1. Rod, I am sorry to disturb you again, but with the current developments, i.e. Unit 2’s fuel rods being exposed for over 2 hours and an American ship over 60 miles away detecting radiation, I was wondering what your take would be on the current situation. Thank you for your quick response.

    1. I’ll start with the universal scientific answer: It depends. Collecting radioactive gasses and particles at that distance is not an indication that there’s a problem. More information is needed such as which nuclides and quantities detected. A neat property of radioactivity is that with the proper equipment, it can be detected and measured in very small quantities.

    2. A new update at world-nuclear-news.org says 3 of 4 reactors are now in “cold shutdown”, only one left to go

      1. clarification: the “cold shutdown” update refers to the Fukushima Daini plant. It’s not the plant that had the hydrogen explosions, this was the Fukushimi Daiichi

    3. Personally I am disappointed that the Navy is not tied up alongside the plant supplying power. The military gets paid to be in harms way for the sake of others – here’s their chance to fulfill that mission. (Rod, you’ll let me know whether this sounds fair from the inside view?)
      Of course the military for any country is primarily concerned with their own citizens; but the US Navy probably does have the capability and could have the mission to help the Japanese out right now.

      1. Joffan – From what I’ve read, power is no longer a problem. Replacement diesel generators have been delivered and are running. Obviously, they are able to run the pumps to put sea water into units 1, 2, and 3.

        1. Thanks Brian
          There is of course extreme uncertainty in any reports at present, but I heard the workers were using fire pumps for that job (fire hoses in some reports), with difficulty due to internal containment pressure. If they now have reliable generators it should ease a lot of their problems, although obviously not for systems where the pumps or other key parts of the coolant loops are damaged.

        2. @Brian – I concur. However, for at least one reactor and for at least some of the time, the source of power to put sea water into the plant was the motor/generator of the fire truck supplying the water.

      2. If the aid was coming from the Nimitz-class USS Ronald Regan, the media would have to contemplate headlines such as

    4. Fukushima Daiichi has 6 Units. My info:
      Unit 1: hydrogen explosion, now flooded with seawater
      Unit 2: cooling has failed after explosion at Unit 3, about to be flooded with seawater
      Unit 3: flooded with seawater, hydrogen explosion
      Units 4-6: shut down for inspection at time of quake
      Source: http://twitter.com/norishikata

  2. One thing I got to wondering over the past couple days – why not just let the core melt? I’ve seen it stated several times, including in the WSJ article Rod linked to, that a full melt will still be contained. So, instead of adding additional risk of explosions from hydrogen or radioactive releases to reduce pressure, because you are putting water on a hot reactor to cool it, what would happen if you just let it melt into the bottom of the reactor vessel? The experts are saying it couldn’t escape even if it did melt down because it’s not hot enough, so just let it sit, molten, at the bottom of the reactor for a couple weeks, then try to cool it enough to begin removing. Or, if need be, just let it sit molten for a few MONTHS.
    If the molten core can’t escape, why bother trying to cool it?

      1. @Jerry, I dunno, it just seems to me like the remedy is worse than the disease in this case? If it’s not a problem to let the core melt, might it be *safer* to just let it melt than to try to prevent it? If you just let it melt, wouldn’t you have avoided the H explosions?

        1. I could imagine they are very concerned about the media coverage, too. What is going to cause more hysteria, a headline “Japan suffers nuclear meltdown at Fukushima” or “hydrogen blasts top off reactor building” or “radioactive vapor released at Fukushima”? What worries me most is that they made the same decision like at Chernobyl: they evacuated a huge area around the plant as a precaution, making it look more dangerous than it is, seeding doubt and uncertainty.

          1. I should preface this with, I realize that early on, they try to cool the reactor to save it, in the hopes it can be used another day, and that’s reasonable – if it can be saved, of course, save it.
            But, perhaps we need to educate people that “meltdown” != “disaster”, and is just one possible, not dangerous, outcome of a reactor emergency shutdown. That is what Rod is trying to do, I think, but he just says it with more words. *grin*

        2. No. It is desirable to limit the amount of radiactivity released, limit cleanup costs and salvage the reactor if possible.
          The longer you manage to keep the core from melting, the lower its power output from decay heat, the less damage and the lower the likelyhood that anything escapes confinement.
          At reactor SCRAM the decay heat represents ~5% of full operating power. T+1 minute it is down to 3%; T+4 hours it is down to 1%. T+2 days it is down to 0.5%. Riding out the first few hours, which was done on backup generator and batteries is essential.
          In a controlled meltdown where you have given up hope of reestablishing cooling you would have to vent all the steam until the water has all boiled off; otherwise the containment will rupture from overpressure. Venting steam is what caused the hydrogen explosion in the first place.
          The higher the decay power of the fuel, the faster the fuel is damaged and gives off volatile fission products like iodine after it is uncovered by the dropping water level. The longer you adequately cool the core, the less radioactivity is vented if for some reason you are ultimately unsuccessful in maintaining cooling and have to let the core melt.

          1. @Rich: I wouldn’t so much say that site is FUD, as that site doesn’t normally concern itself with matters outside the realm of software, intellectual property law, and lawsuits related to those. The site itself, run by a woman who goes by “PJ”, makes no commentary, as far as I know, about the nuclear reactor situation in Japan – what you are reading are all user comments in the discussion forums, and not related to the site itself.

            1. I was refering to the link provided. It contains outright lies in rebutal to a more-or-less factual description of the plant.

  3. Moving on to resolve issues with new technology that is far less infrastructure dependent is a goal yet to be undertaken. Human tradgedy from a convulsing Earth is not exclusive to Japan and measures to correct infrastructure dependent nuclear plants to meet the consequences of climate change, including earthquakes, needs to be addresses in new plant construction. The technology to achieve this goal is here an now and politicians need to know it is their inaction to the issues of climate change that keeps the public in jeopardy. Their inaction in approving new methodology for reduced radiation hazard nuclear steam plants needs to be addressed ASAP. B11-p+H fusion steam plants can be built now, cheaper and with far less infrastructure dependence than those plants we are watching struggle with control of fission reaction shut down.

  4. 40 years ago the US could tell if the USSR performed an underground test of a nuclear device from the minute amounts amount of radiation in the atmosphere over the US. The equipment they have now is several orders of magnitude better now than then. So the fact that they detect radiation, without the specific amounts, tells me nothing. The radiation monitors at some US Nuclear power plants are often activated by the North Korea nuclear tests. The dose rates that I am reading for those workers so far exposed, are in the neighborhood of allowable dose rates for nuclear workers (which are hundreds/thousands of times lower than will cause illness). Which again tells me that they are still controlling the incident.
    Exaggerating a little, but the military could probably tell how many nuclear reactors a country was operating, normally, while out at sea! I have heard rumors of finding nuclear subs that way.
    The fact that you can detect something “harmful” does not tell me that it is harmful to you! It actually may be healthy! There are many chemicals that you need in trace amounts to lead a normal life that are highly poisonous!
    As far as a meltdown, we are now in the 4th day, there is not much decay heat left. Sorry to disappoint people but the worst is over.

  5. The Washington Post’s coverage of Japan’s tragedy has been so completely focused on theses nuclear power plants that it borders on immoral considering the devastation that the country is suffering from. Not only is the coverage of the plants over publicized but the information seems to be at best misleading. The articles from todays edition seemed to get a majority of their information regarding the technical evaluation from Arnie Gunderson – the well known anti-nuclear “expert witness” that you have blogged about before on this site.

    1. Hear hear. There is real suffering in Japan but these nuclear plants are not a significant part of it. But I wouldn’t single out the Washington Post on that score; it’s the general rule across all media.

    2. As Rod continues to point out, and after several years of proselytizing now has me convinced, the mainstream media serves their clients well

  6. Has the American nuclear power industry not been answering their phone calls or has the MSM not attempted to contact them? I can’t believe who the major news outlets are parading around as nuclear experts. One expert (I don’t recall his name) actually used the expression “minor nuclear explosion”.

    1. @John, “One expert (I don’t recall his name)” – yeah, the mind will sometimes repress traumatic memories. *grin*

  7. Rod,
    In regards to your statement that “The activities at the nuclear plants will continue, the well-trained operators will continue to do their jobs admirably (not heroically, because they are in no personal danger either)…”, I respectively disagree. There have been several reports of at least one death, contaminations and injuries requiring hospitalization that indicate to me that the operators and engineers at the plant are facing personal danger. I realize that in our country we tend to overuse the word “hero” to a point where it tends to lose value and meaning. I also realize that we tend to have a hard time recognizing and thanking someone for “doing their job” because that’s what they are trained and paid to do. When you consider the enormity of what these folks are facing, the devastation to their country, their missing loved ones, and the stress and pressure that they’ve been under for the last several days I think that we can at least show some appreciation for the fact that they stayed at their posts, followed their procedures and didn’t cut and run. Part of that definition of “hero” is an individual who in the face of danger or adversity displays courage and the will for self-sacrifice for some greater good of society or humanity. As a former ex-navy nuke and Ops Shift Manager at a BWR 4 and BWR 6, and “keeper of the nuclear flame”, I can only hope that I would have responded as these folks have. It is gratifying to know that all of that training and procedure work has paid off. Thanks for listening…I enjoy your blog and insight on all things atomic.

    1. @JimB – Thank you for your service and for working hard to keep that atomic fire burning. I hope you realize I mean no offense and that I would definitely say “thank you” to all of the people who are working hard. I did, after all, use the word “admirably.”
      I guess part of what I am trying to do is to help people understand that there is no real danger here – other than the rather standard industrial danger that we all face when working around large equipment, vehicles, piping systems, electricity, etc. I also think back to the effort that some in the submarine world made to shift our extra pays from being considered “hazard pay” to “proficiency pay.” There is no shame in recognizing that nukes get paid well for working hard, knowing their stuff, and being willing to admit if they make a mistake, not because they are doing a dangerous job.
      I have a bit of empathy for the folks involved – I was underwater on a patrol when my home in Charleston, SC was hit by Hurricane Hugo. It was two weeks before I knew how my family fared.

    2. JimB, I’ve been in the industry for 35 years currently an engineer at Mark I, Type 4. I can only imagine the stress that the operators, technicians and engineers are undergoing with 3 units affected, their families quite possibly homeless and hopefully safe and most likely little or no relief shifts available cannot be measured. Working long stressful hours with no power, often working in the dark, little or no rest since the beginning of the event, seeing several of your friends killed or injured is beyond incredible . Without doubt everyone at the plant feels personally responsible to bring this situation under control, as I would. My hopes and prayers are with them.

      1. I was working at Turkey Point when they eye of hurricane Andrew came in, with a six foot storm surge. We had both units shutdown well in advance. These guys had no such warning.
        For earthquake-prone units, the engineering has to be perfectly thought out in advance, and maybe planning for 100-year events are not enough.

  8. Not that I want to gloat or anything
    You are absolutely out of your mind. I mean stark, raving nucking futs. Two explosions, reactor fuel fully exposed, a third one going into crisis mode, and you are talking about “not gloating.” Is this site actually run by The Onion as a new frontier in comedy?

    1. Do we know what the condition of boilers at Japan’s coal plants are, whether they are in danger of exploding? How about gas pipelines, hydroelectric dams, the chemical spills, contaminated drinking water, bridges about to collapse? – See, it’s all a matter of dramatization. By reporting non stop about nuclear plants and never mentioning all the others, members of the public who are hostile to technological progress (hard to find in Japan btw.) can be made to believe this is the biggest danger.

      1. “A dam in the Fukushima prefecture of Japan was breached following the recent earthquake and tsunamis which have devastated the country. According to media reports, the dam broke on Friday, with a wall of water washing away 1800 homes downstream. So far, 1597 people have been confirmed dead in the aftermath of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake

      2. In reactor No. 2, which is now the most damaged of the three at the Daiichi plant, at least parts of the fuel rods have been exposed for several hours, which also suggests that some of the fuel has begun to melt. If more of the fuel melts before water can be injected in the vessel, the fuel pellets could burn through the bottom of the containment vessel and radioactive material could pour out that way

        1. Who is afraid of a meltdown? The public relations people perhaps, since “meltdown” is the key word of fearmongers, right along with the “China syndrome”. In reality, a meltdown is an event inside the containment structure, there is even a so called “core catcher” installed for the event, and even in Chernobyl, the meltdown was not the problem. Chernobyl still has molten fuel inside the sarcophagus, it didn’t cause a problem since it “froze” solid. The problem was the graphite fire, and the lack of a containment structure. The Japanese reactor has no graphite moderation and it has a containment built to 1970ies standards (good enough).

          1. Yeah, and we all know that Chernobyl wasn’t a problem. Will that be your next fallback position?

            1. Yes, well, Chernobyl was a problem. It did not have a containment dome. The Fukushima reactors do. It used graphite as a moderator, which can and did burn. The Fukushima reactors use water as a moderator, which, last time I checked, does not burn. The people at Chernobyl were doing unauthorized experiments under political pressure. The people at the Fukushima site are doing there best to keep the reactor safe. The western model for nuclear reactors such as at Fukushima is again proving that defense in depth works. No one is proposing that we build more Chernobyl-style reactors. When all the shouting is over, I am sure we will find that the problems at Fukushima are an economic event, not a safety and health event.
              Now, calculation time. The alternative to Chernobyl was to burn coal. Determine how many people did NOT die because coal was not burned. You just might find that this number is greater than the number of people who did die because of Chernobyl. Oh, by the way, before you start quoting “studies” that rely on bogus measurements and the linear-no-threshold theory for exposure to radiation that claim that Chernobyl caused 10s or 100s of thousands of deaths, find some studies with real science behind them.
              That said, we have every right to expect nuclear power to be safe, safer than the alternatives that give reliable power 24/7. And even with the problems at Fukushima, nuclear is still safer.

              1. A fact that has been overlooked in most articles: All control rods were inserted immediately and automatically and successfully in reactors when the quake hit. So unlike Chernobyl, this is no longer a chain reaction, it’s simply radioactive decay. This should dramatically reduce the “worst case” possibilities. Of course if the standard is to have “zero radiation” it can be difficult to achieve and small amounts can be dramatized easily.

        2. Guest (and disdaniel),
          The alternate universe you have come upon here is truly incredible. Please understand that this bizarro world is far outside the mainstream of the nuclear industry.

    2. Here is a partial list of vital infrastructure technologies that have already killed more Japanese during the earthquake/tsunami than the nuke plants ever will, but which are NOT being discussed for elimination:
      1) passenger railroads and high-speed trains
      2) automobiles
      3) fishing boats and cruise ships
      4) oil and gas refineries
      5) apartment buildings
      6) wood frame homes
      7) breathlessly misinformed mass media outlets

  9. There has been very little responsible media coverage of the five troubled Japanese reactors in the US. The short interview with Marv Fertel that was earlier shared on Atomic Insights is one of the best I have seen.
    It is much to be regretted that so much of the coverage that is inundating the country is so misinformed and so anti-nuclear biased. Our ability to build new nuclear is ultimately determined by regulatory rulings and actions. Regulation is ultimately driven by the public’s assessment of risk, real and perceived, of the safety of nuclear technology.
    Bottom Line: Bad news reporting does lasting harm when it is turned into bad advice from Congress to the NRC to further ratchet up nuclear regulatory obstacles.

  10. Wow! I just entered an alternate universe…
    operators will continue to do their jobs admirably (not heroically, because they are in no personal danger
    explain to people why there will be no health consequences to the public from challenges at Japanese nuclear plants and why that prediction could confidently be made almost as soon as the earth stopped shaking
    the worst that happens is that you lose the services of a few industrial facilities for a while
    And I think that universe is called “Denial”.

    1. guy..
      I think I responded to you before but here goes again – Rod is *right*. Nobody has lost their life from nuclear power in japan wheras hundreds or maybe even thousands HAVE lost their lives from oil and natural gas explosions.. And yet the media has the temerity to try to link the thousands of deaths to nuclear power !??
      Please read a third party account that *isn’t* a puff piece by the media, and try to learn about the reactors in question *before* you spew any more verbal diarrhea.. Here’s a good starting point:
      and you’ll see why its not a cause for panic.

      1. “Nobody has lost their life from nuclear power in japan”
        And you know this…how? I’ve seen multiple accounts to the contrary in just the last couple days.
        and you’ll see why its not a cause for panic
        indeed, I see no cause for panic…however I do use my eyes and ears, and listening to TEPCO and Japanese ministers and seeing video from the site, causes me to question the blog post title and assertion
        there is NO need for additional layers of regulation increased requirements that will simply add cost
        strikes me as simply absurd given what is transpiring…
        Furthermore I’ve spent a large fraction of my weekend reading every bit of information I can find on this subject…including the piece you so rudely directed me to:
        and try to learn about the reactors in question *before* you spew any more verbal diarrhea
        *classy* Guest *very classy*

        1. I’d like the geniuses here — especially the one who says he has had to restrain the urge to gloat about how well it’s gone — to talk to us about what happened to the spent fuel pools at the two reactors whose outer containment buildings exploded.

          1. @Guest – the spent fuel pools are doing what they are designed to do – remain full of water and keep the used fuel inside covered.
            They are pools, not something that you will see in a photo. The steel panels that were blown off of the secondary containment building are only designed to withstand a pressure differential of about 50 pounds per square foot – roughly 1/3 of a psi.
            The explosion was caused by a concentration of H2 gas that reached somewhere between 8% – 74% in at least some pockets of the secondary containment structure. That gas is a common corrosion inhibitor added to reactor coolant, so anytime that you vent reactor coolant there are provisions for getting rid of H2 before it accumulates to an explosive mixture. Unfortunately for the operators at Daiichi 1 and 3, those provisions require electricity to run and they seem to be running a bit short of that after an earthquake and tsunami one-two punch knocked out several layers of emergency supply.
            Modern plants have some additional layers, but the plants that we are talking about were built 35-40 years ago. They were not upgraded any more than automobiles that were built to 1970s standards are required to be upgraded, even if statistics would indicate that addition of seat belts, head restraints and air bags might save quite a few lives.

        2. i calls them as I sees them. You come in caustic and full of bile, well guess what – that’s what diarrhea is made of. If you don’t like it, well, DON’T SPEW VERBAL DIARRHEA. Simple as that.
          On the non-nuclear front, I’ve heard of major contamination from chemical plants, injuries from the explosions, etc. Have not heard of any deaths, and in any case nothing NEAR the deaths from the broken dam, refinery, ruptured and burning gaslines, firestorms, rivers of sludge, possible famine and water shortage, and tsunamis basically sweeping away whole towns. This has made up perhaps 40-50% of the news traffic I’ve monitored.
          On the nuclear front I’ve heard of some cesium and iodine being released in levels that were a bit above legal limits, and maybe 1 or 2 nuclear workers contaminated, 1 death from a crane accident, 5 from the hydrogen venting and resultant explosions, and evacuations of the authorities as a PRECAUTION, as well as PRECAUTIONARY iodine supplements being released to the public. In addition I’ve heard of efforts to continue cooling of the cor.
          I’ve ALSO heard of imaginary radiation death clouds, and rampant speculation of complete meltdowns and fantasies about ‘another chernobyl’ from the green crowd. I’ve heard extremely serious pundits suggesting that we abandon nuclear completely. In the meantime, NOBODY in the mainstream press is maintaining any sort of composure at all, bloggers are going ape (including you) and NOBODY is telling us that the danger is getting less and less, even though the radiation decay heat is getting less and less, and coolant is being added as we speak.
          So again guy, look at things in perspective here. I put it to you that FAR more damage will be done to us if certain interests use this tragedy to pursue the abandonment of nuclear power, and the REAL bogeymen out there – namely a dieoff from overuse and possible depletion of fossil fuels without having a real alternative sitting in the wind.

          1. Again — where is the spent fuel? It was stored on the upper floors of the outer containment buildings that blew up. Here is an aerial photo of a destroyed outer containment building. Where is the spent fuel pool? I don’t see it. Do you?

            1. guest,
              If you did a little research you’d see:
              It wasn’t stored in the upper floors of the containment building, but adjacent to the reactor core. And yes, there are concerns, but it didn’t spill pell mell from the containment building. Again, the containment building outer shell was *designed* to blow outwards and upwards in the case of hydrogen contamination and combustion. So why the hell would they store spent fuel there?
              Anyways, it looks like the media is beginning to calm down, so things are getting a bit more reasonable out there, but they are still quoting that idiot Edwin Lyman..

            2. As i understand it the spent fuel pool is made of extremely strong steel and concrete, only the top has to be accessible obviously. The fuel elements are extremely heavy for their size so they either remained in the pool or landed nearby. This is not a big problem since it’s within the plants boundaries and there is highly qualified personnel there that know how to handle spent fuel. Spent fuel is not a bomb that can explode nor is it something that can burn in a fire – it’s heavy metal. As long as we don’t see black smoke coming from the reactor there is not much radiation released to the environment.

              1. Jerry, buddy, in your evaluation of the postulated event, you say: “The fuel elements … either remained in the pool or landed nearby. This is not a big problem since … there is highly qualified personnel there that know how to handle spent fuel.”
                I was just wondering, how often do you suppose that highly qualified crew practices handling spent fuel assemblies that just happen to be lying off to the side of the spent fuel pool? (Answer: It can’t be more than once.)
                Also, you say: “As long as we don’t see black smoke coming from the reactor there is not much radiation released to the evironment.” This sounds a lot like the ritual accompanying the selection of a new Pope–do you really have a similar practice over there in nuclear bizarro world?

                1. What about the pools pictured in this diagram? They are in the upper section of the outer containment facility.
                  This slide show from TEPCO shows that, in addition to the “common pool” that you people are talking about, each reactor unit has a spent fuel storage pool. Those individual pools comprise about one-third of the total spent fuel storage capacity. See page 9.
                  The IAEA, as as yesterday, was “seeking information” about the status of the spent fuel.

                  1. As for that “boundary,” if you actually look at the post-explosion pictures, you’ll see that there is reason to doubt that it’s as neatly defined as you think. And the explosion at #3 showed lots of big stuff coming back to earth, as in “chunks of concrete.”
                    So, I’d still like to know about the spent fuel. I do realize it contradicts your insane “What, Me Worry?” line here, but what the hell. Someone ought to be rational as the rest of you drink the glowin’ Kool Aid.

          2. “You come in caustic and full of bile, well guess what – that’s what diarrhea is made of. If you don’t like it, well, DON’T SPEW VERBAL DIARRHEA”
            If you look at what I actually posted, you will find at least half to be direct quotes.
            Clearly Japan is experiencing an incomprehensible series of disasters, of which the nuclear “meltdown” is only a small piece.
            BUT claiming as the original post does that: the operators “face no danger”, and that anyone could “confidently predict no health consequenses” the moment the earth stopped shaking strikes me as delusional.
            And thinking that citizens shouldn’t question the safety of nuclear plants there and elsewhere (which generally takes the form of regulatory action) would be insanity.

            1. the point, ‘disdanial’, is that regulation actually *hinders* safety after a certain point. Don’t agree? If we had the AEC instead of the dysfunctional NRC, we would have *retired* the old BWR plants in favor of the passively safe AP1000s, Areva’s EPR, not to mention having new research in PBMRs, and MSRs (including LFTRs with thorium fuel).
              Hence, by being over-regulatory we’ve *shot ourselves in the foot*. Without it, we’d have a burgeoning export industry, we would have gotten rid of coal, probably started on production of oil using process heat from reactors, and in general have given global warming a swift kick in the butt.
              So yeah, new regulation, and new costs is not the answer. Funds for *upgrading* current reactors or replacing them with new ones MIGHT be a good starting point instead.

    2. I work at a Mark I Type 4 plant and believe that I have a great deal and very specific knowledge about the design of at least Units 2 & 3 and have no wish to criticize or disparage the operators of this plant who are obviously struggling with an unprecedented combination of natural disasters. We all need to be very careful and understand the extremely serious nature of what is going on. The explosion in the Reactor Building of Unit 3 appears to be horrendously destructive. Much of the structural steel and concrete was ejected into the air above the refueling floor and than landed back on the refueling floor and presumably within the spent fuel pool.
      Of course, I have no means of knowing but with the level of destruction on the floor it is highly likely that some of the spent fuel in the pool has been damaged and probably rearranged from the original array within the spent fuel racks. It is possible that Keff is no longer being maintained below 0.95 as designed and cooling of the spent fuel is at minimum impaired. I suspect that efforts will start to focus on the cooling of spent fuel as the operators finally get control of the situation with the reactor core. I hope that major damage to the pool and fuel has not occurred but based on the magnitude of the event I think that it is highly unlikely.

      1. As for the spent fuel, I would think that all but the top nozzles are protected by the racks themselves, and Keff would be unaffected.
        And as long as the operators have fire hoses and operable diesel fire pumps to maintain level the pool should be OK, even if they have to let it go to boiling and pump in some seawater for makeup. Not the best of situations by any means, but manageable. Of course the pool will later have to be purged of chlorides to prevent corrosion.
        If the pool stood up to the original quake, which I believe was beyond the design basis, I think its structural integrity has been proven.

      2. And now we’ve got a report of a third explosion. So, are you still “gloating” around here?

        1. @Guest – has a single member of the public been harmed by the events at the reactor? Like many people commenting here, I have nothing but admiration and respect for the workers who are doing what needs to be done in very trying times.
          However, I stand by the prediction that I made on Saturday morning. No one outside the fence of the facility will be hurt or exposed to a dose of radiation that will cause any negative health effects.
          In the meantime, the reports about all of the rest of the catastrophe take second fiddle in the minds of even such normally respectable news sources as the BBC. The excessive fear of radiation and nuclear matters is something that is deeply engrained and deeply wrong.

          1. Okay, so the plant’s workers are expendable. I get it. Now we have rising radiation levels in surrounding villages; possible breach of primary containment at #2; no word yet on spent fuel. When do you quit “suppressing the urge to gloat?”

            1. @Guest – where did I say that plant workers are expendable? Please remember, I was a plant operator, though not in a commercial plant. I consider myself part of a worldwide brotherhood of people who do shift work, toil at difficult to learn jobs, and understand that there are times when you have to perform tasks that carry some degree of risk in order to meet a higher mission than your personal ones. From the time I was a tiny lad, I watched as my dad spent one day every month going to work with a hard hat and utility work clothes instead of his normal coat and tie so that he could attend “storm training” at his utility company employer. When I was about six, I learned what that meant when he left the house as soon as the wind from Hurricane Cleo stopped blowing so that he could spend about 18 hours per day helping to put power lines back up so that others could have refrigeration, traffic lights, cooking capabilities, and entertainment.
              With regard to the breathless, hyped media reports of “possible containment breach” I simply get angry that so few people have been given the information that they need to realize that they are in no danger, that they have far more important issues to solve, and that the crisis mongers are also just doing their job of capturing eyeballs so that their employers can sell advertising.

              1. where did I say that plant workers are expendable?
                The workers there aren’t members of the public? Then what are they, Martians?

  11. Each passing hour means less decay heat and fewer radioactive atoms to deal with. But the risk is not zero. My confidence in the people managing these plants is not high.
    Safety related equipment is qualified for operation in severe conditions, but that does not include a supersonic shock wave from a hydrogen explosion. Allowing a large explosive hydrogen mixture to build up in the unit 1 building was a big mistake. Letting it happen again 2 days later in unit 3 was incompetence. There are reports that safety related pumps and valves may have been damaged in these blasts.
    The loss of those buildings means more fission product atoms will escape the plant boundary. The question is, will the amount be insignificant or substantial?
    The answer is not yet in. more incompetence could melt the core through the reactor vessel and containment vessel. If the molten core is ejected at high pressure from the containment into the building with no roof, the release would be substantial. Still not a Chernobyl, but a very big expensive accident.
    That said, we can point out that even in a worst case outcome, the fatalities from radiation will be much less than 1% of the total number of fatalities from this earthquake. We can point out that the routine operation of coal plants kills 11,000 Americans each year and the mercury from them lowers the IQ of thousands of newborns.
    We can point out that Gen III reactors have passive cooling systems that do not need power to work, and have core catchers, making a full meltdown nothing to fear. Some new designs can be licensed to start up without external power, a very helpful feature in this kind of disaster.

    1. I would caution you against accusations of “mistakes”, “incompetence”, and “more incompetence.” The facility has obviously been badly damaged. Unless you have some special sources of information, you don’t know what equipment the operators have available as they struggle to get control of the situation.

      1. @botmosa:
        We agree on that one. I would never attempt to second guess the operators on scene during the casualty. They have a tough, important job to do and I am confident they will do it well enough to protect the public from harm.

        1. Rod and Botmosa. I do not accuse the vast majority of nuclear workers in Japan of incompetence. I do not accuse the majority of NASA workers responsible for the Challenger shuttle disaster.
          Some engineers at NASA knew that the O-rings were unreliable at cold temperatures and recommended against flying. Their advice was ignored by middle managers with more authority than engineering sense. Had they flown a second shuttle two days later in the same cold conditions that would be gross incompetence or worse.
          I suspect that the investigation will show that some engineers recommended taking action to prevent the accumulation of a large volume of flammable hydrogen / air mixture, by ventilating the building or burning it as it was released. Sadly, their advice was rejected.
          If I am wrong about that Rod, and I can share a plate of crow.

  12. If it’s any consolation, the anti-nuclear hysteria in Germany is much worse than it is here. Demonstrators have already been out in force, there are knee-jerk plans to shut down Germany’s nuclear reactors, and the cover of this week’s Der Spiegel magazine, long a bitter opponent of nuclear power, reads, “The End of the Atomic Age.”

  13. Third explosion. This time in Reactor #2. Inner containment vessel might be damaged. Workers being evacuated from plants. Radiation levels 20-30 times normal in surrounding villages. Still gloating?
    An explosion early Tuesday morning may have damaged the inner steel containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at Japan

      1. Go ahead and make fun of my moderation policy. It is perhaps acceptable to use an expletive in audio conversation, but when you write it down in electronic form, it suddenly becomes searchable and remains a part of this site forever unless I delete it. I do not want this site to have the reputation of a place where people should be afraid of what their children might read. I particularly do not want it to offend workplace filtering software.

      2. Actually, one of the very first lessons that you get if you want a job as a leader or as a crisis manager is that it is NEVER safe to panic.
        With regard to a “containment breach” I would have to say that such a description 3 days after a reactor shutdown is most assuredly no reason to panic.
        There is still work to be done to achieve what regulators like to call a “safe shutdown” condition, but the chances of any harm to anyone – inside the plant or out – from exposure to radiation decrease with every passing hour. Those chances were already low enough for me to stake my professional reputation on a pretty definitive statement very early Saturday morning (EST). Go back and read what I wrote and tell me where it is wrong.

    1. Let’s get back to basics:
      The control rods were fully inserted from the first minute! The chain reaction was stopped the instant the quake hit. All we have is radioactive decay which is reduced as time progresses. The Japanese seem to have trouble keeping this decay heat in the state that it would normally be kept in – cooled in the reactor core at low pressure. Pressure can build up, steam can be released, coolant can be added etc, much like with an overheating engine and a radiator. What can happen at most? More destruction of the concrete buildings etc., more to clean up later. It’s not as if anything extremely important is “hanging by a thread” here, although thats how it is being portrayed.

      1. Okay. But they are evacuating *some of* the workers…which will make fixing the hole/crack a real challenge. (Not to mention continued cooling operations.) And presumably there could be uncontrolled release of radiation until that leak is fixed…and the wind is blowing to the south…

        1. @disdaniel – nobody is going to do any “fixing” of any holes or cracks for quite some time. They will continue efforts to achieve the required “safe shutdown” conditions.
          What will be the driving force for this hypothetical uncontrolled release? What will be the dose rate and how long will the exposure continue? My assertion remains that any dose rate from any released from the plant will be relatively small and it will not expose anyone for very long. The total dose, therefore, will remain low enough so that it will be essentially impossible to distinguish from the normal ‘noise’ in background radiation. It will not cause any negative health effects.
          I will stake my career on it.

    2. My takeaway is that it seems kinda easy to disassociate water and make hydrogen with radiological heat, much less Fission heat. This seems like an opportunity to me. Imagine how much Hydrogen we could make if we did so by design! I think that the loss of a 40 year old reactor to learn this lesson is a small price to pay in the longer scheme of things. What do you care of the loss of a 40 year old reactor? I see it as old technology and pales in comparison of what other designs could do for us.

      1. @Johnch Good to know there are cooler heads out there. There are special types of reactors designed to produce hydrogen, and this could indeed be a fuel for the future. For example aircraft engines could be run on hydrogen. We could say the Japanese have run the 40 year old reactor “to fail”, which is fine with me. The only thing worrying me is the hysteria about radiation and as a result the evacuations in a large radius around nuclear plants – this is where the real fear factor is, and it is for the most part unnecessary.

      2. “it seems kinda easy to disassociate water and make hydrogen with radiological heat”
        well of course…electrolysis is such a pain compared to subjecting your reactors to 9.0 earthquakes + 25 m tsunami+ associated 3 days of nail-biting stress while cooling efforts fail one by one.

        1. Are there a couple posts missing that were just here? (Or am I now imagining posting, reading replies and posting in response?)
          I suppose I may be being punished for using bad words like
          Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says: Now we are talking about levels that can impact human health. I would like all of you to embrace this information calmly. These are readings taken near the area where we believe that the release of radioactive substances is occurring. The further away you get from the power plant or reactor the value should go down”

          1. Oh I see…deleted because I used a bad word when I realized just how truely horrid this meltdown is…that members of the public will almost certainly be harmed. Sorry to anyone who might have been offended. And most of all sorry to the people living and working around the plant–poeple I might ad who ARE clearly risking their lives (heroically or admirably) to shut this *bleep* thing down.

  14. To all the Kool-Aid drinkers here: What is the acceptable casualty level? Give me some numbers. Thanks!

    1. You tell me first what are acceptable numbers for any other system of essential technological infrastructure:
      How many planes should crash?
      How many dams can burst?
      How many refineries explode?
      How many passenger trains derail?
      One old man in Japan perished the other day because he was so frightened by the media radiation hype he closed up his house and died of asphyxiation from his space heater. I therefore propose we close down all news broadcasts and ban space heaters to save lives.

    2. How many millions of tons of fossil fuels have these damaged reactors displaced over the last 40 years? How many millions of tons of air pollution have they prevent from being emitted? How many lives would have been cut short by breathing in that pollution? How many lives have these reactors saved? I don’t know the exact number but I do know that it is larger than the number of deaths to the public they have caused. I can say that because the number of deaths to the public caused by these reactors is zero.

    3. What’s so terrible about someone dying a nuclear-related death when we have so many dead from other causes? It seems every other industry can have its accidents and deaths, but when it comes to nuclear, you can’t even have an accident once every 25 years without causing a worldwide panic. Nuclear is not perfect but it’s the best energy source out there.

        1. Is it the Kool-aid that causes you to not see that they have responded?
          It is YOU who have not answered my very reasonable request for clarification.
          So if a single dam failure (a

          1. All you Kool-Aid drinkers have done is answer my question wuth questions. You’re not only cowards, you’re arrogant cowards. Worst kind.

                1. My request for some numbers from you then should have been equally simple.
                  Since this seems to be something you have given a lot of deep thought to – what are they?

                2. @Guest – you are a guest here. Please do not insult people, especially when you are too cowardly to sign your own name and to take responsibility for what you are saying. Here is the thing – in a few weeks, or in a few months, we will be able to look back and see that the people who have been saying that the nuclear issues, while serious for the people who own and operate the plant, should be quite low on the list of priorities for everyone else in the country and for all of the news media. There will not be a single member of the public exposed to enough radioactive material to cause a negative health effect. Notice that I not only say this with my own name signed, but on a site that displays my picture, my contact information, and even my hometown.
                  It is also a site read by many of my professional peers in a profession where having a reputation for being wrong could be quite damaging. I have been accused more than once of being arrogant in this discussion, but it is only arrogance enabled by standing on the shoulders of giants like the authors of the 20 September 2002 article in Science Magazine that explains the very worst that can happen – even in the case of starting off with assuming that fuel is melted and all of the engineered barriers have suffered damage from a direct attack that breaches the barriers. One thing about that article is that the assumption is an engineering one in which it is not allowed for someone to say “well, what if all of the barriers suddenly disappear?” The barriers can be broken, but only in an imaginary world can they disappear. In real life, water takes energy to vaporize, steel requires a certain quantity of energy per unit mass/per degree in order to heat up and then a far greater quantity of energy per unit mass to soften and turn from solid to liquid.
                  There will be no harm done to the general public. There have already been some people hurt on the industrial site in what are certainly very regrettable, but still very ordinary types of industrial accidents like falling, suffering the effects of a rapid chemical oxidation (aka a hydrogen explosion), or getting crushed when operating a crane during a 9.0 earthquake.

                  1. Please do not insult people, especially when you are too cowardly to sign your own name and to take responsibility for what you are saying
                    This is soooooooooooo typical of slanted Internet cults. Your right-wing friends do the same thing on their favorite sites: Hurl insults of all kinds, then take umbrage when called out. The arrogance, minimization, and outright cowardice here is thick enough to cut with a knife. You’ve convinced me of one thing: There really is such a thing as a “mad scientist.”

                    1. @ Guest,
                      I read a lot of sites. I have read many left wing sites that hurl insults. So what? If someone points out that you are wrong is that an insult? For example, you question above about what is an acceptable casualty level? let me put a number to that. Let’s say that for nuclear power, 10 deaths per year directly attributable to radiation exposure at a level that caused the death within 30 days of the exposure would be acceptable. That level would be hundreds less than actual deaths from hydrocarbons each year but would be much much much more than has actually occurred in the past 60 years of energy production.
                      I like actual safety records against “potential” harm.

        2. The real question our brave guest what energy soucre is safer than nuclear power?
          Well history tells us not oil, gas or coal because each of those kill more people each year than nuclear power has from the beginning of time. No form of energy is completely safe, but nuclear is one of the safest known.

      1. “Nuclear energy need not be perfect to be better than everything else, it simply needs to be better than everything else. Happily, it is.”

    4. Hey I live very close to a nuclear power plant and it doesn’t worry me at all, but those coal plants hundred or more miles from me well they scare the hell out of me.

    5. Google “Death from natural gas explosions”. You will find that that alone has caused more deaths than all deaths caused or even said to be caused by nuclear power plants. Now throw in coal plants and the mining of coal, hydro and the dam breaks, etc. Even Chernobyl doesn’t even come close to the yearly average of these other forms of energy producing methods, and there has only been one Chernobyl. Deaths from Fukushima will not exceed those caused by fire as a result of the earthquake/tsunami.

    6. @Guest – do you even know what the allusion of “Kool-Aid drinkers” refers to? I am guilty of many faults, but blindly following the lead of others into stupid actions is not one of them.

        1. @Guest – ahh – so you are not accusing me of drinking any Kool-Aid, because, as I am sure you know, Jim Jones only faked drinking. He was one of the survivors.
          Seriously, do you really think that the people in this discussion all blindly agree and follow? There is a lively debate going on and many points of discussion and disagreement.
          You, on the other hand, appear convinced that we should all be in a tizzy because of reports coming from people who do not know much other than what they think they heard someone else say.

  15. Hey Guest — your point has been made.
    It’s not the first time that unanticipated series of events have led to a disaster. The nuclear apologists on this board suffer from a combination of slight hubris and lack of imagination. They forget that real people fear the unknown, of which radiation is one of the ultimate forms. Invisible, painless, yet capable of such devastation. Let’s just hope that as few real human beings are impacted from what is obviously now a major event.

  16. There’s no realism at this site. No reason to stay and read the misleading propaganda.

    1. @BigBuck – fine. Leave. Go and read or watch the hype and breathless commentary from the knowledgable and well prepared advertiser supported media. That way you will be able to wring your hands and speak with authority at your local water cooler.

      1. I am glad to see that no one in the pronuclear community is trying to placate the antinukes this time around. At the risk of being moderated away, it looks to me like collectively we have finally grown a pair.

        1. @DV82XL – na, filtering software will not alert on words like ‘grown’ or ‘pair’.
          It does seem quite amazing to have people come and visit with essentially the intention of trying to yell fire in a crowded room only to find that they are in a room inhabited by people who deal with fire for a living and know exactly how to recognize the difference between various levels of danger.

          1. Hey Rod I am completely outside of the nuclear field and have no formal study of the subject. But I do have common sense, the ability to think and the ability to research and found that anyone who is concern about emitted radiation should demand every coal plant be shut down and replaced with a nuclear power plant ASAP. But seems some rather just shout fire rather than think.

    1. Yeah, go ahead make fun of me!
      One of the reactors that was OFFLINE (#4?) just experienced an explosion. They have increased the evacuation zone to 30 kms, and are reporting readings of 400 milliseverts/hr (whatever that is).

      1. Opps major error on my part…20 km is evac zone…20-30km STAY INDOORS!! Sorry so sorry about error.

          1. Sorry been trying to unsuccessfully trackdown the actual news item re#4…they reference a Kyodo news source, but I can’t pull up the actual item:
            Re: dose/exposure
            Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says: Now we are talking about levels that can impact human health. I would like all of you to embrace this information calmly. These are readings taken near the area where we believe that the release of radioactive substances is occurring. The further away you get from the power plant or reactor the value should go down”.
            from BBC
            hehe…I guess you can tell the blog where I’ve spent most of my day!

      2. disdaniel,
        The 400 millisieverts/hr you asked about. I think that is the reported radiation dose at the site. But here is what it means to you and me: a lot of radiation. In the US, we would say 40Rem/hr. There are health effects that show up. Like, if a group of people were there for a whole shift–say, 10 hours or so–we would expect about half of them to die from radiation sickness in the next 30 days.
        On the other hand, in the nuclear bizarro world here, it is no big deal.

  17. I need to make a clarification about moderation here. I fully intend to delete any comments that use language that George Carlin would put into the category of the seven deadly words. I have already taken that action on at least one comment.
    For reasons that I do not quite understand and have no time to troubleshoot, the commenting software I use will delete all responses that are associated with the comment that I found offensive. If you want to engage, use language acceptable at the Sunday dinner table. If you respond to a comment that does not meet that standard, you risk having your response deleted along with the offending comment as soon as I get a chance to notice it.
    I hope you all understand that this blog uses the assumption of good will until proven differently. I allow comments to appear without prior moderation, but I will delete after the fact. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that offensive comments hang around for a while because, believe it or not, I do have a life outside of moderating Atomic Insights.

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