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    Posted March 15, 2011 by
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    Worse Case Scenario re: Nuclear Programs

     

    10News spoke with local experts who  gave insight into the worst case scenario in Japan following the  massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima  power plant.Though there is no concern that the reactors may  explode like an atomic bomb, there are fears of more explosions, greater  leaks and the spread of contaminated radioactive particles.The  nuclear crisis has also prompted evacuations and the creation of  shelters. Warnings to stay indoors were issued to those still in the  area but more than 30 kilometers away. Authorities also warned people to  avoid radiation poisoning from contact or from the food or water  supply.

    "What they're trying to prevent is  ingestion of particles. They can clean them off, scrape the soil away,  but if they get inside you, they're hard to get out and that's the real  danger," said San Diego State University professor Murray Jennex.There  are four reactors clustered together in the danger zone. Though the  reactors are considered efficient in producing electricity, they could  create a domino effect which could mean an escalating disaster. Because  spent radioactive fuel and other contaminants are already leaking, the  situation could become worse if a chain-reaction explosion were to  happen."They could get put into the atmosphere and pushed around a  ways. It might, depending on weather conditions, go quite a ways.  United States? No, those particles are too heavy and we're way too far,"  said Jennex.Geologist Dr. Pat Abbott warned about the potential  for greater damage as the swarm of earthquakes moves toward Tokyo, which  is nearly 200 miles south of the epicenter."Over a thousand  large aftershocks and some [are] migrating south toward Tokyo," said  Abbott. "We might yet do 8 or 8 plus [magnitude quakes] off Tokyo as a  result of this. Worst case scenario: Japan's just beginning a sequence  and the sequence can continue."At sea, the men and women of the  USS Ronald Reagan flew 29 missions on Tuesday to deliver food, water and  blankets to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. This came after  the ship took a detour to get out of the range of radioactive waste in  the immediate area."Right now, the [USS] Ronald Reagan… she's  moved 180 nautical miles north of the Fukushima plant but we're still  running our disaster relief mission," Navy Lt. Anthony Falvo told 10News  by phone.During search and rescue duty, 17 helicopter crew  members passed through a radioactive cloud. They had been contaminated  and needed to be scrubbed clean."It's important to note the  contamination levels were very, very low and actually nothing more than  you'd find after constant exposure to the sun for 30 days," said Falvo.Fears  of further damage and the danger of radiation poisoning as well as more  earthquakes are also affecting Japan's economic well-being."It  really won't be something like an atomic bomb but it could be something  as devastating for those people and because our economies are so linked,  it's devastating for the world as well," said San Diego State  University professor Eric Frost.

     

    ######

    This information came from Scientific American:

     

    First came the earthquake,  centered just off Japan's east coast, near Honshu. The added horror of  the tsunami quickly followed. Now the world waits as emergency crews  attempt to stop a core meltdown from occurring at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor, already the site of an explosion of the reactor's housing structure.

    At 1:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time on March 12, American nuclear experts gathered for a call-in media briefing. Whereas various  participants discussed the policy ramifications of the crisis, physicist  Ken Bergeron provided most of the information regarding the actual  damage to the reactor.

    "Reactor analysts like to categorize potential reactor accidents into  groups," said Bergeron, who did research on nuclear reactor accident  simulation at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. "And the type of accident that is occurring in Japan is  known as a station blackout. It means loss of off-site AC power—power  lines are down—and then a subsequent failure of emergency power  on-site—the diesel generators. It is considered to be extremely  unlikely, but the station blackout has been one of the great concerns  for decades.

    "The probability of this occurring is hard to calculate, primarily  because of the possibility of what are called common-cause accidents,  where the loss of off-site power and of on-site power are caused by the  same thing. In this case it was the earthquake and tsunami. So we're in  uncharted territory, we're in a land where probability says we shouldn't  be. And we're hoping that all of the barriers to release of  radioactivity will not fail."

    Bergeron explained the basics of overheating at a nuclear fission plant. "The fuel rods are long uranium rods clad  in a [zirconium alloy casing]. They're held in a cylindrical-shaped  array. And the water covers all of that. If the water descends below the level of the fuel,  then the temperature starts going up and the cladding bursts, releasing a  lot of fission products. And eventually the core just starts slumping  and melting. Quite a bit of this happened in TMI [Three Mile Island in  Pennsylvania], but the pressure vessel did not fail."

    Former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) member Peter Bradford added, "The other thing that happens is  that the cladding, which is just the outside of the tube, at a high  enough temperature interacts with the water. It's essentially a  high-speed rusting, where the zirconium becomes zirconium oxide and the  hydrogen is set free. And hydrogen at the right concentration in an  atmosphere is either flammable or explosive."

    "Hydrogen combustion would not occur necessarily in the containment  building," Bergeron pointed out, "which is inert—it doesn't have any  oxygen—but they have had to vent the containment, because this pressure  is building up from all this steam. And so the hydrogen is being vented  with the steam and it's entering some area, some building, where there  is oxygen, and that's where the explosion took place."

    Bergeron discussed the specific power plant in question, the General  Electric design BWR Mark 1. "This is a boiling-water reactor. It's one  of the first designs ever developed for commercial reactors in this country, and it's widely used in Japan as well. Compared to  other reactors, if you look at NRC studies, according to calculations,  it has a relatively low core-damage frequency. (That means the  likelihood that portions of the fuel will melt.) And in part, that's  because it has a larger variety of ways to get water into the core. So  they have a lot of options, and they're using them now—using these  steam-driven turbines, for example. There's no electricity required to  run these steam-driven turbines. But they still need battery electricity  to operate the valves and the controls.

     

    "So there's some advantages to the BWR in terms of severe accidents.  But one of the disadvantages is that the containment structure is a  lightbulb-shaped steel shell that's only about 30 or 40 feet [nine to 12  meters] across—thick steel, but relatively small compared to large, dry  containments like TMI. And it doesn't provide as much of an extra layer  of defense from reactor accidents as containments like TMI [do]. So  there is a great deal of concern that if the core does melt, the  containment will not be able to survive. And if the containment doesn't  survive, we have a worst-case situation."

    And just what is that worst-case scenario? "They're venting in order  to keep the containment vessel from failing. But if a core melts, it  will slump to the bottom of the reactor vessel, probably melt through  the reactor vessel onto the containment floor. It's likely to spread as a  molten pool—like lava—to the edge of the steel shell and melt through.  That would result in a containment failure in a matter of less than a  day. It's good that it's got a better containment system than Chernobyl,  but it's not as strong as most of the reactors in this country."

    Finally, Bergeron summed up the events so far: "Based on what we  understand, the reactor has been shut down, in the sense that all of the  control rods have been inserted—which means there's no longer a nuclear  reaction. But what you have to worry about is the decay heat that's  still in the core—that will last for many days.

    "And to keep that decay heat of the uranium from melting the core, you have to keep water on it. And the conventional sources of water, the electricity that  provides the power for pumps, have failed. So they are using some very  unusual methods of getting water into the core, they're using  steam-driven turbines—they're operating off of the steam generated by  the reactor itself.

    "But even that system requires electricity in the form of batteries.  And the batteries aren't designed to last this long, so they have failed  by now. So we don't know exactly how they're getting water to the core  or if they're getting enough water to the core. We believe, because of  the release of cesium, that the core has been exposed above the water  level, at least for a portion of time, and has overheated. What we  really need to know is how long can they keep that water flowing. And it  needs to be days to keep the core from melting.

    "The containment, I believe, is still intact. But if the core does  melt, that insult will probably not be sustained and the containment  vessel will fail. All this, if it were to occur, would take a matter of  days. What's crucial is restoring AC power. They've got to get AC power  back to the plant to be able to control it. And I'm sure they're working  on it."

     

    #####

    Nuclear Meltdown In Japan
    By Stephen Lendman
    3-13-11
    For years, Helen Caldicott warned it's coming. In her     1978 book, "Nuclear Madness," she said:
     
    "As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology     threatens life on our planet with extinction.  If present trends continue,     the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be     contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health     hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced."
     
    More below on the inevitable dangers from commercial     nuclear power proliferation, besides added military ones.
     
    On March 11, New York Times writer Martin Fackler headlined,     "Powerful Quake and Tsunami Devastate Northern Japan," saying:
     
    "The 8.9-magnitude earthquake (Japan's strongest     ever) set off a devastating tsunami that sent walls of water (six meters     high) washing over coastal cities in the north." According to Japan's     Meteorological Survey, it was 9.0.
     
    The Sendai port city and other areas experienced heavy     damage. "Thousands of homes were destroyed, many roads were impassable,     trains and buses (stopped) running, and power and cellphones remained down.     On Saturday morning, the JR rail company" reported three trains missing.     Many passengers are unaccounted for.
     
    Striking at 2:46PM Tokyo time, it caused vast destruction,     shook city skyscrapers, buckled highways, ignited fires, terrified millions,     annihilated areas near Sendai, possibly killed thousands, and caused a     nuclear meltdown, its potential catastrophic effects far exceeding quake     and tsunami devastation, almost minor by comparison under a worst case     scenario.
     
    On March 12, Times writer Matthew Wald headlined, "Explosion     Seen at Damaged Japan Nuclear Plant," saying:
     
    "Japanese officials (ordered evacuations) for people     living near two nuclear power plants whose cooling systems broke down,"     releasing radioactive material, perhaps in far greater amounts than reported.
     
    NHK television and Jiji said the 40-year old Fukushima     plant's outer structure housing the reactor "appeared to have blown     off, which could suggest the containment building had already been breached."     Japan's nuclear regulating agency said radioactive levels inside were 1,000     times above normal.
     
    Reuters said the 1995 Kobe quake caused $100 billion     in damage, up to then the most costly ever natural disaster. This time,     from quake and tsunami damage alone, that figure will be dwarfed. Moreover,     under a worst case core meltdown, all bets are off as the entire region     and beyond will be threatened with permanent contamination, making the     most affected areas unsafe to live in.
     
    On March 12, Stratfor Global Intelligence issued a "Red     Alert: Nuclear Meltdown at Quake-Damaged Japanese Plant," saying:
     
    Fukushima Daiichi "nuclear power plant in Okuma,     Japan, appears to have caused a reactor meltdown." Stratfor downplayed     its seriousness, adding that such an event "does not necessarily mean     a nuclear disaster," that already may have happened - the ultimate     nightmare short of nuclear winter.
     
    According to Stratfor, "(A)s long as the reactor     core, which is specifically designed to contain high levels of heat, pressure     and radiation, remains intact, the melted fuel can be dealt with. If the     (core's) breached but the containment facility built around (it) remains     intact, the melted fuel can be....entombed within specialized concrete"     as at Chernobyl in 1986.
     
    In fact, that disaster killed nearly one million people     worldwide from nuclear radiation exposure. In their book titled, "Chernobyl:     Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment," Alexey     Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko said:
     
    "For the past 23 years, it has been clear that there     is a danger greater than nuclear weapons concealed within nuclear power.     Emissions from this one reactor exceeded a hundred-fold the radioactive     contamination of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
     
    "No citizen of any country can be assured that he     or she can be protected from radioactive contamination. One nuclear reactor     can pollute half the globe. Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern     Hemisphere."
     
    Stratfor explained that if Fukushima's floor cracked,     "it is highly likely that the melting fuel will burn through (its)     containment system and enter the ground. This has never happened before,"     at least not reported. If now occurring, "containment goes from being     merely dangerous, time consuming and expensive to nearly impossible,"     making the quake, aftershocks, and tsunamis seem mild by comparison. Potentially,     millions of lives will be jeopardized.
     
    Japanese officials said Fukushima's reactor container     wasn't breached. Stratfor and others said it was, making the potential     calamity far worse than reported. Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety     Agency (NISA) said the explosion at Fukushima's Saiichi No. 1 facility     could only have been caused by a core meltdown. In fact, 3 or more reactors     are affected or at risk. Events are fluid and developing, but remain very     serious. The possibility of an extreme catastrophe can't be discounted.
     
    Moreover, independent nuclear safety analyst John Large     told Al Jazeera that by venting radioactive steam from the inner reactor     to the outer dome, a reaction may have occurred, causing the explosion.
     
    "When I look at the size of the explosion,"     he said, "it is my opinion that there could be a very large leak (because)     fuel continues to generate heat."
     
    Already, Fukushima way exceeds Three Mile Island that     experienced a partial core meltdown in Unit 2. Finally it was brought under     control, but coverup and denial concealed full details until much later.
     
    According to anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman,     Japan's quake fallout may cause nuclear disaster, saying:
     
    "This is a very serious situation. If the cooling     system fails (apparently it has at two or more plants), the super-heated     radioactive fuel rods will melt, and (if so) you could conceivably have     an explosion," that, in fact, occurred.
     
    As a result, massive radiation releases may follow, impacting     the entire region. "It could be, literally, an apocalyptic event.     The reactor could blow." If so, Russia, China, Korea and most parts     of Western Asia will be affected. Many thousands will die, potentially     millions under a worse case scenario, including far outside East Asia.
     
    Moreover, at least five reactors are at risk. Already,     a 20-mile wide radius was evacuated. What happened in Japan can occur anywhere.     Yet Obama's proposed budget includes $36 billion for new reactors, a shocking     disregard for global safety.
     
    Calling Fukushima an "apocalyptic event," Wasserman     said "(t)hese nuclear plants have to be shut," let alone budget     billions for new ones. It's unthinkable, he said. If a similar disaster     struck California, nuclear fallout would affect all America, Canada, Mexico,     Central America, and parts of South America.
     
    Nuclear Power: A Technology from Hell
     
    Nuclear expert Helen Caldicott agrees, telling this writer     by phone that a potential regional catastrophe is unfolding. Over 30 years     ago, she warned of its inevitability. Her 2006 book titled, "Nuclear     Power is Not the Answer" explained that contrary to government and     industry propaganda, even during normal operations, nuclear power generation     causes significant discharges of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as hundreds     of thousands of curies of deadly radioactive gases and other radioactive     elements into the environment every year.
     
    Moreover, nuclear plants are atom bomb factories. A 1000     megawatt reactor produces 500 pounds of plutonium annually. Only 10 are     needed for a bomb able to devastate a large city, besides causing permanent     radiation contamination.
     
    Nuclear Power not Cleaner and Greener
     
    Just the opposite, in fact. Although a nuclear power     plant releases no carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary greenhouse gas, a vast     infrastructure is required. Called the nuclear fuel cycle, it uses large     amounts of fossil fuels.
     
    Each cycle stage exacerbates the problem, starting with     the enormous cost of mining and milling uranium, needing fossil fuel to     do it. How then to dispose of mill tailings, produced in the extraction     process. It requires great amounts of greenhouse emitting fuels to remediate.
     
    Moreover, other nuclear cycle steps also use fossil fuels,     including converting uranium to hexafluoride gas prior to enrichment, the     enrichment process itself, and conversion of enriched uranium hexafluoride     gas to fuel pellets. In addition, nuclear power plant construction,  dismantling     and cleanup at the end of their useful life require large amounts of energy.
     
    There's more, including contaminated cooling water, nuclear     waste, its handling, transportation and disposal/storage, problems so far     unresolved. Moreover, nuclear power costs and risks are so enormous that     the industry couldn't exist without billions of government subsidized funding     annually.
     
    The Unaddressed Human Toll from Normal Operations
     
    Affected are uranium miners, industry workers, and potentially     everyone living close to nuclear reactors that routinely emit harmful radioactive     releases daily, harming human health over time, causing illness and early     death.
     
    The link between radiation exposure and disease is irrefutable,     depending only on the amount of cumulative exposure over time, Caldicott     saying:
     
    "If a regulatory gene is biochemically altered by     radiation exposure, the cell will begin to incubate cancer, during a 'latent     period of carcinogenesis,' lasting from two to sixty years."
     
    In fact, a single gene mutation can prove fatal. No amount     of radiation exposure is safe. Moreover, when combined with about 80,000     commonly used toxic chemicals and contaminated GMO foods and ingredients,     it causes 80% of known cancers, putting everyone at risk everywhere.
     
    Further, the combined effects of allowable radiation     exposure, uranium mining, milling operations, enrichment, and fuel fabrication     can be devastating to  those exposed. Besides the insoluble waste storage/disposal     problem, nuclear accidents happen and catastrophic ones are inevitable.
     
    Inevitable Meltdowns
     
    Caldicott and other experts agree they're certain in     one or more of the hundreds of reactors operating globally, many years     after their scheduled shutdown dates unsafely. Combined with human error,     imprudently minimizing operating costs, internal sabotage, or the effects     of a high-magnitude quake and/or tsunami, an eventual catastrophe is certain.
     
    Aging plants alone, like Japan's Fukushima facility,     pose
    unacceptable risks based on their record of near-misses     and meltdowns, resulting from human error, old equipment, shoddy maintenance,     and poor regulatory oversight. However, under optimum operating conditions,     all nuclear plants are unsafe. Like any machine or facility, they're vulnerable     to breakdowns, that if serious enough can cause enormous, possibly catastrophic,     harm.
     
    Add nuclear war to the mix, also potentially inevitable     according to some experts, by accident or intent, including Steven Starr     saying:
     
    "Only a single failure of nuclear deterrence is     required to start a nuclear war," the consequences of which "would     be profound, potentially killing "tens of millions of people, and     caus(ing) long-term, catastrophic disruptions of the global climate and     massive destruction of Earth's protective ozone layer. The result would     be a global nuclear famine that could kill up to one billion people."
     
    Worse still is nuclear winter, the ultimate nightmare,     able to end all life if it happens. It's nuclear proliferation's unacceptable     risk, a clear and present danger as long as nuclear weapons and commercial     dependency exist.
    In 1946, Enstein knew it, saying:
     
    "Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by     those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The     unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking,     and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."
     
    He envisioned two choices - abolish all forms of nuclear     power or face extinction. No one listened. The Doomsday Clock keeps ticking.
     
    Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at     lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com     and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the     Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays     at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs     are archived for easy listening.
     
    http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.
     

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