Fukushima, Mon Amour
“There is a possibility, we see the possibility of a meltdown,” said Toshihiro Bannai, director of [Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency] international affairs office, in a telephone interview from the agency’s headquarters in Tokyo. “At this point, we have still not confirmed that there is an actual meltdown, but there is a possibility.”
A meltdown doesn’t necessarily mean a major radioactive release, although cesium has been detected in the air. Depends on how well the containment vessel holds up.
Official: ‘We see the possibility of a meltdown’ [CNN]
Nuclear plant blast ‘appears to have caused meltdown’ [Sydney Morning Herald]
Oh crap. They are venting steam from plant no.3 now. Just like they did with the No. 1 plant before they had to flood it with sea water.
It seems that the temperature reading mechanisms were not working in the No. 3 plant and it took them a while to realise. So what about plants 2 & 4?
Who said nuclear power was safe and clean?
Anybody in the Southern Hemisphere want to house a tall white-boy for whatever the half-life of uranium is?
@hunkamonkiman: Hold on, pal. Dodger’s 6-4, I’m 6-2. You may have to get in line.
U235’s half life is 700 million years.
Nuclear power is safe and clean under “ideal” conditions but not say earthquakes or from orders by communist party appartichiks who don’t know shit about nuclear engineering and when you don’t factor in nuclear waste. As my dad (nuke engineer) lectured into my skull, the light water reactor (used by Japan and US America) is a flawed design (as it works when everything is in order but not so well when the shit hits the fan) but popular because it is cheaper than safer alternatives.
@CheapBoy: Who said nuclear power was safe and clean?
The nuke flack on CNN Friday sported an expensive suit and haircut.
@ManchuCandidate: Yes well, I count disposal of waste, and natural disasters and Bunker Buster bombs dropped by hostiles as things that need to be taken into account when discussing nuclear power.
And if they have to decommission those plants, where are they going to store all the building rubble?
@nojo: And I bet he had a lead codpiece and singlet on under that suit.
Oh and Nuke power plants aren’t the answer to global warming.
It takes between 10 – 12 years to get a plant up and running, and by then, it’s too late. And every politician (At least here in Australia) do not want a reactor in their electorate.
@CheapBoy: And if they have to decommission those plants, where are they going to store all the building rubble?
That’s a pressing question, since dumping salt water into the reactor immediately turns it into scrap.
@ManchuCandidate: That’s cool. I can wait that long.
And in epistemological news, this is becoming a Nuclear Clusterfuck. The story you hear depends on which “official” is talking. There’s now a suggestion that even the IAEA is just taking dictation.
The Fukutu reactor is also out of control.
@nojo: They don’t seem to have good message discipline in the Japanese government — there’s a chance that one of these guys talking meltdown is telling the truth.
@nojo: Not to mention where are they going to put the fuel rods. My solution: up Kissinger’s ass.
Here’s a good summary of the physics of what can go wrong: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fukushima-core
@Dodgerblue: If I lived in San Luis Obispo down the road from the San Andreas Fault and the Diablo Canyon reactor, I’d be nervous.
@SanFranLefty: El Diablo. Aptly named.
San Onofre. Fish kills are the least of our worries.
Three Mile Island. Ugh.
Oh, and the earthquake brought out the tracting folks in Pa. (I’m hoping they’re not always on the prowl out here — got hit up at least five times in two cities.)
@JNOV: Maybe joining the Amish in Pa is a good idea.
But damn the buttons would be a problem on the frocks.
Meanwhile, each aftershock brings a fresh tsunami warning.
28 aftershocks at 6.0+. Bear in mind that a 6.0 is a wild ride in itself.
On the bright side, meltdowns are safe until they hit the water-table and generate what is scientifically known as a “Shit load” of radioactive steam that will travel around the world.
Hey Manchu, speaking of plutonium, here’s something new to me from the New Scientist:
Unlike the uranium-based Fukushima number 1, the number 3 reactor uses a mixture of plutonium oxide and uranium oxide. In the event of a meltdown, plutonium is considered more dangerous than uranium alone because of its increased volatility and its reactive, “neutronic” effects.
Michael Bluck, a nuclear engineer at Imperial College London, told New Scientist that plutonium is used because it increases the efficiency of power generation. “It improves the burn off, so you get more energy out of the fuel than if you just use uranium. Plutonium enhances burn off in normal situations in a controlled reactor, so it may produce even greater heat if the pressure vessel fails and there is a meltdown. It’s why plutonium is used in nuclear weapons, because it is more reactive and produces more energy.”
The risk is that temperatures could increase uncontrollably if the reactor cladding ruptures and the uranium fuel rods coagulate with the plutonium – though Bluck emphasised that this is not the same as a runaway chain reaction that occurs in a nuclear explosion. A molten plutonium-uranium mass would be even more difficult and dangerous to contain.
To prevent this, boric acid – a water solution containing boron – is being pumped into the number 3 reactor. Boron is used because it captures neutrons and reduces the risk of a fission chain reaction. It is being pumped with sea water into the reactor.
@Dodgerblue: Am I the only one concerned for the plankton?
@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: IIRC, Plankton is a bastard.
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