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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Third Explosion: Japan Nuclear Crisis Worsens: Now What?

I  imagine everyone  following the crisis in Japan  is already quite aware that a third  hydrogen explosion occurred yesterday at one of several  nuclear reactors damaged by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake .  This tragedy is already in epic proportions; in strength of aftershocks,  in loss of buildings and infrastructure damage. IN terms of  human losses , the horrific death toll from the earthquake and the tsunami  has now been estimated to exceed 10,000, and there are potentially greater problems developing. 

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.


  1. Steven Chu the energy tsar has already announced that he has no plans for any slow-down of nuclear energy.
    all of Europe is on alert, they are shutting down plants in several countries, for inspection, and re-evaluating their resources..
    germany has seen several human chains of anti-nukes peacefully demonstrating the people power.
    we need dynamo run bicycles to power our computers and tvs , and solar panels on every roof...man has invented bigger things which he cannot control--nature will laugh last..

  2. I was so sad to hear about it yesterday on the news. So many people who have escaped the dangers of the earthquake and tsunami now have to worry about their lives due to the radiation. For many its like a lose-lose situation.

  3. Where big money is concerned, it seems there is little genuine concern for the results of their money-making schemes, no matter how much pollution or how many potential problems they may cause . The nuclear industry is no exception.
    Civilization needs to be weaned off of dirty oil and nuclear energy--there is clean solar energy to be had--and it's free. Let's get with it! Germany is WAY ahead of North America in solar and wind generation already.

    This tragedy is enough justification to revisit entirely the use of nuclear energy world-wide. Hopefully this disaster won't get any worse.

  4. At the rate they invest in nuclear power there is no reason why they cannot invest in solar power. ('they' being each and every country that is involved with the nuclear power deals). While the returns of solar energy are much more beneficial and rewarding, nuclear deals are the norm, like you so aptly said, Raymond,... "Where big money is concerned, it seems there is little genuine concern for the results of their money-making schemes, no matter how much pollution or how many potential problems they may cause." Selfish motives impact whole civilizations. And its time we wake up to defending our lives that are at the mercy of a handful.

    Switch to Solar Power!

  5. Why should whole civilizations be subject to the follies of a few greedy, selfish and thoughtless people? Good point! "Switch to Solar Power!" is right--if the money wasted on nuclear plants had been put into solar research and production, it would have been accomplished successfully a long time ago.


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