Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nuclear Plant Melt-Down (Japan)

IWAKI, Japan (AP) — An explosion at a nuclear power station Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor amid fears that it could melt down after being hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

Large amounts of radiation were spewing out and the evacuation area around the plant was expanded but officials did not know how dangerous the leak was to people. Shinji Kinjo, a spokesman for the Japanese nuclear agency, could not say how much radiation was in the atmosphere or how hot the reactor was following the failure of its cooling system.

Smoke rising from the nuclear power facility at Onahoma, Japan

The initial report by the Associated Press sounded dire. Then the Japanese Government issued a statement urging everyone to 'remain calm'. The Great Tohoku Earthquake has been a disaster of epic proportions in Japan with nearly 90,000 people missing, many of them presumed dead.  But what about the nuclear powerplant?

The BBC Reported that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan declared a state of emergency at the Fukushima-Daiichi facility... however, the public was urged to remain calm. -- BUT they've evacuated people within 20 kilometers of the plant and the police have a cordon up 60 kilometers from the site. The Japanese are distributing iodine to residents to combat radiation sickness. Potassium Iodide (KI) or Potassium Iodate (KIO3) before exposure will saturate (fill up) a persons thyroid gland with safe stable iodine to where there is no room for later uptake of radioactive iodine. Once the thyroid is saturated, then any additional iodine (radioactive or stable) that is later inhaled or ingested is quickly eliminated via the kidneys.

The BBC report (above) suggests that "the explosion was most likely caused by melting (NUCLEAR) fuel coming into contact with water.

John Cooper's comments copied from GatewayPundit: "Nuclear reactors are not like a pot of water boiling on your kitchen stove. They continue to produce decay heat for weeks after the reactor is shut down due to the radioactive decay of fission by-products. Those megawatts of heat must continuously be removed using the Residual Heat Removal [RHR] system. Failing to cool the reactor after shutdown results in core heatup and possibly core meltdown. The RHR systems I’m familiar with use redundant 400HP vertical shaft centrifugal pumps driven by electric motors to circulate the hot water through heat exchangers to cool the water in the reactor.

When the reactor is shut down (“scrammed”), the plant depends upon offsite utility power to run the RHR pumps and other safety equipment. When the plant loses offsite power (as happened at Fukushima), there are three huge diesel generators that start up automatically to provide emergency backup power. At least that’s the theory.

At Fukushima, some dumb ass design engineer decided it was a good idea to locate the diesels where they could be flooded. No diesels means no electric power to run the emergency systems to cool the plant. Apparently they had the steam-powered auxiliary feedwater pumps for a while.

Now they’re totally fooked. It must be real dark in the control room at the moment.

“In a BBC report a nuclear physicist stated that if they use sea water to cool the reactor, they have written off the reactor for ever being used again. Too many contaminants in sea water, the reactor will be scrapped if they do this.”

That’s exactly correct. The chlorine in the salt water causes stress-corrosion cracking in the stainless steel piping. The plant will never operate again if exposed to sea water.

Also, if they’re desperate enough to pump sea water in there, I’m wondering what they are going to do with the radioactive runoff. Let it drain out to sea, probably. With no electricity, what else can they do?"

We all wait for more news from Japan, but sadly, there's not a lot of good news in the aftermath of the 8.9 earthquake.


Opus #6 said...

This is horrible. Japan is a small island. I hope they stay safe.

Coffeypot said...

I know that the Navy homeport is in Yokosuka, Japan, South of Tokyo. Have you heard how they are faring? Did they immediately go to sea when the earthquake hit? Haven’t heard.

darlin said...

This is so unreal, the devastation and lost lives and now this. I'm at a loss for words, and that takes a lot for me to be this way. 90,000 people missing, that's hard to fathom and sad. so very sad, to hear.

WoFat said...

Remain calm. Is that Japanese for "Oh shit?"

Best of luck to them.

LL said...

Coffeypot - the Navy didn't have time to sortie, but there was no damage there. They have a facebook page (Naval Station Yokosuka) and I followed events there, more or less from the horse's mouth.

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