Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan's new nuclear nightmare -- in progress

As if the earthquake and tsunami weren't bad enough, Japan is facing a worsening situation with regard to its nuclear facilities damaged in last week's disaster. Here's the latest:

Japan's nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to the statements of Japanese government and industry officials. In a brief address to the nation at 11 a.m. Tokyo time, Prime Minister Naoto Kan pleaded for calm, but warned that radiation had already spread from the crippled reactors and there was "a very high risk" of further leakage. Fortunately, the prevailing winds were sweeping most of the plume of radioactivity out into the Pacific Ocean, rather than over populated areas.

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

I don't really have anything to add. Like so many others, I'm just watching and reading about what's going on, trying to make sense of it all. There was some hope that pumping in sea water would keep the reactors cool, but it's not clear that will work, nor how much radiation has gotten out and will get out in the days ahead:

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

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

We may not be witnessing another Chernobyl, a massive disaster at a facility without adequate safeguards, but it's still way too early to determine just how damaging this will be.

For more, see our recent posts by Distributorcap and Capt. Fogg.

* It's a nightmare, yes, but obviously not another Hiroshima or Nagasaki. That was a different degree of nuclear nightmare altogether.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


  • Actually, regarding the pumping of sea water... its not a bad idea, however, the further functionality of the reactor is questionable. Sea water is not purified and the chlorine can crack the stainless steel pipes within the reactor which in fact can cause even more trouble.

    By Anonymous Lorne Marr, at 11:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home