Robots Used To Help At Fukushima’s Nuclear Plant Are Burning Out

Five years ago an earthquake triggered a 10-meter high Tsunami that crashed into Japan. One of the buildings affected by this wall of water was Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, ultimately resulting in a meltdown that left the area irradiated and costs people their homes and, unfortunately, many lives. In a big to help speed up the clean up process, companies have been looking at using robots to help clean up and clear the areas still too dangerous for humans. Sadly though it would seem that the radiation involved is too strong for even the robots as they seem to keep burning out.

Tepco is the company responsible for decomposing the wasteland that is Fukushima power plant, the company is not having an easy time though with nuclear rods still unaccounted for. After melting through their containment vessels, the numerous fuel rods could be anywhere within the plant and the robots being developed to search for them are having a hard time.

Naohiro Masuda, Tepco’s head of decommissioning, stated that “it takes two years to develop a single-functional robot”. Given that in order to search each building they require a new robot for just that environment, being able to protect their wires from the radiation is causing delays and difficulty in their searches.

German Stellarator Fusion Reactor Testing Deemed a Success

It’s no secret that this is the nuclear age, that is the age where nuclear technology will go its greatest to shaping the world. From its use as a weapon during world war 2 to our future hopes of using it as a power source, the atom is changing the way the world works. Using its Stellarator nuclear fusion machine, Germany has taken the first steps in this change with the creation of hydrogen plasma.

With Germany having one of very few nuclear fusion machines, it was only a matter of time before they changed how close we were to sustainable fusion. Nuclear fusion is the same process that powers the sun, potentially creating a clean source of energy, not to mention nearly limitless.

Back in December, the team at the Max Planck Institute in Germany managed to suspend helium plasma, the new step forward was in using the hydrogen atom, something the team has now managed to do using their experimental reactor, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator. The difficulty alone makes this act an accomplishment, but with hydrogen fusion releasing far more energy than helium fusion, we’re yet another step closer to the ultimate goal of a sustainable reaction, but still have a very long way to go.

John Jelonnek is a physicist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and also one of the people responsible for installing the technology that heats the reactor. In speaking to the Guardian Jelonnek stated, “We’re not doing this for us but for our children and grandchildren”.

UK Nuclear Submarines Use Windows XP

Technology changes all the time, and operating systems are no different. From the era of DOS and punch cards to modern day touch screens and augmented reality, you can find every generation making their mark in a new way. With Windows 8 no longer receiving updates people are recommended to update to either 8.1 or Windows 10 to avoid security risks. The problem being, Nuclear Submarines use Windows XP still.

With the argument raging regarding if the UK still requires nuclear submarines, the large cost of which is a key part of the argument, cutting a few pounds here and there can only be good right? In a recent decision, the Royal Navy installed a variant of Windows XP (Windows for Submarines) onto their Vanguard-Class Submarines.

While operating in isolation and with so many years of updates and security investigations on the operating system, the Ministry of Defence is confident that the system will “remain safe and secure”. This comes amongst a series of wargames and exercises designed to help test and train people from across the world, all while concerns about submarines long term “stealth abilities” are being questioned due to the addition of swarms of drones and new systems being developed to counter them.

Networks are most at risk due to their access from external sources, and while cutting down on these is a great first step you will always be at risk. Using outdated software is risky, no matter how much support has been put into it but with more and more research and development being made into these systems you can be certain that anything they find will quickly be fixed.

China Plans Construction of a Floating Nuclear Plant by 2020

China has announced plans to build a floating nuclear power plant, and wants it to be seaworthy by 2020, according to Shanghai List. The ship, known by the unwieldy moniker ACPR50S, would be a 200MW floating nuclear reactor designed to support expeditions to coastal areas or as an emergency power source in case of a disaster, natural or otherwise.

The initiative is part of China’s 13th five-year-plan, one of many policies designed to develop the country into a true global superpower, and has already been approved by the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission.

The ACPR50S is just one small part of China’s nuclear power strategy, with over one hundred static reactors set for construction across the country over the next ten years, averaging seven new power plants per year at a total cost of around $7 billion (USD). By the end of this cycle, China will be producing 350GW of electricity from nuclear power.

While not the first seabound nuclear reactor – the US Navy has over a hundred nuclear vessels – the ACPR50S is set to be the first used to generate power for the mainland. The Russians, however, may get the jump on China, with its own floating nuclear reactor – the Akademik Lomonosov – currently under construction, and is expected to be completed in 2017.

Fallout 4 Player Recreates Tenpenny Tower

When it comes to gaming platforms, people have all kinds of preferences, some like just picking up a controller and going rounds after rounds on their TV while others like sitting at their desk and hearing the fans power up the overclocked graphics. One thing I like about playing games on PC’s is the ability to include mods or user-created content. Some people add new content, some people bring back the old, such as one user who recreated the Fallout 3 structure Tenpenny Tower in Fallout 4.

Dubbed Nopenny Tower, the building is modelled after the lovely building stands tall over the barren wasteland of Fallout 3. Courtesy of Imgur user Jondak, you can enjoy the site of Nopenny tower created with only a few mods and console commands.

From watching Batman Vs Superman trailers in GTA V to seeing the entire map of Skyrim come alive in Unreal 4, you really do have to admire some people’s abilities and skills with modding tools.

If you could see one thing recreated within a game what would it be? Would you rebuild a city from an old game or movie, or why not add something different to a game and watch the worlds you play in expand. Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s see what ideas we can get made!

Russia Has Plans to Nuke Asteroids

We’ve seen the movies. I’m thinking about the one with Bruce Willis in, the asteroid hurtling towards earth and a timer that just won’t stop ticking. I am course referring to Armageddon, a film in which an asteroid could end all life on earth. We’ve heard the chances of asteroids hitting the Earth, NASA even has a task force to deal with the issue. What you probably didn’t know is Russia has a plan for when the asteroids come knocking; nuke them!

A joint country initiative was set up under the European Commission, titled NEOShield. Each country under the scheme was responsible for researching different ways and methods of preventing asteroids and other NEO’s (Near-Earth Objects) from impacting the planet. Russia’s solution has a simple elegance to it, to nuke it. While it may not be able to destroy an asteroid, the scientists believe that a nuclear blast near to the asteroid would burn up its mass, producing a jet thrust effect that would be used to change the asteroid’s path, avoiding the earth.

The announcement of the research details comes alongside the newly stated goals for the Russian Space program, which wants to develop a “space barrier”. A series of satellites that would detect any object that could present a threat to the planet.

With a follow-up program launched (NEOShield-2), even the slightest threat of an object from outer space crashing into the planet is being taken seriously. If it contains just rock or an Alien being, it looks like the world wants to not only know about it, but also how to stop it.

Could We See A More Powerful Nuclear Bomb?

Happy New Year everyone, let’s talk about Nuclear Bombs. The threat of Nuclear annihilation has been in the public consciousness for quite a while, as the tech behind such weapons becomes more advanced, so is the possibility of a more powerful arms race. This is one of the concerns after Japanese scientist’s synthesized element 113.

What is element 113 I hear you ask? This is the atomic number for Ununtrium and is an extremely radioactive synthetic element that can only be created in a laboratory. It also contains elements of plutonium with the added feature of being able to emit more radiation. So far scientists have found the element to be not stable enough for it to be implemented into anything such as nuclear bombs.

Japan have pushed ahead and aspires to be a world leader in nuclear research, this ambition could be in part be down to the 1945 attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which killed an estimated 129,000 people. This attack has been the only use of nuclear weapons to date. Scientific research is essential and I hope the proper safeguards are put in place to protect against any notion that one day these elements can be used for weapons with the aim of world carnage.

Engineers Claim UK Could Have Fusion Power Within Five Years

A British company is claiming that the UK could have the world’s first commercial fusion reactor within the next five years. Engineers from Tokamak Energy in Oxfordshire, currently working on the third iteration of its tokamak reactor, believe that it is close to generating temperatures seven times hotter than the sun, causing hydrogen atoms to fuse together, and harnessing the resulting reaction to generate electricity, according to Reuters.

“Here what we’re developing is building these small tokamaks, like ST25, and then we’ve got other devices using key technologies which are high temperature superconductors and spherical tokamak shapes,” Bill Huang, an engineer for Tokamak Energy, said. “So we’ve got a slightly different shape from traditional fusion and this allows us to get a higher plasma pressure for a given magnetic field. It’s a measure of efficiency called beta, and by using this improved efficiency it means that the overall size of our device is actually quite a bit smaller.”

Tokamak’s second reactor, the ST25, was successful at reaching temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius in short bursts, and hopes to achieve stable, “reactor relevant” conditions with its third reactor, the ST40.

“This (ST25) will allow us to get very high temperatures for a short amount of time but what we’re looking to do is generate these high temperatures which are reactor relevant, so we’ve set ourselves a 100 million degree challenge, and we’re aiming to get 100 million degrees in that (ST40) device,” Huang added.

David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy, thinks that the ST40 could provide power to the National Grid by 2030.

“We want to get within five years to an energy gain, and from there we want to go on in ten years to get to first electricity, a device where we can demonstrate production of electricity from fusion, but it may be 15 years before we get energy to the grid in significant quantities,” said Kingham. “Fusion is one of those technologies which, if it could be harnessed, could be scaled up rapidly to be deployed world-wide by 2050 and could make a very big difference to carbon emissions and therefore to climate change from 2050 onwards.”

Image courtesy of New Energy and Fuel.

Global Nuclear Facilities at Greater Risk of a Cyber Breach than Previously Thought

We all know various connected infrastructure defences are vulnerable; these include recent attacks on high-profile websites and also communication arms of governments and well-known individuals. Technically anything can be hacked and therefore robust implementations need to be focused on securing data within organizations. Nuclear facilities are one such example and a new report warns of an increasing threat of a cyber attack that focuses on these plants.

The report by the influential Chatham House think tank studied cyber defences in power plants from around the world over an 18-month period; its conclusions are that “The civil nuclear infrastructure in most nations is not well prepared to defend against such attacks”. It pinpoints “insecure designs” within the control systems as one of the reasons for a possible future breach, the cause of this is most likely the age of the facilities and the need for modernization.

The report also disproves the myth surrounding the belief that nuclear facilities are immune from attacks due to being disconnected from the Internet. It said that there is an “air gap” between the public internet and nuclear systems that was easy to breach with “nothing more than a flash drive” Great, in theory that little USB drive could cause a nuclear holocaust. The report noted the infection of Iran’s facilities was down to the Stuxnet virus that used the above route.

The researchers for the report had also found evidence of virtual networks and other “links to the public internet on nuclear infrastructure networks. Some of these were forgotten or simply unknown to those in charge of these organisations”.

It was found by the report that search engines that sought out critical infrastructure had “indexed these links” and thus made it easy for attackers to find ways into networks and control systems.

This report has cheered me right up, it is noted that nuclear facilities are stress tested to withstand a variety of long-standing scenarios, though there does need to be a better understanding from staff in charge of the infrastructure in order to limit any potential damage a breach could inflict. The industry needs to adapt, gone are the days of one or two experts who could hack into a system, from state-sponsored cyber attacks to a teenager in their bedroom, the knowledge base is growing day by day and many companies are paying the price for poor security.

Let’s hope it’s not a nuclear power plant,

Thank you bbc for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of zeenews

Kickstarting the Solar Trend Just Became Easier

Are you a green energy lover that wishes big energy companies would start to move away from the old-fashioned way of producing electricity to a newer and more reliable source? If so, a new Kickstater campaign might be right up your street.

SunPort is a smart device that simply plugs in between your device and wall socket. This almost allows you to harness pure solar energy through your current supplier thanks to Solar Credits which are generated through every megawatt-hour of energy. Providers can purchase these credits that then proves to the local governing body that the power being provided came from solar sources.

SunPort aims to target the supply and demand segment by forcing big companies to purchase more solar credits and then the supplying companies to produce more solar energy. The long term goal would be for the large energy suppliers to ultimately adopt solar as the main energy source over Gas, Coal and Nuclear.

The process is free, however, you will need to buy the device itself and maintain upkeep annually to a small fee and it’s currently only available in America unless you buy an adapter plug for use in your own country.

How ‘green’ is your daily routine? Let us know in the comments.

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Warned for Using Windows XP

Wow, this is rather scary news. The Japan Times have reported that Tokyo Electric Power Co. or more commonly known – Tepco has come under fire from an auditor for trying to save money on their infrastructure by delaying their Windows XP upgrade despite windows XP costing 5 times more to run. The company has been using windows XP to run computers that suffered the triple meltdown 4 years ago in 2011.

“Tepco — effectively nationalized through a government bailout after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011 — was hoping to save ¥3.6 billion ($30 million) by continuing to run about 48,000 computers on Windows XP until 2018,”. The Japan Times wrote. “In a report last month, the Board of Audit warned the company not to be so stingy.”

It is now well over a year since Microsoft pulled the plug on Windows XP support, yet millions of computers are still running the 14 year old operating system. When the support ceased,  computers running Windows XP no longer receive new updates to their operating system and users can no longer download security essentials for the device too.

Microsoft made the push to leave Windows XP for major security reasons and urged end users to upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. However at this rate they may as well wait until Windows 10 is released, although they may need to temporarily use Windows 7 or 8.1 if they need to upgrade immediately.

Thank you to BGR for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of StaticWorld

North Korea Tests Polaris-1 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile

North Korea is flexing their military muscles again with more missile demonstrations. In the latest test, a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) was fired successfully with Kim Jong Un in attendance. Despite only flying about 150m, the rocket launch does demonstrate the ability for North Korea to launch SLBMs properly. Called the Polaris-1, the missile is suggested to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Currently, only the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and India have SLBM capable submarines.

SLBMs are a greater danger than conventional ballistic missiles due to their flexibility from being mounted on a submarine. By using a submarine platform, the missile itself can be brought much closer to the target, robbing defense systems of critical reaction time. Conventional ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) take about 20 minutes to arrive on target while SLBM can take as little as 6 minutes, far too little time for air defenses to activate. This allows the launcher to strike first to cripple their opponent.

One potential launch platform for the Polaris 1 is a number of Golf II submarines the North Koreans purchased from Russia. While it’s theoretically possible for the Golf II to strike the United States, more likely targets are South Korea and Japan, with the launch coming in from a blind side to surprise defenders. This test will also likely impact South Korea’s decision whether or not to proceed with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system or not. It’s not rocket science to tell that the situation between the Koreas is set to escalate even further as each side buys more rockets.

Scientists Use Weird Laser-Flower Device to Gather Data on Nuclear Experiments

While this might look like a nightclub disco light, it is not. The device is called a Wide-angle Optical Multi-channel Probe and it comes straight out of the research halls of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

It looks like the scientists created the device in order to gather relevant data on nuclear experiments without the need to physically detonate a nuclear warhead. The gadget is said to be able to provide a lot of data without the critical mass of plutonium. Below is a short description of how they intend to use it.

“This specialised laser instrument allows Los Alamos scientists to perform sophisticated nuclear experiments and gather significant amounts of data without a critical mass of plutonium. The data is used to help validate the extremely complex computer codes that reside on the laboratory’s world class supercomputers. These codes along with thousands of experiments conducted across the laboratory allow Laboratory staff and ultimately the Director to assess the state and health of the Nation’s nuclear deterrent and report those findings ultimately to the President of the United States.”

For people who want to know more about the Los Alamos invention in regards to safety, reliability and performance, their website provides more detailed information.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information

Hitachi Is Developing a Reactor That Burns Nuclear Waste

Nuclear power is one of the safest methods of power generation, in theory. In the real world it however looks different, especially when the structures aren’t maintained or natural disasters hit, or both at once like in Japan. A more immediate problem is the waste generated by these power reactors and the thousands of years it takes to break down and stop being hazardous.

As it is now we bury our nuclear waste under ground, in mountains and deep under the sea, which isn’t very smart. This isn’t a solution that is bearable in the long run, in any way. On a personal level I’d really like to see them all shut down once and for all. We also hear one report after another about leaks in the storage facilities and radioactive material leaking into our water and and food supplies.

To make this situation a bit more manageable, Hitachi, in partnership with MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley, is working on new reactor designs that use transuranic nuclear waste for fuel; leaving behind only short-lived radioactive elements.

Most people believe radioactive waste to be some green glowing goo, but that is far from reality. The real problem isn’t the “hot” stuff as that will burn out in a matter of minutes, or even seconds. It’s the mildly radioactive elements with an atomic number greater than 92. These elements, such as plutonium, have half lives measured in tens of thousands or even millions of years. That makes storing them a very long-term problem, and is a particular difficulty in countries like the United States that don’t recycle transuranium elements by fuel reprocessing or fast-breeder reactors.

What Hitachi and its partners are trying to do is to find ways to design next-generation reactors that can use the low-level transuranium elements as fuel, only leaving the high-level elements to quickly (relatively speaking) burn themselves out in no more than a century or so. The idea in itself isn’t new and some modular nuclear reactors already use nuclear waste as fuel. But what sets Hitachi apart is that it’s looking into designs based on current boiling-water reactors that are known as Resource-renewable Boiling Water Reactors (RBWR) and are being developed by Hitachi and Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy Ltd.

The idea is to develop a new fuel element design using refined nuclear waste products along with uranium that can be installed in a standard boiling water reactor. This would not only make such reactors more economical to build, but would also use decades of safety and operations experience to achieve efficient nuclear fission in transuranium elements. Hitachi says that it’s already carried out joint research with its partners starting in 2007 and is now concentrating on the next phase, which deals with more accurate analysis methods, as well as reactor safety and performance, with an eye toward practical application of what’s been learned.

Thank you Hitachi for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Hitachi.

Nuclear Fusion Experiment Produces More Energy Than It Takes In!

While still a long way from being commercially available, nuclear fusion is still being pursued as one of the most promising energy sources for mankind. While we may be rapidly depleting the worlds resources of oil, gas, coal and more, the earth could easily provide us with the resources to meet energy demands for billions of years! So it’s easy to understand why billions of dollars millions of man hours and 60 years of development have been poured into nuclear fusion research.

This week Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researches announced that they’ve reached a major milestone in nuclear fusion research, creating fusion in their reactor that is capable of producing more energy than was required to initiate fusion!

Nuclear fission works by splitting atoms, this is what we use in current nuclear power stations, but fusion is a much better power source and works by fusing two atoms together. Fusion is what happens in our sun, and of course other stars in our universe. When two nuclei fuse together an incredible amount of energy is released, much more than you would typically find in nuclear fission.

Using 192 lasers to heat a cylinder that measures just 1cm across to millions of degrees, heating up a tiny plastic pellet which contains two forms of hydrogen plasma (the fuel) on the cylinders interior to the point where it is so hot it produces x-rays that cause the pellet to explode and compress its internal gasses. If this happens enough then a chain reaction will occur and fusion becomes self sustaining, like our Sun. That self sustaining reaction is known as ignition and while this has yet to be accomplished, the latest test output 2.6 x more energy than was used to create that energy.

The next major step will be ignition, something that requires hundreds of millions of degrees and pressure that is thousands of times greater than was what achieved in the latest tests, but after 60 years this is still a huge advance for the technology even though it may still be billions more in investment and decades before it is on a commercial scale.

Thank you Gigaom for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gigaom.

National Ignition Facility Passes Milestone In Creating Stable Nuclear Fusion

A fusion reaction is caused by taking Deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, with 1 proton and 1 neutron, a Proton, which is a normal hydrogen nucleus, Helium-3 which is an isotope of helium with 2 protons and 1 neutron, and normal helium which is 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Then you smash them all together with a powerful laser. To free up any confusion about Nuclear Fusion check out this chart provided by Diffen.com

Why are we telling you this? Electricity is key to survival in any urban area, we use electricity for everything, from lights, to cooking, to powering our computers. Some people even use electricity to power their vehicles. With high demands for power to be produced researchers are always trying to up their game. We need to find a reliable source of energy that is easy to create, maintain, and distribute.

The BBC recently reported on a crucial milestone for a US laboratory and their ultimate goal for world domination of achieving self-sustaining nuclear fusion. The National Ignition Facility also known as NIF, in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who have been working to harness nuclear fusion and for the first time their experiment produced a fusion reaction! Bringing them one step closer to their goal of producing a proper fusion reactor.

The process includes firing their 192-beam laser at a small hydrogen fuel pellet, which causes the pellet to compress as well as heating the pellet. This leads to more energy being released than what is absorbed by the pellet and that obviously has huge potential benefits, plus creating a small star here on earth sounds pretty freaking awesome!

Though all of the kinks have not been worked out just yet, the goal is to create a state of ignition where the fusion reaction generates as much or more energy than is produced by the laser. Soon we may be able to provide energy by creating a small star here on earth.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Interesting Energy Facts

The USA Nearly Nuked Itself In 1961 – Could Have Killed Millions

A secret document recently declassified and uncovered by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser reveals that the U.S military nearly nuked North Carolina in 1961 in an incident that could have killed millions. The Guardian reports that the two bombs which were accidentally dropped on Goldsboro, North Carolina on January 23rd had a payload of 4 megatons each. The bombs were released as a B52 bomber broke up in mid air from entering a tailspin after experiencing difficulties. One bomb was not triggered at all thanks to a fully functional safety mechanisms working properly but on the second bomb the only thing that stopped its triggered detonation was a vulnerable low voltage safety switch because all three other safety mechanisms had failed.

Had the detonation of taken place millions could have died and lethal radioactive fallout would have reached large cities like Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and even as far as New York. According to the newly declassified document a senior engineer at Sandia national laboratories stated that “one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe”.

“The US government has consistently tried to withhold information from the American people in order to prevent questions being asked about our nuclear weapons policy…We were told there was no possibility of these weapons accidentally detonating, yet here’s one that very nearly did.” Stated Eric Schlosser.

Image courtesy of Three Lions/Getty Images

Russia Will Assist Japan’s TEPCO With Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

Ever since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant was struck by a Tsunami and an Earthquake back in March 2011 it has been crippled to a state of near-meltdown. Fukushima today acts as the most prominent argument against Nuclear technology as Chernobyl did pre-2011. Japanese TEPCO employees have had to pour water over the spent fuel rods for the last 2 years to prevent over-heating that might lead to another meltdown or even a chain reaction. The consequences of the “worst case scenario” would indeed have international consequences as radiation fallout obeys no borders.

That is why Russia have offered to come to the help of Japan in their TEPCO crisis. Russia have become international field leaders in decommissioning nuclear power plants after the Chernobyl disaster gave them ample experience. Eco News report that Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom – the state-owned Russian nuclear utility, has extended a helping hand to TEPCO.

“In our globalised nuclear industry we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Mr Asmolov told Bloomberg news agency. “It was clear for a long time that TEPCO was not adequately coping with the situation…It looks like TEPCO management were the last to realise this.”

Japan’s Fukushima crisis is being labelled as the world’s most serious Nuclear incident since Chernobyl. Experts say it is significantly more serious because the amount of nuclear fuel involved is much higher. Levels of radiation in close-by water sources are already unsafe for human habitation. The government had evacuated everyone in a 20km radius of the site but that no go zone is being gradually lifted as radiation levels start to fall.

Image courtesy of Reuters