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the_floating_ gate
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
the_floating_ gate   3/15/2011 5:03:09 AM
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Sodium cooled fast breeder technology? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SNR-300

kdboyce
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
kdboyce   3/15/2011 6:17:32 AM
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There have been many 'reports' about the nuclear power plant problems in Japan as a result of the MAJOR earthquake/tsunami double whammy Japan has suffered. However, I must give kudus to Colin on this article for his clarity in explaining the failures. It is hard to get some details out of the mainstream press. While one can always bemoan the fact that the failures occurred, as well as the reasons for them, in general nuclear power has worked well in Japan for nearly 40 years.

ANON1235460098216
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
ANON1235460098216   3/15/2011 8:44:33 PM
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40 years doesn't seem like much of a track record, considering the enormous risks. Plutonium is the most lethal substance known -- just one pound is sufficient to kill every person on earth. Studies have shown that abundant power is available, with current technology, from Solar and Wind. The only real barrier is that it would take about 20 years, even if we started today, to replace our fossil fuel infrastructure. But think of jobs 20 years of Solar and Wind construction could create!!

Ed96
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Ed96   3/16/2011 4:22:55 AM
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Plutonium is NOT the most lethal substance known. Far from it. Killing everyone on the face of the earth with one poune of Plutonium is a crock. It is theoretically possible to kill everyone one the face of the earth with 20 gallons of water, a statement that makes as much as the one about Plutonium. In nuclear bomb testing, the USA and the old Soviet Union dispersed 12,000 pounds of Plutonium into the earth, the water, the air, everywhere. Botulin is the most toxic lethal substance known, and it is common in nature produced by a bacterium. Dimethylmercury, which is man made, is readily absorbed through the skin even if you're wearing latex gloves. Then there is Amanitin, Castor beans, English Nightshade, Hydrogen Sulphide, etc, etc, etc. Plutonium is nowhere near the top of the list. Plutonium is an alpha emitter and a particular hazard to people only if a sufficient quantity is inhaled. Even then, it takes a long time to kill you by inducing cancer, such as decades, and chances are something else will get you first. Concerning jobs, think of the jobs that nuclear construction or any construction would create. And, guess what, nuclear jobs are higher paying and require higher skill. Plutonium, and for that matter Uranium and Thorium are very valuable and useful materials. Prior to making statements about things, some research would be a good idea.

popeh
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
popeh   3/16/2011 2:52:48 PM
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It also helps to put things in perspective when evaluating the performance of this plant. It was designed to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.2. Nuclear energy is a very viable source of energy.

Duaine
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Duaine   3/17/2011 11:53:41 PM
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There was once a famous response to this (one pound of Pu is enough to kill every person on earth) -- in fact, I think it said, 1 gram. I don't remember who said it. In any case, the response was (and I wish I had said it!): "Maybe so. But also, I have enough sperm to impregnate every woman on earth. Unfortunately, my delivery system isn't up to it!"

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/19/2011 3:23:41 AM
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These conflicting amounts prompted me to look it up, it seems about 10g for one person. I'm assuming quickly as I also found that 1g could cause lung cancer if inhaled. I also found that 1g could cause could kill a few people due to lung cancer. All that said, if you had 100g and let everyone on earth hold it for a time they would probably all be dead or dying. It's important to have the how explained. Regarding your sperm, I'm assuming you mean in one "sitting", I'm afraid you flatter yourself :-) as apparently there are between 2 and 500 million sperm in one shot, you will at best only manage 1/4 to 1/3 of the women of child baring age.

resistion
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
resistion   3/15/2011 2:37:51 PM
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These radioactive isotopes are really heavy compared to water or air, shouldn't they settle to ground very quickly? The greater danger would be they would seep into groundwater and become part of the food cycle.

Kenlbear
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Kenlbear   3/15/2011 7:23:34 PM
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Please read, "INIR - International Nuclear Incident Response" in www.snowflakehell.blogspot.com

Maleficent
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Maleficent   3/15/2011 7:27:54 PM
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Brilliant article on a terrible subject. Let's hope that the prevailing winds continue to blow radioactive fumes to sea. Before reading your article, Colin, I had thought that Tokyo was "safe" from contamination. Now I am not so sure. Time will tell. Let's hope that it plays in Japan's favor this time.

jarg
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
jarg   3/15/2011 7:35:45 PM
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Here is the technology we should go with: http://energyfromthorium.com/

SPLatMan
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
SPLatMan   3/15/2011 8:00:04 PM
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@jarg: Agreed. Thorium seems to be a potential winner. The Indians have a working Th reactor. It has been suggested that "Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium," and could put "an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium#Thorium_as_a_nuclear_fuel David Stonier-Gibson http://splatco.com

deanb
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
deanb   3/15/2011 8:05:30 PM
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What I have not seen anyone attempt to explain is why it takes such an incredibly long time to get the reactor cooled down even though supposedly the reaction was halted immediately. Even when the circulation system is working normally it sounds like it takes a very long time? And this article said used fuel rods are placed in a pool for "10-20 years" just to cool down? It can't possibly take that long but must be primarily a safe storage area until they get around to shipping the used rods to safe storage.

dennisec
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
dennisec   3/15/2011 10:15:58 PM
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If it were only U235 that were fissioning, the reactor would cool down relative quickly. The insertion of control rods mostly stops the U235 fissioning. However, other radioactive elements are formed during reactor operation. Some of these have a half-live of a few days. The cooling is required while these decay. Once decayed, the reactor goes static after a few days.

ANON1235460098216
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
ANON1235460098216   3/15/2011 8:34:48 PM
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Unfortunately, there is no "safe" storage for spent nuclear fuels, which remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. The earth is still mostly a ball of molten rock and metal, despite the cooled crust on which we live. On a geological time frame, there simply is no part of the earth's crust stable enough to store the spent fuel.

przemek
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
przemek   3/15/2011 9:14:54 PM
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There are several reasonable ways of dealing with spent fuel. Long term storage is one: Yucca mountain storage was stable enough in my opinion, and was only killed by politics. We should try to be rational about radiation, which is after all a natural phenomenon and manageable using well-known engineering techniques.

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/16/2011 1:45:21 AM
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They are all reasonable, but only for your life time. What you are essentially saying is that people that live a few hundred years from now don't really matter. I'm sure that isn't the case, but it is the result of burial. There have been interesting studies done on the storage in salt mines and they are seeing only a few hundred years of safety in that. The only long term safe method (over the life of plutonium) is disposal into space or something like that. The down side is that a rocket failure would undo the benefit very quickly. Make note of JKaplan's (above) reasons which hold true.

rpell2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
rpell2   3/17/2011 2:40:35 AM
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It's easy (and a red herring) to claim there's no "safe" nuclear waste disposal method when "safe" is defined as absolute 100% guaranteed perfect safety with absolutely 0% possible risk to anyone, ever. By that standard, getting out of bed in the morning is unsafe ... And the argument also ignores the history of technological progress by essentially assuming that future generations will somehow lose the ability to continue to safely monitor and manage the relatively small quantity of waste being stored.

R0ckstar
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
R0ckstar   3/15/2011 9:17:12 PM
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I simply don't understand why such critical pumps are not designed to at least be powered alternately by one of the multiple reactor units. It's a freakin' power plant!

old account Frank Eory
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
old account Frank Eory   3/15/2011 10:23:12 PM
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I wondered the same thing, especially after reading this in the article: "For every single nuclear reactor in the world, 50 percent of the risk comes from loss of power to the site. Reactors do not power themselves, but depend on external sources of electricity for their control rooms, pumps and other auxiliary equipment," said Olson. Ok, a damaged plant needs to go offline and would then need to rely on external sources of electricity. But in normal operation, why doesn't the plant provide its own power? Why don't they have a step-down transformer that can produce standard AC mains voltage from that turbine generator? Then in the event of a widespread power outage, at least the plant could provide power to its own critical safety & control systems. Self-powering capability might not have helped at Fukushima, since it sounds like they had to shut down all operating reactors. But what if one of them could've be kept online? It's ridiculous that coolant pumps would have no ability to tap into the output of an operating power station generator in the event that all other backups failed.

the_floating_ gate
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
the_floating_ gate   3/16/2011 4:55:47 PM
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I believe Colin mentioned that the Diesel back up got flooded; Cummins, CAT, they all have packages that range up to 2.7 MW (5000 horses I believe). These are very reliable pieces of equipment but in case intake manifold gets flooded you are in trouble. They probably followed procedures and started up the diesel backup without checking the integraty. Colin also mentioned that looking backwards it was overlooked (mistake) not to place the back up at higher ground - besides there is a cluster of blocks rather than just a couple.

Juzujka
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Juzujka   3/15/2011 9:58:36 PM
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Probably, facilities for getting energy from reactor unit are broken by earthquake and tsunami. It is not very simple to get usable energy from nuclear reactor.

askubel
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
askubel   3/15/2011 11:56:21 PM
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This is a classic example of poor engineering. In the service provider industry, we account for every possible situation when deploying a new product, because if you disrupt the service to the customers, you lose millions of dollars. But that's all that's at stake. Here, not only is a billion dollar power plant, along with the power it produces at stake, but so are the lives of everyone around. And to hear they didn't even plan for a tsunami? It's unbelievable! All reactors need to be designed so that they can safely be shut down after loss of external power, taking into account the vulnerabilities of the secondary power supplies. Fortunately, many nuclear plants meet these requirements - just not these ones. Like the disaster with BP, one company's poor decisions will negatively impact the entire industry.

Robinho
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Robinho   3/22/2011 4:31:45 PM
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No service industry accounts for all possible scenarios. Firstly, all designs are done to meet some specifications. If your specficiation is to withstand an earthquake of 8.0 and Tsunami of 5m, its too bad you got hit by 9 and 6m Tsunami. Secondly, no human being can think of all possible scenarios. It is not yet clear if the situation could have been controlled better with timely action. I would not blame bad engineering just as yet.

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/23/2011 12:33:14 AM
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I agree with you to some extent, but putting your backup systems (diesel generators) in the firing line is a little worrying, but not as much as storing spent fuel where continuous power is required. This is really pushing it. I think spent fuel storage is still the nuclear industry's biggest failing.

VincePG
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
VincePG   3/16/2011 7:42:43 AM
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The fundamental issue is the nuclear power business is protected and subsidized by government dollars and liability caps. Nuclear plant backup systems are determined by actuaries based on some acceptable level of risk given history and potential capped damage limits. Get government out of the nuclear power indemnification business and let the industry settle at a true cost equilibrium. Remove the laws that cap damages and make the companies who own and build these plants responsible and require they hold appropriate reserves based on unlimited liability. No one would even think of building a plant if they were held responsible for potential damage. If nuclear power is as safe as we are being told have those that own and build the plants put their money where their mouth is, otherwise just shut up about nuclear power and focus on something more cost effective.

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/16/2011 1:25:19 PM
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Now that I didn't know, thanks for enlightening me.

jater
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
jater   3/16/2011 1:44:27 PM
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Yeah! Right on! Power to the people! Don't stop at nuke power, though... let's make every power producer "responsible and require they hold appropriate reserves based on unlimited liability. No one would even think of building (any kind of plant) if they were held responsible for potential damage." How 'bout all those birds that are slaughtered every year migrating thru wind turbine blades? That ought to be worth a couple billion dollars to screw some greedy capitalist! Heck, let's apply this logic to every manufacturer of anything, huh? Don't know 'bout you, but I've already stocked my cave with buffalo-chip fuel! (...geesh, give it rest!)

rpell2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
rpell2   3/16/2011 2:27:33 PM
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This issue, among others, is addressed on RationalWiki's page analyzing the various "Arguments against nuclear power" (see the "Economic arguments" section): http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Arguments_against_nuclear_power

davejor
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
davejor   3/16/2011 5:17:25 PM
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Solar power??? That's far more dangerous than nuke power. How many people have died from cancer due to exposure to the sun? Far more than have or will be affected by nuclear power here on earth.

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/16/2011 11:20:56 PM
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I hope you jest, if we don't use solar energy the sun will still be there :-) I live in the country with the highest rate of skin cancer an simply wear a hat. I'd like to see a hat that holds back nuclear fallout.

goafrit
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
goafrit   3/16/2011 5:20:45 PM
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This world is troubled. Even technology cannot save us. I am very unhappy to read the risk associated with nuclear power. It does not worth it. Let us go back to the stone age and at least die when nature calls.

Ferren
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Ferren   3/16/2011 8:28:13 PM
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Nuclear waste disposal: material taken down in a subduction zone may resurface in vulcanism, but the time involved is on the order of a million years. Loose sediment may build up on the nose of the oceanic plate rather than being subducted, but even so, it is pretty permanently buried. Marine geologists shudder at the thought, but so far, no one has been able to point me at a published analysis suggesting that this is not a safe and inexpensive disposal method. I would suggest encasing waste in steel tubes and depositing the tubes parallel to and in the bottom of a deep-sea trench, where there is a good chance of them acting like roller bearings. (And obviously, you do this in someone else's trench, in the standard colonial manner.) One might even contemplate burying them in anoxic mud at the time of disposal, minimizing oxidation of the container and getting a head start on subduction. If one fears failure to subduct, or fracture too close the surface, one might perhaps drill into the subducting plate far enough to ensure integrity. Drilling holes in the sea floor is a known art, as are re-entry and capping. Granted, trenches are deep, so maybe one does this part way down the descending slab. What am I missing here? Can anyone point me at a rebuttal?

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/16/2011 11:27:44 PM
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Interesting idea, trenches are probably not good as they're more than 6km down and the pressures would destroy anything that tried to accurately locate the waste at these depths. Subduction zones aren't bad as many are only about 3km down. It would be a moving target though as it would have to be a fairly active area. There is probably more radio active material in the mantle than in the crust anyway.

motti2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
motti2   3/17/2011 12:58:59 AM
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Apparently the present major risk is not the reactors themselves that have very thick containment vessels than still can melt through the bottom ( modest leak, little airborne likely / hoepfully ) BUT the actual major risk presently and going forward seems to be the spent fuel rod pools at each respective reactor - located at the top level of the actual reactor vessel. This configuration is seemingly for compact transfer of spent fuel from the reactor rod unloading station to a near lateral displacement at the top of the containment vessel. While convenient for transfer and compact configuration, for long term even medium term, the open pool spent fuel storage at the top of the containment vessel, if the water in the pool is lost and unable to be refilled with water nor kept continuously filled, then if that water is lost then the spent fuel rods in the open pool storage begin melting and combustion of sorts will occur. It is presently suspected that one of the reactors ?#4 - the spent fuel storage pool may be dry of water and early phases of burning and melting of the old fuel rods may be underway. Apparently if combustion of the old fuel rods occurs, all kinds of high level radiation gets emitted, and the flames and dust carry this some distance. If the same things come into play in each of the 6 reactors spent fuel storage pools at the site, at various times, the results might approach something akin to a stretched out Chernobyl, likley (hopefully ) smaller in peak radiation, but stretched out over time.

motti2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
motti2   3/17/2011 12:59:24 AM
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The use of the top reactor storge pools for long term storage averted the rods being swept away in say as sea level storage pool might have, in the massive tsunami sea wave. But in this site, the proper storage of the used rods for ALL the reactors would be very short term in the elevated transfer pool, and very shortly therafter transfer to storage in the hills in a pupose built facility so no tsunami might affect safety nor operations ( earthquake resistant obviously ). If it gets confirmed that multple reactors storage pools run dry over time as seems to be the case, the magnitude of the radiation contamination and its spread to larger areas, might indeed possibly become catastrophic. Since all the reactors are pretty close together, high emissions in a modest area, can encompass all the reactors, limiting the chance for possible safe remediations, of pumping cooling water etc. since people will if radiation is highh be prevented from accessing any of the reactors or pools except with risk of deadly doses of radiation. This seems to be the makings of a potential huge calamity, and I hope and pray this does not transpire.

motti2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
motti2   3/17/2011 1:05:44 AM
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The use of the top reactor storge pools for long term storage averted the rods being swept away in say as sea level storage pool might have, in the massive tsunami sea wave. But in this site, the proper storage of the used rods for ALL the reactors would be very short term in the elevated transfer pool, and very shortly therafter transfer to storage in the hills in a pupose built facility so no tsunami might affect safety nor operations ( earthquake resistant obviously ). If it gets confirmed that multple reactors storage pools run dry over time as seems to be the case, the magnitude of the radiation contamination and its spread to larger areas, might indeed possibly become catastrophic. Since all the reactors are pretty close together, high emissions in a modest area, can encompass all the reactors, limiting the chance for possible safe remediations, of pumping cooling water etc. since people will if radiation is highh be prevented from accessing any of the reactors or pools except with risk of deadly doses of radiation. This seems to be the makings of a potential huge calamity, and I hope and pray this does not transpire.

Ed96
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Ed96   3/17/2011 1:39:45 AM
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Concerning "mixed oxide fuels", I guess it is time to correct the misinformation. All irradiated commercial nuclear fuel by the time it is ready for discharge from a power reactor has substantial quantities of Plutonium in it. Plutonium is bred in light water reactors during operations. At the end of each fuel cycle, on the order of half of the power is produced by fissioning Plutonium that was created through the capture of neutrons by Uranium 238 atoms followed by Beta decay to "manufacture" Plutonium. About 97 to 98% of new fuel rods are Uranium 238, so many an atom is sitting around ready to capture a neutron and turn into a Plutonium 239 atam.

motti2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
motti2   3/17/2011 2:08:22 AM
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here is the latest status report http://www.voanews.com/english/news/asia/IAEA-Chief-Heads-to-Japan-to-Assess-Nuclear-Crisis-118105754.html

Mxv
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Mxv   3/18/2011 12:31:40 PM
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SEND IN THE ROBOTS!

rpell2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
rpell2   3/18/2011 5:14:50 PM
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The following site (an Australian-based pro nuclear energy climate science blog of all places) seems to be offering some very good in-depth ongoing technical coverage of the Japan nuclear situation minus all the hysteria and fearmongering: http://bravenewclimate.com/ One recent post includes an essay on Fukashima by Ted Rockwell, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and editor of the 1956 handbook, "The Reactor Shielding Design Manual." Here's an excerpt: "A lot of wrong lessons are being pushed on us, about the tragedy now unfolding in Japan. All the scare-talk about radiation is irrelevant. There will be no radiation public health catastrophe, regardless of how much reactor melting may occur. Radiation? Yes. Catastrophe? No."

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/19/2011 3:30:07 AM
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Thanks for this, but I personally am as concerned about pro sources under playing this as I am about anti sources over playing it.

rpell2
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
rpell2   3/19/2011 2:14:26 PM
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A fair enough concern, but if you visit the site you'll see that its coverage of Fukashima (including a real-time discussion forum) is very much focused on the technical facts of the situation. You can choose to agree or not with the site author's opinion on nuclear energy, which is no secret (in contrast to that of many of the so-called "experts" trotted out by the mainstream media, who are often current or former members of activist organizations like "Friends of the Earth," Greenpeace and "Union of Concerned Scientists").

piratebill
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
piratebill   3/19/2011 4:34:36 AM
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"Get government out of the nuclear power indemnification business and let the industry settle at a true cost equilibrium." Yea now there's a good idea! lets have NO government oversight (evil regulation). don't worry, business can regulate itself! the market will take care of EVERYTHING! great idea,.... oh! and the "market" will have a buying opportunity in Japanese real estate just for you VincePG. the free market economic theory has now been proven false and dangerous on multiple fronts and is merely a useful tool to be implemented for short stretches, not a permanent scenario. freedman style free markets are as much a science as Scientology. This catastrophe is a perfect storm of stupid ill conceived ideologies such as deregulation (yea i know its Japan and not the US but similar corporate forces are at play), as well as deceitful business interests in the name of profitability. people die when company's lie.

piratebill
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
piratebill   3/19/2011 4:37:35 AM
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AH! Vincepg,... i owe you an apology. i re-read your article and i agree with you, sorry, i had a knee jerk reflex there..

tb1
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
tb1   3/22/2011 3:07:15 PM
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I keep hearing how thorium reactors are the answer to everything. Check this link out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300 Germany built a thorium reactor, then shut it down four years later. It was too expensive to run. The German taxpayers ended up paying about 100 million dollars to shut it down.

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/22/2011 3:38:31 PM
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After all the raving on about how pebble bed reactors are so safe and Thorium is so great this really seems to swing the argument away from nuclear doesn't it. It seems like all these "new" technologies just have new risks.

Etmax
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re: Update: Plutonium-laced fuel heightens Japan's nuke woes
Etmax   3/23/2011 12:35:58 AM
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I noticed that the German pebble bed reactor has lots of graphite like Chernobyl, which was one of the mistakes to come out of that incident. I'm not sure of the implications for a pebble bed reactor compared to the Chernobyl design, perhaps one of our more knowledgeable members can elaborate?



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