Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 15, 2011

Status At The Fukushima Reactors

Spent nuclear fuel, once used in a reactor, still produces heat while waste products within the fuel rods continue to decay. The fuel elements need several years of permanent cooling by circulating water. If the cooling water is not circulated, it will evaporate and without being covered with water, the zirconium cladding around the hot Uranium fuel rods will start to react with surrounding steam and produce hydrogen. The hydrogen may accumulate and explode as happened in unit 1 and 3 at the Japanese plant. Without cooling the cladding will melt and with a bit more heat the Uranium fuel itself will melt, eventually accumulating at the bottom of the pool and further react there.

The first four of the six Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor units are in trouble. There are some 700 fuel rods within the pressure vessel of each reactor core. There are also additional 3450 used fuel elements in the primary cooling ponds above each reactor. These pools are outside the primary containment, but withing the secondary containment, i.e. the outer building wall. The status of these cooling ponds is unknown. As the roof has blown off violently from unit 1 and 3 their cooling ponds may have blown empty of cooling water and are open to the environment. Additionally all the primary cooling ponds in unit 1 to 4 are likely to have no water circulation. The primary cooling ponds in unit 5 and 6 may not have water circulation either.



GE Boiling Water Reactor Mark I
The primary cooling pond at the upper right below the crane.
(more detailed pdf)

There is a common secondary cooling pond at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility. It contains some 6290 fuel elements and is at ground level. It may well have been damaged when the Tsunami waves ran through and may have no water circulation. Its current status is unknown.

Additional spent fuel, cooled down buts still radioactive, is kept in dry storage casks at the facility. Their status is unknown but with a weight of 100 ton each the casks may have stayed in place when the Tsunami waves ran through. The current total inventory (pdf) at Fukushima Dai-ichi is 1,760 tons of Uranium.

On Saturday the top of the secondary containment of unit 1 blew off in a hydrogen explosion.

On Monday the top of the secondary containment of unit 3 blew off in a hydrogen explosion. This explosion seemed more violent than the one at unit 1 and huge parts of the structure could be seen rising over a hundred yards into the air before violently coming down.

Some seawater cooling has been restored to unit one and three but is not circulated. The cooling method now used is 'feed and bleed', supply water and release steam, which is not viable as a longer term measure.

Unit 2 may have been damaged by parts which came down from the unit 3 explosion. A central pressure release valve stopped functioning. Early Tuesday there was an explosion in unit 2. This one not at the roof level but at the doughnut shaped (torus) suppression water pool at the bottom of the reactor. The suppression pool is part of the primary containment. Escaping steam and a higher level of radiation was observed after the explosion. This lets one assume that the primary containment at unit 2 is now damaged and reliable further cooling at unit 2 may be impossible. There is a high danger that unit 2 may have a serious meltdown.

Unit 4: The reactor itself was shut down when the earth quake and tsunami happened. But the used fuel pool, which is needed to cool spent fuel that earlier had been removed from the core, ran dry after the electricity supply ran out. The used fuel became too hot and produced some hydrogen. There was a fire at unit 4 primary cooling pool late Monday/early Tuesday. The unit has lost a part of its secondary containment.

Early Tuesday radiation of up to 400 millisievert per hour (400,000 microsievert per hour) was observed within unit 4. Short term exposition to 1000 millisievert per hour has immediate negative health effects. Anything above an accumulated 100 millisivert per year(!) is considered to be longterm dangerous. Part of the staff have been evacuated from the site. Normal background radiation is 0.02 microsievert per hour.

As of now unit 1 and 3 have cooled down below boiling temperature and may be regarded as temporary save. Further complications at these units are likely to occure. The status of unit 2 is unknown. Unit 4 is still without reliable cooling.

Some more details at AllThingsNuclear, Pictures of the damaged reactor buildings at ISIS. Digital Globe satellite picture of damaged reactor buildings.

Regular updates are for now available at the IAEA Incident and Emergency Center and the ArmsControlWonk.

Posted by b on March 15, 2011 at 7:09 UTC | Permalink

Comments

Something I do not understand. Why did they allow no.3 to blow up?

The problem of accumulating hydrogen and the possible explosion was known after no.1 blew up. Why did they not vent the top of no.3 outer containment - a bit more radiation release for sure, but safe against an explosion.

This way the explosion severely damaged no. 3, four of the five pumps relieving no. 2 were disabled by the explosion and the outer containment of 2 and 4 was damaged by it.

Very bad ...

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 10:30 utc | 1

Because whatever they are publicly telling about the situation the reality is that it's completely out of control and has been for days. That's what the developments the last three days say.

It's going from bad to worse at a very fast pace (with the nightly interruptions due to lack of report from the Japanese side, morning in EU) while all the pro-nuclear crowd is shouting hysterically that even if the worse is happening it isn't, after all, so bad.

What happens when the radioactivity around the Fukushima Daiichi plant becomes so high that anyone working there is signing his dead sentence? Do we know that this didn't already happened? The company has removed all their workers but 50 trying to keep the three reactors refrigerated. You can't just switch one of those things and leave for the weekend. They will need days or even weeks to be even remotely 'safe'. And in the best case they will have three or four blocks of highly radioactive partially destroyed trash that will require millions to remove or store 'safely' for decades or centuries.

After reactor 3 exploded there has been very little talk about the danger of the experimental combustible used there, that is a mix of plutonium and uranium oxide (MOX). On the first day that was presented as more dangerous that what was happening in reactor 1. Now the 'experts' are silent.

See how cheap nuclear energy is with the current technology.

Posted by: ThePaper | Mar 15 2011 11:14 utc | 2

Speculation, but as ThePaper notes, thing is at least partly out of control. I suspect the explosion at building 3 was partly controlled, taking into account the then dominant winds. Today/night the window started blowing from the NE - there is a huge metropolis downwind. They really are trying to avoid an even worse disaster.

Dunno if you've seen the PM's adress to the nation today. He was different, flat speech, nervous and rather livid. He's reportedly very angry about Tepcos delay (~1 hour) in notifying his office about the blast at plant 2 earlier today. There might be more.

Posted by: Philippe | Mar 15 2011 12:06 utc | 3

WTF

[1:13 PM BREAKING: Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yukio] Edano said the figures that have been released to date measuring the level of radiation around the plant have been misquoted as micro sieverts. He said the unit attached to the figures should have been milli sieverts which are 1,000 times stronger and much more damaging to human health.
If true - this is criminal.

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 12:26 utc | 4

Here is some data about radiation levels in outer tokyo today - take it with a proverbial grain of salt, as much of the data comes from Tepco.

Hino refers to this place.

Posted by: Philippe | Mar 15 2011 12:27 utc | 5

have been misquoted as micro sieverts. He said the unit attached to the figures should have been milli sieverts which are 1,000 times stronger and much more damaging to human health.

so what does this mean now?: Early Tuesday radiation of up to 400 millisievert per hour (400,000 microsievert per hour)

Posted by: annie | Mar 15 2011 12:37 utc | 6

Also:

Yukio Edano, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, during a live press conference at 10 p.m. EDT, said there is a fire at Fukushima Daiichi 4 that is accompanied by high levels of radiation between Units 3 and 4 at the site. The fire began burning at Unit 4 at around 6 a.m. Japan time on March 14 ...
So they had 16+ hours of fire in number 4?!!

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 12:37 utc | 7

Japanese police say the official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has climbed beyond 2,400.

However with thousands of others missing and bodies being found in the thousands in tsunami-affected parts of the country's north-east, the toll is ultimately likely to be counted in the tens of thousands.

that figure is from the tsunami only

Posted by: annie | Mar 15 2011 12:50 utc | 8

via German news: Kyodo agency reports that personal can no longer stay in the control rooms because of high radiation level.

That's it ...

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 12:57 utc | 9

annie @6 - the 400 millisievert was reported correctly.

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 12:59 utc | 10

Lufthansa has suspended all flights to Tokyo, will only fly to Osaka and Nagoya which are further away from Fukushima.

This is what the Guardian Live Blog says about the radiation levels and their dangers:

11.32am: Earlier we heard that 400 milliSieverts of radiation an hour had been recorded at Fukushima Daiichi's unit 3 reactor this morning. The Guardian's science correspondent Ian Sample has provided some context to the units being used to describe radiation levels.

"The levels of radiation being released by the nuclear power station are given in Sieverts. A microSievert is one millionth of a Sievert," Ian writes. "A milliSievert is one thousandth of a Sievert."

Ian offers these comparisons:

• 2 milliSieverts/year: The level of natural background radiation we are all exposed to.

• 9 milliSieverts/year: The typical dose received by an airline crew flying the New York to Tokyo polar route. Flying at altitude increases radiation exposure to cosmic rays.

• 100 milliSieverts/year: The lowest level at which an increase in cancer is evident.

• 1,000 milliSieverts accumulative: Estimated to cause a fatal cancer many years later in 5% of people.

• 1,000 milliSieverts single dose: Temporary radiation sickness, including nausea, lower white blood cell count. Not fatal.

• 5,000 milliSieverts single dose: Fatal within a month to half those who receive it.

• 10,000 milliSieverts single dose: Fatal within weeks.

And a linked graph in japanese

Posted by: ThePaper | Mar 15 2011 13:04 utc | 11

b @ comment 7 The fire started today March 15 at 6.14am
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Fukushima_nuclear_accidents

Posted by: Philippe | Mar 15 2011 13:10 utc | 12

It seems that spreadsheet has been deleted ...

Meanwhile El Pais is quoting the French nuclear agency is saying that the containment of reactor 2 is broken.

Posted by: ThePaper | Mar 15 2011 13:15 utc | 14

Well, I was thinking about leaving for Patagonia before all of this, but now it's no longer just in jest....except, I'm not the only one with that idea. Other folks of more significant means have beat me to it. Maybe my family and I can be their personal servants in order to breath another day.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/LH24Aa01.html

AT THE PERITO MORENO GLACIER - "Desert and sterile" Patagonia (in Charles Darwin's initial assessment) boasts no less than 230,000 square kilometers of river basins flowing into the Atlantic. It holds 4,000 square kilometers of continental ice and glaciers - as well as one of the largest reserves of fresh water on the planet.

We are currently in the advanced stages of a relentless global war for oil and gas (Patagonia, by the way, has both). A crucial 2000 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization already warned that in the next 50 years, problemsrelated to lack of water or contamination of masses of water would affect practically everyone on the planet. It's when the Great Water Wars explode - perhaps as early as around 2020 - that this Patagonia of crystal-clear blue lakes and millenarian glaciers will be at a premium price; possession of water will be infinitely more valuable than possession of oil and gas.

Analytical/warring minds at the Pentagon and the United States Central Intelligence Agency cannot possibly block the wet dream of a secessionist Patagonia as the definitive Liquid Saudi Arabia; sparsely populated (less than 2 million people), with all that water, plenty of hydroelectric energy and 80% of Argentina's reserves of oil and natural gas. The degree of neglect felt by most residents of Patagonia in relation to Buenos Aires can be reasonably compared to what is felt by the Baloch in Pakistan in relation to Islamabad. Recent polls have shown the desire for an independent Patagonia to be always over 50% (with 78% among the young and unemployed).

A crash course on four centuries of Patagonian "development" would go something like this. In the beginning were the indigenous peoples. Then came the Iberian navigators, the English pirates, the all-European science buffs, the religious missionaries, the exiles who dreamed of making it in America, the austral version. Then came the landlords - from Chile or Holland, Wales or Poland, Scotland or Denmark. Getting rid of the indigenous populations was a colonialism no-brainer; northern Patagonians were exterminated by the infamous, euphemistic, 1879 Campaign of the Desert; southern Patagonians were forced to become the workforce for agribusiness. And then, in the 1990s, came the First World billionaires.

As every wildlife-loving billionaire plus rows of sharp-dressed corporate executives duly know, the sale of Patagonia started in 1996, under the ultra-neo-liberal Carlos Menem government. Menem, in his own words, wanted to sell "surplus land" of the country he presided. There's no federal law in Argentina regulating the sale of land to foreigners. Only in the late 1990s, more than 8 million hectares were sold. According to the Argentine army, more than 10% of the national land is foreign-owned - and counting. The problem is not the sale itself; it's the absence of virtually any control over proposed investment projects.

If you're flush, you can still buy whatever you want anywhere - even inside spectacular national parks. Each province sets its own rules. If you reach the right functionary with the right cash-filled Samsonite, the world - Tony Montana-style - is yours. No wonder virtually every resident of Rio Negro or Santa Cruz provinces say the local mayor's offices are always the top real estate agency in town. And these same residents will inevitably lament that Patagonia is being gobbled up by foreigners - from Ted Turner to the Benetton family. Moreover, two of Patagonia's largest oil companies are also foreign-owned; one of them, state-owned, was sold to Spain, and the other, private, to Brazil's Petrobras.

Walking on water
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - the End of the World version - are known as Tompkins, Turner, Lewis and Benetton. They are the 21st-century breed of Patagonia's conquistadores, adventurers and pirates - from Francis Drake and George Newbery to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (their ranch is still there in Cholilla, a dejected pueblo which would be at home in the more dejected parts of New Mexico). Foreigners have always dreamed of the end of the world. And its violent beauty - as we'll see - makes grown man cry.

Californian green guru Doug Tompkins, former founder of both The North Face and Esprit, is known in Patagonia as the "owner of the water". He's the biggest private owner of natural resources in Chilean Patagonia as well as the Corrientes region in Argentina, and owns a number of strategically placed haciendas. When Tompkins first saw southern Patagonia, on the Chilean side, and then northwest Patagonia, on the Argentine side, in 1961, he cried like a baby. Then he came back - and started buying.

Trout-fishing fanatic and CNN founder Ted Turner has a spectacular 5,000 hectare villa in the south of Neuquen province and controls most access to one of Patagonia's most pristine rivers. He has another 35,000 hectares in the same province plus another 5,000 in Tierra del Fuego. Outside of the US, Ted only bought in Patagonia.......

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Mar 15 2011 13:27 utc | 15

From Kyodo News Agency - local time 22:05 15 March, 13:05 GMT/UTC
BREAKING NEWS: TEPCO unable to pour water into No. 4 reactor's storage pool for spent fuel

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 13:36 utc | 16

b @ comment 16:

21.32 Latest on reactor 4. Apparently two large 8m holes have been made in the outer wall housing the building of the reactor. An explosion was heard around 6.00 this morning and a fire recorded as having broken out at 9.00. It went out by itself by 11.00. TEPCO now think that the large increase in radiation noted today (400mSv) was from this explosion at reactor 4. Also, there is the possibility that the nuclear fuel rods are exposed to the outside. Unlike reactors 1-3, reactors 4-6 were in a state of rest and the nuclear fuel roads being stored in the spent fuel pool. With the explosion and two large holes now in the building of unit 4, it is possible that radiation is leaking out. TEPCO also gave some figures for the current temperatures in reactors 4-6. Reactors 5 and 6 are around 60 degrees, while reactor 4 is at 84. The usual temperature is 40 degrees. (via TBS, NHK)

source - look for 21:32 mark (with link to the NHK report, in Jpn)

Posted by: Philippe | Mar 15 2011 13:47 utc | 17

The only reasonable explanation for the IAEA not rising the current event to NISE level 5, or 6 today, (as the french has been telling reporters since yesterday) is pro-nuclear ass covering and that the IAEA chief is a Japanese. We can discuss if it will be worse or not than Chernobyl, which involved a high plume spreading radiation all over the world, as this is still developing but even by their own lame definitions (see they don't quote a number of 'victims' for level 6 or 7 on their explanatory spreadsheet) this is bordering their worse case.

It seems now the used fuel pools in reactor 5 and 6 are also overheating. And there are other stored radioactive material in other places in the plant that may require at least some level of long term support that may become a danger if the whole plant is rendered a unsurvivable radioactive wasteland.

Posted by: ThePaper | Mar 15 2011 13:51 utc | 18

B, your current description, details, and additional comments are the most informative I have found in any media throughout this horrific nuclear scene. Thank you in earnest.

In some respects, this reminds me of the Gulf Oil disaster - technology gone crazy by “brilliant minds” who ignore the simple fact that accidents/failures can cause overwhelming catastrophic consequences. Such projects are never worth the risk. And in both these cases, we have the initial downplaying of risks, the over dependence on untested backup systems, and the lies and cover-up when accident/failure occurs.

What is particular startling in this case, is that Japan' s unique position with regard to fault lines/earthquakes. This should have been a “no-brainer” as a no-go situation. Tremors are so frequent and noticeable in that area that I can't imagine such stupidity.

There are so many other extreme hazardous situations that technology and scale have brought to the front doorstep of the general public that is not being considered and reported. As another example, I think of the great ships with those massive blue spheres on top holding some sort of explosive gas that could wipe out much a port city if an “accident” were to occur. Are people who live or work in these cities being properly informed of the dangers? Our major media, beholding to government and corporate interests, put blinders on us all. I am probably naive, but in some ways, I look at these recent mass protests as we have seen in Egypt, as a possible sign of awakening that may spread far and wide, and may involve a deeper involvement of the people with their general welfare.

And b, thank you again for MOA and thanks to all who comment here.

Posted by: Rick | Mar 15 2011 14:01 utc | 19

Hey folks--

Anybody seen any worthwhile figures for projecting a worst-case area of effect and severity of consequence?

I not only have loads of friends in Japan-- I live there myself. So... I have a little bit of an interest in finding this out right now.

Posted by: Quin | Mar 15 2011 14:22 utc | 20

@Quin - I have seen no figures yet.

There are two possible messy issues.


- The fuel ponds while burning/melting may release particles that would distribute to the air. Now saying how far or how long, but very likely much less than Chernobyl (which had a graphite core that burned down over month)

- Not cooled fuel in one or multiple of the reactors could melt and accumulate at the bottom of the reactor core where it would then, without moderation, restart a nuclear reaction. It would eventually burn through the metal core shield and after that probably through the concrete base of the Mark I reactor (a known problem with this type) and sink into the ground. When it meets water it will make a big bang from the steam that would immediately be created. How big? I don't know. Depends a lot on local geology.

It is likely that some radioactive stuff would be thrown up with such a water meets heat event - how much is difficult to tell.

Unit 3 is the most problematic with this as it contains some mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel elements which contain Plutonium.

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 15:37 utc | 21

If you’re in the mood for some dark humor from Cold War days, here’s Tom Lehrer singing “We Will All Go Together When We Go”.

“when the air becomes uraneous, we will all go simultaneous…”

Posted by: catlady | Mar 15 2011 15:50 utc | 22

Thank you b, as always.

Posted by: beq | Mar 15 2011 16:24 utc | 23

Deep water drilling is off the radar for now and yet going full steam ahead (sic) after some vague words about caution and new rules by O-bomber following the Gulf of Mexico Disaster. (? details missing..)

The uncountable victims (meaning the sick, directly affected, economic compensation is another matter), not to mention wildlife, go ignored and buried, or to be literally buried in the next 5 years.

BP, others, charge ahead.

The extraction of coal, by now lignite, liquid/gaseous fossil fuels, each on their own, have killed far more than the nuclear-energy industry. If ‘deaths’ be a barometer, I would also like to suggest depleted uranium used in weapons, the invasion of Iraq, and other such horrors.

So, we-world are lurching from one catastrophe to another, in the energy extraction rubric, blaming anyone standing on the curb, but we all want mobile phones, cars or basic mopeds, scooters, hot water, vaguely comfortable lodging, plentiful food, basic med care, a living wage, and so on.

Mother Nature is a bitch. Not only in the shape of earthquakes, or other catastrophic events, but in the resources it has to offer and our desperate exploitation of it and the inexorable limits imposed.

---- What risks can be taken?

The Overseers - often elected, or respected experts, etc. - take those decisions, as they did in Japan. They did not count on a Richter -“X” quake, considered it outlandish and/or an inconvenient scenario.

Better to have school girls have Hello Kitty Phones, plenty of lessons in writing, a chance at some prof. career, their homework lit by clean light and a nice crisp berth to sleep in... to go on to invent new Hello Kitty memes. No cynicism intended. Really.

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 15 2011 17:58 utc | 24

b, thanks for your analysis. I guess the answer is still just "nobody knows, let's hope we don't find out".

Posted by: Quin | Mar 15 2011 18:07 utc | 25

M. Bama @15:

Suggested viewing re: Patagonia...

180* South

It was one of the last truly wild places on this planet - one of those places I wished I could see before I die. All that will be gone, now.

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Mar 15 2011 18:08 utc | 26

@Noriette - while I myself consider nuclear energy as relative safe, I do have two problems with your argument.

Substitution of nuclear energy does not have to mean more fossil energy use. That's a false choice. There are alternatives and given how much nuclear energy development has been subsidized the alternatives, even with less subsidized research, are likely able to provide enough replacement energy.

The real cost of nuclear energy, in money and in lives, will only be seen in the future when all the nasty stuff it creates has to be buried or whatever we are going to do with it. Only then will it be comparable to other energy sources.

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 18:17 utc | 27

Catlady @22:

Lehrer was 'required listening' in my household when I was a child. Not sure what the ultimate effects were on my psyche and sense of humor.

'...No more ashes, no more sack-cloth, just an arm-band made of black cloth...'

Posted by: Dr. Wellington Yueh | Mar 15 2011 18:22 utc | 28

russian scientist's spleen

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Mar 15 2011 19:01 utc | 29

I find myself singing, not Lehrer, but Malvina Reynolds (1962) "What have they done to the rain?" about nuclear fallout.

Posted by: Browning | Mar 15 2011 19:02 utc | 30

Hmmm - why would they do that if the units 5 and 6 are okay?

IAEA update:

As of 00:16 UTC on 15 March, plant operators were considering the removal of panels from Units 5 and 6 reactor buildings to prevent a possible build-up of hydrogen in the future. It was a build-up of hydrogen at Units 1, 2 and 3 that led to explosions at the Daiichi facilities in recent days.

I wrote above: "The primary cooling ponds in unit 5 and 6 may not have water circulation either."

Replace that with: "The primary cooling ponds in unit 5 and 6 DO NOT have water circulation either."

Posted by: b | Mar 15 2011 19:22 utc | 31

The problem with nuclear reactors is not the science but the fact that they are so expensive. Where there is high cost, there is cutting corners and corruption. I wouldn't be half surprised to learn that that is the real issue with these Japanese reactors. Follow the money. Who got paid off when. I sure hope the Japanese pursue this aspect of the problem when the dust finally settles. I'm sure the shredders are overheating as I write this.

No doubt that public apathy leads to a mentality where out of sight out of mind rules, enabling companies to get away with cutting corners and corruption. And it doesn't help matters when companies are chasing the almighty God, the Dollar, including his heavenly Son, the Yen. But public activism can't overrule profit margins and stockholders without also nailing capitalism to the cross. God knows we don't need to go there.

Posted by: Cynthia | Mar 15 2011 19:34 utc | 32

MSNBC reporting they've withdrawn all workers from the Fukushima facility.

Posted by: Ben | Mar 16 2011 3:02 utc | 33

Reuters is reporting that the Japanese authorities would not confirm or not whether the hydrogen explosion had led to an uncontrolled leak of radiation.

Posted by: Atlanta Roofing | Mar 16 2011 3:07 utc | 34

some gems from today's Talk of the Nation on Nashunal Propagander Raydio (my bolds):

(Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call. Even though the accident happened, I'm totally for nuclear power. You know, our sun is a huge nuclear reactor. We wouldn't be alive without it. So yeah, it's dangerous, but you know, life is filled with risk.
CONAN: Life is filled with risk. So if they wanted to build one in Tampa, you'd be fine with that?
(Caller): I'd be fine with it, yes.

REBECCA SMITH (Wall St Journal): I would say we can design around any threat. The problem with the power industry is these are privately owned power plants. That is, they're owned by utilities. And they have to be able to pass a cost-benefit analysis. No one's going to build a nuclear plant if they have to build it for a 9.0 or a 10.0 Richter earthquake. It simply would become astronomically expensive. So it may be economics that is the greatest threat right now, due to engineering, increased engineering standards, that is the threat to the industry.

ALEX (caller): Good. I'm in the U.S. Navy. I've worked on a submarine with these reactors, and I got to say if you look at the Navy's history, we've never had an incident. I think the entire thing is about training and preparation for these things. Of course, the catastrophe of this magnitude maybe it wasn't foreseen, maybe it wasn't prevented - preventable, but in a normal environment, nuclear energy is one of the safest ways we can go, as well as the most affordable, if we look at it in the long run. I totally support it, and I would have a reactor in my backyard any day of the week.

GWYNETH CRAVENS (Author, "Power To Save The World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy")
[i]t's important to know that the reactors function correctly. They were designed to withstand an earthquake, and they did. They automatically shut down, which all of our American reactors are programmed to do also. As soon as the first jolt appeared, they shut down. The control rods were inserted into the core and stopped the chain reaction....
The tsunami was the problem. The earthquake would not have caused the problems they're dealing with now. But their backup systems of electricity failed, and so they couldn't pump water into the reactor and so on. So it was a problem of the tsunami, not the design of the reactors.

Posted by: catlady | Mar 16 2011 4:28 utc | 35

b and all barflies, thanks heaps for sharing your thoughts and findings. Am so glad to have a place like this to go to in those troubling times we live in. On that note, what are everyone's thoughts on their plan to spray boric acid on the burning plants to slow down the nuclear reactions? Are they grasping at straws or does this stuff really have the potential to defuse the bomb? If so, one has to wonder why they have used it earlier.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Mar 16 2011 5:12 utc | 36

Correction: If so, one has to wonder why they haven't used it earlier.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Mar 16 2011 5:18 utc | 37

Sorry Juan I didn't realise the word hadn't gotten all the way out past the news blackout on this.

My friends in Northern Japan report that they are currently being overwhelmed by colonies of huge & voracious, mutated Doleromyrma darwiniana or Darwin's Ant. These ants which hitch hike around the planet in the luggage of humans who have lived in Darwin Northern Australia are famed for their ferocity towards all other species. Now they average 6.2 metres from head to abdomen they have become a threat to humans.

They prolly arrived in Japan in one of these people's luggage and have somehow become established around Fukushima Dai-ichi. Now that they have become exposed to radiation and mutated so effectively, they have once again shown that naming them after the postulator of evolution was uncannily correct even if 2nd hand.

Boric Acis is one of the few easy to manufacture and disperse ant killing poisons, what cans of Raid were available were quickly consumed as it takes several aerosols to kill just one mutated ant. I suppose this is a last ditch attempt to hush up the so-called "Godzilla Syndrome" (only a few are aware that movie was a documentary) before knowledge of the existence of the ants, along with a peculiar assortment of two headed otters and legless ferrets becomes widespread and finally puts the kybosh on the nuclear industry.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Mar 16 2011 5:52 utc | 38

Japan suspends work at stricken nuclear plant


Work to Prevent Meltdowns at Japanese Nuclear Plant Suspended; All Workers Evacuated Due to Radiation Surge

This is not good.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 16 2011 6:23 utc | 39

AlJazeera English: How would a meltdown hapen? (sic).

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 16 2011 6:50 utc | 40

GE built these nuclear reactors about the same time they built this...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcEWiz2UbHk&feature=related

No need to worry, eh?

Posted by: Cynthia | Mar 16 2011 7:01 utc | 41

LIve Webcam of TOKYO Listening to the audio of this, it sounds ominous...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 16 2011 7:34 utc | 42

Japan Radiation Maximum by Prefecture

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 16 2011 7:50 utc | 43

This is another Chernobyl ...

Situation remains completely out of control. All active reactor vessels are supposed to be broken and their cores at least partly fused. Workers can't legally work close to them so the government just 'raises' the maximum level. Radiation measuring instruments (SPEEDI) in Fukushima prefecture are off-line because of 'power supply issues'.

They can't reach reactor 4, which was off line, because of debris to cool it down and it's still burning or releasing water vapor (white smoke). The pools in reactors 5 and 6 remain too hot. The new footage doesn't paint a good situation in the plant.

And now the Emperor is talking and praying for Japan, not unlike after their surrender in WW2. So I guess that's what remains, to pray the worst scenario doesn't become even worse.

Posted by: ThePaper | Mar 16 2011 7:57 utc | 44

However bad things are at Fukushima, the nuclear industry will try and spin it their way.
This means that right now, the more armageddon's coming scenarios the better for them. If a really bad disaster is in progress that kills lots of humans within a short period, the industry is stuffed no matter what. However if there is some leakage but not enough to cause an easily discernable negative event, where many people die or are injured in a short period, the industry will spin what should be a negative into a positive by arguing that 'nuclear obstructionists' lied and deliberately set out to misled the population, to further their negative agenda.
That means we (all the humans that care about this) all have to be careful to ensure we don't get played into running with some media generated beat up that can be turned into a "look at the silly luddites" story later.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Mar 16 2011 8:40 utc | 45

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