Post Nuclear Japan, Pre Disaster United States

Michael Collins

Originally published March 13

The Japanese disaster at Fukushima I is a human tragedy of striking proportions. As many as ten thousand citizens may be dead in the general catastrophe, with many more at risk for radiation poisoning at levels yet to be determined. The fact that Japan is a highly organized and wealthy nation in no way diminishes the intensity of the losses and pain experienced by the victims. (Image)

Political and economic implications will emerge rapidly. As the whole world watches, the Japanese experience creates windows of opportunity to learn how to avert future meltdowns at nuclear ticking time bombs placed throughout Europe, the United States, India, and China.

Events have overwhelmed the highly professional Japanese bureaucracy.

Update March 14 8pm Eastern: New (third) blast, at Fukushima reactor #2, appears more serious


In a late Saturday night report by CNN, the chief cabinet minister said that he presumed that there was a nuclear meltdown in reactors one and two, with three on the way. A nuclear regulatory official hedged by referring to the “possibility” of a meltdown, which he said could not be confirmed since workers couldn’t get close enough to see. The same regulatory official told CNN,

“We have some confidence, to some extent, to make the situation to be stable status,” he said. “We actually have very good confidence that we will resolve this.” March 12

Experts outside the government referred to the situation as desperate given the use of saltwater as a last resort for cooling the nuclear material.

See interactive map at International Nuclear Safety Center

Japanese Energy and Economic Disruption

Eighty percent of Japanese energy relies on imports. Nuclear plants provide about 30% of the electric production for the industrial base. The loss of the Fukushima I plant, for example reduces the nuclear output by 10%, just for starters. It also derails the big plans Japan has for nuclear power through 2050. Over 60% of domestic needs will be met by a robust nuclear program according to one optimistic estimate.

The following graph shows the contributions electrical production:

Assume a 20% loss of nuclear power production with the elimination of Fukushima’s 10% contribution and other reactors that may go offline due to preemptive safety precautions. Japan faces a near term energy shortage. The loss of 20% of nuclear production, for example, could translate into a 6% percent reduction of overall electric production. Hydroelectric and renewables are not capable of rising to the occasion as replacements. That leaves thermal/fossil plants. More imports and more pollution will go hand in hand for the next few years. Japan will pay much more attention to the Middle East, the source of 90% crude oil imports, with less focus on planned spread of nuclear plants.

This is speculation. The situation may be much worse. One thing is certain. The government regulator’s confidence that “we will resolve this” seems far-fetched at best.

The damage to plant, equipment, and infrastructure led to the shut down of several automobile plants. United States exporters will feel the impact of lower Japanese corporate revenues. China, Japan’s top trading partner, may well see the loss of investment and export opportunities. In addition, China may have a new competitor for crude oil due to the disruption to Japan’s overall energy supply system.

Still mired in the great stagnation since 1985, healthcare costs, rebuilding requirements, and the implosion of energy production in the Fukushima Prefecture will hit the domestic economy very hard in short order.

As if that weren’t bad enough, exports faltered in January. The country showed a 500 billion Yen trade deficit for the first month of 2011, the first drop in a string of sizable surpluses since February 2009. Japan’s people and economy are in for hard times. (Graph)

What if… Lessons for the United States

What would happen if a massive earthquake hit one of California’s nuclear plants? California represents 13% of the US GDP, 12% of the population, and ranks number eighth in global economies. Seismic disasters are not a new phenomenon in the Golden State.

Certainly, energy companies, politicians, and regulators considered this possibility. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) produced scientific research for years fine tuning the timing, intensity, and inevitability of future earthquakes. USGS states, “the chance of having one or more magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquakes in the California area over the next 30 years is greater than 99%.” The chance for a magnitude 7.5 or greater earthquake is set at 46%. (USGS)

Was anyone paying attention? Apparently not. The seismic risk map shows the danger of earthquakes for the state.

California’s two nuclear power plants are located on or near major fault lines. The Diablo Canyon facility is of particular concern. Californians have been anywhere from upset to outraged at the Diablo Canyon nuclear facility from the start. More than two million people get electricity from the plant. Designed to withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, there are reasons to be less than confident in this estimate. The plant operator, PG&E, completely misinterpreted blueprints in the initial construction of “certain crucial pipe supports in the reactors containment room.” The misinterpretation involved constructing the pipe supports in a “mirror image” of the intended design.

Diablo Canyon is just 2.5 miles from the Hosgri Fault, a major portion of the San Andreas Fault. Construction proceeded despite the discovery of this massive fault early on.

Recently, PG&E executives diminished the importance of the Shoreline Fault less than an mile offshore from the nuclear plant. This fault was discovered in 2008. The Santa Barbara Independent reported that, “Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials and PG&E executives have insisted there’s no cause for alarm; the plant, they maintain, is designed to withstand far more force than the new fault” will generate.

The Independent interviewed USGS Chief Scientist, Tom Brocher. He noted the possibility that the Shoreline Fault runs under Diablo Canyon’s reactors is “speculative” but not ruled out. Brocher said, “You’re bringing into the picture the possibility that an earthquake could crack the ground surface. This would be a disaster beyond anything we’ve seen in Japan:

“The prospect of such a calamity — with two nuclear reactors operating above ground and pools of spent fuels so dangerous they have to be kept submerged in water at least five years before they can be moved to steel-reinforced concrete casks — is the stuff of nightmarish disaster scenarios.” Nick Welsh, Santa Barbara Independent.

Sitting Ducks

As meltdowns and nuclear disaster continue in Japan, we should anticipate the impact of similar disasters at one or several of those red dots from the interactive global map of nuclear facilities. Natural events, plant failures, and sabotage provide an array of scenarios that can cripple a region or entire nation.

The potential of nuclear catastrophes is dismissed by energy company sponsored and nuclear friendly government reports claiming probable nuclear plant safety in the face of well-documented risks. The nuclear firms and Japanese authorities vouched for the safety of Fukushima I. All of that was to no avail.

Nevertheless, the administration’s proposed energy solution, the American Power Act, contains provisions for nuclear industry bailouts which are central to future energy needs. The industry largesse will help achieve the act’s goal of a 60% increase in power from nuclear reactors.

Will someone please calculate the probability for – we are doomed.

We are led by fools.

END

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Michael Collins

DC area

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  • The Japanese are evacuating people within a 13 mile radius of Fukushima I, about 50,000. If reactors 1-3 are finished (as in total meltdown) here’s what happens:

    If a full meltdown occurs, a huge molten lump of radioactive material would burn through all containment, destroy the building and fall to the ground, exposed. A toxic stew of exotic radioactive particles would then spread on the wind and rain.

    But if luck turns south and the winds do, too, radioactive particles could be spread far across Honshu, Japan’s largest island, and beyond.Washington Post, March 13

    The risks are then huge if the weather changes:

    But if luck turns south and the winds do, too, radioactive particles could be spread far across Honshu, Japan’s largest island, and beyond.

    Lyman said that simulations he has run on possible nuclear disasters in the United States estimate “tens of thousands of cancer deaths” from a total meltdown, although arriving at a figure is fraught with layers of uncertainty.

    A 2005 census counted 103 million people on Honshu, including the population of Tokyo, which lies 150 miles to the southwest of Fukushima Daiichi. Washington Post, March 13

    So 103 million people wait while the wind decides their fate.

    This technology is totally unacceptable.
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  • Given the current and foreseeable economic conditions in the USA, there is no state government that will provide loan guarantees or subsidize the $6 Billion that it would take to start to build a nuclear plant.

    The Federal Government might, but very selectively and after a whole lot of arguing, and then the “Not in my back yard” would have to be overcome at a state level.

    The only real solution is to do more with less. We have sufficient energy right now, we do not need more if we can learn to do with less. Much higher efficiency for everything is the first step, followed by market driven reductions in consumption. Yes, you have a right to drive a huge “Texas Truck”, we should not restrict that, but your energy bills should be similar to the size of your truck.

    I have a neighbor complaining that gas is too expensive. He drives a big pickup truck 35 miles each way to work, at about 15 MPG. If he were to get a small car to commute, he would cut his costs in half, and we would have as much gas left over as if he was not driving at all. 50% saving s two ways, and he still fights me and calls me a socialist for suggesting such a thing.

    Energy solutions require a mind change, not more power plant construction.

  • Michael has a good essay here. However, one factual correction. Japan did NOT have a $500B trade deficit in January. He (you) may have meant $500B Yen–it was actually $471.4 B YEN. Translating for 80 yen to the dollar U.S., the trade deficit was around $5 3/4 billion dollars U.S. $5.75B (U.s.), not $500B, please.

    This is an important essay because a significant event WILL occur at some point. It is not just the size on the Richter sacle: it is also the duration, the closeness to the surface, and the proximity to an actual subduction lifting of a plate or surface. Each of these can have an inordinate effect/affect. The first Christchurch, NZ quake had modest consequences; the second, closer to the surface and a plate lift, was more damaging and deadly.

    Nuclear power is an irrational policy because while crises can be limited by engineering several back-up safety systems to any installation, it ONLY TAKES ONE failure of whatever the safety features are. Fukushima Daiichi plants suffered not just the quake results, but main power, supplementary power, back-up diesel pumps malfunctions–all “ganging” up on the best laid plans of mice & men.

  • I see dollars everywhere;) Thanks.

    Your elaboration is very helpful. There are just too many variables and no experience. As far as I can tell, it looks like the plant had a chance, given the extreme events, but there was no back up power available.

    I read the Tokyo power company mea culpa about shortcuts on nuclear safety by company executives in 2002-2003. There was quite a scandal at the time. The document said that the plant workers were so devoted to their job, they’d noticed and complained about problems. This kicked off an investigation.

    Based on that, I’ll bet this plant was as well run as possible and that the system was sound. Yet, it couldn’t deliver backup power.

    The cruel irony about this happening in Japan is an intense fear of earthquakes, including a doomsday scenario that led some Japanese to purchase land overseas in the 70’s. There’s also a strong fear of tidal waves. The two came together and may created a much worse reality of nuclear contamination. If there’s enough of a release and the wind shifts, we’ll see the ultimate horror of 103 million Japanese in the path of a poison cloud. That should be enough to kick off a global effort on much safer energy.

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  • The still pending “American Power Act” has lots of goodies in it in the form of financial incentives for nuclear construction. It will be interesting to see if that survives. But you’re right about state financing. I can’t imagine private funds available under any circumstances now.

    Conservation, as you point out, is the only alternative in the short term. The alternatives need to be taken seriously as conservation gets serious.
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  • The debate seems to be how many additional nuclear energy plants will be developed, and under what technical/safety conditions. The debate is not about whether a global economy needs more nuclear energy – it clearly does if countries are going to maintain their current energy usage without relying on additional fossil fuel sources such as oil, gas, and coal. Interestingly, have you noticed how the energy industry – not just the utilities but also the oil companies – have quietly accepted the idea of Peak Oil? Even Exxon/Mobil seems to have stopped its campaign to discredit Peak Oil and Global Warming. Maybe the fact that they haven’t found any significant oil fields in the past ten years means something.

    The interesting thing about the Fukushima disaster is that this is a very severe test for the industry. A 9.0 earthquake this close to these facilities is well beyond what they were created to tolerate. The tsunami wasn’t expected as well. If TEPCO can get all of their reactors under control, even at the risk of destroying them by pouring sea water in as a coolant, and if there is minimal release of radioactive material, the nuclear industry will be well-positioned to argue that new production should move forward. Notice also that so far no one is asserting that the earthquake itself damaged any of the reactors – it was tsunami damage to the cooling system and a failure of the back-up cooling system that appears to be the problem. This is another argument in favor of nuclear energy facilities that may be prone to earthquake damage (but not at risk of a tidal wave). Supporters of nuclear energy will be able to point to the dated technology used at Fukushima, and how many advances in safety have been made since then.

    Japan will have to conduct a very thorough review of what happened to these reactors during the earthquake, tsunami, and follow-up protective measures. Maybe in six months to a year a report will be available. A lot of industry professionals will want to read it thoroughly because much of the risk management theory involving nuclear technology has never been tested in real conditions. Fukushima is one severe test, which along with the failures at Chernobyl ought to provide some practical experience about what works and doesn’t work.

    Maybe we can even clear up some of the confusion about this technology. For example, can a radioactive cloud even be released by these Fukushima reactors, even under a complete meltdown? It has been asserted by some here at The Agonist that a Chernobyl style disaster cannot occur now because the plants have been shut down and what we are talking about is a possible release of cesium and other radioactive materials resulting from failures in the cooling process. I have no idea what is true or not, and the scientists don’t seem to agree, so if the general public is ever going to get behind nuclear energy, we need to be able to sort out that which is scientific fact, from that which is conjecture.

    Japan is an especially interesting case because it has no indigenous energy sources, and is already dependent on nuclear energy. It seems to have located its plants away from high population areas, but placed some of them near dangerous fault lines where tsunami risk is high. It clearly misjudged these risks 40 years ago when building these plants. If it can pull off a safe shut down of these plants, even by destroying the reactors, it will be able to move forward with its building program, and perhaps even rebuild these reactors on the same site.

  • with the recent deep water drilling incident in the Gulf of Mexico and protestations about the side effects of fracking shale oil wells and tar sands removal, it’s hard to see how anything but using less energy will help in the short term.

    And that is unacceptable to the public. Oh, people may give such a notion lip service, but they are going to keep getting on airplanes and driving their cars until the last drop is gone, or they die, whichever comes first.

    I did inhale.

  • There isn’t any energy source that doesn’t have some form of pollution associated with its extraction. We’ve just gone through two natural disasters, one of which in the Gulf of Mexico could have been avoided if there had been proper management at BP. Fukushima seems less avoidable given the age and design of the plant. China has blotted its landscape and polluted the atmosphere extensively (even as far away as California) in its mad rush to generate electricity from coal. Hydroelectric dams destroy rivers and wildlife. Solar and wind energy seem relatively benign in comparison but the landscape is marred, the yield is relatively low, and you still need some energy from other sources to develop and deliver the electricity.

    This suggests that your idea of using less energy overall is the best answer for the short term. Apparently the only way Americans will go along with that is if the cost of energy is high enough that conservation makes sense. People do seem to be responding to hybrid cars and I notice that local parking garages in my area are now including stations where you can park and recharge your electric car at the same time. I guess there’s hope if the pocketbook is affected.

  • I don’t think I am alone in not knowing that these plants would melt down if they lost electric power. For years, I assumed that once the control rods were fully inserted they shut down the reactor completely and the problem is over. We now know that this is a a mistaken assumption that industry and government allowed to become widespread.

    ANYTHING that causes a complete failure of a nuke plant’s electrical systems will result in a partial or full meltdown of the reactor, resulting, at best, in destruction of the reactor core, and, at worst, a massive release of radiation. Thus, there are no fail-safe reactors.

    The widespread education of the public resulting from these “accidents” will rightly delay or halt further construction of nuclear power stations that are inherently unsafe. There are many plausible events that can cause total loss of power to a nuclear plant. We now know the consequences.

  • He quit because he couldn’t live with himself doing that. He was not willing to ignore the reality of what they were doing just to make a dollar.

    He told me how the nuclear containment vessel and structures around it were designed so a 747 could crash into them and they would not be breached from the outside. But he was extremely worried about what would happen from the inside of the containment.

    He knew that the systems would eventually fail. Control rods would fail to drop. Cooling systems would stop. Gauges would be misread or send bad data. Whatever. The 747 would hit the containment vessel, and the container would survive, but everything around it would go to shit, the nuclear reaction would be unmanageable, and a meltdown would take place.

    He called the containment vessel a last resort ‘coffin’, to hold back the monster inside… but with no full certainty that the monster would not escape.

    The nuclear waste bothered him the most. Highly radioactive waste sitting in basically unprotected swimming pools, also depending on water circulation to keep the rods cool.

    In the history of nuclear energy, there are literally 100’s of accidents that the public doesn’t really know about, things that could have easily snowballed into major accidents. Things as simple as crane malfunctions when handling nuclear components, to the discovery of the wrong wiring used in a nuclear plant when the wiring caught fire inside the walls of the containment structure (fortunately the fuel had not been loaded yet).

    So here we are in the current day, with one reactor in Japan outright not being cooled, and the monster struggling to get out, with our only hope that the cage that holds it being strong enough.

    My dad passed away a few years ago, but if he was alive today he would be standing there ranting at the TV saying “I told you so!”

  • but the nail in the coffin was the ruining of the diesel pumps from the tsunami. I doubt our leaders will learn from this, what did they learn from BP? Hell they still want Yucca mountain.

    TeH Goddess Rocks 😉

  • Clearly those containment systems were never thought out. They do not contain the failure they are just bombs waiting to go off when there is a failure.

  • …continued physical access to the site. If something had happened to preclude that access or render it ineffective (think losing the control rooms), then we’d be screwed.

    I’m a lot less concerned about building the perfectly impervious system than I am with building the system that preserves options. As an instance – were one to build defensive systems designed to guard against higher and higher waves or bigger and bigger earthquakes at the expense of closing off other reactive options, that’d be a big mistake. There’s always – and I mean always – a bigger wave or a stronger quake or a worse combination of events, just a matter of when. Something that gives you more options for reaction and is less vulnerable to massive single or few factor assaults is to be desired.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • The TEPCO personnel even had SPARE diesel powered pumps on-site in case they were needed. They were swamped with water. The engineers then began using the pumps, after routing some piping, from THE OTHER reactors on-site as two of them appeared to be far enough along in the slow shut-down phases to divert coolant to the other two in trouble. Then…one of the two “good” ones began to show gauge-watchers that the cool-off was not as far along as was initially thought. They then made a decision to STOP the auxilliary pumping just in case reactors 3 & 4 needed further coolant. That left reactor # 1 to partially melt-down. At that point, OTHER pumps were used to simply force-feed seawater into the area around the so-called containment vessel. It is not clear where those pumps came from, but they were gasoline-powered.

    In other words, there was ALL KINDS of back-ups, redundancies, and spare parts, BUT NONE of the original or ancillary options could intercede in the nuclear reactions already in process. It may well show, if the 3 in-trouble reactors can be stopped from becoming total meltdown cases, that every contingency, including some creative actions were IN FACT utilized.

    FYI: the reactors were originally AUTOMATICALLY THROTTLED-DOWN by sensors that detected the off-shore temblor. They were not “turned-off” (that can’t be done with these type of uranium-based fuel rods).
    When after plant personnel began over-riding the “slow-down” procedure set in motion by the auto-sensors, that’s when the problems started. The diesel-run pumps you refer to were themselves a third-line back-up for the regular pumps. One M.I.T. nuclear engineer I spoke with hypothesized that the actual inlet pipes that fed the containment vessel w/ coolant were possibly subjected to “liquifaction”, the odd slurry that we see in all the vids and pics that is the gray slop everywhere.

    Your guess about the diesel pumps is reasonable, but if they had been able to get them working, it may be that w/ the input ducts plugged, even had they been fired-up, it would not have forestalled the further over-heating of the core rods.

    Bottom line: the mechanicals were considerable; the engineering and planning was thorough; but heap together a series of concomitant adverse events, and Murphy’s law turns out to be alive and well. In balance, electricity from nuclear fuels/reactions can cause mammoth tragedy for planetary life forms…and we are stuck with it now because of the existing number of plants not to mention those being built and planned to serve nearly 7 billion people. None of this even addresses the vast problem of waste. The diesel pumps was not THE nail, but A nail (or a screw :).

  • I’d like to read through the decision making process in greater detail.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • Twitchy flerg. Expletive. Okay second time in seven years, I think I’m allowed…

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • Once you understand that a meltdown will happen if electrical power is not continuously available, other catastrophic scenarios come to mind. A massive plane crash, an EMP device, a tornado, or sophisticated sabotage could all disable electrical systems sufficiently to cause a meltdown. The public was never told that these plants will melt down if they lose electrical power. It was always assumed that they could be made safe in such a contingency. Now we are watching them explode.

  • Also, Don’s link provides a thorough explanation of … The defence in depth design principle. The idea is that there should be redundant systems with no components in common, and therefore (theoretically) no possibility for common mode failures. Each system should be capable of independently preventing a design-basis accident.

    Also mentioned is the fact that these nuclear facilities should never have been built in a known seismic active area in the first place.

    The Japanese government had been repeatedly warned about seismic risks:

    [..] the real embarrassment for the Japanese government is not so much the nature of the accident but the fact it was warned long ago about the risks it faced in building nuclear plants in areas of intense seismic activity. Several years ago, the seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko stated, specifically, that such an accident was highly likely to occur. Nuclear power plants in Japan have a “fundamental vulnerability” to major earthquakes, Katsuhiko said in 2007. The government, the power industry and the academic community had seriously underestimated the potential risks posed by major quakes.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • Containment systems are not completely thought out. There is no way to account for all possible problems, so engineers plan for a specific set of scenarios. And if everything else fails, then the containment is the tool of last resort.

    For example the scenario of a 747 hitting a plant like the ones in Japan. Control, cooling, primary and backup power, etc would all be lost. Gravity ‘should’ shut down the reactor in a worse case scenario by dropping the control rods, but there is no guarantee that will happen.

    In many nuclear designs, including the ones in Japan, the containment vessel is not a necessary item for the functioning of the plant. Chernobyl didn’t have a containment vessel. Neither do spent rods in storage worldwide. Radiation is controlled by other means.

    In the specific case of the Japanese plants, remember how old they are? After they had been built many years ago, they discovered a design flaw in the containment vessels that would allow for pooled super hot fuel to spread and cut through the containment vessel bottom, punching a hole in a couple of days. Newer plants of the same design have a different containment vessel. So the best laid plans of the engineers at the time did result in a fool proof containment vessel.

  • Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • Japan’s nuclear crisis deepens as third reactor loses cooling capacity

    Washington Post, By Steven Mufson & Chico Harlan, March 14

    Japan’s nuclear crisis deepened Monday as utility officials reported that four out of five pumps being used to flood the Unit 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi complex had failed and that the other pump had briefly stopped working, hastening the meltdown of fuel rods that at one point were fully exposed.

    According to a report by Kyodo News agency, the fifth pump has been refueled and seawater mixed with boron is again being injected in a desperate bid to cool the reactor, but the fuel rods remain partially exposed and ultra-hot. The other four pumps were thought to have been damaged by a blast earlier Monday that destroyed a building at the nearby Unit 3 reactor, Kyodo reported.

    The new crisis in Unit 2 increases the chances that another explosion will take place at the complex as hydrogen builds up in the outer building surrounding the reactor. A similar explosion on Saturday destroyed a building at the Unit 1 reactor.

    Day Four of the battle to regain control of the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex has turned out to be one of the most difficult so far.

    […]

    Although the hot fuel rods are still encased in six inches of steel, and then inside concrete, and then in a building with layers of steel and concrete, the intense heat they generate could eventually eat through those layers if Tokyo Electric and Japanese authorities do not figure out how to cool the rods. It is impossible to see into the reactor core, so officials are speculating about what is happening inside by using a variety of gauges and indicators.

    […]

    At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1, where the explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that Unit 1’s pool might now be outside.

    “That would be like Chernobyl on steroids,” said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1.

    People familiar with the plant said there are seven spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi, many of them densely packed.

    Gundersen said the Unit 1 pool could have as much as 20 years of spent fuel rods, which are still radioactive.

    At Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3, the explosion was an indicator of serious problems inside the reactor core.

    Victor Gilinsky, a former commissioner at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said that to produce hydrogen, temperatures in the reactor core had to be well over 2,000 degrees and as high as 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. He said a substantial amount of fuel had to be exposed at least at some point.

    “That’s the significance of the hydrogen — it means there was serious fuel damage and probably melting,” said Gilinsky, who was at the NRC when Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island reactor had a partial meltdown in 1979. “How much? We won’t know for a long time. At TMI we didn’t know for five years, until the vessels were opened. It was a shock.”


    Risk of meltdown increases at Japan nuclear reactor

    Los Angeles Times, By Thomas H. Maugh II, March 14

    Fuel rods have been exposed to air at a third reactor at Japan’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, sharply raising the risk of a meltdown, plant officials say. Three reactors are being cooled with seawater at the plant after its emergency cooling system failed.

    The fuel rods at a third nuclear reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have been fully exposed to air for short periods of time and at least partially exposed for more than three hours, allowing them to heat up and sharply raising the risk of a meltdown, according to officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the plant.

    The cooling problems at reactor No. 2 represent the most serious development in the ongoing problems at the nuclear power plant to date, according to nuclear specialist Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    Engineers had begun using firehoses to pump seawater into the reactor at the facility, the third reactor to receive the last-ditch treatment, after the plant’s emergency cooling system had failed and the fuel rods had been partially exposed to the air.

    Company officials said the workers were not paying sufficient attention to the process, however, and let the pump run out of fuel, allowing the fuel rods to become exposed.

    Once the pump was restarted and water flow was restored, another worker inadvertently closed a valve that was designed to vent steam from the containment vessel. As pressure built up inside the vessel, the pumps could no longer force water into it and the fuel rods were once more exposed.

    The company said it was confident it could reopen the valve and restore water flow, but it has not yet announced that it has done so. Officials are now talking about spraying seawater on the outside of the reactor vessel to help cool it.


    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • Apart from the danger of catastrophic radiation release, the economic impact of even a near-meltdown is huge. A badly damaged reactor is going to be down for years, nullifying its return on investment, and the necessary cleanup will be hugely expensive. At Three Mile Island, it took 12 years and cost almost $1 billion.

    If a coal or petroleum-fired plant was totally destroyed, the cleanup and replacement costs would be far less than the cleanup costs of a failed nuclear reactor. Add in the radiation release risks, and nuclear power, at least with current designs, looks like a losing proposition.

  • And the frame is: Can we risk using this technology?

    I appreciated your piece on the impact on the Japanese and global economy. After the human catastrophe, the impact on the struggling economies of the world is of critical importance.

    We all know, without any doubt, how 9/11 was exploited to justify the Iraq invasion. It’s time to start asking how The Money Party will use this tragedy to shove something even more unpalatable down our throats. I have full faith in their mendacity.
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  • Often referred to as a clusterf#%$. What a disaster that will be and it’s nuclear. Too bad those Utah folks were so wrong on fusion.

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  • Just not by the U.S. government, which is too corrupt to trust, not with the way American culture treats science, and not by private companies with a profit motive.

  • ABC

    There was a new explosion Tuesday morning at a reactor the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and the company that runs the plant said water may be leaking from the reactor.

    Half of the rods inside the reactor were not immersed in water and the suppression pool, which holds the water used to keep the rods cool, seemed to be damaged, according to Tokyo Electric Co. and government officials.

    The level of radiation also rose around the reactor, but a government official said there was no danger.

    “The radioactive level near unit 2 has gone up, but at this juncture, the level is not judged to be immediately harmful to human bodies,” said Noriyuki Shikata, a spokesman in the prime minister’s office.

    The blast is the third at the plant in the three days since a powerful earthquake struck Japan on Friday.

    The state of the plant and fears of a possible meltdown and radiation release have been growing as workers struggled to keep the reactors cool to minimize the dangers.

    The explosion, which occurred at 6:10 a.m., came shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency had announced that the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant had been shut down.

  • WaPo

    The blast at Dai-ichi Unit 2 followed two hydrogen explosions at the plant — the latest on Monday — as authorities struggle to prevent the catastrophic release of radiation in the area devastated by a tsunami.

    The latest explosion was heard at 6:10 a.m. Tuesday (2110 GMT Monday), a spokesman for the Nuclear Safety Agency said at a news conference. The plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said the explosion occurred near the suppression pool in the reactor’s containment vessel. The pool was later found to have a defect.

  • NKK

    The Tokyo Electric Power Company says there is a possibility of fuel rods melting in the Number Two reactor at its Fukushima Number One plant.

    A company official said at a news conference on Tuesday that the level of cooling water is now too low to measure.

    He indicated that the fuel rods may have overheated and begun melting.

    Followed by..ABC News

    Japan Earthquake: Third Reactor at Fukushima Nuclear Plant Explodes
    Blast Came After IAEA Said Containment Vessels at Fukushima Nuclear Reactors Seem to Be Working By DAVID MUIR and JESSICA HOPPER

    There was a new explosion Tuesday morning at a reactor the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and the company that runs the plant said water may be leaking from the reactor.

    Half of the rods inside the reactor were not immersed in water and the suppression pool, which holds the water used to keep the rods cool, seemed to be damaged, according to Tokyo Electric Co. and government officials.

    The level of radiation also rose around the reactor, but a government official said there was no danger.

    “The radioactive level near unit 2 has gone up, but at this juncture, the level is not judged to be immediately harmful to human bodies,” said Noriyuki Shikata, a spokesman in the prime minister’s office.

    and.. Japan Nuclear Watch: Third Explosion, Possible Cracked Containment at Unit 2

    Japanese authorities now reporting that about 6:14 a.m. (Tokyo) Tuesday, March 15, there was an explosion at the Daiichi Unit 2 of the Fukushima Nuclear Station. This explosion was heard, not seen from the outside.

    The explosion reportedly occurred near the containment area. Plant officials fear there may now be a crack in the reactor containment, which would allow more serious releases of radiation. A “pressure suppression pool,” the doughnut-shaped area at the bottom of the reactor vessel may have been damaged, which officials are describing as “serious.”

    They are evacuating non-essential personnel around the plant. Radiation levels spiked to 965 microsievert, and then fell back, but remain at elevated levels. Winds are from the NNW.

    At the time of the explosion, about one half of the reactor core — about 2.7 meters — had become uncovered.

    Also in the Japanese earthquake disaster pile-on…

    NHK – Fire at Fukushima thermal power plant

    A fire has broken out at a thermal power plant in quake-hit Fukushima Prefecture. No injuries have been reported.

    The plant’s operator Tohoku Electric Power Company says the fire started on Monday afternoon at its Haramachi plant in Minamisoma City, which has been devastated by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.

  • Analysis from NYT
    By HIROKO TABUCHI, KEITH BRADSHER and MATT WALD

    The blast appeared to be different — and more severe — than those that at two other troubled reactor at the same nuclear complex because this one, reported to have occurred at 6:14 a.m., happened in the “pressure suppression room” in the cooling area of the reactor, raising the possibility to damage to the reactor’s containment vessel.

    Any damage to the steel containment vessel of a nuclear reactor is considered critical because it raises the prospect of an uncontrolled release of radioactive material and full meltdown of the nuclear fuel inside. To date, even during the four-day crisis in Japan that amounts to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, workers had managed to avoid a breach of a containment vessel and had limited releases of radioactive steam to relatively low levels.

    Details of what happened remain unclear, with executives of Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s operator, giving only preliminary reports of damage to the suppression pool but declining to provide a full explanation of what that meant.

    But the new blast came after emergency operations to pump seawater into the same reactor failed, leaving the nuclear fuel in that reactor dangerously exposed late Monday into early Tuesday morning.

    Tokyo Electric Power said late Monday that a malfunctioning valve made it impossible to release pressure in the reactor, which in turn thwarted efforts to inject seawater into it to cool the fuel. The water levels inside the reactor’s containment vessel fell and left its fuel rods exposed — perhaps completely exposed — for some hours.

    Workers had been having difficulty injecting seawater into the reactor because its vents — necessary to release pressure in the containment vessel by allowing radioactive steam to escape — had stopped working properly, they said.

    In the predawn hours of Tuesday Tokyo Electric announced that workers had finally succeeded in opening a malfunctioning valve controlling the vents, reducing pressure in the container vessel. It then resumed flooding the reactor with water.

    But the company said water levels were not immediately rising to the desired level, possibly because of a leak in the containment vessel.

    A Tokyo Electric official had earlier described the situation as improving. “We do not feel that a critical event is imminent,” he told a press conference.

    But the explosion appeared to suggest that the efforts to contain the problem at that reactor had failed.

    In reactor No. 2, which is now the most damaged of the three at the Daiichi plant, at least parts of the fuel rods have been exposed for several hours, which also suggests that some of the fuel has begun to melt. Government and company officials said fuel melting has almost certainly occurred in that reactor, which can increase releases of radioactive material through the water and steam that escapes from the container vessel.

    In a worst case, the fuel pellets could also burn through the bottom of the containment vessel and radioactive material could pour out that way — often referred to as a full meltdown.

    “There is a possibility that the fuel rods are heating up and starting to melt,” said a Tokyo Electric spokesman told a late-night conference on Monday, televised on public broadcaster NHK. “It is our understanding that we have possible damage to the fuel rods,” he said.

    By Monday night, officials said that radiation readings around the plant reached 3,130 micro Sievert, the highest yet detected at the Daiichi facility since the quake and six times the legal limit. Radiation levels of that magnitude are considered elevated, but they are much lower than would be the case if one of the container vessels had been compromised.

  • Information in this item was all over the net before the third explosion but it’s disappearing from the web faster than a magician’s girlfriend. Still found at

    LA Times

    By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times

    Engineers had begun using firehoses to pump seawater into the reactor at the facility, the third reactor to receive the last-ditch treatment, after the plant’s emergency cooling system had failed and the fuel rods had been partially exposed to the air.

    Company officials said the workers were not paying sufficient attention to the process, however, and let the pump run out of fuel, allowing the fuel rods to become exposed.

    Once the pump was restarted and water flow was restored, another worker inadvertently closed a valve that was designed to vent steam from the containment vessel. As pressure built up inside the vessel, the pumps could no longer force water into it and the fuel rods were once more exposed.

    The company said it was confident it could reopen the valve and restore water flow, but it has not yet announced that it has done so. Officials are now talking about spraying seawater on the outside of the reactor vessel to help cool it.

    Then came Explosion number three.

  • I hope your family is ok.

    Thinking about you.


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • NHK, March 15

    Fuel rods at the Number Two reactor at a power plant in quake-hit Fukushima Prefecture remain exposed.

    Earlier, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said the valve to vent steam and reduce pressure inside the reactor closed at 11 PM on Monday.

    It said the increased pressure at the reactor made it impossible to pump water in. The water level dropped sharply, possibly fully exposing the fuel rods.

    The company managed to open the valve to reduce pressure and let seawater into the reactor at around 1 AM on Tuesday.

    But as of 3 AM, the water level remains low and the fuel rods remain exposed.

    […]

    A company official says there is no imminent danger.


    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • A company official says there is no imminent danger. Lol


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • The sloshing around reminds me of all the coal plants perched by major rivers, Mississippi etc., with their horrible tailing pools and assorted toxic garbage. If you washed some hundreds of tons of that shit down the Mississippi it would be way worse than a nuke plant or 2 blowing up, in the big picture.

    Hongpong.com

  • Seeing reporting indicating that they’re losing more water than they can account for by boiling off…

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • I posted a comment over 6 hours ago that human error had resulted in a problem where they couldn’t vent air out of the vessel, and that was forcing water out the other end, and they couldn’t pump any more water in, and the fuel rods were exposed.

    My source? Non-official reports.

    Anybody that believes for even a minute what the “officials” are saying is a fool and a rube.

    What are they doing now?

    The shutdown is taking place, but they are venting massive amounts of radiation via the steam being generated during cooling, and pumping massive amounts of contaminated water back into the ocean. They will have to continue to do so for several weeks if a containment vessel breach can still be avoided. The fuel rods are either melted or have deformed and expanded to the point where any coolant circulation is severely disrupted, and spot temperatures are beyond the melting point of the rods.

    Doesn’t anybody else find it suspicious that a US Navy Aircraft Carrier detects radiation 60 miles away, aircraft crews that were not going anywhere near the nuclear plants are coming back contaminated, and the whole fleet decides to go somewhere else far away? All because of some ‘minor’ venting at the power plants.

    Just like in Three Mile Island and Chernobyl , we are being lied to by the officials and most of all, the Nuclear Industry in order to protect their status and their businesses.

    If they can keep flushing the containment vessel for another 5 weeks, we should be OK at this point. If they are unable to maintain any kind of cooling, then “it won’t be as bad as Chernobyl” will be a wry joke told with tears in our eyes.

  • …microsieverts – not clear what the sustained level is.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • TOKYO (AP) — 9:56 pm eastern US
    Japan’s nuclear safety agency said an explosion Tuesday at an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant may have damaged a reactor’s containment vessel and that a radiation leak is feared.

    The nuclear core of Unit 2 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in northeast Japan was undamaged, said a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Shigekazu Omukai.

    The agency suspects the explosion early Tuesday may have damaged the reactor’s suppression chamber, a water-filled tube at the bottom of the container that surrounds the nuclear core, said another agency spokesman, Shinji Kinjo. He said that chamber is part of the container wall, so damage to it could allow radiation to escape.

    “A leak of nuclear material is feared,” said another agency spokesman, Shinji Kinjo. He said the agency had no details of possible damage to the chamber.

    Radiation levels measured at the front gate of the Dai-ichi plant spiked following Tuesday’s explosion, Kinjo said.

    Detectors showed 11,900 microsieverts of radiation three hours after the blast, up from just 73 microsieverts beforehand, Kinjo said. He said there was no immediate health risk because the higher measurement was less radiation that a person receives from an X-ray. He said experts would worry about health risks if levels exceed 100,000 microsieverts.

  • Not sure what bearing this has, but apparently gamma radiation levels are elevated. From Zero Hedge:

    Gamma Radiation In Fukushima-Downwind Ibaraki Disclosed, 30 Times Above Normal

    For all who have been looking for real-time radiation data from Japan, you are in luck. Or maybe not, as the data unfortunately indicates nothing good. The System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) releases gamma radiation data online. The site is jittery and apparently not suited for major traffic which is why we represent several screen captures of the data. While it is not surprising that according to the website both Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are entirely “Under Survey” as it makes sense that the government does not want to generate panic, SPEEDI has disclosed some tell-tale data about cities in Ibaraki prefecture, which is just a hundred or so miles north of Tokyo, and is just south of the ill-fated Fukushima prefecture. And the data is stunning: based on a N, NE and NNE wind direction (where it originates), meaning all coming from Fukushima, with a normal reading in the 80 nGy/h range, the city of Kounosu Naka is at 3,024, Kadobe Naka is at 2,416, Isobe Hitachioota is at 1,213 and many others are in the mid to upper triple digit range! Again, this is based on wind coming out of Fukushima and ultimately headed toward the capital. Indicatively, normal terrestrial plus cosmic gamma radiation is about 80 nGy/h.


    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • …I’d have to say that the official story has held together pretty well.

    If fool and rube means I don’t swallow facts fitted around a predetermined narrative, I guess that makes me a fool and a rube. ~ not-Rich Armitage

  • Anyone know the standard length of time they’re referencing? (i.e., exposure per hour, per day, etc.)

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • Delightful.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • …estimated that the possibility of losing primary containment in these general types of reactors in a meltdown at 42%. Odds would seem pretty good that if they have to evacuate the site we’re going to find put how good secondary containment is…

    http://allthingsnuclear.org/post/3842650618/sunday-update-on-fukushima-reactors

    And one of the reactors has already gone boomsie down there.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • It’s been a nerve wracking few days, but they managed to get themselves aboard the first flight out of Narita, home to Canada and safety. Apparently, 6 mos old infant son/ my precious grandbaby weathered the trauma without a problem, especially enjoying the bouncy 5.0 – 6.0 relentless aftershocks. As for the rest of the extended family still in Japan, the worry is palpable. We’re hanging in there trying to figure out viable remedies, one step at a time.

  • from the LA Times:

    “Another serious risk involves the more than 200 tons of spent nuclear fuel that is stored in pools adjacent to the reactors, Alvarez said. Those cooling pools depend on continually circulating water to keep the fuel rods from catching on fire. Without power to circulate the water, it heats up and potentially boils away, leaving the fuel rods exposed to air.

    “An aerial photograph of the Fukushima complex shows the loss of high-capacity cranes needed to move equipment to service the reactor. The photo also appears to show that the spent fuel pool is steaming hot, an abnormal condition that may indicate the water is boiling off, Alvarez said.

    “U.S. nuclear experts said they were particularly concerned about reactor No. 3 because it is fueled in part with plutonium, an element used in hydrogen bombs that can be more difficult to control than the enriched uranium that is normally used to fuel nuclear power plants.”

  • but in this, I’m very sad to say, I think you will soon be proven wrong.

    Mind you, the official story has been been, shall we say, beset with vagueness in its interpretation of events. From that perspective, I suppose the most recent statments do represent “holding together” in a consistently fluid sort of way.

    CTV

    CTV.ca News Staff

    Explosion, fire at Japanese nuclear plant; workers leave

    Date: Mon. Mar. 14 2011 11:59 PM ET

    An explosion at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has caused further damage to the Unit 2 reactor, while a fire has broken out at Unit 4, worsening an already harrowing crisis and forcing emergency workers to leave the site.

    Radiation levels around the plant Tuesday were measured at 8,217 microsieverts an hour — more than 7,000 above the legal limit. Anyone less than 20 kilometres of the reactors was urged to leave the area, while anyone within 20 to 30 km was told to stay inside.

  • NYT

    Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise

    By HIROKO TABUCHI, DAVID E. SANGER and KEITH BRADSHER
    Published: March 15, 2011
    (2am eastern)

    Hiroko Tabuchi reported from Tokyo, Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong and David E. Sanger from Washington. Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.

    TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to the statements of Japanese government and industry officials.

    In a brief address to the nation at 11 a.m. Tokyo time, Prime Minister Naoto Kan pleaded for calm, but warned that radiation had already spread from the crippled reactors and there was “a very high risk” of further leakage. Fortunately, the prevailing winds were sweeping most of the plume of radioactivity out into the Pacific Ocean, rather than over populated areas.

    The sudden turn of events, after an explosion Monday at one reactor and then an early-morning explosion Tuesday at yet another — the third in four days at the plant — already made the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl reactor disaster a quarter century ago.

    It diminished hopes earlier in the day that engineers at the plant, working at tremendous personal risk, might yet succeed in cooling down the most damaged of the reactors, No. 2, by pumping in sea water. According to government statements, most of the 800 workers at the plant had been withdrawn, leaving 50 or so workers in a desperate effort to keep the cores of three stricken reactors cooled with seawater pumped by firefighting equipment, while the same crews battled to put out the fire at the No. 4 reactor, which they claimed to have done just after noon on Tuesday.

    That fourth reactor had been turned off and was under refurbishment for months before the earthquake and tsunami hit the plant on Friday. But the plant contains spent fuel rods that were removed from the reactor, and experts guessed that the pool containing those rods had run dry, allowing the rods to overheat and catch fire. That is almost as dangerous as the fuel in working reactors melting down, because the spent fuel can also spew radioactivity into the atmosphere.

    After an emergency cabinet meeting, the Japanese government told people living within 30 kilometers, about 18 miles, of the Daiichi plant to stay indoors, keep their windows closed and stop using air conditioning.

    […]

    The two critical questions over the next day or so are how much radioactive material is spewed into the atmosphere, and where the winds carry it. Readings reported on Tuesday showed a spike of radioactivity around the plant that made the leakage categorically worse than in had been, with radiation levels measured at one point as high as 400 millisieverts an hour. Even 7 minutes of exposure at that level will reach the maximum annual dose that a worker at an American nuclear plant is allowed. And exposure for 75 minutes would likely lead to acute radiation sickness.

    The extent of the public health risk depends on how long such elevated levels persist — they may have declined after the fire at No. 4 reactor was extinguished — as well as how far and fast the radioactive materials spread, and whether the limited evacuation plan announced by the government proves sufficient.

    In Tokyo, 170 miles south of the plant, the metropolitan government said Tuesday it had detected radiation levels 20 times the usual above the city, though it stressed that that level posed no immediate health threat. In Ibaraki Prefecture, just south of Fukushima Prefecture where the plant is located, the amount of radiation reached 100 times the usual levels.

    The succession of problems at Daiichi was initially difficult to interpret — with confusion compounded by incomplete and inconsistent information provided by government officials and executives of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power.

    But industry executives in close contact with officials in Japan expressed extreme concern that the authorities were close to losing control over the fuel melting that has been ongoing in three reactors at Daiichi, especially at the crippled No. 2 reactor where the containment has been damaged.

    Tokyo Electric Power said Tuesday that after the explosion at the No. 2 reactor, pressure had dropped in the “suppression pool” — a section at the bottom of the reactor that converts steam to water and is part of the critical function of keeping the nuclear fuel protected. After that occurred, radiation levels outside No. 2 were reported to have risen sharply.

    “We are on the brink. We are now facing the worst-case scenario,” said Hiroaki Koide, a senior reactor engineering specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University. “We can assume that the containment vessel at Reactor No. 2 is already breached. If there is heavy melting inside the reactor, large amounts of radiation will most definitely be released.”

    Another executive said the chain of events at Daiichi suggested that it would be difficult to maintain emergency seawater cooling operations for an extended period if the containment vessel at one reactor had been compromised because radiation levels could threaten the health of workers nearby.

    If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since Chernobyl.

    Even if a full meltdown is averted, Japanese officials have been facing unpalatable options. One was to continue flooding the reactors and venting the resulting steam, while hoping that the prevailing winds did not turn south toward Tokyo or west, across northern Japan to the Korean Peninsula. The other was to hope that the worst of the overheating was over, and that with the passage of a few more days the nuclear cores would cool enough to essentially entomb the radioactivity inside the plants, which clearly will never be used again. Both approaches carried huge risks.

    While Japanese officials made no comparisons to past accidents, the release of an unknown quantity of radioactive gases and particles — all signs that the reactor cores were damaged from at least partial melting of fuel — added considerable tension to the effort to cool the reactors.

    “It’s way past Three Mile Island already,” said Frank von Hippel, a physicist and professor at Princeton. “The biggest risk now is that the core really melts down and you have a steam explosion.”

    The sharp deterioration came after a frantic day and night of rescue efforts focused largely on the No. 2 reactor. There, a malfunctioning valve prevented workers from manually venting the containment vessel to release pressure and allow fresh seawater to be injected into it. That meant that the extraordinary remedy emergency workers had jury-rigged to keep the nuclear fuel from overheating no longer worked.

    As a result, the nuclear fuel in that reactor was exposed for many hours, increasing the risk of a breach of the container vessel and more dangerous emissions of radioactive particles.

    By Tuesday morning, Tokyo Electric Power said that it had fixed the valve and resumed seawater injections, but that it had detected possible leaks in the containment vessel that prevented water from fully covering the fuel rods.

    Then an explosion hit that reactor. After a series of conflicting reports about what level of damage was inflicted on the reactor after that blast, Mr. Edano said, “there is a very high probability that a portion of the container vessel was damaged.”

    The steel container vessels that protect nuclear fuel in reactors are considered crucial to maintain the integrity of the reactor and the safety of the fuel.

    Mr. Edano, however, said that the level of leaking at the No. 2 reactor remained small, raising the prospect that the container was sufficiently intact to protect the nuclear fuel inside.

  • …the government is not telling the true nature of the emergency. This is far worse than we’re being told…
    Al Jazeera rocks; their coverage is awesome and Amy Goodman has a very informative broadcast today.
    http://www.democracynow.org/


    Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them,and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows,or with both~FDouglas

  • Reuters – VIENNA, March 15 | Tue Mar 15, 2011 3:57am EDT
    Japan has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog that it has extinguished a fire at the spent fuel storage pond of its earthquake-stricken reactor, the Vienna-based agency said.

    “Japanese authorities have confirmed that the fire at the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was extinguished,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

    It had said earlier on Monday that the fire may have been caused by a hydrogen explosion and that radioactivity was being released “directly” into the atmosphere. (Reporting by Sylvia Westall)

  • Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:48am EDT

    TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) – A pool containing spent fuel at the quake-hit Fukushima Daiichi No.4 reactor may be boiling and the water level may be falling, Kyodo news agency quoted an official at the reactor’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co , as saying on Tuesday.

    News of the problem at the shuttered reactor came after the U.N. Nuclear watchdog said earlier on Tuesday that Japan told it a fire had been extinguished at the storage pool.

    (Reporting by Edmund Klamann)


  • Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them,and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows,or with both~FDouglas

  • “Fortunately, the prevailing winds were sweeping most of the plume of radioactivity out into the Pacific Ocean, rather than over populated areas.”

    Yum, mutant sushi…

  • There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there (with all due respect to the sushi). The wind projection was for three days and that was two days ago. This is clusterfuck but we have the internet to keep us updated on those emergency buckwheat pancakes…

    http://www.stormsurf.com/

    ————-
    The Money Party RSS

    They can’t process me. I’m not normal. Charlie Sheen

  • …totally makes my head hurt. As I read it:

    1 sievert = 100 rem
    1000 millisievert = 100 rem
    1,000,000 microsievert = 100 rem

    Therfore:

    10 millisievert = 1 rem
    10,000 microsievert = 1 rem

    I checked it on one the many online converters and it seems to confirm 1.2 rem, but it’s pre-coffee here…

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was informed by Japanese authorities that the fire took place at a storage pond for spent fuel rods at the plant’s number 4 unit, and that radioactivity was released directly into the atmosphere at dose rates equivalent to 4,000 chest X-rays every hour.

    voa

    TeH Goddess Rocks 😉

  • …tracking stuff back to primaries and every time I get back to something where it’s someone who knows what they’re talking about (and I’m talking about starting from some fairly extreme secondaries) I get to the official statements. That says to me that they’ve been fairly good at getting good data out there. One can certainly make it look like they haven’t been forthcoming by picking arbitrary accounts and datapoints, but I like to do my curvefitting with as much data as possible.

    Short form: I’m a print guy, not a broadcast guy and I pay attention to the time slugs.

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • (I know that you will question the source but…)
    ===================
    An ex-government official in Tokyo who has been speaking anonymously with Bellona Web throughout the crisis said Tuesday that “the government is basically trying to avoid a coup by saying that whatever [radiation] measurements they record are much higherthan normal conditions, but that they are amounts that will not immediately effect human health.”

    He said the Japanese were suffering from a dearth of real information on how to respond to the growing crisis because Fukushima Daiichi’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) “is only making announcements when something happens, and every time, they say it is not a serious incident.”

    The government was only making problems worse, he said, by simply repeating TEPCO’s announcements and assurances, meaning that no one with direct knowledge of developments at the plant knows or will say what the population should do to protect itself.

    “The amount of radiation is rising dramatically each time a new incident is announced, and each time they say it is nothing to fear,” wrote the source in an email interview from his apartment in Tokyo where he is taking shelter with his family.

    =================
    They are also reporting there is no more Boron to dope the seawater to help slow the reaction, that most workers have been removed, that multiple containment vessels are running dry and are at high risk of breaching.

    Source: http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/workers_evacutate

  • …and their track record to evaluate (not systemically biased against such groups – some of the folks I know with the best weapons system knowledge work with Ploughshares). What I would be more concerned about is what we take away from a former government personality who may or may not have current access – valuable on the systemic pressures, but I don’t know that it’s sufficiently determinative for us to conclude that things are a lot worse than currently acknowledged. Do they want to shade it, shit yeah – wouldn’t be human if they didn’t; are they flat out lying, that I don’t know.

    The access to coolant news isn’t good. Sounds like they’re slipping further behind the cascade…

    Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent. ~ Pierre Trudeau

  • This is clusterfuck but we have the internet to keep us updated on those emergency buckwheat pancakes… Condescending much?

    But since you brought up buckwheat, I might as well provide more information. Buckwheat pancakes, although delicious, are not as nutritious as whole buckwheat grain since the process of making flower eliminates some of the nutrients. A better way to consume buckwheat, therefore, is in the form of groats (Kasha) which can be served as an alternative to rice or made into a porridge.

    Granted, the link I provided here, appears at first glance unimpressive. But let its kitchy look not deter you as it provides the most extensive and detailed information on anti-radiation foods I’ve seen.

    That said, I do understand you have far more important matters to attend to. After all, the food we eat is rather low on the totem pole compared to the many deep and insightful discussions about la catastrophe du jour, n’est-ce pas?


    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

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