Japan’s Nuclear Crisis is Far from Over

Headlines about Japan’s stricken nuclear power plant are becoming rare. But that says more about fickle nature of the media than it does about the tremulous state of affairs at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant (FDI). Despite progress in restoring electricity to some areas of FDI, a  member of the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority commented yesterday, “We still judge the situation to be critical.”

The truth is, Japan’s nuclear crisis is far from over. Not buying it? Here’s the evidence:

1. Radiation at FDI reactor No. 2  spiked yesterday to 500 microsieverts per hour — the highest level since the crisis began on March 11. Officials say they don’t know the source of the radiation, but likely suspects include the reactor’s containment vessel,  the suppression chamber or the spent fuel rod pool — all of which could have been damaged in the explosion of hydrogen gas.

The gas was generated when the outer layer of the fuel rods overheated because of a lack of coolant (i.e., water).

2. Good news/bad news. The good news is that thermometers inside the reactors are back up and running. The bad news is what they show. The reactors are designed to operate at 302°C (575°F). According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which owns and operates the plant, Reactor No. 1  hit 394°C (741°F).

That spells trouble.

3. The high temperature is especially troublesome at a power plant with a long history of rigging safety tests to produce desired outcomes, falsifying safety records, and lacking even a minimal sense of the catastrophic possibilities associated with nuclear power production.

According to its own admission, between 1986 and 2001, TEPCO  committed major safety violations 16 times. These included illegally injecting air into the primary containment vessel of Reactor No. 1 while testing the unit’s “leakage rate.” (This occurred in 1991 and 1992.)

After these actions became public, the company prepared a document in 2004, titled, “Lesson Learned From TEPCO Nuclear Power Scandal.” It makes for some pretty sober reading, especially under the current circumstances. In looking at the root causes of the scandal, the report cited “nuclear engineers’ over-confidence of their nuclear knowledge.”

Even more troublesome is TEPCO’s admission that “we had no clear rules to judge whether equipment was fit for service.”

You can read the rest of the article at Forbes.com.

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2 thoughts on “Japan’s Nuclear Crisis is Far from Over

  1. Very informative. Thanks! I know some authors can’t say this, but I can. This is about money and fear.
    They try to make it sound like an overconfident engineer, but what is the likelyhood that someone was paid a huge sum to keep the investors ignorant and happy? Mistakes are forgivable, falsifying evidence with such catastrophic probabilities is prosecutable. Let’s start looking for the real culprits who have layers of plausible deniability and putting these irresponsible and greedy people in jail, that is if we can do anything at all.

  2. Important points. The most frustrating thing about much of the reaction/analysis I’ve seen in U.S. mainstream media is the constant parroting of the claim that renewable energy cannot power the world, and that it’s more expensive than nuclear.

    Not even a single mention of Jacobsen and Melucchi’s Scientific American piece — http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

    Or other similar analysis.

    In fact, more often than not, renewables are ignored altogether — see the inane, nuclear coddling “debate” between Bob Beckle and Cal Thomas in today’s USA Today — http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20110324/column24_st.art.htm

    And nothing at all about the true/total costs of nuclear, which, of course, include the cost of: a) waste disposal and containment — over tens of thousands of years!; b) the massive costs of clean-up, etc. in a case such as Chernobyl or Fukushima

    See this one-sided “analysis” for an example of the latter: http://theenergycollective.com/breakthroughinstitut/54322/doing-math-comparing-germanys-solar-industry-japans-fukushima-reactors

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