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  • Welcome to the new site. Here's a thread about the update where you can post your feedback, ask questions or spot those nasty bugs!

Nature and Man: Hazards, Earthquake & Nuclear energy!

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
We all must stop to give our heartfelt sympathy to the Japanese people who have suffered the worse earthquake in its history. The tsunami that followed was even more horrific with whole towns vanished off the map. It's hard to find words to reach the level of empathy we feel.

The losses in life could reach 10,000, but right now over 500 confirmed deaths and some 9,500 souls missing! 4 entire trains vanished off the map!

Now, to add to this misery, one of the nuclear reactors has had cooling systems fail. I am gratified that the people around the site have been safely evacuated. The sad fact is that some folk at the plant have been reported to have radiation sickness. Even in this terrible circumstance, it's at least a relief that the metal containment has held and the control rods have been successfully inserted stopping the reaction. Still, I have concern about detection of small amounts of Iodine 131 isotope and even Cesium 137, indicating some deterioration of the fuel rods and lack of containment. The company running the plants have had repeated events of fraudulent record keeping. I'd expect perhaps 1-20 deaths as a result of this. Even the very worse nuclear accidents have not killed 1000 people. Cars and Aspirin do far more damage!

Nature still is the power to respect and fear. However we look at it, except for war, nature can be far more cruel to us than the men who fail us.

Asher
 
Asher, I agree completely with you about the plight of the people in Japan. It was a very, very bad day, and recovery will probably take a long time. The effects of natural processes can be cruel, but nature itself is essentially blind to the human condition. It is not cruel, it is not beneficent; it is indifferent.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Asher, I agree completely with you about the plight of the people in Japan. It was a very, very bad day, and recovery will probably take a long time. The effects of natural processes can be cruel, but nature itself is essentially blind to the human condition. It is not cruel, it is not beneficent; it is indifferent.
What is unfortunate at this time of sadness is the extra, unneeded confusion, that arises from the Japanese nature of being concerned so much with saving face. Reports from hospitals suggest that some people have been contaminated. There's no way one would pump raw seawater into a $billion reactor and rendering it unrepairable unless there is dangerous damage to the core. This means that the early descriptions where not complete. For radioactive Iodine and Cesium to be discovered outside the area, adds to the sense that the reactor is no longer secure.

Now two more reactors have had cooling fail! I'd have thought that there would be sufficient redundancy to prevent this ridiculous outcome. Surely, if one builds a nuclear power plant on the pacific "rim of fire" then one should plan for this once in 100 years 8.9 Richer earthquake and consequent tsunami!

Asher
 
To keep very up to date with the nuclear factor of this earthquake I am following it on Facebook at the International Atomic Energy Agency's pages

Currently the accident is rated level$ - Three Mile Island was a 5 and Chernobyl a 7

Also details here
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
To keep very up to date with the nuclear factor of this earthquake I am following it on Facebook at the International Atomic Energy Agency's pages

Currently the accident is rated level$ - Three Mile Island was a 5 and Chernobyl a 7

Also details here
The big issue is is that the Japanese are not transparent. The folk are especially sensitive to nuclear power, after all they know about Hiroshima and Nakasaki, these destructions are burned into the national psyche. Add to that the location Japan is situated has 90% of all earthquakes, we have a public ready to trip at the slightest frightening news of lack of containment of their nuclear power stations.

Right now, Japan is not publicly releasing the hard data that would allow us to evaluate how serious things might be. However, it sounds pretty extraordinary that the Japanese government hasn't got 10 portable generators and water tankers to bring clean water to the facility for the cooling. Saltwater is corrosive to the reactor and the salts will prevent cooling efficiency.

So it looks like local company managers are in charge!

One adjacent facility uses a uranium-plutonium mixture. But the BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the second reactor is a different type which uses MOX (plutonium plus uranium) fuel and the consequences of a problem there are potentially more severe.

"Quoted by Kyodo, Tepco said the tops of the MOX fuel rods were 3m above water. Meanwhile, Tepco said at least 15 people at a nearby hospital were found to have been exposed to radioactivity." BBC News

To me that is far worse. There's no mention if the rods are in the air or in a shield, but it seems like they are in the air.

I am staggered by the lack of openness. This shouldn't be up to some local company to decide what to disclose. It's also now beyond the privacy of Japan's self interest and pride.

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

Surely, if one builds a nuclear power plant on the pacific "rim of fire" then one should plan for this once in 100 years 8.9 Richer earthquake and consequent tsunami!
Indeed.

As a matter of editorial interest, the earthquake was assessed at MW 8.9 (on the moment magnitude scale - MMS). This has, for major earthquakes, essentially superseded the Richter scale (ML), which for practical purposes tops out at a little over 7.0.

Within the upper part of the range of the Richter scale, the two scales are roughly numerically comparable.

Best regards,

Doug
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
However, it sounds pretty extraordinary that the Japanese government hasn't got 10 portable generators and water tankers to bring clean water to the facility for the cooling. Saltwater is corrosive to the reactor and the salts will prevent cooling efficiency.
It may not be trivial to move water tankers and generators around on roads damaged by a major earthquake.
 
I am staggered by the lack of openness. This shouldn't be up to some local company to decide what to disclose. It's also now beyond the privacy of Japan's self interest and pride.
AFAIK, the nuclear plant is from "Areva" a you know where from company...I think that's the main problem with nuclear power, there's too much power behind (And not electrical power, I mean) There have been some "slight" problems in the south east of France few years ago (The only earthquake-likely place in France is South east, and there's 6 active plants in the Rhone-valley area) where the people in charge were obviously underestimating the problems...Nobody cares, as long as the people living nearby have good jobs working there...
 
An Alien message was intercepted from the depth of the Orion nebula. The message was repeated for exactly seven days in a row and read:

Message to the human race: Grow the **** up!
 
It may not be trivial to move water tankers and generators around on roads damaged by a major earthquake.
Indeed, although most of the damage is caused by the resulting tsunami (including the destruction of the backup power generators at the plant site).

What's also extremely sad is that the reactor was on the verge of being shut down permanently anyway. So the corrosive saltwater + added boron they are using now, will make sure that this decommisioning is sped up. Let's hope that the cooldown can be controlled, the need for radioactive steam venting is bad enough.

Cheers,
Bart
 
An Alien message was intercepted from the depth of the Orion nebula. The message was repeated for exactly seven days in a row and read:

Message to the human race: Grow the **** up!
Instead of sending messages, perhaps they could better send a working recipe for a clean affordable alternative power source? But then, that would better be discussed in another thread ...

Cheers,
Bart
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Let me share my concerns. Read this first.

Essentially the issue is the lack of transparency. The reactor, at least # 3 is not uranium but MOX. This is a mixture of uranium and plutonium in pellets in metal tubes giving of neutrons all the time. If they are not cooled, the system heats up damaging the cladding structure of the tubes, (called rods, sounds stronger, I guess). The neutrons can damage the reactor chamber itself when there's no shielding of the water. If this explodes, then we have long lived very toxic isotopes in the environment.

Well, the latest report is the the ends of the rods are 3 meters above the water and the coolant system has failed.

We've had no further news! It's amazing that the International Energy Authority itself is not getting detailed information, according to their pages on the web. I am increasingly skeptical of private companies running power stations, although I believe we can have safe nuclear power. We need systems in place to prevent lack of transparency.

The road to Tokyo is open. There are giant crane helicopters. There's no excuse for not having gear in place and on stand by to deal with such emergencies.

BP and now this! In each case, proper caution most likely would have prevented the disasters! It's as if we have no respect at all for the beauty or fury of nature! Unfortunately, those executives, on the most part, have no idea about biology, physics or the unforgiving personality of mother nature. If one choose to play power chess on Mother Natures own chessboard, better think more than 3 moves ahead!

Ignorance, Arrogance and Gambling doesn't trump good engineering and contingency responsibility!

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
Ignorance, Arrogance and Gambling doesn't trump good engineering and contingency responsibility!
Certainly.

But considering that this is a very, very big earthquake in a very densely populated area, compounded with a major tsunami and that 15 or so nuclear reactors were in the affected zone, it would seem that the amount of deaths and damage is rather low. A much, much smaller earthquake without tsunami killed over 500 and injured over 10000 in Yunnan, China in april 2010.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Certainly.

But considering that this is a very, very big earthquake in a very densely populated area, compounded with a major tsunami and that 15 or so nuclear reactors were in the affected zone, it would seem that the amount of deaths and damage is rather low. A much, much smaller earthquake without tsunami killed over 500 and injured over 10000 in Yunnan, China in april 2010.
Jerome,

There are 300,000 souls unaccounted for. Estimated deaths are going to be in the region of 10,000. Here's the reality of the matter. The company running the plants have had a series of bad accidents already with deaths. They have had the executives resign for falsifying safety reports.

Nuclear power makes sense, but only if we have engineering to match the risks. The core cooling depends on electricity to run pumps and that gets cut off immediately the quake is detected! The backup generators failed. There were only 8 standby batteries.

  • There should be 3000 standby batteries, enough for at least 2 months of pumping!
  • There should be teams ready to fly in with crane helicopters and generators and ability to link to any nuclear power plant.
  • The reactors also should have outer reservoirs in place at higher ground so pumping is not needed! How simple is that.
  • Valves sticking is one of the most common issues in nuclear plants.One solution is the standardization of pumps, fitting and controls. At present, there's a total mix of designs even in the same plant.
  • Without rational approaches to redundancy based on absolute reliability of standby equipment and interventions, we shouldn't have the power plants. Leaving this to private industry is not reliable.
The Japanese government still hasn't updated the situation with the exposed rods in the uranium-plutonium reactor #3!

Asher
 
Nuclear power makes sense, but only if we have engineering to match the risks.
Without going into an in depth discussion, I have to disagree, nuclear is impossible to handle safely. The problem of nuclear storage waste is unsolved.

For example, they store immense amounts of nuclear waste in a salt dome in Gorleben, Germany. Any tectonic mayhem occurring and....

Of course, the profiteers tell us that it is all safe. Right....
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
There's nothing too complicated here. Just arrogance and stupidity.

  • The emergency generators were placed below sea level because they were "safe" behind the sea wall, LOL!
  • The electrical connections that give power the pumps are in a, now of course, flooded, basement, a brilliant design move!

Here's one of the best and most up to date accounts of the nuclear power station melt down threat and calamity so far.

I would like to hear more news of the missing people!

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
The reactors also should have outer reservoirs in place at higher ground so pumping is not needed! How simple is that.
AFAIK, this is how modern nuclear power plants are designed.

But I certainly agree that this 40 years old facility was poorly designed, that the company running it has a history of fraudulent behavior, that the protection of the essential backup pumping system and power was inadequate (although I am not sure that putting diesels up is such a great idea in the advent of an earthquake), etc....
 
fwiw, here is my take:

Of the globally operating 442 reactors 174 are older than 30 years. As with everything in our democratic Illusion, the nukes lobby dictates legislation, not common sense, not what the people want, but a small and profit driven group of immoral vultures.

Only 40 years of usage has created > 100,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste, there is no solution for this heritage, some of which has a radio active half-life of several 100,000 years, and this makes it a potentially devastating activity to store these in geological formations, the latter will always be active. It is nothing short but idiotic.

X X X X​

As of 2009, global military expenditure as percentage of GDP was 2,7%. (World Bank/World Development Indicators, updated March 2011) In other words, we talk about a potential economic power of USD 1531 billion

If you think this is bad, here is the reality check, in 2009 a tremendous increase of 6 % compared to 2008 or 49% compared to 2000 took place.

In 2010 we were above 1600 bn expenditure.

http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2010/05

Freeze global military spending effective immediately for the next 5 years, that is USD 80,000 bn. (Yes, people will loose jobs!) Use USD 20 trillion on R&D in specialized fields such as fusion and other energy concepts as well as energy demand reducing technology and methods to get rid of the existing 100,000 m3 nuclear waste, once and for all.

http://www.fusion.org.uk/JET.aspx

Use the remaining 60 trillions for .... I m sure you have also plenty of ideas....

P.S. How perverted and dysfunctional the entire global finance - spell debt enslavement - system really is can be observed today, crude oil down $ 1,17 due to less consumption in Japan... right! As long as we allow a handful of financial terrorist - Bernanke, Trichet et al. - to rule the globe, nothing will change, not a sausage.
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Georg,

Removing the "financial terrorists" idea, your concerns about the radioactive waste are valid. We are only at the beginning of our struggle with energy. Fusion research is going on at a good pace and hopefully will be a safe solution. What this disaster shows is that "good enough" in engineering, Isn't! Nature has to be considered at it's most furious.

Yesterday we heard an engineer boasting that a nuclear plant north of here could withstand a 30 ft Tsunami and a 6.6 earthquake! Later that night a scientist at one of the seismology centers reported that we are due for the next tremblor at 8.0 because the San Andreas fault has built up so much energy that must be released sooner or later.

So look at that mismatch in confidence and reality!

Asher
 
Asher,

inserting the financial terrorist fact, one of these days you might understand that this is essentially the system inherent design that is the reason for the imbalance and wars on this planet fed and kept alive at all cost, pun intended, by a handful of greedy and utterly immoral, insane fat cats.... but I just shall leave it at that....
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Georg,

My immediate thoughts are for the victims of the Tsunami and only then for holding accountable any coverups at the plants. Right now there's chaos and sadness over the landscape of debris and death on a terrible scale. How many folk are still trapped or have no food or are alone?

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Radiation safety to anyone in radiation exposure zone near reactors

Likely, we have no OPF photographers in the danger area, but just in case, here's some summary information to help you. Just to put things in perspective, the area around the nuclear sites are experiencing radiation exposure levels as follows:

"The radiation reading at 0831 local time (2331 GMT) climbed to 8,217 microsieverts an hour from 1,941 about 40 minutes earlier, Tepco said. The annual legal limit is 1,000 microsieverts." BBC News tonight.

This translates to the common readings of 8.217 Rems per hour. The maximim allowed annual exposure for a Radiation Worker in the USA is 5 Rem, whole body. The level allowed for the general population is considered to be 0.5-1 Rem annually.

Toxicity of Iodine I31 in the air can be ameliorated by taking a capsule of Potassium iodide which saturates the thyroid gland and this prevents uptake of the radioactive isotope Iodine 131 which is passed out in the urine. Lots of water, is recommended to accelerate this. you should be peeing all the time.

Particulates in fallout need to be showered off. Some radionuclides are short-lived and have a limited ability to penetrate the body. However some such as Cesium 137 are more dangerous. So one has to have a long shower and scrub the skin and dispose of the clothing outside the home. Watch for accumulation in belt line or collar line. Don't shake out clothes.

Best to shower down with hose before entering home.

Best to stay indoors and make house airtight as possible.

If you can, leave the area ASAP and have a wet scarf over your nose and mouth. Be safe! Get out of the area. Don't be taking photographs. You shouldn't be in vicinity of reactors for more than necessary. A person who stayed in the vicinity without protective clothing and respirator might get a severe to lethal dose in 3.5 days. So the levels reported require great caution and no one should be there sightseeing trying to get prizewinning pictures.! Even though the radiation is invisible, it is still dangerous and whatever levels are posted are likely to vary considerable each minute of the day and cannot be predicted.

Lesser doses of radiation are likely to allow complete recovery and the chances for any one person to have ill effects are small. Redness of the skin like sunburn, attacks of shivering, diarrhea, sores in the mouth or unexplained bleeding can occur under for all sorts of reasons under normal conditions. However these signs and symptoms can also be indicative of possible exposure to radiation and so one needs medical checkup.

Chances are that most everyone is out of the area or have protective clothing and are safe. I expect at no more that 150 people will have mild effects but will be O.K.

Pray for rain as this cleans the air. Let's hope things quiet down. we don't need to compete with the ruthlessness of mother nature!

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
8217 microsieverts an hour is 82.17 microrems an hour. I wish people stopped using the old rem unit, as it ony confuses things. I also wish people agreed on a same convention to mark thousands or decimal points, as this causes errors.
I mark the decimal point with a point and do not mark thousands. In many countries people use the coma to mark the decimal point, in the US it marks thousands.

The international atomic energy commission reports on their web sites that levels of 400 millisieverts per hour have been measured. I sincerely hope that this is an error in translation. 8000 microsieverts an hour (that is 8 millisieverts an hour) is bad enough. 400 millisieverts an hour would kill you in 2 to 3 hours by radiation sickness.

Natural background radiation exposure is 2 to 3 millisieverts per year. Nuclear industry workers can be exposed to 50 millisieverts per year. If the radiation was continuous during that year, that would be about 5 microsieverts per hour. Because they do not work 24 hours a day, the level can by up to 10 times that in some areas open to personal. So 400 microsieverts an hour is a small contamination, 8 millisieverts an hour a medium one and 400 millisieverts an hour cause for real concern.

A dental X-ray is about 3 to 4 microsieverts.

Around the Chernobyl reactor, doses up to 150 microsieverts per hour are still measured today.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
8217 microsieverts an hour is 82.17 microrems an hour.
1 Sievert= 100 Rem

so 8,217 Microsievert/hour = 8217x100 microrem/hour or 821 millirem or 0.8 rem/hour

I'm not sure if we really know the lethal dose of radiation in humans at this low dose rate, as there is a great capacity for normal cells to repair. Still, if for the sake of argument, we would take the dose for more acute delivery of radiation exposure, whole body, 4.5 Gy or 450 rad.

So it would take ~ 450 hours for a civilian to get lethal doses of radiation, (up to 50% would die) if they were not protected and absorbed 4-5Gy of radiation whole body. So recalculating still leaves a dangerous environment.

I wish people stopped using the old rem unit, as it ony confuses things. I also wish people agreed on a same convention to mark thousands or decimal points, as this causes errors.
The old rem unit is useful since it has a one to one relationship with 1 rad if all that radiation is absorbed in 1gm of tissue.

I mark the decimal point with a point and do not mark thousands. In many countries people use the coma to mark the decimal point, in the US it marks thousands.
I think you make a serious point. We had better get this right.

The international atomic energy commission reports on their web sites that levels of 400 millisieverts per hour have been measured. I sincerely hope that this is an error in translation. 8000 microsieverts an hour (that is 8 millisieverts an hour) is bad enough. 400 millisieverts an hour would kill you in 2 to 3 hours by radiation sickness.
That would be 40 rem/hour and would be lethal to 50% of people in after ~ 12 hours if the bones and gut were to absorb that dose. So yes, this is a massive dose! I think what we are seeing is the variation in dose over different areas and this is to be expected. It also explains why the US navy is redeploying its fleet further away from Japan's coastline! No doubt,t they are washing the decks more than ever!

Asher
 
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