March 12, 2011- The situation at Japanese nuclear facilities now seems to be dire, with a reported explosion in the vicinity of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant at Fukushima, Japan. Not only this particular site but upto five other sites may be in a dangerous state of operation, say reports. Below is an interview of an expert posted on YouTube regarding an assessmnet of the situation. This is like a nightmare begun for Japan, as well as the rest of the world. Apparently the cooling water pumping failures were caused by the loss of backup power generators that drive the cooling water pumps due to severe damage in the earthquake and Tsunami. Though the reactor buildings themselves are suppposed to be designed to take care of earthquakes, even of this magnitude, the cooling water systems, which are critical for the safe shutdown of the plant apparently are not, going by the sequence of events. There are multiple backup power sources for such critical functions, but in this case the tsunami seems to have crippled all the backup systems. It is unclear how the authorities and experts are planning to handle this increasingly dire situation. Initially residents within a 2 Km radius around the plant were ordered to be evacuated, then after problems continued, residents within a 10 Km radius were also ordered evacuated, then again residents within a 20 Km radius were evacuated and now the latest reports say that residents have been urged to not venture out at all. This may be beacuse radiation may have already contaminated the air for miles around, similar to the Chernobyl accident.
Meanwhile the Japanese government has denied that the explosion affected the actual reactor. Only the outer containment building was affected, the roof of which blew off. This is not good at all as this building is supposed to trap the radioactive material that may come out of the metallic containment vessel surrounding the reactor. One hopes that the actual reactor is in a safer condition than what appears. Radiation rates have increased significantly, with unconfirmed reports citing figures that the daily radiation in the area now equals the total radiation over a year!
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, that runs the plant says that four workers were injured in the explosion.
Other experts opine that since the reactor is a light water reactor, a Chernobyly type incident cannot happen. This must be surely good news to everybody around the area. A loss of coolant may cause a temperature rise, but it will also decelerate the reaction, according to the expert.
More information is available at the link here (at the website of the Union of Concerned Scientists).
For a more recent update on the nuclear plant incident please click here.
Tokyo, March 12 update- Pressure at one of the Daiichi reactors is continuing to rise, worrying the authorities. Reportedly radioactive steam from one reactor was vented out after evacuating residents in a 10 Km radius in Fukushima, about 170 miles north of Tokyo.
Tokyo, Mar 11, 2011- An earthquake of a very large magnitude (8.9 on the Richter scale) has caused massive damage at an oil refinery as well as a nuclear power plant. The Cosmo oil refinery, near the city of Ichihara, in Chiba prefecture experienced a massive blaze after the earthquake hit. You can see it in the video below.
According to reports, natural gas storage tanks were part of the blaze. It is still not clear if the fire is under control. Things are equally bad, if not worse at the various Nuclear Power plants, where safety shutdown systems are automatically programmed to shut down the plants in case of an earthquake above a certain magnitude. Residents near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, located about 170 miles north east of Tokyo, were reportedly evacuated after the cooling system failed, triggering a fear of a possible nuclear meltdown. If cooling water is unable to be pumped to the core, then it may cause the reactor to melt and carry over into a steel containment vessel, which also has an outer concrete containment chamber. So far no reports suggest that anything has come into the containment chambers.However this thought itself is scary as if something radioactive does escape, it can cause severe radiation damage to large parts of the countryside.
Meanwhile apparently Ms. Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State has informed that the US Military has transported additional coolant to the facility and will extend its help as needed.
There are reports of a fire in the turbines of the Onagawa Nuclear Power plant, while another facility at the same site is having a “water leak”, which is not good news at all.
The unprecendented nuclear power shutdown means that large swathes of areas are without any electricity at all, making the disaster worse than it had to be. Though diesel backup power generators are on, they cannot substitute for all the load. The earthquake highlights the consequential accidents and damages that can occur due to a natural phenomenon such as an earthquake.
The incident also highlights that supposedly “clean” nuclear power has a very big disadvantage-the danger of a radiation leak after something like an earthquake. Environmentalists please note!
Meanwhile various news reports suggest that there could be various nuclear facilities in Japan which could have failures that have been unreported so far, which is cause for worry. This has caused the Japanese government to declare an “atomic emergency”, a scary word indeed, not only for the Japanese, but for all of us as well.