The Fukushima Fallout Files

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Detroit Publishing Co. After the Quake 1906 “The burnt out San Francisco Call newspaper building from Grant Avenue”We have now seen a series of explosions at the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi plant (Fukushima 1), and it is becoming increasingly clear that containment systems have been breached in at least some units. The pervasive consequences of station blackout began with a hydrogen explosion in unit 1, followed by a much larger explosion in unit 3, two explosions at unit 2 and one at unit 4. Units 1-3 had been operational prior to the earthquake and tsunami, but were automatically shut down with the quake. Units 4-6 had not been operational for some months, but reactors require constant cooling whether or not they are operational. It is likely that we will see all units compromised due to the loss of power that has prevented cooling. Continue reading “The Fukushima Fallout Files”

How Black is the Japanese Nuclear Swan?

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Pillsbury Picture Co. “The Burning of the Call” 1906 The San Francisco Call newspaper building in flames after the April 18, 1906 earthquake

The Japanese earthquake is a tragedy of epic proportions in so many ways. The situation continues to evolve, and the full scope of the disaster will not be understood for a long time. One critical aspect is the effect on Japan’s nuclear industry, which provides over 30% of the country’s electricity from 54 reactors. Some of the largest nuclear plants in the world (Fukushima Dai-ichi and Fukushima Dai-ni, 4696 MW and 4400 MW, respectively) are located close to the epicentre, and on the coast, directly in the path of the resulting tsunami:

 

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A state of emergency has been declared for five reactors, with the worst affected reactors being the forty year old Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) at Fukushima Dai-ichi, 240 km north of Tokyo. These reactors shut down, as the control rods were automatically inserted to dampen the nuclear reaction (SCRAM). At least two reactors experienced a station blackout, which prevented the cooling system from functioning (a loss of coolant, or LOCA accident). Continue reading “How Black is the Japanese Nuclear Swan?”