Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grave Concern over Nuclear Power in Japan

UPDATE 1: Monday March 28, 2011, a 6.5 Earthquake hits northeastern Japan. See details after the original posting. -- end update 1.
Original Post . Thus far, the radiation exposure at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been slight. However, Japan’s NHK English-language site is reporting radiation 10 million times higher than normal. CNN just 20 minutes ago reported the same.
The concern is that no water, which contains radioactive particles, should exist in the turbine building. The fact that it does exist there indicates the second line of defense, the reactor shell, and the last line of defense, the containment structure, have been breached due to fuel rod meltdown. No one knows when or how badly these were breached. Nor can we say that the breach is already as bad as it will get. Aftershocks from the main earthquake continue, and act like small hammers, beating away at an already weakened concrete and steel structure. Any meltdown material inside the reactor and containment structure can leak. Adding water at this point may make the situation worse. The water may turn to steam, and increase the pressure or must be vented to the atmosphere. Steam venting to the atmosphere appears as white smoke. Increased pressure in the reactor, or containment, will likely increase the leakage rate.
There is also a report that the ocean near the stricken plant has higher than normal levels of radiation. This also is an indication that something is leaking somewhere, and that is not good.
I’m pulling for the Japanese workers and the engineers and management who are making the decisions. I’m hoping that the above is the worst news that we will read. I suspect, though, that the continuing aftershocks will worsen the breach or breaches and more and more radioactive material will seep out. When the radiation readings reach too high, no workers will be allowed in. And that is of grave concern.
This link shows an earthquake map of Japan, with intensities indicated by color of the dot. There are many small earthquakes still, each adding to the stress of the stricken and leaking reactors.

Update 1: Another large aftershock at 6.5 magnitude has hit off Japan’s northeast coast. Timing was 07:23:56 a.m. local Japan time on Monday, March 28, roughly one hour ago as I write this.
Now the difficult time begins, as the already weakened reactor structures are jolted by yet another fairly large earthquake. I can only hope that the breached containment structures hold, and don’t release yet more radioactive materials.
The small hammers I wrote about above have just swung a fairly large hammer. -- end Update 1.

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