March 12, 2011

Japan Earthquake: Nuclear Disaster Feared After Power Plant Explosion (bumped/updated)

Uh oh ... Telegraph:
A huge blast was heard and white smoke seen billowing into the air at one of two power plants which the Japanese government had placed under a state of emergency. Several workers were reported to have been injured.

Prime minister Naoto Kan had warned that a radiation leak might occur at one of the reactors at the Daiichi facility at Fukushima, 150 miles north of Tokyo, after Friday's 8.9-magnitude quake.

Prayers for the people in Japan.

UPDATE I (Matt Damon): The containment dome on Fukushima number 1 blown apart ... AP:

Footage on Japanese TV showed that the walls of the reactor's building had crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame standing. Puffs of smoke were spewing out of the plant in Fukushima, 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Iwaki
Updated by Howie: Image added. Image credit Drudge.

This is terrible with a capital T. This could be the worst nuclear accident ever.

I'll look around and see if I can find more about the damage to the reactor. At this point it appears at least one containment dome has failed completely.

Updated again: Officials are talking down the danger from the explosion, blaming it on free hydrogen. I'm not so sure about that. They always talk down these things. If the reactor melted down and the containment dome is gone I really don't see how a politician can smooth that over.

There are reports that cesium has been detected in the area, which would indicate a meltdown and leak. There is more at the Reuters link above left there.

UPDATE (Shahor, Hetz): Frames of the first few moments of the blast, taken from an HD version of a Nippon News Network broadcast.



Fireball 1


Fireball 2




'Explosion' (rather than 'structural failure' or 'pressure release') would seem to be the accurate word for this.

UPDATE by Rusty: Just a note, this is a light water reactor. So, even if it was a full meltdown of one of the reactors the damage wouldn't be anything near as bad as Chernobyl. Chernobyl was graphite moderated, which made it less stable than modern light water reactors and therefore much more prone to meltdown. Since regular water is used to cool down the reactor at the Japanese site, it should be much easier to contain.

Contrast Three Mile Island, which was a light water reactor, with Chernobyl which was graphite moderated. In Chernobyl 50 people died immediately with an additional 4,000 dying from exposure to radiation. No one died at Three Mile Island, and 25 years later there has been no statistically significant increase in cancer rates in the exposure area.

So, not to take away from the real danger of a nuclear power plant run amok, but even in a plausible worst case scenario a meltdown here probably wouldn't be nearly as bad as Chernobyl.

UPDATE by SH: Japan tries using seawater to cool damaged reactor.

"The latest explosion wasn't of a kind that would come with a significant leakage of radiation," Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, said at a news conference. "It's our expectation that we can bring this nuclear-power plant under control, using this unprecedented step of filling the containment structure with seawater." Boric acid will also be added to the salt water to fight a possible elevation in nuclear reaction, Mr. Edano said

By Matt Damon at 06:41 AM | Comments |