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).