(UPDATING) NEWS OPEN THREAD II – Japan’s Tsunami “Fallout”: failing reactors, and the entry of politics

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Read OPEN THREAD I here.


While there is no shortage of heartbreak and disaster to focus on in the wake of Japan’s (now upgraded) 9.1 magnitude earthquake, yesterday morning my thoughts concentrated on what was then a quiet story in the background… the problem with then one of Japan’s many nuclear power facilities that supply about 30% of their needs.

By yesterday eve, the story started gaining traction as rising radiation levels were detected at the adjacent Fukushima #2 facilities. Because the cooling back up generator systems had failed, the pressure was building in the core and plans were made to open valves, releasing some of that pressure. Apparently, the plant’s officials decided to use seawater as a coolant, which would indicate they had written off the 40 yr old plant’s functional future, as it would corrode the metal innards.

Despite efforts, in the US’s west coast mid-night hours, the Fukushima #1 facility exploded, blowing the roof off one building and destroying exterior walls where the troubled reactor was housed.

Only the skeletal frame remains of the boxlike housing of the No. 1 reactor at
Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear station after an explosion. KYODO PHOTO

While some media (such as the NYTs above) quoted officials that said with the explosion came an abatement of some of the radiation levels, it also led to others, expressing increasing concern about an imminent “meltdown”.

First, to put some perspective on the extreme event of a meltdown, we non-nuclear engineers need a better handle on how these facilities are constructed and what fail safe measures are in place by design. The BBC article today provides a basic working visual for we non-nuclear engineers, plus a diagram of a boiling water reactor system. It explains how the pressure could build as a result of a failed cooling system, and also explains that if the actual metal containment vessel that actually houses the cores were intact, that radiation should be contained.

And the big fear within the anti-nuclear movement, as used in the film The China Syndrome, is that the multiple containment of a molten core might not work either, allowing highly radioactive and toxic metals to burrow into the ground, with serious and long-lasting environmental impacts – total meltdown.

However, the counter-argument from nuclear proponents is that the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island did not cause any serious effects.

Yes, the core melted, but the containment systems held.

And at Chernobyl – a reactor design regarded in the West as inherently unsafe, and which would not have been sanctioned in any non-Soviet bloc nation – the environmental impacts occurred through explosive release of material into the air, not from a melting reactor core.

According to Chief cabinet secretary Chief Yukio Edano, the reactor’s containment vessel was not damaged by the explosion and remains intact.

But the world is getting some mixed messages INRE the reactor status. The facility’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), insists that ther reactor is in “subcritical” mode, while Ryohei Shiomi, an official at Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, is quoted as having said a meltdown was possible. The latter possibility is heightened when Japanese authorities steadily widen the evacuation area, and prepare to distribute iodine as a protection against radiation exposure. As of today, some media have been reporting the same news, but with a more hysterical tabloid headline, “3000 flee Japan’s nuclear RED ALERT”.

Granted the last thing Japanese officials need is to pile on mass panic over the reactors. I would say that headlines like UK’s tabloid, “The Sun”, uses above doesn’t help… but then, I doubt the Japanese are busy reading The Sun these days. Japan is a nation already stressed to maximum in resources, grief, and facing possibly decades of rebuilding. There are cities and agricultural areas that were virtually wiped clean by the tsunami. And now with a large portion of their power in the state of emergency, the rescue and recovery effort is nothing short of a precipitous climb.

The BBC is more concerned it’s a TEPCO “cover up”, noting that thus far, “…the whole incident so far contains more questions than answers.” Even the NYTs above noted what they find to be inconsistencies, and suggest that TEPCO’s facilities are fraught with a past filled with safety violations.

Yes, folks… while the body count still rises, search and rescue commences for the thousands missing, all amidst high magnitude aftershocks, politics and energy agenda has begun to enter the picture. And they are going to use TEPCO’s plant as their poster child.

I suggest that this story is not dissimilar to the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf. It’s dangerous to allow catastrophic events to dictate energy policy and direction. US oil and shale reserves are plentiful, and provide inexpensive energy for consumers. Nuclear power is clean, also affordable, and if Japan can demonstrate containment and success – even in such an earthquake volatile region of the world – then abandoning this type of energy using fear tactics is simply despicable.

For me? I’m following this story not because of the politics I knew would be interjected along the line, but because it is one more heinous event on top of what they are already having to deal with. Like the Deepwater Horizon, I’m going to leave aside the smearing of companies, and cheer on successful containment, solutions and possibly new design ideas for future safeguards. Japan doesn’t need to lose any more if it’s citizens to radiation exposure.


UPDATE 3-15-11 10:28AM: From Reuters live blog updates:

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a news conference that there was a “possibility of core damage” at unit 2. “The damage is estimated to be less than 5 pct.”

UPDATE 3-15-11 8:13am PAC Time: A Japan Times 3-15-11 article, is putting out some radiation levels.

But fears were heightened Tuesday over whether a containment vessel might be compromised, after the suppression chamber of the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel failed.

A small explosion took place at the No. 2 reactor, causing partial damage to the chamber. Attached below the vessel, the suppression chamber’s function is to cool the steam flowing from the vessel and thus relieve its internal pressure.

At 10:22 a.m., a radioactivity monitoring post near the No. 3 reactor showed 400 millisieverts per hour, 400 times the amount an ordinary person is exposed to in a year.

The figure was 100 millisieverts per hour near the No. 4 reactor and 30 millisieverts per hour between the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

The radiation leak prompted the government to order residents between a radius of 20 km to 30 km to stay indoors to prevent exposure. People living within a 20 km radius have already been ordered to evacuate.

“There is no doubt it is an amount that would have (a harmful) effect on the human body,” Edano said. “But that is the amount right near the leak. The farther away, it drops.”

Radiation exposure of 7,000 to 10,000 millisieverts per hour is considered a lethal dose, said an official at the Institute of Applied Energy. A millisievert is 1,000 microsieverts.

UPDATE 3-15-11 8:05A PAC Time: Below is the status of the four reactors as TEPCO’s Fukushimi Daiichi site as of 9PM 3-14-11, Pacific Time.

UPDATE 3-14-11 9:21pm PAC Time: Reuters live blog updates say that radiation levels in Saitama near Tokyo are reported to be 40 times normal levels: (Kyodo quoting local government)

UPDATE 3-14/11 7:54PM PAC Time: While I’ve been absent from FA for the past day and a half, taking care of what I would hesitate to call domestic house “emergencies”, the FA community as thrown in interesting tangents and data in my absence. Thank you all.

As of this moment, CNN is reporting of the newest two explosions. Three of the six TEPCO reactors are experiencing different levels of failure, and the Japanese authorities have widened the area to include anyone within 30 kilometers of the power plants should remain inside, as the levels between all the released emissions in the air have reached a level they describe as being enough to “affect human health”. Hard to determine what that means, but it’s obvious that between the damage, and the difficulty of keeping the cores cooled, and maintaining the existing flooding of seawater and release of pressure in each of the reactors.

At this moment, Units 1-3 have different degrees of failures, and all three have experienced explosions. Units 1 and 3 have been overheating. Unit 2 is the latest entry to the mix, and it is uncertain at this update if Unit 2’s latest explosion has damaged the containment vessel. Heretofore, all officials have been adamant that neither Unit 1 or Unit 3’s containment vessel was compromised.

At this moment, I’ve been having a problem accessing TEPCO’s press release site. It is, no doubt, overloaded, and becomes a hit and miss as to when you can get in.

According to a late posting Reuters article, Japan is asking the US for additional equipment to help keep the core cooling process stable.

UPDATE: 3-12-11 9:45PM PAC time: MSNBC reports the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says the cooling process for one of the crippled reactors is going well. It should take about 10 days to totally fill the reactors containement vessel with seawater. In the interim, the 2nd reactor with a cooling problem seems to be following the same procedures as the first… release of pressure, then injection of seawater and boric acid.

The Japanese authorities have classified the event at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 as a level 4 “accident with local consequences” on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). The scale is used to consistently communicate the safety significance of events associated with sources of radiation. The scale runs from 0 (deviation — no safety significance) to 7 (major accident).

The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania was a level 5 (“accident with wider consequences”). The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was a level 7 (“major accident).

UPDATE: 3-12-11 9:35PM: Ah yes… Never let it be said a Democrat Congress member with an agenda to pursue allows even someone else’s crisis to go to waste. Already MA Rep Edward Markey, the senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, warns that the US is vunerable to the same “…nuclear accident that has sent waves of fear through northeast Japan.” Waves of terror? Over the reactor? The Japanese, quite used to earthquakes, are more wary of the tsunamis. I see no “waves of terror” INRE the power plants, save in the Congressman’s mind.

UPDATE: 3-12-11 9:28PM PAC Time: TEPCO, owner of the crippled reactors in the news, has their own press release site. Per their news, all six units of their Daiichi Nuclear Power Stations have been shut down. Three are due to regular inspections.

UPDATE: 3-12-11 3:23pm PAC Time: Personal comment… Wolf Blitzer is an ass! The Japanese Ambassador is *not* an enemy of his people, or a war criminal. Blitzer, in his quest for some breaking catastrophic news, demonstrates he knows nothing about Japanese culture, their approach to crisis, and emphasizes he’s simply a news whore.

UPDATE: 3-12-11 3:04PM PAC Time: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is blazing headlines that a “possible meltdown is in progress”, and trying to get the Japanese Ambassador to “admit” that it’s happening. Ambassador reiterates that the container vessel is, indeed still in place…. Mata Musing: do your best, guys. Get it under control, and forget the pundits trying for disaster headlines!

UPDATE: 3-12-11: Three tested positively for radiation exposure. Levels not mentioned. From CNN live blog news:

[1:20 p.m. ET, 3:20 a.m. Tokyo] Authorities have begun radiation exposure testing around Fukushima prefecture where three people – randomly selected out of a group of 90 – have tested positive for radiation poisoning, according to Japan’s government broadcaster, NHK.

UPDATE: 3-12-11 11:38AM: A CNN report ID’s the 2nd plant with cooling trouble as Fukushima Daini , located in a different town in the same prefecture.

Most of the concern initially had centered around the first Daiichi plant, which Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters on Friday “remains at a high temperature” because it “cannot cool down.”

That plant and three others were shut down after the quake hit around 2:46 p.m. Friday local time, prompting authorities in Tokyo to declare a state of atomic power emergency.

Three of the Daiichi reactor’s six units shut down because of the earthquake, while operations at the other three were out due to “regular inspection,” the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in a news release Saturday.


The trouble the Daiichi plant happened after its once operating reactors had been successfully shut down, Edano said.

UPDATE 3-12-11, 11:29A PAC time: The French Nuclear Safety Authority says current winds make it likely any radioactive fall out would drift out over the Pacific.

“Apparently the situation is serious,” Mr Lacoste said, adding that his team was receiving incomplete information from Japan because of the number of people tied up with managing the crisis.


Again, as on the last thread, I so appreciate all news updates you all add. This is a fast moving story that requires the latest updates that you will run across. And it’s much easier to have the sequence of events in one or two posts, as opposed to several outdated posts over time. Besides, I can’t do it all without you!

Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.

123 Responses to “(UPDATING) NEWS OPEN THREAD II – Japan’s Tsunami “Fallout”: failing reactors, and the entry of politics”

  1. 52


    @ John Cooper:

    70 died, and many thousands were exposed to radioactive elements that statistics have shown have lead to cancers and other illnesses. 336,000 people had to be permanently relocated and a huge area of agricultural land was made unusable.

  2. 53


    COMPARE to their long time without any life threatening, the NUCLEAR POWER PLANT STILL have a good name as life beneficial compare to life killers, if you consider EARTHQUAKE or TSUMANI ecetera

  3. 54


    @ilovebeeswarzone: not sure your point. if you are comparing natural risks vs. man made ones, we choose to build reactors. (so we can choose how safe to make them, where to place them etc). We do not control earthquakes or tsunamis… of course Japan has the strongest regulations for construction… and it looks like that paid off for Tokyo, but not for the areas were the tsunami hit. no doubt they will look for solutions for protecting populations from that as well.

  4. 55


    ONE area that puzle me is that we havent master the dependance we are under of ELECTRICITY,
    we have evolve the technology, but with the need of the connect to, even as we use batterys they need to be connected to recharge or wont do the work for long

  5. 56


    @John Cooper:

    I’ll answer your question when you answer mine.

    Fair enough. To date, we’ve had no U.S. fatalities in the United States owing to the catastrophic failure of a nuclear reactor. So far as I know, Three Mile Island is as close as we’ve come. An earthquake affecting nuclear power stations in Illinois could change that picture very quickly. Any number of unforeseen events might. Any high-technology device will eventually fail.

    Chernobyl utilized a nuclear reactor technology that many experts consider inherently unsafe. That technology might compare with currently used U.S. reactor technology as currently used U.S. technology would compare with thorium reactors. You’ve got inherently hazardous on one end of the continuum and safe on the other. Safe is definitely better.

    Only 50 deaths are officially attributed to the Chernobyl accident. Some of those people essentially sacrificed themselves knowingly and died fairly soon as a result of their efforts to bring the reactor accident under control. The longer-term, unofficial death count includes from 50,000 to 100, 000 radiation-exposed clean-up workers who had died as of 2006. Some have projected up to a million may eventually die prematurely, with radiation-induced cancers as a primary cause. Large surrounding areas were rendered uninhabitable for years due to lingering environmental radiation. People have moved back in spite of the warnings.


  6. 57

    John Cooper


    I read that “30 lives were lost during the accident or within a few months after it. Figures from the Ukraine Radiological Institute suggest that over 2,500 deaths were caused by the Chernobyl accident.” I read where the land around Chernobyl is still contaminated with Cesium. Whether it was 30 lives or 70 lives, it shouldn’t have happened, but put it in perspective, please.

    Having worked in the industry, I know that a lot of safety improvements could be made here in the U.S., but consider the number of lives which would be lost every year without nuclear electricity. By all means, live off the land for a year and see how you like it.

    Chernobyl was a horrible disaster, but to compare Soviet-style nuclear technology with plants designed by free people is like comparing apples and prunes.

  7. 58

    John Cooper


    That was a worthy reply until you started quoting from some commie youth organization.

    Yes, there are risks associated with nuclear power, just like there are with everything else in life. Many people are killed in oil/coal/gas fired power plants, but it doesn’t make the news. It’s certainly possible that bad things can happen at nuclear plants as are happening to nuclear plants in Japan at the moment. The response of a rational person would be to mitigate the risks and press on.

    The risks of nuclear power are no reason to commit suicide as a society, which seems to be the goal of the left these days. No coal – no oil – no nuclear – no electricity – back to the dark ages.

  8. 59


    That was a worthy reply until you started quoting from some commie youth organization.

    Seems appropriate. It was a commie nuclear power plant. They also built crap automobiles and toasters. *S*

  9. 60



    Greg, before I make any other comment in this topic, let me tell you a little about myself. I joined the Navy in 1989, and spent 10.5 years in the Navy Nuclear field as a Machinist’s Mate. After the Navy, I worked at a company that did service work at some Illinois nuclear power plants.

    I cannot agree with this statement you made:

    The current Japanese accident should give us pause concerning expansion of the prevailing uranium-based nuclear power industry.

    Uranium is used in currently operating plants, including those within the Navy, for many reasons, but not because, as you said, “we wanted the hot by-productions of uranium fission for nuclear weapons.”
    The truth is that Uranium was used because that is what was being researched at the time at the University of Chicago first, and then elsewhere. As to it’s use, there are several types of reactors out there, still in use in the US, and differing fuels are used based on desired results and the type of reactor the fuel is loaded into. The Navy uses pressurized-water reactors, loaded with Highly Enriched Uranium, or U-235 which occurs in roughly .7% of all naturally occurring Uranium.

    Other reactors use naturally occurring Uranium, which is composed mainly of U-238. Still others use Plutonium, and there are a couple more that are more experimental than anything.

    Your Thorium reactor quote is as follows:

    The nuclear reactor problems we’re watching in Japan wouldn’t be happening with a thorium fuel cycle reactor. You simply don’t have the possibility of a core meltdown. Nor do you wind up with any high-level nuclear waste to dispose of.

    Do you know, or understand why Thorium would be used? Probably not, so I’ll explain. Thorium is naturally occurring, mainly as TH232, and in pretty large quantities, as you say. Unfortunately, this is as right as you get in your post.

    Th232 is loaded into “slow” reactors, typically with a graphite moderator, in order to ‘breed’ U233. This U233 is then moved into a conventional style pressurized water reactor, or a boiling water reactor, and as such, would have the same inherent risks associated with any other reactor using Uranium as fuel.

    Your statement that a Thorium core cannot melt down is incorrect. A loss of the moderator, such as happened in Japan in their Uranium based reactors, removes the cooling aspect of the reactor, and thus the high temps from left-over fission builds heat until the material itself reaches it’s melting point. Thorium reactors are typically loaded with a thorium-oxide, which has a melting point of about 3300F. However, depending on the “age” of the material, much of it may already be converted to Uranium, which generally has a melting point of just over 2000F. In short, depending on the fuel makeup at the time, it can still meltdown.

    Nor do you wind up with any high-level nuclear waste to dispose of.

    Oh, but you do! The by-products of the fission of Uranium, which comes from the Thorium, is highly radioactive, with a very long half-life. Fortunately, it is not a large quantity of mass, and indeed, the by-products themselves can be reworked into other product uses, and the left over amount of Uranium can be reprocessed into new fuel pellets, rods and such. France currently does this instead of sending the spent fuel straight to long-term holding facilities.

    As for the Japan nuclear incident, the main issue was the failing of the cooling pumps, causing a large spike in pressure to the point the vapor released violently. Remember, their reactors are the boiling water type reactor, which produces steam straight from the coolant, sent to turbines to make electricity, condensed and sent back into the reactor to make more steam. While this style reactor is more efficient than a pressurized-water reactor, it is not safer.
    Here is a link to see simplified diagrams of each:

    Now, in the US, about 2/3 of the civilian power plants are of the PWR(pressurized water reactor) type. In a PWR, while a loss of coolant pumps can occur, the likelihood of a Japan type incident is much smaller, mainly due to the pressure vessel controlling pressure inside of the primary system, and the steam generators(a heat exchanger between primary and steam systems) continually taking away heat from the primary coolant.

    You said:

    We shouldn’t let it be used to put us off nuclear energy in general, however. Nuclear power is an essential component of America’s energy future.

    I completely agree with both of those statements. Nuclear power is a very good way supplying the necessary electrical power to the country, both at present and in the future. The problem is that it takes so long to build a plant from start to finish, mainly due to the lawsuits by environmentalist types. A true commitment to nuclear energy would help streamline the process, making the plants cheaper to build. At present, Nuclear plants cost many, many times more than your typical coal plant, even while the operating costs are much, much lower.

    Thorium might be an answer to future fuel possibilities in nuclear plants, but your assertion that it’s safer than what is here already is simply not true.

    BTW, Three Mile Island’s nuclear “accident” ended in a miniscule release of radiation which was entirely contained within the containment building. One safety system failed to perform as designed, but others did, rendering the whole “accident” to be nothing of real note.

  10. 61


    @johngalt, #60:

    I’m glad we agree on those two points, at least.

    Thorium might be an answer to future fuel possibilities in nuclear plants, but your assertion that it’s safer than what is here already is simply not true.

    I’ll defer to your opinion on that, since it’s obviously based on expertise that comes from considerable training and work in the field. I’ve mainly read articles of the popularized science variety, which are admittedly prone to err on the side of wild-eyed enthusiasm. Still, it seems to me there’s something genuinely promising there, and within a lot closer reach than the holy grail of nuclear fusion.

    The diagrams you linked of the two existing types of U.S. commercial reactors are informative. (Mr. Happy Atom’s smiling face might seem a little bit too reassuring to be entirely trusted by someone such as myself. I live within 100 miles of each of 10 separate operating nuclear power stations, several of which are much closer.) I’ve gathered that a thorium reactor design would be different from both. Here’s a diagram of one such design, in case anyone wants to have a look to make comparisons. As I understand it, the thorium and uranium fuel mixture would be dissolved in a liquid floride medium, which could be quickly gravity-drained out of the reactor to provide for a very rapid shut down if needed.

  11. 63

    Nan G

    The Pentagon was expected to announce that the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which is sailing in the Pacific, passed through a radioactive cloud from stricken nuclear reactors in Japan, causing crew members on deck to receive a month’s worth of radiation in about an hour, government officials said Sunday.

    My dad was in the US Navy during tests in the Pacific Ocean.
    Some of his crewmates later died of leukemia.

    This group of sailors will bear watching.

  12. 64

    John Cooper

    johngalt: Your #60 was really excellent. Thanks.

    Wordsmith: Your link was interesting but I think Oehmen was mistaken on a couple of points. I could be wrong, but I’ve never heard of water dissociating into Hydrogen and Oxygen at high temperatures. The Hydrogen comes from the reaction between water and the Zircaloy fuel rod cladding at temperatures above 1500C.

    Secondly, I disagree that simply flooding the core with water is sufficient to carry away the decay heat. There needs to be some kind of circulation. Also, if a substantial portion of the core has already melted into a puddle, the puddle doesn’t have enough surface area to facilitate heat removal. (The China Syndrome)

    I’m still unclear on how the primary containment vessel can still be intact after those hydrogen explosions. Perhaps they were venting the hydrogen into the reactor building and the H2 accumulated up near the ceiling. But what would have set it off? It’s a mystery to me.

    Edit: One more thing. I call BS on Oehmen’s statement that the “plugs didn’t fit” on the portable generators they brought in to power the RHR pumps. If the plugs didn’t mate up, they would have just spliced the wires. More likely they couldn’t find portable generators big enough (they would have to be maybe 1,000HP) or they didn’t have a long enough “extension cord”.

    The RHR pumps where I used to work were 400HP, 480V 3-phase, IIRC. The output of the diesel generators was 12KV. So they would have had to splice directly into the motor control center for the RHR pump(s). Who knows where those were located and if it was even possible to get there.

  13. 65


    @Nan G:

    causing crew members on deck to receive a month’s worth of radiation in about an hour,

    Depending on their definition of a “month’s worth of radiation”, it can be dangerous, or it can be simply nothing at all. Are they talking about an average person’s radiation exposure? Are they talking about a nuclear power plant worker’s exposure? Are they specifically talking about a Navy sailor, who works on a nuclear powered vessel, and his/her radiation exposure? Are they simply talking about the allowable exposure, per US regulations, or Japan regulations?

    All of those are quite different levels of exposure, and as such, depending on how they define that “month’s worth of radiation”, the levels of exposure the sailors were subjected to can be quite different.

    In my opinion though, it is nothing to worry about for the sailors themselves. Many of the service personnel maintaining US civilian reactors receive their annual allowable radiation exposure in days while working maintenance on a plant. The “plume” or cloud traveling across the ocean now will likely disperse enough that any radiation that is measureable will not register above known background levels.

  14. 66

    Mr. Irons

    Just pray for the safety of the People of Japan, including the US Military attempting search and rescue actions, and hope for those plants to be shut down safely.

    I’m not getting into this debate, I’m just too damn upset and beside myself over this nightmare. I’m still trying to get communications connections up to friends who are over there before the disaster.

  15. 67


    @John Cooper:

    but I’ve never heard of water dissociating into Hydrogen and Oxygen at high temperatures.

    It is termed thermolysis, as opposed to electrolysis for the conventional way to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

    In thermolysis, temperatures of 2500F or more require no electrical input for the splitting to occur.

    You are correct in that simply flooding a core will not be sufficient. It must be a continual flood, keeping the level of the water above the core continually until the decay heat has diminished, and even then, a borated water solution must be injected in order to “kill” any remaining fission.

    Your right about the electrical plugs. It simply isn’t that hard for electricians to splice the power cabling in order to supply the power necessary for at least one of the coolant pumps to run.

  16. 68


    Mr. Irons, so sorry that it touches so close to you, and I guess so many who are worryed about loved one, I hope they are safe and unabled to reach you, like some mentionned prayer is the must on theses days, take care

  17. 70


    @John Cooper:

    John Cooper: Chernobyl was a horrible disaster, but to compare Soviet-style nuclear technology with plants designed by free people is like comparing apples and prunes.

    John, I am taking it in to consideration, however human beings cannot claim that we are perfect nor that we can foresee every potential problem in advance. We may plan, we may design, but we cannot see the future. Mata used the Deepwater Horizon disaster here… well, just look at that as example. A company did not properly follow procedures, human failures, poor oversight, along with engineering failures and you have a major incident (even though it was considered state of the art). The same could take place within a nuclear power plant. Malfunctioning computers, bad valves, and human error could result in an accident. If a core became totally uncovered and melted down… potentially could breech the containment vessel. Major disaster.

    I am in favor of nuclear energy use. However…. IT MUST BE DONE RIGHT. And that would include using the best materials and locating the generators in places that would not put major population centers at risk, prime farmland etc.

    I guess you feel 30, or 70 or whatever is a necessary risk… but of course it does not take into account the costs to society and families. Hundreds of thousands had to be relocated… businesses, shops and devastation to an economy. How about the thousands (many of them children at the time of exposure) ended up with thyroid cancer.

    From IAEA report

    The projections indicate that, among the most exposed populations (liquidators, evacuees and residents of the so-called ‘strict control zones’), total cancer mortality might increase by up to a few per cent owing to Chernobyl related radiation exposure. Such an increase could mean eventually up to several thousand fatal cancers…

    among the more than 4000 thyroid cancer cases diagnosed in 1992–2002 in persons who were children or adolescents at the time of the accident, fifteen deaths related to the progression of the disease had been documented by 2002.

    A total of 784 320 hectares of agricultural land was removed from service in the three countries, and timber production was halted for a total of 694 200 hectares of forest

    Nuclear power use should never be approached cavalierly… it is serious business. We should never cheerlead for such a process. The industry needs to make its case. Keep in mind when it comes to money people will do and say anything to get their way. As much as I want to use this form of power… I think it is prudent to be an advocate and skeptic at the same time.

    John, you obviously knew a number of deaths before asking me… I can see your perspective, hey only 30, 70, 100, whatever died. Things happen. Planes crash etc. But you are minimizing the over all danger. This would be worse than a Katrina… hundreds of thousands would be permanently effected. Although the “Soviet era” engineering was less secure… does not mean anything when we see the downside to using such energy and a major accident.

    Only in a few days will we know what will happen in Japan.

  18. 72

    John Cooper

    johngalt: Thanks for the info on thermolysis of water. I didn’t know about that. Wikipedia states:

    “Water spontaneously dissociates at around 2500 C, but this thermolysis occurs at temperatures too high for usual process piping and equipment. Catalysts are required to reduce the dissociation temperature.”

    Yikes! 2,500C is 4,532F! I have my Steam Tables right here and they only go up to 2,400F. So I’m wondering just how one would heat water to a temperature of 4,532F.

  19. 73

    Nan G

    Apparently the US had depended on Japan to buy $100 million in our debt every year.
    This is about to stop.
    There is no hint as to whether Japan will sell what paper it does hold of US debt, but just not buying more can be very bad for us here, interest rate-wise and inflation-wise.
    I saw a so-called expert on TV saying that every thing and every one on the USS Ronald Reagan’s deck was presumed exposed and washed down as if they and the stuff were ”hot.”


  20. 74

    John Cooper

    Let’s talk about the radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear plant for a moment. In the first place, it’s NOT “fallout”, like the idiots in the media are screaming. Fallout is the radioactive particles of dirt which were blasted into the atmosphere by a nuclear weapon. Those settle on things and get breathed in by unprotected people.

    Nobody has any idea what was actually released from Fukushima and therefore how dangerous it is and what kind of precautions should be taken. Chances are, it was mostly noble gassed Xe and Kr. Being “noble” they aren’t absorbed by the body even if they happen to be inhaled. So the “victim” gets a slight dose while the gas dwells in the lungs, but that’s it.

    Other stuff like Iodine and Cesium are a different matter. If they’re inhaled, they stay in the body and radiate it from the inside, eventually causing cancer. The Iodine seeks the Thyroid, and the Cesium seeks the bones since it’s chemically similar to Calcium. But if one is wearing the proper breathing protection mask, those are not a concern either.

    There are even worse things (fission fragments), but one would think a nuclear carrier would have plenty of skilled rad-protection people on board with state of the art monitoring equipment and protective gear. Also, one hopes that “someone” has been keeping track of the radioactive plume from the Japanese plants and the Captain didn’t just sail through it unprepared.

  21. 75


    John Cooper, hi, how can we be sure of the adequate preparness done to protect our MILITARYS,
    AS NORMALY the PRESIDENT would publickly reassure the NATION of what has been done to make sure the CREW has been received all the attention required to protect them, by doing two actions, one was turn away theCARRIER and delay or cancel the original mission, and the number 2 is not having react promptly as soon as the JAPAN tragedy occur, therefor being totaly responsable for the CREW’s IRRADIATION and follow out of having been too close to it as they pass through the cloud,
    which either it is should be told to the public truthfully, as we have to keep in mind that our military are not EXPANDEBLE but most needed and appreciated from the world over for their contribution
    to OUR FREEDOM; and everyone should know that without our militarys we would fall into a COMMUNIST, MARXIST DICTATORIAL total NEFARIOUS POWER, TO BE DELT AND DESTROYED BY NONE OTHER THAN OUR MILITARY.

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