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Japan braces for nuclear meltdown March 12, 2011

Posted by angryscientist in Bad Science, Uncategorized.

The earthquake and tsunami, as horrendous as they were, might be only a prelude to a much bigger nightmare. Five nuclear reactors have been heating up, without enough electricity to run their cooling systems. Their backup diesel generators were damaged by the tsunami, and batteries don’t last long. Mother Nature is about to show these cocky humans who think they can play with hellfire and get away with it the consequences of Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will. The odds may seem to be astronomical, but here it is, nuclear meltdown, about to happen once again. At least one of the reactors may already be past the point of no return, and the situation at all five reactors is far from under control. Japan has declared a state of emergency, but there is little anyone can do, besides hope that man’s folly won’t bite too hard, this time. Radioactive steam has been released and people in the neighborhood evacuated, but these are desperate measures with little chance of preventing catastrophe. There is little doubt there will be a catastrophic meltdown; the question is how far will the radioactive material go after it spews into the atmosphere.

There are stories all over the web, as the situation escalates. Here’s an excerpt from Al Jazeera.

Japan fears nuclear plant meltdown
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2011 06:48 GMT

Japanese nuclear authorities say there is a high possibility that nuclear fuel rods at a reactor at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima prefecture may be melting or have melted.

The cooling system of the plant was damaged in the massive earthquake that struck norteastern Japan and triggered a tsunami, killing at least 703 people.

Kyodo News agency said on Saturday that radioactive caesium had been detected near the plant, citing the Japanese nuclear safety commission.

A state of emergency has been declared for five nuclear reactors at two different sites in Fukushima, located about 250 kilometres northeast of greater Tokyo.

Steam containing low-level radiation were released to relieve pressure and tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from surrounding areas.

Radiation 1,000 times above normal was detected in the control room of one plant, although authorities said levels outside the facility’s gates were only eight times above normal, spelling “no immediate health hazard”.

The 8.9 quake and the tsunami cut the supply of off-site power to the plant and diesel generators intended to provide back-up electricity to the cooling system.

“The events that occurred at these plants, which is the loss of both offsite power and onsite power, is one of the rarest events to happen in a nuclear power plant, and all indications are that the Japanese do not have the situation under control,” Edwin Lyman, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based nonprofit organisation, said.

As usual, the authorities are downplaying the possibilities, but they are whistling in the dark. If they get the situation under control, it will be a matter of luck. This is what happens when cocky scientists play with dynamite, thinking they know what they’re doing. Sooner or later, the piper must be paid.