Hacker News

searine said 3 months ago:

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 :


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

petschge said 3 months ago:

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.

said 3 months ago:
nihonde said 3 months ago:

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.

vanattab said 3 months ago:

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

nihonde said 3 months ago:

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.

DuskStar said 3 months ago:

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

arcticbull said 3 months ago:

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...

nihonde said 3 months ago:

Is that what this downvoting bloc is about? Very odd and misplaced, since I have no bias whatsoever against nuclear power.

I’m stating facts about the response to the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini incidents.

Here’s another little known fact: the plant was designed by GE, including the placement of power supply units needed to run the pumps. This design was challenged but TEPCO chose to defer to GE’s expertise and stick to their design for the site.

petschge said 3 months ago:

It is not just directly related deaths, but also the area of land made un-inhabitable and the duration for which it will remain un-inhabitable. And the fact that we have no workable way of dealing with the waste. Sure it only take a small storage space, but it will be lethal for a million years to come.

arcticbull said 3 months ago:

I think there would be if we chose to invest in it, but it's a chicken and egg problem. The optics preclude investment which precludes development of ways of dealing with the waste. Nuclear power is sort of on hiatus. For instance, Thorium cycle reactors require no enrichment, product two to three orders of magnitude less nuclear waste (whose products have much shorter half-lives) and are much safer than Uranium cycle reactors -- though research only really resumed in 2008 after a 30 year break.

One ton of thorium can produce as much energy as 200 tons of Uranium, or 3,500,000 tons of coal.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power

petre said 3 months ago:

Wildlife gets another chance with the land being uninhabitable by humans for 300 years until Cs137 and Sr99 pass 10 lifetimes. A million years is a gross exageration. There are also people currently living in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. They even have a name: samosely.

arcticbull said 3 months ago:

They actually continued to operate two of the other reactors at the Chernobyl power plant until Unit 2 was closed in 1991 and Unit 3 in 2000. [1] How crazy is that?

[1] https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Chernobyl-1-3-en...

petre said 3 months ago:

Well, it was the USSR.

'Gorbachev states, “The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later”'


jstandard said 3 months ago:

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.

nihonde said 3 months ago:

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...

petre said 3 months ago:

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.


neya said 3 months ago:

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


beders said 3 months ago:

Paid for by Japanese tax dollars.

_verandaguy said 3 months ago:

Yes, was there any expectation that this would be some kind of private undertaking?

lostlogin said 3 months ago:

It wasn’t a state owned company and it made some very poor choices with that plant. According to the inquiry, the accident was foreseeable and basic safety precautions had not been taken.


Ajedi32 said 3 months ago:

Is the company responsible still in business? Assuming it's not, who else would be expected to pay for this if not the government?

Edit: According to Wikipedia the company is still in business, but it's owned (50.11%) by the "Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation". https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Electric_Power_Company I would assume based on the name that that corporation actually might be involved in this project somehow?

jplayer01 said 3 months ago:

That's the name of the state ownership part of TEPCO. The government even had to give them 1 trillion yen to keep them from going under, and it was originally planned that the entire company would be nationalized, which turned into majority ownership (a bit over 50%).

lostlogin said 3 months ago:

I would expect the company to pay or have insurance to cover the cost of mistakes in their line of business. If a company cannot afford to meet costs like these then they shouldn’t have been in business. These events were predictable and could have been prevented, as the inquiry found. Given that this has happened however, the government obviously has to pay.

toomuchtodo said 3 months ago:

Insurance companies typically won’t insure nuclear generators due to the enormous liability incurred during a black swan event, which is why government backing is required.

lostlogin said 3 months ago:

It’s understandable that insurance companies are not keen. But if the taxpayer is ultimately going to pay, having the company run for profit until that time seems wrong to me, why not have the state run it all? Not that this worked all that well in the Ukraine, but I’d argue that was a different set of problems.

beders said 3 months ago:

Or we stop building power plants that are un-insurable? How about that...

toomuchtodo said 3 months ago:

That’s essentially what we’ve done, but because of project management failures (time and budget overruns).

ape4 said 3 months ago:

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

jansan said 3 months ago:

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

Symmetry said 3 months ago:

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.

noonespecial said 3 months ago:

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.

throw0101a said 3 months ago:

> 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.

endorphone said 3 months ago:

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.

empyrical said 3 months ago:

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.

chc said 3 months ago:

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.

Symmetry said 3 months ago:

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.

linuxftw said 3 months ago:

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.

Symmetry said 3 months ago:

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.

linuxftw said 3 months ago:

> 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.

Symmetry said 3 months ago:

Nobody is proposing that tax dollars be used to fund a colony. Elon is says he's planning on doing that using profits from SpaceX's other business.

I'm not aware of anyone every proposing that people mine minerals on Mars for shipment back to Earth. I have heard people talk about using propellant made on Mars to fuel voyages further out, Zubrin is big on that idea, but that's another kettle of fish - energy and mass can cost different amounts in different places.

People sometimes talk about mining asteroids and bringing the resulting minerals to Earth. I'm not sure that that is economically feasible, at least right now, but it avoids the big problem of having to launch stuff out of Mars's gravity well. Technically speaking the energy involved in getting an asteroid from the main belt to Earth is steeply negative so I don't think you could say that it's impossible on a strictly energy accounting basis, especially since there's no fixed rule establishing the relative value of energy and matter across different technological regimes.

But right now we spend huge amount of energy lofting satellites into orbit around the Earth. If we could use material that was already in space to build satellites in orbit that would be much cheaper from a strictly energy accounting standpoint. That would, of course, require some technological advances but makes a lot of sense if you just look at it in terms of energy.

w8vY7ER said 3 months ago:

>Mining things in space and sending them home to Earth is science fiction nonsense.

hold tight to this while it is still true, might not be for much longer :)

umvi said 3 months ago:

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

v_lisivka said 3 months ago:

> 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.

imtringued said 3 months ago:

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

v_lisivka said 3 months ago:

Yep, in form of 6% sale tax.

noonespecial said 3 months ago:

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

foxyv said 3 months ago:

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.

nnq said 3 months ago:

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

tracker1 said 3 months ago:

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

JudgeWapner said 3 months ago:

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

mistrial9 said 3 months ago:


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