s I was going through the flood of news on Fukushima, there was a conspiracy theory that the mysterious and highly radioactive black substance being found in many places was actually a decontamination experiment. It was a wild theory, but it caught people’s imagination, because of the discovery of radiotropic fungi at Chernobyl being discussed earlier. These fungi have been found to use melanin to absorb radiation and use it for energy! So in an experiment, when they upped the radiation to 500 times normal, they thrived! Not much is known about their mechanisms, but it is indeed a discovery that is memorable for being astonishing.
Then Fukushima Diary reported that the black substance (likely Cyanophyceae according to them) got generated on a road after rain and noted that its earlier manifestation had happened after snow. So one of the people had posted that this black stuff might be Cyanophyceae and might be an experiment to collect metals for easier disposal (or washing away with rain – as another commenter suggested). The commenter quoted the project description:
“Development of high affinity biosorbents by surface display of metal binding proteins”
“The project is to develop profit oriented economically feasible to implement by all metal handling industries including DAE establishments for the treatment of low and medium level metal containing effluents and nuclear wastes using enhanced whole-cell biosorption technology. It is aimed at to proceed from the proof-of concept to “field testing stage.” The development of such an efficient and affordable technology for nuclear waste treatment is essential. In this project we will develop a technology for the display of metal binding proteins at the cell surface of “cyanobacteria.” The strains will be tested for immobilization for the development of bioreactor to remove the radioactive and non-radioactive metal from industrial effluents. The process parameters will be optimized for scaling up. The proposed project may provide a cost effective, quick and more metal binding capacity and it will find an essential alternative method for online treatment in DAE and metal handling industries for safe discharge of wastewater.”
Cyanobacteria; This is Blue/Green Algae. Also Known As The Black Stuff.
Curious, I clicked on the link to arrive at the website of BITS Pilani!
The above information was in the sixth or so title (can’t link individually – they expand), but the very first one said:
Low and medium level waste generated by the nuclear industry contain large number of radioactive isotopes of different metals. The volume of this waste coupled with surfactants and interfering radicals creates problem for conventional cleanup operations using synthetic resins. In our recently concluded project funded by Department of Atomic Energy, Govt of India, we have demonstrated that a non-conventional Biosorption Techniques could be employed for the effective removal of radioisotope from nuclear waste even in the presence of EDTA or nitrate. This technique require the generation/ selection of suitable biomass using molecular biology techniques which may be packed in glass or ss column for continuous operation.
No mention of the Cynobacteria in this one, but very, very intriguing.
The astonishing part is that this hasn’t hit news AT ALL. It is not a state secret. It has been announced openly on their website as research. In the context of world events, and concerns over nuclear and other metal contamination (think Punjab), etc I would think this would be a good idea to appreciate very useful research like this, no?
I think it is sad that we appreciate and share research news from the US but not India. In India, it has to either involve someone/thing famous/flashy “Kalam and kid designed anti-molestation device” or robotics and other gadgetry (like UAV projects), or has to be patronizingly surprising of the “illiterate villager designs electric pump” or “man designs cheap sanitary napkins” type. It is rare to be excited about research by Indians – as in, extending the boundaries of knowledge, even though there is no shiny object yet. Sad. We need to appreciate knowledge more without needing dazzle attached to it. Actually, now that I think of it, do we have a “science beat” at all in a country hoping for better literacy, industry, professionals and employment?
How much energy does a nuclearpower plant generate? According to Wikipedia, in India, we have 20 nuclear reactors in 6 nuclearpower plants generating 4,780MW. 5 more plants under construction are expected to add another 2,720 while we have an ambitious target of about 64,000MW by 2032. That is a lot of energy. In the wake of the Fukushima crisis, discussing the merits and demerits of India's nuclearprogramme is urgent. An earthquake has sent shocks through the nuclear landscape of the world. We must not ignore that it is also an opportunity to take pause, consider carefully, introspect and then move forward with purpose.
How does nuclearpower work?
Nuclear power works by using the energy from nuclear fission or fusion to generate heat. At the moment, nuclear fusion is still a subject of intense research and not usd in production which is a pity. Nuclear fission is basically what is happening in a reactor. Radioactive elements have unstable nucleii and they are constantly going through random fission to shed neutrons and become different elements. It is this breaking of the nucleus that releases the energy that we use. Once the heat is generated, the rest of the nuclear plant works pretty much the same as say the typical coal power plant. The danger with nuclear fission is its difficult to control nature and radiation.
To understand nuclear fission, one important thing to understand is that you can't switch it off. Atoms are fissioning in radioactive material all the time. Randomly. Individually. Relatively harmlessly. When they collide against other atoms, they trigger fission in them as well. Things that encourage these collisions are called moderators. Moderators block the escape of the atoms in such a way that they rebound back into the material, rapidly increasing the chances of fission. When a lot of atoms are fissioning, the whole thing takes on a life of its own. Triggering itself constantly, so to think. This is called a chain reaction and it releases huge amounts of heat. This is what the reactors do, in order to produce the heat. To stop the chain reaction, control rods are inserted between the radioactive material. These rods slow down the fissions by absorbing neutrons. The nuclear fission energy source never completely stops. It keeps slowing down till finally it reaches its regular random fission patterns. This process takes a long, long time.
Risks of nuclear power
The tremendous amounts of heat are a hazard because they have the capacity to simply melt anything that gets in their way. And a chain reaction without control rods/other material only keeps accelerating till it dies out. Even with control rods in place, the fact that fission cannot be "Switched off" will always be a danger because it makes for clumsy emergency responses. Essentially, all the functions for cooling the reactor have to continue for weeks in decreasing intensity till finally the material is safe to put away wet. To store dry will be cooling for another couple of YEARS. As we see in Japan, in an emergency, this can turn into a nightmare.
Radioactive material is a health hazard. It literally burns on a microscopic scale. So contamination is a huge issue, as it causes cancers and other health problems - to what extent and what quantities of radiation is still less known, but the corelation is quite certain. If external radiation is bad, internal is worse, because material once ingested becomes a part of the body and is impossible to remove. Which is why the contaminated milk, vegetables and possibly fish will be a matter of concern in Japan for a long time.
India doesn't have adequate quantities of uranium, so it makes us dependent on importing it. This makes us dependent on foreign providers.
Another huge problem is the nuclear waste disposal. Like I described earlier, the fuel never really becomes safe. NEVER. So, in essence, when we develop nuclear energy, we are committing ourselves to managing the left over fuel and anything else that gets contaminated for infinity. Sure, the earth is very big, and nice, remote places can be found to bury the material deeply - kind of born from the earth and returned to it, but the problem is, most places don't want to house these dumps because they will be eternal hazards. If governments find it difficult to get locals to agree to reactors, they find it near impossible to get them to agree to house nuclear waste. Probably will not matter so much in India, where the people don't know half the things the government is up to, but definitely people should know. If we must choose nuclear power, we must know facts, have plans for the less desirable actions in the future.
An area contaminated by radiation essentially becomes inhabitable for humans till radiation levels drop. When they will drop depends on the source of radiation. Some isotopes of iodine for example have a half life so short that by the time you organize evacuation, the area will be clear. Others, not so much. Plutonium for example is feared so much because of its lasting effects. The isotope of Plutonium we are most worried about has a half life of 24,000 years. It is likely to outlive not just you and me, but possibly our entire species and maybe life on our planet. There is no way to "fix" this so far. Isolation is the only remedy, but that is not possible in case of widespread contamination. Chernobyl for example resulted in people abandoning the area completely. So, in essence one risk factor of nuclearpower is the shrinking of livable land for humans.
Long term effects of radiation for the world are yet unknown. There is some possibility that we will suffer horribly, there is some possibility that we may adapt and build tolerances. We don't know. Post Hiroshima and Nagasaki, survivors suffered horribly. Burns, disease, cancers, isolation because of radiation contamination... but that was a bomb. From Chernobyl, there are a lot of cases of cancers, but opinions are divided as to how much higher above normal they are. People settling illegally in the exclusion zone are dwindling, dying out, but that could also be because its mostly the old people who returned. Many of them are leading completely normal lives too - eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water. Is it that they adapted to the radiation? Is it that tolerable levels may be high enough to allow these people to live safely in less contaminated areas once the active contamination had stopped? We don't know. It could also be the denial of the settlers in order to continue living there. It could be lack of appropriate documentation. There were spikes in cancer reported in several places in Wales and other parts of Europe, which were very likely related to the radiation exposure.
Some pro-nuclear debaters talk about renewable energy as though it were an individual domain only. Experts ask how factories and industries and development will run on solar power. Why not? In fact, India's solar energy produces far more electricity than nuclearpower plants. In fact, given time, solar power could well be the Indian alternative to nuclearpower. Plus, once installed, its totally fuel-free and thus, astoundingly cheap once investment is recovered. India has set aside vast areas to create solar generation facilities (can they be called solar power plants, or is that word only for active turbine based generation, while solar energy just sits in one place...) in a decade or two, we will be measuring our solar power output in giga watts. We have wind power generation too as another source of renewable energy, in lesser quantities. So that claim that makes renewable energy sound like the domain of cottage industries is either bull shit or lack of research.
An important consideration is establishment of protocols. Nuclear energy has become very safe subject to precautions and equipment. If that is not followed, then the whole "safety" falls. How prepared is India (not mentally, but capable) to follow these rules with impeccable precision? The few accidents we do have are often related with carelessness or ignorance or inadequate or inappropriate equipment. Take for example Tehelka's story on Kalpakam where Kunal talks about an engineer, Raju who handled a sample without precautions for a long time due to the absence of alarms for radiation and then when one did flash, it was visual only. Or the lack of following of established standards leading to rash of cancers and risks to life. This kind of carelessness borderson murder.
Yet, we are living in a country where scams are common, rules are bent and worse, problems are denied, so they can't even be fixed. We see what is happening to Japan mere weeks after them admitting that rules were bent and safety precautions were not taken seriously. The cooling pumps failing right now had not been examined for years, but the reactor was allowed an extension despite protests. India has an inherent "chalta hai" attitude. We don't face challenges till they slap our faces. Radiation is never going to be seen as it plays its destructive dance. People aren't going to "feel" any reason to stop or raise an alarm unless they are trained to function without judgment and true to protocol. Will we be doing this?
The other thing is the continuing contamination. Total isolation of land is impossible. While humans can be prohibited from entering or living, animals often cross over, breed, etc widening the spread. Disturbances that raise dust can result in radiation fall out all over again. Rivers flowing through get contaminated.
So, while the chances of a disaster are minute, and the chances of an uncontrolled disaster are even more remote, the stakes are beyond human comprehension too. So, it is a very difficult equation for our mind to compute. Along the lines of infinity divided by infinity.... the two sides of the debate are thus quite polarized depending on which of the infinities they are studying with greater belief.
Advantages of nuclear power
The heat that is generated by coal in a coal power plant is generated by nuclear fission in a nuclearpower plant. Other than that, the process is the same. The heat is passed on to water, which turns into steam. This steam is used to push turbines and generate electricity. In a hydroelectric plant, the force of water drives the turbines. At the end of the day, it is rotating turbines that produce electricity for consumption on a national scale for the most part except for solar energy.
The biggest nuclear power advantages are that it is relatively cheap (unless you count the bills from disasters) and very powerful too. Nuclear power is India's fourth largest producer of electricity. The greatest producer is thermal energy. If we compare nuclear energy to thermal energy, nuclear energy actually is vastly safer on issues like pollution and safety.
As for safety, studies show that nuclearpower is safer than most other sources of energy - solar power included. It doesn't get safer than that. 100% isn't a real life scenario.
While nuclear accidents are dangerous, they are few and not an exclusive hazard to the planet. We have massive coal fires raging for decades in a place called Jharia in Jharkhand. We lose money with every year passed. Smoke from the fire is a health hazard. We had Bhopal. In other words, if we do little to ensure security, then many things are hazards.
Since we don't have enough uranium, we are also actively experimenting with thorium. What the results and risks of that are is unknown.
We do need energy. Most of our country doesn't have enough electricity. We are not at a stage where we can afford to create a fuss over an industry which so far hasn't resulted in a single fatalty in our country and has an overall fatalty rate less than others. The more electricity we can generate, the more we can save our perishable sources of energy. This means a lot in a country where our petrol price is almost 4 times that in Pakistan. It can mean the difference between life and death to many.
Nuclear radiation is not that horribly alien either. Your chest X-Ray gives you plenty. There is ambient radiation all around.
Nuclear energy also saves lives by contributing to the vital functions of the country. Submarines and large ships are increasingly powered by nuclear energy. This allows them to become virtually fuel independent in operations.
Hydroelectric dams and such like have been proven to cause ecological damage. Species of fish have gone extinct, people have suffered large scale displacement. Mass movements have opposed dams making subsequent projects more forbidding. Plus they are expensive in comparison with both nuclear and other renewable sources.
While solar power is proving really good for us, there is still a space for nuclear energy, as we still need far more electricity than we create. Plus, if we were to phase out the burning of so much coal and replace the output with nuclear energy, it would be a far more dramatic decrease in risks from what we have. It is not likely that we will be able to develop our renewable resources alone to cover the entire country's needs. At least not in the near future. Oh, and BTW, hydroelectric dams are also a problem because of ecological damage, displacement of people, storage of ambient heat, etc.
However, considering the Indian penchant for mismanagement and political opportunism trumping scientific approaches, combined with the veil of secrecy on all things nuclear, the risk of nuclear catastrophe is also greater here.
There is a need to think up the entire energy strategy.
Other possibilities or considerations on Nuclear energy
Nuclear fusion promises to be a far more effective means of generation of electricity..... if we are able to figure it out. Research has been on for decades. Some sample reactors have been created. However, unlike a nuclear fusion bomb or the hydrogen bomb (pretty much the only thing we have succeeded in fusioning - is that a word?) which is an uncontrolled explosion, a controlled nuclear fusion that yields more power than it needs to trigger is yet a concept not translated to reality. Pushing more resources in this direction could be good, as the two big horrors of nuclear fission are not relevant here.
Radiation, if any is minimal - to begin with. Containing that would be child's play for brains that can figure out how to achieve controlled fusion.
Power released in fusion is much greater than in fission
None of these radioactive nightmares of uranium, plutonium, etc needed.
BIGGEST ONE. The fusion reaction will have to be sustained, without which it will not happen. Thus, in an emergency or otherwise, there should be no need to babysit the reactor to safe cooling. This can be switched off. OFF. Done. In fact, even if all emergency systems fail, disruption of the facility sustaining fusion will automatically kill the reaction.
... like I said, we are a long way from achieving this in a safe and usable manner. Keeping fingers crossed.
The Future of Nuclear energy in India: Some suggestions
Frankly, I don't think we can afford to not pursue nuclear energy in India. Not with our energy situation as it is. However, i have some suggestions that we MUST incorporate before going any further down this path:
There should be free discussions around the matter involving all perspectives and stakeholders before the decision is made (if at all it comes into question, I guess)
A policy of impeccable transparency must be followed. Information on risks must not be hidden, nor must any problems. That is the only way we can ensure safety - by knowing what to prepare for.
Local bodies for each plant must be formed, and they should have/be provided sufficient knowhow for monitoring radiation and other risks. They should also have the power to call for investigations. They are the ones who will pay the most for errors. They should have the right to demand safety.
Radiation monitoring equipment must be provided abundantly and certainly installed in all areas of the facility itself.
Contingency planning must include the areas around the plant for a radius determined by experts. These areas should be educated on safety measures and contingency plans, including plans for efficient evacuations or precautions and safety in a radiation emergency situation.
The use of plutonium must be reconsidered and evaluated. Is it necessary?
Plans for the safe disposal of spent fuel must be made.
Not too sure about the participation of non-Indian entities in something this high risk. We should not be accepting untested technology, or stake in the running of the plant. They simply don't have as much to lose as someone living down the lane. Everyone regrets an accident, but from what I read in newspapers, the West in general has far different concepts of safety for itself and others. As others, this is quite a bit risk to court. .... on no one intends harm, but this is about valuing the place and people and knowing you have nowhere to go if you screw up. Remember Dow (Union Carbide, Bhopal... poisonous gas killing tens of thousands, irreparable harm to even more for generations)? We shouldn't be doing deals with the US at all without their compliance on DOW. That should be a good measure of intent toward Indian safety in the partnership. Our masters or not, the safety of the "colony" comes first.
Plants technology which will be implemented should have minimum 5 years of Demonstrable Installation in Any part of the world. (Contributed by reader Raam Das)
Plants Employees need to be trained on the new Plant operations & Technology at Running Plant before Start of Construction of the NEW Plant. (Contributed by reader Raam Das)
Yeah, that's it. I'm talked out, I think. Your turn. What did I miss?
When the MD of TEPCO Mr Akio Komori weeps on National Television, we can no longer escape accepting that the plant is in big trouble.
Newly released images and video show clearly a crane that is used to handle spent fuel that is visible from the outside. Based on the normal location of the crane on the edge of the spent fuel pool, the pool, though not visible in the shots, is definitely there, open to the world.
When the owner of the fourth largest power company in the world and the largest in Asia breaks down in tears, you know how bad it is. Or you know that he probably wishes the earlier cover ups of security threats at the plants had not been exposed.
I am not one to panic. Initially, when I heard about the crisis, I went about supplementing what I remembered reading with information that would reflect happenings and risks without getting into nuclear advocacy or criticism. I shared my findings on nuclear meltdown and other nuclear risks to prevent panic.
All this has changed since the second explosion at the site. I am no longer able to pretend that it isn't serious. Not the crisis itself, but I am quite worried about the Government's approach to it. Its been quite leisurely and now, its in a panic. This doesn't help. In crisis, the authority figure being consistent is unmatched in its power to bring order and stability. Unfortunately, the US paranoia seems to have infected the world, and the Government of Japan, who had earlier been puzzled at the safety zone America recommended for its citizens in the region being three times that for locals, is now discovering how much in danger their people are.
The best help in a crisis would probably be a media blackout of the USGovernment response to it. Wouldn't be surprised to later discover that people headed out into radiation to escape because the US predicted the apocalypse. Or to find out that more people died of heart attacks from fear than radiation.
The world seems to have discovered it too. The people claiming that it wasn't a big deal or that nuclear energy is quite safe are mostly conspicuously silent, or their efforts now focus on how the radiation spreading vast distances is not really a risk beyond the evacuation zone. So, from saying that there would be no significant release of radiation, we have gone to explaining that the significant release of radiation isn't all that big a deal. Because we can no longer pretend that the radiation is not spreading. The West coast of the US and Russia have both registered elevated radiation levels - neither of them dangerous, but they exist and that is enough for people to hit panic levels. Might be good to remember that the Chernobyl explosion, which was definitely worse than this blew radioactive winds across Europe. Europe is thriving, thank you very much. Japan went through Hiroshima and Nagasaki and has better longevity than most places in the world - US included. The cancer rate is far lower for workers in nuclear plants than among general population - go figure!
Yes, the plant is devastated, but its hardly flimsy. Look at the destruction it is sitting in the middle of and still is sheltering its precious responsibility with considerable security under the circumstances. That's not accidental - its design.
Photos from the fourth reactor at Fukushima Daichi show clearly a green crane in the building. The green crane by itself may not sound like a big deal, but it is used to transfer fuel rods from the reactor to the spent fuel tank, and is standing right next to the tank. If you can see the crane, you can't see the pool, only because it is lower.
This video gives a better idea of the situation:
It is just as exposed. Check out the picture of the reactor from inside (before the explosion, of course).
The rods are in the pool, as we see. The water itself forms a barrier while it keeps the rods cool as well so that the people can work safely, with reasonable precautions.
The fuel rods stay 'hot' for quite some time post being removed, and it takes several years before they can be considered safe to be packed "dry". This water is cooled regularly to take away the heat from the decay and the water levels are managed to that the rods are always submerged.
What likely happened was that when the cooling systems failed after the earthquake and Tsunami, while the water meant that there was no immediate crisis, it did start heating up. The rods themselves were not all that old out of 'action', having been removed about three months ago, so the decay heat, while not the inferno of an active reactor, was still enough to start reducing the water in the fuel tanks.
Once the fuel rods got exposed and thus not cooled at all, the heating only picked up pace. The temperature for the zirconium around the uranium pellets to melt is about 1200 deg. Once this starts, we are in the process for a meltdown, and the mass gets increasingly difficult to manage.
The zirconium reacts with the water at a high temperature and gets oxidized and releases hydrogen gas (remember the hydrogen related experiments in school?). The thing is that hydrogen is highly reactive, and once vented, combines "violently" with the oxygen in air to form water. Water, of course is not dangerous, but the problem is that the explosion blows the building apart, and the radioactive particles contained in the steam are dangerous. This is actually the good part, because with the fuel rods exposed, they are able to release radioactivity directly into the air.
This, described above is the problem at plant 4. We have had the explosion, the damaged wall only means even less barrier from the radioactive substances, and we see that crane from outside, which is standing next to the spent fuel tanks. Do the math. If there is water, its well on its way to becoming steam.
And the biggest problem with this situation is the combination of the limitations of operations due to radioactivity and the number of reactors needing to be pulled back from the 'edge'. The most dangerous by far are Reactor 3 and 4. Reactor 4 because its wide open to the world, and the only way to cut off that radiation is going to be getting those rods underwater and keeping them there. Reactor 3, because it contains Plutonium, which is really bad news. So tell me again who had the bright idea of recycling nuclear weapons to produce the MOX fuel? Sigh. Its probably a great idea. No one could predict this. Regardless, this stuff is something that would be far more complicated to mop up, so the attempt is to keep it in, where it belongs.
There are engineers discussing the possibility of burying the reactors under tons of concrete, a la Chernobyl. However, that is for the future and more to prevent further escape of radiation, and it can be done in Fukushima, but its not much use with our current priority - getting those reactors stone cold. Without that happening, we are risking fission and explosion rather than simple leaks, however radioactive. Also, it isn't like fission needs oxygen that pouring concrete on it will smother it. It won't. Plus, the heat from the still hot and heating fuel will mess up the concrete, while the concrete messes the reactor, and only create much more radioactive debris to tidy. The proximity of the reactors is another complication they will have to work around when they do it. I don't think there is any question of "if" any more.
US and UK have advised their citizens to give the area a wide berth - 50 miles. Japan's zone of course is still 20km, which is not enough, but residents till 30km are being asked to remain indoors, which should protect them too, with precautions. For all the hysteria in the media, there seems to be little actual data to support sustained levels of dangerous radiation. That is not reassuring only because the Government of Japan seems to increasingly become opaque, so we don't know if its the whole story.
The name Chernobyl cropping up constantly doesn't help either, because one of the main reasons Chernobyl had to be evacuated was the radioactive material that spewed out of the reactor and the vast quantities of radioactive dust from the burning graphite (in other words, radioactive soot). There is no way to clean the ground of each of these gazillions of pieces which will keep emitting radioactivity long after you and I are gone. This is very different from venting a little radioactive steam, or contamination. Even if radioactive material has been leaked, as long as its on the reactor site, and not blown to bits and scattered over entire continents, there is no reason why it can't be decontaminated later.
Yes, the situation is dire, it is critical. But not because it can get to a Chernobyl scale. It is critical, because we are trying to contain damage to a minimum and without electricity, the safeguards built into the reactor are failing. Even if they totally fail, Chernobyl is extremely unlikely. That was a situation where there was no containment at all. There was no precedent, there was far less technology. Japan has a crisis only because it doesn't want any abandoned zone at all, or, a very tiny one. So far, there doesn't seem to be any radioactive debris that would make the area unlivable.
The danger for the people largely will "switch off" once the fuel is isolated. Radioactive debris on the other hand will send out radiation - mostly contaminating through becoming a part of the place itself - the whole area will have to be isolated.
However, and I'm not saying this just to make you feel better, there are many good things happening as well. There is now a good chance that this thing will be under control soon.
The idea of the fire trucks spraying water directly on the tanks right through the hole in the wall seems to be working.
Surveillance from a helicopter also showed that the tanks were not completely empty. Not that it means anything particularly good right now while the rods stand exposed, but it will mean that much less water to fill in to submerge rods.
Electricity has reached the plant from the grid.Power has been restored at the plant, though it will still mean a lot of testing before the cooling systems go online. This is good, because it means that instead of exhausted workers using puny efforts fighting upstream of huge odds, we can engage the pumps and cooling systems that were designed precisely for this job. This will help make the cooling really fast, as well as free up workers from maintaining to recovering damage.
What remains to be seen is how far the radioactive contamination spreads before this show comes to a stop.
My bet is that if the electricity brings the pumps back online and some of the cooling systems work at least, the rest will be a "recovery without incident". If not, then its going to be an uphill struggle. With the electricity there, the choices are considerably expanded, but they will still have to be tried and tested. That takes time. But one way or the other, the way ahead is all about getting the fuel underwater, cooled and isolated. In that order.
In the meanwhile, while I understand that the Japanese are angry with the government and TEPCO for the risk they are facing, it isn't the workers putting them at risk. The workers are volunteering their lives away to keep them safe, and they deserve some acknowledgment for what they are doing. I want to criticize some Japanese who have been quoted in news as saying that the workers battling the reactors are just doing their jobs that they are paid for. In saying this, they show how utterly dehumanized their world is. Their words are an embarrassment to them, not to the country, and certainly not to the workers who are fighting death each moment - explosion, accident or radioactivity. I feel quite certain that this arrogant person cannot afford to foot the bill for the things he claims have been paid for. He reminds me of the people shooting at the rescue helicopters after Hurricane Kartina.
To end this post, I want to throw in my estimation of what will happen. First, I think that since at least the spraying water from fire engines is working, it will be continued while more robust solutions are searched. Very likely, some electricity powered solution that can be switched on and left alone will happen, at which point everyone can forget about this while it cools down while the employees at the plant get around to fixing leaks and other problems. It will happen within hours if the cooling systems are working when they get electricity, or in another day if something new is brought in.
I think the residents in the immediate vicinity may not be allowed to return home, but the remaining will, once the radiation leaks are stopped, and any possibility for recurrence is prevented.
Here is to Japan and its spirit to live, to endure, and most of all its incredibly pragmatic attitude. I leave you with a cartoon for Kids to understand what's up with Fukushima. It is clearer about what is happening than many detailed accounts. Don't miss this.