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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 11, 2011 10:38 PM. The previous post in this blog was Prepare for meltdown. The next post in this blog is Map of the Day. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Nothing to see here, go on about your business

Because of the overheating, a meltdown was possible at one of the reactors, said Ryohei Shiomi, an official with Japan's nuclear safety commission.

But even if there was a meltdown, it wouldn't affect humans outside a six-mile (10-kilometer) radius, he said.

Comments (44)

So it's ok to eat the Sushi?

My most trusted journalist on nuclear safety is Matthew Wald, here.

The jet stream is blowing directly across the ocean to Northern California and Oregon. If there is a meltdown, which is looking somewhat likely at the moment, radiation could reach Oregon 36 hours later.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_mining
China, in particular, has the highest number of coal mining related deaths in the world, with official statistic 6,027 deaths in 2004.[19] To compare, 28 deaths were reported in the U.S. in the same year.[20] ...

In some mining countries black lung is still common, with 4000 new cases of black lung every year in the USA (4% of workers annually) and 10 000 new cases every year in China (0.2% of workers).[24] Rates may be higher than reported in some regions.
JK: and the USA death toll from over 50 years of nuclear power is........ZERO!

PS: we have NO VIABLE substitute for coal & nuclear power. NOT wind. NOT solar. Nothing.

It is a sad fact of life that accidents happen.

Thanks
JK

So, has anyone ever read of what to do in the event of a radiation leak cloud crossing the Pacific and approaching Oregon? I mean, besides staying indoors and holding our breath.

My Google skills are not coming up with practical advice...not panicink yet but my mind won't let this go...

Thanks, Bingo

Yesterday, remembering Chernobyl, we bought some iodine drops and powdered milk.

Forget the powdered milk, Jack.

Get seaweed, brown rice, miso soup.

Above ground nuclear weapons testing was the common practice not that long ago. Does anyone else remember in the early 60's being told not to eat snowflakes as they fell? The concern was that they formed around radioactive dust particles. (Check out the cratered landscape of the testing grounds in Nevada on Google Earth.) I don't know the comparison of the amount of radioactive particulate matter from that testing, to whatever amount of radioactive particles could ride the jet stream from Japan, but I would suspect there isn't much of a threat to us.

The spokesman's comments are unconscionable and insulting. Locally, you need to worry about the flow of radioactive Radon into your homes if our open reservoirs are covered.

The solution to pollution is dilution, an old saying but true. If there is a major leak in Japan then I feel sorry for the area around the plant. By the time it reached us here in the US it would be dilute enough that I doubt you could find a statiscal increase in cancer rate. Now the cancer rate at ground zero will of course go up but distance does matter.

What most people fail to understand is we are surrounded by naturally occuring radiation every day of our lives. Any one of those alphas, betas, gammas, neutrons, etc that hit us every minute of every day can lead to cancer or might not. A slight increase in background radiation (like a leak in Japan) really isn't going to make a difference. Heck, some studies show low doses are beneficial.

JK: Just to be correct the death rate hasn't been zero, there have been a few. If memory serves me right it was in the 50's so outside of your 50yr mark but it still happened. But to your point, nuclear power in the US has been safer then any other industry out there by a wide margin, just check out the statistics.

Does this mean we get an early start on our suntans?

This should spur stronger investment in next-gen reactors and a move away from these passively-unsafe 40 year old designs. This is an even older type of reactor than (and was built prior to) Three Mile Island. Any plant built in recent memory would be safe without pumps working. Even if no civilians die from this, people that frighten easy are going to set us back another couple decades, killing many and polluting the planet. Hope you like coal, Jack.

Here's the best summary of what's going down I've been able to find.

I'm more worried about these reports of 9500 humans lost in just one of several villages apparently wiped off the map.

(And I'm kind of impressed it has fared even as well as it has. Apparently the reactor vessel is still more or less together after the worst imaginable 9.0 earthquake, a multi-meter tsunami, a hydrogen gas explosion, and partially melted rods. Aside from crashing a 747 into it, I'm not sure there is an even worse case scenario.)

The powdered milk is here because when the radioactive rain starts, you won't be able to consume any locally produced dairy products.

I'll just leave this here. The future of nuclear energy is exciting. Someday, we may be very safely burning the fuel we're currently calling (and very carefully storing such that we can recover it, hmm.) "waste".

I love the nucular geniuses who got us into this mess jumping up to preach at a time like this. "Any day now, we're going to get it right."

No thanks, boobs.

Do you store the powdered milk in a lead container?

Jack, I don't mean to diminish your rightful concerns about nuclear energy. But bringing energy in any form to citizens has peril.

If the Frontal Fault Zone just east of Camas WA was to have a 8.9 earthquake most likely Bonneville Dam would fail causing massive number of deaths and destruction from just the torrential flooding besides the destruction from the quake itself. Japan's earthquake was of biblical proportions. Our windmills would surely come down and all the solar panels would be shattered, plus all the electrical grid systems would fail. There is peril in any energy system.

Just to be correct the death rate hasn't been zero, there have been a few. If memory serves me right it was in the 50's so outside of your 50yr mark but it still happened.
JK: I was repeating what I hear frequently. The time was not intended to be a window, instead just a guess at the start of commercial nuclear power. If you have specifics of any deaths associated with commercial nuclear power, in the USA, I'd love to be corrected.

Were there any deaths worldwide, outside of Chernobyl?

The Dr. Bill Wattenburg show at 10 pm tonight should be very interesting - he is a nuclear expert (Dr of physics/electronics, worked on Apollo) and it is a call in talk show.

Catch it streaming at KGO.com or at 810 on a good am radio after sunset.

Finally, as to Japan, we just don't know much yet and have to wait to find out if this is another case of the safety measures working to protect the public, or if they failed. (The above linked article says the containment is still intact.)

Thanks
JK

The building around the reactor vessel has exploded. And if radioactive cesium has been detected outside the plant, as has been reported, then the reactor core has been compromised as well.

So, we shouldn't eat the sushi?

Where did you read about this as evidence of that? I believe the detection of Cesium (made many hours ago, not a new development) does not necessarily mean the internal reactor containment has been compromised. It is only evidence of rods starting to melt — the cesium would also have escaped out when they vented the steam to relieve the pressure.

The cesium report was well before the news of their venting the steam. But given that they're not telling everything they know, it's hard to deduce any reliable sequence of events.

Hm, first mention of cesium I'm seeing (could be wrong) is roughly 9:30PM (our time) last night. Lots of reports of venting a few hours earlier, for example this.

(And that's not very explicit... just what I found most quickly. Best chronology I'm able to piece together is by trawling through that Metafilter thread I posted earlier.)

TEPCO says it has started preparations for releasing pressure from Fukushima Daiichi No. 3 reactor after cooling failed

I imagine there's similar potential for hydrogen in this one, perhaps some chance it could ignite too. One imagines this one should in general be in a better state of affairs, with lower pressures and temperatures. Up until the cooling failed earlier it had been cooling off steadily since the automatic shutdown.

Al Jazeera posted earlier: "AFP says the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where a second reactor system is overheating, says there is a risk of a second explosion. We'll keep you updated right here."

I couldn't find the original report from AFP.

Here's an image of (supposedly) what has and hasn't blown up so far:

http://www.nei.org/filefolder/BoilingWaterReactorDesign_3.jpg

You can tell that schematic came from the nuke apologists. "Intact and safe" -- tell that the people who are in the hospital, or the 200,000 people who have been chased out of their homes. "Safe," my a*s!

They're dumping sea-water onto the reactor, which may cool it down (though you may want to talk to some Reedies about that).

I think it's safe to say that they've moved to desperation tactics.

It's interesting that the small-scale systems developed here in Oreygun wouldn't suffer problems related to power outage; they shut down as soon as power goes off. Of course, they're nuclear. So they're illegal in the USA.

We'll just stick with old tech, thanks.

Indeed, I wouldn't call a nearly blowed-up, melted, earthquake-damaged reactor "safe". (Although apparently #1 is finally cooling down and radiation levels are on the drop).

However in the grand scheme of things... (so far) it appears we're talking one dead, and others that may want to get their prostate checked early. Those numbers will certainly be amended, but this is not anywhere close to the same plane of misery as what's happened elsewhere in the country.

I may be overstating things, but this earthquake/tsunami is up there for worst natural disasters I think we've seen in a first-world country, and hundreds of thousands of families with missing relatives are dealing with a whole hell of a lot worse. Widespread death and destruction across a large chunk of Japan. A three mile island or two would be a drop in the bucket. (Chernobyl, not so much, but it seems even a full meltdown isn't supposed to be able to be anywhere near that bad. We'll see.)

No, Max, the Japanese plants shut down immediately when the earthquake struck. The problem is that the fuel rods stay incredibly hot (thermally) and have to be cooled constantly with water even after they stop reacting. If they aren't, they melt down and all hell breaks loose.

The Fukushima cooling system was powered by: external electricity (failed due to quake), backup diesel generators (failed after tsunami damage), and battery generators (worked for a while). There was probably also direct damage to the cooling system plumbing from the quake itself.

Now it's firetrucks pumping seawater.

If this had been the Cascadia subduction zone and Trojan, then so long as Bonneville was o.k. or the tsunami didn't come up the Columbia, we would have had power. But if the plumbing failed, it may have been up to one of Admiral Randy's fireboats on the river. We probably would be posting about it, if at all, from somewhere other than Portland.

Three plant workers have now been reported to have radiation sickness. http://tinyurl.com/4jhc8gw

And our nearest operating reactor is prone to the same kind of failure if quadruple backups quadruple fail, another boiling water reactor that requires pumping to keep things safe. But the next reactors due to be built in the south will not have this possibility due to modern designs which inherently cause water to flow due to temperature gradients from the heat of the reaction. (But we really need the next-next-gen instead of this refinement before I'll be happy.)

JK- it wasn't a commercial plant but an experimental one when we were just starting to experiment with nuclear power.

Yep, three operators died violently in 1961, when an early reactor went kablooey. It is the only fatal reactor accident in the US. Many die from coal every single year, but I guess we're just used to it.

JK- it wasn't a commercial plant but an experimental one when we were just starting to experiment with nuclear power.

Yep, three operators died violently in 1961, when an early reactor went kablooey. It is the only fatal reactor accident in the US.
JK: Thanks for the verification of what I had heard.

Aaron: Many die from coal every single year, but I guess we're just used to it.
JK: I don't see coal mining on the lost of ten most dangerous jobs:
1 Logging workers
2 Aircraft pilots
3 Fishers and fishing workers
4 Structural iron and steel workers
5 Refuse and recyclable material collectors
6 Farmers and ranchers
7 Roofers
8 Electrical power line installers/repairers
9 Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
10 Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
from: http://money.cnn.com/2005/08/26/pf/jobs_jeopardy/

Thanks
JK

No, Max, the Japanese plants shut down immediately when the earthquake struck. The problem is that the fuel rods stay incredibly hot (thermally) and have to be cooled constantly with water even after they stop reacting. If they aren't, they melt down and all hell breaks loose.

I understand that, Jack. The units developed in Oregon that I referred to don't have that issue. When they shut down, they shut down. The Corvallis units are much smaller in scale (though of course can be daisy-chained for upscaling)and employ pebble-bed technology rather than the old-tech fuel rods. As well, they have significantly fewer waste issues due to their efficiency.

Unfortunately, most Japanese reactors are the boxy Chernoble-style units; most in the U.K. are the Trojan-style units. The Corvallis pebble-bed units are just rolling out.

There'll be something wrong with them. Nuclear engineers have proven themselves, over and over, to be hopeless bunglers as well as liars.

which inherently cause water to flow due to temperature gradients from the heat of the reaction

Sure. It's fail-safe.

Not just coal mining JK, but deaths attributed to pollution.

Jack, you can make great fresh home made plain yogurt from powdered milk.
You will need:powdered milk, a couple of tablespoons plain yogurt (organic if possible, with no gelatins) and a nice widemouth thermos.
Full cream powdered milk is best but I have never found it here in the states.
If you want the full instructions, just email me.
You can also make cottage cheese and ricotta cheese. I did this when we were out cruising 25 years ago and still do once in a while.
Your kids should like the cheese and yogurt better than the milk.
Good luck!

Timeline from the American Nuclear Society:

  1. The plant was immediately shut down (scrammed) when the earthquake first hit. The automatic power system worked.
  2. All external power to the station was lost when the sea water swept away the power lines.
  3. Diesel generators started to provide backup electrical power to the plant’s backup cooling system. The backup worked.
  4. The diesel generators ceased functioning after approximately one hour due to tsunami induced damage, reportedly to their fuel supply.
  5. An Isolation condenser was used to remove the decay heat from the shutdown reactor.
  6. Apparently the plant then experienced a small loss of coolant from the reactor.
  7. Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) pumps, which operate on steam from the reactor, were used to replace reactor core water inventory, however, the battery‐supplied control valves lost DC power
    after the prolonged use.
  8. DC power from batteries was consumed after approximately 8 hours.
  9. At that point, the plant experienced a complete blackout (no electric power at all).
  10. Hours passed as primary water inventory was lost and core degradation occurred (through some combination of zirconium oxidation and clad failure).
  11. Portable diesel generators were delivered to the plant site.
  12. AC power was restored allowing for a different backup pumping system to replace inventory in reactor pressure vessel (RPV).
  13. Pressure in the containment drywell rose as wetwell became hotter.
  14. The Drywell containment was vented to outside reactor building which surrounds the containment.
  15. Hydrogen produced from zirconium oxidation was vented from the containment into the reactor building.
  16. Hydrogen in reactor building exploded causing it to collapse around the containment.
  17. The containment around the reactor and RPV were reported to be intact.
  18. The decision was made to inject seawater into the RPV to continue to the cooling process, another backup system that was designed into the plant from inception.
  19. Radioactivity releases from operator initiated venting appear to be decreasing.

Aaron: Not just coal mining JK, but deaths attributed to pollution.
JK: Just about everything we do has a death rate associated with it. Nuclear appears to be a low death rate source of power compared to coal. I don’t know about the other power sources like hydro. (Of course solar & wind are not viable sources of baseload power)

Thanks
JK

"...radiation could reach Oregon 36 hours later."
Kind of like a man made tsunami.


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