Bullshit of nuclear proportions

nuclear reactor cross section for the type of reactor in Fukushima Daichi and Fukushima Daini

We have been hearing the reassurances. But there are holes. Big, glaring ones. I’m no nuclear scientist, but since I can’t stop this planet and get off, there are a few answers important.

  • When they say radioactivity is low or minimal or can now cause human harm, what numbers exactly are we talking about? Those numbers were reassuringly told earlier, and somewhere in the narrative, they have become “idiot friendly” rather than numbers, we are being told their implications. If I could understand the lower numbers, I can understand the higher ones. Tell me.
  • Nuclear reactor buildings contain other items that give off radioactivity. There are spent fuel tanks, and now vast quantities of sea water – at least as much that didn’t evaporate off. This much, an utter layman like me knows. When the buildings are blowing up, we are told that the main containments are not breached. Fine. But what about the rest of the radioactive stuff in them? Is it dispersing in the air right now? Should people be taking precautions that are being discarded for not creating panic?
  • No Chance of Chernobyl we hear. Again and again and again. Of course, but this is Fukushima. Not being Chernobyl is not necessarily reassuring. Each of these six malfunctioned plants and the remaining safely shut down plants is more powerful than the one that blew in Chernobyl. Sure, they have more safeguards as well, but if those safeguards were foolproof, we wouldn’t be engaging in these mass evacuations and sea water orgies while the country could really do with more facilities free for the deluge of tsunami survivors.
  • This is the big thing no one seems to be talking about. If one plant breaches containment. ONE. Does work on the remaining continue? Could it be possible? In that case, is there any way at all of preventing all of them from blowing up post the first?
  • The other thing I have been wondering about (and I also wonder if I am being unfair, considering the full frontal assault that nature has mounted on Japan), is how come three reactors at Fukushima Daichi all had the same problem? As in Earthquake >> Tsunami >> till here I can understand, but now >> failure of emergency generators with MULTIPLE REDUNDANCY – Multiple generator backups on THREE reactors failed? Who are you kidding? What is the meaning of an emergency backup if not a single one worked? >> Then, progressive fall-backs all failed on THREE reactors right down to the desperate measure of pumping in sea water, explosions, destroyed secondary containments in two and core container in one. We hear of fuel rods being exposed.
  • We hear of generators running out of fuel through being IGNORED!!!! What the hell is this? Somehow, I don’t believe anyone ignored anything. Not with their lives at stake. It is just too ‘good’ to be true. Though it is possible for things like this to happen, seeing as how the workers are probably spending brief spurts of hurried work in the radioactive area and heading to safety as fast as possible. <– this is normal for working with radioactivity.
  • From the sound of this disaster, it is increasingly looking like desperate PR management by the honchos while poor workers risk their lives to desperately do whatever it takes to cool down reactors that have essentially gone rogue without power. The redundancy and fall backs that seemed so impressive till the first explosion are looking utterly unrealistic after the fourth – yes there was a fourth in the spent fuel tanks of a reactor that had freaking not been working in the first place. This is a massive cover up it is looking like. Someone simply hadn’t done what it took to secure a reactor. Reports are coming in from sources as diverse as wikileaks to IAEA.
  • Spent fuel pools. What was done to secure them, if at all?
  • Apparently, there is trouble keeping rods covered in water. This is half the story. What is happening? I see two possibilities. The first is that the rods are so hot that water is instantly being converted to steam faster than it can be replaced. While this is good that water is taking away all the heat, this steam is being released in the atmosphere. The other possibility is that there is a leak that doesn’t allow the tanks to fill beyond a certain point. In which case, since no leak is described in the media, is it safe to assume that this water is draining out where we don’t know? As in, into the environment?

Japan began beautifully with its transparent information and prompt responses. However, as responses fail, the information is becoming more and more obscure. With people’s lives at stake, they have a right to know exactly how bad things are. There are many people from many countries who can return home. There are many people in Japan who have the possibility of leaving the country completely for a while. This wouldn’t cost the government anything, but people would be free to make informed choices on their own initiative.

For that matter, refugee evacuations can be requested into other countries or much, much further away than 20km. If we look at the horror stories of the Chernobyl disaster or Japan’s own Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think it is fair to be a little proactive and at least get kids and pregnant women out of there so that the cost to human life is relatively limited to the current generation. While I understand that panic will not help, I think there are some situations where panic works far better than anything else.Get people moving urgently and safe, and then you are free to organize them to taste. Use their collective energy rather than spend your own depleting energy moving people.

I just read what I wrote and want to make clear that I am not scare mongering. However, I think things in Japan have well reached a place where it is not a matter of “if” but when. Waiting to enact a crisis response at the last moment will help no one. If it turns out that things didn’t go bad (they already are), people can return with sheepish smiles and nothing is lost but a little embarrassment over a very natural mortal fear. If things continue on the path they are on, will someone keep in mind that the wind can change at whim, location of millions can’t.

This reminds me of the stories of Chernobyl, where the people of the town were not even told for three days, which has changed too many lives forever.

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Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut


'Bullshit of nuclear proportions' have 32 comments

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  19. March 17, 2011 @ 2:36 am : Life as I find it

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  21. March 15, 2011 @ 5:50 pm Vidyut

    I hope you are right.

    Reply

  22. March 15, 2011 @ 5:50 pm Vidyut

    I hope you are right.

    Reply

  23. March 15, 2011 @ 5:30 pm Parth Bakshi

    For a better Non-biased Reporting

    http://live.reuters.com/Event/Japan_earthquake2

    Reply

  24. March 15, 2011 @ 5:30 pm Parth Bakshi

    For a better Non-biased Reporting

    http://live.reuters.com/Event/Japan_earthquake2

    Reply

  25. March 15, 2011 @ 5:25 pm Parth Bakshi

    What exactly do you mean by halo. Well for starters there has never been a situation where you have an earthquake and A Tsunami hitting a Nuclear Plant.

    Some points to Ponder

    If there were any Spent fuel In Unit 1 and 3 and assuming they they were thrown around during explosions then it would catch fire by now and there would be harmful radiations all around. The readings or patterns in Sievers readings do not suggest that.

    Im more worried about the spent Fuel pool in Unit 4 which i would say is now the trump card.

    Also i would believe that if a primary containment unit is breached in any of the units it would get difficult for Engineers to maintain the coolant level or the water level in the other reactors. Should expect a disaster then. Hope that the water level never goes down.

    What are you trying to say in the second bulleted point??

    For the second last point let say You live in a tall building in mumbai and it has its generator at its basement for electricty backup and its electricity mains also come from the below. Lets assume the building is kalina and as in July 2006 style you have flooding of rain water. Do you think you will have electricity. Yes you will have Inverters, so what would be the life of that inverter??

    Reply

  26. March 15, 2011 @ 5:25 pm Parth Bakshi

    What exactly do you mean by halo. Well for starters there has never been a situation where you have an earthquake and A Tsunami hitting a Nuclear Plant.

    Some points to Ponder

    If there were any Spent fuel In Unit 1 and 3 and assuming they they were thrown around during explosions then it would catch fire by now and there would be harmful radiations all around. The readings or patterns in Sievers readings do not suggest that.

    Im more worried about the spent Fuel pool in Unit 4 which i would say is now the trump card.

    Also i would believe that if a primary containment unit is breached in any of the units it would get difficult for Engineers to maintain the coolant level or the water level in the other reactors. Should expect a disaster then. Hope that the water level never goes down.

    What are you trying to say in the second bulleted point??

    For the second last point let say You live in a tall building in mumbai and it has its generator at its basement for electricty backup and its electricity mains also come from the below. Lets assume the building is kalina and as in July 2006 style you have flooding of rain water. Do you think you will have electricity. Yes you will have Inverters, so what would be the life of that inverter??

    Reply

  27. March 15, 2011 @ 4:25 pm Vidyut

    @Some guy Yes, I do. However, it is rather far fetched to have the same fault appearing with every reactor and the same helplessness. Where high efficiency is needed, I do think that one hydrogen explosion should be enough for someone to try and find a solution – which they are, by removing some panels at reactor 4, which got the spent fuel overheated.

    The 9.0 earthquake – it got upgraded day before – or the tsunami had nothing to do with generators running out of fuel, for example. Or, for example replacement generators not having matching connectors – surely this kind of information is part of generator arrangements for the reactor and the operator knows what he needs? These are things a well integrated team should be managing, not dropping.

    Once it was known that the hydrogen can explode, what effort was made to shield the other reactor from the somewhat expected blast? didn’t read anything about it. Was there an effort? I don’t know. The fire in building 4 as soon after – though it is supposedly from the spent fuel igniting – another bad neglect – water was less.

    But the way these guys are dealing with what is happening makes me think that this is the company spinning tales out of thin air rather than say what actually happened. For example, now we have accounts of crack in roof of reactor building.

    @Parth I did. And I actually wrote another post with the nuclear meltdown basics kind of info. However, I find that much of what the article describes puts a halo on the nuclear power functionality, which is simply missing in the news reports.

    Reply

  28. March 15, 2011 @ 4:25 pm Vidyut

    @Some guy Yes, I do. However, it is rather far fetched to have the same fault appearing with every reactor and the same helplessness. Where high efficiency is needed, I do think that one hydrogen explosion should be enough for someone to try and find a solution – which they are, by removing some panels at reactor 4, which got the spent fuel overheated.

    The 9.0 earthquake – it got upgraded day before – or the tsunami had nothing to do with generators running out of fuel, for example. Or, for example replacement generators not having matching connectors – surely this kind of information is part of generator arrangements for the reactor and the operator knows what he needs? These are things a well integrated team should be managing, not dropping.

    Once it was known that the hydrogen can explode, what effort was made to shield the other reactor from the somewhat expected blast? didn’t read anything about it. Was there an effort? I don’t know. The fire in building 4 as soon after – though it is supposedly from the spent fuel igniting – another bad neglect – water was less.

    But the way these guys are dealing with what is happening makes me think that this is the company spinning tales out of thin air rather than say what actually happened. For example, now we have accounts of crack in roof of reactor building.

    @Parth I did. And I actually wrote another post with the nuclear meltdown basics kind of info. However, I find that much of what the article describes puts a halo on the nuclear power functionality, which is simply missing in the news reports.

    Reply

  29. March 15, 2011 @ 4:06 pm Parth Bakshi

    Vidyut i suggest you go through the MIT Post
    http://mitnse.com/2011/03/13/why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors/

    And probably how a BWR works would help in understanding the situation.

    Reply

  30. March 15, 2011 @ 4:06 pm Parth Bakshi

    Vidyut i suggest you go through the MIT Post
    http://mitnse.com/2011/03/13/why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors/

    And probably how a BWR works would help in understanding the situation.

    Reply

  31. March 15, 2011 @ 3:01 pm Some Guy

    You do understand that the reactors were not built to withstand an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting 30 foot wall of water right?

    Reply

  32. March 15, 2011 @ 3:01 pm Some Guy

    You do understand that the reactors were not built to withstand an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting 30 foot wall of water right?

    Reply


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