Radiation levels are rapidly on the rise as seemingly futile attempts are made to cool the damaged reactors. The reactor cores have been exposed with no cooling systems or backup power generation systems in working order, causing severe heating and potential meltdown.
Sea water has been pumped into the reactors, in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to cool the overheated cores to prevent the zirconium-encased uranium fuel rods from melting. Pumping in sea-water creates hydrogen, which when mixed with oxygen, causes powerful explosions.
The inevitable has happened, the inability of the nuclear facility operators to vent the build-up of hydrogen and pressure resulted in the latest explosion. Bottom line, radioactive particulate matter is being dispersed on the winds.
Ever heard of "Three Mile Island?" Ever heard of "Chernobyl", the worst nuclear accident in history? The Japanese crisis has already been likened to Three Mile Island and the worst is yet to come. A storage pond is on fire, spewing radioactive contaminated material into the air. Even spent fuel rods are dangerous; containing plutonium, cesium, and strontium, the fuel rods, although encased in zirconium, can ignite and burn, releasing radiation into the atmosphere. Spent fuel rods are stored in deep water pools to keep them cooled down. In Japan, the 4o' deep storage pools are located about ten stories up, on the rooftop of the reactors.
Imagine that. Just how clever was that design? That seems like it might be "a little problematic " to put it lightly. One such pool has lost cooling capacity and is already burning, spewing radioactive matter into the sky.
The World Meteorological Organization (W.M.O.), reports that for now, radiation is blowing away from Japan and eastward into the Pacific Ocean. Should the winds turn westward, a very large area of Japan can be very adversely affected. Approximately 500,000 people have already been evacuated.
How far does radioactive particulate matter travel? Being pumped high into the atmospheric winds, such materials can travel thousands of miles. If winds are predominantly east, clearly the west coast of North America will eventually be subjected to some degree of risk. The question is only "how much" and "when". If the winds turn westward, great areas of Japan may be contaminated. Why is this so critical?
For the uninformed, radioactive material does not simply "go away". It is dangerous particulate matter, and cannot be diluted in the same manner a liquid spill can be. Although radioactivity can be measured carefully, monitored, or dispersed, it should not be foolishly ignored. It can be blown away by dry winds or washed back into the soil, "out of sight, out of mind", --- but it does not "go away". Radiation can can enter the food chain, causing mutations, cancers, and death.
It will be with us for 200,000 years or longer.
This disaster was inevitable. How can we prevent such horrific tragedies from happening again that involve nuclear facilities?
It seems to me this tragedy is an extremely good reason for humanity to re-think the whole approach we take to the generation of energy. The biggest nuclear generator around, the sun --is a few million miles away--and the energy we get from it is free.
Let's get with it, people, we CAN do it; solar energy IS the way to go.
At Incoming BYTES we continue to offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the people of Japan for their lost family members and extreme difficulties in this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.