time do more harm to your body than a bullet but you can live with and treat most cancers for a long time, that might not be the case with the bullet.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (4, Insightful)

Courageous (228506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318177)

Your measure of merit for equivalency (deaths per terawatt hour) is dubious.

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318223)

What is a better metric?

Re:Balancing risk vs. reward indeed (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318319)

That analysis is obviously flawed because it only focuses on one factor (deaths) and contains some highly dubious assumptions (lumping dam failures in with hydro is like attributing all road accident fatalities to car stereos).

To make an informed judgement you have to consider health damage done (coal and nuclear are worst), potential risks and the consequences of an accident, social factors, and most importantly of all cost. Nuclear is by far the most heavily subsidised and expensive energy source we have.

ENENEWS - Tsunami killing the generator's was lie (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317381)

http://enenews.com/top-investigative-reporter-they-made-it-up-fukushima-emergency-generators-were-not-destroyed-by-tsunami-video

Fairewinds & Associates
http://enenews.com/gundersens-tv-japan-people-truth-about-fukushima-cold-shutdown-impossible-japanese-poised-become-energy-innovators-50-minutes

http://enenews.com/important-video-year-asahi-tv-unbelievable-unit-4-pool-crack-leaks-during-quake-be-tokyo-japan-expert-doesnt-be-large-quake-already-shaken-many-times-serious-problem

http://enenews.com/report-records-human-deformations-births-after-fukushima-be-published-preparing-data-public-release-video

All local weather men/women ought to be giving us 10 minute counts each day. They push that agenda 21 global warming "no burn day" bullshit, they even have POLLEN COUNTS, so they ought to publish radiation counts. You can't tell me not one of those meteorologists doesn't have a Geiger counter.

Universal flaw in The System (4, Insightful)

jo42 (227475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317403)

true nature of Japan's postwar system, that it is led by bureaucrats who stand on the side of industry

Not just in Japan, but everywhere. Bureaucrats and politicians are in the deep pockets of corporations and don't give a rancid wet fart about "The People" - then they spew so much bullshit at The People to get elected.

Re:Universal flaw in The System (4, Insightful)

Teckla (630646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317447)

Not just in Japan, but everywhere. Bureaucrats and politicians are in the deep pockets of corporations and don't give a rancid wet fart about "The People" - then they spew so much bullshit at The People to get elected.

Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

Re:Universal flaw in The System (3, Insightful)

Rayonic (462789) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317769)

Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

Yeah, a nuclear disaster would never happen in a non-capitalist country!

Re:Universal flaw in The System (2, Insightful)

Teckla (630646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318279)

Yeah, a nuclear disaster would never happen in a non-capitalist country!

That is not true, so I guess it's a good thing I didn't say, suggest, or imply it.

Re:Universal flaw in The System (3, Insightful)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317821)

Not just in Japan, but everywhere. Bureaucrats and politicians are in the deep pockets of corporations and don't give a rancid wet fart about "The People" - then they spew so much bullshit at The People to get elected.

Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

Funny. I thought capitalism was the only viable economic system that has fostered modern democracy for the last 2 centuries. Stupid history got it all wrong.

Re:Universal flaw in The System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318013)

Nope. Democracy has survived the capitalists, not been fostered by it. Like how Daddy Warbucks is really an abusive bastard who throws his child in danger for his own goals.

Re:Universal flaw in The System (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317995)

Capitalism crushes everything in its path, including democracy and common sense.

Too bad it's not true. Every political and economic system has the same problem, namely, that the people in power often abuse that power. In democratic systems, that power is often in private hands, hence, the complaints about "capitalism".

Welcome to the real world (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317607)

If you look back through history you find out that the greatest threat is from our the leaders. Which is pretty much the point of the constitution.

Re:Universal flaw in The System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317971)

Try not to be TOO hard on the people who made the decisions that failed to avoid this nuclear disaster. People throw around phrases like "They sided with the industrialists instead of the people" without really thinking about what that means. The people in charge here are no doubt owed some blame, but they are people too... At the end of the day, somebody has to make a judgement call to strike a balance between safety and productivity. Precautions that seem SO obvious after a disaster like this aren't necessarily so before it happens.

Re:Universal flaw in The System (3, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318379)

Actually the nuclear industry was in the fortunate position of being needed by politicians to keep the lights on. Take the UK for example, once world leaders in nuclear technology. Our government paid to develop it all because it was promised to be too cheap to meter if only the initial risky and expensive investments could be made, and plus it was a good way to get weapons grade material and show we had advanced nuclear tech. So during the 50s and 60s we paid for it all and ran the plants, but it turned out they were actually very expensive and not at all easy to build and run.

In the early 80s all our energy generation was sold off to private companies and turned into a cash-cow for them. All of it except for nuclear, no-one want that because the costs were too high and the risks to big if anything went wrong (and things had gone wrong in the past). The government was offering them fully functional nuclear plants for free and a guaranteed income, but still no-one was interested. In the end we had to subsidise running the plans, insuring them and all the clean-up work when they were decommissioned*.

So private companies had the government over a barrel. The country needed nuclear and government policy was not to run it ourselves. Now things have changed though and there is little appetite from the voters for nuclear, but lots of demand for green technology. The nuclear lobby is out in force and desperately trying to spin the situation, but people realised that if we just switch the subsidy from nuclear to green then we don't need nuclear any more.

As you could see in Onagawa and Fukushima Daini (3, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317415)

Of course the disaster could have been mitigated, just by proper placing of emergency generators and having enough of them. 2 per reactor is just not enough, having one of them right next to the coast and the other in the basement in a tsunami-prone area is even worse so.

Common cause failure has been discussed for decades. Those discussions weren't heeded in Fukushima Daiichi, they were in other countries and they were in the other two power plants.

Recovering Regulator Comments (2, Insightful)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317465)

As a former (environmental) regulator, its always difficult to find the balance between enforcing guarantees against everything imaginable at whatever cost, and providing a balance against the business people who want to pump profits and stock on a quarterly outlook. Regulators are a risk-adverse bunch and tend to think first of how they will look if something goes wrong, and can be guilty of considering every possible scenario as a mandate, which can bankrupt a business. But most businesses also have people who look first and foremost at the impact of a new cost on earnings and the next quarterly stock report. Japan has a bit of a reputation for erring on the side of business, but the important thing is that the lesson is in the press and if anyone else has any OTHER suggestions from their engineers, they should probably take a second look... or people will trust the regulators.

Christian Louboutin Fakes (-1)

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We all know this... (5, Interesting)

fullback (968784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317527)

Especially those of us living in Japan. Nothing new in this article.

I live about 90 miles from the Fukushima plant and yes, this affects me greatly. About 100,000 people are still living in temporary housing. The economy is in shambles. Our business electric rates are about to skyrocket up 17% and gasoline is about US$6.65 a gallon. With only two reactors online in the entire country, our power situation is going to get desperate if oil costs continues to go up.

It will take a decade to rebuild, and where exactly do you rebuild? The same place, just to see it destroyed again?

You want a real story? This earthquake was not a once-in-a-millennium event. Here is an article from National Geographic about a massive tsunami in the same area in 1896. That's about 100 years ago, not a thousand years ago!

Let's face it, humans are stupid. Particularly the one who "govern."

We're lucky that no one was killed in Fukushima, but our luck ran out on earthquakes and tsunamis. We still have quakes almost every day, and for the first second or two, we don't know if it will be another big one.

Every bad event could probably have been mitigated. Hell, my first marriage could have been mitigated, and that was a rotten disaster.

Re:We all know this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317557)

They do not care about the rest of us. And, they got the rest of us to pay for it. So, from their point of view, they are smarter than us. And, to them, all this talk is just a bunch of sore losers crying about it.

Re:We all know this... (3, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317583)

The tsunami in 1896 (and the other in 1933) were much less worse than the one of 2011. The flood walls for both cities and nuclear power plants alike were built to defend against exactly those kinds of tsunamis.

No Studies Required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317623)

They had 600 year old stone markers saying 'Tsunami Danger. Do Not build below this point." The did it anyway. Not only did they build there, they built the top of their seawall below that point.

remembered the tsunami and nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317635)

a terrible day for the people of Japan! earthquake followed by tsunamis that resulted in leaking nuclear generator! any government program may not be repeated event

History repeats itself. (4, Informative)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317637)

Let's not forget this kind of thinking and denial was present at the Chisso Corporation, with the mercury poisoning scandal during the 70s in Minamata, Japan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minamata_disease [wikipedia.org]

Would You Buy A House (2, Insightful)

assertation (1255714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317639)

You have a choice between two completely equal houses.

One a single block away from a nuclear power plant. The other without.

Everything else being equal, would you live in the house with the nuclear power plant down the street?

Would you live there if you were raising small children?

Would you live there with a beloved wife, GF or your parents living with you?

Not a good comparison (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317681)

If we could live as a modern civilization without power plants at all I'm sure everyone would like that.
but we can't.

Thus, the question is:

You have a choice between two completely equal houses.

One a single block away from a nuclear power plant. *** The other a single block away from a COAL power plant. ***

Everything else being equal, would you live in the house with the nuclear power plant down the street?

Would you live there if you were raising small children?

Would you live there with a beloved wife, GF or your parents living with you?

and with these options in mind, I'd take the nuke every day of the week.

Re:Not a good comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318245)

Wow great false dichotomy, Bravo!

Re:Would You Buy A House (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317759)

But of course everything WON'T be equal. The implied NIMBY argument you're making guarantees that the house near the power station will be cheaper. And yes, I'd be pretty comfortable living near a nuclear power plant. During normal operations, they don't spew pollutants into the air. The additional annual radiation dose I'd receive by living in the neighborhood is ridiculously small -- almost too small to measure, and certainly too small to matter. And in the extremely unlikely event of a major disaster, my family evacuates and collects a big fat insurance settlement. Nuclear plants don't blow up without warning, so there's really not much immediate disaster risk.

I'd speculate that the people displaced by the Fukushima reactor accident are likely better off financially than those whose homes were merely destroyed by the gigantic earthquake and tsunami. The Japanese government is sure to compensate them first. Meanwhile, the more than 20,000 killed by the earthquake and tsunami and the tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars of damage in the disaster zone are mostly ignored by those fixated on the nuclear crisis. Yeah, it was bad -- but will amount to only a few percent of the total cost of the cleanup.

Could the regulator and the utility have done more? Yeah. Should they have? Probably so, given the evidence that has come to light. But let's not forget the titanic scale of the disaster. The nuclear plant failure is the icing on the cake, and everyone wants to look only at the icing.

Re:Would You Buy A House (3, Insightful)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317777)

Everything else being equal, would you live in the house with the nuclear power plant down the street?

No, but not because of the point you're getting at. Nuclear plants are usually built in industrial areas, and the aesthetics of the area would prevent me from building/buying a house there. They are usually catastrophically ugly.

Take a place like Chalk River, Ontario, however, and I'd have no problem living there, despite the proximity to one of the largest nuclear research labs in the world, and multiple test and production nuclear reactors. Chalk River is in an earthquake-prone area (had a 5.0 not that far away a year ago, and the geological record shows that they've had up to an 8.0 in the past, not to mention being in an area with a lot of leda clay, which has been known to amplify the effects of an earthquake), though it's too far inland to be at any kind of risk for a tsunami.

If the nuclear reactor in your example were somehow rendered invisible, and wouldn't be an eyesore, then I wouldn't have a problem living near it at all. They tend to over-engineer these things, and pay very careful attention to the amount of radiation at curbside. While there's risk associated with a 9.0 earthquake, I'm equally likely to die in said 9.0 earthquake itself. Statistically speaking, I'm far more likely to die from a car accident than I am in a nuclear accident, and I absorb more ionizing radiation during a 5-minute cell phone call than I would spending an entire day next-door to a nuclear plant. Why aren't you asking if people would be willing to drive their car to work, or order a pizza on their cell phone?

We can argue until the cows come home about whether they made design mistakes in Fukushima. There's almost certainly things they could have done differently, but hindsight is always 20/20. Nuclear energy on the whole is quite safe. I'd certainly rather that they were using renewable alternatives, as I'm a tree-hugging dirt-worshipper, but nuclear energy produces a lot less pollution than the non-renewable alternatives, and that pollution causes much more harm to my health on a daily basis than the radiation from a nuclear power plant would.

Re:Would You Buy A House (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317789)

How far away is the alternative house from the continual plume of radionuclides emitted by the fossil fuelled station you get your electricity from?

The same distance? The distance scaled to the relative average power output of the station?

Any fair comparison at all? I mean, if your assuming a world powered by good intentions and unicorn farts, with just one atomic power station right next to your house, then it makes sense not to live near it.

If you're talking about the real world, where everywhere you might pick has a pollution risk associated with it, and comparing two houses in similarly urban areas, and then comparing the magnitude of the risk, the answer would be different to the fox news style thought experiment you're proposing.

Yup (2)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317873)

Not much to write, other than, "yes". Bonus if I can get cheap heat and hot water from the waste heat from the nuclear plant. (See "Cogeneration" and "District Heating").

I might consider otherwise in a place subject to Tsunamis, but we don't get many of those in Ohio (Lakes Erie might be able to generate a small tsunami, but I don't think the Great Lakes can generate anything quite like the ocean, and we're about a thousand miles inland from the nearest ocean, with a large mountain range between us and the beach).

I wouldn't, but not for the reasons you'd assume (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39318125)

Care to guess what my reason would be?

They have little to do with the nuclear plant.

Here's why: Most of them are built near water sources, and you know what that means? The house would be in a flood zone.

Pass. I don't want to live somewhere like that. The nuclear power plant is almost irrelevant. I'm worried about the water. I'd have the same problem with the site if it were coal, or hydroelectric, or nothing at all.

I suppose if the geography were right, I'd be ok with it, but all things being equal, that won't happen.

Alarmism can also kill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317641)

A large asteroid will certainly strike the earth in the next million years. It is about 99.99% certain. Now to protect ourselves we must build a mass of 1 million nuclear weapons ready for instantaneous launch to intercept the asteroid when it is 90 million miles away. The cost of this program is 100 trillion trillion Euros and must be undertaken immediately. All unnecessary human life must be eliminated in order to afford this undertaking. All third world countries will be first eliminated. That will be followed by eliminating the uneducated and poor in all other countries. The probability of creating a successful nuclear shield is .00001%. Let's get started! Get it? Anyone can declare a risk and anyone can declare a solution. When the risk is low enough and the cost of prevention high enough, common sense says to ignore it. You are going to die. That is 100% certain. What are you waiting for?

Unfortunately... (2)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317743)

It's easier to just rally people around "nuclear power is bad and inherently dangerous" than to actually step up and take responsibility to do it right.

I still kind of wonder about this one thoguth: it was a horrible disaster - I'm not taking away from that, but this was one of the top ten most powerful earthquakes on record with a pretty devastating tsunami as a follow-up act.

I would think this was just about the worst possible scenario. Considering the extreme nature of the event that led to the nuclear disaster, it sort of makes me feel like nuclear energy isn't really as scary as folks seem to make it out to be.

Maybe I just don't know enough about nuclear energy to be properly scared enough, but I feel like I know enough about it to not be as scared as the anti-nuke folks want me to me.

The chance of getting hit wasn't that small (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317885)

If the tsunami was a 1 in 1000 years event, then the chance of one of the Fukushima reactors to get hit by it during their lifetime was about 3.5%, which is high enough to cause concern.

Re:The chance of getting hit wasn't that small (1)

vakuona (788200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318229)

Let's say your statistic is correct, and that what hit Fukushima was the feared 1 in 1000 year event. What damaged has it really caused, long term though? And lest we forget, we are talking about a very old reactor design which was past EOL.

Or, here's an idea.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39317903)

How about we DON'T build nuclear reactors right on the freaking COAST in an area that we know has been hit with tsunamis in the past and is definitely going to be hit with more in the future - it's only a matter of time.

Engineering for failure (3, Insightful)

BAH Humbug (242702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317977)

Unfortunately, some companies and governments don't understand how to respond to failure analysis. Rather than dismissing a once in 1000 year flood or a 9.8 rated earthquake, they must design the system to fail safe in that event. For example, there are nuclear reactor designs that continue to cool the fuel even when all power is lost. Or, if the pressure vessel is breached, there should be an intentional weak spot which will direct radioactive steam and fuel through a known path to minimize radiation release and mix the fuel with materials to slow/stop the nuclear reaction.

Look around and you'll see a mix of responses to failure analysis. The Space Shuttle was poorly designed in that it didn't provide a method for the crew to escape easily and quickly. The Apollo system had an emergency tower rocket that would pull the whole capsule and crew off and away from the giant bomb beneath it.

Commercial airliners can continue to fly when all engines have failed or have run out of fuel.

Our huge dams will fail catastrophically because it is hard to cost effectively build something that can withstand a 10.0 rated earthquake while holding back all that water. Smaller dams would be one response.

Can you build something like the Dubai tower that will fail safe? The fact is that safety is a choice. We choose to build skyscrapers because land in specific cities is very expensive. Are they as safe as a sine story building? No.

People need to balance cost and safety. But too often a relatively small cost which would improve safety is dismissed. What would it have cost to move the diesel generators at the nuclear plant? What did it cost to put airbags and seatbelts in cars? What about having seats face backwards in a plane? Little things can increase survivabity, yet we still don't do them.

Color me unsurprised (2)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39317989)

Regulators completely compromised by (pick your energy) industry players and utterly derelict in the performance of the job the public expected, and desperately needed them to perform. Film at eleven.

20/20 hundsight (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318085)

It's always easy to cherry pick, and with 20/20 hindsight, find someone whose predictions matched or exceeded what actually happened. Or, to put it another way - if the tsunami hadn't over topped the wall, those being lauded today would instead be laughingstocks for crying wolf.

But, proceed with your Two Minute Hate anyhow.

But the engineers are at fault (3, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39318321)

Even though the decisions were made by politicians and businessmen to save money, in the end, it's the engineers who get blamed for "not doing their job" or "being incompetent."

Just like IT, where all our pleas and warnings go unanswered, and we're expected to put in buku overtime to fix the resulting disaster when it eventually does happen like we predicted for months or years before.

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