Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Worst Disaster Since The End Of WW2

The situation in Japan is dire and besides reactors out of control the logistical situation is not so hot either. Fuel and heating oil are in short supply. The food situation is not looking so good either.

Nearly a week after the disaster, police said more than 452,000 people were staying in schools and other shelters, as supplies of fuel, medicine and other necessities ran short. Both victims and aid workers appealed for more help.

"There is enough food, but no fuel or gasoline," said Yuko Niuma, 46, as she stood looking out over Ofunato harbor, where trawlers were flipped on their sides.

Along the tsunami-savaged coast, people must stand in line for food, gasoline and kerosene to heat their homes. In the town of Kesennuma, they lined up to get into a supermarket after a delivery of key supplies, such as instant rice packets and diapers.

Each person was only allowed to buy 10 items, NHK television reported.

With diapers hard to find in many areas, an NHK program broadcast a how-to session on fashioning a diaper from a plastic shopping bag and a towel.
At the same link you can see video of a helicopter dropping water on a nuke plant. What does it mean? Nothing good that is for sure.
All of the water from one of the spent fuel-rod pools is gone, according to the chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. With no water to cool the fuel rods, they could just get hotter and eventually melt down.

Gregory Jaczko, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, warned there was no water left in the spent fuel pool of reactor 4, resulting in "extremely high" radiation levels.

A police water cannon was deployed to help top up the water in the containment pool and expected to go into action early Thursday, Jiji Press news agency reported.

Workers at the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), have struggled to maintain water levels as the rods have heated up the water, threatening to evaporate it and expose the rods to air, which would send out radioactive material.

Helicopters which were to dump water on the plant were forced back by the radiation levels.
Right now the accident is rated level 6 by most knowledgeable observers. That would be one level above Three Mile Island and one level below Chernobyl. The problem is: until the situation is under control (it is not at this time) it could get worse. I expect it will.

One explanation may be corruption in Japan's nuclear industry.
"Everything is a secret," said Kei Sugaoka, a former nuclear power plant engineer in Japan who now lives in California. "There's not enough transparency in the industry."

Sugaoka worked at the same utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant where workers are racing against time to prevent a full meltdown following Friday's 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami.

In 1989 Sugaoka received an order that horrified him: edit out footage showing cracks in plant steam pipes in video being submitted to regulators. Sugaoka alerted his superiors in the Tokyo Electric Power Co., but nothing happened. He decided to go public in 2000. Three Tepco executives lost their jobs.

The legacy of scandals and cover-ups over Japan's half-century reliance on nuclear power has strained its credibility with the public.
Well that is not very encouraging. Neither is this.
Japanese authorities experimented with new measures Thursday to bring the country's stricken nuclear power plant under control, as the United States gave a dire assessment of the nuclear crisis and warned radiation levels at the plant are "extremely high."

Operators of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, where explosions and fires have hampered efforts to cool overheating reactors, began using helicopters to dump water on the reactors and said they were close to finishing a new power line, AP reports.

But early reports said efforts to dump tons of water on reactor No. 3, which reportedly experienced damage to its containment vessel during an explosion earlier in the week, had failed to bring down radiation levels.
What I'm seeing is one ad hoc plan after another. Water cannons? Helicopter drops spreading a few tons of water per drop over a wide area? My guess is that they have lost it. Almost totally.

OK. They are bringing in electrical power. Excellent. But some one had better be checking the pumps, the pumped coolant, and the coolant pipes so that the pumps last beyond a few minutes. In the military you think about these things because people are throwing heavy things at you filled with explosives. The equivalent of an earthquake + a tsunami. So you think about making things work in adverse conditions. I wonder if the Japanese - having a non-nuclear Navy - think about that sort of thing as much?

Of course the reactors are American designed. By GE.

I live near the Byron Nuclear Plant and I'm happy to say it is not a GE and not a Boiling Water Reactor.
The Byron Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located in Ogle County, Illinois, 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the Rock River. The reactor buildings were constructed by Babcock and Wilcox and house two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, Unit 1 and Unit 2, which first began operation in September 1985 and August 1987 respectively. The plant was built for Commonwealth Edison and is currently owned and operated by Exelon Corporation.

The plant provides electricity to northern Illinois and the city of Chicago. In 2005 it generated on average about 2,300 MWe, enough power to supply about 2 million average American homes.
Pressurized water reactors have two loops so that the water that circulates next to the fuel is not the same as the water that circulates through the steam plant. This is handled by a device called a steam generator. Boiling water reactors (BWR) have no separation between reactor water and steam plant water. They are the same. Thus with boiling water plants you have one less level of containment. On the other hand BWRs are a lot cheaper to build. No primary loop pumps. No steam generator. Lower operating pressures and temperature differentials (OK not in every detail but generally).

But back to Japan - half a million homeless, supplies running low, and a nuclear disaster. The worst disaster for Japan since the end of WW2.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Unknown said...

Hi M. Nice work.
I have a bit of experience with helilogging operations, and observing the reactor fly-over and dump operations it seems they are not effective at all, in the sense that so little seawater is hitting the target. From observation its about 2% to 5% of the water is even close to the target. If you do the numbers, at this rate they would need to make about 2,000 passes to fill one spent cooling container to even 1/3 the volume.

Unknown said...

You MUST be the MSimon I have ssen comment at talk.polywell. I watched Dr Bussard's video about two years ago and was simultaneously depressed and excited. Depressed because as Dr Bussard stated there are no "black ops" technology operations that can save the (energy) day - we have been as a society and a market woefully negligent in our responsibility to drive energy innovation to the next step. Indeed how much has been spent WB as opposed to some many other seemingly wasteful expenditures. Excited because there seemed a ray of hope that a few dedicated old-school physicists may actually pull off something akin to miracle of human evolution. Sad it is sad to note that should burning spent fuel usher an apocalypse that same spent fuel might have been harmlessly consumed in an IEC (or other) fusion reactor.

F.Y.I I spotted you on a ZeroHedge article today. What a small intertube world!

linearthinker said...

My observations echo Jim's. Too bad the helicopters didn't work. Under optimum conditions, they could dump an enormous amount of water in a short time. There's nothing optimum about the conditions they're working in. Pilot experience would factor in largely. Pacific winter coastal winds, seething nuclear heating below, time over target allowances all would detract from the effort. At least they tried.


I avoid network news, as you know.

linearthinker said...

Radiation at site border

Despite high levels of radiation close to the units, levels detected at the edge of the power plant site have been steadily decreasing.

17 March, 4.00pm

0.64 millisieverts per hour

17 March, 9.00am

1.47 millisieverts per hour

16 March, 7.00pm
1.93 millisieverts per hour

16 March, 12.30pm

3.39 millisieverts per hour