Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Would He Say Pessimistically?

In another bout of sunshine and happiness or as some prefer, happy happy joy joy, an American propaganda nuclear "expert" says that Japan almost has its nuclear reactor problem under control.

Meanwhile, officials with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission upgraded their assessment of the situation at the plant, saying it appeared the reactor cores at the most damaged facilities remained contained.

"I would say optimistically that things appear to be on the verge of stabilizing," said Bill Borchardt, the NRC's executive director for operations
I would say pessimistically that things have already gone to shit. That's because I ain't vergen around. And unlike Bill I have evidence.
According to New York Daily News: "Cooling pumps at one of Japan's crippled nuclear reactors are damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced, officials learned Monday. The revelation dashed hopes for a quick resolution to the ongoing nuclear catastrophe at the leaking Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. An emergency order has been placed for new pumps for Unit 2 at the plant, but it's unclear how quickly they would arrive, officials said." And as readers will recall, and as the below satellite photo will confirm, reactor 2 is the only one of the critical 4 which did not in fact suffer massive explosive damage. So if that one is beyond repair, what happens to the other three? And just what will this much praised power supply at Fukushima actually be connected to? We really urge some journalist to actually ask questions that have a semblance of relevance at the next TEPCO presser, instead of continuing to fill the air with the same kind of fluff that accompanies every single Obama press conference.
Well I have a few questions: how will you install the pumps in a high radiation environment? Is the rest of the plumbing intact? If you can't keep fluid in the system where will it go?

Fortunately the radiation problems continue to decline.
Of particular note weighing on the markets has been the news from Kyodo that, in confirmation of our fears that zones "Under Survey" are nothing but hotbeds of unprecedented radiation, reported radiation levels are 1,600 times higher than normal 20 kilometers from the power plant. Recall that the first evacuation radius was just 10 km. Assuming a power rate of declining fall out strength, means that the radiation within the 20 km diameter circle centered on Fukushina is currently hundreds of thousands to millions of time higher than normal.
And at the plant itself? Just to get a rough estimate let us look at an inverse square rule and 100 meters (the edge of the plant) vs 20 Km. That is 200 to 1. Square that and you get 40,000 to 1. Do I really expect radiation at the plant to be over ten million times normal? No. But it does give you some idea of what is going on. If the relationship was linear you would wind up with 32,000X normal at the plant. And that is still a lot. You can withstand normal radiation for a lifetime and to make the numbers easy we say 100 years is a lifetime. What is 1/32,000th of a lifetime? - This ignores a whole bunch of stuff like self repair etc. but bear with me. - So in a little under 28 hours you get a lifetime dose at 100 m (330 ft.) from the reactors. I do not believe they have enough trained "jumpers" to do anything significant. The pumps are a distraction. In my opinion the site will be allowed to spew and cool for another month and then it is going to be borax, cement, and steel all the way.

So do I have a problem with nuclear power? Well yes and no. Its military advantages (no fuel required) are tremendous. What is not so clear is its civilian advantages. Especially given current deployed plant designs.

My biggest problem with nukes is that the dangers are not localized for this kind of accident.

But we shall see. Things appear to be getting steadily worse. Worst case? Draw a 50 mi circle around the plant. That is the exclusion zone. For 50 or 100 years. We are already up to a temporary 20 mile (30 Km) exclusion zone. And it is not over.

We don't draw 20 mile exclusion zones around busted coal plants. And a coal plant total failure - even inside a city - does not have the potential of a trillion dollars in economic damages.

Suppose there are 400 nuke plants in the world worth $5 billion each. That is $2 trillion total. If this is a trillion dollar accident the effective capital invested in nuke power will have gone up 50% in a matter of hours. The death of a 1,000 coal miners couldn't do that to coal fired plants.

Let me repeat: advanced designs could reduce the risks by factors of hundreds to thousands. But at this time we have no operationally proved advanced designs.

Update: 22 March 2011 1521z

Control of the reactor situation (including spent fuel) appears to be evaporating.
Workers desperately battling to contain a meltdown at Japan's crippled nuclear plant today faced a fresh crisis as a pool for storing spent fuel began heating up.
The news is sketchy but it could be reactor two or reactor three. Or both.

And it looks like the radiation is getting spread around.
Japan's science ministry says radiation exceeding 400 times the normal level was detected in soil about 40 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The ministry surveyed radioactive substances in soil about 5 centimeters below the surface at roadsides on Monday.

The ministry found 43,000 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per kilogram of soil, and 4,700 becquerels of radioactive cesium-137 per kilogram about 40 kilometers west-northwest of the plant.

Gunma University Professor Keigo Endo says radiation released by the iodine is 430 times the level normally detected in soil in Japan and that released by the cesium is 47 times the norm.
Note that radiation is now a problem (at least in hot spots) out to 40 Km (25 mi).

Of the radiation species mentioned the cesium is the more worrisome long term threat. The iodine problem will be gone in about 80 days. Also note that the measurement is from 5 cm (2 inches) below the surface. I wonder what the surface reading is?

And let me be perfectly clear: no matter what lurid reports you read about goings on in Japan and "radiation plumes across the Pacific" (sounds like a Tom Leherer song)the odds of this accident having any more significant effect on the US than a cosmic ray burst or three are about nil.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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