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Fukushima Situation Continues to Develop…

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Goes almost without saying that the situation remains alarming:

On Saturday, Japanese officials took the extraordinary step of flooding the crippled No. 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 170 miles north of Tokyo, with seawater in a last-ditch effort to avoid a nuclear meltdown.

Then on Sunday, cooling failed at a second reactor — No. 3 — and core melting was presumed at both, said the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. Cooling had failed at three reactors at a nuclear complex nearby, Fukushima Daini, although he said conditions there were considered less dire for now.

See also here.

…USN continuing support operations with JMSDF.

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  • Jonathan

    So they’re saying the reactors are actually in meltdown? Ironically, those reactors were supposed to be naturally resistant to exactly what happened. What’s going on there is really closing in on Chernobyl territory.

  • Fred

    Jonathan, did you get that phd in nuclear engineering off the web? By “they” if you mean the fear mongers you are right. If you mean Tokyo Electric or the Japanese Government you are wrong. This is not Chernobyl.

    For a basic layout of a boiling water reactor see the NRC website.
    http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/bwrs.html

    The plant shutdown immediately.
    The switchyard was damaged in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami flooding, this place is on the coast after all.

    The heat energy build up caused by continued fission by-product decay after shutdown needs to be dissipated for days. The emergency cooling systems need electricity, those systems shut down after a few hours, why remains unknown at this time.

    It might also be good to remember that most of the plant staff (those not at work at the time) live in the area, maybe they are having a trifle bit of trouble given the earthquake and tsunami, if they aren’t dead.

    • DocAmazing

      No, this is not Chernobyl.

      It is potentially worse. Several reactors may already have gotten to meltdown.

      Y’know, Fred, the utility companies already pay people good money to blow sunshine; you might want to look into getting paid instead of doing it for free.

      • Dave Haasl

        Except Fred’s comments match everything else I’ve been reading from knowledgeable people – and people not in the employ Tokyo Electric.

        There is a huge gulf between a serious, messy situation and Chernobyl.

        I know the knee-jerk response to a nuclear accident is to fear the worse. It isn’t necessarily an accurate response, however.

      • Fred

        Thanks Doc, been there, done that.

    • Jonathan

      I’ve been patient. The situation in Japan is now at a 6 on INES. Considering INES only goes to 7, which is what Chernobyl was, I’d like to think time has proven my statement correct. I’d like an apology.

  • jon

    It is very distressing that there are now six reactors with varying cooling problems, several with some substantial damage to the fuel. It would perhaps have been worse if several of the complexes’ plants weren’t already shut down for servicing. It’s clear that emergency equipment or operations simply wasn’t up to the scale of the disaster.

    Fortunately, it seems that the disaster has been arrested before it approached Three Mile Island scale of disaster. Still, many people have been irradiated/contaminated, one person has died and others injured, fuel rods have been damaged and two reactors will have to be decommissioned.

    Let us contemplate for a moment the worst case scenarios from an earthquake and tsunami on a solar or wind complex. This is the last thing that Japan needs right now.

    • Left_Wing_Fox

      Considering two people have died from this so far, that already puts it higher than TMI, not to mention the number of reactors affected, the explosion and the released radiation.

      Still, what really matters long-term are:
      1) Whether radioactive material is released from the primary containment structure.
      2) How much and what kind of material (bioactive elements like cesium and iodine are going to be the most dangerous)
      3) The manner in which it is released into the environment.

      Chernobyl was literally as bad as it gets: Complete meltdown, steam explosion, and fire. That means lots of radioactive matter that’s dangerous to humans in the water table and spread widely by air, and impossible to contain without a lot of workers dying.

      Worst case here is going to be a meltdown that breaks the primary containment, releasing the dangerous isotopes into the water table, which could have serious long-term consequences to a greater population than Chernobyl.

      An explosion would also be very bad, but would be less likely to spread radioactive material than water contamination or a fire. From what I understand the risk of a chernobyl-style fire is unlikely.

      This isn’t over yet, and best wishes to the teams trying to get this under control.

      • jon

        Where/how for the second fatality? I’ve only heard of one. Neither may be radiological.

        There are a lot of inaccurate and conflicting statements being made, and it may take quite a while for the facts to truly be known. I fully expect that many of the nearest radiation monitors will have been destroyed or burnt out over the course of the disaster.

        Radiation has certainly left the containment. That is why readings have been elevated. The hydrogen explosion happened as a byproduct of venting the core. Other ventings are known to be ongoing.

        Seawater being introduced to cool cores will be released back to the ocean or impoundments, it will be radioactive.

        None of these releases rise to the level of Chernobyl, fortunately. But they are not trivial.

        If the final ditch cooling efforts fail or are not supplemented soon, we could still see full core meltdowns from uncooled cores. The more time that elapses without further disaster, the better the outcome looks. But we are still quite a ways from an all-clear.

        • DocAmazing

          What makes them potentially worse that Chernobyl is that these reactors are in a more densely populated area. We’re not talking about an area that will be abandoned to weeds and deer; we’re talking about an area that will still be cheek-by-jowl with human habitation.

        • Left_Wing_Fox

          I don’t disagree with what you’re saying here, and it looks like my figure for the fatalities is unverified. I just don’t see how this is “dosen’t approach” Three Mile Island scales. Less than Chernobyl, certainly, but as DocAmazing points out, the population density could result in far greater repercussions.

          • Dave Haasl

            I haven’t seen anyone saying that this doesn’t meet TMI scales. I’d say we’ve already met or exceeded that benchmark.

            And the point about population density is a good one, I should think.

  • p joe

    Fred is employed by or carrying water for :

    a) U S Chamber of Commerce

    b) Nuclear Energy Institute

    c) Tokyo Electric

    d) a and b

    e) All the above

    • mpowell

      This is really inappropriate. Fred’s response to Jonathan, also unnecessarily hostile, but it sounds like a sufficiently reasonable viewpoint that this kind of rhetoric is just obviously misplaced. So far, from a technical viewpoint, this is far less of a disaster than Chernobyl. Could it get there if multiple cores are not fully cooled correctly? I guess it’s possible, but from what I am reading, it sounds really unlikely. The only real problem I see here is that any release of radioactive material will be exposed to a much larger population than with Chernobyl.

      My issue with the whole situation is that if a reactor core requires an ongoing power source to cool down properly to avoid a release of radioactive material, that is a flawed design due to precisely the problems highlighted in this case. I don’t care if an emergency shutdown kills future use of a core, but it needs to be able to be shutdown without requiring the availability of backup power for a multi-day period for me to regard the plant as reasonably safe. I know this core is 40 years old. Is a state-of-the-art reactor also exposed to this limitation?

      • Fred

        mpowell,

        I should have been less personal in my first response. my apologies to Jonathan.

    • Fred

      P Joe, try none of the above. I would think people who actually read this blog to prefer some basic facts rather than just issue an opion. The blog owners quote the law before making a judgement; I would hope more readers would do the same in regard to the physics of nuclear plants.

  • Simple Mind

    From CNN, I gather that General Electric has a stake in those plants; indeed US citizens were working at the Fukushima reactors.

    From the French newspapers, French professionals say the cladding of those reactors is inferior to TMI.

    One fears for the plant staff and wonders how they are victualed and whether they’ve had any sleep in the last 2 days. They are probably guaranteed to have radiation sickness. Heros whether or not they have successfully prevented the worst.

  • Fred

    Some more info:

    /www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Venting_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_3_1303111.html
    h/t to brad delong

  • Yanagi

    Sheesh. Why don’t we all run to the hills then?

    http://morgsatlarge.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors/

    You Americans really scared of your own shadows.

    • DocAmazing

      Great link. The author, full of himself and a fraction as clever as he thinks he is, transcribes a long, boring, and ultimately misleading quote from another guy who is full of himself.

      It’s been pointed out before, but the big risk here is not the release of ionizing radiation per se; it’s the release of isotopes that are highly toxic and very persistent in the environment.

      If you figure that a meltdown or a near-meltdown is no big deal, please refrain from voting in future elections.

      • Yanagi

        Sorry I’m in Tokyo. I don’t vote in your stupid congressional and presidential systems.

        Japanese professionals and engineering will prove you all wrong of course. This country just withstood a 9.0 earthquake and horrible tsunami and it is still standing thankyouverymuch.

        I have no time for your idiocy. There are 10,000 perished souls who I must save my thoughts for. Idiot.

  • wengler

    I try to remain optimistic, but reactor buildings just keep blowing up.

    I think the main thing to take away from this whole experience is that worst-case scenarios do in fact happen and should be accounted for when making decisions about power generation. My major gripe is when hearing from people who have consistently been supporters of nuclear power continue to be dishonest about the problems occurring here.

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