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Nuclear power and Japan.

John Dolva

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The hey days of the anti nuclear movements throughout the world looms a a spectre over the devastation in Japan. The question , imo , is not how the reactors failed but why they were there to fail in the first place.

IMO it is an atrocious situation caused by short term economic considerations that in this world are reprehensible.

I hope this will lead to a revival of strong global anti nuclear actions.



Photos: Japan Surveys the Damage

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Reuters Official in protective gear scans for signs of radiation on a man who is from the evacuation area near the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant in Koriyama on Saturday.

Smoke rose Saturday following an explosion at a nuclear power plant in Japan's Fukushima prefecture. Video courtesy of Reuters

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(some) Non nuclear and non fossile alternatives...


''How to get carbon-free power in Australia

When it comes to avoiding the most catastrophic impacts of global warming whatever the financial cost, the price is still worth paying. But new research by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) shows Australia could meet 100% of its stationary energy needs from renewables in a decade and stimulate the economy at the same time.

With a projected yearly cost of 3% to 3.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) over 10 years it’s a plan that won’t cost the earth — but it may help save it from dangerous climate change.

And when compared with Australia’s military spending in 2006 (2.4% of GDP) or its estimated public debt for 2009 (18.6% of GDP) it becomes clear that the lack of serious action on climate change is not primarily a financial issue, but a political problem.

Nor is technology a barrier to move rapidly to 100% renewable electricity. The clean technologies cited in the plan are commercially available right now.

BZE, a non-profit climate research and advocacy group, released a preview of its executive summary of the stationary energy report on February 17. The full stationary energy report will be released later this year.

The report summary concluded: “There are no technological impediments to transforming Australia’s stationary energy sector to zero emissions over the next ten years.

“The costs of transformation are adequately offset by savings made from shifting away from the business as usual scenario. No resource constraints were identified.

“With adequate societal and political commitment and regulatory support, the goal of an efficient and competitive zero-emissions stationary energy sector is well within Australia’s reach.â€

The energy plan is the first part of BZE’s broader Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Project.

When finished, the project aims to give a blueprint for a 10-year transition to zero-emissions for the whole economy. BZE estimates the cost of the entire project would be less then 10% of GDP over 10 years.

Future reports will investigate fully-costed, sustainable pathways for Australia’s transport, buildings, industrial processes, forestry, land use and agriculture. Another report will plan how to replace the lost revenue from phasing-out Australia’s coal exports.

BZE executive director Matthew Wright told Green Left Weekly that the group’s goal, “is to make the clear, technically robust arguments that there are a number of blueprints available for a transition to decarbonise the economy, starting today. And that it can be done with clean, safe, renewable energyâ€.

The energy report summary says Australia’s energy needs could be met with concentrated solar thermal power with molten salt heat storage (60%) and wind power (40%). Backup power could be provided by existing hydroelectric power and special power plants that burn currently unused crop residue.

Big gains in energy efficiency would also be needed. The extensive insulation of all commercial and residential buildings and the rollout of heat pump space heating are two important measures. Also, about $90 billion would be needed over the decade to upgrade Australia’s aging electricity transmission system.

In this way Australia’s natural gas-fired and coal-fired power stations would be phased out completely.

“The most important thing is that [these technologies] are commercially available nowâ€, said Wright. “So there is no more research and development that needs to be done on these renewable energy sources. We could pretty much roll out what we are suggesting now.

“Of course, there is research and development happening that, over time, could bring the costs down. But because they are commercially available now there is no room for wheedling out.

“It then becomes a political question [for the government] of, ‘are you going to do it, or aren’t you going to do it? Are we going to solve the climate crisis or aren’t we?’ Our plan is about solving it.â€

He said the mainstream political debates about what kind of mechanism should be used to reduce emissions (such as emissions trading schemes or carbon taxes) are unproductive unless they are grounded in reality.

“First you have to decide what the science is saying. Then you need to work out what to do technically to fix it and then [decide] what different mechanisms are you going to use. That’s been our approach.â€

Wright said the 10-year timeframe is central to the transition plan. “We have to go and see what the climate scientists, the experts and researchers, who have spent years on the subject, are saying. And they say there is too much carbon in the atmosphere already today.

“We are already seeing the effects of dangerous climate change. So effectively, that means we should be at zero carbon emissions today. But we need a plan and we need a timeline that is not too disruptive to people’s lifestyles. You need enough lead-time to be able to achieve your goal and I think 10 years is a good planning horizon.â€

He noted that moving to a zero-emissions economy is only the first step towards a stable climate. Ways of drawing down carbon out of the atmosphere must also be developed.

Wind power is familiar to most Australians, yet concentrating solar thermal plants are less widely known. However, the report said Australia has the best conditions for solar power in the world and solar thermal plants are being built in some countries.

Concentrating solar thermal plants worth $20 billion are being built in Spain, to be brought online over the next three years. There are also billions of dollars worth of plants that are going to break ground in the US by the end of the year.

As more solar thermal plants are built, the cost of each new plant comes down. “Spain is kind of doing a service to the world — you could call it a kind of foreign aid reallyâ€, said Wright. “They are investing public money towards bringing the costs down and so future plants will be cheaper.

“There is a clear cost reduction trajectory that has been identified by the US department of energy in a report verified by one of the world’s leading power engineering firms, Sargent & Lundy. It says that [once about 9000 megawatts of] solar thermal with storage [is installed] globally, it will come down to the price of a new conventional coal-fired power station.â€

Furthermore, solar and wind power will be much cheaper in the long-run. “The thing about fossil fuels is that the price of the actual fuel itself always rises over timeâ€, said Wright. “But there is no way you can say that the cost of the fuel for a solar plant or a wind plant is going to rise over time.

“The cost of building materials and things like that could go up, but even then just about everything used to make solar and wind facilities is totally closed-loop recyclable. So the input costs for the replacement infrastructure is going to be a lot lower.

“We’re not talking about an economic retraction like some major economies suffered in the financial crisis. We’re talking about allocating 3% of GDP to a purpose that is actually very productive and is job-rich.

“So it’s not the same as a 3% downturn. This is allocating 3% of our productivity to our future. And it’s going to look after us now, and look after our children.â€

However, Wright also explained that the 3% to 3.5% figure for the stationary energy plan relies on inputs from other sectors. So there will be added costs related to the electrification of transport and the decarbonisation of other sectors of the economy.

In the debates about how to shift away from fossil fuels, some have argued that 4th generation nuclear power provides a good low-carbon alternative. Supporters, including the renowned climate scientist James Hansen, have said governments should back the new reactors, which promise to use only existing stockpiles of nuclear waste to produce emissions-free power with minimal nuclear waste.

However, a big drawback is that the technology is not commercially available anywhere in the world. Wright told GLW that nuclear power is not a good alternative to renewable energy.

“James Hansen has a very nuanced position on this issueâ€, said Wright. “He says that 4th generation nuclear technology needs research dollars in order to be a backup plan. As far as I know, he is not advocating for nuclear power plants to be built right at the moment but supports building renewable energy projects.

“However, by lending his [support] to the nuclear cause [it has an impact] because he is quite a well-known person. He is an expert in climate science, but not necessarily in energy.

“But with Australia, the debate is a no-brainer. Australia has the most renewable energy available per capita of any country in the world. There are commercially available renewable solutions right now to re-power this economy.

“Hansen cites India and China as countries that might need to use nuclear power. But something like 3% of [China’s] Gobi desert could theoretically re-power China on 100% solar.

“And of course China is developing masses of wind power and has some hydro resources as well. So China can be dependent on solar and wind as well. So there is really no strong argument for nuclear energy.â€

A feature of BZE’s stationary energy report summary is that moving to a zero-emissions energy system will create thousands of green jobs. It expects more than 15,000 jobs will be created at construction peak. At least 50,000 ongoing jobs will be created in operating and maintaining the new infrastructure.

[More details of Beyond Zero Emissions Zero Carbon Australia Project. The stationary energy report executive summary is available for download.]

Article by: Simon Butler

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #829 10 March 2010.''

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This may be, in fact, a testimony in favour of nuclear power. I have got to get my facts checked, but I believe that all the nuclear power plants closer to the epicentre have shut down without incident, and the reactor(s) that are having the problems were due to be decommissioned in a couple of weeks because they were of old technology and didn't meet the standards required for today. Even so, they managed to get through a huge earthquake and a tsunami. Even the radiation leakage is relatively minor, if reports are correct (and yes, they may be quite wrong). Even if the reactors at risk were to suffer a meltdown, they are in containment buildings, unlike Chernobyl.

I think a post-incident examination of their performance may reveal they did very well.

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This may be, in fact, a testimony in favour of nuclear power. I have got to get my facts checked, but I believe that all the nuclear power plants closer to the epicentre have shut down without incident, and the reactor(s) that are having the problems were due to be decommissioned in a couple of weeks because they were of old technology and didn't meet the standards required for today. Even so, they managed to get through a huge earthquake and a tsunami. Even the radiation leakage is relatively minor, if reports are correct (and yes, they may be quite wrong). Even if the reactors at risk were to suffer a meltdown, they are in containment buildings, unlike Chernobyl.

I think a post-incident examination of their performance may reveal they did very well.

I would be wary of believing these early official statements. A scientist being interviewed on BBC 4 speaking on radio as I write this has claimed that the figures being quoted are meaningless as it is impossible to measure at this stage what needs to be measured.

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This is interesting: from the MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering information hub.

Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors

By Dr Josef Oehmen


This article refers mainly to the events of the Daiichi-1 reactor. The developments at Daiichi-3 seem to take a parallel course today. The explanations in this document will help you understand what is going on there as well. Stay informed at http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Venting_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_3_1303111.html

It is also save. “Nuclear meltdown” sells papers. It is the same quality of agitative journalism that far right wing parties resort to when they try to tell you that all immigrants are lazy criminals.


If you wish to share this information, please link to this article. This is the place where Josef will (if he does) post any updates or direct you to the latest version.


I have to stop moderating the comments as my parents in law have come over to stay with us due to the fear of aftershocks, so I am sorry if that causes any inconvenience, or stifles any debate. I honestly didn’t expect this level of interest (its over 32,000 views as of 11:12pm Japan time)

Just a few comments. I do not work for the nuclear industry. I am an English teacher, from Australia, living in Kawasaki, Japan. My friend Dr J. Oehmen is a family member, and by far and away the most intelligent person I know. Feel free to believe/disbelieve whatever we have written. There are no conspiracies, however if you need to, feel free to make some up. They are quite entertaining.

Japanese readers, I hope your family and loved ones are safe, everyone else, no matter what you believe stay safe.


**original post below**

I know this is a fairly full on statement from someone posting his very first blog. It will also be far and away the most well written, intelligent post I ever make (I hope!) It also means I am not responsible for its content.

This post is by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston.

He is a PhD Scientist, whose father has extensive experience in Germany’s nuclear industry. I asked him to write this information to my family in Australia, who were being made sick with worry by the media reports coming from Japan. I am republishing it with his permission.

It is a few hours old, so if any information is out of date, blame me for the delay in getting it published.

This is his text in full and unedited. It is very long, so get comfy.


We will have to cover some fundamentals, before we get into what is going on.

Construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants

The plants at Fukushima are Boiling Water Reactors (BWR for short). A BWR produces electricity by boiling water, and spinning a a turbine with that steam. The nuclear fuel heats water, the water boils and creates steam, the steam then drives turbines that create the electricity, and the steam is then cooled and condensed back to water, and the water returns to be heated by the nuclear fuel. The reactor operates at about 285 °C.

The nuclear fuel is uranium oxide. Uranium oxide is a ceramic with a very high melting point of about 2800 °C. The fuel is manufactured in pellets (cylinders that are about 1 cm tall and 1 com in diameter). These pellets are then put into a long tube made of Zircaloy (an alloy of zirconium) with a failure temperature of 1200 °C (caused by the auto-catalytic oxidation of water), and sealed tight. This tube is called a fuel rod. These fuel rods are then put together to form assemblies, of which several hundred make up the reactor core.

The solid fuel pellet (a ceramic oxide matrix) is the first barrier that retains many of the radioactive fission products produced by the fission process. The Zircaloy casing is the second barrier to release that separates the radioactive fuel from the rest of the reactor.

The core is then placed in the pressure vessel. The pressure vessel is a thick steel vessel that operates at a pressure of about 7 MPa (~1000 psi), and is designed to withstand the high pressures that may occur during an accident. The pressure vessel is the third barrier to radioactive material release.

The entire primary loop of the nuclear reactor – the pressure vessel, pipes, and pumps that contain the coolant (water) – are housed in the containment structure. This structure is the fourth barrier to radioactive material release. The containment structure is a hermetically (air tight) sealed, very thick structure made of steel and concrete. This structure is designed, built and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown. To aid in this purpose, a large, thick concrete structure is poured around the containment structure and is referred to as the secondary containment.

Both the main containment structure and the secondary containment structure are housed in the reactor building. The reactor building is an outer shell that is supposed to keep the weather out, but nothing in. (this is the part that was damaged in the explosions, but more to that later).

Fundamentals of nuclear reactions

The uranium fuel generates heat by neutron-induced nuclear fission. Uranium atoms are split into lighter atoms (aka fission products). This process generates heat and more neutrons (one of the particles that forms an atom). When one of these neutrons hits another uranium atom, that atom can split, generating more neutrons and so on. That is called the nuclear chain reaction. During normal, full-power operation, the neutron population in a core is stable (remains the same) and the reactor is in a critical state.

It is worth mentioning at this point that the nuclear fuel in a reactor can never cause a nuclear explosion like a nuclear bomb. At Chernobyl, the explosion was caused by excessive pressure buildup, hydrogen explosion and rupture of all structures, propelling molten core material into the environment. Note that Chernobyl did not have a containment structure as a barrier to the environment. Why that did not and will not happen in Japan, is discussed further below.

In order to control the nuclear chain reaction, the reactor operators use control rods. The control rods are made of boron which absorbs neutrons. During normal operation in a BWR, the control rods are used to maintain the chain reaction at a critical state. The control rods are also used to shut the reactor down from 100% power to about 7% power (residual or decay heat).

The residual heat is caused from the radioactive decay of fission products. Radioactive decay is the process by which the fission products stabilize themselves by emitting energy in the form of small particles (alpha, beta, gamma, neutron, etc.). There is a multitude of fission products that are produced in a reactor, including cesium and iodine. This residual heat decreases over time after the reactor is shutdown, and must be removed by cooling systems to prevent the fuel rod from overheating and failing as a barrier to radioactive release. Maintaining enough cooling to remove the decay heat in the reactor is the main challenge in the affected reactors in Japan right now.

It is important to note that many of these fission products decay (produce heat) extremely quickly, and become harmless by the time you spell "R-A-D-I-O-N-U-C-L-I-D-E." Others decay more slowly, like some cesium, iodine, strontium, and argon.

What happened at Fukushima (as of March 12, 2011)

The following is a summary of the main facts. The earthquake that hit Japan was several times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; for example the difference between an 8.2 and the 8.9 that happened is 5 times, not 0.7).

When the earthquake hit, the nuclear reactors all automatically shutdown. Within seconds after the earthquake started, the control rods had been inserted into the core and the nuclear chain reaction stopped. At this point, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat, about 7% of the full power heat load under normal operating conditions.

The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. This is a challenging accident for a nuclear power plant, and is referred to as a "loss of offsite power." The reactor and its backup systems are designed to handle this type of accident by including backup power systems to keep the coolant pumps working. Furthermore, since the power plant had been shut down, it cannot produce any electricity by itself.

For the first hour, the first set of multiple emergency diesel power generators started and provided the electricity that was needed. However, when the tsunami arrived (a very rare and larger than anticipated tsunami) it flooded the diesel generators, causing them to fail.

One of the fundamental tenets of nuclear power plant design is "Defense in Depth." This approach leads engineers to design a plant that can withstand severe catastrophes, even when several systems fail. A large tsunami that disables all the diesel generators at once is such a scenario, but the tsunami of March 11th was beyond all expectations. To mitigate such an event, engineers designed an extra line of defense by putting everything into the containment structure (see above), that is designed to contain everything inside the structure.

When the diesel generators failed after the tsunami, the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power. The batteries were designed as one of the backup systems to provide power for cooling the core for 8 hours. And they did.

After 8 hours, the batteries ran out, and the residual heat could not be carried away any more. At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a "loss of cooling event." These are procedural steps following the "Depth in Defense" approach. All of this, however shocking it seems to us, is part of the day-to-day training you go through as an operator.

At this time people started talking about the possibility of core meltdown, because if cooling cannot be restored, the core will eventually melt (after several days), and will likely be contained in the containment. Note that the term "meltdown" has a vague definition. "Fuel failure" is a better term to describe the failure of the fuel rod barrier (Zircaloy). This will occur before the fuel melts, and results from mechanical, chemical, or thermal failures (too much pressure, too much oxidation, or too hot).

However, melting was a long ways from happening and at this time, the primary goal was to manage the core while it was heating up, while ensuring that the fuel cladding remain intact and operational for as long as possible.

Because cooling the core is a priority, the reactor has a number of independent and diverse cooling systems (the reactor water cleanup system, the decay heat removal, the reactor core isolating cooling, the standby liquid cooling system, and others that make up the emergency core cooling system). Which one(s) failed when or did not fail is not clear at this point in time.

Since the operators lost most of their cooling capabilities due to the loss of power, they had to use whatever cooling system capacity they had to get rid of as much heat as possible. But as long as the heat production exceeds the heat removal capacity, the pressure starts increasing as more water boils into steam. The priority now is to maintain the integrity of the fuel rods by keeping the temperature below 1200°C, as well as keeping the pressure at a manageable level. In order to maintain the pressure of the system at a manageable level, steam (and other gases present in the reactor) have to be released from time to time. This process is important during an accident so the pressure does not exceed what the components can handle, so the reactor pressure vessel and the containment structure are designed with several pressure relief valves. So to protect the integrity of the vessel and containment, the operators started venting steam from time to time to control the pressure.

As mentioned previously, steam and other gases are vented. Some of these gases are radioactive fission products, but they exist in small quantities. Therefore, when the operators started venting the system, some radioactive gases were released to the environment in a controlled manner (ie in small quantities through filters and scrubbers). While some of these gases are radioactive, they did not pose a significant risk to public safety to even the workers on site. This procedure is justified as its consequences are very low, especially when compared to the potential consequences of not venting and risking the containment structures' integrity.

During this time, mobile generators were transported to the site and some power was restored. However, more water was boiling off and being vented than was being added to the reactor, thus decreasing the cooling ability of the remaining cooling systems. At some stage during this venting process, the water level may have dropped below the top of the fuel rods. Regardless, the temperature of some of the fuel rod cladding exceeded 1200 °C, initiating a reaction between the Zircaloy and water. This oxidizing reaction produces hydrogen gas, which mixes with the gas-steam mixture being vented. This is a known and anticipated process, but the amount of hydrogen gas produced was unknown because the operators didn't know the exact temperature of the fuel rods or the water level. Since hydrogen gas is extremely combustible, when enough hydrogen gas is mixed with air, it reacts with oxygen. If there is enough hydrogen gas, it will react rapidly, producing an explosion. At some point during the venting process enough hydrogen gas built up inside the containment (there is no air in the containment), so when it was vented to the air an explosion occurred. The explosion took place outside of the containment, but inside and around the reactor building (which has no safety function). Note that a subsequent and similar explosion occurred at the Unit 3 reactor. This explosion destroyed the top and some of the sides of the reactor building, but did not damage the containment structure or the pressure vessel. While this was not an anticipated event, it happened outside the containment and did not pose a risk to the plant's safety structures.

Since some of the fuel rod cladding exceeded 1200 °C, some fuel damage occurred. The nuclear material itself was still intact, but the surrounding Zircaloy shell had started failing. At this time, some of the radioactive fission products (cesium, iodine, etc.) started to mix with the water and steam. It was reported that a small amount of cesium and iodine was measured in the steam that was released into the atmosphere.

Since the reactor's cooling capability was limited, and the water inventory in the reactor was decreasing, engineers decided to inject sea water (mixed with boric acid – a neutron absorber) to ensure the rods remain covered with water. Although the reactor had been shut down, boric acid is added as a conservative measure to ensure the reactor stays shut down. Boric acid is also capable of trapping some of the remaining iodine in the water so that it cannot escape, however this trapping is not the primary function of the boric acid.

The water used in the cooling system is purified, demineralized water. The reason to use pure water is to limit the corrosion potential of the coolant water during normal operation. Injecting seawater will require more cleanup after the event, but provided cooling at the time.

This process decreased the temperature of the fuel rods to a non-damaging level. Because the reactor had been shut down a long time ago, the decay heat had decreased to a significantly lower level, so the pressure in the plant stabilized, and venting was no longer required.

***UPDATE – 3/14 8:15 pm EST***

Units 1 and 3 are currently in a stable condition according to TEPCO press releases, but the extent of the fuel damage is unknown. That said, radiation levels at the Fukushima plant have fallen to 231 micro sieverts (23.1 millirem) as of 2:30 pm March 14th (local time).

***UPDATE – 3/14 10:55 pm EST***

The details about what happened at the Unit 2 reactor are still being determined. The post on what is happening at the Unit 2 reactor contains more up-to-date information. Radiation levels have increased, but to what level remains unknown.

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Cores still intact, nuclear experts say

Australian experts have urged calm over Japan's nuclear crisis, saying none of the protected nuclear cores within the damaged plants appear to have been breached.References to a meltdown of Chernobyl-like proportions were also unhelpful, they said, because the Japanese plants were of a fundamentally different design to those hit by the 1986 disaster.

This meant the mistakes that had led to the Ukrainian crisis could not be repeated.

"What's the worst consequence that could happen? Well, my view is that words like meltdown are not helpful," Australia's John Price, a former member of the safety policy unit of the UK's National Nuclear Corporation and now a consultant, told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Once the shutdown occurred, even on the first day, we were really not talking about meltdown ... what we're talking about is overheating and damage of the cladding of the core.

"(And) at the moment, the fundamental nuclear protection hasn't been violated at any of these reactors."

Dr Price said about 14 nuclear plants were involved in the Japanese emergency, most of which had gone through a graduated shutdown and were now safely under control, although there was continuing trouble at three plants (Fukushima Daiichi Units 1-3).

All were boiling water reactors - meaning they produce steam that turned a turbine - and he said even when their nuclear reaction was switched off it took "days, weeks and months" for this heat to dissipate.

He said the plants in most trouble had experienced a major failure of their inbuilt cooling systems - the result of earthquake damage and power outages - and so seawater was being pumped on to the core in an continuing and makeshift cooling effort.

Dr Price said one plant - unit 2 - was of most concern because the seawater may not be sufficiently reaching and therefore cooling it.

Should there be an explosion, though, several layers of containment are built into the plant's design.

This was in contrast to Chernobyl, where the Soviet-built facility had no such mechanisms. When an operator error triggered an explosion, radioactive material was blown into the atmosphere.

Dr Price was joined by Associate Professor Gerald Laurence, a radiation safety consultant to Adelaide and Flinders universities, and Peter Burns, former chief executive of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

"If it very difficult to assess the potential hazzard," Dr Laurence said.

"However, what information we do have suggests that it is far from being the same sort of excursion that occurred at Chernobyl over 20 years ago, and indeed that would have been unlikely given the very different model of reactor."

Dr Burns said the explosions and fires at the damaged plants would have released some radioactive gases - likely iodine 131 and cesium 137 - although the "consequences of those are not as great as if some of the more potent fission products from the fuel were released".

"Questions revolve around (whether) the primary containment vessels have been breached or are they intact? and it would appear that they are all intact at the moment," Dr Burns said.

He also said continuing monitoring of background radioactivity levels in Australia showed no abnormalities, although even the Chernobyl disaster was not of a scale to register here.


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The problem about the so-called facts is that there are so many powerful people in this world who are trying to persuade us that nuclear power stations are safe. However, the BBC published this on their website 2 minutes ago:


Radiation from Japan's quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reached harmful levels, the government says.

The warning comes after the plant was rocked by a third blast which appears to have damaged one of the reactors' containment vessels for the first time.

If it is breached, there are fears of more serious radioactive leaks.

Officials have extended the danger zone, warning residents within 30km (18 miles) to evacuate or stay indoors.

The crisis has been prompted by last Friday's 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan.

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The problem about the so-called facts is that there are so many powerful people in this world who are trying to persuade us that nuclear power stations are safe. However, the BBC published this on their website 2 minutes ago:


Radiation from Japan's quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reached harmful levels, the government says.

The warning comes after the plant was rocked by a third blast which appears to have damaged one of the reactors' containment vessels for the first time.

If it is breached, there are fears of more serious radioactive leaks.

Officials have extended the danger zone, warning residents within 30km (18 miles) to evacuate or stay indoors.

The crisis has been prompted by last Friday's 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan.

I've seen a number of sites (though nowhere the no. of sites reporting a latest hollywood scandal) that refer to the pumping in of sea water.

Has anyone come across one where 'pumping in' implies : pumping out? Details?

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The problem about the so-called facts is that there are so many powerful people in this world who are trying to persuade us that nuclear power stations are safe. However, the BBC published this on their website 2 minutes ago:


Radiation from Japan's quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reached harmful levels, the government says.

The warning comes after the plant was rocked by a third blast which appears to have damaged one of the reactors' containment vessels for the first time.

If it is breached, there are fears of more serious radioactive leaks.

Officials have extended the danger zone, warning residents within 30km (18 miles) to evacuate or stay indoors.

The crisis has been prompted by last Friday's 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan.

I've seen a number of sites (though nowhere the no. of sites reporting a latest hollywood scandal) that refer to the pumping in of sea water.

Has anyone come across one where 'pumping in' implies : pumping out? Details?

Reuters : http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-japan-nuclear-health-idUSTRE72E2JF20110315

''Lee Tin-lap, toxicologist and associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's School of Medical Sciences, said waters around Japan must be measured for radioactivity.''

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''A general pattern of ocean current is shown in the map below.''


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Engineers are racing to avert a nuclear catastrophe at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant, 220km (140 miles) from Tokyo. It has been reported by the BBC that helicopters that were being deployed to dump water on the facility on Wednesday have been pulled out amid concerns over radiation.

France has urged its nationals in Tokyo to leave the country or move south; two Air France planes were sent to begin evacuation. Australia advised its citizens to consider leaving Tokyo whereas Turkey warned against travel to Japan. However, the UK government, continues to argue that nuclear power is the only option and that we must not panic about the events in Japan.

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There are reports that Venezuela and South Africa have shelved plans for A-Stations


''Japan: Nuclear industry played russian roulette

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 By Chris Williams


Checking for signs of radiation among children evacuated from near the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

Photo from SocialistWorker.org/Kim Kyung-Hoon.

The desperate nuclear emergency at three Japanese nuclear reactors is growing worse by the day.

One of the three stricken reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant is now close to complete meltdown.

Should this happen, molten uranium fuel may burn through the containment vessels, leading to a catastrophic release of radiation over the surrounding area.

"We are on the brink," Hiroaki Koide, a nuclear specialist in Japan, told the New York Times. "We are now facing the worst-case scenario. We can assume that the containment vessel at Reactor No. 2 is already breached.

"If there is heavy melting inside the reactor, large amounts of radiation will most definitely be released."

Incredibly, even in the midst of this crisis, the nuclear power industry and its political enablers are sticking to their story — that nuclear energy is a clean and safe alternative to fossil fuels.

For example, Kevin Book, energy analyst at ClearView Energy Partners commented: "The problem here is not a structural problem with containment. What really failed here was the seawall."

Jack Spencer, a nuclear research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, insisted, "This has done nothing to show we should not be building nuclear power plants."

In other words, don't worry, maybe there were a few oversights here and there, but we'll get it right next time.

The problem with nuclear disasters is, of course, that while they perfect their nuclear safety technology — 60 years and counting — a lot people may die as large areas of land, sea and air are irradiated, with huge and irreversible long-term consequences.

In an utterly ludicrous statement in the midst the Japanese crisis, the previous head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman, said that working in nuclear power plant is "safer than working in a grocery store".

As is usual with the nuclear industry — and has been ever since we were told that electricity produced by nuclear power would be "too cheap to meter"—not everything is as it seems.

In fact, the Japanese government's nuclear regulatory agency was warned that a tsunami following an earthquake could cause exactly the kind of cooling failure that is now occurring.

As with other nuclear bodies around the world, it also has a history of cover-ups.

In 2007, Japanese seismologist and professor of urban safety at Kobe University, Ishibashi Katsuhiko warned that Japanese plants built along the coast near fault lines have a "fundamental vulnerability" due to "fatal flaws" in their construction, thereby making an accident such as the one now occurring at Fukushima highly likely.

Katsuhiko pointed to three incidents at nuclear plants at Onagawa, Shika and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, which were all hit by earthquakes stronger than their design tolerance between 2005 and 2007.

No action was taken after these accidents, despite a two-hour blaze and radiation leak at the Kushiwazaki plant.

Contrary to the rather encouraging spin being placed on the crisis — and following the initial denial of any problem at all by the Japanese agency responsible for nuclear power — the New York Times reported a senior nuclear industry executive saying: "They're basically in a full-scale panic ... They're in total disarray, they don't know what to do."

For a country permanently scarred by the nuclear atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a sense of dread and fear is pervasive, as nuclear engineers and workers scramble to avoid losing complete control at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant.

About 300,000 people have been told to evacuate. Up to 200 people have been reported as having been exposed to radiation poisoning, and iodine tablets have been distributed to counteract its effect.

The US warship USS Ronald Reagan has detected radiation 100 miles away from the disaster site.

It is to be fervently hoped that emergency workers attempting to regain control of the reactor vessels will be successful, and any leak of radiation contained.

However, increasingly desperate and untested methods are now being tried, as all regular back-ups have failed under the weight of events.

The crisis began mid-afternoon on March 11. The huge earthquake 50 miles off the northeast coast of Japan led to the automatic shutdown of the reactors at the Diichi and nearby Daini atomic plants.

Japan is on a known fault line and has suffered severe earthquakes before–most recently, the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

What no one had bargained for in this instance was a titanic wall of water that would overwhelm Japan's first line of defense.

More than 30 feet high, 250 feet long and large enough to alter the orbit of the earth, with a power equivalent to a nuclear bomb, the tsunami was hurtled toward land, crashing over and through the vast network of coastal defense systems.

Japan is the most disaster-prepared nation in the world. It has massive concrete breakwater barriers along 40 percent of its coastline, which rear up out of the sea as high as 30 feet.

But these defenses were completely overwhelmed by the tsunami.

As it crashed into land and inundated towns, the tsunami also swamped the first backup power system for the reactors.

Diesel generators at the plants, designed to kick in emergency power to keep the reactor cores within tolerable temperature limits when the electricity grid fails, were inundated with seawater.

According to reports, the buildings housing the generators were placed in low-lying land because no one thought a tsunami could reach them — buildings that are currently underwater.

The loss of electrical power is critical because even after the nuclear fission reactions have been terminated in the reactor's core, the heat buildup continues for weeks and months as the result of ongoing nuclear reactions.

It is therefore imperative that electrical power be maintained in order to operate machinery that can circulate coolant through the core in order to avoid a catastrophic meltdown.

But with the failure of the power grid and the backup generator, the nuclear plants were forced to rely on a third backup power system: emergency batteries.

These, however, are designed to last a maximum of eight hours under the best of conditions.

By that time, it was assumed, power either from the diesel generators or the main grid would be restored.

Yet given the destruction cased by the earthquake and tsunami, neither of those is likely for some time.

Thus, the batteries failed sometime Saturday night at two reactors at Daiichi.

By the early hours of March 12, workers were authorised to make a last-ditch attempt to prevent temperatures rising in the core.

As temperatures rise, the coolant water that surrounds the core is boiled off, exposing the uranium fuel rods, which are encased in protective Zirconium cladding, to the air, allowing them to heat further.

This begins to rupture the cladding, which then allows the uranium fuel pellets to melt, precipitating further melting and so on.

It is now clear that partial meltdowns of the core have occurred in all three incapacitated reactor vessels in Diichi, and possibly at another plant 10 miles away in Daini.

Workers were given clearance from central government officials to pump seawater into the damaged reactor vessels. Nobody knew whether this would work, but it was the only thing left to do.

When seawater is pumped in, in order to release the immense build-up of pressure that occurs as the water is boiled and turns into super-heated steam, it has to be vented to the outside.

It was likely this venting that caused the multiple explosions that blew the roof off the concrete containment building.

Workers have to balance pumping in seawater to cool the reactor with venting the superheated — and now radioactive — steam out of the reactor core to prevent another explosion.

Unfortunately, temperature gauges in the reactor core were by this time malfunctioning, and vents are failing to close or open.

This is the most likely the reason that radioactive substances that are normally contained within the reactor cores — such as the highly dangerous cesium, strontium and iodine isotopes — have been detected in the surrounding area. While the primary containment vessels remain intact, radioactive steam needs to be vented, and now the secondary outer containment vessel no longer has a roof.

The effects of these substances on the human body are catastrophic.

Radioactive cesium takes the place of potassium as an electrolyte in the body, radioactive iodine goes straight to uptake by the thyroid gland, and strontium will be selected in place of calcium for bone formation.

This is why iodine tablets are being distributed to people in the surrounding areas — to try to saturate the bodies of exposed people and prevent too much radioactive iodine from being incorporated into peoples' bodies.

The operator of the nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power, has now confirmed that the desperate pumping in of seawater failed to work at reactor number 2, leading to fuel rods being exposed for several hours.

Should this continue, a full meltdown is almost certain.

In this case, all of the fuel rods will melt, rupture the cladding and potentially melt through the primary and secondary containment vessels.

This will create a situation where either the entire reactor core will explode due to an uncontrollable pressure build-up or the molten radioactive material will burn through to the ground, where it will interact with cold earth and create another explosion of radioactive material.

There are many other hazards that come into play.

For example, on the roof of the secondary containment vessels, in similar fashion to all nuclear plants around the world, spent nuclear fuel rods sit in pools of water — they have to be kept cool for several years after use due to ongoing nuclear decay.

All of the water used for this purpose itself becomes radioactive. It's highly likely that the roof explosion damaged the integrity of the containment system for these rods, too, further complicating the dangerously escalating situation at Diichi.

No country in the world has a plan for what to do with the spent fuel from nuclear reactors, nor all of the highly radioactive material from the plants themselves when they are eventually decommissioned — a lengthy and extremely expensive process in itself.

Whether a full meltdown and core breach happens or not — and let us all hope it does not — the catastrophe in Japan underlines the argument that anti-nuclear campaigners and socialists have made since the inception of nuclear power: There is no such thing as a safe nuclear plant.

For every contingency and back-up plan, there will always be something unexpected that overwhelms even the best preparations.

And when those plans center around preventing the general release of something as inherently toxic as nuclear radiation, the only rational answer is to avoid the problem in the first place.

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima — which has exponentially compounded the catastrophe of the original earthquake and ensuing tsunami that caused a death toll in the tens of thousands by itself — has worldwide implications.

Many plants in the US are of a similar design to Fukushima — which was, in fact, built by General Electric.

One simple question must be: What kind of system makes constructing nuclear plants on known earthquake fault lines seem a sensible alternative to building energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels?

Beyond that, a reinvigorated anti-nuclear movement — determined to stop the spread of this insanely wasteful, hugely uneconomic and inherently dangerous form of energy — now has to respond.

This is an urgent priority.

With new nuclear plants or the reauthorisation of old ones being planned around the world in response to climate change and the nuclear industry's attempts to cast itself as an environmentally benign, safe and the "green" alternative to fossil fuels, many mainstream environmental groups have succumbed to the arguments of the pro-nuclear camp.

It's time for anti-nuclear activists and socialists to step up our activity and say once again: Nuclear power — no thanks!

In Germany, the Japanese crisis has already led to a response — some 50,000 people protested against Chancellor Angela Merkel's policy of extending the life of old nuclear plants for another 12 years.

She has been forced to put those plans on hold.

Sentiment in this country remains solidly anti-nuclear. A recent poll in the Wall Street Journal showed that three-quarters of Americans back the elimination of tax credit for oil and gas companies to reduce the federal deficit, and 57% deem it "mostly" or "totally" acceptable to "significantly cut" subsidies to new nuclear power plants.

This is in direct contrast to President Barack Obama's offer of new loan guarantees to the nuclear industry worth more than US$50 billion.

Instead, in contrast to what is on offer from either main political party in the U.S., the number one and number two choices for raising money, by overwhelming majorities, were eliminating congressional earmarks and imposing a tax on millionaires.

It's up to us to go out and organize once again around the demand: No nukes!

[Reprinted from US Socialist Worker.

Chris Williams is the author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis.]

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From GLW issue 872''


Edited by John Dolva
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Japan Nuclear Crisis Center:

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Support Japan's Anti-Nuclear Movement

Green Action is a Japanese citizens organization (NGO) campaigning to stop Japan's plutonium program. Based in Kyoto, Green Action provides timely information in Japanese and English about nuclear fuel cycle issues. We believe Japanese energy policy should shift away from nuclear fuel cycle development to advancement of conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources.

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Caldicott: Japan may spell end of nuclear industry worldwide

Posted On Tuesday, 15 Mar 2011 By admin. Under Environment, International Tags: ANSTO, Chernoby cover-up, Chernobyl, City University of New York, Dr Helen Caldicott, Dr. Michiko Kaku, International Atomic Energy Agency, Japan, Japan nuclear disaster, Naoto Kan, New York Academy of Sciences, nuclear industry, nuclear melt-downs, nuclear power, UK Telegraph, Ziggy Switkowski 20retweet Share1149

People all over the world are watching updates on the Japanese nuclear emergency in growing horror and disbelief. Despite soothing words from nuclear energy industry promoters, each update today has signalled fresh disaster and even more drastic warnings. Anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott says it could spell the end of the nuclear industry worldwide. David Donovan reports.

There appears to be massive divergence of opinion between experts about just how cataclysmic the Japanese situation could be.

Yesterday, Japan’s nuclear agency attempted to calm fears by ranking the incident as a Category 4 nuclear accident, below the 1979 Three Mile Island partial meltdown in the US and well below the Chernobyl meltdown and explosion 25 years ago which rated top of the scale at seven. Chernobyl was the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date, scattering a radioactive cloud over millions of people in Russia and Europe, causing massive loss of life.

Last night, the former head of Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Association (ANSTO) and major promoter of an Australian nuclear power industry, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, spoke soothing words about the situation in Japan, saying it was well in hand and was not even Japan’s most urgent priority.

I think the authorities have got much more urgent things to attend to than what the current nuclear challenge presents. Because I think the difficulties with the one, two or three reactors that are at the moment taking up all of the time will be progressively confronted and overcome I would think in the days ahead.

The Japanese authorities yesterday claimed that, despite the explosions, the 6 foot steel and iron containment vessel enclosing the reactors, which are designed to limit the loss of radiation into the atmosphere, had not been breached. After the 3rd explosion reported this morning, the Japanese authorities have since been notably quiet on this point.

As a sign of the increasing urgency, news reports at 1.03pm (AEDST) reported that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan had taken over personal control of the official response to the nuclear disaster.

Then, at 1.50pm today it was reported: “It is clear that radiation has been spewing out into the atmosphere”.

The UK Telegraph has raised the spectre of a potential “nuclear nightmare” and is calling this the second worst nuclear disaster in history.

“The Fukushima crisis now rates as a more serious accident than the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, and is second only to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, according to the French nuclear safety authority. After insisting for three days that the situation was under control, Japan urgently appealed to US and UN nuclear experts for technical help on preventing white-hot fuel rods melting.”

Dr. Michiko Kaku, a theoretical physicist at the City University of New York, yesterday offered a dire worst case scenario.

“The worst-case scenario is a steam/hydrogen gas explosion which blows the reactor vessels apart, sending uranium dioxide fuel rods and radioactive debris into the air. This might happen if the core is fully exposed for a few hours, which is a distinct possibility. This is what happened at Chernobyl, when such an explosion blew about 25 per cent of the core’s radioactive by-products into the air.”

Despite the authorities pumping sea-water in to cool the cores, it appears as if they have been exposed for some time today. Depending on the winds, experts say Tokyo could be at risk. At 3.30pm higher than normal radiation levels were being reported in Tokyo, though apparently not enough to harm human health.

Confusingly, at 4.14pm, the Financial Times reported Shan Nair, the nuclear physicist who advised the European Commission on its response to the Chernobyl disaster, as saying that “It’s a bad accident but it’s not a Chernobyl”.

It seems we have no alternative but to painfully wait and see just how severe this disaster will turn out to be.

Dr Helen Caldicott: ‘The situation is very grim and not just for the Japanese people’

One person who is in no doubt about the seriousness of the incident is prominent anti-nuclear campaigner, Dr Helen Caldicott. Independent Australia spoke exclusively to Dr Caldicott yesterday as she was in transit to Canada to speak at a hearing into a proposal to build four new power plants in Darlington, Ontario.


Dr. Helen Caldicott is perhaps the world's most influential environmental activist in the past 35 years.

She called the situation in Japan was an “absolute disaster” that could be many, many times worse than Chernobyl. Dr Helen Caldicott raised the possibility of cataclysmic loss of life and suggested the emergency could be far more severe than Chernobyl.

“The situation is very grim and not just for the Japanese people,” said Dr Caldicott.

“If both reactors blow then the whole of the Northern Hemisphere may be affected,” she said.

“Only one reactor blew at Chernobyl and it was only 3 months old, with new cores holding relatively little radiation; these ones have been operating for 40 years and would hold about 30 times more radiation than Chernobyl’s.”

Dr Caldicott cited a report from the New York Academy of Sciences, which said that over 1 million people have died as a direct result of the 1986 melt-down at Chernobyl, mostly from cancer. She said authorities had attempted to “hush up” the full scale of the Chernobyl disaster. The official 2005 figure from the International Atomic Energy Agency was just 4,000 fatalities.

The NYAS is a credible 200 year-old scientific institution. Their précis of the report is as follows:

This is a collection of papers translated from the Russian with some revised and updated contributions. Written by leading authorities from Eastern Europe, the volume outlines the history of the health and environmental consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. According to the authors, official discussions from the International Atomic Energy Agency and associated United Nations’ agencies (e.g. the Chernobyl Forum reports) have largely downplayed or ignored many of the findings reported in the Eastern European scientific literature and consequently have erred by not including these assessments.

When asked whether the disaster in Japan could be, say, 30 times worse than Chernobyl, Dr Caldicott said it could be even more catastrophic than that.

“It could be much, much, worse than that,” said Dr Caldicott.

“This could be a diabolical catastrophe—we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Dr Caldicott said any fall-out was unlikely to affect Australia, though the death toll in the northern hemisphere could be severe.

“Australia is probably not going to be affected by fall-out because the northern and southern air masses don’t mix.”

“But in the northern hemisphere, many millions could get cancer”.

Dr Caldicott said that, despite the best efforts of nuclear energy campaigners, the Japanese disaster is likely to spell the end of the industry not just in Australia but worldwide.

“We’ve had earthquakes in Australia before—no-one will want to risk this happening in this country.”

“But I think the nuclear industry is finished worldwide.”

“I have said before, unfortunately, the only thing that is capable of stopping this wicked industry is a major catastrophe, and it now looks like this may be it.”


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