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Japan Syndrome: Tokyo Electric nuclear plant in peril after earthquake and tsunami cripple cooling system

By Joe Romm  

"Japan Syndrome: Tokyo Electric nuclear plant in peril after earthquake and tsunami cripple cooling system"

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UPDATE2: Explosion rocks plant, officials assume partial meltdown

UPDATE:  Japanese officials, “are working under the presumption” that there have been partial meltdowns at two reactors, said Yukio Edano, the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

An explosion rocked one of Japan’s nuclear power plants, causing a portion of a building to crumble, sending white smoke billowing into the air and prompting Japanese officials to warn those in the vicinity to cover their mouths and stay indoors.

In what may become the most serious nuclear power crisis since the Chernobyl disaster, the explosion followed large tremors at the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 reactor Saturday afternoon, injuring four workers who were struggling to get the quake-stricken unit under control.

Earlier, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency had warned that the reactor, whose cooling system had been crippled by the giant earthquake on Friday, could be nearing a meltdown and that two radioactive substances, cesium and radioactive iodine, had already been detected nearby.

The full extent of the blast remained unclear, but footage on Japanese television showed that the walls of the building housing the reactor crumpled, leaving a skeletal metal frame, according to the Associated Press.

UPDATE:  That’s the WashPost at 8:04 AM EST Saturday.   It doesn’t appear the siting and fail-safe design of this plant was sufficiently thought out, given that Japan is situated along the Ring of Fire, “where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.”

Here’s ABC News, which notes in its sub-hed “Nuclear Scientists Warn of ‘Very Serious’ Radioactive Event if Japanese Reactor Not Cooled”:

Radiation levels inside a Japanese nuclear power plant have surged to 1,000 times their normal levels after today’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake knocked out power to a cooling system, and tsunami floods have hampered efforts to get it restored.

Meanwhile, heat-induced pressure built up inside the crippled reactor, prompting widespread evacuations and stoking fears of a potentially catastrophic radioactive event….

Scientists said that even though the reactor had stopped producing energy, its fuel continues to generate heat and needs steady levels of coolant to prevent it from overheating and triggering a dangerous cascade of events.

“You have to continue to supply water. If you don’t, the fuel will start to overheat and could melt,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist in the Global Security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington,A meltdown could lead to a breach of the reactor’s steel containment vessel and allow radiation to escape into an outer, concrete containment building, or even into the environment.

“Up to 100 percent of the volatile radioactive Cesium-137 content of the pools could go up in flames and smoke, to blow downwind over large distances,” said Kevin Kamps, a nuclear waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear, which is an advocacy group that opposes nuclear weapons and power.

“Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago.”

Japanese officials said radiation has not yet leaked from the plant, but ordered 2,800 people living around the facility to evacuate their homes as a precaution.

Let’s all hope the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen.

It must be said that when the worst-case scenario is unmitigated catastrophe, the greatest possible steps must be taken in advance to ensure it does not happen — and that starts with siting and design.

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159 Responses to Japan Syndrome: Tokyo Electric nuclear plant in peril after earthquake and tsunami cripple cooling system

  1. Not a problem; we can just apply the magic of geoengineering to prevent earthquake damage to nukes.

  2. dp says:

    “say, capitalclimate, isn’t that the same magical geoengineering they used to save the gulf of mexico from an oily death?”

  3. J Bowers says:

    There may now be three reactors at the Fukushima No2 plant with similar problems.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/11/japan-tsunami-earthquake-live-coverage

    More at World Nuclear News:
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Massive_earthquake_hits_Japan_1103111.html

  4. Scrooge says:

    Well its only the scientists saying how bad it could be. I better wait to hear what fox or inhofe has to say. Is it Obamas or EPA’s fault. Maybe it never really happened its just a hoax.

  5. Proworrier says:

    If there are localized geologic effects like tremors and landslides arising from the filling of the three gorges dam in China, then why couldn’t climage change effects on tthe planetary cryosphere lead to extreme crustal dynamics events around the “Pacific” ring of fire?

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Distributed Solar Thermal Power, Solar PV, Wind Power, a Smart Grid, and etc.

    There are so, so many advantages of sources of power that are distributed and that, if some sort of disaster strikes, don’t create a large dangerous mess. Sourcing power from the sun, wind, geothermal, and waves offers immense advantages: sources are more evenly spread, the power generated is more clean, the approaches more sustainable, and so forth. But most of our politicians don’t seem to care, much, about those benefits, or even about the jobs that would be created in a serious shift to these sources of power. It seems that we have elected far too many dummies.

    In my experience, the Japanese usually build things very, very well. If their reactors or systems have problems, in natural disasters or otherwise, I wonder what sorts of problems nuclear reactors built in many other countries might have? Yikes. And then the winds blow the radioactive clouds around the world. I’ve forgotten, but how long does it take, on average, for the atmosphere over Eastern China and Japan to travel over the Pacific to California, Oregon, and Washington? A couple weeks, I think? Less? Who remembers?

    I was in Tokyo, long ago, during a modest but significant earthquake. I’ve also been in Los Angeles during one of the biggies, and in San Francisco during the biggie in 1989. I used to have the feeling that earthquakes followed me around, but maybe that’s a feeling everyone gets if you live in California for a long time.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  7. Mike # 22 says:

    The news is hinting at some serious issues with getting electric power to the cooling pumps needed for the next two days (or so). First it was just unit 1, now “Japan has declared states of emergency for five nuclear reactors at two power plants after the units lost cooling ability in the aftermath of Friday’s powerful earthquake” http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5hLlONN0iMFeM_nCmEub5-I5z31bg?docId=N0440351299888110638A

  8. J Bowers says:

    “Retard” Limbaugh says (get the head vise out)…

    “This has to be a tough call out there for the environmentalists around the world,” Limbaugh said. “They’re scrambling now to blame this on global warming…much of the damage seems to have happened in that part of Japan most heavily involved in manufacturing cars. So do environmentalists cheer or do they pretend to be saddened by this? It’s a legitimate question.”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/11/japan-earthquake-limbaugh_n_834729.html

    What a moron.

  9. J Bowers says:

    Good interview with Scott Burnell of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), based on what’s happening to the Japanese reactors.

    Scientific American: ‘How to Cool a Nuclear Reactor’.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-cool-a-nuclear-reactor

  10. Solar Jim says:

    Atomic fission and atomic weapons, which both include the closely related technologies of uranium enrichment and reactor plutonium fabrication, belong in the dust bin of history.

    If this reactor “melts down” and contaminates the nation of Japan, then yet another nation-state (remember the USSR and Chernobyl) will be taught the meaning of “economic externality.” That is, cooking the books of risk, value and liability.

    Here in the USA (as for all nations with nuclear power) this military propagated “industry” is “indemnified” from free-market risk assessment, called insurance. It is illegal for American property owners to purchase insurance against radiation damages. Revoke the 1957 federal Price-Andersen Nuclear Insurance Indemnification Law and this nation-state sanctioned and subsidized investor scheme would close down. Then we might build a truly fossil-free and nuclear-free clean energy economy, instead of suffering the liabilities we have today in numerous regards.

    Everyone should know there are about 435 operating reactors around the world, with more under construction or planned including for the Middle-East. We should pray those utility workers in Japan can keep the core and “spent fuel” from reaching “criticality.”

  11. Lee Chasseur says:

    It must be said that when the worst-case scenario is unmitigated catastrophe[...]

    Please define “unmitigated catastrophe”.

    [JR: Uhh, how about core meltdown.]

  12. David B. Benson says:

    The usual suspects, being anti-nuclear advocates, may well overstate matters. A reasonably continuous series of recent comments on
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/02/20/open-thread-9/
    and
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/05/04/dv82xl-2/
    should better explain the current state of affairs at the the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

  13. Andrew says:

    Did you notice how he first said that reactors were engineered to withstand earthquakes? Then the host asked him “how big?” “Seven” was the sheepish response.

    Whats the bet some bright spark did a cost vs. risk analysis and decided it wasn’t worth spending the extra money based on the probability of a quake larger than a 7.

  14. David B. Benson says:

    J Bowers @6 — Thanks for the link.

  15. Wit's End says:

    Tokyo (CNN) — Reactors at two Japanese power plants can no longer cool radioactive substances inside, a prominent electric company said Saturday, according to a news agency report that added that atomic material may have leaked out of one of the plants.

    Citing the Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan’s Kyodo News Agency said that radioactive substances may have seeped out of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo.
    Potentially dangerous problems in cooling radioactive material appear to have cropped up there, as well as at another of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear plants. Both plants are named Fukushima Daiichi and both have nuclear reactors, but they are separate facilities.

    Kyodo reported Saturday that the power company alerted authorities that the cooling system at three of the four units of one Fukushima Daini plant in northeastern Japan’s Fukushima prefecture had failed.
    Temperatures of that plant’s coolant water was hotter than 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), the news agency said, an indication that the cooling system wasn’t working.

    Authorities subsequently ordered residents within 3 kilometers of that facility to evacuate, reported Kyodo. That plant was also added to the Japanese nuclear agency’s emergency list, along with the other Fukushima Daiichi plant.

    The news agency also reported Saturday that Japan’s nuclear safety agency ordered the power company to release valves in that plant, as well as the other Fukushima Daiichi plant’s “No. 1″ reactor. The goal was to release some of the growing pressure inside the reactors tied to both atomic plants.

    This comes amid Kyodo’s reports, citing the same Japanese agency, that radiation levels were 1,000 times above normal in the the control room of the “No. 1″ reactor at one of the facilities.

    These and other issues caused by the 8.9-magnitude quake prompted authorities to order an evacuation of people within 2 to 3 kilometers (1.2 to 1.8 miles) of the plant, a move Edano called “precautionary.” Early Saturday morning, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that the evacuation order had been extended to affect those within 10 kilometers of the reactor.

    …James Acton, a physicist who examined the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant after a 2007 earthquake, told CNN that Japanese authorities are in a race to cool down the Fukushima reactor.
    “If they can’t restore power to the plant (and cool the reactor), then there’s the possibility of some sort of core meltdown,” he said.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/11/japan.nuclear/index.html?iref=NS1

  16. Paul K2 says:

    David B. Benson: I went the pro-nuclear site you linked to, and left these questions on one of the threads there. Do have the answers to these questions?

    I have a couple of questions for people on this thread (and these are serious questions, so please don’t laugh them off):

    1. I noticed that they “lost” the diesel backup units about the same time the tsunami hit the plant locations. Is it possible the debris from the tsunami jammed the cooling pump filters and intakes? What good would the backup electric system be, if the cooling water supply is blocked? It seems that they should have an alternative emergency cooling system in place.

    2. These nuclear accidents makes nuclear plants look extremely fallible.

    If one of these reactors melt down, what is the estimate for the eventual death toll, both from initial overexposure and eventually due to higher death rates due to higher radioactive levels in air, soils, and water? I would guess nuclear proponents would have these estimates at their fingertips, perhaps as a function of the amount of radioactive material released. Can one of these reactors release as much radioactive material as Chernobyl?

    3. Are these reactors finished? Do you think they will run again?

    4. Do the owners carry insurance to cover the financial costs associated with a failure? If the Gulf Coast oil spill caused over $50 B in damages, what is the likely financial damages if one of the reactors melts down? Roughly the same cost?

    I will look for your answers to these questions.

  17. Paul K2 says:

    On a personal note: The reports claim that radiation levels in the control room at the first plant is already 1000 times normal and climbing. My heart goes out to the people in that control room… tonight they may be paying for our safety with their lives.

    Hopefully, the backup electrical systems that are being moved to the site can restore the cooling water flow, and cool the reactor core, preventing additional radioactive steam releases or an containment explosion.

  18. Catchblue22 says:

    From what I can see, this reactor uses water as a moderator.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_Water_Reactor#Safety_Systems

    A moderator is essential in a nuclear reaction, in that it slows down the neutrons, allowing them to “stick” to neighboring nuclei, causing them to undergo fission. If you remove the moderator, the reaction should slow eventually. This would seem to make a full meltdown less likely. However, I don’t know the detailed ins and outs of this design. The risks are of an explosion in the reactor vessel that would release large amounts of nuclear fallout.

    It seems likely to me that this reactor will have to vent some radioactive water to relieve pressure. This would be different than what happened at Chernobyl, where there was an explosion and fire. I hope that this reactor design will allow a controlled shutdown, at least through the removal of the moderator. I hope it isn’t the case that the removal of the water moderator will also result in a catastrophic lack of cooling, causing an explosion. I think this is the main risk, though I can’t assess it, not having studied the reactor design in detail.

    Chernobyl used graphite as a moderator…this was one of the key design flaws that caused the explosion. The nuclear fuel rods became jammed inside the reactor, and there was no way to stop the reaction. Since the moderator was solid graphite, it wasn’t going anywhere. And so heat continued to be produced until there was an explosion. Having water as a moderator would seem to be safer, since it evaporates when exposed to heat.

  19. Vic says:

    Relax everybody.
    As we’ve been told for decades now, “this can’t happen in a modern nuclear power plant”.
    (as radio-active steam from two reactors vents to the atmosphere).

  20. David B. Benson says:

    Discussion Thread – Japanese nuclear reactors and the 11 March 2011 earthquake
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/12/japan-nuclear-earthquake/
    Useful links to knowledgeable news sources.

  21. David B. Benson says:

    Vic @17 — I seriously doubt your claim. Please follow the link in my prior comment.

  22. Merrelyn Emery says:

    #14. Andrew, Japan has its own scale, 7 is the top, ME

  23. jyyh says:

    OT, but related, checked on the map of the path of the tsunami waves would indicate it doesn’t hit Ross Ice Shelf directly, for Indonesian Islands (f.e. New Britain) are on the way.

  24. K. Nockels says:

    We seem to be hitting stride with the amount of big earthquakes lately,
    not only that, but the costs in lives and property are hugh. Please lets not add a core meltdown to the list. Only 170 miles to Tokyo that would make Chernoble look small, which it was not. Hawaii had a 5.6 earthquake today associated with the eruption at Killawea. Enough already.

  25. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    During Tsunami the nuclear plants nearby are worst affected.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  26. Lewis C says:

    David at 19/.

    I’m not sorry to bust your apologia.

    The BBC have been reporting the release of radioactive steam from two damaged nuclear plants for several hours.

    Apparently (according to Japanese officials) this is being done to reduce pressure and thereby to reduce temperature in hopes of reducing the probability of the plants melting down. Radioactivity in one of the control rooms is reportedly 1,000 times higher than normal.

    The sheer hubristic incompetence of the nuclear industry repeatedly astonishes me.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  27. Lewis C says:

    Proworrier at 5/.
    In answer to your question, you might be interested by the abstract of a paper by Pro Bill McGuire and a Guardian article on it that I posted at #66/.on an earlier thread:

    http://climateprogress.org/2011/03/10/jpl-greenland-antarctica-ice-sheet-mass-loss-accelerating-sea-level-rise-1-foot-by-2050/#comments

    According to USGS lists of all recorded large earthquakes, there has definitely been a very significant very sudden rise in the frequency of events above magnitude 6.0., starting in the late ‘90s.

    As I’m unable to post a graph here, the best I can do to show the results of a spreadsheet assessment of the change is to list the average number of events of 6.0 or higher for successive periods since 1900.

    1900 to 1997: 195 events in 98 years; average 1.99 /yr

    1986 to 1997: 27 events in 12 years; average 2.25 /yr

    1998 to 2009: 317 events in 12 years; average 26.42 /yr

    As a graph, this data looks remarkably like a hockey stick.
    (So have we got enough to arm a team yet ?)

    I suspect that IF a causal link between cryosphere decline (> ice loss > sea-level rise) and rising major earthquakes’ frequency continues to gain scientific credibility, then it may well have a very different effect than the threat of rising drought and flood damage events on nations’ tolerance to date of status-quo foot-dragging over a stringent binding climate treaty.

    Earthquakes are different. They can disable your cities; bust your nuclear facilities, kill up to hundreds of thousands, etc, and all without warning and with very strong media attraction. Very bad for business.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  28. Colorado Bob says:

    Emergencies declared at 5 Japan nuclear reactors
    Radioactive leak detected at one; thousands evacuated

    The government declared a state of emergency at the Daiichi unit — the first at a nuclear plant in Japan’s history. But hours later, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the six-reactor Daiichi site, announced that it had lost cooling ability at a second reactor there and three units at its nearby Fukushima Daini site.

    The government quickly declared states of emergency for those units, too, and thousands of residents near Fukushima Daini also were told to leave.

    Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the situation was most dire at Fukushima Daiichi’s Unit 1, where pressure had risen to twice what is consider the normal level. The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that diesel generators that normally would have kept cooling systems running at Fukushima Daiichi had been disabled by tsunami flooding.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42025882/ns/world_news-asiapacific/

  29. Colorado Bob says:

    These all seem to be the oldest reactors in the fleet.

  30. Tony O'Brien says:

    http://english.kyodonews.jp/
    BREAKING NEWS: Radioactive Cesium detected near Fukushima plant: nuke safety commission
    14:13 12 MarchBREAKING NEWS: Fukushima nuke plant might be experiencing nuclear meltdown

    This just got a little worse

  31. fliptop says:

    bernhardhopfner: RT @alogne: Nuclear expert tells The Times: Meltdown has technically begun at #Fukushima ☢ (unconfirmed)
    less than a minute ago via web

    JOSE97LUIS: RT @EMN: Japan Nuclear Safety Commission CONFIRMS #Cesium has been detected at #Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 reactor suggesting that the Rods have melted.
    half a minute ago via TweetDeck

  32. Colorado Bob says:

    5.30am: @tukky_nt RT @Reuters: FLASH: #Japan nuclear authorities say high possibility of meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 reactor – Jiji. RT @TomokoHosaka: Japan nuclear safety commission official says meltdown at nuclear power plant possible, AP confirms. #earthquake #jpquake

    5.20am: Kyodo news has just reported that the Fukushima nuclear plant might be experiencing nuclear meltdown.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/mar/12/japan-tsunami-earthquake-live-coverage

  33. Arjen says:

    @ Andrew #14 says: “Did you notice how he first said that reactors were engineered to withstand earthquakes? Then the host asked him “how big?” “Seven” was the sheepish response.

    Whats the bet some bright spark did a cost vs. risk analysis and decided it wasn’t worth spending the extra money based on the probability of a quake larger than a 7.”

    As an engineer I make those kinds of calculations daily and there is just a limit what you can design for. To give you an idea, this quake was about a 1000 times as strong as a 7 quake. You know they will happen somewhere, sometime, but that is it. This is just not something you can design to. And even if you do, there can always be a bigger quake. Theoretically we can expect a 12 quake on earth and it will have a global impact. Should we start to design for that one?

    Although the damage is horrendous and I fear the loss of life will end up in the tens of thousands, there is no other country on earth as prepared for this kind of disaster as Japan. A similar quake anywhere else would see devastation on a far grander scale.

  34. Prokaryotes says:

    Within the former Soviet Union several nuclear meltdowns of differing severity have occurred. In the most serious example, the Chernobyl disaster, design flaws and operator negligence led to a power excursion that subsequently caused a meltdown. According to a report released by the Chernobyl Forum (consisting of numerous United Nations agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization; the World Bank; and the Governments of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia) the disaster killed twenty-eight persons due to acute radiation syndrome,[3] could possibly result in up to four thousand fatal cancers at an unknown time in the future[4] and required a Zone of Alienation around the reactor. The Chernobyl plant did not have a containment building as found on Western commercial reactor designs.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown

  35. fliptop says:

    best case still worst since chernobyl:

    http://nightline.tumblr.com/

  36. Prokaryotes says:

    The effects of a nuclear meltdown depend on the safety features designed into a reactor. A modern reactor is designed both to make a meltdown highly unlikely, and to contain one should it occur. In the future passively safe or inherently safe designs will make the possibility exceedingly unlikely.
    In a modern reactor, a nuclear meltdown, whether partial or total, should be contained inside the reactor’s containment structure. Thus (assuming that no other major disasters occur) while the meltdown will severely damage the reactor itself, possibly contaminating the whole structure with highly radioactive material, a meltdown alone will generally not lead to significant radiation release or danger to the public. The effects are therefore primarily economic.[13]
    In practice, however, a nuclear meltdown is often part of a larger chain of disasters (although there have been so few meltdowns in the history of nuclear power that there is not a large pool of statistical information from which to draw a credible conclusion as to what “often” happens in such circumstances). For example, in the Chernobyl accident, by the time the core melted, there had already been a large steam explosion and graphite fire and major release of radioactive contamination (as with almost all Soviet reactors, there was no containment structure at Chernobyl). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_meltdown

  37. fliptop says:

    WSJ finally has article on this and apparently CNN has mentioned something:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703555404576195700301455480.html

  38. Alex Smith says:

    At Newsmax, nuclear expert Mark Hibbs says he has talked with Japanese nuclear officials who suggest the Tsunami waters may have flooded at least one reactor, disabling control mechanisms and backup systems. Whether anyone can install a new cooling system in time is unknown.

    If not, Japan gets its first Three Mile Island event, or even a Chernobly event.

    I checked, a list of 28 major Japanese nuclear power reactors, late on March 11th. Only 9 were in normal operation. Eleven were automatically shut down during the Earth Quake. The rest were either not operating, or shutdown for a periodic inspection.

    That is a big loss to Japanese electricity production cabability, because they are so dependent on nuclear power.

    Some demand has fallen, because so much power is out in parts of the country, due to the quake and tsunami wrecking buildings, powerlines, and transmission stations.

    Large power users like the Toyota factories have announced they are closed until further notice. It is possible there is not enough power to run the Japanese manufacturing and export economy, at least for a short period. The government is proposing power rationing for Tokyo.

    Japan does have backup power capacity with natural gas generators. These emit more greenhouse gases, and just the prospect of Japan ordering extra tankers of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) to make up for lost nucler capacity has already pushed up the price of LNG on the London international market.

    However, as there has been a near-glut of gas following gas fracking discoveries in many countries, the Earth quake may not result in long term changes to LNG prices.

    None of this touches on the stock market and banking disquiet of one of the world’s largest economies, led by one of the most financially over-extended governments (read super-debt), and Japanese big banks which may be bankrupt, like other in the Western-style system.

    The government has already announced still more bond sales, and like the U.S. government, may buy back their own securities to finance a gigantic rebuilding effort. High unemployment in Japan may ease temporarily.

    In an already fragile economic and ecological system, the double threat of nuclear failure, both immediate with radiation, and long-term disinvestment in nuclear power as a whole, is predictable. We just didn’t know an earthquake would create the next disaster.

    In a country which allegedly led the way in earthquake engineering and construction. If it failed in Japan, it will fail even more in California, Indonesia, and many parts of the world.

    People in Japan have every reason to be very worried abou this new nuclear threat. The Japanese government has not been forthright about the nuclear material already leaking out, or the real long-term risk of the purposely vented “vapor.”

    If a major accident occurred, children around the Northern Hemisphere could acquire another dose toward their higher cancer risk.

    Nuclear power is never safe.

    Alex Smith host, Radio Ecoshock
    Available as an audio podcast at:
    http://www.ecoshock.info/2011/03/japan-earthquake-atomic-emergency.html

  39. Andrew DeWit says:

    I’d really hate to be Japanese PM Kan Naoto. He and the Democrats took over from the LDP after the regime change election in August of 2009. They promised to emphasize sustainable energy (through a robust feed-in tariff and serious RPS, etc), but then fell into the arms of the nuclear lobby (utilities, steel makers, research establishment, etc) and stressed an “all-Japan” public-private effort to sell reactors overseas and build more than 9 domestically by 2020 (with nuclear going from 10% of primary energy at present to 24% by 2030). Even before this crisis, Kan’s government was already on the rocks, with its support at about 20% (the sayonara line iin Japanese politics). Now Kan, having embraced a literally radioactive lobby, risks losing the chance to redeem his administration by stoutly leading the recovery from an historic disaster. He ought to have known better, being the former Health Minister who exposed the vested interests who traded in HIV-infected blood products.

  40. fliptop says:

    scary video of explosion at fukushima daiichi plant:

    http://www.twitvid.com/LICNU

  41. fliptop says:

    fukushima pic:

    http://i.imgur.com/yQGkS.jpg

    hydrogen explosion? containment vessel? anyone?

  42. Richard Brenne says:

    Eight posts below is the fascinating post with the headline “JPL Bombshell: Polar ice sheet mass loss is speeding up, on pace for 1 foot sea level rise by 2050.”

    After that post (with many excellent comments) I had just written comment #55 including a paragraph about how sea level rise could have seismological affects when the Japan earthquake hit. I looked up the biggest earthquakes in history (#62) and found that five of the 17 largest had occurred in the last six and a quarter years on a list that extends 426 years. I suggest anyone interested visit that post and especially that they read Lewis C’s post at #66 with two of the best links on that subject.

    Here is my last post there, furthering that conversation:

    Everett Rowdy (#71) – Good points. I’ve been reading as much as I can of Bill McGuire and others that share this view, including the two links Lewis C alerts us to in his great comment at #66.

    Glaciers can hold the earth’s crust more in check, while rapid melting of glaciers can create isostatic rebound that can trigger earthquakes and volcanoes that might have otherwise taken longer to develop.

    I’d say that losing weight from glaciers, icefields and especially icecaps and then shifting and adding the weight of water re-distributed around the globe (especially from Greenland and other ice in the north to all oceans, including those in the southern hemisphere, which is mostly ocean) is having and will have an increasing effect.

    It is just difficult to know which of these events would occur without any climate change and which are related. I’d say now that climate change is becoming so dramatic, both climate change and tectonic forces are responsible, with the tectonic forces themselves being at this point far more responsible.

    The best metaphor I’ve been able to come up with so far is that every subduction zone and other major fault is like a powder keg, waiting to go off at some point. Each of these powder kegs has a fuse, and an earthquake (or volcanic eruption) will result when the fuse is lit.

    Right now climate change is like throwing millions of firecrackers just about everywhere, and some of those might light some of those fuses. But as climate change and melting accelerates toward the end of this century and many centuries into the future, it will instead be like throwing millions of increasingly large Molotov cocktails around, which of course have a greater chance of lighting those fuses, and are also delicious.

  43. Lewis C says:

    fliptop -

    Watching frame by frame from 9 secs into the video, large bits of debris are visible being blasted to 2 or 3 times the height of Reactor #1 and out to several times its length, followed by a massive cloud of smoke and perhaps steam.

    A nuclear pro on BBC (which is now showing a better clip of video) suggests that the radioactive steam could be heated enough to break it to hydrogen and oxygen, which can then recombine explosively – hence the building’s wall cladding being blown across the countryside.

    One factor that doesn’t mesh with this account is the dirty brown smoke given off, as H2 + O2 would recombine just to water vapour.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  44. jyyh says:

    The dirty smoke would be the burnt insides.

  45. fliptop says:

    tks for that… People working there, they are heros. I remember Chernobyl when I was working at Bureau of Econoomic Geology at Balcones Research Center in Austin. What a worry this is, same as then…

  46. Stephen Watson says:

    Joe said: “It must be said that when the worst-case scenario is unmitigated catastrophe, the greatest possible steps must be taken in advance to ensure it does not happen — and that starts with siting and design.”

    Sorry Joe, but no. It starts with not even building nuclear power plants or thinking about building them and certainly, given that we apparently have 435 already, it certainly means building no more.

    Nuclear power arose in the fossil fuelled era – the enrichment of uranium, the construction of the rods and the entire structure of a nuclear power plant require advanced expertise way beyond most other industries. Let alone the finance and insurance breaks given to no other industry in the same fashion. But of course it’s the waste that is the real problem – how do you GUARANTEE (to those not yet even born) that the cooling ponds and other safety mechanisms will work flawlessly for hundreds, if not thousands of years after all of us reading this are long dead and buried.

    Such arrogance and blind short sightedness. So uneccessary. A truly sustainable way of human life, that has addressed the huge challenge of climate change has no nuclear power plants in its future. Ever.

  47. Stephen Watson says:

    Colorado Bob says: “These all seem to be the oldest reactors in the fleet.”

    Should I be alarmed or comforted by that information?

  48. Mikhail Kropotkin says:

    @fliptop, where is that map from?

    Everybody, any informed opinion as to the likely multiplier from rads to rems for the kind of products in that cloud?

  49. jcwinnie says:

    @ Stephen – Remain Calm – Nuclear Power Is Good – Spin Doctors Are Being Dispatched

    @ Explosion commentary – There were reports that the earthquake damaged the backup diesel generators (the first redundancy if electric power from the Grid failed, which it had). So could that have been the explosion?

    @JR – This is probably a bad time to float Lindsey Graham for 2014 Republican VP candidate, eh?

    @nobody in particular – Will somebody turn off those effing klaxons

  50. Beesaman says:

    Well if I was to do the maths I’d ban people living near the sea way before I’d ban nuclear power stations. Then there’d be folks living on floodplains, near volcanoes, eating high fat diets, driving cars and so on. Why is it that we forget basic numbers when it comes to nuclear power and get all hysterical?

  51. denim says:

    This is the typical result of overconfident designers who really do not understand what fail safe means. As a non reactor example, suppose you want a building that is fail safe, but you live in a high frequency brush fire area. You can install a wonderful sprinkler system, but is that fail safe? No, what happens when the water flow fails? Your building burns down. Fail safe means protection against all failures. So basically you have to make the building heat proof against the highest intensity brush fire physically possible. The building would be made of stone and the outside covered with space shuttle ceramic tiles. Everything is passive, but inherently self protected. The same kind of thinking process needs to be done while designing a reactor: when all systems have failed, it still must cool off safely without help.

  52. Mike Roddy says:

    Humans suffer from gigantism, which killed the dinosaurs and the oversize mammals in the late Pleistocene. Banks all over the world especially love nuclear, since multibillion dollar, long timescale projects with government guarantees mean easy money, with lots of fees. That’s the biggest reason the nuclear lobby is so powerful. The power of this money is so great that we’ve even seen revisionist history of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island lately parroted in the press.

    A more basic reason for gigantism is selection for sexual attractiveness via size and display. Nuclear suppliers and banks are staffed by people who make big salaries, enabling more mates via either wives or prostitutes. Extinction is the ultimate result, as even today we see certain mammal and bird species with outsize horns, feathers, or other counterproductive armaments that create inefficiencies leading to energy uncompetitiveness in the long run.

    Nuclear is only the latest example of this insanity, along with giant high tech coal and gas plants. These are quite expensive by any rational accounting compared to distributed or small scale solar and wind. These higher order mating behaviors could turn out once again to be good extinction predictors.

  53. PAUL DONOHUE says:

    The earthquake reminds me of something the media doesn’t talk about: Water cooled N plants are very vulnerable to terrorism. If a plane flew into one, cooling would stop and melt down follow.
    CANDU plants are safer.

  54. Wit's End says:

    Stephen Watson #54

    I completely agree with you. We should NEVER have pursued nuclear power. Why not, Beesaman #60?

    Because…meltdowns and not only COMPLETELY predictable but indeed, inevitable.

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2011/03/fukushima-japanpictures-of-chernobyland.html

  55. J Bowers says:

    The impression I get is that the reactors and backup generators are earthquake safe, but backup generators are not tsunami safe and appear to have been damaged by the water not the quake itself, whereas the reactor containers are sealed from flooding.

    Perhaps a good idea would be something as simple as positioning backup generators four floors in height above ground where there’s even the remotest (less than one in ten million) chance of a tsunami reaching a nuclear plant?

  56. Prokaryotes says:

    Japanese people need to be indoors now, back into the housing which still has potentials to collapse from aftershocks. This nuclear situation is a deadly double whammy – worst case scenarios here we come.

  57. Prokaryotes says:

    Did Lovelock factored in seismic activities and tsunamis, when he thought to build more plants?

  58. Wit's End says:

    #67 Prokaryotes – never mind seismic activities and tsunamis, how can nuclear power plants cooled by ocean water be protected from sea level rise?

  59. J Bowers says:

    Re. 68 Wit’s End

    A bit OT, but does anyone know if there any maps out there showing the locations of nuclear plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, etc, etc, and how far above sea level they are? I seem to recall that many refineries and chemical plants are close to sea level.

  60. J Bowers says:

    NOAA has an animation of how the tsunami propogated across the Pacific:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/NOAAPMEL?feature=mhum#p/c/3/PBZGH3yieLc

  61. Paulm says:

    Just heard on local radio…..wind pattern is such that radioactive plume would reach the west coast if it blew currently…

  62. Yvan Dutil says:

    #63 PAUL DONOHUE CANDU are no much safer because they are overmoderated. If the lost heavy water locally power can increase by a factor of ten. You can have big damage too.

    Everyone seam concerned by the nuclear reactor. But, what is happening with the nuclear waster storage facility. These pool of water must be kept in an ultraclean state to avoid the generation of radioactives isotopes. There is 10 times more radioactive material in these pools that within the nuclear reactor itself. What happens when you drop mud in, it is at everyone guess?

    Usage of boron salt is not reassuring either, since they are usually part of the last line of defence.

  63. Paulm says:

    #68 69 70′

    The reality is just sinking in to to public. I have brought this up before in many different forums and emails to government officials and media and the has been no response.

    It is a weird human response when even the sensationalist tabloids keep ignoring this obvious nightmare situation.

    I guess it takes a catastrophe to wake people up. Bad news therefore on the global warming front.

  64. Colorado Bob says:

    According to the Japanese Nuclear Safety Organization, a probabilistic safety assessment (PSA) was performed on all nuclear power facilities by 2002, with results showing the chance of a core damage accident was 1/100,000 or less per year per reactor. The chance of an accident leading to containment damage is 1/1,000,000 or less per year per reactor. Because of the many safety measures in place, “the occurrence of [a] severe accident is practically unlikely from an engineering viewpoint.” [1]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant

  65. KTB says:

    And what exactly do you propose to use for energy that is as safe and environmentally friendly as nuclear? Anyone?

    Some rationality to the discussion, there seems to be lots of radiation fear here.

    http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/

  66. Colorado Bob says:

    Before and after screen shots of the containment building, it blew the concrete right off the frame.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2011-03-12_1800_NHK_S%C5%8Dg%C5%8D_channel_news_program_screen_shot.jpg

  67. Zetetic says:

    KBT said:

    And what exactly do you propose to use for energy that is as safe and environmentally friendly as nuclear?

    Do you really think that there aren’t other options to nuclear?
    Well how about…
    Bio-gas
    Concentrated Solar
    Geothermal
    Hydroelectric
    Photovoltaic Solar
    Tidal Power
    Wave Power
    Wind Power

    It’s not like we don’t have other options that don’t have those annoying “meltdown” and the “trying to bury the waste for 250,000 years” problems.

    Yes, some of the renewables require storage systems and a smart grid to be truly effective, but those challenges are already being overcome.

    there seems to be lots of radiation fear here.

    Easy to say when you’re not immediately downwind from a nuclear disaster because your government failed to use other options, instead of nuclear. Try saying that to the people that were near Chernobyl.

  68. Zetetic says:

    Sorry I meant “KTB” at the beginning.

  69. KTB says:

    Well sorry, I have lived directly downwind from the Chernobyl accident.

    And eg. hydro has killed thousands of people, how is that safe? And is large scale hydro beneficial for the environment.

    And let’s see realistic proposals for building the stuff you mentioned. Why isn’t Japan, a tech savvy country replacing all it’s nuclear plants with these great and easy solutions? Are they stupid or just incompetent?

    We need energy. Nothing is 100% safe. Nuclear has a proven track record of being the safest and the most environmentally friendly. So what exactly is the problem? Is it like people afraid of vaccines “if it isn’t 100% safe it should be banned”?

    As for waste, we already have waste, so it isn’t a qualitative problem any more, only quantitative. Adding a little more doesn’t exclude any options for the long term management of the waste.

    And if you follow the link I provided, there’s an easy solution. Stick the waste in glass blocks and dump it in the ocean… Only irrational radiation fear is preventing us dealing with the waste “problem”. And besides, it can be stored on site for another hundred years, no problem. It will probably be useful for future nuclear plants, if irrational people don’t continue to block this as an option.

  70. Bill Hewitt says:

    I’ve hated nuclear power for 40 years. It just gets worse. Here’s one more take from me on yesterday’s nightmare in Japan: http://climatechange.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/12/the-tsunami-and-nuclear-power/

  71. Catchblue22 says:

    The news I am getting is that this is not a meltdown. In this type of reactor, water is the moderator. If the reactor gets too hot, the moderator, being water, boils away. Without the moderator, the nuclear chain reaction begins to slow, instead of spiralling out of control. I suspect the risky part occurs when the water is initially removed…without the cooling effects of the water, the temperature would likely spike, making bad things possible. Though I do not know for sure, I suspect that that the reaction is in the process of slowing down. From what I heard from an expert, the explosion we saw was hydrogen exploding outside the main reactor vessel. He said that we are now past the risk of a full meltdown. I can speculate that the moderator has now been removed, and that the reactor itself is being cooled from the outside by sea water. But again, that is speculation.

  72. KTB says:

    Well, nice to “hate” nuclear power. If life was just that easy.

    I think that different renewable techs are the way to go, but it will take a long time to get it implemented for various reasons. We have the technology but not the will to make a substantial push in that direction. In principle if the world were to make a “World War” type push in building a new energy infrastructure it would be doable in propalbly just 10 years. But this is not happening in the real world.

    For that reason I would rather see that countries (like China) build nuclear instead of coal for example. They are researching and implementing alternative energy tech, but it will just take time. We just need more energy than the current pace of advance in renewables can provide, that is a fact. Wishing that guns shoot flowers and hating nuclear doesn’t make the reality to go away.

    I haven’t seen a serious proposal that wouldn’t need other sources of energy in the short term (50 yrs) while building up renewable energy infrastructure. An I mean politically doable, not in principle. Just see how much the US people even hate carbon taxes.

  73. SecularAnimist says:

    KTB wrote: “I think that different renewable techs are the way to go, but it will take a long time to get it implemented for various reasons.”

    There are no insurmountable technological or economic barriers to having a 100 percent renewables powered civilization within 10 years.

    The only barrier is the entrenched wealth and power of the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, who have been actively obstructing and delaying the development and implementation of renewable energy technologies (particularly solar energy) for fifty years.

  74. KTB says:

    To SecularAlarmist. I agree. But we can’t close our eyes from the reality.

    My “option” or proposal is to build nuclear instead of coal or other fossil energy sources (this is many times an either/or situation). And use the money taxed from nuclear power to research and implement renewables. Currently a lot of this money is for different “risk mitigation” uses (nuclear waste handling etc). Let’s put that money to use. And some additional cents per kWh of nuclear (or any other non-renewable source) could of course be added and the money earmarked for sustainable development.

    We can’t just force people/companies/countries to adopt smarter policies by decree, agreed?

  75. Colorado Bob says:

    CNN -
    An explosion that sent white smoke rising above the Fukushima Daiichi plant Saturday afternoon buckled the walls of a concrete building that surrounded one of the plant’s nuclear reactors, but did not damage the reactor itself, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

    ———————
    The “smoke” in this story, is concrete being atomized , notice it is the same color as the “smoke” on 9/11. Those gray clouds that day were the floors of the towers being atomized.

    The Wiki page shows a before and after screen shot of the containment building, it blew all the concrete off the steel frame. Mr. Edano maybe correct in saying the reactor vessel is intact , but I assure you all, the plumbing needed to control this beast is laying in a twisted pile around it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant
    ——
    PS
    Whoever is doing this Wiki page is doing a cracker jack job.

  76. Colorado Bob says:

    According to the World Nuclear Association, a worker operating in a crane on the exhaust stack is now confirmed to have died.[52]
    Wiki -

    This ain’t on the wires, this tells me we will see the glowing pile from a helicopter shot soon. CNN has interviewed a woman twice who’s husband was working at this complex. He cut his feet as they fled the plant he was in. The man told his wife this saved him, because the tsunami was 30 feet at the complex. The man said several people were killed who got out ahead of him.
    Looking at the satellite shot of the complex the cooling water jetties open directly to where the epicenter was located. This small detail my have made the difference . Critical structures here are just 15 meters above sea level. There is no question that one hell of a lot of water was funneled into their water intake bay.

  77. Colorado Bob says:

    Nothing in nature ruins electrical infrastructure like sea water. They never designed the Mark I reactors run when the wires were soaked in sea water.

  78. Colorado Bob says:

    These reactors are all some of the oldest in the Japanese fleet.
    The one that failed today was 40 years old. They started pouring the concrete there in 1967.
    The second one down the coast is the oldest one in Japan.

  79. Prokaryotes says:

    The plan was to shut down fukushima this very month …

  80. Bill Hewitt says:

    re: KTB, #82

    The reason I hate nuclear power now more than I ever did is because the continuing waste of time, money and focus on this bankrupt technology is a drain on our really building out the technologies that we know are all present and correct. Renewables are blowing the doors down today!

    A serious study out from Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council, EU Energy [R]evolution, says that “…97% of Europe’s electricity and 92% of its total energy use could come from renewables in 2050, cutting CO2 emissions by 95% with no need for nuclear power or carbon capture and storage.” (See the study: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/EU-Energy-%28R%29-evolution-scenario.pdf)

  81. Prokaryotes says:

    Great Japan quake generates 8-foot tsunami in California

    A great earthquake rocked the coast of Japan at 5:46 GMT on March 11, generating a dangerous tsunami that raced across the Pacific. The mighty earthquake was rated 8.9 on the Richter scale, making it the 7th most powerful tremor in world history. The world’s 8th largest earthquake, a magnitude 8.8 event, hit Chile on February 27, 2010; never before have two top-ten earthquakes hit so close together in time. Today’s quake was the strongest in Japanese history, and will likely be the most expensive natural disaster in world history, surpassing the $133+ billion dollar price tag from Hurricane Katrina. http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1762

  82. Prokaryotes says:

    A clean energy future starts now!
    Our new Energy Report confirms that all the world’s energy needs could be provided cleanly, sustainably and economically by the year 2050. Renewable energy is the way ahead. http://www.wwf.org.uk/wwf_articles.cfm?unewsid=4584

  83. Prokaryotes says:

    February 14, 2011

    Japan: Economy slips to third in world http://edition.cnn.com/2011/BUSINESS/02/13/japan.economy.third/index.html

  84. KTB says:

    Hey Bill, you are preaching to the choir. But I think that I’m just thinking about this realistically.

    I don’t see nuclear power as a waste of money as it is the safest and most clean energy tech there is. And we need more energy, we need it now. While building up smart tech let’s use the best option because it really is quite a good option. The downsides I think are all fearmongering.

    Renewables haven’t been around as a serious option for very long, so it just takes time to get things going.

    Eg. the country where I live is dark half of the year and all viable hydro probably built. What options do we have for increased demands for energy, or even for the current power needs?

    I think that the smart thing to do (for my small country in the dark and cold) would be to build large amounts of nuclear, and use the energy to get some kind of hydrogen infrastructure and technology going, and money from selling the energy to other countries used to develop renewables. All this for internal use and mainly for export.

    So please, let’s be concrete and not just throw around hypotheticals. What is a country like the following to do energy-wise, a 5-10 year plan for example?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Finland

  85. just a crazy thought says:

    Here’s a wild/oversimplified thought regarding recent global events (Disclaimer: I’m an engineer, NOT a scientist). Could a warmer world decrease the thermal gradient from the earth’s core which in turn would ever so slightly increase the tectonic plasticity resulting in increased earthquakes and volcanism? Obviously modern history would be too short a time scale but climatic history with ice cores might show some amount of correlation.

  86. Mike Roddy says:

    Coal and natural gas companies love nuclear, too. It’s expensive, takes forever to get built, and, like fossil fuels, relies on finite fuel sources. Many of the nuclear touts are associated with the fossil fuel companies, especially through think tanks, talking about nuclear as the only “realistic” alternative. They think the public is too dumb to see through the ruse.

  87. Mike # 22 says:

    When the hydrogen explosion lifted the multi-story reactor building, it very likely took out all the support infrastructure for the reactor and the reactor containment. So there is a partially melted reactor, sitting inside a concrete and stainless steel containment, standing their in the middle of the steel girder frame which is all that remains of the reactor building. Rubble everywhere. It must be a scene from hell.

  88. Richard Brenne says:

    This is one of the few times I’ve seen a CP discussion go off the rails in terms of looking at the big picture.

    How many people could be affected by the worst of these nuclear accidents relative to how many have already been affected by the earthquake and tsunami? How many could be affected relative to the earthquakes and tsunamis of the last year or so in Japan, New Zealand, Chile and Haiti? Or climate change-related weather events in Australia, Pakistan, Russia and many other places?

    If global warming, the loss of ice mass and rising of sea level could help trigger more such events over time as I and others (especially scientist Bill McGuire) suggest in my comment at #50, why has no one commented on that?

    How many lives and dollars could be lost due to an increase in earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes relative to all the lives and dollars that could be lost due to nuclear energy accidents?

    How dangerous are nuclear weapons relative to nuclear energy reactors?

    How many lives have been lost due to coal compared to nuclear energy including all mining and pollution?

    How many lives could be lost due to coal compared to nuclear power (hint about the former according to Hansen: all of them)?

    I’m no fan of nuclear, but I see grizzled warriors I greatly admire re-igniting decades-old grudges and momentarily fighting a battle that might have been more appropriate several decades ago when we’re now immersed in a total war that dwarfs the concerns of that one battle alone.

  89. Edward says:

    EVACUATE DENVER!!!!
    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:
    http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/

    Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.
    http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/factsheets/factsheets-htm/fs10bkvsman.htm

    http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/radiation/around-us/doses-daily-lives.html

    Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Those people living in areas having high levels of background radiation — above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year– such as Denver, Colorado have shown no adverse biological effects.
    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/bio-effects-radiation.html

    Calculations based on data from NCRP reports show that the average level of natural background radiation (NBR) in Rocky Mountain states is 3.2 times that in Gulf Coast states. However, data from the American Cancer Society show that age-adjusted overall cancer death in Gulf Coast states is actually 1.26 times higher than in Rocky Mountain states. The difference from proportionality is a factor of 4.0. This is a clear negative correlation of NBR with overall cancer death. It is also shown that, comparing 3 Rocky Mountain states and 3 Gulf Coast states, there is a strong negative correlation of estimated lung cancer mortality with natural radon levels (factors of 5.7 to 7.5).
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9753369

  90. Colorado Bob says:

    ” get ready little lady, hell is coming to breakfast ”

    Lone Wati

  91. Edward says:

    See:
    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1919/

    Can a few millimeters of sea level rise trigger earthquakes and volcanic eruptions?

  92. Colorado Bob says:

    They are lying rather poorly to their people, why is every nuclear spokesman always lying ?

    Japan evacuates 50,000 after nuclear power plant explosion

    ” Japanese authorities hastened to assure the public there was no danger of a meltdown at the the Fukushima Daiichi plant along the lines of the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine, but they were unable to explain why excess levels of radiation were detected outside the plant’s grounds.

    Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi plant was caused by a buildup of hydrogen in the cooling system. He insisted that the explosion didn’t cause any damage to the reactor itself but merely caused the collapse of a wall outside. ”
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-japan-quake-main-20110313,0,738219.story

    The BBC clip of the explosion :
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12721498

  93. Edward says:

    “An explosion rocked one of Japan’s nuclear power plants, causing a portion of a building to crumble”

    WHICH building? NOT the containment building, but that is the implication.

  94. Edward says:

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation
    Natural background radiation is far larger than the released steam.

  95. Windsong says:

    Considering the fact that water is going to be so scarce in the near future, perhaps the idea of nuclear energy isn’t such a good idea??!!

  96. Bill Hewitt says:

    re: #94 – KTB, Finland can do plenty without nukes: everybody else on the Baltic is building offshore wind; you’ve got ground-source heat pumps by the tens of thousands there, why not more?; use waste-to-energy like your neighbors in Denmark. Olkiluoto is the poster child for nuclear power’s waste of money and time!

    re: #100 – this is a good link for the conference on “Climate Forcing of Geological and Geomorphological Hazards” – very intriguing science, not a little scary (http://www.abuhrc.org/newsmedia/Pages/event_view.aspx?event=5)

  97. Windsong says:

    #95, from book I read, when sea levels rose rapidly in the distant past, earth quakes increased 300 fold.

  98. Colorado Bob says:

    ” Nuclear Power, too cheap to meter “

  99. Edward says:

    Generation 4 reactors CANNOT melt down no matter what. And they consume the “nuclear “waste”" as fuel.

  100. Edward says:

    Who created that wikipedia animation of a containment building loosing its concrete? It is unbelievable. The core is still inside a 5 inch thick stainless steel vessel.

  101. Prokaryotes says:

    Edward you need to worry about gamma radiation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_ray

    Not to be confused with http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gammablitz

  102. Russell says:

    It takes a lot of EcoImagination to want to buy wind turbines from the makers of this quality product?

  103. #103, This reactor isn’t in a US style containment structure. The reactor is in the bottom 2/3 of the building, and the part that blew out was above the reactor itself.

    Schematic of similar installation here:
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7636#comment-775189

  104. Lewis C says:

    Edward –
    “Can a few millimeters of sea level rise trigger earthquakes and volcanic eruptions?”

    I think the answer to your question is yes, given annual repetition and their generation of critical instabilities along faults.

    First though it is worth observing that “a few millimeters of sea level rise” is actually hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice removed from ancient locations and distributed across the oceans, each year, which amounts to trillions of tonnes over the decades.

    Second, the distribution of that mass is neither uniform nor static – not only do some regions attract more SLR than others, but also phenomena such as the Nino events pile waters in different locations to increasingly varied extents and on an increasingly chaotic cycle of time. (The paleo-coral record shows a rock steady 6-year El Nino cycle back at 15k BP, which then shifted to an equally steady 4-year cycle, but since about 1950 all such regularity has been lost).

    Third, land which is suddenly relieved of its ancient ice-mass rebounds upwards to a measurable degree, which in turn provides new stresses to the faults around it, which are transmitted around the globe as a whole. Greenland, for example, has begun to generate huge numbers of small and minor tremors since its ice loss began speeding up last decade.

    Fourth, as the researches of McGuire and others have shown over the last twenty years, the paleo-record is very clear in its indication of increased volcanism accompanying major cryosphere decline events – with the strong implication of a related increase in the scale and frequency of earthquakes.

    Fifth, beside a rising incidence of volcanism, we have begun to observe a major (unpublicized) increase in the scale and frequency of earthquakes. According to USGS list of all recorded large earthquakes, there has clearly been a very significant very sudden rise in the frequency of events above magnitude 6.0, starting in the late ‘90s.

    As I’m unable to post a graph here, the best I can do to show the results of a spreadsheet assessment of that change is to list the average number of events of magnitude 6.0 or higher for successive periods since 1900. (Records are considered reliable since that date, but less so before it).

    1900 to 1997: 195 events in 98 years; average 1.99 /yr

    1986 to 1997: 27 events in 12 years; average 2.25 /yr

    1998 to 2009: 317 events in 12 years; average 26.42 /yr

    As a graph, this data looks remarkably like a hockey stick. The sudden > ten-fold rise in major events /yr is indicative of a threshold being passed by some novel driver of siesmic activity. While the anti-science ‘flukers’ will no doubt be happy to further diminish their credibility by auto-labeling this change as “Yet another fluke”, McGuire’s hypothesis that we have succeeded in destabilizing the geosphere by eroding the cryosphere aligns neatly with the paleo record, but there will be a great deal more research needed before it gains general acceptance across the scientific community.

    For a start, the implications for the consequences even of 2.0C of global warming are pretty stunning.

    And then there’s that Caldera under Yellowstone . . . .

    Regards,

    Lewis

  105. Prokaryotes says:

    Nausea and vomiting generally occur within 24–48 hours after exposure to mild (1–2 Sv) doses of radiation. Radiation damage to the intestinal tract lining will cause nausea, bloody vomiting and diarrhea. This occurs when the victim’s exposure is 200 rems or more. The radiation will begin to destroy the cells in the body that divide rapidly. These including blood, GI tract, reproductive and hair cells, and harms their DNA and RNA of surviving cells. Headache, fatigue, and weakness are also seen with mild exposure.[7] Moderate (2–3.5 Sv of radiation) exposure is associated with nausea and vomiting beginning within 12–24 hours after exposure.[7] In addition to the symptoms of mild exposure, fever, hair loss, infections, bloody vomit and stools, and poor wound healing are seen with moderate exposure. Nausea and vomiting occur in less than 1 hour after exposure to severe (3.5–5.5 Sv) doses of radiation, followed by diarrhea and high fever in addition to the symptoms of lower levels of exposure. Very severe (5.5–8 Sv of radiation[citation needed]) exposure is followed by the onset of nausea and vomiting in less than 30 minutes followed by the appearance of dizziness, disorientation, and low blood pressure in addition to the symptoms of lower levels of exposure. Severe exposure is fatal about 50% of the time. See criticality accident for a number of incidents in which humans have been accidentally exposed to such levels of radiation.

    Longer term exposure to radiation, at doses less than that which produces serious radiation sickness, can induce cancer as cell-cycle genes are mutated. The probability cancer will develop is a function of radiation dose. In radiation-induced cancer the disease, the speed at which the condition advances, the prognosis, the degree of pain, and every other feature of the disease are not functions of the radiation dose to which the person is exposed.

    The longer that humans are subjected to radiation the larger the dose will be. The advice in the nuclear war manual entitled “Nuclear War Survival Skills” published by Cresson Kearny in the U.S. was that if one needed to leave the shelter then this should be done as rapidly as possible to minimize exposure.

    In chapter 12 he states that “Quickly putting or dumping wastes outside is not hazardous once fallout is no longer being deposited. For example, assume the shelter is in an area of heavy fallout and the dose rate outside is 400 R/hr enough to give a potentially fatal dose in about an hour to a person exposed in the open. If a person needs to be exposed for only 10 seconds to dump a bucket, in this 1/360th of an hour he will receive a dose of only about 1 R. Under war conditions, an additional 1-R dose is of little concern.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_poisoning

    There are upcoming a few scenarios how one could get radiation poisoning from japan’s “several” malfunctioning nuclear plants.

  106. quokka says:

    Prokaryotes #115

    Nausea and vomiting generally occur within 24–48 hours after exposure to mild (1–2 Sv) doses of radiation.

    The only report I have seen of radiation dosage is of one plant worker taken to hospital with a dose of 100 milliSv. Let’s try to keep a perspective on this, especially until the facts become clearer.

  107. Prokaryotes says:

    Re quokka, they use seawater to try cool the rods, now the radioactivity has a way to directly affect our food chain – just have in mind how long lived the agents are.
    Further above the video shows a cloud with possible poisonous radios init. On the bottom line, knowing what happens in a worst case is always good when doing risk assessments and choosing the favorite energy technology.

    Yesterday, we reported that three people had tested positive for elevated radiation levels. That number has now jumped to 160, says a Japanese nuclear safety official. http://blogs.aljazeera.net/live/africa/japans-twin-disasters-march-13-liveblog#update-11096

  108. Wit's End says:

    KTB, #94, the SMART thing to do would be to conserve. Think about how much energy is spent for utterly wasteful purposes. Heating and filtering swimming pools. Mowing lawns, blowing leaves and snow. Leaving lights on all night. WAR. Riding/driving vehicles for no other purpose than amusement – power boats, ATV’s, pleasure planes, travel vacations, air conditioning, clothes dryers, importing food across continenents… the list is endless.

    Before we resign ourselves to the certain lethal “accidents” from nuclear power, we should at the very least STOP WASTING energy!

  109. Clare says:

    Lewis @115

    This is very interesting but on checking I did find some further detail about the – evidently selected – figures you used to calculate the rate of earthquakes:
    http://www.science20.com/florilegium/blog/why_so_many_earthquakes_decade
    and the full 30 year data is here:
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/graphs.php

    Now to try & find a free copy of McGuire’s paper.
    Clare

  110. David B. Benson says:

    This appears to be a decent summary:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant

  111. David B. Benson says:

    This link seems to be the best technical discussion:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/12/japan-nuclear-earthquake/

  112. Mike F says:

    I’m sorry but the numbers that Lewis C has posted, in terms of increasing numbers of high intensity earthquakes, does not reflect the numbers that USGS has. For instance, see figure 3 of

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/data/centennial.pdf

  113. Mike F says:

    I ought to have included the following links in my previous comment so that earthquake numbers and intensities in the ’90s could be directly compared to those in the ’00s.

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/ earthquakes/ eqarchives/ year/ eqstats.php

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqarchives/year/info_1990s.php

  114. Prokaryotes says:

    USGS PDF “For the historical period (1900±1963) we have chosen a magnitude cut-off value of 6.5 although the resulting catalog is complete only to magnitude 7.0. For the recent period (1964±1999) the magnitude cut-off is 5.5, and the catalog is complete at this magnitude threshold.”

    C. Lewis “According to USGS lists of all recorded large earthquakes, there has definitely been a very significant very sudden rise in the frequency of events above magnitude 6.0., starting in the late ‘90s.”

  115. Lewis C says:

    Mike F -

    You are quite correct. I’m afraid I’ve been misled by the USGS provision of data on historical earthquakes on this page:
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/historical.php

    Plainly it does not tally with the data they provide on the centennial pdf,
    and I must apologise to all for failing to scrutinise the two sets.
    Evidently the data shown on the ‘historical’ page has been subjected to some filter, but without either warning or explaining to the reader what has been done.

    I shall try to be more cautious in future !

    Regards,

    Lewis

  116. Leland Palmer says:

    I’m late to this thread, and don’t know if this point has been made or not.

    From Wikipedia “Nuclear Meltdown”

    “Rapid oxidation. “The next stage of core damage, beginning at approximately1500 K, is the rapid oxidation of the Zircaloy by steam. In the oxidation process, hydrogen is produced and a large amount of heat is released. Above 1500 K, the power from oxidation exceeds that from decay heat (4,5) unless the oxidation rate is limited by the supply of either zircaloy or steam.”[7]”

    That’s pretty hot.

    Something in there is producing hydrogen, very likely the Zircaloy.

    At least some of the reactor fuel rods have gotten hot enough to oxidize Zircaloy, if the fuel rods are made of the same alloy as used in American reactors.

    At least some of the nuclear fuel is getting up around 1500 degrees K…or greater.

  117. Leland Palmer says:

    The detection of Cesium 137, of course means that some of the fuel rods have ruptured, releasing the fission product Cesium 137.

    Zircaloy melts at something like 2200 degrees C.

    Oxidation of Zircaloy can only release one mol of hydrogen per mol of zirconium. Producing enough hydrogen to cause a big explosion might mean that a lot of the Zircaloy has been oxidized. Each 182 grams of Zircaloy can produce 22.4 liters of H2. So assuming it took at least 10,000 liters of hydrogen to demolish the building, that would mean that roughly 100 kg, or more, of Zircaloy has been oxidized. It could all have been oxidized, if a lot of the hydrogen has burned or escaped after the explosion took place.

    Oxidation of Zircaloy is an exothermic process, which increases the cooling demands still more.

  118. jyyh says:

    one interesting measure here would be the days passed when a unanimous truth is told, so far there’s been very mixed messages f.e. WRT extent of meltdown and the integrity of the containment vessel. With Chernobyl it took ~10 days, setting a measure for a communistic regime.

  119. Zetetic says:

    KTB said @ #79:

    Well sorry, I have lived directly downwind from the Chernobyl accident.

    Really, and just how far downwind were you? How many people did you have to watch dying from leukemia and other cancers due to radiation poisoning?

    hydro has killed thousands of people, how is that safe? And is large scale hydro beneficial for the environment.

    Interesting that you picked just that one out of many that I listed, but ignored the others.

    And let’s see realistic proposals for building the stuff you mentioned.

    There are plenty out there, learn to use google.
    Scotland in on track to be using 80% renewable by 2030.
    Denmark is planing on 50% of just wind power alone by 2025.
    Here are some more proposals….
    Going “All The Way” With Renewable Energy?
    How to get to 100 percent renewables globally by 2050
    Study: Shifting the world to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 – here are the numbers

    Nothing is 100% safe.

    And this justifies taking unnecessary risks and massive costs to society from everything from building to disposal how exactly?

    Why isn’t Japan, a tech savvy country replacing all it’s nuclear plants with these great and easy solutions? Are they stupid or just incompetent?

    Gee maybe for the same reasons why the USA isn’t replacing it’s obviously dangerous and toxic coal plants? Money, politics, ideology, etc, the usual suspects for human short-sightedness. Japan seems to be regretting the decision now.

    Let’s assume that they had offshore wind turbines at the same locations. What probably would have happened? Well if they were floating, nothing at all would have happened. If they were on the seabed, then at worst some of them would have collapsed, but there would be no risk to the public. Solar? Same answer. See the difference in safety when things go wrong?

    Nuclear has a proven track record of being the safest and the most environmentally friendly.

    Laughably untrue compared to most of the other powers sources that I mentioned, and you ignored. How many children have died from leukemia due to solar or wind? When have you heard of governments in fear of fallout from a wind tower collapsing or a solar plant malfunctioning?

    Is it like people afraid of vaccines “if it isn’t 100% safe it should be banned”?

    False Dichotomy.
    There is a range of safety for everything, that doesn’t justify taking unneeded risks when there are safer alternatives that have already proven themselves to be effective and don’t require anywhere near the level of subsidies. Your same logic can just as easily be used to justify coal plants too, or nuclear plants with less safety design, that doesn’t make such actions logical.

    Adding a little more doesn’t exclude any options for the long term management of the waste.

    Considering how many more would be needed to replace all of the worlds fossil fuel plants with nuclear it’s a hell of a lot more than “a little more”! You also seem to be ignoring that the more waster there is the harder it is to keep it safely buried, again at massive taxpayer expense.

    Stick the waste in glass blocks and dump it in the ocean

    You are ignoring the risks of transport and processing and what happens if geological processes fracture the glass, accidents,etc. Then you also seem to be ignoring the scale of the large amount of waste that currently needs to be disposed of in this manner and the scale of the effort for such a plan, again all at taxpayer expense. All of which are risks that increase greatly as the volume of waste increases and how these risks would grow enormously if the world depends more on nuclear. Beside this still, ignores the other safety risks such as core breaches. Again renewables avoid this problem.

    And besides, it can be stored on site for another hundred years, no problem.

    As long as no one tries to disturb it, and what about after hundreds of years? What if civilization doesn’t last that long without collapsing?

    ————————————————————————
    KTB @ #82 said:

    We have the technology but not the will to make a substantial push in that direction.

    So of course rather than using this technology you are instead arguing in favor of a less safe and more expensive alternative. How is this logical?

    In principle if the world were to make a “World War” type push in building a new energy infrastructure it would be doable in propalbly just 10 years. But this is not happening in the real world.

    I agree with this 100%, but the reason why it’s not happening in the real world is because of people trying to stop it in favor of either nuclear or business as usual. Again this still doesn’t rationally justify nuclear instead of renewables.

    ————————————————————————
    KTB @ #84:

    My “option” or proposal is to build nuclear instead of coal or other fossil energy sources (this is many times an either/or situation). And use the money taxed from nuclear power to research and implement renewables.

    Uh….Why do this when we already have renewables as you just stated at post #82? Why not just put the money into the a smart grid and renewables now? It would be faster, cheaper, and safer. It also has the benefit of not having to worry about what to do with all of those decommissioned nuclear plants and waste.

    We can’t just force people/companies/countries to adopt smarter policies by decree, agreed?

    Incorrect.
    Actually governments do just that all of the time, it’s kind of the point of having a government in the first place. Please see The Clean Air act, fuel efficiency standards, etc.

    Can you cite an example of most of a country’s businesses voluntarily reducing pollution, not by government mandate, but because it “was the right thing to do”?

  120. Zetetic says:

    Edward @ #99:

    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem.

    I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you’re either ignorant of the facts or just stupid, but then I noticed the exact same comments being spammed on other sites (according to a simple google search). Funny that huh?

    “In the aftermath of the accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness, of whom 31 died within the first three months.”
    Gee that sounds a little bit worse than being in Denver don’t you think? That’s not counting the long term effects, most of which are difficult to directly attribute to the disaster.

    Maybe it’s occurred to you that after 25 years the radiation at area around Chernobyl has gone down quite a bit from the initial disaster? No, I don’t think that you’re about to let the truth get in the way.

    ————————————————————————
    Edward @ #109:

    Generation 4 reactors CANNOT melt down no matter what. And they consume the “nuclear “waste”” as fuel.

    Oh goody let’s place all of our bets on a tech that probably won’t even be commercially viable (if you count massive subsidies from construction, to fueling, to waste disposal, to decommissioning as “commercially viable”) until 2030! That’s much better than using the safer solutions that we have right now! [/sarc]

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————–

    How about this little bit of the nuclear legacy?
    From Hot: Living Though the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard…

    My first time was in the old Soviet Union, where I exposed a series of nuclear disasters that had been kept secret for decades by both the KGB and the CIA. One day, I visited the leukemia ward of the local children’s hospital where a dozen mothers and children had gathered to speak with me. Many of the kids were bald thanks to chemotherapy that was now being applied in a last-gasp attempt to save their stricken bodies. The mother of one heavyset girl could not stop sobbing. When her daughter stroked her arm to comfort her, the mother unleashed a deep aching wail and fled the room. This woman, like the others mothers knew what the children did not: the doctors expected 75 percent of these children to be dead within five years.

    So Edward, who are you spamming for?

  121. J Bowers says:

    Venting at Fukushima Daiichi 3.

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Venting_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_3_1303111.html

    “Operations to relieve pressure in the containment of Fukushima Daiichi 3 have taken place after the failure of a core coolant system. Seawater is being injected to make certain of core cooling…Tepco has reported it has not been able to restart unit 3′s high pressure injection system after an automatic stop. This left the reactor without sufficient coolant and obligated Tepco to notify government of an emergency situation. ”

    The quake’s also been upped from 8.9 to 9.0.

  122. Prokaryotes says:

    “… then I noticed the exact same comments being spammed on other sites (according to a simple google search). Funny that huh?”

    So who is using the software this time?

  123. Colorado Bob says:

    KTB -

    Nuclear power is the biggest welfare queen in the history of the world.

  124. MarkF says:

    post by Paulm Feb 2 2009:

    “14 Responses to “Nuclear meltdown in Finland”
    paulm says:
    February 2, 2009 at 5:24 pm
    Whats going to happen to the Nuclear plants on the coast as we face higher sea levels and storm surges (and more storms and more extreme heat waves).

    Has anyone gone back of the risk assessments that were done for these plants and recalculated them now with the new climate change effects?

    Scary!”

  125. Prokaryotes says:

    According to an expert this kind of earthquake happen once every 1000 years …
    http://www.cnn.com/video/flashLive/live.html?stream=3

    Jeff Masters:”…never before have two top-ten earthquakes hit so close together in time. Today’s quake was the strongest in Japanese history, and will likely be the most expensive natural disaster in world history”
    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1762

  126. Colorado Bob says:

    Japanese authorities now list six reactors at two different nuclear power plants – Fukushima I and nearby Fukushima II – in a state of emergency following the massive earthquake and Tsunami waves that hit Japan Friday. A total of 11 of the nation’s 54 reactors shut down following the quake, knocking out about 30 percent of Japan’s power.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2011/0313/Japan-now-assumes-possibility-of-a-meltdown-at-troubled-reactors

  127. Colorado Bob says:

    KTB -
    The Sendai, Japan Airport as the Tsunami waters flood the runways . Notice the survivors on the roof , what you don’t see, is people running from the solar panels. After this terrible disaster, those solar panels are ready to make electricity again, once the system has been inspected for damage. No one will be spending time and money pumping sea water on them, so they don’t explode.

    http://cbsolaroven.blogspot.com/2011/03/sendai-airport-during-great-quake.html

  128. Mikhail Kropotkin says:

    @anyone – can anyone tell me what will happen with the seawater that is cooling reactors 1 and 3 after it passes through the reactor? Will it just be pumped back into the ocean? How much of it will there be? What level of contamination will it have after it passes through the reactors, given both have partially oxidised and heat damaged power rods?

  129. Deborah Stark says:

    Post #119 | Wit’s End says:
    March 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    KTB, #94, the SMART thing to do would be to conserve. Think about how much energy is spent for utterly wasteful purposes. Heating and filtering swimming pools. Mowing lawns, blowing leaves and snow. Leaving lights on all night. WAR. Riding/driving vehicles for no other purpose than amusement – power boats, ATV’s, pleasure planes, travel vacations, air conditioning, clothes dryers, importing food across continents… the list is endless.

    Before we resign ourselves to the certain lethal “accidents” from nuclear power, we should at the very least STOP WASTING energy!

    ***
    I could not be more in agreement. And I cannot believe that so little attention is being paid at this point to how much energy is just flat-out WASTED in this country especially – and how relatively little effort would be required to start THINKING about that and acting accordingly.

    I would add to the list the sheer number of PC’s, servers, printers, faxes and other peripherals left running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in hundreds of thousands of office buildings all over this country, not to mention the lighting left on around the clock in major urban venues in particular.

    So many people seem to buy the idea that we “need more energy and we need it now.” Where does it end? Our life support systems are vomiting back at us as it is. Anyone who is in direct contact with nature on a daily basis cannot help but notice that.

  130. Prokaryotes says:

    Wow there is a town which had 2 major destructive tsunamis in the past and as result they built a 10 meter seawall. ANd guess what, the town got wiped out yet again. CNN reports.

  131. Prokaryotes says:

    Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami
    Move the slider to compare satellite images, taken by GeoEye, from before and after the disaster.
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/13/world/asia/satellite-photos-japan-before-and-after-tsunami.html?ref=asia

  132. SecularAnimist says:

    Re: energy waste

    Sorry I don’t have a link for this, but a couple of years ago I read an article that said that if the waste heat from industrial smokestacks in the USA could be captured and used for cogeneration it would produce more electricity than all the nuclear power plants in the USA.

    Seems to me it would be much cheaper — and safer — to capture waste heat from industrial smokestacks than to DOUBLE the size of the US nuclear fleet.

  133. Zetetic says:

    @ Deborah Stark and SecularAnimist:
    According to a study maximizing energy efficiency could reduce the global energy consumption by about 73%!
    Efficiency could cut world energy use over 70 per cent

  134. Zetetic says:

    @ Edward (again):
    Hey Edward! Here are some nice pictures of Chernobyl. (Many thanks to Prokaryotes for the link from another thread.)

    Chernobyl Legacy

    Be sure to check out “Chernobyl: The Book” in the menu on the right. Maybe you should compare them to Denver too?

    Somehow I don’t think that you’ll be adding it to the links you’ve been posting in your copy-pasting on various sites.

  135. Deborah Stark says:

    Post #142 | SecularAnimist says:
    March 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Re: energy waste

    Sorry I don’t have a link for this, but a couple of years ago I read an article that said that if the waste heat from industrial smokestacks in the USA could be captured and used for cogeneration it would produce more electricity than all the nuclear power plants in the USA.

    ***
    Could this possibly be the article you’re referring to:

    2/27/09
    Converting Energy Waste into Electricity and Heat
    Energy recycling wiz Tom Casten explains how to capture power that goes up in smoke

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/ecocenter/energy/Converting-Energy-Waste-into-Electricity-and-Heat.html

    Co-generation, sometimes called combined heat and power (CHP), is a way to capture the intense heat escaping from smokestacks and turn it into electricity or put it to other good use, such as heating homes. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from generating electricity and heat (another 20 percent comes from cars), and the estimates of CHP’s potential are dramatic. Capturing wasted smokestack energy in the United States could replace nearly 30 percent of power currently generated by burning fossil fuels, cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, and annually save $150 billion to $250 billion, according to a number of studies. In December, Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimated that if CHP generated 20 percent of our nation’s power capacity by 2030 — Germany, Japan and China have already reached or exceeded that goal, and Denmark generates 50 percent of its power by CHP — the technology would eliminate 848 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s like removing 154 million cars from the road. Achieving that level of CHP in the United States, according to the Oak Ridge report, would involve $234 billion in new investments and would create a million new highly-skilled, technical jobs. CHP is now also available on a smaller scale for home heating, cooling and power generation; it’s called microCHP….. (continued)

  136. Deborah Stark says:

    Post #143 | Zetetic says:
    March 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    @ Deborah Stark and SecularAnimist:
    According to a study maximizing energy efficiency could reduce the global energy consumption by about 73%!
    Efficiency could cut world energy use over 70 per cent (hyperlink)

    ***

    Excerpt from your hyperlink:

    Discussions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions usually concentrate on cleaner ways of generating energy: that’s because they promise that we can lower emissions without having to change our energy-hungry ways. But whereas new generation techniques take years to come on stream, efficiency can be improved today with existing technologies and know-how….. END excerpt.

    I think a lot of people have already been thinking for years about their use of energy, water, etc. and have already been conscious of avoiding wasteful and unnecessary behaviors in that regard. Everyone I know personally has been actively working on this since the 1970′s, some more than others, but everyone is at least aware of what they are doing. Unfortunately it does seem as if a great many more people are offended by any suggestion in this regard and see it as a direct attack on their “personal liberty.”

    Those of us who are concerned about the kind of world we may be leaving to our children and grandchildren need, I think, to go beyond what we are doing in our personal lives and start putting a lot more pressure on our elected officials to design policies that discourage profligate waste in the use of electricity, heating and transport fuels. It seems to me that tackling the waste issue alone would make a significant difference if it became a matter of acting in the service of the common good.

  137. Zetetic says:

    Deborah Stark @ post #146:

    Unfortunately it does seem as if a great many more people are offended by any suggestion in this regard and see it as a direct attack on their “personal liberty.”

    Agreed, unfortunately.

    Just look at the brouhaha over phasing out incandescent bulbs in the USA that is planed to take effect.

    From the way some people are over-reacting you’d think that they were talking about shipping everyone into a gulag just because they won’t be able to buy a bulb that wastes most of the energy it uses.

    I just can’t understand the that kind of childish and short-sighted mindset.

  138. Marion Delgado says:

    I noticed the Grauniad took the line that it’s only old nukes that are dangerous.

    Problem: Whenever critics have said the old nukes are dangerous, the nuke proponents have said, absolutely, that they’re NOT. They point to success in refurbishing plants (which is important because a nuke you have decommission after 20-25 years is much more obviously not worth building, given how much real estate a decommissioned plant takes up).

    So they should be held to their words BEFORE the old nuke acts up.

    It’s nice that newer plants are somewhat safer (and it’s what anyone but an idiot would have expected). They’re also always a few generations behind what you’re promised, and that’s inherent in this technology.

  139. paulm says:

    China, Haiti, Chile, NewZeland … Japan!

    Something is on a roll….

  140. Paul K2 says:

    Our lives depended on the backup diesel generator at the nuclear plant!

    David B. Benson posted a link to bravenewclimate.com on March 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm, and claimed “useful links to knowledgeable news sources” about the Japanese nuclear plant problems.

    David, I spent several days at Brave New Climate, a pro-nuclear site run by Barry Brook, and I wouldn’t trust Brooks’ analysis and views. I certainly wouldn’t consider Barry Brook a knowledgeable news source; he is clearly biased which damages the accuracy of his analysis.

    Here are some excerpts from my most recent post on the Fukushima nuclear accident on that site:

    Prior to the Fukushima Oichi nuclear accident, I believed that fears of failures of nuclear power plants leading to destruction of the plant, atmospheric radioactive material releases, releases of radioactively contaminated water into the sea, and reactor meltdown were overblown.

    NOW, I have serious doubts. the responses by Barry Brook, and the nuclear apologists on this thread have completely destroyed my trust in their evaluations of risks and costs of nuclear energy.

    Lets look at some of my original questions, and responses from Barry Brook and a commenter Finrod, and compare to the Current Analysis of each issue:

    Paul K2, on 12 March 2011 at 1:49 PM said:
    I left a couple of questions on the appropriately named thread ‘An informed public is key to nuclear acceptance’ , and was asked to repost them here.
(and these are serious questions, so please don’t laugh them off):

    1. I noticed that they “lost” the diesel backup units about the same time the tsunami hit the plant locations. Is it possible the debris from the tsunami jammed the cooling pump filters and intakes? What good would the backup electric system be, if the cooling water supply is blocked? It seems that they should have an alternative emergency cooling system in place.

    Barry Brook, on 12 March 2011 at 1:55 PM said:

    Paul, thanks, at this stage here are my responses:

    1. The generators went out after a hour or so, so I doubt they were flooded. But I don’t know the full situation.

    Current analysis:

    WRONG. Authorities have confirmed that the diesel generators were lost when the tsunami wave hit, and the generators were flooded. Furthermore BB avoided the the key portion of the question: Isn’t a continual cooling system needed, with a heat sink, to keep the reactor from overheating during the cool down period, and doesn’t this require a source of cool water (seawater) as well as power to run both the pumps supplying the seawater for cooling, and the pumps circulating water through the reactor to cool it? Photographs of the site before/after the tsunami show massive damage of the facilities on the waterfront where presumably the seawater intake pumps are located.

    Before this accident, I didn’t know that even after the fission reaction stopped, the decay heat could still destroy the fuel cladding, which in turn would release radioactive material into the power plant working fluid (water) and contaminate the entire power plant working fluid circulation loop (including regeneration exchangers, boiler feed water pumps and steam turbines) with radioactive material, long after the reactor “shut down”. In order to avoid destruction of the reactor, and contamination of the power plant, a large continuous cooling system MUST be functional for at least several days after the reactor shuts down.

    As an engineer who has done thermal energy calculations and/or supervised engineering teams operating thermal power plants (like coal, gas turbine combined cycle, and solar thermal, the critical requirement for a continuous un-interruptible heat sink for days, is a serious design issue. It would be helpful to know how much heat must be removed from the reactor (MWh thermal) over the decay period so that I could estimate the size of this engineering challenge. I am quite simply stunned that the entire integrity and safety of this nuclear plant depended on continually functioning backup diesel generators located on the seashore!! If the backup diesel units fail, you have until batteries (!!!) to supply for a few hours, then either vent radioactive material to the atmosphere or sea, or bend over and kiss your behind good-bye.

    I had no idea that nuclear plants were this ‘Mickey Mouse’. They should come with a warning label : This nuclear plant is only safe if our backup diesel generator operates properly over several days! Your lives may depend on our BACKUP diesel generator!

    I especially enjoyed the emergency procedure for this plant… they hauled out some portable diesel generators (after the reactor was already damaged) but found out the plugs were incompatible. Wonderful emergency response! One can only wonder what kind of emergency response drills were held (Coffee and doughnuts anyone? or maybe tea and crumpets?).

    Paul K2:
    Question 2. These nuclear accidents makes nuclear plants look extremely fallible.

    If one of these reactors melt down, what is the estimate for the eventual death toll, both from initial overexposure and eventually due to higher death rates due to higher radioactive levels in air, soils, and water? I would guess nuclear proponents would have these estimates at their fingertips, perhaps as a function of the amount of radioactive material released. Can one of these reactors release as much radioactive material as Chernobyl?

    Barry Brook:
    2. No, quite the opposite. They have just performed robustly in the face of the worst earthquake ever to strike the Japanese islands.

    The risk of meltdown is extremely small, and the death toll from any such accident, even if it occurred, will be zero. There will be no breach of containment and no release of radioactivity beyond, at the very most, some venting of mildly radioactive steam to relieve pressure.

    Those spreading FUD at the moment will be the ones left with egg on their faces.

    I am happy to be quoted forever after on the above if I am wrong… but I won’t be.

    Current analysis:

    WRONG. They have performed ROBUSTLY ??? Seriously? All three reactors operating at the time have been destroyed. Engineers do not consider this performance robust!!!

    You claim the chance of a meltdown was extremely small, but either the fuel cladding split, or more likely, a partial meltdown did occur, resulting in radioactive compounds cesium and iodine being carried by the coolant water out of the primary containment vessel.

    Furthermore, the containment was breached. Members of the community have been diagnosed with overexposure to radioactivity and are being medically treated. Radioactivity levels from the Fukushima accident have risen as far as away as the Onogawa NP (about 100 km away).

    Most real nuclear experts agree that the damage to the fuel cladding could have been serious enough to get a meltdown strong enough to melt the primary containment vessel, which Barry Brook said could not happen once the control rods were activated. They clearly disagree with BB.

    continued…

  141. David B. Benson says:

    Paul K2 — Barry Brook does very well for someone just now studying about nuclear power plants. However, my reference to useful links were to the links that Barry provided to other sources. An additional informative post, copied by Barry from elsewhere, is

    Fukushima Nuclear Accident – a simple and accurate explanation
    bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation/

  142. Stephen Watson says:

    KTB says: “And we need more energy, we need it now.”

    No.

    What we need to do now is use LESS energy. If we follow your idea there will never be an end to it until the entire planet is covered in nuclear, oil and coal plants with wind turbines and solar arrays everywhere. As we can see around the world whether it is homes, food, cars, gadgets, etc, etc we just want more and bigger. Totally unsustainable.

    Demand is where we must turn our gaze, not on supply. But of course reducing demand means behaviour change – BAD. Whereas focus on supply means we can make more stuff and use even more energy = more ££££ for energy suppliers and manufacturers = GOOD.

    Where will your approach lead us in 300 years time?

  143. Leland Palmer says:

    I guess that Fukushima number 3 has now had its own hydrogen explosion.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx6IS0vrZOk

    Speculating on what is going on inside the reactor:

    The production of hydrogen means that the Zircaloy is oxidizing, or that temperatures are getting high enough to dissociate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Since oxidation of the Zircaloy happens at about 1500 C, and dissociation of water at over 2000 C, it appears that oxidation would happen first. Oxidation of Zircaloy also splits water- it just supplies a sink for the oxygen, by the way. So likely what they have is exposed nuclear fuel, sticking out above the level of the cooling water, with the Zircaloy metal fuel rods oxidizing their zirconium into zirconium dioxide- a refractory ceramic. The fact that the water level inside the containment vessels refuses to rise suggests that there are structural damages to the reactor vessels- a crack in them, or in the piping.

    Since cesium 137 is being released in small quantities, that means that some of the fuel rods have ruptured.

    So, what does the future hold?

    Since the reactors were shut down immediately, all they have to deal with is the decay heat, I think. So a breach of the outer containment is unlikely.

    Because hydrogen is being produced, there is oxidation going on from the exposed Zircaloy fuel rod casings.

    Because small amounts of cesium 137 are being detected, there has been some rupturing of the fuel rods.

    Flooding the area with sea water might help cool the outer containment structure, of course.

    So what happens now is a continued stalemate, I think, with exposed fuel rods continuing to oxidize their zirconium and produce hydrogen. Hopefully, enough heat will be conducted from the hot parts of the fuel structure to the cooled parts to deal with the remaining decay heat and the exothermic heat of oxidation of the Zircaloy. Or, maybe the heat produced from oxidation of the Zircaloy will melt all the fuel rod bundles above the level of the cooling water.

  144. J Bowers says:

    The plant is now decommissioned by default. I have to say I’m getting pretty tired of the hyperbole and hysteria in the press and by anti-nuclear campaigners. I don’t see getting a dose of radiation equivalent to eating twenty bananas a year or having a CAT scan as being anything to freak out about.

    Bring on Generation 4.

    [JR: Don't hold your breath. Or maybe you should. Your first sentence is beyond ironic.]

  145. J Bowers says:

    We’ll see, Joe, and my first sentence was meant to be ironic. A read of the Guardian’s Q&A with actual experts on the subject today would be a good idea.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/mar/14/nuclearpower-natural-disasters

    Sir John Beddington also had a team of experts review the situation at the weekend here in the UK. The conclusion was that even if a reasonable worst case scenario happened the radiation would stay in the atmosphere for an hour and would only reach 500 metres or so into the air, compared to Chernobyl which saw the radiation reach tens of thousands of metres and lasted for weeks if not months.

  146. Colorado Bob says:

    Meltdown alert at Japan reactor

    Technicians are battling to stabilise a third reactor at a quake-stricken Japanese nuclear plant, which has been rocked by a second blast in three days.

    The fuel rods inside reactor 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have been fully exposed on two separate occasions, raising fears of a meltdown.

    [JR: Much worse than TMI at this point, not near Chernobyl ... yet.]

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12733393
    ———-
    #1 reactor building has exploded , #3 reactor building has exploded , and #2 has had it’s core exposed twice.

    When the folks say that this isn’t 3-Mile Island or Russia, they’re right. It’s much much worse.

  147. Flange Bardgeholly says:

    New plants are much safer than these old dinosaurs. The Japanese, as demonstrated by Toyota, do not necessarily over build, and are like the rest of the nuclear industry in that they are liars.

    Sure these were situated next to a fault, but the plants worked fine for decades without any problems, and no one would build a plant next to [or on] an earthquake fault.

    Anyway, those dollars are already spent, used and in the pockets of those who won’t be liable should anything untoward occur. Thank God there was flooding from the earthquake, negating any insurance coverage we, the owners of AIG might be on the hook for, and of course, there wasn’t any earthquake insurance available – and nuclear accidents are excluded!

    It escapes me how AIG could have needed a bailout from us, but at least we aren’t on the hook for this one!