"Whichever way the wind blows" - Update Fukushima I Nuclear Disaster

By Michael Collins

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Stormsurf.com (See the latest forecast)

The world is about to be shoved through the looking glass, head first.

New York Times: Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise

TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to the statements of Japanese government and industry officials. New York Times, March 15

The two critical questions over the next day or so are how much radioactive material is spewed into the atmosphere, and where the winds carry it.

"We are on the brink. We are now facing the worst-case scenario," said Hiroaki Koide, a senior reactor engineering specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University. "We can assume that the containment vessel at Reactor No. 2 is already breached. If there is heavy melting inside the reactor, large amounts of radiation will most definitely be released." New York Times, March 15 (approximately 2:15 ET)

The explosion recalls the Washington Post article of March 13. The meltdown occurring, according to the New York Times report, is appalling. If the wind shifts direction, 103 million people are at risk on Japan's main island Honshu:

If a full meltdown occurs, a huge molten lump of radioactive material would burn through all containment, destroy the building and fall to the ground, exposed. A toxic stew of exotic radioactive particles would then spread on the wind and rain.

But if luck turns south and the winds do, too, radioactive particles could be spread far across Honshu, Japan’s largest island, [103 million population] and beyond.Washington Post, March 13

Russia TV presented a video of the explosion:


Video of blast at Fukushima nuke plant, radiation leak reported

"Who's on Third?" Information Cluster…. at the UN and IAEA

Reuters ran a story on March 13 dismissing the health risks of radiation. Malcom Crick, Secretary of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, was cited as an authority:

"This is not a serious public health issue at the moment," Malcolm Crick, Secretary of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, told Reuters.

"It won't be anything like Chernobyl. There the reactor was operating at full power when it exploded and it had no containment," he said. As a precaution, around 140,000 people have been evacuated from the area around Fukushima.

Reuters tracked down the director general of the International Automic Energency Agency (IAEA), a former Japanese diplomat. His comments came as the Times reported the current conditions "verging" on nuclear disaster:

Japan nuclear crisis unlike Chernobyl - U.N. atom chief
Reuters March 15, 2011, 5:18 am

Vienna (Reuters) Yukiya Amano, director general of the … IAEA expressed confidence Japanese authorities were doing all they could to restore safety at the sites and said a Chernobyl-style disaster was "very unlikely."

"I think at this time we don't have any indication of fuel that is currently melting," IAEA safety official James Lyons said.

"The Japanese authorities are working as hard as they can, under extremely difficult circumstances, to stabilise the nuclear power plants and ensure safety," Amano told the agency's first news conference since Friday's earthquake. March 15

An IAEA safety officer offered these comforting words

"I think at this time we don't have any indication of fuel that is currently melting," IAEA safety official James Lyons said. March 15

Secretary Crick indicated the source of the IAEA's problems in an address to the UN General Assembly Fourth Committee in 2007. After noting that,

The secretariat was also beset by staffing problems: after the post for one of two professionals within the secretariat was abolished in 1992, it had become ever more difficult for it to keep pace with new scientific developments. Malcolm Crick, UN General Assembly, Fourth Committee, October 29, 2007

We have yet to hear the excuse for IAEA director general Amano's ignorance at the eleventh hour.

The knew or should have known

"… the real embarrassment for the Japanese government is not so much the nature of the accident but the fact it was warned long ago about the risks it faced in building nuclear plants in areas of intense seismic activity. Several years ago, the seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko stated, specifically, that such an accident was highly likely to occur. Nuclear power plants in Japan have a "fundamental vulnerability" to major earthquakes, Katsuhiko said in 2007. The government, the power industry and the academic community had seriously underestimated the potential risks posed by major quakes." The Guardian, March 12

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At The Automatic Earth, poster Stoneleigh, (Nicole Foss) presents a scathing and comprehensive indictment of the ignorance and negligence required to create the current catastrophe. Foss holds a law degree with a focus on nuclear issues. The Oxford University Institute for Energy Studies published her study, Nuclear Safety and International Governance: Russia and Eastern Europe by N Foss, in 1999. The entire post by Stoneleigh is highly recommended.

Foss marches through the sequence of events that will define the coming scandal of nuclear negligence with documentation at each step. One of the most interesting points concerns the tests on the TEPCO (Tokyo power) Fukushima I reactors, No. 1 and No2. TEPCO built the plant. It didn't use test procedures that accounted for the recent earthquake:

"Simultaneous seismic activity along the three tectonic plates in the sea east of the plants—the epicenter of Friday's quake—wouldn't surpass 7.9, according to the company's presentation. The company based its models partly on previous seismic activity in the area, including a 7.0 earthquake in May 1938 and two simultaneous earthquakes of 7.3 and 7.5 on November 5 of the same year... Stoneleigh, The Automatic Earth, March 13

The test was devised to assure that the plant and reactors passed the test. It's that simple.

Foss makes this insightful comment about comparisons to Chernobyl:

Non-technical comparisons between Fukushima and Chernobyl are more apt, specifically in terms of governance in the nuclear industry and complacency as to risk. Nuclear insiders in many jurisdictions are notorious for being an unaccountable power unto themselves, and failing to release critical information publicly. Stoneleigh, The Automatic Earth, March 13

Fukushima I is a man made disaster just as the next disaster will be man made. Why? Because men forged ahead despite science and common sense to build these ticking time bombs that will inevitibly fail at a rate greater than zero. We now have the first frame of a total picture that defines the horror of nuclear energy.

Those in charge are just warming up. They have more in store for us.

Bringing it Home - "A Confederacy of Dunces" Prevails in Washington

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate's Republican majority leader, endorsed ongoing efforts for nuclear power

"This discussion reminds me, somewhat, of the conversations that were going on after the BP oil spill last year,” Mr. McConnell said during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t think right after a major environmental catastrophe is a very good time to be making American domestic policy." Wall Street Journal, M arch 13

In the tradition of The Money Party, that bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans who do the heavy lifting for the ruling elite, President Obama came through as expected:

Obama Stands by Nuclear Power

WASHINGTON—Obama administration officials Monday brushed aside calls for a freeze on new U.S. nuclear power development, and sought to reassure the public the nation's nuclear facilities are safe and the threat of harmful radiation reaching U.S. soil from Japan is minimal.

The Obama administration has said it wants to speed construction of nuclear-power facilities as part of a strategy to support sources of energy that emit little or no carbon dioxide or other gases linked to climate change.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Mr. Obama continued to support nuclear power, and that the administration would incorporate lessons from the Japanese accident into regulations. Wall Street Journal, March 15

Are these people completely out of their minds? (Rhetorical question)

END

This article may be reproduced entirely or in part with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.

N.B. Special thanks to The Week for featuring yesterday's article, Post Nuclear Japan, Pre Disaster United States. Also thanks to users at The Agonist for their comments in a lively and informative ongoing discussion.

Meta: 

Comments

Sorry, but Stoneleigh has

Sorry, but Stoneleigh has zero credibility in this issue.

Fukushima #1 is a 40 year old nuclear plant, and was 5 years away from being decommissioned.

The recent earthquake was 5 times stronger than the plant was designed to withstand, and furthermore the plant was not designed to also handle a subsequent 25 foot tsunami.

It is actually the tsunami that caused the present situation; the expected worst case loss of grid power from the earthquake normally was planned to be offset by a series of diesel generators. These generators were to complete the cooling process after shutdown - nuclear plants cannot be turned off at a flip of a switch, there is an appreciable downtime.

The tsunami destroyed all of the generators, hence the problems.

Whatever AE believes, what is going on isn't good but is nothing like Chernobyl - which is what a true reactor breech and worst case meltdown looks like.

As I posted in the other thread, the peak radiation level detected on site thus far is 100,000 times less than what were detected on site at Chernobyl.

Chernobyl had 30,000 roentgens; 1 roentgen multiplied by a 'quality factor' yields rems (roentgen equivalent man) - roughly 1 to 1.

1 microsievert = 100 microrems = .0001 rems

The 3000 microsieverts detected at peak thus far = 0.3 rems vs. the 30,000 for Chernobyl.

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Chernobyl

Seems that's what we have to go on is Chernobyl and radiation levels from WWII and later as well as clouds.

Right now we have another story saying the radiation is minimal, but frankly I don't believe a word governments say because they don't want to panic millions of people.

For example, the radiation in SW Utah caused cancer clusters and food was permanently poisoned...

But you sure heard things were "safe" continually and to this day you don't hear much about St. George Utah's cancer clusters.

Lots of denial on Chernobyl as well, so I'm not one to personally be conspiracy theory or unnecessarily panic....at the same time, I don't think we're getting accurate information generally here, like most nuclear events.

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These were predictible conditions & Stoneleigh is right

Not that there was necessarily a solution to this size quake accompanies by a tsunami, but these events, both of them were or should have been anticipated. The use of nuclear power, the placement of a plant in a fault area (like Diablo Canyon) is the height of folly and extremely dangerous.

Stoneleigh did NOT say that the reactor and radiation events were like Chernobyl. I quoted her as saying that, "Non-technical comparisons between Fukushima and Chernobyl are more apt..." Yet you imply that she compares the technical and after effects of radiation. What's that about?

We're in a dynamic recursive process as far as information goes. It doesn't look good now, it may in a few hours, but the reality will be more than apparent soon. This isn't BP's oil spill. There's no solution to cover these troubled waters and make the problem sink from view and experience.

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Reply to Anonymous Drive-by

Yet, if Japan (and the U.S.) had used solar arrays, wind turbines, geothermal, and hydro power to generate electricity, we would only be discussing the natural disasters of the earthquakes and tsunamis. The dangers from radiation would be non-existent.

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Together is why we are stronger than a lion and faster than most

If we massed produced together solar panels the most reasonable efficient ones would cost much less than your starbuck coffee and once automated less than your home brewed cheapest coffee. With open grids where you do not need batteries to accummulate the power, you send power to the electrical utilty when at work and not need them, while they need it most, and draw some at night when at home everyone would be better off outside the profit margins of electrical utilities which should be public owned. The silicone needed to produce it is sand and we never really used efficiently non arid land before. We are talking pennies on footage with inverters included. However it is too commom sense and large bulk of money cannot be sipher to the richer individuals.

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last nuclear workers evacuated, talk about "level 7" rating

Level 7 is the worse, it's Chernobyl and there are rumors Japan will be upgraded to accident level 7.

The last 50 workers were evacuated from the plant, so it's looking really bad to be a "worst case".

Any credible news please post. We should update if the worst happens, myself I'm wondering about 6 reactors all together like this and what that means.

There is enormous spin out there, misinformation, all directions. So finding credible stories, please post.

God Save the Japanese at this point, good god, a triple whammy!

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Solar energy today generates

Solar energy today generates 0.1% of the electricity in the United States.

Wind energy generates something like 2.5%.

Nuclear energy today generates 20%.

To think that the existing 2.6% can be scaled up to cover the existing 20% nuclear energy is ludicrous, not to mention the horrendous cost.

A simple back of the envelope calculation reveals just how ugly it would be:

US electricity consumption in 2010: 3.74 trillion kilowatts hours (kwh)

US nuclear electricity generation: 748 billion kwh

Average 1 KW solar panel electricity generation in 1 year: roughly 1000 Kwh (1,470 in Los Angeles, likely lower in northern CA or NE US. Numbers from http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/)

Said 1 KW solar panel would be 6 to 7 meters in size, and would cost $6400 (http://www.affordable-solar.com/kaco-1kw-grid-tie-system)

Replacement of the 748 billion Kwh generated by nukes using solar panels = $4.8 trillion.

As for hydro and geothermal - there simply aren't that many sites available. Theoretically, if every single large site remaining were covered, it might be possible to generate 5% to 10% of the existing electricity demand.

Sorry, that won't cut it either.

Secondly MSM has continued to show its moronic tendencies.

The scale of energy we're talking about here is gigantic.

The Fukushima plants will require MONTHS to shut down; according to www.MITNSE.com - even in 1 year these reactors will be generating 7.8 Megawatts of heat.

This is 160 tons of TNT equivalent EVERY DAY.

In contrast, today (3/16/2011) there will be something like 390 tons of TNT equivalent in heat generated.

This is why hydrogen is being formed, and why the tsunami wrecking the diesel backup and electrical system was problematic.

The reactors are shut down, and the long process of winding down has started. 4.7 Gigawatt nuclear plants don't turn off with a flick of a switch, much like oil supertankers don't swerve around the ocean.

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Quote: "As for hydro and

Quote: "As for hydro and geothermal - there simply aren't that many sites available. Theoretically, if every single large site remaining were covered, it might be possible to generate 5% to 10% of the existing electricity demand"

Hydro can be greatly added to if we build very large scale new infrastructure like the old plans from 1960s like North American Water and Power Alliance. You can add 45 gigawatts with better turbines at existing plants alone and with NAWAPA you can a net 145 gigawatts. Other new projects should get us to 250 gigawatts.

However, just remember that so far hydroelectric has killed more people than the Nuclear plants in Japan when the dams broke and washed away more than 1800 homes.

NAWAPA's extended water infrastructure would make activated Geothermal economical adding almost a Terrawatt of Generation capacity. Wind and Solar won't do much work but Hydro and Geothermal might be able to get renewables up to 20% electrical.

Now that fission is off the table for next 40 years in America the hopes for emissions reduction are all but dead and fossil gas is going through the roof. Hello Gasland, thanks Greenies.

The problem is Greenies hate large scale hydro almost as much as they hate nuclear so just as there will never be a new fission plant build in the United State we will never built another hydroelectric dam in the United States no matter how clean the energy.

The only hope now is guys like Eric Lerner at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, folks at EMC2, and Glen Wurden at General Fusion succeed with their long shot alternative fusion projects. Too bad they are literally working for shoe string budgets versus the ITER massive uneconomical wastes of time that are the so-called mainstream approaches.

The DOE only funds fusion projects which are inherently uneconomical and won't threaten the fossils.

The DOE is totally captured by the Fossils so this musical video about sums up the situation on energy, the environment, and politics and the economy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Rgh4kHPwg

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Personally, I have no issues

Personally, I have no issues with nuclear power but I consider placing a nuclear plant in a fault area where it might get hit by tidal waves extremely dangerous. The Japanese are famous for their highly developed technology but, at the same time, I believe they made a huge mistake when they built a nuke without thinking of the worst case scenario.

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Some other Anonymous said:

Some other Anonymous said: "If we massed produced together solar panels the most reasonable efficient ones would cost much less than your starbuck coffee and once automated less than your home brewed cheapest coffee."

This is stupid, and betrays the poster's complete lack of any credibility.

Solar panels involve silicon. The processes used are not as complex as for cutting edge CPUs, but still require clean rooms, semiconductor manufacturing equipment and most importantly silicon wafer blanks.

A solar panel line costs $400 million dollars, the base silicon real estate i.e. wafers cost is $200 (in 2003) for a 12 inch diameter blank.

Multiply this out to the 6 to 7 square meters for a 1 kilowatt installation, and you get a blank silicon cost of $19000 (about 96 12 inch wafer equivalents).

Of course in reality a big chunk of the 6-7 square meters isn't solar cell, it is connectivity. Silicon blank costs are somewhat down from 2003, but not orders of magnitude, so to say a reasonably sizes solar installation is equal in cost to a Starbucks coffee is crap of the highest order.

There are non-silicon wafer based solar cells - but these are both far lower in efficiency and far less able to retain conversion capability (all solar cells degrade in their ability to convert sunlight into electricity over time).

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Nuclear Energy is Insane

The well-funded, by the Feds, nuclear establishment is on the offensive, continuing to push a foolish, and bankrupt technology. The heart of the problem is that carbon-carbon bonds are rather weak, and humans are made with these linkages. The sun blasts out considerable radiation. However the earth's fortunate magnetic field deflects almost of these, and surface living creatures escape. With out those "shields" up, carbon polymers, like us, could not exist. Life might persist in the oceans, or course. So, there are two environments in this universe. One has damaging radiation, and one does not. It is very obvious that bring damaging radiation into ours, which does not have that, is a crime, or it should be.

Nuclear energy is just a heat source, as the Japanese experience demonstrates. That heat needs to be made into electricity, and that involves pressure-volume machinery. The conversion of heat to electricity is not efficient. Modern nuclear reactors are about 33% efficiency. So, a 1,000 MW generating station takes 3,000 MW of heat. Now, although not obvious to many, global warming is the result of too much heat. (That is the "warming" part, if you don't get this.) So, why would anybody stick 2,000 MW of wasted heat into the environment. (Sticking it in the ocean, as the Japanese reactors do, dumping that into the environment.) Wind machines on the contrary actually cool the environment. Not thought about much, but wind energy is just thermal energy, and the air on the back end of a wind mill is cooler than the air blowing into the front—that energy needs to come from some place. (The velocity of molecules, that thing we call 'Wind speed", is just an indication of temperature.) Photovoltaic systems do much the same trick. Part of the thermal flux from the sun gets made into electrons for us.

During the last few years, most of the new generating capacity in the US has been new windpower. You can do the numbers easily. If wind power grows at a 20% annual rate, in ten years the majority of electricity in the US will be wind. Get your compound interest tables out, and you can easily get there. However, there are many electricity generating stations that are ancient and need to be retired. In the mean time, the new Apple mini, a credible computer by any measure, consumes less than 10 W, and modern LED lighting will take about 25% of what compact fluorescent lights take. It will be easy, if we adapt the new technology, to cut electricity demand by 50%. Why would this thought to be a bad idea? Even conservatives should be able to think about using less money for energy, and that would then allow them to do other things with their money.

The last theme we need to consider is the contributions that US technology made to this Japanese disaster. We understand that the GE PWR design was "cheaper" and did not need the expensive concrete containment vessel. We also understand that Japan could have purchased reactors from a bunch of vendors including France and Russia. So, the US reactors came to Japan hyped and subsidized by our government. There are some people who are guilty in this terrible accident, like those who sited the reactor on the ocean. However, we must remember there are many more who are responsible, folks who observed and did nothing, folks who are getting paid to spout words to deceive and lie. It would seem in a moral world that General Electric, just like Tokyo Electric Power Company, would stand up and say, "We apologize for providing a reactor with an unsafe design, and one which allowed spent fuel to be stored in the same building as the main reactor. We apologize for not telling the Japanese that the site was not safe. We promise that we will provide economic assistance for the damage that our bad engineering and bad management caused." Some how, I doubt this will happen. Rather, the rest of the world will just watch the US fall into being of no consequence. Sad.

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Another alternative energy

Another alternative energy Astroturfer with no data said:

"The well-funded, by the Feds, nuclear establishment is on the offensive, continuing to push a foolish, and bankrupt technology. "

Yes, the US nuclear is industry is so well established and successful that it has not been able to have a new nuclear plant commissioned in the US since 1977.

34 years of no nukes. Real successful. NOT.

Then this poster put up another fatuous statement: "So, a 1,000 MW generating station takes 3,000 MW of heat. Now, although not obvious to many, global warming is the result of too much heat. (That is the "warming" part, if you don't get this.)"

Well, global warming as expressed in terms of extra heat in the earth's ocean's is in the order of 10 to the exponent of 22 joules: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

1 Megawatt = 3.6 billion joules for 1 hour. The increase in ocean heat is thus roughly 3000 billion megawatts for 1 hour.

Of course this is all irrelevant, because global warming is a function of the sun and the atmosphere. Nuclear power cooling is no more relevant than 6 billion people breathing out warm moist air.

Then this poster said: "During the last few years, most of the new generating capacity in the US has been new windpower. "

Another terrible lie.

Just from 1999 to 2003, 144 Gigawatts of natural gas electricity generation capability was built: http://www.mnforsustain.org/natural_gas_supply_in_decline_youngquist_dun...

Total wind capacity as of June 2010 was only 36 Gigawatts: wiki

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