Nuclear meltdown: race to save reactors in Japan

Pick a number, and that reactor is described as being near a meltdown.  The news coverage coming out of Japan is even more confused when American media deciphers it.  Hopefully hard facts come in soon…

Meltdown occurred according to Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency

URGENT: March 12 00:00 PST: Explosion at Nuclear Facility

VIDEO of explosion at nuke plant.

Reuters Live Earthquake News Feed

Several people appear to be injured at Fukushima nuclear plant – NHK

Walls and roof of a building at site destroyed by blast – NHK via Sky News

UPDATE:  22:50 PST:  BREAKING NEWS: Pressure successfully released from Fukushima No. 1 reactor: agency

UPDATE:  21:47 PST:  Meltdown underway at Reactor #1?  http://twitter.com/#!/dicklp

Fukushima fuel cores are melting at 2000C and dropping onto steel floor. Steel melts at 1500C. Could still be brought under control, but Four other Fukushima nuke reactors are struggling with similar problem. If multiple meltdown begins, it will be uncontrollable.

Nuclear reactor coolant systems are running on batteries, and the coolant has reached the boiling point.  Extremely critical situation currently at several earthquake affected nuclear reactors. Officials are concerned that a Three Mile Island 1979 meltdown could happen here.  Reuters Link

From the LA Times:

Conditions appear to be worsening at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan, according to local media.

The Kyodo news agency reported that the cooling system has failed at three reactors of Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant. The coolant water’s temperature had reached boiling temperature, the agency reported, citing the power plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power.

The cooling system failure at the No. 2 power plant came after officials were already troubled by the failure of the emergency cooling system at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which officials feared could cause a meltdown.

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553 thoughts on “Nuclear meltdown: race to save reactors in Japan

  1. This seems like a good time to check sources of information.
    The engineers and control operators are not wasting their time giving progress reports (I hope), the situation is being handled by people that know the system.
    The best, and brightest are on the job.

  2. Japan has previously had an excellent nuclear record, barring the accident at the enrichment facilities at Toka-Murai. What a shame this is. Japan uses essentially 1960s nuclear technology, i.e. US Westinghouse reactor designs. I don’t understand completely what happened here but wonder if the automatic shut-down feature might be a poorly designed system.

    The one possible bright note, once Japan pulls itself back together, is that these reactor accidents are always opportunities to better understand the causes of failure and to make corrections and improvements. It’s hard to imagine a greater test of the technology than the circumstances of these earthquakes. If the containment buildings remain intact this should be no worse than Three Mile Island. It will represent a massive economic loss and a major problem in terms of real energy shortages for Japan – but hopefully no harm will come to the people who work in and live around these plants.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.

  3. This is serious. Loss of coolant is the Achilles heel of all nuclear power plants. Even after a shutdown, if the residual heat cannot be rejected for several days, the danger of fuel bundle meltdown (a partial meltdown occurred at Three Mile Island), loss of pressure containment and a thermal explosion is very real. The worst case result would be a giant “dirty bomb” that could render a wide swath (depending on prevailing wind at the time) uninhabitable for many decades.

    Seeing to it that such failure cannot happen under any imaginable circumstance is at the heart of all nuclear power plant safety design. Design typically includes the assumption that external electric power to the plant is lost and provides for a minimum of two redundant backup cooling systems for such an emergency. Those backup safety systems are “seismically qualified” to withstand the worse calculated earthquake possible for the geologic zone in question and protected against the worst postulated flooding.

    If those backup systems failed at three of the Japanese reactors, there was by definition a defect in the design of those systems.

  4. I read that they had done a SCRAM on the Fukushima No. 1 plant and the standby generators that power the cooling system had failed. If true, they could have a partial core meltdown like 3-mile Island. Very bad PR and very expensive, but no danger.

  5. The important thing is to keep the cores covered, even if they have to vent some steam to the outside, which is really harmless if they can keep the cores covered. If not, their reactor is toast and they will spend a couple of billion on cleanup. But regardless, the activists will set up a howl like we haven’t heard since TMI, only worse since this is Japan, the one-time nuclear target. The question is, why did those auxiliary diesel generators fail? And what does this mean for the future, assuming there is one?

  6. Hmmm. Scary for Japan which has suffered enough. Scary for all of us. I think a lot of us old conservationists/environmentalists who had opposed nuclear were “warming up” to it as the best and cheapest alternative to fossil fuels should they run out or global warming actually proved to be CAGW, which I doubt. Now, I suppose, for better or worse, we are stuck with fossil fuels, very inefficient wind, and very expensive solar. BTW, there are millions of us conservationists/environmentalists who feel the global warming zealots and green extremists have hijacked our beloved movement. Lets take it back!

  7. Does anyone know if these are breader reactors or slow thermal reactors ?

    From what I understand – slow reactors like these can NOT ever, under any circumstances “melt down”. They can not explode. Infact, nothing more than coolant release can happen (and that coolant is mildly radioactive, but not long lasting ??). If the coolant releases, the reactor gets a little hot, and shuts down. End of story.

    “melt downs” and “dirty bomb exposions” are a myth with these sort of reactors. It`s only breader reactors (fast breaders) that have this risk, and I think it`s only the crazy Russians and Chinese who built these. If these are breader type reactors, then the Japanese are frikkin crazy people for building them in an earthquake zone. Surely the Japanse are not that crazy ??

  8. These are Gen II reactors much like the current reactors operating in the USA for decades. To provide for extra coolant in the event of a Loss of Coolant accident, to cool the reactor after shutdown. Just like your home oven after you have baked a cake and turned the oven off, it remains hot until it cools off. This is neccessary until the reactor cools off, they have spare diesel generators to provide the electricity to drive the water pumps which pump in extra coolant, in the case that standard electricity sources are unavailable.

    The 30-odd new Gen III+ designs being prepared for construction in the USA, the NRC and the reactor builders have anticipated that it is possible that regular electricty may be down, and the spare diesel generators might be unable to come online, however remote.

    So the new reactor designs place the extra coolant in tanks higher than the reactor so the extra coolant can flow into the reactor with simple gravity without needing any pumps, at all. In addition the new reactors have much larger reactors vessels, that are large enough that the reactor will not need any extra coolant. Further they have been re-designed so that the coolant already there, circulates by natural thermal convection, wihtout needing any internal pumps during a shutdown.

    Proving once again that the new GEN III+ reactors in the process of building in the US, are even safer than the ones that have been running safely for decades, today.

  9. I agree, waiting for more non-MSM information is probably prudent. I’m having a hard time imagining the, properly paranoid, Japanese doing a slipshod version of Peachtree.

    Peachtree in my mind was much worse than TMI. It showed that some of our nuclear “engineeers” didn’t have a clue about failsafe design. When a lighted candle in a plenum can take out 5 failsafe systems, the system isn’t exactly failsafe. One of the Swiss professors in my graduate studies group was a expert witness in the examination of the accident. The stories he told… As an American I was embarrassed to hear how poorly our “Leading Engineering Firms” had designed that plant.

  10. According to some Nuclear specialist sites I visited, the reactor and core is self regulating and cooling however this is regulated by a series of valves and switches which are nominally powered by D.C. The D.C. is provided by a series of back up generators and batteries.
    The generators have allegedly failed (W.T.?). They were operating and have shut down?
    Could be the inverters have failed and not be charging the batteries?

  11. If ever there was an ad for thorium salt reactors, this, unfortunately is it. They can’t “melt down” because the fuel is already molten. When the power fails, the fuel cools and the reaction stops.

    I just hope they can cool these suckers down enough to remove the rods.

  12. It seems that while they were designed to withstand earthquakes, apparently they were not designed to operate after a serious tsunami.

    I don’t understand why the systems don’t automatically withdraw the fuel rods and stop the energy producing chain reaction.

  13. The situation is basically this

    The reactor would have been shutdown No more chaim reaction.

    However about 10% of heat released by a reactor comes from the decay of radiocative
    byproducts after original fission event. This is the energy that is the cause of the
    problem. The energy release decreases rapidly. From member, after 24 hours
    the energy release from these byproducts decreases by at least a factor of 10.

    There should be an ECCS (Emergency Core Cooling System). This is a big
    tank of water located at an elevation higher than the reactor that can be
    dumped into the reactor to help keep the core from being exposed in the
    case of pump failure. There has been no mention of this in any news story.

    In TMI (Three Mile Island) the core was exposed. This irrevocably
    damaged the reactor, but otherwise caused no harm. It was a commercial
    as opposed to human disaster. One of the problems at TMI was that
    the operators did not know what was going on, but I suspect that the
    engineers in Japan will know what is going inside the reactor core.
    The TMI accident showed that a reactor vessel and containment
    vessel could withstand a loss of coolant accident that exposed the core.

    If the operators vent steam from the reactor to release energy and
    pressure, there may be a lot of adverse publicity, but this does
    not constitute a disaster. The steam which will be radiactive and hot
    will rise and disperse through the atomsphere. Compared to the
    devastation caused by the Tsunami, this is a fleabite.

    If the operators have access to an ECCS with water in it, then I do not
    believe the worst case scenario will occur. As far as the news stories go
    the frustrating thing is no mention of the ECCS which should be available
    when the pumps fail.

  14. I read that the backup generators at the affected plants were flooded by the tsunami.

    It seems strange to me that the Japanese didn’t protect their nuke plant backup generators against the worst possible tsunamis.

  15. From: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Battle_to_stabilise_earthquake_reactors_1203111.html

    Three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors were in operation when yesterday’s quake hit, at which point they shut down automatically and commenced removal of residual heat with the help of emergency diesel generators. However, these suddenly stopped about an hour later for reasons as yet unknown.

    This led the plant owners Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) to notify the government of a technical emergency situation, which allows officials to take additional precautionary measures.

    Even now, the primary focus of work at the site remains to connect enough portable power modules to fully replace the diesels and enable the full operation of cooling systems.

    To the extent that there is evaporation inside the containment vessel, some steam may need to be vented, but it is reportedly filtered before it is released, so any radiation release into the environment would be limited. After watching TV and reading other news accounts, the reporting on this story appears to be more than terrible. Let’s hope that Tepco will be able to properly manage this situation. It would appear that they are well prepared for it.

  16. Radiation levels 1000 times normal to me is indicative that the problem at at least one plant is past the point of just being a core cooling problem. The plant is shutdown and radiation levels should be lower than normal and dropping — normal being operating at power. With rad levels that high, at least some reactor core damage may have already occurred.

  17. From: http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2011/03/11/japanese-reactors-fine-after-7.2-magnitude-earthquake031101.aspx

    As of Friday afternoon, additional backup generators were en route to the plant, and unit 1’s coolant system was running temporarily on a battery. Japanese regulators stated that pressure in the reactor had risen to 1.5 times normal levels. At 750 degrees, an engineer familiar with the BWR design told the Los Angeles Times Friday, the temperature is well below the 2,200-degree design limit for preventing cladding failure.

  18. While I promised not to comment with TOO MUCH sensitive ‘Truth’ for you ‘scientist guys’ ~ Perhaps you’d like to indulge me by going to this site and deciphering the data for me.

    It regards ‘Global Weather Modification’. The results certainly ‘seem’ to be compelling – for an amateur, such as myself. I’d love to read what your insightful thoughts are.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/NufffRespect#p/a/f/1/Xbp6umQT58A

    The title of the youtube video is called ‘HAARP CHART FOR NEW ZEALAND’ – with any ‘luck’ – maybe in a day or two they’ll post one for Japan.
    In Truth,
    Cynthia Lauren Thorpe

  19. The International Atomic Energy Agency (where I worked for a year) has some info on the situation:

    http://www.iaea.org/press/

    The reactor is a boiling water reactor and has numerous backup systems. The situation is not a dire as the news media indicate. See also a report from the Nuclear Energy Institute:

    http://www.nei.org/newsandevents/information-on-the-japanese-earthquake-and-reactors-in-that-region

    The operators of the plant seem to be making some progress. The core is still covered, and the operators plan to relieve some of the pressure inside containment by venting the containment through filters which reduce the amount of radiation released. Backup power supplies are on site.

  20. From: http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2011/03/11/media-updates-on-nuclear-power-stations-in-japan/

    Japanese officials also told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that pressure is increasing inside unit 1’s containment and they have decided to vent the containment to lower the pressure. The controlled release will be filtered to retain most radioactive substances within the containment, the IAEA said.

    and

    After the quake triggered a power outage, a backup generator also failed and the cooling system was unable to supply water to cool the 460-megawatt No. 1 reactor, though at least one backup cooling system is being used. The reactor core remains hot even after a shutdown.

  21. “This is serious. Loss of coolant is the Achilles heel of all nuclear power plants”

    I’m not sure that is true. Loss of coolant is the Achilles heel of some nuclear designs. For example, the light water civilian reactors developed from nuclear submarine technology were not really optimized to cope with loss of coolant, but rather to fit in a confined space. There are designs that are better able to handle loss of coolant.

    However, the news will not make that distinction. The blame will fall on nuclear energy, not on the design faults, making it all the more difficult to built nuclear plants. A really significant failure could end to nuclear power for years to come.

  22. SOYLENT GREEN says:
    March 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I hope they get it under control and pull the rods out too.
    One has to wonder what was going through minds to put this plant on a 10 year extension just last month.
    The design is straight out of the 1960’s.

  23. From: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Massive_earthquake_hits_Japan_1103111.html?je

    Tohoku Electric Power Company’s Onogawa 1 suffered a fire in the non-nuclear turbine building which took eight hours to extinguish. A minor fire burned in a non-nuclear service building of Tepco’s Fukushima Daini 1 but this was extinguished within two hours.

    and

    JAIF issued a statement giving the status of nuclear power reactors in the effected area of Japan. This was based on various information sources, including event reports from Nisa released half an hour after the earthquake struck.

    Reactor Operator Status

    Onagawa 1 Tohoku Automatically shutdown
    Onagawa 2 Tohoku Automatically shutdown
    Onagawa 3 Tohoku Automatically shutdown

    Higashidori 1 Tohoku Shut for periodic inspection

    Fukushima Daiichi 1 Tepco Automatically shutdown
    Fukushima Daiichi 2 Tepco Automatically shutdown
    Fukushima Daiichi 3 Tepco Automatically shutdown
    Fukushima Daiichi 4 Tepco Shut for periodic inspection
    Fukushima Daiichi 5 Tepco Shut for periodic inspection
    Fukushima Daiichi 6 Tepco Shut for periodic inspection

    Fukushima Daini 1 Tepco Automatically shutdown
    Fukushima Daini 2 Tepco Automatically shutdown
    Fukushima Daini 3 Tepco Automatically shutdown
    Fukushima Daini 4 Tepco Automatically shutdown

    Tokai Japco Automatically shutdown

    Hamaoka 3 Chubu Shut for periodic inspection
    Hamaoka 4 Chubu In normal operation
    Hamaoka 5 Chubu In normal operation

    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 1 Tepco In normal operation
    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 2 Tepco Not operating
    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 3 Tepco Not operating
    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 4 Tepco Not operating
    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 5 Tepco In normal operation
    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 Tepco In normal operation
    Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 7 Tepco In normal operation

    Tomari 1 Hokkaido In normal operation
    Tomari 2 Hokkaido In normal operation
    Tomari 3 Hokkaido In normal operation

    In addition, the reprocessing plant at Rokkasho is being supplied by emergency diesel power generators.

  24. I have been following this pretty closely.

    1. Current worker exposure inside the plants is 2% above normal … or negligible.
    2. Pressure buildup in containment vessels is thermal and not due to coolant leaks. Basically, the HVAC has stopped working and the air in there is getting hot which builds pressure so they are venting it. Radiation released so far is negligible.
    3. Backup power has arrived at the one plant and is being installed.
    4. External grid power is now available at the second plant.

    So it looks like this is going to be a non-event. The problem is that these reactors are the 1970’s – 1980’s design that requires external power, HVAC, and a lot of other control systems to operate its myriad of valves, pumps, controls, etc. Modern plants don’t need all that.

  25. Also, looks like the reason the diesel generators failed is because they were at ground level and flooded by the tsunami.

  26. One thing that is never mentioned in the media stories, which are everywhere, is the potential safety difference of a thorium reactor, or alternative design approaches.

  27. There are rail lines nearby. Generators have arrived and wiring is being installed.
    More generators are on the way.
    The media, as per standard form, is overplaying the situation for ratings.

  28. Let’s appreciate how Reuters is quoting their convenient sources:

    “Such a blackout is “one of the most serious conditions that can affect a nuclear plant,” according to experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S. based nuclear watchdog group.”

    UCS is of course a CO2 bashing global warming group.

    “(It’s) a sign that the Japanese are pulling out all the stops they can to prevent this accident from developing into a core melt and also prevent it from causing a breach of the containment (system) from the pressure that is building up inside the core because of excess heat,” said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.”

    The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a private NGO.

    It’s almost as if no official atomic energy source could be found to comment here.
    Reuters is of course controlled by Thomson Reuters, a company owned mostly by the wealthiest Canadians the Thomson family. Among their Foundation Trustee, Sir Crispin Tickell is global warming advocate connected to the UN UNEP and IPCC since 1991. Also the Woodbridge Company, investment arm of the Thomsons bought last year Point Carbon, providing leadership in Carbon market analysis etc…

    imo this Reuters report and the choice of sources is not innocent. Should the situation deteriorate, watch for a full blown attack on nuclear energy from the green lobby.

  29. The USS George Washington (CVN 73) carrier battle group of the 7th Fleet is assigned to Yokosuka as its homeport. With its propulsion provided by two Westinghouse A4W nuclear reactors, the George Washington carries not only an engineering department trained in handling damaged light water fission power systems but also primary and secondary hardware created to address loss of coolant accidents (LOCA).

    Not to mention the assets of other ships in the battle group, which include electrical generation machinery which could be of great value in stabilizing the situation at Fukushima No. 2.

    Has anybody been able to discover the officers and men of the George Washington task group are doing right now?

  30. Mike,

    I work at a nuke in the USA for AEP. I speak for myself not AEP. I have held both a reactor operator and senior reactor operator license. My experience is with Westinghouse PWR design and this is a GE BWR design but the basics don’t change much. As water level lowers rad levels will rise even if no fuel damage has occurred yet because water is a pretty effective radiation shield. As I said on a previous thread, the public safety issue would only occur if fuel damage occurs due to lack of heat removal AND a significant failure of containment occurred also. Your last sentence may or may not be true we can’t tell yet.

    For others,

    The chain reaction ended when the plant tripped during the earthquake. Heat is still generated from the decay of fission fragments. As was stated up thread, although values were overstated, this amounts to few percent power immediately after trip to a fraction of a percent an hour later decaying slowly after that. However, some form of heat removal is required for a long time or system will heat up……it’s just a matter of how fast it heats up. Lots of energy will be absorbed heating up and evaporating/boiling the water away. As I understand they also still have some capability to remove heat via a heat exchanger that would extend time to fuel damage even further. A year from know the specifics of this event will be disseminated throughout the nuke industry. I look forward to finding out the specifics.

  31. What we may learn from this tragedy is that we just can’t engineer our society to withstand magnitude 9 earthquakes. Measly 7’s, yes, and the ocasional 8.0. But, maybe not 9.x.

  32. Utter NONSENSE!

    Sorry, worked in Nuclear Power for 20 years. This is pure crap.

    Running the cooling systems on “batteries”. B.S. Not happening.

    Unable to start emergency generators? ALSO B.S., you can fly them in.

    The reactors “shut down” as soon as the earthquake was above about 8.0 on the R. scale. Control rods in, reactors shut down.

    Then the only “power” is decay heat.

    At this time the decay heat is about 1/1000 the reactor capacity. I believe these are 1000 MW Electric, or 3,000 MW Thermal. That means decay heat is 3 megawatts.

    That’s 10,000,000 BTU per hour. Divide by 1000 that means the need to vaporize 10,000 lbm per hour or 20 gallons per minute.

    You could HAND PUMP 20 gallons per minute into the reactor. Dump the steam through the plant Xenon stack. It will have primarily Xenon in the output, with a little radioactive nitrogen, and a minor amount of trace radioactive elements aside from Xenon. NOT a crisis! Oh, wait, were the Japanese running with a bunch of failed fuel rods? UNLIKELY. Japanese BWR’s have been some of the cleanest in the world.

    I just don’t trust the completely moronic media about this matter.

    Max

  33. After the deepwater horizon fiasco and this – let’s hope that anyone that has a battery powered fail safe, for which there is no simple backup system, is quadruple checking and testing…regularly.

  34. PS: Radiation level’s 1000 times above “normal” is also NOT A PROBLEM.

    If your background is .005 mR per hour and you vent Xenon and have a local dose of 5 MR per hour, you are 1000 times above background. If the integrated dose to any member of the public is less than about 1000 mR you are within acceptable guidelines.

    That would take 200 hours, and it is UNLIKELY that any Xenon release would continue for that amount of time.

  35. “WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has transported coolant to a Japanese nuclear plant affected by a massive earthquake and will continue to assist Japan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday.

    “We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear plants,” Clinton said at a meeting of the President’s Export Council.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110311/pl_nm/us_japan_quake_nuclear_clinton

    Some aide to the SoS let her step in it. A bit like the Russia ‘Reset’ button.

    These are BWR’s (boiling-water), made by GE(1,2&6), Toshiba(3&5) and Hitachi (4). BWR’s have the reactor steam go thru the turbines, so they have extra filtering capacity.

    TMI’s reactor problem, in addition to the loss of coolant, was a high pressure hydrogen bubble which if I remember right from our Power Group VP, ‘used up about 6 of the 7 safety factors for reactor pressure.’

  36. From: http://www.science20.com/chatter_box/blog/japan_quake_media_mischief-77102

    Why do some reporters like to get hold of a range of values from a scientist or engineer and then quote the number at the scariest end of the range?

    and

    The [Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety] agency says radiation levels have risen to up to about 100 times the normal figure in the central control room where the reactor’s operators are working.

    Since when does up to 100 translate into 1000 times?

    Source quoted: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/12_24.html

    Not that anybody would want to alarm anyone. (/sarc)

  37. “I hope they get it under control and pull the rods out too.”

    All of the reactors were stopped. What happened is about an hour after they shut down, the stations lost external power due to the tsunami. Without external power, they can not run the cooling systems. One site now has external power restored, the second site is operating on battery backup and will have generator power running shortly (generators are on site being installed).

    It takes time to get the heat out of those reactor cores even after the reaction stops. One thing to note: NONE of the reactors have gone to their emergency cooling system. They are all still operating with the normal cooling systems. The problem at the moment is the lack of HVAC allowing the environment to heat up in the containment vessel and build pressure.

    If your monitoring systems don’t have power, you can’t add makeup coolant because you can’t monitor coolant levels. They apparently lost the ability to monitor/control coolant levels when they lost power. I would expect the situation at the one plant to settle fairly soon. The other plant is a little more dicey and is still waiting that generator install.

  38. Seems to be a bunch of misinformation out there.

    Rods don’t get “pulled”, the control rods are inserted to add a neutron “poison” that absorbs neutrons. This is called a “scram” or automatic shutdown. Rods inserted, no more sustainable fission reaction.

    Decay heat is produced by radiocative decay of fission products. This will continue for days.

    If a plant is not producing power on its own, it then needs external power to operate pumps. You have to remove heat from the source, to a sink (which is usually the ocean or big heat exchangers.)

    This was an 8.9 earthquake with 7. something aftershocks.
    Is anyone really surprised there wouldn’t be some damage?
    My mother worked for BofA and visited the Northridge branch after the 1993 earthquake. The safety deposit boxes were propeled from the ground and hit the ceiling. And these things are not light by any stretch of the imagination.

  39. I suspect the diesel generators tried to aspirate water when their building was over-topped by the Tsunami. Without AC power from offsite or from the DG’s, the station batteries would deplete in a few hours. This would result in a loss of all control room electronics. There is no battery-powered emergency cooling system. There is battery-powered control (solenoid valves, etc.) to control a turbine-driven pump that would inject water into the core. The steam for this would come from the reactor and exhaust into the suppression pool. This, in addition to relief valve discharge from the reactor, would result in the suppression pool (torus) water heating up and eventually reaching saturation pressure, as the news reports indicate. This would require venting to relief the pressure that would build up as the temperature builds up and as more and more water from outside the cycle is added.

    Reports have continued to state the core has remained covered. If true, I suspect the high radiation levels are from damage the fuel assemblies sustained from the 8.9 magnitude shake.

    I’ve been following reports from the Tepco website but it has been several hours since the last update. Unless they have brought temporary generators in, all batteries are likely dead now, meaning the turbine-driven pump would only be able to be controlled by some makeshift actuation of its governor.

    Hopefully, sufficient external power to re-power the emergency core cooling systems is being provided. The TMI accident was only stopped because the operators eventually re-started the high pressure injection and put water in the core.

    If water isn’t put in the core, the core will melt and eventually melt its way through the vessel and into the bottom level of containment. If this slag encounters water, it wall cool and solidify in a coolable geometry.

  40. “Three Island Meltdown”, the great nuclear disaster that never occurred!!!!!

    There never was a meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant. The steam pressure got large enough that a minor amount of slightly radioactive steam from the cooling system got past the emergency pressure valve. Yellow journalism at its nastiest.

    And . . . they don’t build them like that, and have not for a long, long time now.

    The April 1986 disaster at the Chernobyla nuclear power plant in Ukraine was the product of a flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes, complete meltdown, and there was no “China Syndrome”.

    France gets 80% of its electrical power from nuclear power plants, sells a lot of the power generated to other nations, and there has not been even a hint of radioactive material escaping from those nuclear power plants in France that I am aware of.

    Any source of power goes wrong when there is an earthquake of this magnitude. I am just hoping that the large aftershocks don’t light up a serious volcano.

  41. @Max Hugoson

    At 24 hours after shutdown the decay heat would still be around 15 megawatts. After a couple of weeks it would be around 4-5 megawatts.

  42. crosspatch says:
    March 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm
    Also, looks like the reason the diesel generators failed is because they were at ground level and flooded by the tsunami.

    Drain the oil and fuel lines, bring in fresh diesel, reprime the injectors and fire up. I’m sure the plant operators are already on it.

  43. Irrespective of whether the cooling system is functioning as designed or not, the shutdown plants still have to get rid of a certain amount of heat. I wonder if plants generally have large enough radiators for this, or is venting of steam the normal way of dealing with this.

  44. Once the crisis is over, I assume the utilities will back up their backup diesel generators with something more reliable…like wind turbines.

    Yes, I’m kidding.

  45. From: http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110312-3.pdf

    b. Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station, Tokyo Electric Power
    Co.,Inc.(TEPCO)
    (Okuma-machi and Futaba-machi, Futaba-gun, Fukushima Prefecture )
    (1) The status of operation
    Unit 1 (460MWe): automatic shutdown
    Unit 2 (784MWe): automatic shutdown

    Unit 3 (784MWe): automatic shutdown
    Unit 4(784MW): in periodic inspection outage
    Unit 5(784MW): in periodic inspection outage
    Unit 6(1,100MW): in periodic inspection outage
    (2) Readings at monitoring post etc.
    Variation in the monitoring post readings: No
    Variation in the main stack monitoring readings: No
    (3) Report concerning other malfunction
    Article 10* of Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency
    Preparedness (Fukushima Dai-ichi, Unit 3)
    (*A heightened alert condition)
    Article 15** of Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency
    Preparedness (Fukushima Dai-ichi, Units 1 and 2)

    (** Nuclear emergency situation)
    Situation of power source to recover water injection function at the station.
    -Cable from electric power generating cars are under connecting work(as of 04:00, March 12)

    Pressure in the containment vessel has arisen. Steam release is undertaking in order to relieve pressure.
    It was confirmed that radioactivity was increased compared to the one at 04:00, March 12.

    From 04:00, March 12 by the measurement of radioactive materials in the surrounding area of the power station using monitoring cars. (As of 07:55, March12)
    MP6 (near the main gate) 0.07microSv/h -5.1 micro Sv/h
    (04:00, March12->07:40, March 12)
    MP8 (near the main gate) 0.07microSv/h ->2.5 micro Sv/h
    (04:00, March 12->07:30, March 12)

  46. Ryan Maue says:
    March 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm
    Meltdown underway:

    exaggeration.

    In this situation you should just seal the reactor.

    However, the cost is very expensive. (moral, stock exchange and many others factors)

    Unless the structure of containment is compromised by the earthquake.

    Apparently I put my neck at a premium.

  47. Re: ggm says:
    March 11, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    “melt downs” and “dirty bomb exposions” are a myth with these sort of reactors.”

    If it were a myth, billions of dollars would have been wasted on the design and construction of redundant safety systems for both PWR and BWR reactor systems. “Melt down” refers to a condition in which the cladding of the fuel rods is melted by excessive heat and the fuel is no longer contained in the physical configuration that assured control of its nuclear reaction. In theory, at least, that could result in a runaway situation that could result in a breach of the containment vessel (a thermal explosion) which would, in turn, contaminate a wide geographical area.

    In the U.S., Three Mile Island did suffer a partial meltdown of its fuel rods. We probably came closer to the ultimate calamity, however, at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant (BWR reactors, incidentally) in the 1970’s when a fire shut the plant down and rendered both redundant emergency cooling systems inoperable. Had the plant lost off-site power over the next several days, the result could well have been catastrophic.

    I am certainly not anti-nuclear and there are several new designs out there that purport to be impervious to a “loss of coolant” accident. However, the generation of both BWR and PWR designs currently in commercial power plant service in the U.S. and Japan are NOT impervious to a loss of cooling accident.

  48. Here are some very initial thoughts from an old nuclear guy, without much information other than my memories of yore.

    First, calm down. This is a technical problem to be resolved, just that.

    All the nuclear units at the both the Fukushima Daiichi site and Daini sites are Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs).

    During power operation the fuel in the cores of BWRs are designed to perform in a controlled boiling environment during full power operation. The nuclear plant of concern is fully shutdown with all control rods inserted. The shutdown plant’s decay heat rate across the fuel cladding is very tiny compared to power operation heat rate across the fuel cladding.

    Boiling in the BWR fuel core is not itself a concern wrt to fuel cladding failure or melting, it was designed for that environment. What is of concern is that there needs to be water in the RPV (reactor pressure vessel) that contains the fuel core. The water level needs to be (if my oldish memory serves me correctly but don’t quote me on this after so many years) more than ~2/3 of the fuel core height in some BWRs. As the water in the concerned RPV boils off more water will, over time, need to be added to the RPV to keep the core sufficiently covered within design limits. So they need electric power restored to add the water; whether by batteries, DGs or from the grid (solar and wind power if it is daytime or the wind is blowing). That is a context for what is meant when talking about time factors.

    Another time factor revolves around a different concern. That is the concern that steam produced by the boiling in the core (without cooling), will find its way into the secondary containment. Steam, in the existing emergency shutdown condition will normally find its way out of the RPV into the primary containment (a steel shell and large water pool with some areas having concrete structural support) because that is what it was designed for. But the concern is that without electricity to provide cooling systems to the primary containment, after a period of time, the design pressure of the primary containment might be theoretically be reached. If this happens then leakage to the secondary containment (basically the reactor building) will occur, that is the last barrier to the potential for radioactive gases being released into the environment.

    I can only assume (because it is what I would do) the strategy by the Japanese utility and government would be to prevent primary containment damage (leaks), so that you still have an unchallenged secondary containment as some sort of a backup. Prevention of primary containment damage (leaks) could theoretically be achieved by periodically venting the primary containment through some HEPA filters into the environment to prevent damage to the primary containment. It is a possibility (high or low) to do that without electrical power depending on many different circumstances which are unknown to us (the public). I would consider this a good strategy (while trying to restore electric power for water addition to the RPV and cooling systems for the primary containment) because controlled release is better than the potential for uncontrolled release if the primary containment is eventually damaged by not venting it.

    Some really good minds with thousands of total experience years are addressing the problems at the Fukushima nuclear plants.

    John

  49. First, in both cases, the core cooling (more strictly, decay heat removal system) appears to be working as planned. In a BWR, decay heat removal works by allowing a controlled boil of coolant water, and venting that via a supression pool into the containment. Normally, there’s a secondary heat exchanger system that removes that heat to atmosphere. It’s not clear whether that’s happening.

    So far as I can see, all the direct reports of high pressures and temperatures pertain to the containments, not the main reactor vessels. If anything, primary circuit pressures are likely to be low, given the rate of heat generation and removal.

    At Fukushima Daiichi, the issue is the loss of back up generation. I’d expect that to be readily resolved, and once that’s running, the HVAC systems will be able to bring containment temperatures back to normal faily quickly.

    At the second plant, the problem’s a bit different. The back-up generation has run as planned, but the make-up system for the suppression pool seems to have failed some hours after the shutdown.

    That’s caused elevated temperatures in the containment. Again, nothing not readily manageable by controlled (and filtered) venting.

    In either case, I’m not aware of any concrete reason to assume that fuel has been exposed, or undergone any substantive damage. Even traces of caesium do no more than suggest that there may be a damaged element or two.

  50. It is dangerous that the CANDU reactor design is not used more for nuclear power. It was specifically designed to avoid the risk of meltdown by making the coolant as the moderator. The coolant is heavy water, adding more heavy water to the CANDU reactor increases the reaction leading to heat (superheated steam) that is then run through the standard heat exchanger and off to drive the turbine generators. If there was a disaster where the station was knocked out of commission and all the safety systems shut off the worst possible case is the coolant (moderator) overheats and boils off – leading to the nuclear reactor shutting down. Note the reactor has not come anywhere close to the melting point of anything, and the reaction is not self sustaining.
    Also CANDU reactors have been strongly considered for the safe destruction of the Russian and US stockpile of weapons grade plutonium.

  51. @Andy Dawson

    I’d have expected it to be readily resolved, too. But, nearly a day into this, I haven’t seen any report of power to emergency systems being restored. The latest report I’ve seen is from 10:00 am local time today on the tepco site. That’s 5 hours ago!

  52. @L. Sheehan: Re Chernobyl. ” flawed Soviet reactor design coupled with serious mistakes, complete meltdown ”

    I was about to object to the term “meltdown”, but then remembered more of the story. The initial accident was a steam explosion, followed by a burning graphite around the core. Only later did they discover that the core melted (maybe helped by the graphite fire) and dripped into the under stories of the building creating stalagmites of resolidified core metal.

    Chernobyl was a steam explosion caused by a badly flawed, unstable design. It was a graphite moderated, water cooled core. The stupid part of its design was that the water quenched the neutron flux. Water & graphite was stable. Steam and Graphite was a known run-away situation to be avoided. It would create a hot spot, creating more steam, faster reaction, making a bigger hot spot, more steam, quickly to a Steam Explosion.

    The coup-de-gras in the poor design was putting 12″ of graphite on the ENDS of the control rods. That’s kind of like filling a fire hose up with gasoline before hooking it up to the hydrant. The first squirt from the hose adds fuel to the fire.

  53. Andy Dawson says:
    March 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    – – – – – –

    Andy,

    We cross posted similar thoughts.

    I am glad to see others (you included) who are not exclaiming catastrophy. You would think this is a revivalist CAGWist meeting or something.

    Thanks for your post.

    John

  54. Looks like they got the valves open:

    “Japan’s nuclear authorities said on Saturday that radioactive pressure was successfully relieved at the No.1 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi plant by opening valves. “

  55. Latest from the IAEA at 0730 Central Europe Time:

    http://www.iaea.org/press/

    “Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that, starting at 9:00AM local time, they have started the preparation for the venting of the containment of the Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant through a controlled release of vapour. The operation is intended to lower pressure inside the reactor containment.”

    The containment pressure is high so they want to depressurize it to keep within the design pressures. There is apparently no uncovering of the core.

  56. If you wander over to the leftist precincts on the web (you know where), it is quite ghoulish to see their zeal in cheering for a catastrophe. Absolutely disgusting.

  57. MikeG: “If water isn’t put in the core, the core will melt and eventually melt its way through the vessel and into the bottom level of containment. ”

    No, Mike, it won’t. That’s one of the interesting results of TMI2. Examination of its pressure vessel was done in the early 1990s and the flow of corium down the vessel. What was determined by the examination was that as the fuel melted its surface area expanded. In short, it cooled down too rapidly to melt through the pressure vessel even if all of the fuel melted, which was not the case at TMI.

    John Whitman is right. Everyone needs to calm down a lot. Just watching the TV tonight someone supposed to be a nuclear expert was making references to Chernobyl. That’s so off the wall it’s not even worth discussing.

  58. John,

    indeed. I was about to say, your word

    “First, calm down. This is a technical problem to be resolved, just that.”

    are a succinct expression of the thought processes of engineers the across the world.

    All in all, the only thing that’s surprised me in this is the failure of the supression pool make up system. The best source of technical data at the moment seems to be World Nuclear News.

  59. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BWR

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scram

    Not to worry. Far more pain and suffering from the quake and tsunami. I used to work with real radiation. We once had a guy walk by a radiation detector we called a hand an shoe counter, and he set it off, just by walking by. (Really; short version: he had been to the doc for a radio-CAT scan, and he was full of medical isotopes. Those detectors we had to step on and put our hands in to be cleared were so sensitive, he could not walk past without setting them off. I’m not exaggerating. That is how low the “normal” levels are. So, 100 or 1000 times higher is no big concern.) I used to do tests that required me to work off hours so no one else was on the floor above my basement lab. Others worked with materials even hotter than that.
    Too many people go bananas over radiation. We live in it. We cannot be without it. It is just not possible.
    BWRs are relatively intrinsically safe. TMI was a tragedy ONLY because tragedy sells. TMI was never a significant threat, no matter what the MSN says.
    I’ve never looked hard at thorium reactors, but I trust they are good designs, and thorium is even more abundant than uranium. Regardless, many passive and intrinsically safe features go in to newer designs. EBR-II (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_Breeder_Reactor_II ) was about as safe as could be imagined. It would safely shut down under any expectable circumstance, even if all the backups failed.
    Nuclear power will eventually rule. We may be out of coal and natural gas before anything besides nuclear fission becomes overall viable. Fusion is inevitable, but it could still be two centuries away. Sooner or later, we will simply design nuclear plants well enough to satisfy the most paranoid, and we will need them enough to overcome any resistance.

  60. Can someone comment on the credentials of the Union of Concerned Scientists commentary at this stage.
    They seem to be drawing conclusions despite being 10,000km away?

    [ryanm: lemme intercept that softball question: they have zero, zilch, nada credibility]

  61. NHK World broadcast mentions a leak of several elements indicating a possible partial meltdown. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/12_45.html

    “The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says 2 radioactive substances, cesium and radioactive iodine, have been detected near the Number One reactor at the Fukushima Number One nuclear power station.

    The agency says this indicates that some of the metal containers of uranium fuel may have started melting.
    The substances are produced by fuel fission.

    University of Tokyo Professor Naoto Sekimura says only a small part of the fuel may have melted and leaked outside.”

  62. From: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703555404576195700301455480.html

    “If the water level remains at this level, the reactor core might be damaged, but we are now pouring water into the reactor to prevent it from happening,” a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. The company, known as Tepco, is the owner of the plant, which is located 150 miles, or 240 kilometers, away from Tokyo.

    A portion of the reactor’s fuel rods, which create heat through a nuclear reaction, have become exposed due to the cooling-system failure. The spokesman for Tepco said 1.5 meters of the 4.5 meter long fuel rods were potentially exposed. (emphasis added)

    Notice the qualifiers. In addition, others have reported that they are using a fire engine to add water. So far, it sounds like the system is working. Let’s hope it all turns out well. In any event, it looks like they are going to be short of generating capacity for a time after everything is brought under control. After such a strong earthquake, everything would need to be checked and rechecked. The lack of generating capacity for some time may well be the real catastrophe in this case.

  63. …as a guy who’s been in and around these things a few times, my thoughts and prayers are with the reactor emergency response teams, engineers, management and other emergency personnel. They are wrestling with the devil with this one, I sure hope we don’t have another quake that makes their situation even worse.

    Thanks to Andy D, John W and other industry guys for your contributions to this thread!

  64. At 11:05 PM on 11 March, Lonnie E. Schubert had written:

    I’ve never looked hard at thorium reactors, but I trust they are good designs, and thorium is even more abundant than uranium.


    Heck, I’ve been reading for some time about the notion of “mining” the huge amounts of coal-fired powerplant ash residue for thorium to be used as fission fuel.

    Thorium is the principal reason why environmental radiation emissions associated with the combustion of coal means that this old-technology non-nuclear electrical power generation method actually results in more ionizing radiation release (and a helluva lot more in the way of chemical carcinogen release) per megawatt-hour than light water fission power generation ever could.

    Though I can’t say with absolute reliability that one has to be either stupid or insane to push the “environmentalist” line of bullpuckey, all the indicators seem to come down in favor of that supposition.

  65. ggm;
    “breader” reactors? Are those the kind that make bread? As in $$, or from flour?

    I prefer the breeder type, myself.
    ;)
    ;pPpP

  66. V says, “Can someone comment on the credentials of the Union of Concerned Scientists commentary at this stage.

    Here are the details,

    Union of Concerned Scientists (Discover the Networks)

    The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization with more than 100,000 members. Seeing its mission as building a “cleaner, healthier environment and a safer world,” … It opposes genetically engineered foods, condemns SUV vehicles, and proposes measures aimed at combating what it deems the imminent dangers of global warming. It also opposes the vast majority of American foreign policy decisions, and calls for a unilateral reduction in U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles. UCS disseminates to lawmakers and news outlets its opinions about each of these matters, with the intent of ultimately influencing public policy.

    Students and faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology founded UCS in 1969. “Through its actions in Vietnam, our government has shaken our confidence in its ability to make wise and humane decisions,” reads the UCS founding document. That sentiment continues to this day, with UCS condemning American efforts in the War on Terror and the 2003 War in Iraq.

    UCS typically minimizes threats posed by foreign rogue regimes, and challenges U.S. assertions about the intentions and military capacities of those governments. In 1998, for instance, UCS assured the public that American analysts had exaggerated North Korea’s ability to produce nuclear weapons, and that the Pyongyang regime was still many years away from being able to develop such an arsenal.

    UCS vigorously opposes America’s development of a missile defense system. It also calls for the “adoption of a U.S. nuclear no-first-use policy”; “a U.S. rejection of rapid-launch options, and a change in deployment practices to provide for the launch of U.S. nuclear forces in hours or days rather than minutes”; “the elimination of all U.S. ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, intended for use on the battlefield”; “verified unilateral reductions to a total of 1,000 strategic warheads (including deployed and stored), accompanied by warhead dismantlement”; and “a commitment to further reductions in the number of nuclear weapons, on a negotiated and verified multilateral basis.”

    UCS admonishes American corporations such as McDonald’s and Burger King, asserting that the presence of antibiotics in meat used by fast-food companies contributes to large-scale antibiotic resistance. In 2003, bills based on UCS research aimed at prohibiting the use of eight classes of antibiotics in livestock used by fast-food producers were introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. Soon after, UCS admitted that the majority of its claims were speculative. UCS has also warned of the alleged dangers of genetically modified food.

    Another issue of concern to UCS is that of global warming. The organization circulated a petition that drew the signatures of some 1,600 scientific experts demanding that the United States ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

    A Union of Concerned Scientists declaration, entitled “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making,” charges that the Bush administration “has continued to distort and suppress science in pursuit of its political goals — despite a plea from top U.S. scientists to restore scientific integrity to the policy-making process.” According to UCS President Kevin Knobloch, “We found a serious pattern of undermining science by the Bush administration, and it crosses disciplines, whether it’s global climate change or reproductive health or mercury in the food chain or forestry — the list goes on and on.” The signers of this document portrayed themselves as objective scientists with no political agenda. But in truth, over half of them were financial contributors to the Democratic Party, Democratic candidates, or a variety of leftist causes. […]

    UCS is a member of the Save Our Environment Action Center, a leftist coalition that describes itself as “a collaborative effort of the nation’s most influential environmental advocacy organizations harnessing the power of the internet to increase public awareness and activism on today’s most important environmental issues.

  67. Actually the best source of information is not World Nuclear News, its Tokyo Electric.
    For anyone who wants to know the plant status at Fukushima, go here:

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html

    and just click through the latest two reports. There are two reactor complexes at Fukushima.

    In short, all reactors were fully shut down. One worker received a radiation dose of 106 mSv (the permissible limit for 1 year is 20 mSv) and extremely unlikely to have any effect. Two workers were injured by falls at the time of the quake (broken bones). The takeway from this is that nuclear plants are built so strongly that they are still standing when everything else has been knocked flat.

    V: UCS has zero credentials on anything nuclear (or anything else except Beltway lobbying). They have no engineering expertise, no nuclear physics expertise and no radiation health expertise. Their great skill is drawing conclusions on everything based upon knowing nothing.

    Lonnie, the biggest problem with BWRs is that because of their single-loop system the containment has to be so huge.

    Kath, that report is utterly worthless if it doesn’t give concentrations. Detected at what concentration? Parts per billion? Parts per million?

  68. Looks like they are slowly getting things under control. The Unit 1 Daiichi reactor seems to be the problem child at this point. Looks like once they release the pressure in the containment vessel, they can get more water in there.

    The higher the pressure gets in there, the more water it forces out of the core.

    BUT people need to remember that these reactors are shut down. While they do take time to cool down, with every passing hour they do lose more heat. This should be much less of a problem 12 hours from now than it is right this minute.

  69. As a followup to John Robertson’s earlier comment, even decay heat isn’t a problem in CANDUs. The reactors are so big relative to the power density that all of the decay heat can simply be radiated into the building structure even in the event of loss of ECCS.

  70. “Looks like they are slowly getting things under control. The Unit 1 Daiichi reactor seems to be the problem child at this point. Looks like once they release the pressure in the containment vessel, they can get more water in there.

    The higher the pressure gets in there, the more water it forces out of the core.”

    Sorry, Crosspatch but you’re well off beam there. Water levels in the reactor vessel aren’t a function of the pressure in the containment – even just venting decay heat steam, the reactor will be pressurised (at a guess) to perhaps 5-10 bar – well above the pressure in the containment.

    As John W. has pointed aout above, the problem is simpler. The primary containment will only stand a certain level of overpressure without uncontrolled venting into the sencondary containment (the reactor building). That’s not catastrophic, but it’s not a desirable outcome. That’s why they’ll be using controlled venting to reduce pressures.

    As an aside, there’s a certain irony here. Last week, the NRC gave last stage design approval (only one more hoop to jump through) for the latest iteration of the reactor types at Fukushima – the “Economically Simplified BWR” (ESBWR).

    The ESBWR is a beautifully elegant design. Direct Cycle, inherently safe and – here’s the real beauty – doesn’t use coolant pumps at all. All the make-up systems are gravity fed, and there’s a “S**t or bust” option to simply submerge the whole reactor. Even at full power operation, it’s a natural circulation design. So, loss of power to coolant pumps isn’t an issue – there aren’t any.

  71. “Lonnie, the biggest problem with BWRs is that because of their single-loop system the containment has to be so huge.”

    Absolutely not. BWRs (at least post the BWR6) have much smaller containments than PWRs of equivalent power. They use a “wet” contaimant, and don’t use heat exchangers.

    The trick is the ability to drive fast-acting isolation valves to cut the steam supply/return to the turbine.

  72. Andy Dawson says:
    March 11, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    John,

    All in all, the only thing that’s surprised me in this is the failure of the supression pool make up system. The best source of technical data at the moment seems to be World Nuclear News.

    – – – – – – –

    Andy Dawson,

    Glad to get your comment. Thanks.

    Regarding the potential that that there was/is a failure of the suppression pool make up system at the 1F1 plant of concern, the suppression pool at that plant (if my oldish mind remembers correctly) is a toroidal design (aka a torus). The suppression pool is, of course as required by the fundamental design, below the level of the RPV.

    1F1 is a BWR model that does not have (as I recall) a gravity feed water makeup (supply) system, unless a plant modification was done recently. That is, it doesn’t have a pool of water at an elevation higher than the suppression pool (torus) so that you could just open a valve for makeup water. The plant must therefore have a shutdown mode makeup system that uses electric motor driven pumps. If they had a complete simultaneous loss of incoming grid power (an off site power supply), both Emergency Diesel Generators and all other internal electrical power then suppression pool makeup water would be unavailable. The media and internet sources I have seen are consistent that they had an electric power source blackout, so that explains no suppression pool makeup. I think rigging up a temporary electric source isn’t a long term problem.

    That said, I do not think (guess) they have a lack of water in the suppression pool unless it was damaged and leaked the water into the secondary containment; I just do not know if it was damaged. But I would think (guess) that there probably is sufficient water in the suppression pool. The problem would rather be with the lack of electric power to pump water from the suppression pool back to the RPV to keep the water level sufficient high to cover the core to the needed height. Anyway, even if the suppression pool lacked water for make up to the RPV, there are by plant design potentially several other redundant sources of water to put in the RPV besides the suppression pool. But they also require electric power to pump to the RPV. I think that is the problem, not any one system’s failure by physical damage but lack of electric power, but I just do not know.

    Andy, there some significant factors that I just do not know, so although it would be great to discuss the strictly speculative possibilities of the plant conditions, this is not the appropriate environment to do so. People are prone to out-of-contexting.

    John

  73. Good links from Crosspatch and Colin. I find it most revealing that better information on this non climate related incident is found at WUWT rather than the lame stream media. New media wins again. If I can steel myself with a bottle of reasonably priced Australian red, I might click over to see where the Guardian coverage is at. Or not…

  74. Well, I was repeating what TEPCO said. They said they couldn’t get more water in there until they vented the pressure in the containment vessel. That might be a function of the cooling system they are using which I believe is a backup system on that reactor.

    “Even at full power operation, it’s a natural circulation design. So, loss of power to coolant pumps isn’t an issue – there aren’t any.”

    Yeah, same way the AP1000 works.

  75. “Andy, there some significant factors that I just do not know, so although it would be great to discuss the strictly speculative possibilities of the plant conditions, this is not the appropriate environment to do so. People are prone to out-of-contexting.”

    Fair point, and thanks for the info (although I wasn’t aware that suppression pool water return to the RPV – is that a good idea from a radiological perspective?). I don’t claim BWR expertise – CO2 and graphite is my background!

  76. One of the nuke reactors blew up, and the radioactivity was measured to be ca. 1 milliSievert at just outside of the reactor site. This may mean that a person inhales a dose, equivalent to one-year dose in normal life, only in an hour.
    Could be a really terrible situation for those living nearby.

  77. Kath says:
    March 11, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    NHK World broadcast mentions a leak of several elements indicating a possible partial meltdown. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/12_45.html

    NHK said “The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says 2 radioactive substances, cesium and radioactive iodine, have been detected near the Number One reactor at the Fukushima Number One nuclear power station.”

    – – – – – – – –

    The agency says this indicates that some of the metal containers of uranium fuel may have started melting.
    The substances are produced by fuel fission.

    University of Tokyo Professor Naoto Sekimura says only a small part of the fuel may have melted and leaked outside.”

    – – – – – – –

    Kath,

    I am confident the sources you show are in the best possible position to mention the possibility of the ‘melt’ word.

    I can just mention that the severe agitation of the fuel rod (they say containers) by the 8.9 eartquake ~80 km away coupled with scram thermal transients might have caused some mechanical cracks in the fuel clad that could have potentially caused release of fission decay products into the water. That would give the same isotopic indicators in the water that the sources above mention. So, melting I think is possible and the sources known best about the actual plant situation, but mechanical damage without melting is also possible.

    At this point without further input I will wait for more confirmation of the suggestion by the authorities of melting. Inspection later after the plant is stabilized will show the actual fuel condition.

    My thoughts are with the teams of the Japanese utility, consultants and government as they solve this technical situation.

    John

  78. crosspatch,

    re

    “Yeah, same way the AP1000 works.”

    No, the AP1000 can run on natural circulation in decay heat removal mode. In normal operation, it uses circulation pumps. The ESBWR doesn’t use them at all

  79. Quote: That caused Tepco to declare an emergency and the government to evacuate thousands of people from near the plant. Such a blackout is “one of the most serious conditions that can affect a nuclear plant,” according to experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S. based nuclear watchdog group.
    “If all AC power is lost, the options to cool the core are limited,” the group warned.

    Good to know we’ve now got the real experts on the job!

  80. @Colin:
    (the permissible limit for 1 year is 20 mSv)

    When I was a rad worker, the occupational limits were (3 Rem) 30mSv/quarter and (5 Rem) 50mSv/year.

    Chernobyl design critiques,
    it is true that the Chernobyl reactor had a positive void coefficient of reactivity (steam void increases, reactor power increases), operational limits and safety interlocks were in place to prevent such accident from occuring. It did indeed occur not because of design, but because operational procedures were violated, and saftey interlocks were defeated in order to conduct a test. The test was to trip the coolant pumps to see how much flow they would provide while coasting down. The plant was in an unsafe condition when the pumps were tripped, and the plant blew up. The releases of radioactive material was measured in the mega-curies. I was used to seeing measurements of micro-curies. 1 curie = 3.7 x 10^10 disintigrations(decays) per second.

  81. 0855 GMT Saturday 12 March: Some pictures have come through now on Japanese TV of that explosion at Fukushima. It looks very strong. You can see debris being blasted from the building, then a cloud of smoke mushrooming up from the plant.

  82. Sky News reporting that radiation levels 8X background outside plant and 1000X background inside control room.
    Further new Tsunamis expected up to 3 meters, evacuation of coastal areas to higher ground implemented.

  83. I did want to comment about some of the poor ( and excellent) reporting going on around the world regarding this incident but since i have been considering what to write there has been the explosion.
    I will bring you video from Sky News Uk as it becomes available. ( I don’t have the actual explosion yet but I see that it is above )

  84. I’d appreciate it if a moderator could sort the embedding out in the previous post ( and explain how to do it as I have more to post )

  85. tokyoboy says:
    March 12, 2011 at 12:39 am

    One of the nuke reactors blew up, and the radioactivity was measured to be ca. 1 milliSievert at just outside of the reactor site. This may mean that a person inhales a dose, equivalent to one-year dose in normal life, only in an hour.
    Could be a really terrible situation for those living nearby.

    – – – – – – –

    tokyoboy,

    This is surprising news if it is related to the essential structure of the 1F1 reactor building. So I would like to know if it an associated building such as the rad-waste building or truck access bay or auxiliary building or transformer/switchgear building or turbine building instead of the reactor building essential structure itself.

    We are all trying our best to sort it out and understand.

    Do you have a link about the explosion?

    John

  86. If you watch that video when they show the close up you see that the roof didn’t collapse inward it was blown off. There is a very definite and visible pressure wave going straight up and the walls blew outward.

  87. Re: crosspatch
    I would say the turbine building. The containment building is only now said to be pressured a two atmospheres. That won’t create a pressure wave like we saw after the explosion. A turbine building could have steam under great pressure and I could imagine such an explosion there. No flash so it wasn’t a chemical explosion.

  88. Doug Allen says:
    March 11, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    >>
    Hmmm. Scary for Japan which has suffered enough. Scary for all of us. I think a lot of us old conservationists/environmentalists who had opposed nuclear were “warming up” to it as the best and cheapest alternative to fossil fuels should they run out or global warming actually proved to be CAGW, which I doubt. Now, I suppose, for better or worse, we are stuck with fossil fuels, very inefficient wind, and very expensive solar. BTW, there are millions of us conservationists/environmentalists who feel the global warming zealots and green extremists have hijacked our beloved movement. Lets take it back!
    >>

    Exactly.

    I hope for the local population that can be brought under control but for the rest of the world it probably could not have come at a better time.

    Hopefully this will be wake-up call for the GW zealots. Do they really want to believe that CO2 is more dangerous than nuclear fission reactor fuel and waste products?

    Let’s hope that the environmental movement can get off the AGW bandwagon and start concerning itself with REAL pollution issues again.

  89. @boballab

    Yes, that was something i noticed to. This was a distinctive upwards explosion ( I’m ex Royal Artillery, I know my bangs ;))

    Japan’s chief secretary confirms radiation leaks now ( breaking ) but confirms that the 6 mile evacuation zone is enough.

    This is the reporting from Russia Today ( which is a great if you ever get the chance to tune in )

  90. I’m sure Al Gore will say the more frequent and more violent earthquakes are an expected result of global warming and all this is completely consistent with model predictions of the effects of AGW.

    Just wait ’till someone works out how much CO2 escaped from F***youshimmer #1.

  91. Whatever was blowing up it the video, it does not look like a 4 foot thick concrete containment structure. Given that the simple solution to the problem is to vent the reactor vessel down to 1 bar then add water at will, the only reason a melt down could occur is because venting of mildly radioactive steam is delayed for political reasons. While I can accept that the Japanese often exhibit extreme bureaucratic paralysis, I am unwilling to accept that all their engineers are a bunch of [snip].

  92. @ John G. Bell says:
    March 12, 2011 at 1:31 am
    Re: crosspatch
    I would say the turbine building. The containment building is only now said to be pressured a two atmospheres. That won’t create a pressure wave like we saw after the explosion. A turbine building could have steam under great pressure and I could imagine such an explosion there. No flash so it wasn’t a chemical explosion.
    ———

    I think you are correct, John. Makes all the sense in the world to me, considering how much trouble they must be having with controls & subsystems.

    From Yahoo News:

    Footage on Japanese TV showed that the walls of one building had crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame standing.

  93. “Given that the simple solution to the problem is to vent the reactor vessel down to 1 bar then add water at will, the only reason a melt down could occur is because venting of mildly radioactive steam is delayed for political reasons. While I can accept that the Japanese often exhibit extreme bureaucratic paralysis, I am unwilling to accept that all their engineers are a bunch of [snip].”

    Apparently they tried to manually vent the gas (the valves do not have power currently). The worker doing the release was exposed to a fair dose of radiation so they have gone back to the drawing board.

  94. Evacuation radius now set to 12 miles, people told to not leave any skin uncovered, use wet towels wrapped around face and head, do not drink tap water.

  95. Almost simultaneously with the strong shock that hit Japan and triggered a giant tsunami in the Pacific, the Russian Kamchatka volcanoes erupted too. Erupcji towarzyszyły trzęsienia ziemi. Eruption was accompanied by earthquakes.
    Other volcanic activity in Japan and other places too.

  96. Slightly better quality video of what appears to be a nuclear reactor containment building exploding.

    Why are the buildings cube shaped rather than a cylinder with a dome? Is the reactor contained within another containment structure within these cube like buildings? Anyone have design diagrams of this facility?

  97. The speculation about the Tsunami / future Tsunami’s being caused by global warming has already begun. See here, here, here.

    For Warmists who are inclined to believe this nonsense then please believe the following things caused by global warming:

    Bird migrations longer
    Bird migrations shorter

    Boreal forest fires may increase
    Boreal forest fires may decrease

    Earth’s rotation to slow down
    Earth’s rotation to speed up

    Plants move uphill
    Plants move downhill

    Sahel to get less rain
    Sahel to get more rain

    1896
    Japan Hit By Earthquake, Tsunami And Typhoon On The Same Day
    New York Times [via S.G. image]

    Enough said!

  98. According to a Finnish expert, the explosion was caused by hydrogen that has formed in the reactor. He says this is the second worst accident after Chernobyl.

    Luckily the wind is blowing to the sea.

  99. Harrabin on BBC news being very non-alarmist at the moment, even pointing out that hydro-power is more fatal per kwh than nuclear.

  100. BBC News: Japanese authorities are extending the evacuation zone around the two Fukushima nuclear plants from 10km to 20km, according to local media.

  101. Nuclear power has always been volatile. No matter the safeguards something can go wrong. If the same time and money that has gone into developing nuclear power had gone instead into developing low energy nuclear reaction it would already be in use. I already know some will tell me low energy nuclear reaction doesn’t work and that no nuclear reaction is taking place in it. It has been commonly, an incorrectly, called cold fusion. And that has left a lasting impression that fusion takes place in the reaction. But fusion does not take place. And since no fusion is taking place some are saying it does not produce more energy out than is put in. But it does.

    This video will show that it does work:

  102. Oh, youtube video tags need to be on a line all by themselves to show up embedded as a video, if you put them on a line with any other text they are presented just as a link! Please add that to the instructions below the input box. [reply – I think those are standard instructions – not sure they can be modified. ~jove, mod] Thanks.

    CNN reports:

  103. Japan may have been moved 8 feet!

    “(CNN) — The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis.

    “At this point, we know that one GPS station moved (8 feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in Japan showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass,” said Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
    Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).”

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.earthquake.tsunami.earth/index.html

  104. pwl says:
    March 12, 2011 at 2:26 am

    – – – – – –

    pwl,

    All the Fukushima Daiichi (1F) site and Daini (2F) site nuclear plant have structurally square reactor buildings. It is the design for the model BWRs at those sites. The cylindrical reactor buildings are mostly PWR reactors.

    You can google BWR Mark 1 reactors and if you search long enough you can probably get the basic structure of the type of BWR that 1F1 is.

    Note: I think that there may be a cosmetic set of paneling supported by steel structural beams over the original concrete faced essential structure of the reactor buildings. The paneling with its supporting structure would just be to make the building look better than the original grayish essential concrete structure of the reactor building. I am sure detail will emerge about the explosion to support or reject these thoughts.

    John

  105. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:
    March 12, 2011 at 2:00 am
    @ John G. Bell says:
    March 12, 2011 at 1:31 am
    Re: crosspatch
    I would say the turbine building. The containment building is only now said to be pressured a two atmospheres. That won’t create a pressure wave like we saw after the explosion. A turbine building could have steam under great pressure and I could imagine such an explosion there. No flash so it wasn’t a chemical explosion.
    ———

    I think you are correct, John. Makes all the sense in the world to me, considering how much trouble they must be having with controls & subsystems.

    Ok first things first: Fukushima I is a BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) not a PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) that most people think of when dealing with nuke plants. A BWR works by boiling the water directly into steam and then having it turn the Turbines for power, then re-condensing the water and pumping it back in. A PWR uses a secondary loop and a Steam Generator.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressurized_water_reactor

    So What does this mean?

    Yesterday they stated that the Reactor Core had reached 2000 psi, where most BWR’s are designed to operate at around 650 PSI (PWR’s are designed for around 2000 PSI operation). Now the atmospheric pressure in the containment building has no bearing on the pressure inside the pressure vessel. So if you have high pressure in the steam lines in the Turbine building, you have the same pressure inside the Reactor pressure vessel unless they are able to shut the valves between the two building and isolate the two. If that is the case the Steam in the Turbine building would NOT increase in Temp/Pressure but the Pressure Vessel would since that is what is generating the heat (latent heat from the rods).

    Now the Fukushima I plant is also an old design and there have been doubts about them if they experience what they are going through right now.

    Though the present fleet of BWRs are less likely to suffer core damage from the 1 in 100,000 reactor-year limiting fault than the present fleet of PWRs are (due to increased ECCS robustness and redundancy) there have been concerns raised about the pressure containment ability of the as-built, unmodified Mark I containment – that such may be insufficient to contain pressures generated by a limiting fault combined with complete ECCS failure that results in extremely severe core damage. In this double worst-case, 1 in 100,000,000 reactor-year scenario, an unmodified Mark I containment is speculated to allow some degree of radioactive release to occur. However, this is mitigated by the modification of the Mark I containment; namely, the addition of an outgas stack system that, if containment pressure exceeds critical setpoints, will allow the orderly discharge of pressurizing gasses after the gasses pass through activated carbon filters designed to trap radionuclides.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor#Disadvantages

    We know from press reports that the emergency release valves to the stacks failed, they have been doing the pressure releases manually.

    Also NHK in Japan has reported that the Japanese Government has stated that the core has been exposed 90 centimeters and that at least one rod has started melt.

    At this time the Japanese Government doesn’t know if it was the Turbine building or the Containment building (this leads to that the reactor has not been isolated from the Turbine building via valves).

    Naval Nuclear Power School graduate Class 8602

  106. In this video Al Gored supplied at about 50 seconds in there is a closeup, there is what appears to be one single frame, maybe two, at the instance of the explosions where you can see a flash inside the building. By the next frame the gray smoke has already engulphed the front of that building.

    Wonder if that could have been a buildup of hydrogen or such, if it was steam pressure that blew you shouldn’t see a bright flash.

    Does anyone have a way to get to a single frame out of these videos? It’s hard to get it to stop at just the right point.

  107. pwl says:
    March 12, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Why are the buildings cube shaped rather than a cylinder with a dome? Is the reactor contained within another containment structure within these cube like buildings? Anyone have design diagrams of this facility?

    A lot of reactors world wide do not have those big concrete domed reactor vessels, especially for BWR style reactors that operate at much lower temps and pressures then PWR.

  108. Bob Buchanan says:

    I don’t understand why the systems don’t automatically withdraw the fuel rods and stop the energy producing chain reaction.

    Fission in a reactor is regulated by control rods, made of a neutron adsorbing material. These have to be withdrawn from the reactor for fission to take place. Inserting the control rods can stop any chain reaction very quickly.
    However a significent amount of energy continues to be produced due to radioactive decay, from fission products, their daughter elements and isotopes resulting from neutron capture. Cooling is needed to prevent the fuel assembles melting for some time after a reactor shutdown.

  109. V says:
    March 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Can someone comment on the credentials of the Union of Concerned Scientists commentary at this stage.

    Their name is not accurate.The organization is not comprised of all scientists. There are some scientists in it. But it should be called The Union of Concerned Activists. Their web site nowhere says they are all scientists.

    ……an alliance of more than 250,000 citizens and scientists. UCS members are people from all walks of life: parents and businesspeople, biologists and physicists, teachers and students.

    link to their web site:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/about/

    I thought there were laws in the USA about misleading naming of organizations. Maybe no one has ever challenged their naming.

    They are also activists for global warming. Bill Nye refers to them to substantiate his alarmists opinions of global warming. I suppose if they were called The Union of Concerned Activists he would not refer to them. The word ‘Scientists’ give them a level of credibility they do not really have, or deserve.

  110. Jarmo says:
    March 12, 2011 at 2:39 am
    According to a Finnish expert, the explosion was caused by hydrogen that has formed in the reactor. He says this is the second worst accident after Chernobyl.

    Luckily the wind is blowing to the sea.

    It’s possible, depending on how much of the core has melted. The more of the core that melts the more hydrogen is released and forms a bubble at the top of the pressure vessel. We all should know how explosive Hydrogen when there is enough Oxygen present so a single spark and boom. This was one of the fears of happening at Three Mile Island:

    About 130 minutes after the first malfunction, the top of the reactor core was exposed and the intense heat caused a reaction to occur between the steam forming in the reactor core and the Zircaloy nuclear fuel rod cladding, yielding zirconium dioxide, hydrogen, and additional heat. This fiery reaction burned off the nuclear fuel rod cladding, the hot plume of reacting steam and zirconium damaged the fuel pellets which released more radioactivity to the reactor coolant and produced hydrogen gas that is believed to have caused a small explosion in the containment building later that afternoon.[17]

    SNIP

    On the third day following the accident, a hydrogen bubble was discovered in the dome of the pressure vessel, and became the focus of concern. A hydrogen explosion might not only breach the pressure vessel, but, depending on its magnitude, might compromise the integrity of the containment vessel leading to large scale release of radiation. However, it was determined that there was no oxygen present in the pressure vessel, a prerequisite for hydrogen to burn or explode. Immediate steps were taken to reduce the hydrogen bubble, and by the following day it was significantly smaller. Over the next week, steam and hydrogen were removed from the reactor using a plasma recombiner and, controversially, by venting straight to the atmosphere.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident

  111. News media splash pages will be running the explosion mostly throughout the day and likely will have it as a lead for days.

    Countries that have no better alternative may accelerate and/or retro their plants. The Japanese will for sure continue building theirs but will turn their engineering skills to fix whatever the outcome is from this one from locations to withstanding a 10.0+ quake in a Cat 5 hurricane while buffeted by a Cat 5 tornado with a near-miss of an asteroid strike. The Japanese are not the best creative people on Earth but, imho, are the best engineers.

    Politically, in the US, expect Obama to completely shut down the nuke industries including “increased” inspections followed by various agencies issuing shutdowns to fix whatever issues they find. The narrative becomes a narrative of safety and fear. Hydrocarbons, nuclear and even hydro (eventually) will be “feared” out of use. Maybe before 2012 and certainly if Obama is re-elected. Fear will win, politically. It almost always does.

    The Greenies and other fear groups are already out mass manufacturing glow-in-the-dark costumes to wear for the next million-corpses march on DC or such.

    Oh, and but of course, the only “safe” energy is Obama and his cronies energy.

  112. pwl

    “Why are the buildings cube shaped rather than a cylinder with a dome? Is the reactor contained within another containment structure within these cube like buildings?”

    This type of reactor is a BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) as opposed to a PWR (Pressurise Water Reactor)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressurized_water_reactor

    There appears to be a lot of confused details being put out by the MSM at the moment. As bes as I can gather the explosion has occurred at the Fukushima II site but there is also a Fukushima I site.

    Fukushima II (Daini) – http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Fukushima+Daini&aq=&sll=51.89273,-0.354505&sspn=1.242417,4.22699&ie=UTF8&hq=Fukushima+Daini&hnear=&radius=15000&ll=37.317445,141.029134&spn=0.012509,0.033023&t=h&z=16

    Fukushima I (Daichi) – http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Fukushima+Daini&aq=&sll=51.89273,-0.354505&sspn=1.242417,4.22699&ie=UTF8&hq=Fukushima+Daini&hnear=&radius=15000&t=h&ll=37.234497,141.021023&spn=0.025045,0.066047&z=15

  113. KevinUK says:
    March 12, 2011 at 3:35 am

    As bes as I can gather the explosion has occurred at the Fukushima II site but there is also a Fukushima I site.

    Kevin I’m listening/watching the NHK World service (Japanese TV station) and they have always reported it as Fukushima I and that is also what the press conferences with Japanese officials are also stating. Again according to the Japanese Government as shown on NHK the explosion occured at Fukushima I and the evac zone around it is now 20km.

    Now Fukushima II is also now experiencing a complete loss of cooling but has had no explosion and it’s evac zone is only 10 km.

  114. From live press conference:

    Nuclear reactor not damaged, explosion was from hydrogen containers.

    Increase in radiation from normal venting.

  115. boballab,

    I’m with the ‘Finnish expert’ at the moment.

    But the official line from the Japanese authorities just now appears to be that the reactor pressure vessel is still intact.

    Without any doubt there has been a signifiant release of radioactivity as a result of that explosion.

    IMO this was all building up (to the explosion we’ve just seen) yesterday and up until the explosion, the Japanese authorities were trying to ‘keep a lid on it’ so to speak. Some of the reporting in the MSM is completely wrong. For example BBC news reported earlier today that the affected reactor was ‘Reactor 1′ at Daichi. when it fact its very clear (see earliet Google map links) that the explosion has been teh northern most reactor building at the Fukusima II (Daini) site.

  116. How does the radiation from a melt down in Japan stand up against radiation in bananas?
    Can we have a follow up article comparing the two please?

    [Reply :-) ~jove, mod]

  117. Live from here :-

    http://www.ustream.tv/news

    Live press release – Wave took out cooling, they released pressured and the levels hit 1200 but lowered and is down to 70.5, the reactor is intact and the explosion was hydrogen build up.

    live now.

  118. Drudge Report Headlines 5:20am EST 3/12/11

    Building At Fukushima I Power Plant Blows Up…
    Radiation leaking, pressure in core unstable…
    Caesium detected; points to nuke fuel melt…
    REPORT: Evacuation widened to 20 km…
    VIDEO…
    ‘MAY BE EXPERIENCING NUCLEAR MELTDOWN’…
    Japan nuke officials: ‘High probability’…
    ‘No immediate health hazard,’ officials say — while evacuating 45,000…
    Concerns grow about second nuke plant…
    Japan declares emergencies at 5 nuclear units…
    Evacuation at Fukushima II…

    Justified or not this’ll put the kibosh on nuclear power plants as an answer to alternative energy for a couple of decades. I suspect LFTR (liquid flouride thorium reactor) has its own set of problems that may or may not have economical workarounds even if containment isn’t one of those problems – things that seem too good to be true usually are.

    What gets me is that a crowd (this one) so down on climate models would be so trusting of worst-case scenario models in nuclear reactor design. I’ve no doubt the models predicted that these nukes in Japan could withstand this assault on their integrity but as we can plainly see the model was not competent.

    I wonder what kind of damage was sustained by Japan’s wind farms? One thing’s for sure – none exploded or went into meltdown. I suspect they’re all still standing and spinning helping to make up for the loss of nuclear energy.

  119. Well if I was to do the maths I’d ban people living near the sea way before I’d ban nuclear power stations. Then there’d be folks living on floodplains, near volcanoes, driving cars and so on. Why is it that we forget basic numbers when it comes to nuclear power and get all hysterical?

  120. “Government spokesman says the nuclear reactor container at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant has not been damaged, and the level of radiation has dropped following the explosion earlier on Saturday, AFP reports.” – BBC

  121. Some good news if true…

    http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/03/77149.html

    URGENT: Explosion did not occur at Fukushima reactor: Edano

    TOKYO, March 12, Kyodo

    Japanese authorities have confirmed there was no explosion at the troubled No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, top government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

    The chief Cabinet secretary also told an urgent press conference that the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has confirmed there is no damage to the steel container housing the reactor.

    ==Kyodo

  122. But we want to know what is going on at Fukushima II. How strange Yukio Edano doesn’t answer that question also.

  123. Looks like it was a reactor building but the reactor may have been protected as radiation levels are now going down it seems. Note this is from the governement and in the past they have been rather economical with the truth, however hopefully things are past their worst.

    Shows again that for all power generation there are pitfalls.

    Andy

  124. KevinUK says:
    March 12, 2011 at 3:49 am
    boballab,

    I’m with the ‘Finnish expert’ at the moment.

    But the official line from the Japanese authorities just now appears to be that the reactor pressure vessel is still intact.

    Without any doubt there has been a signifiant release of radioactivity as a result of that explosion.

    IMO this was all building up (to the explosion we’ve just seen) yesterday and up until the explosion, the Japanese authorities were trying to ‘keep a lid on it’ so to speak. Some of the reporting in the MSM is completely wrong. For example BBC news reported earlier today that the affected reactor was ‘Reactor 1′ at Daichi. when it fact its very clear (see earliet Google map links) that the explosion has been teh northern most reactor building at the Fukusima II (Daini) site.

    Kevin the northern site is Fukushima I not Fukushima II. NHK just put up the evac maps and shows which one is which. Also the Chief Cabinet Secretary has stated the explosion happened at Fukushima I which is the northern plant not Fukushima II

  125. Here to help with the confusion:

    The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (福島第一原子力発電所 Fukushima dai-ichi genshiryoku hatsudensho?, Fukushima I NPP, 1F), often referred to as Fukushima Dai-ichi, is a nuclear power plant located in the town of Okuma in the Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture. With six separate units located on site with a combined power of 4.7 GW, Fukushima I is one of the 25 largest nuclear power stations in the world. Fukushima I is the first nuclear plant to be constructed and run entirely by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Unit 1 (FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI-1), which had been built by General Electric in the late 1960s, was in commercial operation since March 1971, and was targeted for shutdown in March 2011.[1]
    In March 2011, in the immediate wake of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government declared an “atomic power emergency” and evacuated thousands of residents living close to Fukushima I. Ryohei Shiomi of Japan’s nuclear safety commission said that officials are concerned about the possibility of a meltdown.[2]

    Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant, 11.5 kilometres (7.1 mi) to the south, is also run by TEPCO.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    Coords for Fukushima I: 37°25′17″N 141°01′57″E
    Coords for Fukushima II: 37°19′10″N 141°01′16″E

  126. I was watching the interview of the Director General of Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Jukka Laaksonen, made yesterday. He was quite scathing on the electrical systems of old BWRs in Japan and the US. He called them “flimsy” and said that the Japanese had failed to carry out similar modernization as the the Europeans have done.

    Laaksonen said he had visited the Japanese plants and US plants and that these problems had been pointed out to the Japanese and also to the Americans. The Japanese answer had been that the systems are good enough for them. Laaksonen remarked drily that perhaps the Japanese will listen to them now.

  127. The video link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg4uogOEUrU to which the article referred is fascinating. The first 45 seconds shows the smoke spreading while the flotsam in the foreground are absolutely stationary. Dirty screen? Computer enhancement? Ultra slow motion? Trick photography? Any other solutions? Or did the sea really stay motionless?

  128. Shevva says:
    March 12, 2011 at 4:03 am
    >>
    Live from here :-

    http://www.ustream.tv/news

    Live press release – Wave took out cooling, they released pressured and the levels hit 1200 but lowered and is down to 70.5, the reactor is intact and the explosion was hydrogen build up.

    live now.
    >>

    Yeah, a live video feed of a japanese watching TV, about as exciting a watching paint dry.

    From time to time he translates something about an “arsequake”. Don’t know what he’s watching.

  129. Much worse than the (slightly) alarmist coverage by most of the rolling news channels, was the dear old BBC, baring its ‘green’ credentials for all to see..
    Who do they get to comment on the unfolding situation..? An engineer, say, from the UK’s Nuclear Inspectorate..?
    Nah – a guy from Greenpeace..!! (I suspect he’d been on the phone to them, saying: ‘PLEASE let me comment on the nuclear disaster in Japan..’)
    Letting someone from Greepeace loose on this subject is akin to letting an avowed vegetarian comment on eating red meat – they HATE nuclear power, and will do anything in their power to bad-mouth it. No wonder the guy looked really pleased with himself at the end of the interview – he and the BBC have probaly put the UK’s nuclear energy programme back five years – and rolling power cuts will become the norm….

  130. Never forget 9/11 lies.
    Study prevailing winds.
    Traditional cooling not possible.
    Containment has been breached.
    Dishonest governments never tell the truth.
    Corrupt controlled media never tell the truth.

  131. “Nuclear reactor not damaged, explosion was from hydrogen containers.”

    That’s good news (in a way…)

    It’s also consistent with the comments upthread by those saying that the explosion appeared to come from the turbine hall.

    The main usage for hydrogen on a power station (nuclear or conventional) is turbine stator cooling.

  132. The only thing I find scary about all this is the endless abreactionary drivel I will have to put up with from the enviroloonies.

  133. JOJO says:
    March 12, 2011 at 4:02 am
    >>
    How does the radiation from a melt down in Japan stand up against radiation in bananas?
    Can we have a follow up article comparing the two please?
    >>

    A melt down would have nothing to fear from bananas.

  134. Tepco, the company that runs Fukushima reactors, seems to have safety culture issues:

    Tepco president to step down following nuclear safety scandal

    Published: Sep 3, 2002

    3 September 2002 – Nobuya Minami is to leave his post as president of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) in October after the utility admitted its safety reports on nuclear power plants were falsified.

    http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index/display/articledisplay/153635/articles/power-engineering-international/business/tepco-president-to-step-down-following-nuclear-safety-scandal.html

  135. Solomon Green, that sea full of flotsam in the foreground is stationary because it is land.

    Andy

  136. From NHK World service:

    The Chief Cabinet Secretary stated that the explosion at Fukushima I was not from the reactor vessel but was caused by the walls falling in and that Radiation levels have not risen from it. Also starting at 8pm Japan time they started using Seawater to cool the reactor core.

  137. There is more speculation and hysteria than there are facts at this time.
    At the end of it all, lets compare the relative direct human impact of the Tsunami and Dam break(s) and fires, with that from Radiation. So far, I understand that there was a hydrogen explosion; possibly related to the Turbine electrical end of things, as hydrogen is used for low windage in the generator.
    Facts first please.

  138. JG: “…when the pumps were tripped, and the plant blew up…”

    No, as has been thoroughly documented more than 20 years ago, the steam blast occurred when the AZ5 reactor scram button was pressed and the reactor was shut down. The shutdown system injected positive reactivity into the reactor.

    There’s still far too much speculation in this thread among people who should know better. The only reliable information comes here:

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html

  139. Interesting to note how many people are pedalling their own personal views and not being logical, pragmatic or even, dare I say it, scientific about all of this. No wonder the debate on the global climate is such a mess. Also interesting to see how the conspiracy therorists get all agitated when something like this comes along. Personally I think it’s all a conspiracy, but I can’t tell you by who because they might be reading this (was that really sarc or not, only they can tell you!).

  140. P. Solar says:
    March 12, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Shevva says:
    March 12, 2011 at 4:03 am

    He’s trying to translate the live government broadcasts into English as best he can, maybe give him a break?

  141. @JOJO

    As was the case with Chernobyl, people will continue to receive more radiation from bananas than from this event.

  142. Another effect of the earthquake/tsunami that hasn’t been addressed is the agricultural sector of Japan. In particular their importation of agri products from the US. How many know that Japan imports a great deal of rice from the US for example? 320,000 metric tons last year alone.

    Here’s some info: http://www.dtnprogressivefarmer.com/dtnag/common/link.do;jsessionid=8C528FA3476EA1CD90AC96E33216342A.agfreejvm1?symbolicName=/free/news/template1&paneContentId=5&paneParentId=70104&product=/ag/news/topstories&vendorReference=0353b2fa-34a2-481b-912d-1cb46058ad3a

  143. @Jarmo

    If that moron from Finland has to endure a magnitude 9 quake, perhaps he will not be so smug.

  144. Doug Badgero says:
    March 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm
    This seems to be the best source for info on status:

    Thanks for the link and your knowledge on the subject.
    And thanks to all the other knowledgeable posters as well.

    Have CNN on, and they are hyping nuclear horror stories…

  145. Glad to see mention of the CANDU reactor by John and Colin. The Pickering plant is almost within sight of my parental home and built while I watched. I was never a fan of pressurized light water reactors for the reasons of: earthquakes, attacks and Homer Simpson errors.

    While mention is often made of TMI, it is always best to see the data (i.e. numbers). The public exposure was the equivalent of eating two bananas (remember that bananas accumulate P40). Hardly Chernobyl.

    As nukes are part of the future, hopefully sanity will prevail, not those fearing bananas, or who are bananas.

    CANDU uses 5% U235 and requires the presence of heavy water to work. The water is held ‘up’ in the reactor by compressed air. If anything breaks the water falls out. The system shuts off. If they had been used in Japan there would have been no steam, no explosion, no heat, no chase for spare back up batteries, no melting cores and no fears.

    It seems the era of the PLWR is about to be declared over. Thank goodness. This situation is ridiculous because it was really all about creating bomb-stuff in the first place.

  146. Andy Dawson says:
    March 12, 2011 at 5:44 am

    “Nuclear reactor not damaged, explosion was from hydrogen containers.”

    Hydrogen can also be generated by water contacting a very, very, hot metallic surface such as an uncovered reactor core, but hydrogen produced in that way should not reach the turbine hall. This is a known complication of a meltdown. If it is from the reactor, scratch one Japanese BWR.

  147. Roger Harrabin, on the BBC, made an interesting comment. He said that, when safety is compared to the amount of energy generated, nuclear power is very safe. Surprisingly, he said that the most dangerous (per megawatt hour) is hydro electricity, probably because of dangerous dam failures.

    I’ve visited Japan twice, many years ago. I was always impressed by the kindness and friendliness of the Japanese people. Like many others, I would like to express my sadness for this awful and incomprehensible disaster. I hope they will be able to quickly recover and rebuild. My thoughts are with them.
    Chris

  148. In the picture we see four white rectangular buildings. What contains these buildings? In the explosion video, it seems to be one of these buildings that blows up…

  149. @JOJO says:
    March 12, 2011 at 4:02 am

    How does the radiation from a melt down in Japan stand up against radiation in bananas?
    Can we have a follow up article comparing the two please?

    Many a true word spoken in jest. I too would be very interested in a comparison between the two. Probably best to wait for them to assess just what was actually released into the atmosphere once they get things under control (as I have no doubt from reading the comments here, they will).

    Thank you to all the commenters here for not indulging in the same disasterbating we seem to be seeing in the media.

  150. I posted parts of this on an earlier blog track on WUWT about green energies . I was criticized by some who claimed that nuclear energy is completely safe today . The Japanese incident shows how risky nuclear energy still is.

    Today we also face new risks such as terrorists, regional conflicts, risk of rising sea levels, the risk of lack of sufficient water to cool the reactors due to drought, and other unexpected natural disasters. How quickly and safely can we dismantle or move the nuclear plants and material versus coal or gas fired plants? How quickly can we rebuild? How much contamination and pollution is there with both options?

    Nuclear power may be safe in the hands of rational people, operating and maintaining safe plants, in safe locations, during stable geological and political times. Much of the world is not this way, nor are the times ahead projected to be environmentally, politically and geophysically stable. Before we throw out the fossil fuel baby lets be sure of what lies ahead and which option really has the greater risk. Both options have some risks. ? Are we jumping from the fossil fuel pan into the nuclear broiler?
    We need cooler heads who properly present all the viable energy options and their risks instead of just preaching doom and gloom in a panic and calling for more nuclear plants.
    There may very well be good cases where the cleanest and latest technology based fossil fuel energy options may still be the best solution. Until alternative cleaner energies like solar, wind and geothermal can be developed in plant sizes comparable to those of fossil fuel plants, we should not rush into nuclear energy as the main large capacity option to replace our current fossil fuel plants.

  151. Someone asked about the Union of concerned Scientists

    Looked up this group and found this intesting article posted last week (and attached link to the report). THey are saying that the nuclear energy is too heavily susidized (I say regulated) to allow solar and wind to compete fairly… Come on anthony that is good for a laugh.

    http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns/jeffrey-tomich/7d858196-3f7d-11e0-a61b-0017a4a78c22.html

    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nuclear_power/nuclear_subsidies_report.pdf

    “Additional [nuclear power] subsidies would also provide nuclear
    power with an unfair competitive advantage over emerging
    renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind,
    which can reduce global warming emissions faster and
    more cost-effectively than nuclear power, and with less
    risk. The nuclear industry already stands to benefit from
    any future price placed on global warming emissions;
    this report clearly shows why any additional subsidies to
    this industry are both unnecessary and unwise.”

    Certainly no bias against nuclear power and in no way a proponent of green technology…HOBO

  152. Whatever the outcome, this is a serious setback for nuclear. I am not arguing the science/technology of newer nuclear designs, but the inevitable public reaction. So where do we go from here? I think and hope that this will also be a setback for CAGW hysteria which is based on model projections and not empirical data. We have had 20 years of global warming, 1977-1998, in the last 63 years. That warming is NOT unprecedented, not even unusual; the trend line of about 0.7C +/- 0.2 C per century continues as far as one can interpret ongoing trends. Unless and until global warming shows some indication of of following CAGW model projections, we need to repeat over and over to the media and to the global warming fearful: look at the data, look at the data, LOOK AT THE DATA.

  153. This event will be excellent in ferreting out those at WUWT who really believe in critical thinking and objective analysis of facts, and those that just say they do. There is a lot of quality comment being made here. Here’s how to tell the difference between the baloney and reality: Do the comments relate to the actual event, do the comments relate to physically possible phenomena, do the comments logically and rationally assemble easily verifiable information. I have been hunting for decent information on this event, and was gratified that I found it at WUWT.

    Good, reliable and objective information is available, insist on finding and using it. Use the same methods we use when dealing with AGW babble.

  154. This is bad, if accurate.

    If the explosion was caused by hydrogen, there are a couple of possible sources.

    One of those would non-related to the reactor and that would be as a result of a leak of the gas coolant that is used in the electrical generators. Generator hydrogen fires and explosions have occurred in a number of plants around the world, most of them at plants powered by coal or other fossil fuels.

    Another possible source would H2 generated from a damaged core. If there has been core damage to the point that hydrogen is being released, then this is a “severe accident.”

    Wikipedia is saying that they will be using sea water to cool the core and adding boric acid to prevent criticality.

    These are “severe accident” mitigation strategies and are likely preplanned.

    United States nuclear power plants are mandated to have Severe Accident Management Guidelines (SAMG). These guidelines call for an “ad hoc” approach to dealing with the events that have damaged the core — use the best resources available to cool and cover the core and keep it subcritical, even if those resources are not the safety systems designed to do that. The drastic actions of using seawater and boron are likely to be just that and would probably be options identified in a Japanese version of SAMG, if they have taken that approach. (Boiling water reactors do not use boron.)

    The hydrogen explosion in SAMG parlance would have actually been a deflagration — a burn — rather than an explosion. The resulting pressures of the deflagration, though, could conceivably have put enough pressure on the building to produce the images seen on the video.

  155. Re Dave Springer says:
    March 12, 2011 at 4:08 am

    “Justified or not this’ll put the kibosh on nuclear power plants as an answer to alternative energy for a couple of decades. I suspect LFTR (liquid flouride thorium reactor) has its own set of problems that may or may not have economical workarounds even if containment isn’t one of those problems – things that seem too good to be true usually are.

    What gets me is that a crowd (this one) so down on climate models would be so trusting of worst-case scenario models in nuclear reactor design. I’ve no doubt the models predicted that these nukes in Japan could withstand this assault on their integrity but as we can plainly see the model was not competent.

    I wonder what kind of damage was sustained by Japan’s wind farms? One thing’s for sure – none exploded or went into meltdown. I suspect they’re all still standing and spinning helping to make up for the loss of nuclear energy.””

    David please divide the total energy thus far produced from all wind farms into the total energy produced from all nuclear facilities. Now take that result and multiply all the wind farm accidents and bird deaths, tell me your result?

    Now, using the same number, also divide the non planned down time of all wind farms into the total hours of wind generation and then compare that to the same number vs nuclear.

    Do the same with other forms of energy. Despite this accident, nuclear, even with older plants, has proven far safer then most other energy. Please do not encourage emotionalism when important decisions need to be made. Cars are far more dangerous then nuclear plants, yet we continue to drive.

    As to “”I suspect LFTR (liquid flouride thorium reuactor) has its own set of problems that may or may not have economical workarounds”” Your feelings, do not sound very scientific.

    Alternative energy policies are creating economic disasters which will force us into nuclear, sooner then you think.

  156. JOJO says: March 12, 2011 at 4:02 am
    How does the radiation from a melt down in Japan stand up against radiation in bananas?
    Can we have a follow up article comparing the two please?

    This is a great idea insofar as a standard unit everyone understands, where exposure would be in units of banana equivalents. ‘Rads’ and ‘picocuries’ are just too abstract.

  157. boballab,

    Thanks for that extra info as it certainly clears up the confusion I’ve been having thanks to bad info in Google Maps/Earth. Moral of the story – don’t rely on the search facility within Google Maps/Google Earth (and Wikipedia). Always check at least 3 different sources.

    I’m about to do a new thread on Digging in The Clay that recounts my experience this morning in following this incident on the internet and MSM.

  158. I keep hearing the word “unimaginable” used by virtually all media. Nonsense. Unfortunately, we have been bombarded with graphic images of all sorts regularly for a very long time. It seems the press has jettisoned its duty to exercise caution when reporting events like this to avoid fomenting panic. The media is now completely focused on spreading fear and anxiety. There is no longer any limit to the hyperbole and exaggeration. What a despicable display.

  159. David

    I just saw the Greenpeace Nuclear expert on the news. My wife, who isn’t political at all, turned to me, unprompted, and said, “why would they ask a Greenpeace nuclear expert? They HATE nuclear power.”

    Yep. That’s why.

    BBC hate nuclear. Just as mainstream opinion was starting to think, ‘hey, we could solve this Global warming/change/disruption malarkey with nuclear, this has to go and happen’.

  160. I recommend this for technically credible news updates:

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Battle_to_stabilise_earthquake_reactors_1203111.html

    The sea water for coolant issue hangs on what it’s for. If it’s make-up for the reactor proper, someone’s getting pretty desperate. If it’s make-up for the suppression torus, then it’s a long way from normal operations, but not mind-blowing. The wording of the WNN story (“injection into the building”) suggests into the suppression pool.

    As I’ve said before, the longer this goes on, the less the heat removal problem.

  161. The extreme redundancy involved with nuclear plant design, construction and operation, backups to backups to backups, yet they locate generators critical to the operation during a power failure at sea level(assumption). Where is common sense applied in this industry. During Katrina hospitals, build on land below sea level, lost power when their diesels located in basements were flooded. Common sense again seems to have been lost on those engineers, architects, and builders of these facilities.

    I’m sensing a business opportunity here. “Common Sense Analytics” .com

    Another thought mentioned earlier, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, is able to shutdown safely during a power failure without any human action. The scientists at Oak Ridge working on LFTR during the sixties would shutdown the reactor every weekend simply by shutting off power and allowing the fluid core to drain, cool and solidify in a geometrically non- critical storage tank. Monday morning they would turn on the tank heaters and pump the melted fluoride salts back into the core to restart the reactor. Thorium is the future of safe nuclear power.

    Rich D.

  162. Not the best of powerpoints, but the file has good information:

    http://www.ati.ac.at/fileadmin/files/research_areas/ssnm/nmkt/06_BWR.pdf

    More reactor powerpoints:

    http://www.ati.ac.at/fileadmin/files/research_areas/ssnm/nmkt/

    BWRs are not my favorite design, but they are still good designs, and quite safe. Part of the reasoning behind them is the larger water path between the radiation of the core and the primary pressure vessel wall. The radiation embrittles the steel, and we must shut thee reactor down long before more common considerations would dictate. The embrittled steel could possibly crack in a fully brittle manner, leading to a large breech in the primary pressure vessel, which would be a significant disaster. The longer water path of the BWR design reduces the embrittlement rate, thus promising longer overall life of the reactor.
    Anyway, these things are quite safe. We will make even safer designs with the lessons learned from this catastrophe. The primary cost of these events at the power plants will be monetary. The Japanese will recover with little pain, and we will all benefit in the long run.

  163. http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf

    44 fatal accidents in wind energy, verses 5 in nuclear in the last ten years . In those ten years nuclear provided thirty times the energy of wind. 44 x 30 equals 1,320 deaths verses five. In the last decade nuclear has been 240 times safer then wind energy on a energy produced verses fatal accidents basis.

  164. The containment building that exploded appears to be Fukushima I. Fukushima I is the first nuclear plant to be constructed and run entirely by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and is the smallest Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) of the 6 units at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility.
    There are 3 different nuclear facilities in the Fukushima Prefecture, with a total of 17 reactor units. All are run by TEPCO. There are 17 nuclear facilities in Japan, with a total of 55 reactor units.

  165. More will have died from mass transit trains in Japan than from the radiation from these plants. Maybe we should consider banning these before we ban nuke plants. I hate it when the greens gloat in times like these. They are probably pretty giddy right now. no sarc off

  166. These reactor facilities seem to have one major “design flaw.”
    The genius that did their “failure analysis” seemed to overlook the fact the large earthquakes are often accompanied by a tsunami.
    From the TV images and pictures, these nuclear facilities appear to be built on a rising bank on the side of a river not far from the ocean. It appears from the stories that the backup generators were disabled by water damage, so the backup generators must be near the bottom of the river bank .. a perfect place for a tsunami to disable them.

  167. From the video and the before/after photo of the building where the explosion occurred, I think that one of the main steam lines from the reactor vessel ruptured outside containment. This is bad because it creates a direct release path from the vessel for fission products. It is also good because it completely depressurized the reactor vessel so that low pressure pumps, such as fire pumps, can now fill the vessel and maybe even the entire containment with water, to prevent further fuel failures.
    This plant is an older BWR, and the total loss of AC power scenario is well understood, and the plant should have the capability to withstand it by use of the RCIC system and batteries, until additional power supplies can be provided. The ultimate limit for how long it can be sustained is the containment temperature and pressure, because until a normal cooling path is established, all the decay heat is rejected to the suppression pool, which is in the torus. It has a limited amount of heat removal.
    In the case where the containment reaches its limits, this plant should depressurize completely, through a filtered vent, so that low pressure pumps can refill the vessel. It looks like the plant has been depressurized, but not intentionally. Instead, as a result of a steam line (or feedwater line) break.
    The radiation releases that are described so far are trivial, but of course the media thinks all radiation is dangerous, so that aspect is going to continue to be trumpeted.
    Because this is a BWR, uncovering the core is a red herring – during normal operation the top part of the core being cooled mainly by steam. During certain accidents and transients, the operators are taught to actually lower the water level to about 2/3 core height to improve mixing – some fuel may fail, but not catastrophically. You get some gap release, but most fission products stay inside the fuel.
    Lots of BWRs have square secondary containment buildings – engineers like right angles. The primary containment inside that square building is some sort of round shape. Depending on the date the plant was built, it could look like an inverted lightbulb, a truncated cone on top of a cylinder, or a simple cylinder. The square buildings have corner rooms with machinery in them. The explosion seems to have blown off the sheet metal panels in the top structure, leaving the structural steel in place. The video looks just like the steam line break videos I have seen before.
    Those of you who think that thorium reactors (or some other type) would be insensitive to this sort of event do not understand this technology, and should stay in your current fields. The nuclear industry really does not need any more new research projects (see, e.g. Fort St. Vrain, Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, Pebble Bed Reactor). Good ideas, but not enough money to figure out how to make them work on a practical basis.
    I used to regulate reactor fuel designs and BWR safety systems at the NRC, was a Navy nuke, and designed PWRs, and so have some experience here…

  168. Katz at http://www.ustwrap.info/multi/yokosonews::nhk-gtv
    has just given his translation of the words of the Secretary General of Japan; he said that Fukushima power plant never prepared for a hit by a Tsunami.
    He says they are moving a Toshiba turbine on road to the reactor now, it has been landed at Fukushima airport and is on the road now.
    BREAKING – he says: NHK has a press conference on the nuclear emergency: nuclear plant No 1 is being cooled by seawater now, they are starting to put in seawater.

  169. Guys,

    Anyone know where fallout would hit the West Coast and where the jetstream is right now?

  170. David says:
    March 12, 2011 at 8:27 am
    http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents
    http://www.energyliteracy.com/?p=310 (see pie chart, 8% nuclear, .3% wind)

    44 fatal accidents in wind energy, verses 5 in nuclear in the last ten years . In those ten years nuclear provided thirty times the energy of wind. 44 x 30 equals 1,320 deaths verses five. In the last decade nuclear has been 265 times safer then wind energy on a energy produced verses fatal accidents basis.

    Sorry for the bad back of envelope-top of head math in my earlier post.

  171. In the 25 years since Chernobyl there have been 7 deaths

    rolls eye….

    In the last decade nuclear has been 240 times safer then wind

    rolls other eye…
    think cancer and immune system deaths…

  172. Just got word from some people working over in Japan that they increased the evacuation radius to 16 km and started distrubution of KI tablets. That sounds like major FEF to me, unfortunatly.

  173. Doug Allen says:
    March 12, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Whatever the outcome, this is a serious setback for nuclear.

    And how long to you think the moratorium on Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico will last?

    TMI was a ‘contributing’ factor to the slowdown in the US nuclear industry.
    The larger factor was that ‘expected demand growth’ didn’t materialize.
    US Nuclear reactors were running at less then 75% capacity up until 1998.
    The same goes for our coal fired plants.

  174. re Dave Springer says:

    I wonder what kind of damage was sustained by Japan’s wind farms? One thing’s for sure – none exploded or went into meltdown. I suspect they’re all still standing and spinning helping to make up for the loss of nuclear energy.

    Someone is certainly still spinning. Sadly, you are probably right that the ‘renewables’ lobby will exploit this heavily to keep pocketing subsidies, and raising energy prices. Of course you have no evidence that wind turbines are still standing or spinning after the 8.9 quake. Ones on higher ground may have avoided damage from the tsunami, but what do you think a tsunami would do to an offshore wind farm?

    As plenty of people have pointed out, the reactors were old designs and modern ones are safer. Reactors built in areas where there is no or less earthquake or tsunami risk would be safe(r). Here in the UK, that could be more interesting given we’ve built some on our eastern coastline which could be vulnerable to tsunamis if there’s a repeat of the Storegga slides. But that would take out our offshore wind farms first. Or, look at where the UK’s largest recorded earthquake was. That was at Dogger Bank in 1931, where we’re planning to build a large offshore wind farm. Wonder what soil liquification effects would be on a large wind turbine?

    If you want to see real anti-science in action, just look at the fearmongering coming from sections of the mainstream media and green lobby.

  175. “Decay heat is produced by radiocative decay of fission products. This will continue for days. If a plant is not producing power on its own, it then needs external power to operate pumps. You have to remove heat from the source, to a sink (which is usually the ocean or big heat exchangers.) ”

    This is a design accident waiting to happen. The reactor shuts down because of an emergency that is big enough to also shut down external power, you will have a problem. This is completely predictable and a poor design.

    How can these designs be approved for land based power stations? There are plenty of reactor designs that need no external power to cool themselves in the event of a reactor shutdown.

  176. If they pump sea water into the reactor they have already written the plant off and are just trying to maintain the integrity of the reactor vessel and avoid an even greater mess. The chlorides in sea water can eventually cause stress corrosion cracking in stainless steel, and running a reactor that has contacted sea water would be unthinkable.

  177. It’s now being reported that sea water is being pumped in for cooling and Boron poisoning is being introduced into the reactor. If true, that indicates to me the operators are now fighting a “last ditch” defense.

  178. More from Katz from the press conference:
    The 4 people who got injured were near the turbine when the explosion happened. They’re being treated in hospital right now.
    The temperature of the reactor is coming down.

  179. David says:
    March 12, 2011 at 8:27 am

    http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf

    44 fatal accidents in wind energy, verses 5 in nuclear in the last ten years . In those ten years nuclear provided thirty times the energy of wind. 44 x 30 equals 1,320 deaths verses five. In the last decade nuclear has been 240 times safer then wind energy on a energy produced verses fatal accidents basis.”

    You forgot the biggest killer: forestry. (Wood is used for heating so that’s partially energy economy). No day goes by without deadly accidents in forestry.

  180. More from Katz:
    We’re on level 4 of the IAEA nuclear event classification scale, a GE(?) press release says, it goes from 1 to 7, 1 to 3 is an event, 4 to 7 are accidents; Three mile island was 5, Chernobyl was 7… “Damage to the core and radiation exposure to employees” is the classification of level 4…

  181. Burning in Illinois says:
    March 12, 2011 at 8:25 am
    A new low for CNBC – stealing photos of nuclear explosions.
    ==============
    Great catch, BiI…(send more)

  182. “BWRs are not my favorite design, but they are still good designs, and quite safe.”

    Form a quick look a the pdf reference material, it appears that a pressure buildup in the Reactor Pressure Vessel is a weak point. Sufficiently high pressure will overcome the weight of water due to gravity, limiting passive cooling unless you vent pressure. With this venting comes the possibility of venting radioactive material.

  183. Stuck Record says:

    “I just saw the Greenpeace Nuclear expert on the news. My wife, who isn’t political at all, turned to me, unprompted, and said, “why would they ask a Greenpeace nuclear expert? They HATE nuclear power.””

    What he didn’t mention was the Greenpeace rep’s claim that, based on his personal experience, the Japanese authorities are always “economical with the truth” when dealing with such matters. As if we’d rather trust Greenpeace and their ilk!

  184. My Japanese wife who has been watching live satelite Japanese TV tells me the Japanese media are saying it was the control room above the reactor that exploded and the cover to the main reactor was not damaged. Hydrogen caused the explosion.

    They are reporting the reactor had started to meltdown but they have been introducing sea water to cool the process down.

  185. David says:
    March 12, 2011 at 8:27 am

    http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf
    44 fatal accidents in wind energy, verses 5 in nuclear in the last ten years . In those ten years nuclear provided thirty times the energy of wind. 44 x 30 equals 1,320 deaths verses five. In the last decade nuclear has been 240 times safer then wind energy on a energy produced verses fatal accidents basis.

    The wind farm numbers include accidents during manufacturing, transportation, and construction.

    The nuclear number (4) wouldn’t even account for mining accidents digging up uranium ore, refining it into fuel, moving millions of tons of steel and concrete needed to build the plants, and actual on-site construction accidents.

    You don’t seriously expect anyone to take what you wrote seriously do you?

  186. Well look on the bright side . . . all this screaming media hysteria about the core melting has prevented them from hysterical screaming that this is all the result of global warming.

    They catch up on that meme as soon as this current media scream job loses steam.

  187. JOJO says: “How does the radiation from a melt down in Japan stand up against radiation in bananas? Can we have a follow up article comparing the two please?”

    Banana Equivalent Dose (BED): The banana equivalent dose is the radiation exposure received by eating a single banana. Radiation leaks from nuclear plants are often measured in extraordinarily small units (the picocurie, a millionth of a millionth of a curie, is typical). The average radiologic profile of bananas is 3520 picocuries per kg, or roughly 520 picocuries per 150g banana. The equivalent dose for 365 bananas (one per day for a year) is 3.6 millirems (36 μSv).

    Bananas are radioactive enough to regularly cause false alarms on radiation sensors used to detect possible illegal smuggling of nuclear material at US ports.

    That being said, it is difficult to make a comparison of Banana Equivalent Dose to what is happening in Japan, because (as far as I have been able to discover) nobody is releasing the actual quantitative numbers and units that would allow that comparison. The expression “a thousand times normal” can be interpreted any number of ways. Is it a thousand times background, a thousand times what is normally measured at the front gate (which could possibly be background), a thousand times what one worker normally receives in an hour? As far as radiation, we also have the difficulty of whether it is alpha, beta, gamma or neutron. And which radiation products are we dealing with, as far as half-life? A short half-life item is very hot, but doesn’t last long. A long half-life item might linger a long time, but isn’t as active. As with most technical discussions, defining terms has to be the first order of business.

  188. Uranium mining appears to be quite the hazardous profession.

    http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/resources/edkit/21uramine.pdf

    http://www.ccnr.org/bcma.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_debate#Health_risks_of_uranium_mining

    In January 2008 Areva was nominated for an Anti Oscar Award.[13] The French state-owned company mines uranium in northern Niger where mine workers are not informed about health risks, and analysis shows radioactive contamination of air, water and soil. The local organization that represents the mine workers, spoke of “suspicious deaths among the workers, caused by radioactive dust and contaminated groundwater.”[14]

    This alone dwarfs the deaths related to wind energy.

  189. ShrNfr

    Your linked article said that radiation levels in the area rose to around 1000 Microsivert, and that many people were exposed.

    My level of understanding on nuclear reactors and radiation, ( which isnt very high, I must admit) is that short-term exposure to such a level is still quite harmless. Is that correct?

    If Im wrong, somebody here can gladly correct me.

    Thanks

  190. Wow, an 8.9 shake and several nuclear reactors get a stomach ache. The death and distruction from the shake and Tsunamni are going to be enormous. I hope there is more follow-up on what actually happened at the nuc plants.

    From the info here, (and critical speculation by some who really appear to know) the nucs are quieting down – we hope – but I think many or most people on this Earth consider the facilities to be magic and therefore something to be feared.

    The reports of a 4 to 10 inch change in the Earth’s axis and a possible movement of Japan 8 feet testify to the power of this event. I’m impressed that all the plants didn’t have serious problems with radiation releases. Some good engineering (and rapid response by the operators) there.

    Thoughts and prayers for the people caught in this.

    Mike

  191. Max Hugoson says:
    March 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm
    Utter NONSENSE!

    I just don’t trust the completely moronic media about this matter.

    Max

    I don’t trust the completely moronic media on any matter.

  192. P. Solar says:
    March 12, 2011 at 5:54 am
    boballab says:
    March 12, 2011 at 5:02 am

    >>
    Here to help with the confusion:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    >>

    Yes, I’ve often found quoting wikipedia “helps with confusion” . That’s why I avoid using it as a reference.

    I’m guessing that you missed my post right above that one where I mentioned that the NHK World Service (and in case you don’t know what NHK is, it is a Japanese TV/News service) where they put up the a map of where each plant is. Now right after that I link to the Wiki article, now I know this might be hard for you but if you think real hard on this you might realize that I VERIFIED THAT WHAT WAS IN THE WIKI ARTICLE WAS CORRECT. If the information is correct there is nothing wrong in citing it.

  193. From the obviously distorted news reports, here is what appears to have happened:
    1. Reactor scram from earthquake
    2. Safety systems performed normally for about an hour
    3. Power loss to cooling systems prevented core from depressurizing to allow a recirculating cooling system to bring the reactor down to low temperature and pressure conditions. Not only do you need to supply coolant to the core, there needs to be a place for it to go and have its heat removed. With this capability lost, the reactor is cooled by adding water and venting the steam to the containment. This is a “feed and bleed” method of cooling.
    4. At some point, the core was uncovered and the zirconium clad that encases the fuel was oxidized by steam and produced hydrogen gas. This happens at temperatures above 1600 F.
    5. The feed and bleed cooling released this hydrogen to the containment and eventually to the concrete and steel building containing the containment.
    6. The hydrogen accumulated to a flammable/explosive concentration and a spark (from a motor or valve actuation) ignited the hydrogen. This is the explosion seen on the video. If true then the reactor vessel and the containment vessel are still intact.
    7. The unavailability of a recirculating cooling system has depleted the purified cooling water supply. This would explain why sea water is apparently being used as cooling water.

  194. Dave Springer says: “Uranium mining appears to be quite the hazardous profession.”

    If it is being done as conventional mining, it is very hazardous. However, modern techniques use in-situ mining, which is the same technique which had been used to mine sulfur for many years (before sulfur became abundant as a by-product of burning coal).

    http://www.wma-minelife.com/uranium/insitu/items002.htm

  195. Mike Bentley says March 12, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Wow, an 8.9 shake and several nuclear reactors get a stomach ache.

    Water; they were fine for an hour on generator till THE WATER apparently did them in (specifics not known).

    Can I just say it? You have engaged in FALSE CORRELATION. Thanks.

    Fix the vulnerability regarding the generators and you have a winner …

    .

  196. Chris Wright says:
    March 12, 2011 at 6:48 am

    I’ve visited Japan twice, many years ago. I was always impressed by the kindness and friendliness of the Japanese people. Like many others, I would like to express my sadness for this awful and incomprehensible disaster. I hope they will be able to quickly recover and rebuild. My thoughts are with them.
    Chris

    I’ve lived there. About 3 years total. Don’t mistake politeness for kindness/friendliness. And hai (yes) doesn’t always signify agreement. While I also wish the general population well, there are also some very unfriendly, and very prejudiced, people in Japan.

  197. With every technology, there are trade-offs between benefits and risks. The real question concerning nuclear power plants is the benefit worth the risk. Personally, I would say, “Yes”. Yes, I would be willing to live in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant. I would not be worried about the risks, but I would be more concerned about aesthetic concerns. Here in Colorado Springs, I suppose the biggest perils a nuclear power plant would face would be weather related (severe thunderstorms, blizzards, hail, and tornadoes). I do not know how a nuclear power plant would hold up in a tornado, but I surmise that the answer would be very well.

  198. While I haven’t read but a minuscule amount of the posts (I eventually will because all are worth it), as I am getting that job done, I must state the obvious for me. First, large nuclear plants are inherently weak, as they are responsible for supplying too large of a percentage of power. When one fails, too many people and businesses are without power. Rebuild with multiple smaller units across the power grid. Second, large plants built on a major earthquake fault is a fool’s plan. Third, if that country is so prepared for a tsunami, why all the towns, roads, railroads, and businesses sitting on the beach? These design flaws go way back. And Japan is not the only country guilty of such flaws. At the individual level, humans make the same mistakes. They build on sand and have become spoiled on the idea that someone else will provide their abundant “necessities” of life.

  199. Dave Springer says:
    “The nuclear number (4) wouldn’t even account for mining accidents digging up uranium ore, refining it into fuel, moving millions of tons of steel and concrete needed to build the plants, and actual on-site construction accidents.”

    So what are the numbers Dave? Don’t forget to include those mining the copper and other unsustainable materials required to make the windmills. How inconveinent.

    No rush, it’ll be a while before another nuke is built in the US.

  200. I’ve gone through the thread, read some links, watched the video, googled it myself, called my brother who is responsible for managing emergencies at a nuke – so let me see if I’ve got this straight:
    They shut the reactors down with the earthquake.
    The tusnami took out the cooling structures
    They managed their way through it with some small releases.
    A hydrogen explosion got people talking all Chernobyl-like when it wasn’t. Environmental types reacted with alarmism to extremely precautionary safety actions that were taken.
    The cool down continues.
    Maybe they should have thought of tsunamis in geologically active ocean front zones, though.

    It sounds very well done in the face of enormous natural physical forces at work and proves safety even when an unforeseen tsunami occurs. I doubt very very much that you will be able to detect even a banana’s worth of effect in most of Japan and certainly not gobally.

    Admittedly, Jackson Browne will be quite upset, though.

    That said, those guys aren’t done with an incredibly hard job and the people are enduring plenty of hardship.

  201. Dave Springer says:
    March 12, 2011 at 9:43 am
    “Uranium mining appears to be quite the hazardous profession. […]
    In January 2008 Areva was nominated for an Anti Oscar Award.[13] The French state-owned company mines uranium in northern Niger where mine workers are not informed about health risks, and analysis shows radioactive contamination of air, water and soil. […] This alone dwarfs the deaths related to wind energy.”

    You intentionally didn’t pick Australian Uranium mining standards, i guess. So the right answer to that would be pointing to the “safety standards” the Chinese use in mining of rare earths used in wind power construction, and the environmental havoc and diseases it causes in the rural population. Do you still think you want to follow that alley?

  202. CNN March 12, 2011 1:25 p.m. EST

    An explosion that sent white smoke rising above the Fukushima Daiichi plant Saturday afternoon buckled the walls of a concrete building that surrounded one of the plant’s nuclear reactors, but did not damage the reactor itself, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

    The explosion was caused, he said, by a failure in a pumping system as workers tried to prevent the reactor’s temperature from racing out of control.

  203. @Julian:
    “My Japanese wife who has been watching live satelite Japanese TV tells me the Japanese media are saying it was the control room above the reactor that exploded and the cover to the main reactor was not damaged. Hydrogen caused the explosion.”

    The control room is not located above the reactor even in the 1960’s design of Fukushima. Further, if it was the control room that exploded, there would be reports of dozens of fatalities as I am sure there are several people in the control room. Also, if the hydrogen is from the reactor, it is undoubtedly accompanied by very high (but localized) concentrations of airborne radioactivity. For these reasons, I think the report is erroneous. I think my scenario above is most likely (with some details incorrect, no doubt) that is consistent with the media reports that are available.

  204. I keep seeing this report that Japan’s coast has moved 8 ft. There is no data or links to data. Which direction did it move? Anyone know where the original data is?

  205. Pamela Gray says:
    March 12, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Third, if that country is so prepared for a tsunami, why all the towns, roads, railroads, and businesses sitting on the beach? These design flaws go way back. And Japan is not the only country guilty of such flaws.

    Pamela the Japanese and even US experts have all stated that the reason things failed is because they only prepared for a high 7 to low 8 magnitude quake. They based that on what they saw from the historical record that the fault there only generated up to that size quake. So they built to that standard and of course Mother Nature camne along and saw “Psyche!”.

  206. I am hopeful that this will be nuclear’s finest hour. Power plants subjected to a 9.8 magnitude earthquake, devastating tsunami, and considerable damage, yet no harmful radiation releases, and a successful shutdown/(possible) decommissioning.

    The ultimate proof of the safety of a system isn’t how long it goes without a problem under normal operating conditions, but rather what happens during the worst possible situation.

    If these plants are successfully shut down, unless you think you live in an area that could see a natural disaster worse than this one, you should have little to fear from a nuclear power plant.

  207. @littlepeaks
    “I do not know how a nuclear power plant would hold up in a tornado, but I surmise that the answer would be very well.”

    Turkey Point south of Miami survived hurricane Andrew in 1992.

  208. Pamela Gray says: “First, large nuclear plants are inherently weak, as they are responsible for supplying too large of a percentage of power. When one fails, too many people and businesses are without power. Rebuild with multiple smaller units across the power grid. Second, large plants built on a major earthquake fault is a fool’s plan. Third, if that country is so prepared for a tsunami, why all the towns, roads, railroads, and businesses sitting on the beach?”

    Pamela, I generally agree with your postings. However, I am in an argumentative mood today (part of just getting over a nasty flu). First, smaller power plants tend to not be as efficient as larger power plants. Second, the whole country of Japan is a major earthquake fault, ring-of-fire and all that. Third, when you build something that is five miles away from the beach, you really don’t expect a tsunami to take you out. Some reports are saying that the last time a tsunami of this size occurred may have been 1400 years ago. You can plan for ten-year disasters, sometimes 25-year disasters, and maybe 50-year disasters. But when you get into 500-, 1000- or 2000- year disasters, all bets are off. I’m sure that the disaster-planners of Japan would like to just shave off the top of all the mountains, and build up there where everyone would be safe from floods and tsunami, but they would probably unleash a myriad of other problems that would be just as devastating.

  209. The translator here:

    http://www.ustwrap.info/multi/yokosonews::nhk-gtv

    said that 4.5 hrs ago (at 11:30 Japan time) that the Japanese nuclear commission measured the radiation level around the affected Fukushima plant was 70 microsievert, which I believe is about 7 mrem. If true, this is not a significant level. On the other hand, if the discharged gasses were carried out to sea, there may have been greater levels earlier.
    mdadams

  210. If you are really interested in the health effects of radiation then read this:

    http://www.nwmo.ca/3.2

    Its lengthy, and contains primers to understand the issues.

    I suspect more people will have died in the Bronx bus Crash than from radiation at this time, in Japan, when it is all over.

  211. Janice said

    “Third, when you build something that is five miles away from the beach, you really don’t expect a tsunami to take you out.”

    It’s actually on the coast.

    Andy

  212. Although these events with the reactors are serious I feel they will pale in comparisons to the damage from the tsunami. I know nuclear radiation scares a lot of people but we really need to keep things in perspective. I really truly hope and pray that the story on the following link is not true. But if you remember the last big tsunami the actual horrific reports about the tragedy took several days to unfold.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2011/03/12/2011-03-12_minamisanriku_has_9500_residents_missing_from_town_after_earthquake_tsunami_rava.html

  213. Crispin, not quite. CANDU uses natural uranium which has a U235 concentration of 0.7%. There are two heavy water systems, the first is the moderator in the calandria tank, and the second is the heat transport system from the reactor to the steam generators. The operating temperature in the moderator at nominal power is about 80 C. The whole calandria and fuel channels are surrounded by a large shield tank containing several thousand tonnes of light water. The core temperature in the fuel channels at nominal power is about 380 C (it varies a bit depending on the reactor. For any significant release of material from the reactor core all of this water, 600+ tonnes of heavy water and several thousand tonnes in the shield tank all has to be boiled off first. It takes several days at a minimum.

    The problem with PWRs or BWRs is that they have relatively little water in the reactor systems and can be boiled off in several hours without emergency core cooling. It’s also an inherently more stable reactor than any other type with a smaller void coefficient than any other power reactor type. These are among the reasons why CANDU is generally known to be have about an order of magnitude smaller possibility of any significant release of radiation under any accident condition.

    Dave Springer, you just disqualified yourself from commenting on nuclear issues as soon as you reference CCNR. Being a bit coy about the fact that it’s an antinuclear propaganda group, aren’t you? For your information, despite the fact that underground mining is one of the world’s most dangerous professions, uranium mining has an industrial accident rate of less than half the industrial average from all activities. Go check the IRR for Cameco and Areva if you don’t believe me.

    So no, Janice, it’s not particularly hazardous the way it’s routinely practiced and the high standards which it has to meet. Please learn something about the uranium mining practices and standards before presuming to pass judgment on it.

    Pamela, your point about scale is foolish. The same problems of scale and the loss of a large station affect large fossil and hydro as well. And there have been many more catastrophic hydro losses than there have been nuclear. As a testament to how you have all been brainwashed, during the same month as TMI in 1979, a large hydro dam in Gujarat Province in India ruptured and drowned 10,000 people in less than 15 minutes, and the press never reported a word about it. It was too caught up in Walter Cronkite’s stupid “worst industrial accident ever”.

    Your comment about coastal development is equally foolish. The entire world has been developing heavily its coastlines for the last half century. Japan is no different.

    Littlepeaks: ask Florida Light and Power about nuclear plants and high winds. Turkey Point gets routinely hit by hurricanes every year or so. The US midwest is riddled with large coal-fired thermal stations, and none of them are significantly affected by such weather conditions even thought they are built to much less rigorous standards than a nuclear power plant.

    J.Felton: typical natural background radiation exposure is about 3.5 mSv annually. Two-thirds of this comes from the earth as radon gas and most of the rest comes from cosmic radiation. Live in Denver and your radiation exposure is double because of the elevation and increased cosmic radiation. Live in Winnipeg or anywhere else like it and your radiation exposure is doubled because of the granite bedrock. Live on Copacabana Beach in Brazil, and your natural background radiation exposure is about 10 times because of the thorium in the beach sand. For the record, the highest level of chronic radiation exposure for which no short term or long term effects have ever been observed is about 2,000 mSv. Such an exposure would have a large effect if delivered as a prompt dose within seconds or a few minutes.

    The maximum permissible dose to the public from nuclear activities is 2 mSv and to plant workers it’s 20 mSv per year. The action level (the point at which a utility must take action) is typically 1/10th that amount.

    Please be aware that radiation exposure and radiation dose are not the same thing. Mere radiation exposure tells you little about the radiation dose, or effect it will have on living creatures.

  214. jtom says:
    March 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

    “I am hopeful that this will be nuclear’s finest hour. ”

    I hope so too. Must admit I wonder why they don’t have a water-pool higher than the plant, so that gravity can provide emergency coolant.

    Watching with horror the video from Sendai Airport-Terminal.
    Good grief, they have my sympathy.

  215. Andy, I was not speaking of the nuclear reactor, but of generalities such as canals, highways, buildings and such. Though it appears the nuclear reactor actually did quite well, considering both the earthquake, which did not breach containment, and the tsunami, which took out the generators but not the structure itself. Probably one of the few structures left standing that was right on the beach. And building right on a fault line is sometimes the safest place, because you are aware of the fault line. Build away from known fault lines, and you never know what is really underneath you. Seen that in California a number of times, where the most damage is done from fault lines that are unknown up until they move.

  216. “The reports of a 4 to 10 inch change in the Earth’s axis and a possible movement of Japan 8 feet testify to the power of this event. I’m impressed that all the plants didn’t have serious problems with radiation releases. Some good engineering (and rapid response by the operators) there.”

    You forgot to mention the earth rotation has now sped up…

    “Late Friday, scientists at NASA revealed the quake shaved more than a microsecond from the day. The quake, which lasted about two minutes, sped up the earth’s rotation by about 1.6 microseconds. (One microsecond is one-millionth of a second.) NASA geophysicist Richard Gross said the quake shifted the Earth’s mass, which caused the change in speed.

    While the speed change was only slightly more than what was caused by last year’s earthquake in Chile, it was considerably less than the quake in Sumatra in 2004. That quake sped up the Earth’s rotation by 6.8 microseconds. “

  217. Don’t forget that this plant is a relatively small (< 500 Mwe) plant designed in the mid-late 1960's that went online in 1971. The design standards were not as strict as today's. I don't know how much modernization the plant has had, ie. TMI related modifications.

  218. Hobo says:
    March 12, 2011 at 7:00 am
    Someone asked about the Union of concerned Scientists

    As we used to say about the UCS back in the 70s, they are neither.

  219. Kwik, it’s entirely possible that if the water were stored higher than the plant that the water storage facilities or their delivery system to the plant could also have been ruptured by the earthquake. I don’t think that ‘what-if’ speculations are going to be helpful until the post-mortum is done on the damages to the affected nuculear plants.

  220. rbateman said on March 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm:

    crosspatch says:
    March 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm
    Also, looks like the reason the diesel generators failed is because they were at ground level and flooded by the tsunami.

    Drain the oil and fuel lines, bring in fresh diesel, reprime the injectors and fire up. I’m sure the plant operators are already on it.

    Not that simple. If the diesel engines were sucking water through the air intakes then they’re likely wrecked. The condition is known as hydrolock. Simply put, when a running engine finds too much of a incompressible substance (like water) in a cylinder whose contents it is trying to compress, terrible mechanical damage from severe overpressure usually results. Diesel engines are more susceptible to hydrolock than gasoline engines.

    There are ways to design engines to survive such extreme overpressure events and be more resilient to water intake, as found with marine engines. However it seems unlikely these diesel generators were tested with buckets of water being poured into the air intakes. The engines on those generators will need major rebuilding, if they can be salvaged at all.

    Also, hydrolock is something that drivers of smaller cars are becoming even more aware of. Especially noted on newer cars, the air intakes are being placed rather low. Driving through a deep puddle, or getting heavily splashed by nearby water, can lead to needing engine replacement. Post-tsunami or with just ordinary flooding, with remaining pools of water, this could be a problem.

    It may also factor into the declining popularity of “microcars” like the Smart car. Most people prefer to be able to drive over puddles without needing a new engine afterwards.

  221. “Temperatures in the control room rose to higher than 100 Celsius (212 Fahrenheit), said Naoki Tsunoda, a company spokesman. ”

    I think they meant that the temperatures (of the containment) DISPLAYED in the control room rose to higher than 100 Celsius. A word or two in the wrong place makes a BIG difference.

  222. Dave Springer says:
    “The nuclear number (4) wouldn’t even account for mining accidents digging up uranium ore, refining it into fuel, moving millions of tons of steel and concrete needed to build the plants, and actual on-site construction accidents.”

    So, since wind requires about 10 times the amount of metal and concrete of nuclear, counter per kWh delivered… Where does that put wind?

    Also, don’t forget Neodymium. The way the chinese go about getting that out of the ground deserves a second look:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html

  223. lanceman says:
    March 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm
    “Don’t forget that this plant is a relatively small (< 500 Mwe) plant designed in the mid-late 1960's that went online in 1971."

    One news report i read today said that the Fukushima reactor is "100 times more powerful than the Chernobyl reactor". That was an RBMK 1000 with about 800 MW. Wonder what that particular journalist misunderstood.

    Wait, here is an echo of that misinformation:
    "However, although these two situations may seem similar, RT’s correspondent and expert on the Chernobyl disaster, Aleksey Yaroshevsky, believes that, in reality, they are quite different.
    First of all, what is happening in Japan is an aftermath of a natural disaster, and not a man-made one, like Chernobyl.
    Besides, the Japanese reactor is one hundred times more powerful than the one in the fourth block of the Chernobyl power plant, which exploded in 1986. In fact, the two stations in the Fukushima region produce the world’s largest joint amount of energy.
    "

    http://www.eurasiareview.com/world-news/asia/japan-nuclear-plant-in-radiation-leak-danger-11032011/

  224. To Jim,

    Just a comment – I wasn’t trying for a root cause analysis, or trying to say something that was detailed in any way – No false conclusions intended in my general statement. The ground moved, something(s) broke, and a major problem resulted with the nucs in question – the analysis is for later – my post was intended to point out that the nucs are a small issue compared when to the maybe 9500 people who are missing in just one town (according to reports).

    Also the question of who is talking about the movement of Japan’s coast and the Earth’s axis is none other than the USGS according to “news” reports I’ve seen, at least they are attributed in the stories….

    Mike

  225. @ boballab says:
    March 12, 2011 at 3:08 am
    Naval Nuclear Power School graduate Class 8602
    —–
    Thanks, Bob! I’ve worked with nuclear submariners in the past, you guys are the uppermost of the elite with these things.

    I’m still trying to figure out WHAT exploded, the media reports indicate that it was a building around the steel reactor housing….?

    An external building housing equipment (such as a turbine building, but your point about BWR vs. PWR is right on) seemed very plausible, given the number of breakdowns I’m reading about.

    Good footage of the blast from my favorite media source, Al Jezeera:

    No matter what, this is not good. Scratch these reactors.

  226. calm down guys……this is a different design of reactor from 3 mile island. there was an explosion from hot water meeting cool air. But the design of the nuclear element is intact. The deisign means we fight to keep the nuclear reaction going….so when those conditions are not met, we can all go home safe

  227. lanceman says:
    March 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm
    “I think they meant that the temperatures (of the containment) DISPLAYED in the control room rose to higher than 100 Celsius. A word or two in the wrong place makes a BIG difference.”

    These Japanese operators sure are hardy guys… First they withstand 1000 times the normal radiation, and they even continue working while being boiled alive… Their control room is placed right on top of the reactor for added fun, and when it explodes around them, they’re still doing their job. Are they all Chuck Norris? /sarc

  228. I find the reports out so misleading and so contradictory that it is impossible to say what is going on. The news media has become like watching Twitter. One outlet reports something and all the other “re-tweet” it and soon it becomes “fact”.

    The shed surrounding the containment vessel experienced either a steam explosion or a hydrogen explosion. My money is on hydrogen as the ventilation system in that shed probably wasn’t working correctly.

    Picture of the shed is here:

    Hydrogen is lighter than air, it would have accumulated at the roof of the building. It appears the explosion as at the roof of the building.

    Reports are also misleading in reporting the death of an employee. That employee died at a different plant (Daini). At Daiichi, it is reported that four employees received non life-threatening injuries from the explosion. Probably hit by debris.

    Be careful, the media are “spring loaded” to create a disaster here.

    The reactor is a boiling water design. Relief of steam pressure would release radioactive steam. Presence of iodine and cesium could be from a lot of things. A fuel melt would, in my personal opinion, result in a much higher release than what we are seeing. I also note no mention of strontium which I would expect to see in a fuel melt. This is, again in my personal opinion, an indication of possible cladding damage but it might not even be that. At no time did the reactor run completely dry according to the evidence we have so far.

    Worst case from what we have seen actual evidence for so far is clad damage, maybe partial melt of some fuel pellets, no core melt.

  229. ‘As a testament to how you have all been brainwashed, during the same month as TMI in 1979, a large hydro dam in Gujarat Province in India ruptured and drowned 10,000 people in less than 15 minutes, and the press never reported a word about it. It was too caught up in Walter Cronkite’s stupid “worst industrial accident ever”.’

    Hear hear! Thanks Colin.

    Right from the start of reporting the Japan earthquake, the word ‘nuclear’ was constantly at the bottom of the page. The Press are obsessed with their own, baby-boomer focussed agenda. Many thousands of innocent people are suffering right now and ‘nuclear’ has nothing to do with it, but the blinkered obsessives we rely on for information can’t break the habit.

  230. DirkH says:

    More disinformation….. In fact, the two stations in the Fukushima region produce the world’s largest joint amount of energy.

    The nuclear disinformation industry likes to confuse reactors with plants. We hear things like ‘nuclear plants cost as much as $20 billion’ and when you look it’s a triple or a quad.

    There are 10 nuclear reactors at two locations in Fukushima.

    TEPCO press releases as of 11 PM Tokyo time 12 March covering all 10 reactors.

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11031234-e.html

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11031233-e.html

  231. harvey says:
    March 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm
    Well the northwest US and western Canada is next:

    Would not surprise me sadly and I don’t think that Pelosi et al will be anywhere near as efficient and competent as the Japonese.

    Earthquakes have been creeping up the west coast fault all year. There was one recently in the side fault of the main St A. This is the point where the fault is usually locked and therefore where there is most pent up energy.

  232. boballab says:
    March 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

    According to the Japonese there buildings are designed to stand a max of 9.0 on the richter.

  233. BWRs are not my thing. (Reactor pressure vessel materials were, and PWRs were more what I was familiar with, and EBR-II.) But this just don’t sound right to me.
    There should not be an explosion. Chernobyl was different. It was essentially designed to fail the way it did. It is a testimony to Russian know-how that there were so many hours of safe operations with those bad designs.
    Anyway, don’t worry about China syndrome. It ain’t happening. Bad things can happen, and it may be worse than I can expect it to be, but I am still confident in the multiple levels of safety. The public will not be harmed from this, except for the economic cost. Still, no lives will be lost, and no babies with deformities due it.
    I will wait for the final reports.

  234. NISA:
    “The walls of the building containing the reactor were destroyed, meaning that the metal container encasing the reactor did not explode,” Edano said.

    “The amount of radiation detected inside the plant after 4:00 p.m. slightly exceeded the dose people can safely receive in a year, according to information obtained by the Fukushima prefectural government.”

    Anyone else having problems getting the logic of these statements sorted out?

  235. I have heard two opposing views in the media in the last hour from the maze of comments from “experts”, calm minds and alarmists.

    “This nuclear catastrophe could wipe Japan and half of Asia off the map”

    “The main message that will come out of this is what a great job the nuclear designers of the 1960’s did to be able to contain a reactor close to the epicentre and tsunami of the countries largest ever recorded earthquake which will hold nuclear power in great stead for the future.

    Mmmnn – I guess what happens in the next few days at Fukushima is going to be a pretty important for the world.

  236. What many people may not realise is that most, if not all, of our knowledge on the effects of nuclear exposure came from the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that is until Chernobyl.

    What Chernabyl taught us was ten times more than the bombs. It showed us that nuclear radiation was not as damaging as first thought, although very unpleasant in relatively small doses, and that we can survive quite high doses and radiation damage and still survive for quite a time. Forget Greanpeace and FoE if you want the truth.

  237. Esteemed Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku was the go-to guy for ABC News (US) for all things theoretical about the earthquake and subsequent events throughout Friday. (Ignore the absolutely coincidental selection and near-exclusive use of a Japanese-descent science expert for the Japanese earthquake, he lives in New York City thus could easily get to the studio.)

    In the brief bit before the 12:30PM Presidential news conference started when they were showing the NYC news studio, he was very agitated, practically screaming about a true “China Syndrome” in Japan.

    Later on Nightline, on tape and noticeably calmer, he was again talking about a China Syndrome, warning of how the clock was ticking, of how a secondary earthquake could cause a previously-damaged pipe to rupture and cause all that coolant to spill out onto the floor.

    Given what I knew before and what I’ve learned the past few days here on WUWT about nuclear plants, their design and operation… I’m seriously wondering if this “theoretical physicist” is theoretically a scientist.

  238. tallbloke,

    The media outlets are flailing right now and you have a bunch of language majors trying to put together articles on a very technical topic.

    They all smell “the story of the century” because the word “meltdown” has been tossed around.

  239. So I have it from another source that the refueling floor is above the containment vessel and is where the explosion occurred and that there are likely steam lines to the turbines there. So it could still be a steam explosion but I am still betting on hydrogen.

  240. Just now been watching BBC’s News channel here in the UK. It was remarkably sober and balanced, no sign of alarmism at all, real experts being interviewed and giving their assessments. The view seems to be that all reactors shut down, and that it is being classed as a level 4 event that is being successfully contained. The main focus is on the effects of the Tsunami iteself, which are indeed serious, with much loss of life.

  241. Don’t know about the first statement, but the second one, “The amount of radiation detected inside the plant after 4:00 p.m. slightly exceeded the dose people can safely receive in a year”, left out the word “hourly”. IOW, they got a year’s worth in one hour, other people have commented that it is not a fatal dose by any stretch.

  242. Uh, oh, mods. Looks like somebody

    ( harrywr2 says:
    March 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm )

    forgot to put in the proper /i> at the end of his comment as the two comments below are in italics.

  243. Mods, it appears that harrywr2 says: March 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm did not close his italic HTML with since all subsequent posts are italicized. Just FYI, it makes for difficult reading.

    Thanks for your hard work on this one, lots happening quickly.

  244. I think it is possible to have fuel cladding temperatures around 1600 F where Zr gets oxidized (and produces hydrogen) but less than 2200 F where fuel damage generally begins. Particularly if the core was uncovered briefly and recovered several times as might happen with interrupted coolant flow or periodic steam releases. You would have some fission products released but not necessarily large amounts. The fission products could have been trapped in water in the containment which is why they have not been detected in significant quantities. They should be looking for noble gases which are not trapped in water.

    Again, this ASSUMES that it was a H2 explosion in the reactor building. Could it have been H2 used for generator cooling that exploded in the turbine building?

  245. Tallbloke at 1:51, I wonder how much clarity is getting lost in translating from Engineer into Media into English.

    And has been said before, thank you to the nuclear engineers and others trying to keep things understandable and in perspective. ‘Tis much appreciated!

  246. Japan’s Chernobyl will not be televised: previous smaller nuclear incidents have been covered up ( with help from their controlled media ) according to one local source. It’s entirely possible that a radioactive cloud is already en route to America in less than 36 hours. Notice that no one is calling for stockpiling KI. I thought the government was going to take care of me

    Are YOU in the path of radioactive fallout?

    http://www.infowars.com/japanese-nuclear-meltdown-confirmed/

    Immediately obtain a stockpile of Potassium Iodide pills and a radiation alert device http://www.ki4u.com/

    Iodine deficiency is common and extremely unhealthy, and it makes you more vulnerable to radiation exposure.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/023107_iodine_thyroid_cancer.html

    http://iodine4health.com/ortho/ortho.htm

    We are now just 649 days until 12 / 21 / 2012 :

    —-««« ecliptic »»»—–

    Q. What effects would we expect to observe as our solar system crossed through the ecliptic of the Milky Way Galaxy ?

    A. Increased volcanic and seismic activity, unusual solar cycle, increasing magnetic pole movement, disturbance of the solar system’s heliosphere, disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere, increasing dust infiltration from space, gravitational anomalies, increased fireballs and asteroids, unprecedented solar flares …

    Three Days Darkness

    http://www.endtimesreport.com/threedays_b.html

    http://www.olrl.org/prophecy/daysdark.shtml

    “may you live in interesting times”

  247. The reactor building that blew out is only the secondary containment.
    It shelters the various pipes and support/maintenance mechanisms that the reactor requires. Just looking at its square shape tells you it is not built as a pressure vessel.
    The primary containment is a very robust pear shaped steel structure within which the actual reactor vessel sits.
    So the damage is to the support infrastructure and its building, not necessarily to the reactor itself. That is of course modest comfort, because it also means that there is probably very little information on or control over the reactor, now that its support gear has experienced a violent explosion.
    Filling what is left of the containment building with sea water seems an extraordinary step, which underscores that there is probably no intact surviving pipe input to the reactor. Radioactive sodium from the sea salt is a likely undesirable consequence
    Boric acid to help quench any nuclear reactions still going on was a measure used in the Chernobyl accident, but it sounds like they have not yet figured out how to get it into the reactor.
    This disaster is exacerbated by the proximity of the other five reactors which make up the complex. I doubt the operation was ever expected to face a problem on this scale where every reactor in the complex has difficulties simultaneously. The people working there must be enormously overstretched as well as uncertain about the fate of their own homes and families.
    This will go into the record books and will greatly influence the future of nuclear power. People will have to recognize improbable events more fully.

  248. Stephen Richards says:
    March 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    According to the Japonese there buildings are designed to stand a max of 9.0 on the richter.

    The Richter scale saturates around magnitude 6.5. I’m sure you mean Moment Magnitude, but it would have to include something about the distance to the epicenter.

    http://www.elsevierdirect.com/companions/9780123735768/casestudies/01~Appendix_1.pdf

    Or you could have been referring to the Mercalli scale, which is a measure of local shaking and usually described by roman numerals.

    My house in New Hampshire survived the Japanese quake just fine….

  249. Stephen Richards says:
    March 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm
    boballab says:
    March 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

    According to the Japonese there buildings are designed to stand a max of 9.0 on the richter.

    Not according to the Structural Engineers, the Japanese Ministries involved that were on NHK and the USGS seismologists I saw on US TV.

  250. Just to toss this out here (bold added):

    TSA to retest airport body scanners for radiation

    The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that it would retest every full-body X-ray scanner that emits ionizing radiation — 247 machines at 38 airports — after maintenance records on some of the devices showed radiation levels 10 times higher than expected.

    The TSA says that the records reflect math mistakes and that all the machines are safe. Indeed, even the highest readings listed on some of the records — the numbers that the TSA says were mistakes — appear to be many times less than what the agency says a person absorbs through one day of natural background radiation.
    (…)
    The full-body scanners, called backscatter devices, are supposed to deliver only a tiny amount of radiation — about as much as an airplane passenger gets during two minutes of a typical flight.
    (…)

    So don’t worry, as for every hour you’re in the air you’re getting 30 times the radiation dose of a standard T&A pr0no scan.

    Is the TSA engaging in a covert backhanded attempt to scare as many people as possible away from flying to lighten their own workload? I’m really starting to wonder about that.

  251. ABC News is reporting that operators are now pumping seawater in as an emergency coolant, I was waiting for this. Plus, we have two more problematic reactors.

    A quake-hit Japanese nuclear plant reeling from an explosion at one of its reactors has also lost its emergency cooling system at another reactor, Japan’s nuclear power safety agency said on Sunday.

    The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the No.3 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, requiring the facility to urgently secure a means to supply water to the reactor, an official of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/12/us-japan-quake-nuclear-cooling-idUSTRE72B3GI20110312

  252. Pamela Gray says [snipped]:
    March 12, 2011 at 10:33 am
    Third, if that country is so prepared for a tsunami, why all the towns, roads, railroads, and businesses sitting on the beach? These design flaws go way back. And Japan is not the only country guilty of such flaws. At the individual level, humans make the same mistakes. They build on sand and have become spoiled on the idea that someone else will provide their abundant “necessities” of life.

    Pamela-
    I will take a stab at answering some of your concerns. My claim to expertise is that I lived in Japan for 15 years and travelled widely in the country, first as an “explorer” in 1970 and again in 1978 to gather material for a travel guide book. I have travelled on roads close to the shore, much like the one flowed over by the tsunami- I might have even travelled on that very one. I had many months to observe the reality of Japanese life.
    The topography of Japan is mostly mountains with relatively flat valleys between them. Much of the flat land was farmed for rice in the past (and terraced where necessary) and is now, in addition, where people live, work, and do business. Only a relatively small part of the populace live in the mountains. The density of settlement is beyond the comprehension of most people from “the West”, though parts of Europe might understand the crowding. Virtually no square inch of territory is not used for something, right down to the beaches. So we can’t blame them for trying to use all available land. They didn’t choose to build so close to the water- it was just necessity because the rest of the land was still in agriculture or already taken up for other purposes. As for the nuclear power plants, I am sure that they are near the sea as a source of cooling water.

    IanM

  253. Fred from Canuckistan says:
    March 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    “CNN has a headline “Meltdown May Be Under Way”

    Flog that story boys . .”

    No kidding. Was just watching that. Wolf Blitzer had the Japanese ambassador to the US on. He didn’t tell him a scary enough story so, as CNN now does all the time, they turned to one of their own airhead ‘journalists’ for their ‘expert’ report which of course was much scarier. CNN is still great at getting video coverage of world events but when it comes to interpreting them they are a total joke.

    In the meantime, flipped to see what the BBC was flogging, in the midst of all these major world events, and they had a one hour story about how they aren’t nice to gays in Africa.

  254. Malaga View says: March 12, 2011 at 8:51 am
    In the 25 years since Chernobyl there have been 7 deaths
    rolls eye….
    In the last decade nuclear has been 240 times safer then wind
    rolls other eye…
    think cancer and immune system deaths…
    ————————————————–
    I’m going to throw a hand grenade here. Malaga: Try rolling your eyes on some data that show the cancer deaths caused by Chernobyl is a negative number, for example, this report: http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/chernobyl.html
    The author has credibility: Zbigniew Jaworowski, a former chairman and current member of UNSCEAR, is a leading expert on the effects of radiation. He is a professor at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw.

    Here’s a WHO paper that says the Chernobyl total could be as great as 4,000 by the time it’s all over. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index.html
    A higher number, but more “official,” and the number is so high it compares to the fatalities in other electricity generating industries.

    Also, this study of an apartment building in Taipei that was accidentally irradiated for decades because a discarded hospital radiation Co-60 source was part of the building structure.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2477708/

    The cancer rate dropped by a significant amount.

  255. “The Soviet Union may have died, but the Soviet mind-set has not.”

    “Lured by tales of mammals unknown in Europe since the Dark Ages, we’re setting out on an atomic safari.”

    “Chernobyl, My Primeval, Teeming, Irradiated Eden

    Twenty-five years after the Soviet-era meltdown drove 60,000 people from their homes in the Ukraine, a rebirth is taking place inside the exclusion zone. With Geiger counter in hand, the author explores Europe’s strangest wildlife refuge, an enchanted postapocalyptic forest from which entirely new species may soon emerge.

    By Henry Shukman

    THE WILD BOAR IS STANDING 30 OR 40 yards away, at the bottom of a grassy bank, staring right at me. Even from this distance I can see its outrageously long snout, its giant pointed ears, and the spiny bristles along its back. It looks part porcupine, a number of shades of ocher and gray. And it’s far bigger than I expected, maybe chest-high to a man. The boar is like some minor forest god straight from the wilderness, gazing wild-eyed at the strange spectacle of a human being. For a moment it seems to consider charging me, then thinks better of it. When it trots away, it moves powerfully, smoothly, on spindly, graceful legs twice as long as a pig’s, and vanishes into the trees.

    I climb back into our VW van, tingling all over. The sighting bodes well. I’ve come to what is being dubbed Europe’s largest wildlife refuge in early July, when I knew spotting animals wouldn’t be so easy. (Winter, with its scarcity of food and lack of foliage, makes them more visible.) And within a couple of hours I’ve ticked a wild boar off the list. Maybe luck is on our side.

    But luck isn’t our only obstacle to wildlife spotting here. This is northern Ukraine’s Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a huge area, some 60 miles across in places, that’s been off-limits to human habitation since 1986. Even now, 19 years after the collapse of the USSR, nothing happens in this former Soviet republic without sheets of paper typed and stamped in quintuplicate. It took months of e-mails and phone calls to get permission to spend a few days here. Yes, we’re only a couple of foreign vagabonds—photographer Rory Carnegie is an old travel buddy of mine from England—but we have cameras and a telephoto lens, and my notepad has lines in it: obviously we’re spies. The Soviet Union may have died, but the Soviet mind-set has not.

    At the Chernobyl Center, a kind of make­shift reception building in the heart of the old town, I had to hand over a solid nine inches of local bills—hryvnia, pronounced approximately like the sound of a cardsharp riffling a deck—sign a stack of agreements, compliances, and receipts, and then get checked on an Austin Powers–style Geiger counter made out of chrome. Finally, under the protection of a guide, a driver, and an interpreter, we were free to set off into the zone—as long as we did exactly what our guide said.

    A handful of dilapidated roads cross the zone, half-overgrown with weeds and grasses, and the whole area is littered with pockets of intense radiation, but nature doesn’t seem to mind. All nature seems to care about is that the people, along with their domestic animals, are for the most part gone. The zone is reverting to one big, untamed forest, and it all sounds like a fantastic success story for nature: remove the humans and the wilderness bounces right back. Lured by tales of mammals unknown in Europe since the Dark Ages, we’re setting out on an atomic safari.”

    http://outsideonline.com/adventure/travel-pf-201103-chernobyl-wildlife-refuge-sidwcmdev_154483.html

  256. They don’t normally use seawater to cool the reactors. That would surely be corrosive. The probably have heat exchangers and use the ocean to dissipate the heat. Note the lack of cooling towers.

    The fact that they are using seawater now incicates that they are writing off this reactor, as it will probably be ruined. At best a major overhaul will be in order.

  257. Is not comparing wind and nuclear a bit useless? Wind needs 100 percent backup to provide that 70-80 percent of the time it is unavailable.

  258. What are you guys watching?
    Been watching this all day on BBC,SKY andCNN here in the uk,meltdowns only mentioned in the speculative sense,and then mostly dismissed by the various talking heads shoved in front of the camera.
    Even the bbc catastrophist general Roger Harrabin seemes pretty ok with it.
    Is there something we`re not being told?

  259. @22:56UTC ” The Japanese government rates the accident at the Fukushima Number One nuclear power plant at level 4 on an international scale of 0 to 7.
    Two radioactive substances, cesium and radioactive iodine, were detected near the Number One reactor at the plant on Saturday. Their presence indicates nuclear fission of uranium.
    The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that fuel in the reactor partially melted. It’s the first such accident in Japan.
    A level 4 on the International Nuclear and Radiologocal Event Scale includes damage to fuel and release of significant quantities of radioactive material within an installation.
    It’s the same level as a criticality accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant in Tokai Village in Ibaraki Prefecture, south of Fukushima, in 1999.”(NHK/World)

  260. As i understand it, No. 1 had the partial meltdown and is cooled with seawater now,
    No. 3 just lost its emergency cooling, that leaves number 2 which “failed” but obviously must still have emergency cooling, otherwise they would tell us. So only 2 problematic ones. I assume “failed” just means off grid.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-japan-quake-sixth-reactor-20110313,0,3146984.story

    “Another nuclear reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 facility in Japan has lost its emergency cooling capacity, according to the Associated Press, bringing to three the number of reactors at that facility to fall prey to Friday’s magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami. Added to failure of three reactors at Fukushima No. 2, the count is now six overall.”

  261. ultimately, what happens worst case is that the fuel melts and the floor melts and the molten fuel gets diluted to the point that the fission process slows down and it cools down.

  262. Ian L. McQueen says: March 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm
    [……………………..]

    Ian, your comment says it all, thank you. To my big frustration I am unable to describe our situation so clearly.
    Tragically several towns/cities have been swept away, and Government still cannot contact some of them.
    Yesterday a town of ca. 18,000 population said that about 10,000 people are missing; hence final casualties may be on the order of tens of thousands, though not for sure.

    We thank you for your deep concern from across the globe.

  263. I am Navy Nuclear Power School Class 8503. I have an Engineering degree. I was also a licensed reactor operator and senior reactor operator at a US PWR. I currently maintain an SRO certification as a training instructor teaching others in preparation for the NRC licensing exam. I speak only for myself, not the “industry” nor the company I work for.

    By all indications this plant has had significant fuel damage just like TMI. We won’t know the extent for some time. My opinion is based on reports of significant iodine and cesium releases. This does not mean the containment has or will fail. As far as I am aware, no containment has EVER failed at any commercial nuclear plant during an event. Other plants have had fuel damage. Chernobyl did not have a containment.

    This is still the best link for status:

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Battle_to_stabilise_earthquake_reactors_1203111.html

  264. Also watched BBC World News.

    They concuded:

    “This incident will undoubtedly affect public confidence in the future of nuclear power stations which are supposed to be earthquake proof.”

    Is that news or opinion?

  265. “SOYLENT GREEN says: March 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    If ever there was an ad for thorium salt reactors, this, unfortunately is it. They can’t “melt down” because the fuel is already molten. When the power fails, the fuel cools and the reaction stops.

    I just hope they can cool these suckers down enough to remove the rods.”

    You, me and everyone else with any functioning brain cells!

    On the thorium side it would be nice if everyone against nukes could watch this

    The funniest part to me was that during the 1960’s they ran one for 5 years and shut it down on weekends to go home! Apparently (from my limited understanding of it) they and a refrigerated “plug” of the salt mixture between the upper reactor and the lower storage container. When the power was shut off (or went off) the plug melted quickly and gravity did its thing so the reactant flowed out to the lower storage container. When they came back in on Monday they would turn the power back on and pump the reactant back to the top reactor.

    Elegant design IMHO.

  266. Silver Lining ?

    It sounds like free Hydrogen is being generated via high temperatures from the core somehow, enough to cause the large explosion.

    Could this be a viable technique for producing Hydrogen for cars ? Seriously, by keeping the active temperature just below the “meltdown” point…

    Does anyone know the Chemistry and Physics involved here?

    Another question, if the H is from H2O where does the Oxygen go?

  267. Hobo says: March 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm
    You forgot to mention the earth rotation has now sped up…
    The quake, which lasted about two minutes, sped up the earth’s rotation by about 1.6 microseconds.

    Yeah, and on top of daylight savings time, too.

    For what it’s worth, some second hand vague recollections –
    A good number of years ago, my dad took a job earthquake-proofing the Cordova, Illinois nuke plant. Lots of steel and concrete involved. From his descriptions, in a meltdown of the Pressurized Water Reactor, the fuel has to melt through the thick steel of the reactor vessel, which alloys and dilutes the fuel with iron, then drops down to the floor of the containment structure, which is several feet thick of steel and concrete designed to take an airliner hit. The bottom of the containment is higher in the middle, so the fuel doesn’t concentrate in a puddle, but disperses to the outside, forming a thin ring. The bottom is also full of a boron compound, which is a neutron absorber and quenches any chain reaction, so you have only the decay heat of the individual atoms to deal with.

  268. “This incident will undoubtedly affect public confidence in the future of nuclear power stations which are supposed to be earthquake proof.”

    Is that news or opinion?

    Opinion, but probably the truth nevertheless. I think we can rule out embracing nuclear in the USA for a while.

  269. The earthquake didn’t affect the power station, it survived.
    It was the tsunami that wiped out the cooling units and their generator power units which meant they couldn’t cool the reactor units. The reactors shut down immediately as expected but they couldn’t cool the whole system as the power was out.

    Here’s Tepco’s press releases.

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/index-e.html

  270. “All day yesterday, my dad kept saying “Ohhhh …” when he heard the news about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant being hit by an earthquake and then a tsunami.When I interviewed my dad earlier today, he had much to say.

    My dad … is a nuclear expert who has worked on both nuclear submarines and nuclear power plants. I wanted to find out why my dad is so concerned about the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, so I called him up just a few minutes ago and recorded the call. I asked my dad all of the questions I had about the nuclear disaster. I hope this phone interview answers some of the questions you have. If you are at all concerned about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, you MUST listen to this conversation.

    I hope to transcribe this conversation later, but for now here is the audio recording:”

    [audio src="http://i4.simkl.com/AuF/N4/d079ba76c70ebd02df8945cbbb8587f4.mp3" /]

    http://skepchick.org/2011/03/a-conversation-with-my-dad-a-nuclear-engineer-about-the-fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-power-plant-disaster-in-japan

  271. Just one comment.

    It has been close to a couple of days since the shut the reactors down.
    The reactors are now producing much less heat.

  272. Oh yeah, CNN had the science guy try to explain the heat removal problem.
    The slide was that of a PWR reactor.

  273. The fact that they are using seawater now incicates that they are writing off this reactor, as it will probably be ruined. At best a major overhaul will be in order.

    Reactor #1 was due to be decommissioned this month anyway. Not sure about the others but they might simply decide to go ahead and decommission both #1 and #3 at this point.

    I believe they were put online in the early 1970’s and were nearing the end of their useful life anyway.

  274. My wife says I watch CNN only to get my blood circulating faster.

    They interviewed a nuclear physics PhD, a rational fellow who stated that the measurements of radioactive materials at the perimeter of the plant were not alarming, and were not evidence of a meltdown.

    Apparently he was too rational for CNN.

    After a 5 minute commercial break Wolf Blitzer was back, foaming about the mouth about a meltdown.

    Guess the treadmill will get a rest tonight.

  275. From: http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110313-2.pdf

    (2) Readings at monitoring post
    The measurement of radioactive materials in the environmental monitoring area near the site boundary by a monitoring car confirmed the increase in the radioactivity compared to the radioactivity at 04:00, March 12 now.
    MP4(Moitoring car data at the site boundary, North-west of Unit1): 40microSv/h(03:08, March13)
    MP6 (at the main gate) 0.07microSv/h ->3.1 micro Sv/h (04:00, March12->02:50, March 13)
    MP8 (at the observation platform) 0.07microSv/h ->4.5 micro Sv/h (04:00, March 12->02:50, March 13)

    Previously, from http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110313-1.pdf:

    (2) Readings at monitoring post etc.
    The measurement of radioactive materials in the environmental monitoring area near the site boundary by a monitoring car confirmed the increase in the radioactivity compared to the radioactivity at 04:00, March 12 now.
    MP4(Moitoring car data at the site boundary, North-west of Unit1): 1015microSv/h (15:29, March12)
    MP6 (at the main gate) 0.07microSv/h ->3.25 micro Sv/h (04:00, March12->16:40, March 12)
    MP8 (at the observation platform) 0.07microSv/h ->2.06 micro Sv/h (04:00, March 12->16:40, March 12)

    So, it seems that there may have been a large decrease in detected radiation at monitoring point #4: from 1015 microSv/h to 40 microSv/h.

  276. Before I continue today to discuss what happened to date at 1F1 nuclear plant, I would like to express some disappointment.

    I would like to emphasize the surprising lack of perspective of WUWT commenters who suggest the nuclear emergency situations of TEPCo’s Fukushima Daiichi (1F) site and Fukushima Daini (2F) site will have overall negative impact on the global future of nuclear power.

    The global nuclear community and governments will descend on the Fukushima nuclear sites en mass and will study in excruciating detail all situations that occurred. Findings will provide the knowledge of what must be done for all operating nuclear plants of every kind and what must be incorporated into new plant designs. From that new knowledge will be created new reviews of all the currently operating plants of every kind. From that there will be the detailing the essential modifications needed and the timely plans to implement needed changes. Operating crews will be retrained. New plant maintenance routines will be implemented. New government guidelines will be implemented.

    The global nuclear program will emerge more strong in confidence based on what will be learned from the Fukushima nuclear site’s experiences. Just like the global nuclear industry learned from Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and other major incidences. After the incidences the nuclear industry expanded and it did so based on a new higher confidence level of what make plants safer.

    The only group, I fear, that will not learn from the Fukushima nuclear sites experiences is the global news media. Almost universally I found the accuracy of their reporting very low and their exaggeration very high; a bad combination.

    John

  277. Re: pwl says:
    March 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I listened to your interview with your dad. His summary of the Japanese plant situation and its implications was “spot on” from my perspective and I have considerable experience in the industry. His succinct and dispassionate delivery of facts as reported in the media and their probable implications reflected a refreshing economy of words that military training encourages and which is a characteristic most folks would do well to cultivate. Unfortunately, our news media folks are apparently “paid by the word” and many of the self-proclaimed nuclear experts who have commented on the Japanese situation cover their ignorance with a blizzard of words.

    I applaud your initiative and, again, your dad’s summary was downright refreshing. Let us all hope that the last ditch, “John Wayne” effort now underway at those distressed plants is ultimately successful in containing the damage to the plants themselves.

  278. Wouldn’t it be cool if weather stations all reported on radiation levels too…?

    If you have $900 to spare, with this professional Geiger Counter from Edmund Scientific you could measure yourself what governments prefer to conceal in situations like this:

    http://www.scientificsonline.com/professional-geiger-counter.html

    Or this one for just $270:

    http://www.scientificsonline.com/portable-geiger-counter.html

    Anyhow, hopefully all the reactors’ cores can be cooled somehow…

    Here’s a couple more links about radiation, worth a look:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_poisoning#Exposure_levels

    http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/ionizing.html

    http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/550889.html

    http://www.ornl.gov/sci/env_rpt/aser95/tb-a-2.pdf

    One of the better articles describing that aspect of the disaster in Japan I found was this from the UK Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9543298

    – MVB

  279. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14908229,00.html?maca=en-TWITTER-EN-2004-xml-mrss

    Quote;

    Japanese news reports say that the cooling water levels in the reactor have dropped so much that up to 3 meters of the fuel rods were exposed, making overheating a real threat.

    Asked in a news conference whether meltdowns had occurred, Edano said “we are acting on the assumption that there is a high possibility that one has occurred” in the plant’s number-one reactor.

    “As for the number-three reactor, we are acting on the assumption that it is possible,” he said.

  280. pwl says:
    March 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I called him up just a few minutes ago and recorded the call.

    I listened and it answered many things I’ve been wondering. Thank you!

    It is very easy to upload this interview to YouTube. That would make it easy access to it. And you could link the video here and at your web site.

    I don’t know if you would want to do that or not. But if you do want it on YouTube and don’t know how to do it I can do it quite easily. It would just take minutes. And I’d be happy to do it. I know many people want to know more, especially more about the comparison to Chernobyl. I could put the photo of you and your dad from your web site on the video if you wanted it done.

  281. Something I’ve just noticed while following the nuclear plant problems in Japan. None of the reactor sites has windmills or solar power as a backup to keep the cooling pumps going. I wonder why that would be. /sarc

  282. From the BBC pages for the middle east that’s providing continuing updates:

    #
    0349: CNN presenter Piers Morgan tweets: “Nuclear expert Bill Nye just said situation at Japan plants sounds ‘way more serious’ than authorities saying. Deeply worrying.

    =8-)

    [ryanm: oh goodness gracious WTF do we care Bill Nye thinks or says about anything? WTF = Win the Future.]

  283. CCTV News is the best news channel I have found so far. They interview japanese nuclear experst, not Greenpeace……

  284. dp,
    Just think, if they’d built a tidal power system by the Fuku plant, they could have generated more power off the tsunami to keep the nuclear reactors going more safely! ba-da-bing!

    In other news, the earthquake shortened the length of the day on Earth by 1.8 milliseconds (see, I knew there was a reason I have been feeling so tired lately!). The earthquake moved the main island of Japan by a total of 8 feet. The earthquake also shifted Earth’s figure axis by about 6 1/2 inches (17 centimeters), Gross added. The figure axis is different from the rotational axis of the north and south poles and instead describes the amount of wobble off the rotational axis due to uneven distribution of mass, but don’t blame that for any vertigo you have been feeling.

  285. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    March 12, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Dave Springer says:
    March 12, 2011 at 4:08 am

    Justified or not this’ll put the kibosh on nuclear power plants

    Maybe this will be the impetus for turning to LENR.

    Not unlike an ill wind …

  286. Re pwl on March 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm:

    I’m waiting for the people giving thanks to pwl for the interview with their dad, to notice the quote marks and that the section comes from the second link posted, which is different from the site pwl’s handle links to. In other words, I doubt that’s pwl’s dad.

    At that second link, transcript is now posted.

  287. John Whitman, I think this will have a negative affect on the future of nuclear power because its future is probably driven less by the expertise in the nuclear industry than it is by the opinions of Madonna, Susan Sarandon, and the girls on “The View.”

    As for the world’s experts examining the events in excruciating detail and coming up with safety improvements, I think they’ll conclude that
    1) Diesel generators should have snorkels.
    2) An extra diesel generator should be conveniently close by.
    3) 1960’s designs could be improved, leading to the designs of the 1970’s and beyond.

  288. The Japanese government announcements are interesting, earlier they were downplaying it and now they are saying possible partial meltdowns in both and possible explosion in 3 like there was in 1. It makes me wonder if they are getting conflicting evidence from the electricity company who have been more reassuring in their statements. I think the comments above about it not being known for many months the full extent of the damage most likely accurate and that there would be twist and turns to come over the next few days.

    I am puzzled by the comments above this might be nuclear’s finest hour? Up to 170 000 people have had to be evacuated, peiple have been injured and it looks like both reactors are likely write offs. You’d have to compare to other sources of energy and how they fared. I would say that given the age and the circumstances the engineering has done pretty well to be honest, best of a bad lot rather than finest hour.

    It will be interesting to see what the UK government will do now, they had been planning new nuclear plants after a long period of being cool to them, ironically due to CO2. Will they flip flop back again?

    Andy

  289. There are people who are very angry at others who are concerned about global warming venting here during this tradgedy.They link up their emotions without
    first considering what it might be like in Japan right now.

    This forum is a good example of how lacking in critical thinking skills some people can be.Quite calloos under the circumstaces.

    May the people of Japan be coforted by the outpouring of international concern

  290. Headline from most agencies: “End of the world!”

    Sub Headline: “A reactor may have exploded, but as usual we don’t have any facts yet. Thanks for clicking the headline and generating ad revenue for us though :-). PS, as soon as a major celebrity farts we will be covering that and you will hear no follow ups to this sensational headline.”

  291. KD Knoebel said

    “Re pwl on March 12, 2011 at 7:45 pm:

    I’m waiting for the people giving thanks to pwl for the interview with their dad, to notice the quote marks and that the section comes from the second link posted, which is different from the site pwl’s handle links to. In other words, I doubt that’s pwl’s dad.”

    Thats some damn fine detective work KD. PWL is defintley not the person doing the interview in the link. PWL stands for the poster’s initials, while the name of the person doing the interview is completley different. ( Not to mention a woman.) If you check the ” about” section of the linked site, it lists the contributors, and no PWL.

    PWL
    While we appreciate the link, why pass it off as your own? You could have simply said ” This is an interview with a Navy man whos also a nuclear expert.”
    Passing it off as your own, if that was the intention, is not a smart idea.

  292. Strangely, the otherwise well-equipped WeatherShop does not carry radioactivity measuring equipment like Geiger counters. Radiation shields, yes; radioactivity detectors, no.

    Perhaps this is the wrong decade to want to know wind speed and direction, possibility of precipitation and amount when it happens, and how much radiation is emitted by the fallout brought to you by the wind and precipitation. Too bad, it might be handy to know when downwind of a coal-fired power plant.

    I wonder if the respected management of the business will consider offering such detectors. If nothing else, they’ll be quite educational as people will be able to actually see how much background radiation they’re normally exposed to and how much is given off by common objects, like bananas.

  293. Two comments from an old Health Physicist

    1) Don’t stock up on iodine. I haven’t seen any reports of a major radioactive iodine release from the damaged plant. Even if there was a release, there would be dang little by the time it got halfway around the world (diffusion is our friend when it comes to radioactive material). The practice of giving iodine tablets to people near a powerplant is somewhat controversial as it hasn’t been proven to really work. However, the idea is to flood the thyroid with normal iodine PRIOR to exposure to the radioactive iodine. If the thyroid is saturated with normal iodine, then the theory is that no other iodine (radioactive or not) would likely enter the thyroid. The iodine tabs have to be taken before the exposure occurs. This is why they are handing out iodine tabs to the locals. It is a precautionary measure IF radioactive iodine is released. However, there is a very small percentage of people who do not react well to taking normal iodine in this quantity. You might want to think twice before taking it. If you want to take precautionary steps, without the potential problems inherent in putting a large amount of iodine in your system, you can wear a respirator with a charcoal cannister on it. DO NOT put a respirator on someone who has not been instructed in its proper use. I’ve been in radioactive iodine environments and charcoal filters do a great job of keeping you from inhaling radioactive iodine.

    2) Please don’t buy a radiation detector unless you know how to use one or have someone who knows how to use it give you a decent training session. The cheap meters are pretty worthless for giving you any kind of useful information. They have needles that swing all over the place which you may likely interpret falsely and scare the beejeebers out of yourself for no reason. Also they are incapable of detecting the extremely small quantities of radioactive material that might come from a nuclear plant accident that is halfway around the world. Here in the US, I was able to detect radioactive material from Chernobyl – with a $30,000 radiation detector, but none of my less expensive detectors could do it. I never saw anything from TMI even with the expensive detector.

    I watched Fox News and visited a few other channels. Fox had some good experts who were spot on and not particularly scary. However it was funny, in a sad way, to watch some of the announcers react when they didn’t hear death and destruction coming from the experts’ mouths. Some of the experts on other channels were awful and should be forced to go into containment without a respirator.

  294. *ahem*

    From J. Felton on March 13, 2011 at 2:01 am:

    PWL
    While we appreciate the link, why pass it off as your own? You could have simply said ” This is an interview with a Navy man whos also a nuclear expert.”
    Passing it off as your own, if that was the intention, is not a smart idea.

    For The Record, I in no way was implying that pwl had “ripped off” that stuff. I saw the quote marks, I knew what was up. What I was doing, was noting how other people weren’t figuring it out.

    The only thing pwl did wrong was not more clearly denoting they were quoting someone else, as with italics or by using the blockquote feature, if you wish to consider what was done as wrong. I’m willing to drop a large share of the blame for not realizing that section was quoted right on the readers who didn’t figure it out.

  295. With 10,000 people missing due the tsunami and earthquake , evacuating 200,000 more because of this nuclear “incident” is a huge distraction of man-power and other resources that are needed to help the tsunami victims.

    The japanese prime minister has said efforts to control Fukupshimmer has to take prority “over and above” the rescue work.

    But let’s carry on pretending that only one person has died as a result of the multiple failures at the two sites and that nuclear power has a remarkable safety record.

  296. Latest statement is that they are pumping in sea water but the levels are not rising, so I guess it is leaking out. Where is this sea water going to I wonder?

    With nuclear having a pretty good safety record over the years it does seem that when things bad happen a lack of experience dealing with it causes unforeseen problems.

    Unlike an oil refinery if the worse comes to the worst you just can’t let it burn, however here something has to be done, like the BP gulf oil disaster, but unlike that disaster you don’t have the luxury of having multiple stabs at it over a long time period as you “learn” on the job.

    The pressure on those guys trying to solve it must be immense :(

    Andy

  297. I would not be surprised to see the same kneejerk reaction in the USA, that the administration had to the Gulf oil spill a couple years ago. This will make it very difficult – politically speaking – to get any new nuke plants up and running in the US/UK, regardless of the fact that the technology for new plants is far superior to the 50 year old design that is having some problems in Japan. People don’t understand that not all nuke plants are created equal and that technology advances quickly. All they hear is the word “nuke” and they freak out.

  298. Ladies and Gents

    (before I start, I’m impressed just how much deep engineering knowledge seems to be represented here)

    First, I’ve run some quick numbers based on the standard ANS formula, someone having mentioned that the heat production should be coming well down now. According to that, the numbers (assuming Fukushima 1 was running at full power when it scrammed) , instantaneous heat production 1s after scram should have been about 95MW. At 48 hours it’s about 7-8MW, and about 5-6 at 72 hours.

    Applying that to the design parameters for Fukushima 1 (BWR 3 – 400 7×7 fuel assemblies, about a 1cm pin diameter (is that right, anyone?) ,3.6M length.

    That gives a heat flux of about 3KW/square metre from the fuel cans. I’ve also approximated a number from the vessel walls, and that’s around 10-15KW/square metre.

    On that basis, I’d be amazed if there’s still any further significant boiling going on, and hence, things ought to be getting pretty stable. I’m starting to wonder if there’s a problem with briefings by panicky politicians who aren’t listening to TEPCO.

    Re the explosion. It’s obvious that whatever went off did indeed remove the weather cladding from the reactor. That’s not the secondary containment of a BWR, though. The primary containment is the drywell and the suppression pool, the secondary is the surrounding reinforced concrete building.

    Given that all the structural steelwork seems to be standing, and is little damaged – it’s basically just blow off cladding – there can’t have been a big overpressure involved. Does anyone know the status of the turbine hall building? I can’t for the life of me see a pathway that would have got hydrogen from faulted fuel into the building, without there being a lot more radioactivity involved. The short spike in radiation readings also suggests that.

    Does anyone know where the spent fuel building is on Fukushima 1?

  299. Guardian newspaper now reporting earthquake “upgraded” from 8.8 to 9.0 by the (japanese?) meteorological agency.

    That will be a great news for the operators since it was designed to withstand upto 9.0 , looks like it just went from being defective in design to working within its design parameters. Phew! Thanks for the upgrade.

  300. Hydrogen buildup may cause blast at No.3 reactor

    http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_27.html

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says that a hydrogen explosion may occur at the No.3 reactor building of No.1 power plant in Fukushima prefecture. But he emphasized that an explosion should not cause health problems for evacuated residents.

    He said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon that a large amount of hydrogen may have accumulated in the top portion of the No.3 reactor building because cooling of the reactor was insufficient at one point.

    Edano said a valve was opened to ease pressure in the reactor and fresh water was injected to cool it down. He said because of trouble with the pump, seawater was pumped in instead, but the flow became unstable, causing the water level to drop dramatically.

    He said although the water began to rise again, a large amount of hydrogen may have been generated inside the reactor building while cooling was insufficient.

    Edano said that a similar explosion as the one which occurred at the No.1 reactor building on Saturday may take place.

    He emphasized that even if an explosion occurs, the impact should not affect the pressure vessel and containment vessel.

    He said that the health of residents who have already evacuated should not be affected.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011 17:07 +0900 (JST)

  301. Speaking of hyperbolic statements, the main newspaper in Spain, El Pais, has a headline right now on its front page saying that Japan is fighting to prevent an “uncontrolled NUCLEAR EXPLOSION”

    http://www.elpais.com/global/

    I imagine they will change that soon when they start to receive complaints, but that’s what it says right now.

  302. kadaka (KD Knoebel)

    I hadn’t thought to check if pwl was the person doing the interview. I had assumed it was. I didn’t know where the quotes came from since I haven’t read every comment in this thread. But after checking the link at pwl’s name it looks like pwl is not the one that did the interview.

    What do you mean by, “drop a large share of the blame”?

  303. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    March 13, 2011 at 2:20 am

    Strangely, the otherwise well-equipped WeatherShop does not carry radioactivity measuring equipment like Geiger counters. Radiation shields, yes; radioactivity detectors, no.

    Perhaps this is the wrong decade to want to know wind speed and direction, possibility of precipitation and amount when it happens, and how much radiation is emitted by the fallout brought to you by the wind and precipitation. Too bad, it might be handy to know when downwind of a coal-fired power plant.

    I wonder if the respected management of the business will consider offering such detectors. If nothing else, they’ll be quite educational as people will be able to actually see how much background radiation they’re normally exposed to and how much is given off by common objects, like bananas.

    Although I understand the interest, in radiation detection equipment at a time like this, people should be very cautious about buying “budget” radiation detection hardware. As mentioned above, you not only need to have the test equipment you need to have a clue how to use and interpret the readings.

    When I worked in emergency management I spent 10 years repairing and calibrating Geiger counter meters and ion chamber Civil defense survey meters. It takes a bit of understanding of radiation to properly interpret the readings and not just scare the crap out of your self. Radiation meters like all other test equipment “should” also be periodically calibrated and tested for function.

    High level Ion chamber meters are practically impossible for the average person to test and even verify that they work, but Geiger counters can be at least operations checked by simply measuring normal background radiation, and if you are enterprising enough to search for and pick up a suitably radioactive rock you can use as a check source, you can verify if they are operational.

    I have great reservations about some of the new digital monitors, but there is one company I would highly recommend for anyone serious about picking up such hardware. Ludlum instruments, manufactures a full line of equipment (it is one of the companies that the big boys use). The Colorado State Highway patrol Hazmat teams and the Colorado State Health department radiation control division, used their equipment at the time I was working in the field.

    The Model 3 with 44-38 GM Detector is the functional equivalent to the Geiger-Müller survey meters I calibrated and repaired for the Civil defense system.

    If Anthony were inclined to carry a line of such equipment, I would strongly suggest he look at what they have to offer. They have been in business a long time, they gave us good technical support, and they were not pushing “fad” equipment but real functional hardware that was well designed and it worked.

    http://www.ludlums.com/index.php?option=com_multisitescontent&view=article&site_id=:master_db:&id=154&Itemid=95

    Larry

  304. Another question for those with BWR experience. According to what I can find via google, it’s typical that the RPV is opened about 4-7 days into the shutdown, and fuel handling/removal starts pretty much immediately?

    Is that about right?

    Presumably, at that point, the fuel has cooled to a point that the RPV can be opened without boiling, and cooling be achieved with unpressurised water circulation.

  305. @P.Solar I don’t think the reactor suffered much from the earthquake, it SCRAMed normally. The tsunami seemed to have damaged the back up power generators. That then led to the LOCA problems.

  306. Andy D,

    I understand you are an ex-UK nuclear industry engineer/physicist like I am. If so then hopefully you’ll understand that its not just as simple as your back of the envelope calculations would seem to indicate (and which I am in general agreement with). Injecting seawater into the reactor cooling system is definitely admission IMO that there have been serious problems in removing the post-trip decay heat from the reactor. If you don’t remove the decay heat at a sufficient rate I’m sure you already know what the consequence are?

    I’d agree that they are getting the incident under control but what matters is what lead up to the ‘explosion’ and what caused it. The authorities seem to have admitted that the explosion that blew the cladding off the top level of the reactor building was caused by an ignition of hydrogen that had built up in this part of the building (in the UK we’d call this area the ‘reactor hall’). Given this admission where do you think the hydrogen has come from? Do you think it’s come from the dissociation of the reactor coolant? This looks highly likely to me and if so the coolant (very likely in the form of superheated steam must have been in contact with an appropriate material was also a high temperature. That material could be steel componnets that form part of the internals of the reactor pressure vessel or more likely IMO the zirconium that forms the cladding around the fuel pellets within the the fuel pins of the fuel assemblies of this type of reactor system.

    http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.nfi.co.jp/e/product/images/illust_bwr_2.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.nfi.co.jp/e/product/prod02.html&usg=__Gc9C1_PeJXqojgSW5aPhFHCfnBo=&h=435&w=540&sz=89&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=utf1ncTEpFQu2M:&tbnh=137&tbnw=170&ei=Y9t8TaSKDYKEhQfw8YXoBg&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dbwr%2Bfuel%2Bassembly%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DX%26biw%3D1350%26bih%3D531%26tbs%3Disch:1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=174&vpy=211&dur=4534&hovh=201&hovw=250&tx=142&ty=85&oei=Y9t8TaSKDYKEhQfw8YXoBg&page=1&ndsp=28&ved=1t:429,r:10,s:0

    (sorry for the long URL above)

    As you are also probably aware this type of zirconium clad fuel pin assembly is also susceptible to ‘clad ballooning’ (http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=22&ved=0CBoQFjABOBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsacre.web.psi.ch%2Fcurrent-projects%2Fmain-frames%2Fdocuments%2Foecd-projects%2FSandia%2520Fuel%2520Project%2520SFP%2520Description.pdf&rct=j&q=BWR%20clad%20ballooning&ei=i918Tb7PKMPPhAeYq831Bg&usg=AFQjCNEdks3kZuDQhM-bBsV3WE4p63P3sg&cad=rja) at high temperatures in th event of loss of cooling which is likely to restrict coolant flow between the fuel pins within the fuel assembly and so lead to even higher fuel pellet and clad temperatures.

    There have been reports that due to lack of backup cooling the level of coolant within the recator has fallen below the top of the fuel pin assembly level and likely for prolong periods of time (hours as opposed to minutes). I’m not going to attempt to do any heat flux/heat transfer calculations as you have done, but the presence of the hydrogen to me is a pretty clear indication that there have been some significant highly temperatures reached in the reactor at some point over the last 48 hours or so. The detection of significantly higher than normal levels of ceasium and iodine outside of the reactor building would also indicate some degree of fuel pin failure and possible limited fuel pellet melting (resulting the the release of gaseous fission products).

    The recent acknowledgement of the need for and subsequent addition of sea water (followed by boronated water) to the reactor vessel coolant is IMO once again a clear admission that all is not well within the reactor core. Would you concur?

    I’d agree with you that probably the worst is now over as least as Reactor 1 is concerned. My main concern now is for the other reactors (2 and 3?) rather than for Reactor 1 as they now also seem to be experiencing their own cooling problems.

  307. “Earthquake impact on Fukushima Daiichi

    Reactors 1, 2 and 3 were in operation at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco’s) east coast Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant when the earthquake struck. Three other reactors were already shut for inspection but all three operating units underwent automatic shutdown as expected. Because plant power and grid power were unavailable during the earthquake, diesel generators started automatically to supply power for decay heat removal.

    This situation continued for one hour until the plant was hit by the tsunami wave, which stopped the generators and left the plant in black-out conditions. The loss of power meant inevitable rises in temperature within the reactor system as well increases in pressure. Engineers fought for many hours to install mobile power units to replace the diesels and managed to stabilise conditions at units 2 and 3.

    However, there was not enough power to provide sufficient coolant to unit 1, which came under greater and greater strain from falling water levels and steady pressure rises. Tepco found it necessary yesterday to vent steam from the reactor containment. Next, the world saw a sharp hydrogen explosion destroy a portion of the reactor building roof. The government ordered the situation brought under control by the injection of seawater to the reactor vessel.”

    “Operations to relieve pressure in the containment of Fukushima Daiichi 3 have taken place after the failure of a core coolant system. Seawater is being injected to make certain of core cooling, but two separate malfunctions are hampering efforts.”

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Venting_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_3_1303111.html

  308. Preliminary reports are almost always misleading.

    The scuttlebutt, from the few people I have been able to communicate with, relay some details.

    First, everyone must realize that the outside structure of the reactor, and turbine buildings are merely a facade. They are just a shell of blowout panels designed to blow outward with any rapid pressure excursion.

    It was decided to attempt a vent, to and though the turbine hall, to atmosphere, via the turbine hall’s incredible volume. It’s a little vague, as to exactly the reason, for this choice, but I suspect they wanted to introduce some delay and add dilution to the containment vented gases. The turbine hall is equipped with lourves and blowout panels, to vent pressure, in case of a turbine or main steam break.

    It is assumed that the hydrogen which exploded came from the hot vented gases, however, in the same hall contains the generator set, containing a large amount of hydrogen gas, used for cooling the generator windings. This gas is kept within the casing via seal oil provided by an emergency powered pump. This, of course, was not available. Hydrogen, would then degas to the hall.

    In any event when the explosion ensued, the building shell performed as designed, and completely, and effectively vented the rapid pressure excursion minimizing any real damage. However, from the camera’s perspective the incident appears horrific and devastating, when it actually wasn’t.

    If you look at the video carefully, one will notice a clear blast just before the billowing cloud of dust and vapor appears. This is the air inside the building exiting thru the blow out panels. You will also see these blowout panels glittering and fluttering in the air, giving the false impression of massive debris.

    The reports coming out are sketchy and contradictory, so no story, can be relied on yet. It is not my intent to minimize this situation, as it remains gravely serious, however, I remain optimistic, that this incident will be resolved, without doom.

    Years ago, I made repeated pleas, inside the industry, to environmentally protect vital emergency equipment and field offices, from such accident water and steam conditions. Much of this was implemented. Too bad, they didn’t start with the CTU standby generators.

    Please everyone, be patient as reliable data will be soon available. Speculation can only fuel alarm. GK

  309. AndyW says:
    March 13, 2011 at 12:50 am

    “I am puzzled by the comments above this might be nuclear’s finest hour? Up to 170 000 people have had to be evacuated, peiple have been injured and it looks like both reactors are likely write offs.”

    -The evacuation is a precaution, right? They do it by the book.

    -The reactor that is now cooled with sea-water was supposed to be out of commision within a couple of weeks anyway. Right?

    -People have been injured; Are you talking about those 2 or 3 persons with bruises after the explosion? I think that is a bit …..hmmmm…

    Dont forget that the reason for all this in the first place is an earth-quake and a tsunami.

    The explosion ;
    Heaven forbid that the word “Hydrogen” is mentioned. After all, that would be very inconvenient, wouldn’t it? That hydrogen is dangerous? Did you ever mix hydrogen and oxygen in the lab?

  310. Scratch two reactors:

    The use of seawater shows that authorities are giving up future use of the Daiichi plant and are focusing solely on protecting people and the environment, experts said.

    “If they are (using seawater), it’s because they have no other choice,” said James Walsh, a research associate at the security studies program at MIT. “The last thing you want to do is pump seawater and boron into a reactor.” The salt and boron will corrode the reactor, he said.

    “Essentially, they are saving the white flag and saying, ‘This plant is done,’ ” Walsh said. “This is a last-ditch mechanism to try to prevent overheating and to prevent a partial or full meltdown.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/13/japan.nuclear.reactors/

  311. Re: Japan tsunami. For gods sake a 20 mt reinforced concrete sea wall should have been built centuries ago. Especially around populated cities. This applies to all countries FACING a major Fault. ie Japan, Indonesia, Chile, West Coast USA. Notice other side of Japan NOT facing fault no problems at all. Thats where ALL the reactors should be duh….Of course they will simply rebuild FACING side AGAIN and of course it will occur again in +- 100 years…Humans can be terribly stubborn/ignorant and do not learn by experience methinks…BTW Expect major earthquake in California this or next year

  312. mrrabbit says:
    March 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    From the BBC pages for the middle east that’s providing continuing updates:

    #
    0349: CNN presenter Piers Morgan tweets: “Nuclear expert Bill Nye just said situation at Japan plants sounds ‘way more serious’ than authorities saying. Deeply worrying.

    =8-)

    [ryanm: oh goodness gracious WTF do we care Bill Nye thinks or says about anything? WTF = Win the Future.]

    Jim says:
    March 13, 2011 at 4:09 am

    How does Bill Nye get away with being called a scientist? Is the dickie bow a testamount to his credentials?

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/13/japan.nuclear.reactors/

    Trust me guys…wasn’t posting that in total seriousness. I too did a double-take when I found that. Never thought I’d see Bill Nye called in during a disaster for an interview on a nuclear reactor emergency.

    =8-)

  313. slight correction to my earlier post – 8.08MW at 48 hours post scram, 7.45 at 72 hours.

  314. P. Solar says:
    March 13, 2011 at 4:47 am
    “With 10,000 people missing due the tsunami and earthquake , evacuating 200,000 more because of this nuclear “incident” is a huge distraction of man-power and other resources that are needed to help the tsunami victims. ”

    It’s not like they need to be carried. Most of them will simply pack up and drive in their own car.

  315. While in no way trying to make light of this terrible tragedy… has any notice the incredible number of SUVs in Japan? I’m hard pressed to find many cars. Makes one think what the average Japanese really thinks of CAGW theory.

  316. ecliptic says:
    March 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Do me a favor and release the freak content of your Medieval mindset somewhere else.

  317. KevinUK

    re

    “Given this admission where do you think the hydrogen has come from? Do you think it’s come from the dissociation of the reactor coolant? This looks highly likely to me and if so the coolant (very likely in the form of superheated steam must have been in contact with an appropriate material was also a high temperature. That material could be steel componnets that form part of the internals of the reactor pressure vessel or more likely IMO the zirconium that forms the cladding around the fuel pellets within the the fuel pins of the fuel assemblies of this type of reactor system.”

    That’s an interesting question – because, looking at BWR schematics, is an obvious path by which hydrogen generated in the core would end up in the reactor building/hall in significant concentrations. It’d arrive in the suppression chamber (where I’d expect detectors), from which the leakage path would be out via filtration to the stack, not into the hall.

    If there’s some fault-related path, I’d have expected significant radioactive release to be associated. There seems to be no sign of that. Moreover, I’d expect it to be sustained (along with the caesium and iodine releases). The fact that levels have dropped post explosion makes me doubt that such a pathway exists. So far as I can tell (given the usual fog), the caesium/ioding detection reports are associated with venting via the stack.

    Recall, too that the spent fuel ponds are protected by the reactor building/hall. I’d expect some local contamination around those, aome of which would be dispersed by air movement at the time of the explosion.

    Which makes me wonder about other sources for hydrogen, or other causes. One obvious one would be stator coolant from the turbine hall, as G Karst has discussed above. There are reports that the damage originated there:

    http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/japan-tsunami-aftermath-explosion-at-fukushima-nuclear-power-plant-91217

    Frankly, if there’s been significant fuel damage, it’d be very obvious by now, as radiation levels climbed in the wetwell/suppression area. I’m not seeing reports suggesting that.

  318. Sorry

    “because, looking at BWR schematics, is an obvious path by which hydrogen generated in the core would end up in the reactor building/hall in significant concentrations. ”

    should have read

    “because, looking at BWR schematics, there’s no obvious path by which hydrogen generated in the core would end up in the reactor building/hall in significant concentrations. “

  319. @Andrew Dawson

    I calculate that, at 8 Mw, about 450 #/min of make up is required to maintain inventory. From what I see the problem is that there is either a) no recirculating cooling available and/or b) no source of normal makeup of clean reactor grade water available. The lack of recirculating cooling means that the core is cooled by a once-through pass through the core and out a relief valve (also called feed and bleed). Since this water is not recirculated a new source (make up) is required. In BWRs I think this comes from either the condenser or the Condensate Storage Tank (I am a PWR guy). I suspect that these sources are unavailable due to earthquake/tsunami damage or have been depleted. I think THAT explains what Hillary Clinton meant when she said that “coolant was being shipped” and why seawater is now being used.

    Another consideration is that if the core is damaged, there could be local areas that do not have a coolable geometry.

  320. Kwik said

    “People have been injured; Are you talking about those 2 or 3 persons with bruises after the explosion”

    Do you actually know their injuries or are you just making things up?

    Andy

  321. You may find some of info here : http://twitter.com/#!/norishikata – English language tweets by the Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Public Relations, Director of Global Communications at Prime Minister’s Office of Japan. Goes into a bit of detail on the cooling measures being taken for the different reactors.

  322. Finnish STUK has questioned safety of those nukplants in many times along IAEA. In USA there is same safety issues to modify, but nobody are willing to pay the bill. So if you get broblems, don’t say, you’re not warned.

  323. Are the Japanese BWR containments equipped with H2 detonators to prevent buildup to explosive concentrations?

    I have heard reports that 3m of fuel was uncovered. Thats probably most of the entire core height! I don’t see how this is consistent with the relatively low radiation levels that have been reported.

  324. kwik says: -People have been injured; Are you talking about those 2 or 3 persons with bruises after the explosion? I think that is a bit …..hmmmm…

    Maybe you are curiously ignoring the 10,000 people dead or missing. Not much to be done for the dead but the less-than-dead may like a rescue operation.

    That would already be stretching emergency services if they were not being diverted to deal (as a priority) with a nuclear crisis and evacuation of nearly 200,000 people, many of whom may also be injured and have probably just seen their car swept out to sea or half way up a mountain.

    BTW , I think the fourth guy, in the crane, got “bruised” to death.

    dirkH says: “It’s not like they need to be carried. Most of them will simply pack up and drive in their own car.”

    Hey, check out the video coverage. Anyone near the coast no longer owns individual transport. Those further inland can’t get fuel, most of which has been reserved for emergency services. Unless they can catch a ride on a passing roof-top they may need some help evacuating. (Not their bowels, that’s probably taken care of.)

    So , yes , this little question of pump failure will have HUGE collateral damage effect on the local population.

    Some pedants may wish to say this is not the fault of nuclear industry it is the fault of diesel generator installers, the air tiler manufacture or “an act of God”.

    The fact that these idiots build nuclear plant almost on top of a major seismic fault and failed to anticipate that a 9.0 quake may be followed by a tsunami is mind blowing.

    That anyone who can say the only injuries are “2 or 3 persons with bruises ” is … well, words fail.

  325. Indeed, Lanceman re the need for make-up. I’d come to similar numbers. Although I’m assuming at least some is being recirculated.

    If there’s damaged fuel in any volume, it’d be very obvious from monitoring of the coolant. And yes, the 3M doesn’t seem very credible – core height is 3.6M in this plant.

  326. Julie, thankyou. I think there’s something significant here. My emphasis:

    # “Vent” is the measure to reduce pressure from the “pressure container” by releasing air from inside. about 15 hours ago via web

    # By conducting vent, minute quantities of radioactive materials are released from exhaust pipe. Radioactive levels not judged to be harmful. about 16 hours ago via web

    # At 9:20, “vent” for primary containment vessel of Unit 3 was started. Cooling of the container is expected to be realized by this measure. about 16 hours ago via web

    # Injection of pure water and boric acid into Unit 3 this morning is measures to further improve safety of the nuclear power plant. about 16 hours ago via web

    # Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima I is under control with pure water and boron injected after 9 am this morning.Similar countermeasure as Unit 1. about 16 hours ago via web

    # As a measure to limit damage to the reactor, Sea water mixed with boron was injected into container. The injection began at 2020 last night. about 18 hours ago via web

    # The plant operator of Fukushima I plant, TEPCO, has confirmed that the integrity of the primary containment vessel of Unit 1 remains intact

    Taking these at face value, it seems the use of seawater may be only for make-up into the suppression systems, rather than into the reactor cores themselves. That’s potentially far less damaging to the plant in the long term.

  327. My hunch is that there is much pressure by government entities (what government would not do this?) to adjust the message in the reports to their own governmental interests. Sometimes the reason is for benevolent purposes, and sometimes the reason is to keep some unseemly issue out of the public domain. Sometimes it is a mixture of both and is both spoken and unspoken pressure. We shall see in the long run how great and longlasting this devastating event really was for Japan.

  328. lanceman says:
    March 13, 2011 at 10:42 am

    “Are the Japanese BWR containments equipped with H2 detonators to prevent buildup to explosive concentrations?”

    That would be so you would be sure to know if there was an explosive mixture, right?

  329. I have been watching the coverage of the Japanese earthquake and have been very furstrated because of the lack of true content. The media does not seem to not know very much and have coped with that lack of knowledge by repeating buzz phrases and creating scare stories

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

    Dave Farber sent out the URL for the following story on the his IP list. The story is an engineering account of the procedures that are being followed to deal with the nuclear reactors and the science and engineering behind them. There is no crisis that is going to produce loss of life. That is the story behind the hype that is the common prodict of the professional media

  330. I have been watching the coverage of the Japanese earthquake and have been very frustrated because of the lack of true content. The media does not seem to not know wery much and have coped with that lack of knowledge by repeating buzz phrases and creating scare stories.

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

    Dave Farber sent out the URL for the following story on the his IP list. The story is an understandable engineering account of the procedures that are being followed to deal with the nuclear reactors and the science and engineering behind them. There is no crisis that is going to produce loss of life. That is the story beyond the hype that is the common product of the professional media.

    Now of course this brings up questions of just why the professional media is handling this situation so poorly and why this is not an exception. From what I can tell this is because of the lack of resources that these professional agencies can bring to bear on the issue. General function and political reporters are assigned to a story for which they have no expertise beyond that of a layman. The agency has little else to provide and so these stories are those that a layman or “some bloke down the pub” would create. Thus the hype because they have little else to offer. What appears to be happening now is that the amateur media in the form of the blogosphere is harnessing the expertise of true experts. The blogosphere has infinitely more resources than the professional media and this is being demonstrated now.

    McLuhan talked about the global village. I suppose that this is what is being demonstrated now. The expertise present in the commons is being assigned to the task. The president of HP once said “If HP only knew what HP knows”. By that he meant what is happening now. HP and other companies are burdened with a hierarchical management system in which knowledge is filtered and thus blocked as it rises in the organization. The management layers do not have the capacity to truly understand the knowledge being generated beneath them. That is not their function. The professional media provide this hierarchical filtering in the general population. The flat characteristic of the blogosphere does not provide the filtering function but provides for the rapid assembly of the expertise necessary to analyze, create and distribute knowledge.

    The professional media decry with some reason the anarchy of the blogosphere. However the anarchy of the blogosphere allows to to deal with unexpected situations that overwhelm the limited resources of the professional agencies. The link between the coverage of this disaster and the failure of the professional media in eh coverage of climate change is apparent

  331. @ pochas
    “That would be so you would be sure to know if there was an explosive mixture, right?”

    These systems (required in US reactor containments after TMI) are designed to burn off H2 before explosive concentrations are reached. There is separate instrumentation to measure H2 concentrations in the containment to determine whether to activate the H2 burners.

  332. Hopefully everything turns out for the best, the people working on the problems have been going 3 days straight.
    I guess a silver lining might be the real-world engineering data that will be gathered.

  333. kwik says:
    March 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Dont forget that the reason for all this in the first place is an earth-quake and a tsunami.

    Earthquakes and tsunamis are a normal part of the earth. They have always happened. There have been worse of both in the past. And it is only logical to say there will be worse of both in the future.

  334. Hydrogen is hard to detect in small concentrations, and if they did know that they had an explosive mixture, what difference would it make, other than to get everybody out of there? Without fans, they can’t do anything about it.

    If they wanted to make the building able to deal with H2, they’d want to make a roof that would fall in. H2 rises, and without a roof, would just keep going.

  335. Hot Rod Larry confirmed my earlier post about not buying a meter unless you know what you are doing with it. He recommends Ludlum meters and so would I. However, the detector he recommends will not pick up the tiny quantities of radioactive material that might reach us here in the US. This detector will not detect tritium (hydrogen-3) which is likely the main radionuclide that has been released in the vent process from the damaged plant.

    Kadaka – if you think the WeatherShop should sell radiation detectors, I hope they sell someone who knows how to use the detectors along with them. Here’s what I want to detect small to large amounts of radioactive material in the air: low and high volume air samplers with different filters, about $3-5,000; shielding for the detector to reduce background radiation – about $1500; a detector probe capable of picking up alpha, beta and gamma radiations, or separate probes – range $200 – $3,000; a meter or a system capable of discriminating radiation types – $500 – $5,000 depending on what level of sophistication you are looking for; and someone who knows how to interpret the results – $50-$200/hour. Think the WeatherShop will sell many of these systems? I had a Canberra system that did all this and it only cost $32,000. If you have this kind of money to throw around, let’s become friends.

  336. Both Units 1 and 3 now appear stable. Unit 1 had fuel damage Unit 3 did not. Both used sea water injection. I hope some are correct that this was used for cooling a heat exchanger but that is not my read. I think they both used sea water as RCS makeup. That means these two plants will not likely be restarted. Public health impact appears nearly nil. There are some casualties at the plant, not necessarily from radiation exposure. One known dead and two missing. Three to four more injured with unknown injuries.

    As is frequently the case, the primary public health issues will likely be related to unnecessary panic.

  337. P. Solar says:
    March 13, 2011 at 11:09 am
    “dirkH says: “It’s not like they need to be carried. Most of them will simply pack up and drive in their own car.”

    Hey, check out the video coverage. Anyone near the coast no longer owns individual transport. Those further inland can’t get fuel,”

    1.) Anyone near the coast… now, a circle is a circle, and most of the half circle that covers the land area of the 20km evacuation radius is not “near the coast”
    2.) We’ve seen bad pictures of the Tsunami, but the epicenter was north of Fukushima and that’s where the worst pictures came from so how many people in the Fukushima area have lost their means of transportation is not so easy to tell.
    3.) Those further inland can’t get fuel? Do you own a car? How often does it happen that you ran it so empty that you can’t make 20 kilometers without refueling? Please… You’re grasping at any straw to make up an argument against nukes… IOW you’re using the victims of the Tsunami for your position. Does anyone besides me find that vomit-inducing?

  338. Lanceman is correct on the H2 devices. However he misnamed them as H2 “detonators”.
    The proper term is Hydrogen igniters. They are basically glow plugs which burn H2 BEFORE explosive concentration is achieved, theoretically. The last thing anyone wants is a detonation, of an explosive mixture. A small but important distinction. GK

  339. The concentrations of H2 we are talking about are on the order of 2-5% which are easily measured. The explosive concentration is a function of pressure and the constituents of the other gases present. The idea of burning off the H2 is to remove so that the resulting pressure spike is not as severe and does not threaten the structural integrity of the building. This is done BEFORE it reaches explosive levels. This is not done to protect people inside the buildings (anybody inside at this time would either be dead or dying). It is to keep the building intact, which, even though it is not designed to contain radioactive materials, does help retain them.

  340. From Amino Acids in Meteorites on March 13, 2011 at 7:12 am:

    What do you mean by, “drop a large share of the blame”?

    What’s there to say? It was marked as quoted though apparently not strongly enough. Like with a fenced-in yard with a small “Beware of dog” sign at the gate, if someone enters the yard, gets bit, then complains there wasn’t enough warning, how do you think the blame should be apportioned? Notice was given, and there is a responsibility to notice such a notice.

  341. Radiation levels clarified:

    I had to get a grip on radiation measuring units…
    This (promising!) US radiation-reporting network uses CPM (counts per minute, counting the number of hits of gamma rays):

    http://www.radiationnetwork.com/RadiationNetwork.htm

    But in the media reporting is vague at best, and they’re mixing units like they don’t know what they’re reporting on either (“1000 times normal”, etc. Who know what the hell that means anyhow? Well… I took some time this afternoon to sort it out. I hope it’s all correct. Here comes the gist of it.

    The rem is the unit used for equating radiation absorption with biological damage. Since the rem is a fairly large unit, radiation exposure is usually recorded in thousandths of a rem – or millirem. 1000 millirem = 1 rem. Millirem is usually abbreviated as mrem. A dose of 1 rad translates to an equivalent dose of 1 rem, which is now expressed internationally (SI standards) as 0.01 Sv (Sievert). 1 Sievert = 100 rem
    Most Americans receive about 360 mrem per year
    (360 millirem = 0.36 rem/yr –> about 0.001 rem/day, or
    (since exposure is generally expressed by the HOUR:
    that is 0.000041 rem/hr or less than 0.05 mrem/hr = normal)
    This includes average flying, etc.

    Generally 0.01 mR/hr equals normal “background radiation levels”.
    Now here’s the important thing to make sense of ‘Counts Per Minute’ radiation reporting:
    0.01 mR/hr translates into anywhere from 6 to 33 CPM (counts per minute, depending on your type of Geiger Counter.
    Details on that here: http://www.vaughns-1-pagers.com/science/radiation-detection.htm

    So, using the US normal here: “a thousand times
    normal” (reported miles away from nuke plants in Japan) is about 41 mrem, or 0.041 rem/hr
    In 24 hrs that adds up to about 1 rem. Stay in that for
    a week and you’re basically in trouble.

    For comparison: if you receive a chest x-ray, the amount of exposure – or dose – would be approximately 10 mrem or 0.010 rem. Get 100 X-rays and you got 1 rem too – not recommended. A US coast to coast airline flights involves about 5mrem (
    0.005 rem) (From elevated cosmic radiation levels in the upper atmosphere).

    1 rem received in a short period or over a long period is basically safe.
    Dangerous levels start around 10 rem which might give you a headache and may increase your chances of getting cancer (though really not that much).
    100 rem received in a short time can cause observable health effects (radiation sickness) from which your body will likely recover, and 100 rem received in a short time or over many years will increase your chances of getting cancer.
    A doze level reported yesterday (March 12) at the Fukushima plant was 88.2 rems/hr, from what I could find. (that’s over 8000 time normal, so the “1000 times normal” further away sounds about right.
    1,000 rem in a short or long period of time will cause immediately observable health effects and is likely to cause death.
    For comparison: plant workers at Chernobyl in 1986 received 1340 rem (= 13,400 mSv). Dozens died soon after from this kind of high exposure; thousands in the surrounding areas from cancers later.

    Hope this was helpful.

    PS: A small selection of other sources I used:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_poisoning#Exposure_levels

    http://www.colorado.edu/EHandS/hpl/RADHandbook/Introduction.html

    http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/ionizing.html

    http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/550889.html

    http://www.ornl.gov/sci/env_rpt/aser95/tb-a-2.pdf

    http://www.jlab.org/div_dept/train/rad_guide/fund.html

    —————————

  342. Doug Badgero says:
    March 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Both Units 1 and 3 now appear stable. Unit 1 had fuel damage Unit 3 did not. Both used sea water injection. I hope some are correct that this was used for cooling a heat exchanger but that is not my read. I think they both used sea water as RCS makeup. That means these two plants will not likely be restarted. Public health impact appears nearly nil. There are some casualties at the plant, not necessarily from radiation exposure. One known dead and two missing. Three to four more injured with unknown injuries.

    As is frequently the case, the primary public health issues will likely be related to unnecessary panic.

    Can you confirm that with a link? I’ve been trying to find the newest information and have become disgusted with the media.

  343. kadaka (KD Knoebel)

    I still don’t know what you are talking about. I didn’t experience any consequences akin to dog bite from listening to the interview.

    BTW, I did contact the real interviewer and requested the interview be made into a YouTube video. It’s posted in my previous comment.

  344. My understanding is that seawater has been introduced into the RCS (Reactor Coolant System). Obviously there was no alternative source of make up. Although it might have been filtered and some of the salt removed, it will be corrosive especially at these high temperatures. This could complicate efforts at long term cooling but in the short term must have been necessary. Even without this, the reactor is toast. Plus it was a small reactor of an old design which I think was recently issued a life extension which was good in an ironic way since it probably required a review and refit to allow it to continue to operate.

    I also find it ironic that the anti-nukes are screaming “coverup” when they never complained about the suppression of information that took place in climategate. And the efforts to avoid global warming would no doubt have a far more adverse effect on people than these nuclear accidents.

  345. Wow! ABC News just had a rather sensible segment on their nightly news.

    They actually said what many people don’t realize, if you are in Japan and somehow exposed, just remove your contaminated clothing and take a shower with soap and water, that’s it. It will remove all but a very small fraction. Never thought MSM was capable of such honesty in 2011.

    People hear the word radiation or uranium and just freak out… time for them to learn something of the real world they live in. (just hope the knowledge that they are in reality always “exposed” doesn’t send them over the mental cliff)

    In a few days Japan needs a good heavy rain to put most of this back into the soil and sea from whence it came. The same nuclear reactions found in a reactor occur in all soil every second of every day, everywhere, producing the same isotope side-products. Uranium is everywhere if you just pick up a shovel and dig a shovelful.

    Some quotes from the general web:
    “Uranium is virtually everywhere on Earth.”
    “Uranium is everywhere (soils, building materials, etc.)”
    “Where is uranium found in the world? Answer It can be found almost everywhere in soil and rock, in rivers and oceans. Traces of uranium are even found in food and human tissue.”

    I hope the general populace is capable of learning.

    I sure don’t want to marginalize this danger. I viewed the explosion and I could see the extreme danger right there and at that moment, breathing that gray dust was the danger. Bringing radioactive isotopes as dust into your lungs is the prime danger and should be guarded against at all costs. But, radiation somehow beaming from kilometers away and being a danger is also *not* real. It was the smoke emanating from Chernobyl’s core’s graphite for days on end that spread it so wide and far and in that case, the danger was very real until rain brought is down.

    Get real. (not speaking to most here, but instead to some I am leading here to read and hopefully learn a bit)

    pwl: seems you reeled me in, always imagined your voice to be much lower. ☺

  346. Re hotrod ( Larry L ) on March 13, 2011 at 7:24 am
    and Leg on March 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm:

    Ah, that was just a friendly poke at Anthony. I thought the mention of “radiation shields” would’ve tipped that off. You did check the WeatherShop to see what they were, right?

    At the time, I was actually thinking about some recent episodes of Castle (ABC, US) when they were looking for a Cobalt-60 “dirty bomb.” People were freaking out over a police department-issued radiation detector with LED indicators. They didn’t know what or how much it was measuring, just “OMG, the red LED’s are on, we could die!”

  347. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    March 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    kwik says:
    March 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

    -The evacuation is a precaution, right? They do it by the book.

    I’ve never heard of an evacuation over a breakdown at a coal fired electricity plant.

    Although small in terms of evacuation size–22 residences if you believe Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingston_Fossil_Plant_coal_fly_ash_slurry_spill–try the terms “Tennessee coal ash spill” in your favorite search engine.

    To me, it qualifies as a breakdown at a coal fired electricity plant.

  348. kwik says:

    =============================
    March 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

    -The evacuation is a precaution, right? They do it by the book.

    I’ve never heard of an evacuation over a breakdown at a coal fired electricity plant.

    ===========================

    Check out the Aberfan disaster. Many many children were killed by a landslide of a coal tip

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster

  349. kwik says:
    March 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

    -The evacuation is a precaution, right? They do it by the book.

    I’ve never heard of an evacuation over a breakdown at a coal fired electricity plant.

    But we do have dozens of protective action evacuations every year from common industrial accidents:

    Fires at plastics factories
    Fires and leaks from derailed trains
    Chemical leaks Chlorine, etheene oxide, sulfuric and Nitric acid, pesticide etc.
    Fires at tire and trash disposal sites
    Transformer fires
    Explosion hazards such as large leaks of gasoline, natural gas, propane etc.

    Not to mention flood and storm evacuations.
    Normal industrial operations in our modern industrial society are not at all uncommon.
    If you go back historically to the time when Steam technology was new boiler blowups were relatively common. After a number of those events society figured out how to use steam safely, by establishing safety codes for high pressure steam plants and inspection systems and safety factors for design. Nuclear power is historically a very safe industry when you compare it to long standing industries like coal mining, oil processing etc. that we accept as a necessary risk to acquire energy. So far more people were killed in the recent Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil platform blow out than were killed by this natural disaster on site at these 7 nuclear power plants.

    This is of course not to belittle in any way the 10’s of thousands of civilians killed in Japan by the direct action of the tsunami and earth quake.

    This event should certainly be a wake up call regarding tsunami preparedness in major industrialized countries and there near shore industrial installations, and provisions that should be made for wave control barriers around some structures and emergency power and fire fighting resources that should be on hand near by outside the most likely tsunami wave inundation zone.

    Larry

  350. MVB:

    Pretty good, I’ll just add that a rem is the biological damage (energy deposited) effected by exposing living tissue to 1 rad of gamma. So while one rem is not directly measured it can be equated to one rad (measured) gamma. This is not true with internal uptakes of sources such as tritium, particulate etc. Here, biological halflife and exposure of critical organs determine dose received (rem) and committed. GK

  351. From: http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110313-5.pdf

    Readings at Monitoring Posts in the Vicinity of Fukushima Dai-ichi and Dai-ni Nuclear Power Stations (as of 18:00, March 13)
    March 13, 2011
    Local Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters
    Readings (updated readings) at monitoring posts are as follows as of 18
    o’clock today (March 13):
    There is no significant effect on health by the measured values.
    Type . Location . Time . Readings
    Monitoring Post (Fukushima pref.) Oono District (in Fukushima Nuclear Center 17:30 5.36microSv/h

    Monitoring Post (Utility) In front of Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS MainGate 16:00 5.15microSv/h

    Monitoring Post No 4 (Near West Gate, outside the NPS site) 16:04 71.1microSv/h

    Emergency Monitoring (on land) Ohta-bashi, Ohta-gawa of Namie-kajima line to Chimei-ji intersection of 6th line 8:50-9:22 5.25-9.59microSv/h

    Haramachi Namie Intersection to Yokokawa dum entrance 11:42-12:13 8.2microSv/h-more than 30microSv/h

    Kusano Station to Takita Station 8:15-9:14 0.06-0.07microSv/h

    Dust and Iodine monitoring (In front of Fukushima Nuclear Center) 16:00
    I-131: 1.7Bq/m3
    Cs-137:ND
    I-132:ND
    Te-132:ND

    (Note) Normal Air Dose Readings at Monitoring Post is about 0.05microSv/h.
    Criteria to indicate the occurrence of nuclear emergency is 0.5mSv/h (500microSv/h).
    Dose limit of the general public is 1mSv (1000microSv)
    Annual average dose from natural exposure is 2.4mSv (2400microSv)

  352. I noted an interesting item at World Nuclear News that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

    “The tsunami wave that hit the plant measured at least 7 metres in height, compared to the maximum 6.5 metre case the plant was designed to cope with.”

    A number of people I have spoken to wondered how they could have had these plants on the coast without tsunami protection. It appears they did just not sufficient protection.

  353. I read hysterical headline after hysterical headline in the MSM. The once-great Times of London, online version http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/, has as its top headline (datelined only an hour or two ago) : Nuclear fear grips Japan
    The people of Japan were told last night to brace themselves for their most brutal ordeal since the Second World War after last Friday’s earthquake: nuclear threat, a massive human toll and unprecedented disruption to life. Leading the long list of crises was the struggle to reduce temperatures …

    The IAEA has been putting out updates from time to time, and basically each update is less alarming than the previous one. The latest says “The Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that radioactivity levels at the site boundary of the Onagawa nuclear power plant have returned down to normal background levels. The first (ie lowest) state of emergency was reported at the plant earlier on Sunday after an increased level of radioactivity was detected at the site boundary. Investigations at the site indicate that no emissions of radioactivity have occurred from any of the three units at Onagawa. The current assumption of the Japanese authorities is that the increased level may have been due to a release of radioactive material from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant….” and before that “Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that venting of the containment of reactor Unit 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant started at 9:20 AM local Japan time of 13 March through a controlled release of vapour. The operation is intended to lower pressure inside the reactor containment.
    Subsequently, following the failure of the high pressure injection system and other attempts of cooling the plant, injection of water first and sea water afterwards started. The authorities have informed the IAEA that accumulation of hydrogen is possible….
    “.

    Now I can’t prove that there won’t be a major nuclear incident, and the authorities might be lying, but from all that I have read in various apparently knowledgeable and informed sources, it seems that the situation is being dealt with reasonably successfully, the risks are by no means extreme, and reasonable precautions are being taken. The Times doesn’t seem to want to focus on any of this, but simply prefers to engage in reckless fear-mongering. When the Japanese have finished hosing down the reactor, please can they turn their hoses on The Times and the rest of the MSM.

  354. Has there been any reporting on what substances are being released by that burning oil refinery nearer to Tokyo? Which has been burning out of control for three days now, and reportedly will be allowed to burn itself out. Must be an awful lot of burnt hydrocarbons and maybe even a bit of radioactive particles there also.

  355. According to World Nuclear News pressure in unit 1 is now around 3 bars, which suggests a temperature of about 130C. Unit 3 is at about 2 – 2.2 bar, suggesting around 120C.

    That’s datelined 8:34pm GMT.

  356. And latest TEPCO updates:

    All 6 units of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have been shut down.

    [There is no update from the previous press release.]

    Unit 1(Shut down)
    – Reactor has been shut down. However, the unit is under inspection due
    to the explosive sound and white smoke that was confirmed after the big
    quake occurred at 3:36PM.
    – We have been injecting sea water and boric acid which absorbs neutron
    into the reactor pressure vessel.

    Unit 2(Shut down)
    – Reactor has been shut down and Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System
    has been injecting water to the reactor. Current reactor water level is
    lower than normal level, but the water level is steady. After fully
    securing safety, measures to lowering the pressure of reactor
    containment vessel has been taken, under the instruction of
    the national government.

    Unit 3(Shut down)
    – Reactor has been shut down. However, as High Pressure Core Injection
    System has been automatically shut down and water injection to
    the reactor was interrupted, following the instruction by
    the government and with fully securing safety, steps to lowering
    the pressure of reactor containment vessel has been taken. Spraying
    in order to lower pressure level within the reactor containment vessel
    has been cancelled.

    – After that, safety relief valve has been opened manually, lowering
    the pressure level of the reactor, which was immediately followed
    by injection of boric acid water which absorbs neutron, into
    the reactor pressure vessel.

  357. If we’re going to be comparing numbers for deaths due to energy sources and include those from harvesting the raw materials, we get to include agricultural deaths from growing and harvesting the raw materials for biofuels like ethanol. Now farming, that is a dangerous profession.

    http://msucares.com/safety/death/index.html

    “The National Safety Council’s 1999 Edition of Injury Facts reports that agriculture is the second most hazardous industry in the nation with a rate over 22 deaths per 100,000 workers compared to mining with a death rate of 24.3/100,000 workers. The all industry average is 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers,” says Terry Wilkinson, Manager, Agricultural Division. “These statistics also show an estimated 780 deaths and 140,000 disabling injuries in agriculture during 1998.” Agriculture has long been one of the most hazardous American industries.

    Sure, people are going to gripe about using nuclear power for the electricity for their curly lightbulbs and electric cars. Do they care about, or even know about, the lives that are lost for a more “carbon neutral” fill-up of their Prius?

  358. Ah, a correction.

    “wayne says: March 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm | pwl, bless you for that effort and thank your dad again (and again) for some very pertinent info.”

    Ah, the audio interview (and now as a video too on this comment thread) was not of my dad… it was by Evelyn, one of the writers at skepchick.org, and HER dad.

    The last I checked I’m still a guy named Peter (aka pwl) and my dad was a civil engineer who built over 400 bridges and even a chemical weapons destruction facility in the USA but he wasn’t a nuclear engineer unless he kept that secret. Oh, and I run the http://PathsToKnowledge.net blog. Unless I’ve had a sex change and a parent transplant in the last few hours that is. [:)]

    You can view more of Evelyn’s posts here: http://skepchick.org/author/evelyn/

    Evelyn has the transcript of her interview with her dad here: http://skepchick.org/2011/03/full-transcript-now-available-for-interview-with-my-dad-a-nuclear-engineer-about-the-japan-nuclear-disaster.

    [:)]

  359. Evelyn’s bio and the transcript of her interview with her nuclear engineer dad is actually here:

    “Evelyn Mervine: I am a geologist, writer, traveler, and aspiring polyglot. I am currently a 5th-year PhD student in the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. I will obtain my doctorate in Marine Geology & Geophysics (with a Geochemistry focus) sometime in 2011. I have a B.A. double major in Earth Science and Arabic from Dartmouth College. One reason I write this blog is to maintain my sanity as I finish up my PhD. In the midst of much stress, long days in lab, and long nights writing thesis chapters, I write to remind myself of why I love geology. I also write to document some of my geological adventures and to share my love of geology with others. ”

    http://georneys.blogspot.com/2011/03/conversation-with-my-dad-nuclear.html

  360. Andy Dawson,with regard to the hydrogen gas; lead acid battery’s generate large amounts of hydrogen and these were being used to power the reactor. Where are the back-up battery’s stored in these reactors?

  361. Crap, another explosion reported!!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/government-confirms-hydrogen-explosion-at-stricken-japanese-nuclear-plant/2011/03/13/ABRc31S_story.html

    Government confirms hydrogen explosion at stricken Japanese nuclear plant

    By The Associated Press, Sunday, March 13, 1:54 AM

    TOKYO — Japan’s chief cabinet secretary says a hydrogen explosion has occurred at Unit 3 of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The blast was similar to an earlier one at a different unit of the facility.

  362. Another hydrogen explosion comparable to Fukushima 1 last Saturday took place at Fukushima 3, about 95 minutes ago.

  363. Explosion rocks third Fukushima reactor
    14 March 2011

    Another explosion has rocked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, this time at the third reactor unit. Initial analysis is that the containment structure remains intact. 
     
    News of the explosion came at the same time as details of an earthquake but it is unclear if the events are connected.
     
    Chief cabinet secretary Yukiyo Edamo appeared on television stating that the blast was a hydrogen explosion. He said contact had been made with the plant manager whose belief is that the containment structure, important to nuclear safety, remains intact.
     
    The rationale for that statement, Edamo said was that water injection operations have continued and pressure readings from the reactor system were with a comfortable range.

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Explosion_rocks_third_Fukushima_reactor_1402111.html

  364. Don’t know of others but, I had never heard explicitly the portion bolded below:

    The Japanese reactors are a completely different design [than Chernobyl] known as Boiling Water Reactors, which are old and tested, and have three quite elaborate systems of containment designed to constrain radioactive leakage, points out Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass. “The third containment is designed, built, and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown,” he writes.

  365. pwl says:
    March 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Ah, a correction.

    “wayne says: March 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm | pwl, bless you for that effort and thank your dad again (and again) for some very pertinent info.”

    Ah, the audio interview (and now as a video too on this comment thread) was not of my dad… it was by Evelyn, one of the writers at skepchick.org, and HER dad.

    The last I checked I’m still a guy named Peter …
    ————
    LOL. Check at the bottom of: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/11/nuclear-meltdown-race-to-save-reactors-in-japan/#comment-619711 .

  366. Here is a YouTube Video of the second explosion.

    This one was much bigger than the one earlier. Good news is that it sounds like the containment building is still sound.

  367. @MVB

    “…thousands in the surrounding areas from cancers later.”

    Of course, cancer wasn’t invented by Chernobyl. There would have been “thousands” if Chernobyl had not happened. Last time I looked at Dr. Gale’s site, they weren’t attributing anywhere near that many to Chernobyl.

  368. Am I wrong or is this all pretty silly? If it had been a hydroelectric damn or a Natural gas burning plant wouldn’t we have large numbers of fatalities already?

  369. One thing is for sure: Since windmills are becoming a vital part of our national infrastructure, they should be designed to withstand the same seismic forces as nuclear plants.

    Sadly, even though this would increase their price by an order of magnitude or two, they will still be affordable (because of taxpayer subsidies).

  370. P Solar You must have a kind of twisted sense proportion or really bad sense of scale.

    Our media is nuts to be focused on this.
    What you see here is the inherent safety of nuclear power. After days of unplanned and catastrophic happenings we have no one dead no one injured and a few people needing to take an extra shower. We have people still able to try new things to save the plants and minimize the mess. If it had been any other kind of power station generating this kind of power we would be talking about the dead, hundreds of dead fire fighters or thousands of drowned civilians

    Can someone with a better background than me do a realistic update?

  371. @Wondering Aloud

    Exactly. And, if there had been a tsunami to go with it… Wait, there was. A handful from the reactor accidents plus how many from the quake/tsunami?

  372. MVB
    millisieverts are not the same as millirem. I only saw a measurement in millisieverts did you do a conversion?

  373. So who allowed this earthquake and tsunami to go forward.
    There were no environmental impact statements filed with the relevant governmental organizations, and we all know that Nature doesn’t really do anything, it’s all man-made … so what public official allowed this disaster to proceed ??

    I demand that heads roll.

  374. Wikipedia as a reference source? Are you kidding me? They banned an AGW (anthropogenic global warming) activist last year because he was fraudulently entering “scientific” material.
    When the general public can revise scientific matters without any professionally trained degreed graduate substantiation you cannot use it for argumentive purposes.
    The lame stream media is no source for facts when it does not suit their agenda and nuclear power is not in keeping with the Green Agenda.

  375. Rolling power cuts have started in the Tokyo area today (now 1:28 pm local time, Monday).
    Public trains are partly stopped, partly in smaller frequency, to save electric power.

    This may reduce CO2 emission to some extent ;-)

  376. The talking head used by CTV (Canada) on nuclear matters was one Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, an anti-nuclear campaigner. I sent them a cross note…..

    IanM

  377. @wayne says:
    March 13, 2011 at 7:31 pm
    Don’t know of others but, I had never heard explicitly the portion bolded below:

    The Japanese reactors are a completely different design [than Chernobyl] known as Boiling Water Reactors, which are old and tested, and have three quite elaborate systems of containment designed to constrain radioactive leakage, points out Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass. “The third containment is designed, built, and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown,” he writes.

    Wayne, you might enjoy reading some of this technical publication. See page 16/25 of Univ of Illinois’s Prof. Ragheb’s “Containment Structures.”

    https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/mragheb/www/NPRE%20457%20CSE%20462%20Safety%20Analysis%20of%20Nuclear%20Reactor%20Systems/Containment%20Structures.pdf

    He discusses the role of the suppression pool, levels of containment etc. of boiling water reactors. The Japanese units are GE Mark I design, they are older systems that were apparently ready to be decommissioned in the near future.

  378. Somewhere upthread I’d made a comment about the spent fuel ponds being possibly affected by the explosions in the reactor buildings. That was based, it seems, on a misunderstanding of some schematics.

    There’s a common spent fuel storage facility for all the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, some distance from the reactors. The pool in the reactor hall, it seems, is purely an intermediate storage for use during refuelling operations. It’s 6 months since unit #3 restarted after it’s last refuelling, so I’m assuming that the pool will have been empty (as that at unit #1 seems to have been).

  379. View from the Solent gave a truly excellent link a few comments ago:

    A very “simple and accurate explanation” of Fukushima

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation/

    Following the “Updates and additional Q&A information” link on that page leads one to (amongst other useful things) this statement:
    Professor Barry Brook, an environmental scientist at the University of Adelaide, said the effect on the Australian debate depended on whether it would be ”argued on a rational basis or an irrational basis”.
    A rational debate would acknowledge that Japan’s largest recorded earthquake produced an incident at a 40-year-old reactor that was ranked at a level less than the Three Mile Island emergency, he said. ”I think the nuclear reactors have come through remarkably well.”

    Debate argued on a rational basis? He’s gotta be joking.

  380. It is my understanding that the Japanese were assured that tsunamis could not affect Japan because the coast was designed to withstand a 6 m Tsunami.

    Being Japanese, no one was worried as they were told and believed, as only the Japanese can believe, that the authorities knew what was right and needed.

    Based on previous experience, they were probably right, but of course rogue events happen.

  381. @mike g says:
    March 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    What we may learn from this tragedy is that we just can’t engineer our society to withstand magnitude 9 earthquakes. Measly 7′s, yes, and the ocasional 8.0. But, maybe not 9.x.
    _________________________________________________________________
    Level of design strength is a matter of choice based upon professional judgement review of all available information…
    It IS possible to design for a 9 or even a 10… and there is a safety factor ABOVE the specified design strength. My read is that 7.9 was the chosen design strength but no mention of safety factor – typically 1.5x to 2.0x, this would possibly explain why the facilities are still standing.

  382. @ Wondering Aloud says:
    March 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    >millisieverts are not the same as millirem.

    yeah: they’re not. Looked through what I posted and don’t see why you’d think I’d think that. (Quoting what you’re refring too would help) I’m guessing you raised this because the measured rems reference (which was on http://live.reuters.com/Event/Japan_earthquake2 ) that had me mention 88.2 rems; that post on there has vanished since, for the better I guess, as it was inaccurate due to use of the wrong unit, apparently. (luckily, too)

    1 Sv = 100 rem
    1 mSv = 100 mrem = 0.1 rem
    1 μSv = 0.1 mrem
    1 rem = 0.01 Sv = 10 mSv
    1 mrem = 0.00001 Sv = 0.01 mSv = 10 μSv

    The 88.2 rem was clearly a misreporting, as I’ve seen 882 microSievert since, matching other reports (such as “751.2 microsievert per hour” at the plant, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/13/japan-quake-radiation-idUSL3E7ED0MI20110313 )

  383. Many politicians, designers and industrialists are very confused in the use of the sun.

    Passive Solar design and Daylighting has been in use for centuries… I have found the process to not add more than 1 to 2 % to the cost of construction.

    The designs tend to be more alive ( stimulating ), plants, pets and people do very well in these structures.

    Productivity increases from 15% to 30% in office environments.

    Sales increase in stores.

    And the energy bills ( as well as the need for fuels ) decrease.

    Absolutely no excuse in continuing to ignore the obvious.

    Yes we need to educate; architects, engineers, building officials, builders, politicians, and the public.

    The reward is about 50% savings.

    All this without a single Photovoltaic Panel…

    I am not including my website as I do not wish this to be an ad.

  384. @mike g.

    Not sure where exactly on Dr. Gales sites you find easily-accessible statistics, but I doubt he would disagree. Quote your source precicely.

    You can read through this report from the WHO: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs303/en/index.html
    You’ll find plenty of lines to add nuance to alarmist statements, but bottom-line thousands of ADDITIONAL (radiation-related) cancers is pretty much what experts settled on awhile ago as a result of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. This may not be all that much in the big picture, and radiation really isn’t that big of a deal (unless you’re in the 1 Sv/hr range, though I doubt anyone reading this will be strolling through a badly damaged reactor any time soon), but there’s no point to downplay the reality of it either.

    @mike g says:
    March 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm
    @MVB “…thousands in the surrounding areas from cancers later.”
    Of course, cancer wasn’t invented by Chernobyl. There would have been “thousands” if Chernobyl had not happened. Last time I looked at Dr. Gale’s site, they weren’t attributing anywhere near that many to Chernobyl.

  385. RT video of second explosion at Fukushima, with minimal screen clutter and close up. Fire ball clearly visible with a rising black cloud of smoke (in an unfortunate shape) and falling debris clearly visible. This is really not good at all.

  386. “Explosion rocks third Fukushima reactor
    14 March 2011
    First published: 3.08am GMT
    UPDATE 1: 3.25am Addition of background information
    UPDATE 2: 3.49am Technical details on pressure
    UPDATE 3: 4.34am Injuries, radiation rates and pressure data

    Another hydrogen explosion has rocked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, this time at the third reactor unit. Initial analysis is that the containment structure remains intact.

    The blast that occurred at 11.01am today was much larger than the one seen at unit 1 two days ago. An orange flash came before a large column of brown and grey smoke. A large section of the relatively lightweight roof was seen to fly upwards before landing back on other power plant buildings.
    …”

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Explosion_rocks_third_Fukushima_reactor_1402111.html

    CNN on second explosion:

  387. @ CRS, Dr.P.H.

    Fantasic paper. Thanks. Saved me from writing many comments!

    One thing I still don’t competely understand is the sea water being injected; is it into the suppression pool to replenish it or directly into the RPV? I keep hearing that the level is not as high as it should be but don’t see what is keeping them from raising it. If it’s gas at the top of the RPV why don’t they just vent more to the atmosphere, or, is it a deeper problem. (surely it’s not just to prevent some bad PR)

  388. Ian L. McQueen says:
    March 13, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    “The talking head used by CTV (Canada) on nuclear matters was one Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, an anti-nuclear campaigner. I sent them a cross note…..”

    On BBC America their chosen source was a guy from Greenpeace. My eyes crossed.

  389. http://twitter.com/#!/norishikata is tweeting again now after a sleep. Blast interrupted cooling at #2 so seawater injection planned there. #3 cooling temporarily interrupted by blast. This blast had been predicted yesterday, by the way, if you read back through his tweets (to before he had a sleep). Initially it was thought that the blast might mean a ‘ large amount of radioactive materials are released to the air ‘ but since then he says ‘Unit 3 ,after the hydrogen blast this morning, has not so far shown a rise of radioactive level based on the on-site monitoring’.

  390. 3 things to this post:
    a) – a better clarification on radiation units than I posted earlier
    b) – an explanation why radiation levels seen in Japan are no big deal (so far), whatsoever (seriously, they’re not, not as of early March 14, 2011 at least.)
    c) – and a comparison with the bananas (which, btw was an excellent post, IMO, Anthony. tx!)

    a) This table of radiation units lays it out well:

    http://www.albert-cordova.com/iso/Units.htm

    (though note they apparently couldn’t come up with a “µ” for micro.)
    1 millirem ( 1 mrem) = 10 microsievert (1 µSv) (NOT “mSv”) )

    b) In the US, the ‘annual estimated average effective dose equivalent from radiation’ is 360 mrem per adult. This is broken down as:

    ANNUAL estimated average effective dose equivalent received by a member of the population of the United States, NATURALLY.
    Table Source: http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm

    Source of Radiation Average annual effective dose equivalent (in µSv or mrem)
    (µSv) (mrem)
    Inhaled (Radon and Decay Products) 2000 200
    Other Internally Deposited Radionuclides 390 39
    Terrestrial Radiation 280 28
    Cosmic Radiation 270 27
    Cosmogenic Radioactivity 10 1
    Rounded total from natural source 3000 300
    Rounded total from artificial Sources 600 60
    TOTAL: 3600 360

    Normal background radiation received in the US is 3600 µSv, or about 0.41 µSv/hour [3600 µSv per year / 365 days / 24 hours –> = 0.41 µSv/hour]

    Yet other sources (such as current news) estimate the normal dosage a lot lower: “A microsievert is an internationally recognized unit measuring radiation dosage, with people typically exposed during an entire year to a total of about 1,000 microsieverts.” [Source: CNN on March 14, 2011: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/14/japan.nuclear.reactors/index.html?hpt=T1&iref=BN1 ]

    Anyhow: Using the “US normal dosing of 0.41 µSv/hour”, then the reported readings in the general range of 500 to 1500 microSieverts per hour thus translate to the range of 1,220 – 3,660 TIMES the normal rate.

    Now, to get to a troubling 1 Sv dose, at 500 µSv/hour, you’d have to be continually exposed for over 2 years to that. In other words: the radiation levels currently measured my seem high, but Japanese authorities are not covering anything up when claiming that there is no reason to panic and no immediate danger. That is NOT an understatement. Things don’t even get really bad until one gets into the 2Sv and above levels anyhow.

    EFFECTS: Exposure to 1 Sv (10,000 mSv or 10,000,000 µSv) in a day of radiation can cause hemorrhaging, 2 Sv nausea, vomitting and diarrhea; 4Sv can cause death within two months, and 2,000 Sv can cause loss of consciousness within minutes and death within hours. [Combined sources for this:
    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-03-14/understanding-radiation-poisoning-questions-and-answers.html
    http://books.google.com/books?id=JelgwgVx-P0C&lpg=PA124&dq=8000%20rads%20of%20fast%20neutron%20radiation%20(from%20a%20neutron%20bomb)&pg=PA122#v=onepage&q=8000%20rads%20of%20fast%20neutron%20radiation%20(from%20a%20neutron%20bomb)&f=false
    http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec21/ch317/ch317a.html ]

    c) To quote from “Going bananas over radiation” Posted on February 16, 2011 by Anthony Watts: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/16/going-bananas-over-radiation/ :

    “The equivalent dose for 365 bananas (one per day for a year) is 3.6 millirems (36 μSv).

    36 μSv/ year from eating a banana/day or 0.0986 μSv/day from eating a banana would be 0.0041 μSv/hour if you took all day to eat it. :-)
    How does that compare to 500 μSv/hour? Well, the exposure you’d get from taking a walk miles away from the troubles Fukushima plants is more than one hundred twenty thousand times greater than taking a bite from your banana.
    The one is unusual, but no big deal; the other completely insignificant.

  391. Perhaps nuclear power facilities should not be allowed at sites that may be disrupted by worst-case tsunami or volcanic activity. I assume sites prone to catastrophic ground failure (liquefaction) are already ruled out. I do hope they manage to keep the lid closed on what appears to be a cracked Pandoran box.

  392. It is much to be hoped that the Fukushima incident does not prove a Reichstag fire moment for Green Collectivism.

  393. @wayne says:
    March 13, 2011 at 10:28 pm
    @ CRS, Dr.P.H.

    Fantasic paper. Thanks. Saved me from writing many comments!

    One thing I still don’t competely understand is the sea water being injected; is it into the suppression pool to replenish it or directly into the RPV? I keep hearing that the level is not as high as it should be but don’t see what is keeping them from raising it. If it’s gas at the top of the RPV why don’t they just vent more to the atmosphere, or, is it a deeper problem. (surely it’s not just to prevent some bad PR)
    ——–
    REPLY Wayne, you are most welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    They are flooding the core of the reactor (fuel rod assembly etc.) with seawater in order to stave off a completely meltdown of the rods. They are also putting boron into the water to reduce the nuclear reaction.

    This is quite good:

    http://enr.construction.com/infrastructure/environment/2011/0313-JapanNuclearMeltdownFears.asp

    The seawater and boron will more than likely permanently cripple the units.
    These old reactors were due to be decommissioned, but still, it is a massive loss of electrical energy to their economy.

  394. dirkH says: You’re grasping at any straw to make up an argument against nukes… IOW you’re using the victims of the Tsunami for your position. Does anyone besides me find that vomit-inducing?

    I’d guess that there are a lot of people from the missing 10,000 who are (or were!) grasping at straws hoping to be rescued. Pretending that the huge resources now being diverted to contain the multiple nuclear reactors that are out of control is not affecting the rescue attempts, is exactly what you are trying to accuse me of doing: twisting the facts to fit your preconceived position on nuclear power.

    Yours and other’s comments that the only casualties of the nuclear incidents are the “2 or 3 people with bruises” is stupid, disingenuous and flying in the face of the facts.

    vomit-inducing, as you say.

  395. A detailed description of the Fukushima plant including with an engineer who designed safety systems including for the tsunami case who says what happened “was beyond our expectations”. Woops.

    “Fuckushima Nuclear Reactor No2 Rods Exposed And Melting 14.03.11″

  396. The Fukushima plant allegedly was designed for a 6.3 meter tsunami but they got a 10 meter tsunami which took out the diesel back up generators. Woops.

  397. What is being overlooked in the MSM is that the nuclear installations, as I understand it, withstood the earthquakes but the cooling failed when the tsunami took out the backup diesel powerplants. This in itself says much to the state of the technology. Have yet to hear (hopefully never) of any dangerous radiation releases.

  398. From: http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110314-1.pdf

    For Fukushima Dai-ichi:

    (2) Readings at monitoring posts
    The measurement of radioactive materials in the environmental monitoring area near the site boundary by a monitoring car confirmed the increase in the radioactivity compared to the radioactivity at 19:00, March 13.
    MP1 (Monitoring at North End of Site Boundary) : 26 microSv/h(18:30 March 13)→(Move to MP2)

    MP2 (Monitoring at north- northwest of Unit1 and northwest of the End of Site Boundary for Unit 1 ) : 450 microSv/h(20:10 March 13)→680 microSv/h 3:50 March 14)

    MP4 (Monitoring Car at North West Site Boundary for Unit 1) 44.0 microSv/h(19:33 March 13)→56.4 microSv/h(04:08 March 14) (Surveyed by MP2 as MP1 is in the top of the cliff)

    MP6 (Monitoring at the Main Gate) 5.2microSv/h(19:00 March 13)→66.3 microSv/h(02:50 March 14)

    (3) Wind direction/wind speed (as of 00:01, March 14) Wind direction: North North West Wind Speed: 0.3 m/s

  399. 1 mSv – Recommended annual dose limit for general public.

    “13)→680 microSv/h 3:50 March 14)” milli vs. micro.

    Anyone seen any data that is higher than this?

  400. I was having trouble making sense of some of the links and claims. He he by now I don’t even remember the details I’ll have to go back and re read. 88 mrem it appears? A lot but not a lot?

  401. So the highest one you list is 6.5mrem/hour. That’s a lot in only a week or so you could get a rem. High enough to be high but not high enough to be any short term dnager. If I remember correctly that means if you hang out there for about 3 years you could get enough dose to get a low grade radiation sickness. Of course that is what happens if you get that dose all at once.

  402. What the heck makes you think that huge resources that could be used helping Tsunami victims are being diverted to the power plants? If so wouldn’t the logical thing be to stop fear mongering and stop diverting the resources. How does flying in pumps prevent setting up tents?

    P solar how much better would it be if it was a natural gas generator? Than the area would be a huge hole with everyone already dead is that what you are advocating? How about a hydroelectric damn? It could have been wind powered I guess, than in addition to freezing in the dark some of the victims could have been crushed or sliced to bits by the windmills. Oh and of course the back up generators could be burning like the oil refinery.

  403. @Wondering Aloud
    Good point. Someone on Drudge pointed out today:

    “…if the tsunami had hit a solar farm instead, “10,000’s of Lbs of lead and cadmium telluride would have been swept into the Sea of Japan poisoning just about everything.”

  404. @wayne says:
    March 13, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Wayne, I’m sorry, I didn’t quite answer your question the first time. Internet connectivity issues.

    Here’s an excellent article about how the suppression pool in a boiling water reactor functions:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/safety/concerns-about-relying-on.html

    This is a good summary:

    An article on the Web site of The Union of Concerned Scientists explains that a reactor’s suppression pool plays a central role in the event of a nuclear accident.

    The water condenses the steam and cools down the air bubbling to surface of the suppression pool. The suppression pool water serves as an “energy sponge” to soak up energy (heat) released into primary containment during an accident. It heats up to nearly 200ºF during the course of an accident….

    The suppression pool water has another equally important job. The emergency core cooling system (ECCS) pumps take water from the suppression pool and supply it to the reactor vessel to prevent overheating (melting).

  405. 17 minutes ago:

    Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Unit 2 – Reactor Suppression Pool Reported Damaged

    http://geospatial.blogs.com/geospatial/2011/03/fukushima-daiichi-reactor-unit-2-reactor-suppression-pool-reported-damaged.html

    The Telegraph says that TEPCO has confirmed that there was an explosion between 6:00 am (2100 GMT Monday, 5 pm EDT) and 6:15 am at the Unit 2 reactor of Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.



    It also says that the government reported apparent damage to part of the container shielding the Unit 2 reactor, although it was unclear whether this resulted from the blast.



    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters the suppression pool of the number-two nuclear reactor appeared to have been damaged.  This is the bottom part of the container, which holds water used to cool it down and control air pressure inside.



    Edano said “But we have not recorded any sudden jump in radiation indicators.”

  406. For Fukushima Dai-ichi:

    (2) Readings at monitoring posts
    The measurement of radioactive materials in the environmental monitoring area near the site boundary conducted by a monitoring car in considering the wind flow, confirmed the increase in the radioactivity compared to the radioactivity at 07:30, March 14.

    MP3 (Monitoring at North West of Site Boundary for Unit 2) : 231.1 micro Sv/h (14:30 March 14)

    MP4 (Monitoring at north- west of Site Boundary for Unit 2 : 56.4 micro Sv/h(04:08 March 14)→29.8 micro Sv/h(14:14 March 14)

    MP5 (Monitoring at north-west Site Boundary for Unit 2) 6.1 micro Sv/h(14:02 March 14)

    MP6 (Monitoring at the west –southwest Site Boundary for Unit 2) 3.70 micro Sv/h(16:10 March 14)→4.2 micro Sv/h(12:34 March 14)

    MP7 (Monitoring at the west –southwest Site Boundary for Unit 2) 6.1 micro Sv/h (12:16, March 14)

    (3) Wind direction/wind speed (as of 14:14, March 14) at MP-4 Wind direction: North North West Wind Speed: 2.6 m/s

  407. Ah, the Fukushima site has SIX reactors, three of which are having huge worst case troubles due to a lack of electricity to keep them cool. Wouldn’t a solution be to power up one of the three reactors that where off when the earthquake happened? They need power and they have three sources of it on site! Or would that make the situation worse? Maybe these three reactors that where off can’t be turned on due to being in maintenance or maybe they were damaged… but heck if these three reactors that are melting down melt down then maybe the risk of turning on one of these other three reactors to save the day is worth it? That’s what I would call a Hail Mary Plan albeit risky and a bit crazy. What say you?

  408. “Loud noises were heard at Fukushima Daiichi 2 at 6.10am this morning. A major component beneath the reactor is confirmed to be damaged. Evacuation to 20 kilometres is being completed, while a fire on site has now been put out.

    The pressure in the pool was seen to decrease from three atmospheres to one atmosphere after the noise, suggesting possible damage. Radiation levels on the edge of the plant compound briefly spiked at 8217 microsieverts per hour but later fell to about a third that.

    A close watch is being kept on the radiation levels to ascertain the status of containment. As a precaution Tokyo Electric Power Company has evacuated all non-essential personnel from the unit. The company’s engineers continue to pump seawater into the reactor pressure vessel in an effort to cool it.”

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Possible_damage_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_2_1503111.html

  409. Reactor 4 seems to be having a fire now, reactor seems it might have partially breached the containment vessel. So now the workers have to deal with 4 different problems, I do not envy them.

    It seems there has been a marked radiactivity count jump so I will wait Phil’s later resports with interest.

    Wind direction was due to change to onshore today.

    Andy

  410. I haven’t seen this story elsewhere re the Japanese refusing our early offer to fly in massive water proof generators to power the shutdowns. Could have made all the difference?

    http://www.newsmax.com/KenTimmerman/japan-nuclear-fallout-us/2011/03/13/id/389295

    Japanese Reaction to Catastrophe Worries White House
    Sunday, 13 Mar 2011 02:20 PM

    By Ken Timmerman

    U.S. officials have been meeting virtually non-stop at the White House since the Japanese earthquake and the tsunami that damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, trying to find ways of helping Japan avert a nuclear core meltdown in ways the Japanese can accept.

    So far, it hasn’t been easy, a senior U.S. official told Newsmax.

    “We tried to airlift generators to Fukushima right at the beginning, but the Japanese refused our help,” the official said. “They are very proud.”

    Etc.

  411. pwl says:
    March 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Maybe these three reactors that where off can’t be turned on due to being in maintenance or maybe they were damaged… but heck if these three reactors that are melting down melt down then maybe the risk of turning on one of these other three reactors to save the day is worth it?

    I don’t know but I would guess that a lot of the infrastructure that allows these reactors to function has been wiped out by the tsunami, sub stations, instrument rooms.

  412. “Maybe these three reactors that where off can’t be turned on due to being in maintenance or maybe they were damaged… but heck if these three reactors that are melting down melt down then maybe the risk of turning on one of these other three reactors to save the day is worth it?”

    If they were down for maintenance, it’s highly likely there were refuelling operations going on. Which means the reactor vessels would be open (as an aside, it could account for fairly hot fuel being in what’s meant to be a pool for the temporary holding of fuel on reactor#4, which is causing problems. You’d have to complete refuelling and overhaul before restarting. Not really an option.

  413. Info from IAEA
    A person’s radiation exposure due to all natural sources amounts on average to about 2.4 millisievert (mSv) per year. A sievert (Sv) is a unit of effective dose of radiation. Depending on geographical location, this figure can vary by several hundred percent.

    Since one sievert is a large quantity, radiation doses are typically expressed in millisievert (mSv) or microsievert (µSv), which is one-thousandth or one millionth of a sievert. For example, one chest X-ray will give about 0.1 mSv of radiation dose.

    Japanese Earthquake Update (15 March 11:25 UTC) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Update

    Radiation Dose Rates Observed at the Site
    The Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that the following radiation dose rates have been observed on site at the main gate of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

    At 00:00 UTC on 15 March a dose rate of 11.9 millisieverts (mSv) per hour was observed. Six hours later, at 06:00 UTC on 15 March a dose rate of 0.6 millisieverts (mSv) per hour was observed.

    These observations indicate that the level of radioactivity has been decreasing at the site.

  414. “Professor Richard Wakeford, from the Dalton Nuclear Institute, discusses the radiation leaks from the Fukushima power plant in Japan.”

    “Professor Paddy Regan, a nuclear physicist, says the Japanese authorities are doing a good job over the Fukushima radiation leaks.”

  415. Mod, Thanks for fixing the bolding in my last post!!!

    The fifty people who stayed on site are real heros, I hope they get through this without harm.

    The markets, as usual, are spinning in circles with their shorts on fire but, according to IAEA updates, the situation appears to be stabilizing (reduced background levels) which is great news.

  416. “If I had the ear of the Prime Minister, I would recommend the “Chernobyl Option.”

    Put the Japanese Air Force on alert
    Assemble a huge fleet of helicopters. Put shielding underneath them.
    Accumulate enough sand, boric acid, and concrete to smother these reactors, to entomb them forever.
    This is what the Soviets did in 1986, calling out the Red Air Force and sandbagging the reactor with over 5,000 tons of concrete and sand.

    We have not yet hit the point of no return. But when we do, I think the only option left is this one.” – Michio Kaku

    http://bigthink.com/ideas/31617

  417. @ adpack says:
    March 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    When trying to gauge the credibility of these stories, it helps to understand the scale of things. Here is an indicator of the size of generators needed. These vary in weight from 26 to 43 tons. Unfortunately, I don’t know what generators were installed at Fukushima. A second indicator of size is here (pictured at top right is the stator of an Allis Chalmers 7,000hp, 4,000v nuclear circulating water pump with an inner diameter of around 12 ft and an outer diameter of around 18 ft). Steam-powered coolant pumps would need steam to run, but, once the reactors have been shut down, steam production may not be available. Note that the electric coolant pumps have motors that run in the ballpark of 4000v, so the generator would ideally also need to output the same voltage.

  418. Latest reports I have seen are:

    “Workers have been evacuated from the site.”

    “South Korea plans to transfer its reserve of boron to Japan to it stabilise the quake-damaged nuclear reactors.”

    The obvious question is if workers have been evacuated does that mean the reactors have been left to do their own thing?

    Or are we still not getting the complete picture?

  419. One of the things that I don’t believe anyone has mentioned is the concentration of risk by having so many reactors so close together. For example, a hydrogen explosion in reactor x has hampered/crippled efforts to control neighboring reactors. The reactors survived the earthquake fairly well, absent the tsunami. I don’t believe we would have the situation now had the tsunami not hit. So earthquake survivability has maybe been well demonstrated. The tsunami is a different story. They made an effort to provide protection against tsunamis, but they got a whopper that nobody, pro- or anti-nuclear power, can say in good conscience was predictable. Placing the so many reactors so close together, however, I think is a major design/regulatory oversight that should have been foreseen.

    There is no question that efforts to control the reactors would have had a better chance of success, had they had to deal with them singly, rather than collectively. The clustering IMHO is the real problem at Fukushima. Storing spent fuel next to reactors, as is done around the world, is another compounding issue that should also be addressed promptly at other facilities. The closing of Yucca Mountain in the US is a colossal mistake that may come back to haunt us. Spent fuel that is stored at nuclear facilities around the country needs to be removed from those facilities ASAP and taken to Yucca Mountain. Fukushima has shown that any problems at a nuclear facility can be compounded, perhaps catastrophically, by the storage of spent fuel in or near nuclear reactors.

    In closing, I would submit that events at Fukushima may have been very different in a very positive way had the situation not been compounded by the clustering of reactors and the storage of spent fuel near the reactors. Those last two may end up being the difference between a controllable, albeit very serious situation, and one that is vastly more difficult, costly and dangerous.

  420. Good point Phil. I get the feeling that land constraints is the reason, ie with limited land they tried to cram as many on as possible. So in effect a $$ and land decision.

    Of course the other down side of so many reactors is that the plant staff now have to cope with multiple problems so leading to data overload and mistakes. It’s very had to imagine the stress the plant staff have with so many problems, the worry about health and also perhaps worry about loved ones elsewhere.

    Andy

  421. 1324: Japan has raised the maximum radiation dose allowed for nuclear workers, to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts. It described the move as “unavoidable due to the circumstances”, AP reports.

    So it’s flexible. Not much point having it if it is though :(

    Reactors 5 and 6 are now having water poured onto them via helicopter. I have not heard much of them before today but they seem to be also causing some concern now, or else they are just making sure.

    Andy

  422. From: http://ansnuclearcafe.org/ (quoted text will scroll off the screen as this url is for rolling updates)

    FEDERATION OF ELECTRIC POWER COMPANIES OF JAPAN Washington DC Office, Update to information sheet regarding Tohoku earthquake as of 10:15AM EST (05:15 GMT), March 16, 2011:

    * Radiation Levels At 6:40AM (JST) on March 16 (21:40 GMT March 15), a radiation level of 400 milli sievert per hour (about 58 chest CT scans per hour) was recorded outside the west side of the secondary containment building of the Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * At 6:40AM on March 16, a radiation level of 100 milli sievert per hour (about 14½ chest CT scans per hour) was recorded outside the west side of the secondary containment building of the Unit 4 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * At 8:47AM on March 16, a radiation level of 150 milli sievert per hour (about 22 chest CT scans per hour) was recorded outside the secondary containment building of Unit 2 reactor of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * At 8:47AM on March 16, a radiation level of 300 milli sievert per hour (about 43½ chest CT scans per hour) was recorded between the exteriors of the secondary containment buildings of Unit 2 reactor and Unit 3 reactor of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * At 8:47AM on March 16, a radiation level of 400 milli sievert per hour (about 58 chest CT scans per hour) was recorded outside the secondary containment building of Unit 3 reactor of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * At 8:47AM on March 16, radiation level of 100 milli (about 14½ chest CT scans per hour) sievert per hour was recorded outside the secondary containment building of Unit 4 reactor of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * At 10:40AM on March 16, a radiation level of 10 milli sievert per hour (about 1½ chest CT scans per hour) was recorded at the main gate of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * At 4:10PM on March 16, a radiation level of 1530 micro sievert per hour (about 0.22 chest CT scans per hour) was recorded at the main gate of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

    * For comparison, a human receives 2400 micro sievert per year from natural radiation in the form of sunlight, radon, and other sources. One chest CT scan generates 6900 micro sievert per scan. (emphasis and parenthetical comments added)

    Notice that the radiation level at the main gate at 4:10 P.M. is measured in micro sieverts, whereas all the other the measurements are in millisieverts. IIRC, the main gate is about 2.5 km from the reactors or something like that, so the radiation seems to be falling off rapidly with distance, at least for now. The down side is that it appears as if the reactors themselves are becoming too hot to work on, so that means that further radiation releases are to be expected.

  423. That’s a constant 12mSv an hour so 24 hours is past the new maximum allowed in about 1 day. Where is observation point 6 in relation to the plant? What are the workers getting ? They really should just pull them out and leave it I think, clear up later even if it costs more money.

    It seems that the helicopters could not fly due to radiation levels so they have resorted to asking the police to spray water using water cannons. There was an old saying when I was growing up that the next war would be fought with nuclear weapons, the one after that with bows and arrows, I am reminded by this when all the very sophisticated backups finally have to call on a policeman with a device meant to control riots. They are pissing into the wind and are too proud to admit otherwise.

    I really do think they should pull everyone out and just hope for the best, winds will blow off Japan for the next 4-5 days . On the larger scale nobody will have problems but in the plant area they will.

    Further from the plant

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12763273

    There is enough people displaced in Japan without having to deal with this “icing on the cake”. I can’t imagine Japan ever going back to large scale nuclear even though the plant has done very well considering the stress it was put under and the design limits due to cost as Phil pointed out.

    Andy

  424. @AndyW says:
    March 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

    From: http://www.olive-drab.com/idphoto/id_photos_fire_p15.php

    Scroll down to the last picture captioned:

    A firefighter wearing a proximity suit operates the high pressure water cannon of a US Navy P-15 Truck, Airport Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF), NAS, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, 1 December 1986.

    I believe the riot truck has been turned into a fire truck. It is necessary to get water into the spent fuel pool. Things may be too hot (i.e. radiation plus risk of more hydrogen fires/explosions) to get someone to go into the building, so this seems like a very good idea. I can’t think of a better way to deliver large quantities of water where it is needed when you simply can’t get very close. The water cannon was adapted for riot control, but I believe its origin was in firefighting. There probably aren’t any airports close enough nor would the tsunami debris make it easy to drive one of those monsters (10 ft wide) to the power plant. I can imagine someone asking where he can get a water pump like that mounted on crash trucks and then someone says that they don’t have any firetrucks but there is a riot truck parked somewhere close with the same type of equipment on it (this being Japan it probably hasn’t been used very much). So the riot truck just became a fire truck. I would say this is good news, because it shows that they are thinking outside of the box. Let’s hope that the water cannon can get enough water into the pool to cover the spent fuel rods and keep them covered. I wish them godspeed, for theirs is an unenviable task.

    Monitoring Point 6 (MP6) appears to be near the main gate.

  425. Big problems with exposure of spent fuel rods in their dry storage pools:

    UPDATE 2:50 P.M. EST — NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko had been quoted as saying that the spent fuel storage at Fukushima Daiici unit 4 is dry, and that high radiation levels around the unit could effect crews’ ability to take “corrective measures.”
    Jaczko, in congressional testimony, also said he’s received reports that the unit 3 spent fuel tank may have a crack in it that could lead to a loss of water inside.

    http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2011/03/16/japan-nuclear-emergency-update-with-reactor-status-list031604.aspx

  426. @pwl says:
    March 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    God help us! Spitzer is appallingly ignorant and the “whistleblower” doesn’t see any problem with having the spent fuel pool outside of secondary containment. In fact, he can’t even imagine why there was a fire at the spent fuel pool in Unit #4, because the reactor was down for maintenance! And he helped design this thing? We are being led by the blind (no offense).

    Furthermore, the design flaw that he described had ZERO to do with the events at Fukushima. It involved coolant loss due to a break in a steam line in the primary coolant system, which nobody has reported as being the case at Fukushima. It’s sort of like having an expert witness testifying about a car accident and stating that there was a design flaw with the steering. Then the attorney questioning said expert points out that the accident was due to faulty brakes and that the steering did not, in fact, fail or have ANY role in the accident. But it was still an accident!!! Wasn’t it? How this stuff gets on TV and/or informs the debate is a real mystery.

    Actinide oxides. That is the key word here. The cesium is bad, but the actinide oxides are catastrophic. It looks like the only radiation that is going to leak from these reactors are fission by-products, assuming that the containment vessels hold. The spent fuel pools, on the other hand, have a real risk of leaking actinide oxides into the environment and none of them have containment – anywhere in the world. Actinides: uranium, plutonium, etc. There truly is no vaccine against stupidity.

  427. Phil.

    I disagree with most of your statements about what the ‘whistleblower’ said in that video.

    “doesn’t see any problem with having the spent fuel pool outside of secondary containment. In fact, he can’t even imagine why there was a fire at the spent fuel pool in Unit #4, because the reactor was down for maintenance! ”

    he didn’ys say that and if you re-watch the video towards the end he does say that its possible that because raector 4 was shutdown for maintenance that the spent fuel in teh recator hall fuel pond could have been somewhat hotter than any spent fuel in the ponds of reactor 1,2 and 3. I’d agree with him on that point. Whats he is questioning is how the fire started in Reactor 4. There is still a lot of confusion on this point.

    IMO we should all be questioning the information being put out in the officail press relases from TEPCO and NISA. We should be questioning the reported levels of radiological releases. Just look at the videos and the close up images of the severe (and most definitely not ‘cosmetic’ as The Register referred to it) damage done to Reactor 3 and 4. Under no circumstances could what has happened to the Fukushima reactors be referred to as a ‘triumph’ (as once again The Register has done).

    So far I’ve been pretty much spot on in regard to what I suspected was likely to happen.

    http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/fukushima-confusion/

    http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/fukushima-reactor-3-blast-looks-serious/

    I take no satisfaction whatsoever from being much more accurate than most of the so called ‘nuclear experts’ wheeled out by the MSM TV channels. What has annoyed me most is the consistent playing down of the significance of the damage caused to the reactors at the early stages of these incidents. At least now they MSM are actually wheeling out experts who have actually had some experience of working directly in the nuclear industry, some actually former designers or operators of NPPs.

  428. @KevinUK says:
    March 17, 2011 at 4:22 am

    My tone may have been in greater disagreement with you than my words. I apologize for that. With respect to the part that you quoted, I don’t think that we are that far apart. My sentence construction is confusing. The sentence (i.e. “he can’t even imagine why there was a fire at the spent fuel pool in Unit #4, because the reactor was down for maintenance!) was inartfully phrased, as this was his initial reaction. I had read your first link some time ago with great interest, but I have only read your second link just now. His initial reaction I think is based on the idea that the hydrogen that presumably caused the fire originated in the reactor. Your posts have repeatedly made that point. I have re-read your posts and I don’t see where you or anybody else mentions the possibility that the hydrogen originated anywhere other than the reactor and that the hydrogen ended up in the reactor hall or under the roof of the main building either from venting of the reactor vessel or from a breach in the reactor containment.

    So, it seems as if most everyone was focused on a hydrogen explosion or hydrogen fire being linked by cause and effect with an operating or fueled reactor, such as Units #1, #2 and #3 – NOT Unit #4. Unit #4 had IIRC all of its fuel removed, so the hydrogen could not have originated inside the reactor vessel and, somehow, then made its way outside of it. That is what I inartfully was trying to convey. The exclamation point was my comment on the disbelief that someone who actually participated in the design of these reactors didn’t see the spent fuel pools as a major risk. Initially he initially says that the location of the spent fuel pool is very convenient for servicing the reactor during refueling and maintenance. You can almost see the wheels turning in his mind as he thinks about the fact that there is a hydrogen fire in a reactor building where the reactor is essentially empty of all fuel and, you are correct, that, towards the end, he says that it is possible that the fuel that they had pulled out of the reactor for maintenance may have been somewhat hotter than usual.

    I have re-read both of your posts and I don’t see anywhere where you mention the possibility that hydrogen could have come from a reaction between the zircalloy in the fuel rods in the spent fuel pool and steam, due to the water level dropping in the pools, rather than the reactor. I have worked in designing and constructing large industrial facilities and so I look at this from a different perspective. I have also been involved in reconstructing industrial facilities that have suffered damage from earthquakes and have had a large industrial facility that I helped design and build hit by a 7.5 earthquake not long after it was completed. There was a structural failure, but the redundancy of the structural design prevented any damage. In fact, there wasn’t even a cracked wall or cracked window near the place where the structural failure occurred. I was no longer affiliated with the facility, so I pointed out to the management that they had something that needed to be seen to right away, but they were more perturbed by cracked sidewalks, which can’t fall on you.

    Accordingly, I have seen the damage strong earthquakes can cause, especially with respect to elevated water storage facilities. IMHO, I don’t think that you should EVER build elevated water storage facilities in an earthquake zone, such as the spent fuel pools or, at least, not within the same building as a nuclear reactor. One of the comments in your second link I think is right on the mark:

    boballab says:
    March 15, 2011 at 2:52 am
    Seems like a bad design to keep the spent fuel pool in the same building as the operating reactor (The plant I was at that was
    a separate facility) ….

    What if the spent fuel pools developed cracks during the earthquake (especially at Unit #4)? Then, perhaps the source of the hydrogen in Unit #4 was a reaction between the zircalloy and steam from overheating fuel rods in the spent fuel pool, in the manner that you described. Could it also be that the spent fuel pools overheated in Units #1, #2 and #3 as well? Or to put it another way, can the spent fuel pools be ruled out as a source of hydrogen at any of the reactors in trouble at Fukushima? What about the spent fuel pools at Units #5 and #6?

    I won’t repeat the remark, but I think that the combination of (a) building elevated water storage facilities in an earthquake zone, (b) using such facilities to store (even temporarily) dangerous radioactive materials, and (c) not building any substantial containment over these is and was extremely unwise.

  429. Phil,

    Thanks for your reply to my earlier replyto your comment and for your insight into the strutral integrity o fthe spent fuel ponds on all six recators. From waht you’ve said its ceratinly possible and probably likely that there coudl eb leaks in all six ponds.

    The main reason I first posulate dthat the hydrogen woudl most likely have come from zirconium and superheated steam reactions within the reactor pressure vessel. This was an informed guess a sI’v eseen these type sof reactions during controlled experiments. If th ecoolant levels have dropped significantly in the recator veseel at any point then ther will be superheated steam in the space above the ercator and if it drops low enough then definitely hydrogen production. In such circumstanes it makes sense to vent this into the recator hall above if you ned to get coolant into the recator agian. This is what I thought had caused the Reaxtor 1 explosion. I stiull think thi sis th emore probable cause but hydrogen produced from uncovered spent fuel in teh R1 fuel pond is certainly feasible. The zircalloy steam reaction is much more vigourous if the steam is superheated.

    The Reactor 3 explsoion wa smuch gretaer than teh Reactor 1 explosion and there was clearly much more damage to the reactor building. Because the R3 explosion went upwards with large pieces of debris (the remains of the refuelling bridge and its running rails IMO) launched up to a high height an clear evidence of damage to the recator hall floor I guessed that the explosion in Reactor 3 was from the area below the reactor hall floor rather than above it (as appears to have happened in R1). Because it wa sso much larger than the R1 explsoion then I would say thatthe hydrogen is more likely to have arisen from the recator pressure vessel than from teh spend fuel pond.

    Reactor 4 has puzzled me the most. The damage to the Reactor 4 building looks not that dis-similar to the Reractor 3 building after it first exploded yetthere don’t appear to be any repoets of large hydrogen explosions of teh same size as that for Reactor 3 at least. So what caused all that R4 damage? There have been reports of a number of fires in the R4 building but no significant explosions from what I can see. If the R4 spend fuel pond was leaking as a result of cracks in it walls then I can understand why it was the last of the reactors to get into trouble as any leak I suspect would be likely to be small.What do you think.

    Reactor 2 was reported to have made loud noises insid eteh building at one point with the implication thatthe suppression pool had been breached. This was said to be very serious/concerning at the time and it was reported that they were considering making a hole in the R2 reactor building to reduce pressure within the building and to release any possible build up in hydrogen. There is evidence that they did exactly that and so appear to have, as a result, avoided a similar explosion (to R1 and 3) on R2.

    Is there a possibility that the Reactor 5 and 6 fuel ponds have suffered similar problems to the R4 fuel pond. Our UK Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington seems to think so. Perhaps he needs to ask Lord Oxburgh to ‘play a blinder’ on this one as well as he did during his Climategate inquiry.

    If you are worried about the Fukushima spent fuel storage ponds perhaps it would be worth have a look at this forum

    http://204.74.214.194/forum1/message1398164/pg1

    I most definitely agree with you that its not the best idea to have the spent fuel pond located at above ground level within a building located on a fault line.Its probbaly not a good idea to have a spent fuel pond at ground level either just as it doesn’t make an awful lot of sens eto build any kind of nuclear facility (particularly a fuel reprocessing plant) in a seismically active area. The Japanese seem to think that they can manage it largely becaus ethey have made nuclear power generation an integral part o ftheir energy policy. Maybe post Fujushima they will now change their minds and build a pipeline to Sakhalin Island.

  430. The damage in this video posted by RT on March 16th looks extensive. Anyone know where there might be high resolution photos?

  431. Kevin,

    I don’t think that this is likely to be “Chernobyl on steroids.” First of all, Chernobyl was a steam explosion, followed by a graphite fire on a reactor running at 100% or close to it when the accident happened. This generated a great deal of heat: enough to produce the convection necessary to provide enough lift to the particles to get them up high enough where they could travel significant distances.

    There does not seem to be enough of a source of heat at Fukushima to generate enough lift to come even close to Chernobyl. This is assuming of course, that Units #1, #2 and #3 remain sub-critical and that the not-so-spent fuel in the “spent fuel” pool at Unit #4 also remains sub-critical. If these assumptions hold, then Fukushima will probably release only or almost only fission by-products and release of significant amounts of actinides, especially plutonium, may be avoided. One can only hope.

    You may be right about the source of hydrogen in Units #1 and #3 being primarily from inside the reactor. The pool may have produced some hydrogen, but probably not enough to create the size of explosions that happened. I read something interesting about Unit #2 though. One thought is that, since it was probably the only one whose core was completely uncovered, it was also probably the only one that melted. Zircalloy is supposed to be an excellent conductor, so, even if the rods are partially submerged in water, that may be enough to avoid melting, although probably not enough to avoid damage to the rods. If one or more of the rods did melt, however, the molten metal would be so hot when it dropped into the water at the bottom of the reactor that some of the water would instantly flash to steam, perhaps with enough force to over pressurize the reactor vessel and cause loss of integrity.

    My heart goes out to everyone at risk in Japan and one can only hope that a major catastrophe is averted.

    I have built large industrial facilities in earthquake zones, and, in principle, I don’t see any reason why a reprocessing facility or a nuclear plant cannot or should not be built there. One just needs to be think differently. It also helps to have some experience or acquire some experience with what has happened structurally elsewhere during strong earthquakes. For example, water or other liquid storage facilities belong at or below ground, period. Different types of foundations need to be considered. For example, the Latin American tower (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torre_Latinoamericana) in Mexico City was built in the fifties with an innovative foundation and has performed extremely well in earthquakes. There is no intrinsic reason why these cannot be built correctly. Hopefully, Units #5 and #6 survive intact as close examination of those structures and how they fared in this 9.0 earthquake would be of invaluable, if not, irreplaceable value to provide further knowledge that can be used to build truly earthquake-proof plants. You can model a structure all you want, but there is simply no substitute for real data – as is so evident in climate science, for example.

    P.S. I don’t think it matters where a fault line is. We cannot hope to map them all, because some of them only show up when a new earthquake hits. The “fault line” criterion does not inform the design and construction of a facility. Instead, one should simply focus on what the maximum accelerations are likely to be and use that information to design the structure. Then the only issue when an earthquake hits would be whether the structure was subjected to accelerations that exceeded the design parameters.

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