More on Japan’s earthquake

Officials estimate that at least 10,000 may be dead–with thousands more still missing–due to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.  Meanwhile, more nuclear power plants are in danger of meltdown.

See 10K dead in Japan amid fears of nuclear meltdowns – Yahoo! News.

Japan has been a world leader in the design of earthquake-resistant structures.  Read this confident–but now ironic–account of all that Japan does to ensure safety during an earthquake.

But this goes to show that all of the ingenious engineering does little if the earthquake is powerful enough.

Go here to help.

What does this mean for California, midwesterners along the New Madris fault, and other potential earthquake zones in the U.S.A.?

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About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I think this means that we too, are vulnerable.

    There truly is no lasting city in this place.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I think this means that we too, are vulnerable.

    There truly is no lasting city in this place.

  • Dan Sellers

    What does this mean for us? Not a whole lot unless you live along the coast in Washington, Oregon, Northern California, or Alaska. Those are the only places in the U.S. where the conditions are geologically similar enough to trigger an earthquake this big. Most of the faults we think of as big can only produce a magnitude 8 earthquake at the high end of the scale. In order to have on of these massive earthquakes, you need a convergent plate boundary. The areas mentioned above are the only places where that type of plate boundary exists in the U.S.

  • Dan Sellers

    What does this mean for us? Not a whole lot unless you live along the coast in Washington, Oregon, Northern California, or Alaska. Those are the only places in the U.S. where the conditions are geologically similar enough to trigger an earthquake this big. Most of the faults we think of as big can only produce a magnitude 8 earthquake at the high end of the scale. In order to have on of these massive earthquakes, you need a convergent plate boundary. The areas mentioned above are the only places where that type of plate boundary exists in the U.S.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    Dan,
    Don’t wait until a disaster hits the west coast of the US to realise that all the continental US will be affected by what happens there: economically, spiritually, family-wise, etc.

    Btw, Dr Veith, all the expert commentary I’ve heard to date on the dangers arising from a nuclear meltdown are that they are minimal, thanks in part to what was learned from Three Mile Island.
    Let’s hope their right.
    In the meantime, an interesting statistic:
    People killed in/by nuclear power facilities in the last ten years: 7
    People killed by wind farms: 44!

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    Dan,
    Don’t wait until a disaster hits the west coast of the US to realise that all the continental US will be affected by what happens there: economically, spiritually, family-wise, etc.

    Btw, Dr Veith, all the expert commentary I’ve heard to date on the dangers arising from a nuclear meltdown are that they are minimal, thanks in part to what was learned from Three Mile Island.
    Let’s hope their right.
    In the meantime, an interesting statistic:
    People killed in/by nuclear power facilities in the last ten years: 7
    People killed by wind farms: 44!

  • Carl Vehse

    The “confident–but now ironic–account of all that Japan does to ensure safety during an earthquake” doesn’t mention the efforts to ensure the safety during a earthquake-caused tsunami. There were warning sirens along the Japanese coast, but many did not have time to get to higher ground.

    The problems of trying to quickly move a large number of people from one place to another are well known – it’s called a “traffic jam”.

  • Carl Vehse

    The “confident–but now ironic–account of all that Japan does to ensure safety during an earthquake” doesn’t mention the efforts to ensure the safety during a earthquake-caused tsunami. There were warning sirens along the Japanese coast, but many did not have time to get to higher ground.

    The problems of trying to quickly move a large number of people from one place to another are well known – it’s called a “traffic jam”.

  • Tom Hering
  • Tom Hering
  • DonS

    The “nuclear meltdown” scenario being played out in Japan is serious, but seems to be being sensationalized in the press. Despite a convergence of catastrophic events that have never before occurred in a single location in recorded history, including an earthquake 1000 times larger than the Northridge quake and an historic simultaneous tsunami, the radiation released so far is extremely minimal on an absolute scale and containment of the reactor core is being maintained. The risk falls with each passing day. The meltdown is a catastrophe for that particular utility, to be sure, because the reactor is ruined and it will take at least a decade to clean up. But for the population at large, it does not seem that it will be that big of a deal.

    This should actually give us comfort as to how safe a source of energy nuclear power is. Especially relative to the alternatives. I’m sure this episode will result in a lot of ignorant nuclear power demagoguery, by the same people that want us to shut down all of the current mainstream fossil fuel power sources, but hopefully we will wise up to their ignorance.

  • DonS

    The “nuclear meltdown” scenario being played out in Japan is serious, but seems to be being sensationalized in the press. Despite a convergence of catastrophic events that have never before occurred in a single location in recorded history, including an earthquake 1000 times larger than the Northridge quake and an historic simultaneous tsunami, the radiation released so far is extremely minimal on an absolute scale and containment of the reactor core is being maintained. The risk falls with each passing day. The meltdown is a catastrophe for that particular utility, to be sure, because the reactor is ruined and it will take at least a decade to clean up. But for the population at large, it does not seem that it will be that big of a deal.

    This should actually give us comfort as to how safe a source of energy nuclear power is. Especially relative to the alternatives. I’m sure this episode will result in a lot of ignorant nuclear power demagoguery, by the same people that want us to shut down all of the current mainstream fossil fuel power sources, but hopefully we will wise up to their ignorance.

  • Bruce Gee

    Actually, my wife, having grown up in quaky California, was amazed at how well the Tokyo buildings stood up to the quake. In her opinion, without the new engineering, Tokyo would have been rubble.
    As for how the people are holding up: here is an interesting Telegraph article on “Why Is There No Looting?”.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100079703/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan/

  • Bruce Gee

    Actually, my wife, having grown up in quaky California, was amazed at how well the Tokyo buildings stood up to the quake. In her opinion, without the new engineering, Tokyo would have been rubble.
    As for how the people are holding up: here is an interesting Telegraph article on “Why Is There No Looting?”.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100079703/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan/

  • Grace

    Carl – 4

    “The problems of trying to quickly move a large number of people from one place to another are well known – it’s called a “traffic jam”.”

    If it were southern CA, I doubt anyone would get past the second block for hours, in most flat beach areas – even for miles. If one knows the area well, meaning short cuts to higher ground in the hills, they might be able to escape, in some beach areas like Palos Verdes, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, and a few others.

  • Grace

    Carl – 4

    “The problems of trying to quickly move a large number of people from one place to another are well known – it’s called a “traffic jam”.”

    If it were southern CA, I doubt anyone would get past the second block for hours, in most flat beach areas – even for miles. If one knows the area well, meaning short cuts to higher ground in the hills, they might be able to escape, in some beach areas like Palos Verdes, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, and a few others.

  • Grace

    23 GE-Designed Reactors in in 13 states Similar to Japan’s
    Monday, 14 Mar 2011 12:41 PM

    By Jim Meyers

    Almost 25 General Electric-designed nuclear reactors in the United States are very similar to reactors in Japan threatened with a catastrophic meltdown.

    The 23 American reactors in 13 states are GE boiling-water reactors with GE’s Mark I systems for containing radioactivity, the same containment system used by the reactors in trouble at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission database that MSNBC accessed.

    In addition, 12 American reactors in seven states have the later Mark II or Mark III containment system from GE.

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/GE-reactors-Japan-UnitedStates/2011/03/14/id/389407

  • Grace

    23 GE-Designed Reactors in in 13 states Similar to Japan’s
    Monday, 14 Mar 2011 12:41 PM

    By Jim Meyers

    Almost 25 General Electric-designed nuclear reactors in the United States are very similar to reactors in Japan threatened with a catastrophic meltdown.

    The 23 American reactors in 13 states are GE boiling-water reactors with GE’s Mark I systems for containing radioactivity, the same containment system used by the reactors in trouble at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission database that MSNBC accessed.

    In addition, 12 American reactors in seven states have the later Mark II or Mark III containment system from GE.

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/GE-reactors-Japan-UnitedStates/2011/03/14/id/389407

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bruce (@7), yes, but keep in mind that the epicenter was over 200 miles northeast of Tokyo. Closer to the epicenter, the cities are rubble.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bruce (@7), yes, but keep in mind that the epicenter was over 200 miles northeast of Tokyo. Closer to the epicenter, the cities are rubble.

  • Carl Vehse

    Those BWR plants in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania will now be required to build >30-foot walls around the plants and diesel generators to protect against possible tsunamis.

    Not a problem, the ratepayers will pick up the tab.

  • Carl Vehse

    Those BWR plants in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania will now be required to build >30-foot walls around the plants and diesel generators to protect against possible tsunamis.

    Not a problem, the ratepayers will pick up the tab.

  • Carl Vehse

    BTW, with at least a gazillion stories about the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan on TV, newspapers and internet, I have not seen any about massive looting of stores, wanton rampage, destruction, raping, pillaging that one would expect if a major U.S. city had suffered from a similar (or far less) natural disaster.

    Maybe there are not many Amish in Japan.

  • Carl Vehse

    BTW, with at least a gazillion stories about the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan on TV, newspapers and internet, I have not seen any about massive looting of stores, wanton rampage, destruction, raping, pillaging that one would expect if a major U.S. city had suffered from a similar (or far less) natural disaster.

    Maybe there are not many Amish in Japan.

  • Grace

    Carl – 12

    I have wondered why their has been no looting, no anger, as we have witnessed in other disasters. I saw this piece just a few hours ago:

    Why is there no looting in Japan?

    By Ed West World Last updated: March 14th, 2011

    “And solidarity seems especially strong in Japan itself. Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength, with supermarkets cutting prices and vending machine owners giving out free drinks as people work together to survive. Most noticeably of all, there has been no looting, and I’m not the only one curious about this.

    _____Another excerpt_____

    Why do some cultures react to disaster by reverting to everyone for himself, but others – especially the Japanese – display altruism even in adversity?”

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100079703/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan/

  • Grace

    Carl – 12

    I have wondered why their has been no looting, no anger, as we have witnessed in other disasters. I saw this piece just a few hours ago:

    Why is there no looting in Japan?

    By Ed West World Last updated: March 14th, 2011

    “And solidarity seems especially strong in Japan itself. Perhaps even more impressive than Japan’s technological power is its social strength, with supermarkets cutting prices and vending machine owners giving out free drinks as people work together to survive. Most noticeably of all, there has been no looting, and I’m not the only one curious about this.

    _____Another excerpt_____

    Why do some cultures react to disaster by reverting to everyone for himself, but others – especially the Japanese – display altruism even in adversity?”

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100079703/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan/

  • Carl Vehse

    An explosion at Fukushima Reactor No. 2 has now occurred. Whether it damaged or cracked the reactor vessel is not known (or hasn’t been released yet).

  • Carl Vehse

    An explosion at Fukushima Reactor No. 2 has now occurred. Whether it damaged or cracked the reactor vessel is not known (or hasn’t been released yet).

  • Carl Vehse

    From Educated Earth:

    8:20 PM (ET) – March 14 2011: TEPCO has thus far failed to raise the water level in reactor 2, leaving a large portion of the reactor rods exposed to air (increasing pressure and temperatures inside the chamber).
    8:10 PM – March 14 2011: Kyodo, quoting a safety agency, is reporting that radioactive materials are feared to be leaking at Fukushima. Approximately 50 people are working on-site to regain control of the situation.
    7:18 PM – March 14 2011: Kyodo is now reporting that the suppression pool may have been damaged at the second reactor, with up to half of the radioactive rods exposed to air. Operators are being evacuated.
    7:06 PM – March 14 2011: There are reports of an explosion at Fukushima Daiichi, reactor no. 2, according to Jiji News Agency. Awaiting further details, video.

  • Carl Vehse

    From Educated Earth:

    8:20 PM (ET) – March 14 2011: TEPCO has thus far failed to raise the water level in reactor 2, leaving a large portion of the reactor rods exposed to air (increasing pressure and temperatures inside the chamber).
    8:10 PM – March 14 2011: Kyodo, quoting a safety agency, is reporting that radioactive materials are feared to be leaking at Fukushima. Approximately 50 people are working on-site to regain control of the situation.
    7:18 PM – March 14 2011: Kyodo is now reporting that the suppression pool may have been damaged at the second reactor, with up to half of the radioactive rods exposed to air. Operators are being evacuated.
    7:06 PM – March 14 2011: There are reports of an explosion at Fukushima Daiichi, reactor no. 2, according to Jiji News Agency. Awaiting further details, video.

  • MarkB

    Hopefully the reactor vessel of unit 2 is not cracked or broken. If it is then it is a bad sign of what can possibly happen.

  • MarkB

    Hopefully the reactor vessel of unit 2 is not cracked or broken. If it is then it is a bad sign of what can possibly happen.

  • Carl Vehse

    9:03 PM (ET) – March 14 2011: Radiation levels have skyrocketed near the front gate of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power station, with 1 hour exposure being 8x the amount a human can healthily handle a year.

    There appears to be higher radiation levels coming from this latest explosion than the previous two explosions, suggesting the reactor vessel is damaged or cracked.

  • Carl Vehse

    9:03 PM (ET) – March 14 2011: Radiation levels have skyrocketed near the front gate of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power station, with 1 hour exposure being 8x the amount a human can healthily handle a year.

    There appears to be higher radiation levels coming from this latest explosion than the previous two explosions, suggesting the reactor vessel is damaged or cracked.

  • MarkB

    Carl, if the reactor vessel is damaged or cracked it would be a worst case situation for this type of reactor. From what I have read so far on unit 2 they are still having problems getting water of any type into the Rx. That with the combination of cracked of damaged vessel would most probably release high level radioactive vapors and particulate into the environment along with having a high radiation level from direct radiation from the core locally.

    If they cannot get water in on the core it very well could melt badly too. I would hate to even think of what that could do.

    This may lead to choices by some of the personnel at the plant making decisions that will lead to their own loss of life trying to stop a catastrophy. That would be a parallel to what happened at Chernoble where some of the people who fought the fire and did some of the damage control knew they were going to die and did it anyway.

    May the Lord not let this come to this.

    I just wonder what happened at unit 2 to stop thier continued refilling of water into the Rx system. And will some of the same things happen at the other reactors at Fukushima and other plants.

  • MarkB

    Carl, if the reactor vessel is damaged or cracked it would be a worst case situation for this type of reactor. From what I have read so far on unit 2 they are still having problems getting water of any type into the Rx. That with the combination of cracked of damaged vessel would most probably release high level radioactive vapors and particulate into the environment along with having a high radiation level from direct radiation from the core locally.

    If they cannot get water in on the core it very well could melt badly too. I would hate to even think of what that could do.

    This may lead to choices by some of the personnel at the plant making decisions that will lead to their own loss of life trying to stop a catastrophy. That would be a parallel to what happened at Chernoble where some of the people who fought the fire and did some of the damage control knew they were going to die and did it anyway.

    May the Lord not let this come to this.

    I just wonder what happened at unit 2 to stop thier continued refilling of water into the Rx system. And will some of the same things happen at the other reactors at Fukushima and other plants.

  • Carl Vehse

    A NHK World report states that radiation levels exceeded 8,200 microSv/h at the front gate of No.1 on Tuesday morning, presumable after the explosion at No. 2. That is a radiation dose-equivalent, in U.S. units, of 820 millirem/hr = 0.82 rem/hr. There is no information whether workers in the control room or in surrounding areas are receiving the same, lower or higher levels of radiation.

    As such a level, plant workers would probably have to leave after a day or so, unless they volunteered to stay. After a few days exposed to such a radiation level they would risk radiation sickness.

  • Carl Vehse

    A NHK World report states that radiation levels exceeded 8,200 microSv/h at the front gate of No.1 on Tuesday morning, presumable after the explosion at No. 2. That is a radiation dose-equivalent, in U.S. units, of 820 millirem/hr = 0.82 rem/hr. There is no information whether workers in the control room or in surrounding areas are receiving the same, lower or higher levels of radiation.

    As such a level, plant workers would probably have to leave after a day or so, unless they volunteered to stay. After a few days exposed to such a radiation level they would risk radiation sickness.

  • Carl Vehse

    In what is starting to appear more and more like a modified limited hangout, a World Nuclear News Report on the damage to Fukushima Reactor No. 2, just happened to mention casually at the end of the article:

    “Prime minister Naoto Kan also confirmed a fire burning at unit 4, which – according to all official sources – had never been a safety concern since the earthquake. This reactor was closed for periodic inspections when the earthquake and tsunami hit, therefore did not undergo a rapid and sudden shutdown, although it was of course violently shaken.”

  • Carl Vehse

    In what is starting to appear more and more like a modified limited hangout, a World Nuclear News Report on the damage to Fukushima Reactor No. 2, just happened to mention casually at the end of the article:

    “Prime minister Naoto Kan also confirmed a fire burning at unit 4, which – according to all official sources – had never been a safety concern since the earthquake. This reactor was closed for periodic inspections when the earthquake and tsunami hit, therefore did not undergo a rapid and sudden shutdown, although it was of course violently shaken.”

  • MarkB

    It would be interesting to know whether the .82 rem/hour was due to radioactivity in vapor or particulate in the atmosphere or if it was due to direct radiation from unit 2. If it is due to direct radiation it would likely be higher at the other units since they are closer than the front gate. If it is due to vapor or particulate in the atomosphere then being inside a building would likely shield the workers needed to keep the other reactors flooded with water.

    If it is direct radiation then they might need to install temporary shielding to cut the level down enough to allow the workers to remain to fight the other problems. Maybe some totes of water stacked up around where they need to remain would help.

  • MarkB

    It would be interesting to know whether the .82 rem/hour was due to radioactivity in vapor or particulate in the atmosphere or if it was due to direct radiation from unit 2. If it is due to direct radiation it would likely be higher at the other units since they are closer than the front gate. If it is due to vapor or particulate in the atomosphere then being inside a building would likely shield the workers needed to keep the other reactors flooded with water.

    If it is direct radiation then they might need to install temporary shielding to cut the level down enough to allow the workers to remain to fight the other problems. Maybe some totes of water stacked up around where they need to remain would help.

  • MarkB

    Since unit 4 was not operational when the earthquake hit, it should not have the cooling problems of units 1 through 3. Could they have been trying to start unit 4 to supply power to the other reactors? Wild speculation, but something I would consider if the infrastructure was down so you couldn’t get power to the site to help with the cooling, which seems to be the major problem there.

  • MarkB

    Since unit 4 was not operational when the earthquake hit, it should not have the cooling problems of units 1 through 3. Could they have been trying to start unit 4 to supply power to the other reactors? Wild speculation, but something I would consider if the infrastructure was down so you couldn’t get power to the site to help with the cooling, which seems to be the major problem there.

  • Carl Vehse

    “It would be interesting to know whether the .82 rem/hour was due to radioactivity in vapor or particulate in the atmosphere or if it was due to direct radiation from unit 2.”

    If you can get me a RT ticket to Japan, I can take my survey meter and a portable gamma spectrometer, along with gloves, a respirator mask with HEPA/activated charcoal filters, a Tyvek suit (along with a SCBA unit and probably some lead-lined skivvies), and make a bunch of measurements at the gate and closer if they’d let me, and find out what radioisotopes are there.

  • Carl Vehse

    “It would be interesting to know whether the .82 rem/hour was due to radioactivity in vapor or particulate in the atmosphere or if it was due to direct radiation from unit 2.”

    If you can get me a RT ticket to Japan, I can take my survey meter and a portable gamma spectrometer, along with gloves, a respirator mask with HEPA/activated charcoal filters, a Tyvek suit (along with a SCBA unit and probably some lead-lined skivvies), and make a bunch of measurements at the gate and closer if they’d let me, and find out what radioisotopes are there.

  • Carl Vehse

    A Herald Sun news report states:

    Chief government spokesman Yukio Edano… later said there was also an explosion which started a fire at the number-four reactor. He said radioactive substances were leaked along with the hydrogen.

    “Please keep in mind that what is burning is not nuclear fuel itself,” Mr Edano said. “We’ll do our best to put out or control the fire as soon as possible.”

    Nowhere does Edano say what is burning, for the moment out of control. Presumably it’s not the plant’s maintenance logbooks.

  • Carl Vehse

    A Herald Sun news report states:

    Chief government spokesman Yukio Edano… later said there was also an explosion which started a fire at the number-four reactor. He said radioactive substances were leaked along with the hydrogen.

    “Please keep in mind that what is burning is not nuclear fuel itself,” Mr Edano said. “We’ll do our best to put out or control the fire as soon as possible.”

    Nowhere does Edano say what is burning, for the moment out of control. Presumably it’s not the plant’s maintenance logbooks.

  • Carl Vehse

    AP is now reporting:

    “It is likely that the level of radiation increased sharply due to a fire at Unit 4,” [Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio] Edano said. “Now we are talking about levels that can damage human health. These are readings taken near the area where we believe the releases are happening. Far away, the levels should be lower,” he said.

    He said a reactor whose containment building caught fire Monday has not contributed greatly to the increased radiation. The radiation level around one of the reactors stood at 400,000 microsiverts per hour [CV note: That's 40 rem/hr!], four times higher than the safe level.

    That’s some serious radiation. Along with the plane tickets, I’ll also need an M-48, M-60, or M-1A for some radiation shielding; I’ve driven those tanks before.

  • Carl Vehse

    AP is now reporting:

    “It is likely that the level of radiation increased sharply due to a fire at Unit 4,” [Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio] Edano said. “Now we are talking about levels that can damage human health. These are readings taken near the area where we believe the releases are happening. Far away, the levels should be lower,” he said.

    He said a reactor whose containment building caught fire Monday has not contributed greatly to the increased radiation. The radiation level around one of the reactors stood at 400,000 microsiverts per hour [CV note: That's 40 rem/hr!], four times higher than the safe level.

    That’s some serious radiation. Along with the plane tickets, I’ll also need an M-48, M-60, or M-1A for some radiation shielding; I’ve driven those tanks before.

  • MarkB

    Something about that report that the increased radiation levels are going up due to unit 4, which wasn’t operating when the earthquake happened does not make sense. Unless that building was damaged by the earthquake/tsunami a lot worse than any other of the Fukushima sites.

    Woops, I just heard the fire was in the storage pond. That makes a difference. That would be bad since it has used fuel in it and it too needs to be kept cool too.

  • MarkB

    Something about that report that the increased radiation levels are going up due to unit 4, which wasn’t operating when the earthquake happened does not make sense. Unless that building was damaged by the earthquake/tsunami a lot worse than any other of the Fukushima sites.

    Woops, I just heard the fire was in the storage pond. That makes a difference. That would be bad since it has used fuel in it and it too needs to be kept cool too.

  • Carl Vehse

    From a 9:15 A.M. EDT, Tuesday, March 15 NEI Report:

    Units 1 and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi are stable and cooling is being maintained through seawater injection. Primary containment integrity has been maintained on both reactors.

    The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) reported an explosion in the suppression pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2, at 7:14 p.m. EDT on March 14. Reactor water level was reported to be at 2.7 meters below the top of the fuel. The pressure in the suppression pool decreased from 3 atmospheres to 1 atmosphere. Radiation readings at the site increased to 96 millirem per hour.

    Dose rates at Fukushima Daiichi as reported at 10:22 p.m. EDT on March 14 were:

    - Near Unit 3 reactor building 40 rem/hr
    - Near Unit 4 reactor building 10 rem/hr
    - At site boundary 821 millirem/hr.
    - Kitaibaraki (200 km south of site) 0.4 millirem/hr.

    We are working on getting updated information on radiation and dose rates at and near the plant.

    Station personnel not directly supporting reactor recovery efforts have been evacuated, leaving approximately 50 staff members at the site. Operators are no longer in the main control room due to high radiation levels.

    Safety relief valves were able to be re-opened and seawater injection into the reactor core was restarted around 1 a.m. EDT on March 15 and is continuing.

    At Unit 4 on March 14 at approximately 8:38 p.m. EDT, a fire was reported in the reactor building. It is believed to have been from a lube oil leak in a system that drives recirculation water pumps. Fire fighting efforts extinguished the fire. The roof of the reactor building was damaged.

  • Carl Vehse

    From a 9:15 A.M. EDT, Tuesday, March 15 NEI Report:

    Units 1 and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi are stable and cooling is being maintained through seawater injection. Primary containment integrity has been maintained on both reactors.

    The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) reported an explosion in the suppression pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2, at 7:14 p.m. EDT on March 14. Reactor water level was reported to be at 2.7 meters below the top of the fuel. The pressure in the suppression pool decreased from 3 atmospheres to 1 atmosphere. Radiation readings at the site increased to 96 millirem per hour.

    Dose rates at Fukushima Daiichi as reported at 10:22 p.m. EDT on March 14 were:

    - Near Unit 3 reactor building 40 rem/hr
    - Near Unit 4 reactor building 10 rem/hr
    - At site boundary 821 millirem/hr.
    - Kitaibaraki (200 km south of site) 0.4 millirem/hr.

    We are working on getting updated information on radiation and dose rates at and near the plant.

    Station personnel not directly supporting reactor recovery efforts have been evacuated, leaving approximately 50 staff members at the site. Operators are no longer in the main control room due to high radiation levels.

    Safety relief valves were able to be re-opened and seawater injection into the reactor core was restarted around 1 a.m. EDT on March 15 and is continuing.

    At Unit 4 on March 14 at approximately 8:38 p.m. EDT, a fire was reported in the reactor building. It is believed to have been from a lube oil leak in a system that drives recirculation water pumps. Fire fighting efforts extinguished the fire. The roof of the reactor building was damaged.

  • Grace

    Carl Vehse – 27

    Can you clarify this for me.

    Japan radiation leaking “directly” into air: IAEA

    By Fredrik Dahl
    VIENNA | Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:43pm EDT

    VIENNA (Reuters) – Japan has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog radioactivity was being released “directly” into the atmosphere from the site of an earthquake-stricken reactor and that it had put out a fire at a spent fuel storage pond there.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), citing information it had received from Japanese authorities at 0350 GMT, said on Tuesday dose rates of up to 400 millisievert per hour have been reported at the Fukushima power plant site.

    It did not give details or comparisons on the radiation level but exposure to over 100 millisieverts a year is a level which can lead to cancer, according to the World Nuclear Association. The Vienna-based IAEA uses the unit to measure doses of radiation received by people.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-japan-radiation-leaking-directly-into-idUSTRE72E7B220110315

  • Grace

    Carl Vehse – 27

    Can you clarify this for me.

    Japan radiation leaking “directly” into air: IAEA

    By Fredrik Dahl
    VIENNA | Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:43pm EDT

    VIENNA (Reuters) – Japan has told the U.N. nuclear watchdog radioactivity was being released “directly” into the atmosphere from the site of an earthquake-stricken reactor and that it had put out a fire at a spent fuel storage pond there.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), citing information it had received from Japanese authorities at 0350 GMT, said on Tuesday dose rates of up to 400 millisievert per hour have been reported at the Fukushima power plant site.

    It did not give details or comparisons on the radiation level but exposure to over 100 millisieverts a year is a level which can lead to cancer, according to the World Nuclear Association. The Vienna-based IAEA uses the unit to measure doses of radiation received by people.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-japan-radiation-leaking-directly-into-idUSTRE72E7B220110315

  • Carl Vehse

    First, it is a earthquake-and-tsunami-stricken nuclear power plant, since the tsunami was likely involved in the backup diesel generators failing shortly after the three operating reactors were shut down. Why the diesel generators failed is not exactly publicly known yet.

    In each containment building above the reactor, there is a spent fuel storage pool (as well as one common pool nearby). In the case of Reactor No. 4, the fuel rods from the reactor had been transferred to the storage pool late last year or early this year for upcoming reactor inspections. The reactor was empty. However the fuel rods in the storage pool still need to be cooled by a circulating water system, with additional water added to make up for evaporation. Here are more details about the “Used Nuclear Fuel Storage at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.”

    In a NEI news update the plant owners, TEPCO, claimed an oil leak in a cooling water pump at Unit 4 was the cause of a fire that burned for approximately 140 minutes. It was not the spent fuel itself as the Reuters report implied. (That would seem to be one big oil leak.) Nevertheless there are other reports that the No. 4 spent fuel pool level was low, possible exposing some fuel rods.

    The statement about the radiation dose levels refers to outside the containment building housing reactor no. 3 (one of the two containment buildings in which a hydrogen explosion blew the tops of the buildings off). The reported dose-equivalent rate of 400 millisieverts per hour is, in U.S. units, 40 rem/hr. Being exposed to such radiation at that location for 2 and a half hours would likely result in radiation sickness (nausea, etc).

    The 100 mSv/h (10 rem/hr) includes a small probability of cancer risk proportional to the cumulative dose received. There are papers and tables on the internet discussing the estimated extra risk as a function of the received dose.

    From this morning here’s a status summary of each of the reactors. There will probably be another one tomorrow morning.

  • Carl Vehse

    First, it is a earthquake-and-tsunami-stricken nuclear power plant, since the tsunami was likely involved in the backup diesel generators failing shortly after the three operating reactors were shut down. Why the diesel generators failed is not exactly publicly known yet.

    In each containment building above the reactor, there is a spent fuel storage pool (as well as one common pool nearby). In the case of Reactor No. 4, the fuel rods from the reactor had been transferred to the storage pool late last year or early this year for upcoming reactor inspections. The reactor was empty. However the fuel rods in the storage pool still need to be cooled by a circulating water system, with additional water added to make up for evaporation. Here are more details about the “Used Nuclear Fuel Storage at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.”

    In a NEI news update the plant owners, TEPCO, claimed an oil leak in a cooling water pump at Unit 4 was the cause of a fire that burned for approximately 140 minutes. It was not the spent fuel itself as the Reuters report implied. (That would seem to be one big oil leak.) Nevertheless there are other reports that the No. 4 spent fuel pool level was low, possible exposing some fuel rods.

    The statement about the radiation dose levels refers to outside the containment building housing reactor no. 3 (one of the two containment buildings in which a hydrogen explosion blew the tops of the buildings off). The reported dose-equivalent rate of 400 millisieverts per hour is, in U.S. units, 40 rem/hr. Being exposed to such radiation at that location for 2 and a half hours would likely result in radiation sickness (nausea, etc).

    The 100 mSv/h (10 rem/hr) includes a small probability of cancer risk proportional to the cumulative dose received. There are papers and tables on the internet discussing the estimated extra risk as a function of the received dose.

    From this morning here’s a status summary of each of the reactors. There will probably be another one tomorrow morning.

  • sandi

    here is a very interesting article on the japan situation

    http://www.businessinsider.com/japan-reactors-pose-no-risk-2011-3#ixzz1GbqGhnEK

  • sandi

    here is a very interesting article on the japan situation

    http://www.businessinsider.com/japan-reactors-pose-no-risk-2011-3#ixzz1GbqGhnEK

  • Carl Vehse

    Workers have been forced to leave the Fukushima plant because of high radiation levels; white smoke (steam?) was seen billowing from Reactor No. 3. Fluctuating radiation levels of 1 to 6 mSv/h (0.1 – 0.6 rem/hr) have been measured at the front gate to the plant.

    English translation is being provided on news at NHK Tokyo, Japan Live TV.

  • Carl Vehse

    Workers have been forced to leave the Fukushima plant because of high radiation levels; white smoke (steam?) was seen billowing from Reactor No. 3. Fluctuating radiation levels of 1 to 6 mSv/h (0.1 – 0.6 rem/hr) have been measured at the front gate to the plant.

    English translation is being provided on news at NHK Tokyo, Japan Live TV.

  • Grace

    Carl Vehse – 29

    Thank you for clarifying and giving the links.

    We live on the coast, southern CA. We were told to obtain iodide, (I doubt we will need it) every single pharmacy was sold out – we were finally able to purchase it from a compounding pharmacy – they had used what they had this morning. They told my husband they had no more, and would likely run out by 6 PM.

  • Grace

    Carl Vehse – 29

    Thank you for clarifying and giving the links.

    We live on the coast, southern CA. We were told to obtain iodide, (I doubt we will need it) every single pharmacy was sold out – we were finally able to purchase it from a compounding pharmacy – they had used what they had this morning. They told my husband they had no more, and would likely run out by 6 PM.

  • Theresa K

    Thanks for the expert comments provided here. Somehow more calming to read the news here than on Twitter (which is informative, but tends to be panic inducing)

  • Theresa K

    Thanks for the expert comments provided here. Somehow more calming to read the news here than on Twitter (which is informative, but tends to be panic inducing)

  • Carl Vehse

    Here is the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) Status Summary as of 1900 Japan time (7 AM CDT).

  • Carl Vehse

    Here is the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) Status Summary as of 1900 Japan time (7 AM CDT).

  • Carl Vehse

    By whom? From a video link in a NBC Bay Area news report:

    Reporter: “Finally we’re hearing about people stocking up on iodine [sic]. Is that the extreme or as you mentioned it’s a precaution?”
    Surgeon General Regina Benjamin: “It was a precaution.” I’m not sure… you mean stocking up here?
    Reporter: Right.
    SG Benjamin: I haven’t heard that, but I mean it’s a precaution. Yeah.

    That’s hardly a directive to buy KI pills. Moreover the news report then noted:

    On the other side of the issue is Kelly Huston of the California Emergency Management Agency. Huston said state officials, along with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the California Energy Commission, were monitoring the situation and said people don’t need to buy the pills.

    “Even if we had a radiation release from Diablo Canyon (in San Luis Obispo County), iodide would only be issued to people living within a 10-mile radius of the plant,” Huston added.

    Santa Clara County’s public health officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib told the Mercury News he also does not recommend getting the tablets, adding some people can be severely allergic to the iodine.

    “There is no reason for doing it,” Fenstersheib told the paper.

    Here in Austin, there’s also been a run on anything with iodide in it. Dr. Dale Klein, UTexas Vice Chancellor for Research and former NRC Commissioner, also responded in a local news report against buying or using KI, which would be of use only if one is being exposed to radioactive iodine.

    In the meantime I’ve seen news reports referring to KI as “anti-radiation pills, which is misleading. And of course at least one politician of a certain party is demand that KI pills be distributed to everyone within 20 miles of every nuclear power plant in the U.S.

    Finally, Ki pills do have potential side effects.

  • Carl Vehse

    By whom? From a video link in a NBC Bay Area news report:

    Reporter: “Finally we’re hearing about people stocking up on iodine [sic]. Is that the extreme or as you mentioned it’s a precaution?”
    Surgeon General Regina Benjamin: “It was a precaution.” I’m not sure… you mean stocking up here?
    Reporter: Right.
    SG Benjamin: I haven’t heard that, but I mean it’s a precaution. Yeah.

    That’s hardly a directive to buy KI pills. Moreover the news report then noted:

    On the other side of the issue is Kelly Huston of the California Emergency Management Agency. Huston said state officials, along with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the California Energy Commission, were monitoring the situation and said people don’t need to buy the pills.

    “Even if we had a radiation release from Diablo Canyon (in San Luis Obispo County), iodide would only be issued to people living within a 10-mile radius of the plant,” Huston added.

    Santa Clara County’s public health officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib told the Mercury News he also does not recommend getting the tablets, adding some people can be severely allergic to the iodine.

    “There is no reason for doing it,” Fenstersheib told the paper.

    Here in Austin, there’s also been a run on anything with iodide in it. Dr. Dale Klein, UTexas Vice Chancellor for Research and former NRC Commissioner, also responded in a local news report against buying or using KI, which would be of use only if one is being exposed to radioactive iodine.

    In the meantime I’ve seen news reports referring to KI as “anti-radiation pills, which is misleading. And of course at least one politician of a certain party is demand that KI pills be distributed to everyone within 20 miles of every nuclear power plant in the U.S.

    Finally, Ki pills do have potential side effects.

  • Carl Vehse

    The KI pill panic can be put into perspective by noting that if you live in a large city, you may have already been (very slightly) contaminated at some time with radioactive iodine-131 from people who received it for medical diagnosis or treatment of the thyroid (it’s mostly an out-patient treatment). Some of the radioactive iodide ion, chemically similar to the chloride ion, is released in sweat onto objects being touched.

    The trash from those people’s homes cause problems for garbage pickup trucks stopped by radiation monitors at municipal landfills. There were suggestions that such medical patients be given specially identified garbage bags to set out for the few weeks they are radioactive, but then it was pointed out that such identification would violate patient confidentially regulations. So garbage workers end up risking being stuck by needles and other hazardous materials going through their truck trash monitoring for the radioactive waste.

    In addition people who have been medically treated internally with radioactive isotopes are not supposed to work near women who are (or might be) pregnant. But forcing employees to disclose if they have been treated or if they are (or may be) pregnant would violate privacy rights. It’s a regulatory Catch-22.

  • Carl Vehse

    The KI pill panic can be put into perspective by noting that if you live in a large city, you may have already been (very slightly) contaminated at some time with radioactive iodine-131 from people who received it for medical diagnosis or treatment of the thyroid (it’s mostly an out-patient treatment). Some of the radioactive iodide ion, chemically similar to the chloride ion, is released in sweat onto objects being touched.

    The trash from those people’s homes cause problems for garbage pickup trucks stopped by radiation monitors at municipal landfills. There were suggestions that such medical patients be given specially identified garbage bags to set out for the few weeks they are radioactive, but then it was pointed out that such identification would violate patient confidentially regulations. So garbage workers end up risking being stuck by needles and other hazardous materials going through their truck trash monitoring for the radioactive waste.

    In addition people who have been medically treated internally with radioactive isotopes are not supposed to work near women who are (or might be) pregnant. But forcing employees to disclose if they have been treated or if they are (or may be) pregnant would violate privacy rights. It’s a regulatory Catch-22.

  • Carl Vehse

    While the title may be (slightly) exaggerated, there are some astonishing photographs of the Fukushima nuclear power facility in this Daily Mail article.

    One photo shows the damaged (or in some cases, destroyed) containment buildings. The other two reactor containment buildings are off to the right of the picture and so far have not been damaged.

  • Carl Vehse

    While the title may be (slightly) exaggerated, there are some astonishing photographs of the Fukushima nuclear power facility in this Daily Mail article.

    One photo shows the damaged (or in some cases, destroyed) containment buildings. The other two reactor containment buildings are off to the right of the picture and so far have not been damaged.

  • Louis

    Grace, I am not a medical man, but iodine should only be taken in the event of a serious crisis. Just taking it without supervision, can cause severe health problems, thyroid damage etc etc – see Carl’s link in 35.

  • Louis

    Grace, I am not a medical man, but iodine should only be taken in the event of a serious crisis. Just taking it without supervision, can cause severe health problems, thyroid damage etc etc – see Carl’s link in 35.

  • Grace

    Louis

    I have been in medicine, Nuclear Medicine as well for a long time (my career) I am well aware.

  • Grace

    Louis

    I have been in medicine, Nuclear Medicine as well for a long time (my career) I am well aware.

  • Carl Vehse

    Here is a March 17th update on the spent fuel pool status at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It includes pictures, diagrams, and links to other sources of information.

    The picture of the SF pool is the ideal case. Elsewhere some have raised the question of whether, because of the explosions at reactors 1, 3, or 4, the overhead crane (the orange-colored object in the refueling bay diagram) may have fallen on top of the spent fuel pool, damaging the rods or pool.

    Here’s picture of a crane over a large spent fuel pool at a nuclear power plant in another country.

  • Carl Vehse

    Here is a March 17th update on the spent fuel pool status at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It includes pictures, diagrams, and links to other sources of information.

    The picture of the SF pool is the ideal case. Elsewhere some have raised the question of whether, because of the explosions at reactors 1, 3, or 4, the overhead crane (the orange-colored object in the refueling bay diagram) may have fallen on top of the spent fuel pool, damaging the rods or pool.

    Here’s picture of a crane over a large spent fuel pool at a nuclear power plant in another country.

  • Carl Vehse

    This news story shows the crane in the Fukushima containment building no. 4, before and after the disaster.

    It looks like the other end is probably sticking into the spent fuel pool, which would not be helpful to the fuel rods the crane fell on.

  • Carl Vehse

    This news story shows the crane in the Fukushima containment building no. 4, before and after the disaster.

    It looks like the other end is probably sticking into the spent fuel pool, which would not be helpful to the fuel rods the crane fell on.

  • Carl Vehse

    UPDATE AS OF 6:30 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, MARCH 21:

    Japan’s NHK broadcasting network reported that Tokyo Electric Power Co. confirmed that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami were beyond the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s design standards.

    TEPCO believes the tsunami that inundated the Fukushima Daiichi site was 14 meters high, the network said. The design basis tsunami for the site was 5.7 meters, and the reactors and backup power sources were located 10 to 13 meters above sea level. The company reported that the maximum earthquake for which the Fukushima Daiichi plants were designed was magnitude 8. The quake that struck March 11 was magnitude 9.

    Because the Richter Scale is nonlinear, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 releases approximately 32 times as much energy as an earthquake at 8.0 (each 0.2 unit increase represents a doubling of the energy released).

  • Carl Vehse

    UPDATE AS OF 6:30 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, MARCH 21:

    Japan’s NHK broadcasting network reported that Tokyo Electric Power Co. confirmed that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami were beyond the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s design standards.

    TEPCO believes the tsunami that inundated the Fukushima Daiichi site was 14 meters high, the network said. The design basis tsunami for the site was 5.7 meters, and the reactors and backup power sources were located 10 to 13 meters above sea level. The company reported that the maximum earthquake for which the Fukushima Daiichi plants were designed was magnitude 8. The quake that struck March 11 was magnitude 9.

    Because the Richter Scale is nonlinear, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 releases approximately 32 times as much energy as an earthquake at 8.0 (each 0.2 unit increase represents a doubling of the energy released).


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