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Archive for Friday, March 18, 2011

More smoke rises from crippled nuke plant in Japan

March 18, 2011

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— Smoke billowed from a building at Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant today as emergency crews worked to reconnect electricity to cooling systems and spray more water on overheating nuclear fuel at the tsunami-ravaged facility.

Four of the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant’s six reactor units have seen fires, explosions or partial meltdowns in the week since the tsunami. While the reactor cores where energy is generated are a concern, water in the pools used to store used nuclear fuel are also major worries. Water in at least one fuel pool — in the complex’s Unit 3 — is believed to be dangerously low, exposing the stored fuel rods. Without enough water, the rods may heat further and spew out radiation.

“We see it as an extremely serious accident,” Yukiya Amano, the head of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters today just after arriving in Tokyo. “This is not something that just Japan should deal with, and people of the entire world should cooperate with Japan and the people in the disaster areas.”

Frantic efforts were made Thursday to douse a number of units with water, and authorities were preparing to repeat many of those efforts.

Today’s smoke came from the complex’s Unit 2, and its cause was not known, the nuclear safety agency said. An explosion had hit the building on Tuesday, possibly damaging a crucial cooling chamber that sits below the reactor core.

Last week’s 9.0 quake and tsunami in Japan’s northeast set off the nuclear problems by knocking out power to cooling systems at the reactors. The unfolding crises have led to power shortages in Japan, forced auto and other factories to close, sending shockwaves through global manufacturing and trade, and triggered a plunge in Japanese stock prices.

Low levels of radiation have been detected well beyond Tokyo, which is 140 miles south of the plant, but hazardous levels have been limited to the plant itself. Still, the crisis has forced thousands to evacuate and drained Tokyo’s normally vibrant streets of life, its residents either leaving town or holing up in their homes.

“I feel a sense of dread,” said Yukiko Morioka, 63, who has seen business dry up at her lottery ticket booth in Tokyo. “I’m not an expert, so it’s difficult to understand what’s going on. That makes it scarier.”

A senior official with the U.N. nuclear agency said Thursday there had been “no significant worsening” at the nuclear plant but that the situation remained “very serious.” Graham Andrew told reporters in Vienna that nuclear fuel rods in two reactors were only about half covered with water, and they were also not completely submerged in a third.

Edano said today that Tokyo is asking the U.S. government for help and that the two are discussing the specifics.

“We are coordinating with the U.S. government as to what the U.S. can provide and what people really need,” Edano said.

At times, the two close allies have offered starkly differing assessments over the dangers at Fukushima. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jazcko said Thursday that it could take days and “possibly weeks” to get the complex under control. He defended the U.S. decision to recommend a 50-mile evacuation zone for its citizens, wider than the 30-mile band Japan has ordered.

Crucial to the effort to regain control over the Fukushima plant is laying a new power line to the plant, allowing operators to restore cooling systems. The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., missed a deadline late Thursday but said today that workers hoped to complete the effort in 10 to 15 hours, said nuclear safety agency spokesman Minoru Ohgoda.

But the utility is not sure the cooling systems will still function. If they don’t, electricity won’t help.

The official death toll from the disasters stood at 6,405 as of this morning, with 10,259 missing, the national police agency said.

Comments

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

The Waste Problem

* A typical reactor will generate 20 to 30 tons of high-level nuclear waste annually. There is no known way to safely dispose of this waste, which remains dangerously radioactive for a quarter of a million years.

* The nuclear power industry has amassed hundreds of thousands of tons of "low-level" radioactive waste (or, in industry and regulatory parlance, "slightly radioactive solid materials"), which has created an enormous disposition problem. The industry hopes to absolve itself from liability for this waste through the insane practice of "releasing" it from regulatory control, whereupon it could be sent to recycling facilities and ultimately end up in common consumer products!

* Isolating nuclear waste from people and the environment requires significant energy and resources.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 9 months ago

Are you forgetting that attribution thing again, planet-killer merrill? Plagiarism is dumb and irresponsible!!!!!!!!

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

"People think that a terrible event is unthinkable until the day after that event occurs," Is your small town expendable? Ever wonder why small towns were selected in the event a tragic might occur?

http://sanders.enews.senate.gov/mail/util.cfm?gpiv=2100070061.204960.74&gen=1

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

The Japanese nuclear crisis worsens as Japanese authorities race to cool the overheating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

Earlier today, Japan raised the nuclear alert level at the crippled plant from a four to a five, on par with Three Mile Island. This decision has shocked many nuclear experts.

“Our experts think that it’s a level 6.5 already, and it’s on the way to a seven, which was Chernobyl," says Philip White of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo.

We also speak with Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility about the long-term health effects from radiation exposure from Fukushima.

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/18/underestimating_the_seriousness_of_the_problem

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