For a detailed explanation of exactly what is happening at the Nuclear Power Plant in question in Japan, visit the first of Andrew’s links below. It is well worth taking some time to read it, because all that is being disseminated by nearly every media outlet is in fact total misinformation that indicates the worst possible scenario, the wildest speculation and information from journalists who have absolutely no idea whatsoever how the nuclear process works in the generation of electrical power…..TonyfromOz.
Via our friend Professor Barry Brook, comes this marvellously sane and cool explanation of the emergency at Japan’s the Fukushima nuclear reactor by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston.
Read the fascinating and reasurring in its entirety. But if you have time only for Oehmen’s bottom line, it’s this:
– The plant is safe now and will stay safe.
– Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.
– Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.
– There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.
– The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree. Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the “main” nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.
– The seawater will then be replaced over time with the “normal” cooling water
– The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change.
– Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage. This will take about 4-5 years.
– The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)
– I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. About half of Japan’s nuclear reactors will probably have to be inspected, reducing the nation’s power generating capacity by 15%. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. That will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to potential power shortages during peak demand, in Japan.
On MTR 13777 this morning, Australian nuclear expert Ziggy Switkowski, former chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, agreed that no one as yet hard received a dangerous dose of radiation from the reactor, no nuclear explosion was possible and the chances of Australia being affected, on a scale of possibility from one to 1 million, was zero.
The US Nuclear Energy Institute:
The highest recorded radiation level at the Fukushima Daiichi site was 155.7 millirem at 1:52 p.m. EDT on March 13. Radiation levels were reduced to 4.4 millirem by the evening of March 13. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s radiation dose limit for the public is 100 millirem per year.
Japanese government officials acknowledged the potential for partial fuel meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 3 reactors, but there is no danger for core explosion, as occurred at the nuclear power station at Chernobyl in 1986. Control rods have been successfully inserted at all of the reactors, thereby ending the chain reaction. The reactor cores at Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power stations are surrounded by steel and concrete containment vessels of 40 to 80 inches thick that are designed to contain radioactive materials.
The venting of steam to ease the pressure causes another explosion – but again not another nuclear explosion (click above for Oehmen’s full article above for an explanation):
An explosion shook the nuclear power plant today and plumes of smoke rose from the complex’s No. 3 unit, live television showed.
The reactor had been under emergency watch for a possible explosion as pressure built up there following a hydrogen blast on Saturday in the facility’s Unit 1.
Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the blast, at a reactor at the quake-damaged Fukushima plant, was believed to be caused by hydrogen…
However Japan nuclear plant operator TEPCO said the reactor had survived the explosion.
Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and is a regular commentator on Channel 9′s Today show and ABC TV’s Insiders. He will be heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of new radio station MTR 1377, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.
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