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Japan's nuclear reactors

2011-03-14 01:15:48.99839+00 by Dan Lyke 19 comments

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comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-16 12:18:19.4065+00 by: jeff

Given the uncertainties and inconsistencies in reporting that we've already seen I'm not sure how reliable this timeline is.

I'm sure there will be more to add when all is said and done.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-16 01:10:12.663615+00 by: Dan Lyke

Re the original link, see also http://www.salon.com/news/poli...oehmen_nuclear_not_worried_viral

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 23:20:11.847449+00 by: Dan Lyke

Fukushima: Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Design Caused GE Scientist To Quit In Protest

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing -- the Mark 1 -- was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

In questioning how safely we can run nuclear power, it should be noted that Canada has a history of political concerns overriding direct safety concerns in the operation of nuclear reactors.

As I've now added as an edit at the top there, you should, go read The Strange Case of Josef Oehmen.

And on MeFi The Emperor of Ice Cream pondered about the worst case

No one seems to know exactly, but it would be meltdown of all six Fukishima reactors, continued fires in the spent fuel pools, and forced evacuation of the remaining workers currently there.

Which resulted in some perspective from MeFi user smackfu:

Is that actually worse than a tsunami that wipes out entire towns and areas, killing thousands?

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 21:36:27.730986+00 by: Dan Lyke

Jeff, I think the idea with faults is that when you relieve pressure from one fault, you change the stress structure on other faults. So, no, the additional aftershocks don't necessarily come from the same place as the initial earthquake, they could be elsewhere on the fault system.

But prediction of earthquakes is one of those "predict often" sorts of things, they'll breathe a sigh of relief when you predict one and there isn't one, and if you get one right you're a prophet.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 20:42:03.301408+00 by: ebradway

Don't have time to do it right now, but I'm betting somewhere on the USGS Earthquake site is a link to a map of faults in Japan.

GeoCommons doesn't seem to have that set of data yet.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 19:15:47.885071+00 by: jeff

Re: Aftershocks (and the birthing of Godzilla).

I did hear one geologist suggest that there actually could be an "aftershock" as powerful as 7.5-8.0. But I would also think that it would be in the same fault vicinity as the original monster?

I don't know the geology of Japan, but it seems to me that Mt. Fuji would be on a different fault line?

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 18:01:54.624774+00 by: Dan Lyke

Oh, and all sources are suspect, but pulling from World Nuclear News's article: sometime around the loud sounds (but not necessarily explosions) in #2, radiation readings in a location described as "between units 3 and 4" jumped to 400 millisieverts per hour, but are back down to 0.6 millisieverts. If I had better time data and a few more readings, I bet we could figure out exactly what material was decaying with what half-life...

Also kinda weird is that pressures in the cooling ponds were 3 atmospheres and are decreasing to 1? Clearly there are things about these reactors that my high school physics and one tour of the Connecticut Yankee plant are not giving me the background to understand.

Which, I think, is at the core of some of these problems: If we could get past the ax- grinding "nuclear power is bad" activists and the "gotta sell more papers" journalists and the "nuclear power is all rainbows and unicorns" industry pitch-men, surely we could find some better data.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 17:36:16.276426+00 by: Dan Lyke

Eric, yeah, at some point "aftershock" is artificially minimizing.

papa0so, I think there's a bunch of alarmism bred from ignorance flying around. I know people in California who are stocking up on Potassium Iodide pills too, but I think these are largely the same folks who keep the neutraceuticals industry in business. We're a long damned way from Japan, and anything that'd actually last long enough to be a risk to us over here on this coast is also pretty heavy.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 17:31:56.639471+00 by: papa0so

It does seem like the nuclear reaction situation keeps on getting worse as the days pass. I know people in California who are already starting to worry about the radiation spread... hopefully nothing gets too serious!

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 17:18:07.753021+00 by: ebradway

Just to keep everyone on their toes, Mt. Fuji got a 6.2 earthquake last night. These seem a little more significant than just aftershocks. A 6.2 would by impressive anywhere, anytime. Next, I'm expecting Godzilla to crawl out of the Sea of Japan.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 15:53:59.680645+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'm trying to make sense of this. So far as I can tell, there are a total of 10 reactors at 2 different sites about which there is uncertainty. Fukushima Daiichi, which has six reactors, and Fukushima Daini, which has 4 reactors.

What we see in the media as reactors #1, #2 and #3 are at Fukushima Daini, and reactor #4 may be at Daini, or may be at Daiichi.

Compounding this, "Daini" translates to English as "1" and "Daiichi" as 2, so some media references to "reactor #2" may mean "reactor #4 at Fukushima Daiini".

Flooding a reactor with borated seawater pretty much means it's gotta be rebuilt before it's restarted. So all 4 reactors under discussion here are out of commission for a very long time.

But #1, #2 and #3 were supposed to be decommissioned this year anyway.

#1 and #3 are allegedly stable. #4 was allegedly shut down anyway when the accidents occurred, and the fire there is unrelated to the fission process.

So there are currently two questions: What's happening with #2, and is the increased radiation level, about which no two sources can agree, due to a reactor containment vessel breach at #2, or due to the fire at the cooling ponds at #4.

And even the best written "what's happening where" articles I've seen contain the confusions I've noted here.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 15:50:52.634288+00 by: jeff

The best that I can determine:

There have been explosions at reactors 1-3 and partial meltdowns at reactors 1-4 with used fuel also potentially burning on the top of reactor #4. It's pretty safe to assume that this particular facility won't be producing much (if any) power for the next 3-5 years.

Japan is going to have some serious obstacles to overcome, no matter what the press or the government reports. Estimated economic losses (at this writing) are on the north side of $150B.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 15:12:17.060222+00 by: Dan Lyke

Even TEPCO says the reactor containment chamber may be damaged.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 13:50:39.238886+00 by: jeff

It's hard to get a real read on the situation, based on press releases by the utility company and the Japanese government. They've been a bit inconsistent at times.

It would seem that there have been at least partial meltdowns at one or more of the reactors and that spent fuel may have burned on top of one of them. None of that is good news, and they're not out of the woods yet.

It's probably safe to say that the operators left behind to mitigate the situation are probably at risk for negative long-term health effects. They should be considered national heroes.

With the wind directions changing from out-to-sea towards Tokyo and back again to a northwesterly direction, the collateral low-level (for now) radiation contamination seems minor. But again, this event is not over by any stretch.

My own thoughts and prayers go out to the Japanese people and nation. I hope they can pull through this!

It's hard to imagine California absorbing the brunt of a 9.0 coastal earthquake, a devastating follow-up tsunami, and then a "hit them while they're down" nuclear disaster all in the same week.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 05:04:35.337872+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, I'm getting the impression that it's gotten uglier than anyone wants to admit.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-15 03:28:13.72882+00 by: jeff

Potential contrarian data?

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-14 16:55:16.453812+00 by: jeff

A graphical representation of what may be occurring.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-14 15:20:07.491787+00 by: ebradway

This is where things started to go seriously wrong. The external power generators could not be connected to the power plant (the plugs did not fit). So after the batteries ran out, the residual heat could not be carried away any more.

Why, oh, why don't we have standard power connectors? And why couldn't someone just strip the connectors off and rig something up?!? That's what MacGyver would do!

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-14 15:13:26.883382+00 by: jeff

Excellent write-up, but I'm not sure that the event is over with yet.

There very well may be longer-term local impacts.