On April 12, 2011 the threat level of the on going nuclear crisis at the Japanese Fukushima plant was moved to 7 out 7, the same threat level that was set by the Chernobyl incident, regarded as the benchmark of nuclear disaster.
The Fukushima plant has only released 10% of the radioactive particles that Chernobyl did but Japanese nuclear technicians haven’t been able to halt the radiation spewing from the plant, although this April 12th Washington Post article says “most radiation readings around Fukushima have been decreasing for several weeks now.”
While those outside the area around the plant will see little consequences to the Fukushima problem, for those that live in the exclusion zone and even some distance to the north west, where the radiation has been drifting, it is looking doubtful that they will be able to move home.
Reporters enter the exclusion zone.
When this crisis unfolded I became more and more a believer in nuclear power. Everything that went wrong did. First there was a huge earthquake, then an immense tsunami that further damaged the nuclear plant. Yet the reactors safely shut down seemingly providing further proof on how safe nuclear power was. But problems emerged as it was revealed that the nuclear fuel needs to be constantly cooled for months to keep the fuel rods stable. Without the cooling systems explosions rocked the four reactor buildings and exposed the spent fuel rod pools.
While the nuclear reactors have been reasonably contained there appear to be some sort of leak from at least one of the reactors and the spent fuel pools continue to emit irradiated particles. Hopefully most of the contamination has been dispersed into the ocean where it will be safely diluted. However, if it is falling on the land and towns surrounding the nuclear plant the area might have the same fate as Pripyat, the city next to Chernobyl, that was permanently evacuated and abandoned.
The fatal flaw of the Fukushima plant design has been the failure of the cooling system. New reactors that are being built in China and India have already fixed this design weakness by creating “walkaway plants” that can almost be abandoned and they will still shut down safely. For example the
The new Westinghouse AP1000 (the AP stands for Advanced Passive), for example, has a huge emergency water reservoir above the reactor vessel that’s held back by valves.
If the cooling system fails, the valves open and a highly reliable force takes over: gravity. Water pours down to cool the outside of the containment vessel. Then another highly reliable force, convection, kicks in. As the water turns to steam, it rises. Then it cools under the roof, turns back into a liquid, and pours down again.
Yet even this ingenious solution is only temporary and eventually requires that the backup systems aka generators or primary cooling system be brought back online within days.
Watching the events at the Japanese plants also exposes what an easy target they are to terrorist attack. If a truck, like the one Timothy McVeigh was able to build, were to explode next to a nuclear reactor and the explosion was able to compromise the cooling system the resulting meltdown could surpass the Chernobyl incident.
In the American Midwest crowds protest the building of new reactors using the example of Japan, “what happened in Japan could happen here.” Well I highly doubt an earthquake and then tsunami is going to strike the Midwest anytime soon but some sort of disaster could.
As this crisis continues, nuclear plants have shown that disaster can strike and everything can go wrong. It is this that is the problem with nuclear reactors. When the shit hits the fan it creates what Al Jazeera calls “nuclear sacrifice zones” or areas that have become so contaminated with radiation that they are unlivable. It is this risk that makes the choice to turn to nuclear power questionable.
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Been thinking similarly and posted the same: http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.com/2011/03/decided-anti-nuclear.html
You take the duration of the toxicity of the waste, the estimated frequency of accidents and do the math: there’s going to be a whole lot of accidents. India and China are going one better and making Thorium reactors. A much better deal.
In regard to earthquakes not happening in the midwest, we live with the New Madrid fault poised to go off at any time. Last time it made the Mississippi run backwards. There has been an increased amount of seismic activity in Arkansas and geologists have discovered a brand new fault…It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
there’s two additions I’d like to make to this post:
– “only 10% of Chernobyl”
To the best of my knowledge, this is only the figure of radioactive material released into the air. The huge amount of contaminated water that has been spilling in the ocean is NOT included.
– “safely diluted”.
In today’s (14.4) Japan Times, “Nishiyama also said that a seawater sample taken Monday 15 km away from the nearby city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, showed that the concentration of radioactive iodine-131 was about 23 times the legally permissible level. Contaminated water leaked From the Unit 2 may have gathered as a lump and drifted offshore,” Nishiyama said. “We need to continue monitoring it.” Once again, Nishiyama didn’t give any information about the level of radioactive cesium or other toxic materials in the water.”
Iodine halves in 8 days, Cesium takes 30 years. Either they are not measuring, or not releasing the information to the public. Both are inexcusable.
Obviously from their point of view it is not inexcusable or rather it is a necessity.
First and foremost this concept of transparency of government is not a Japanese idea at all, it is a Western one. An idea that Western nations themselves often fail to uphold by the way.
From a traditionally Western moral stand point should the government and the TEPCO group be totally clear and forth coming with all information for the public? Yes of course.
From a strictly managerial perspective, one concerned with governance and control, does it make since to be completely open regarding information that would not only further damage the economy, further depress a heavily rattled nation and potentially cause mass panic? No, it does not.
As one Japanese legal official once said “It is worth the occasional innocent man being falsely convicted for the whole of Japan to remain calm and relatively crime free.” How Japanese.
TEPCO is a giant in Japan and is heavily in league with beuracrats. They have been exposed many times, as recently as 2002 for falsifying reports, lying about damage and even actively hiding cracks when inspectors came to their plants. These tight knit groups and relatively secret clubs and alliances are the reason Japan rocketed out of the WW2 era and achieved such prominance on the world stage. Corners were cut. Transparency in government and big industry took a back seat (way back) to forward progress and growth. People do not complain about the cutting of corners when they are fat and happy. But when things go wrong, fingers get pointed.
How do people in Japan change this? Particularly at this time?
Who could change it? What could be done?
Nishiyama is a beuracrat, so expecting him or anyone else in government or big bussines to be honest is an exercise in total futility.
Totally indefesible- no.
Even the experts are not sure what the truth is….20 years of studies will tell the real tale…
Meanwhile…even if they knew it all the public in general is too fucking dumb to be expected to handle it in any good way. Goverments citing their desire not to panic people as a justification for lying sometimes is sadly…..totally understandable.
Most people are just sheep.
Although I dislike the reality based on my own desire to self maintain, it is totally understandable.
A little thought experiment:
If I was, for whatever reason, locked in an elevator with 8 other people, and for whatever reason the cables and devices meant to maintain this elevator had been damaged making the process of anyone climbing out of the escape shaft a slow, somewhat hazardous effort only leading to a vast, empty and dark elevator shaft with no clear exit or way out, calm would be of the utmost importance. Suddenly, I realize by whatever means that there is a potentially dangerous gas leaking into the elevator with us. I’m not certain how much of the gas is seeping in but I’m the only one aware of it, although other members trapped in this little fun box with me are commenting on a “funny smell” and asking whether some sort of gas is leaking, people are asking me this because I happen to be “a scientist”…or whatever.
A: tell everyone “Yep. there is clearly a potentially dangerous gas leaking into this box with us and it could really make us sick, but hey, be calm.”
B: Basically keep the information to myself knowing that if a panic ensues and everyone hurries to get out of the elevator it is very possible the cables and brakes and all the safety devices we all believe in would snap, crackle and pop, and everyone would plummet to who knows where resulting in who knows what?
Sheep indeed. Panic is more contagious than an AIDS enema, and potentially more dangerous and destructive to our moral fabric than a weekend in Pattaya.
Conclusion- I would lie, divert and avoid my ass off.
Haha, weekend in Pattaya… Too true.
I was lucky to make it out alive and with an uninfected blood stream. No plans to go back because God would lose his sense of humor.