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JAPANESE REACTOR CRISIS March 18, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
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We have heard reassuring words from experts that everything is fine with the problems with the nuclear reactors, but at Fukushima the situation seems instead to be getting progressively worse.

The major lesson appears to be so far is that there is no simple and complete way that a nuclear power station can be turned off. There will be criticism that power plants were not immediately cooled with sea water before radiation levels rose to critical levels even as that may have meant a very large cost. Given that the earthquake and the following tsunami were extreme events, although not unforeseeable, it means that the safety issues have not been covered at least in these plants, and it may be possible that they cannot be. This will call into question the utility of nuclear power as an alternative to coal-fired and hydro-electric power stations.

In a recent “breaking news” report, The LA Times reports:

( March 17, 2011 | 9:58 p.m. PT)

U.S. government nuclear experts believe a spent fuel pool at Japan’s crippled Fukushima reactor complex has a breach in the wall or floor, a situation that creates a major obstacle to refilling the pool with cooling water and keeping dangerous levels of radiation from escaping.

That assessment by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials is based on the sequence of events since the earthquake and information provided by key American contractors who were in the plant at the time, said government officials familiar with the evaluation. It was compelling evidence, they said, that the wall of the No. 4 reactor pool has a significant hole or crack.

A breach in the pool would leave engineers with a problem that has no precedent or ready-made solution, said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “My intuition is that this is a terrible situation and it is only going to get worse,” he said.

ELSEWHERE:

In the absence of earthquakes, tsunamis and other extraordinary events, there is the underlying issue of what to do with the processed nuclear fuel. Eugene Robinson, via Truthdig,writes that the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster observes that spent fuel when exposed to air rapidly heats up.

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