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Blue Stripes

September 2012

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Blue Stripes

In re: Japan and fallout

Give the only people in the world to have suffered deliberate nuclear attack1 some credit, folks. The Japanese know what they're doing with their atomsmashers.

A) The reactors and their various containment structures have worked appropriately, and were almost unaffected by the quake.

B) Yes, unaffected. It was the tsunami, cutting them off from electrical sources and, crucially, wiping out their diesel tanks (with which the pumps for cooling would have continued to work) which has created the series of problems. The reactors shut down immediately, as they were supposed to, and have since begun being cooled by seawater indundation. The reactors are unsalvagable anyway, given the piles have suffered partial meltdown.

C) Yes, there was some small discharge into the air. Even very close to the reactor, these have not been of levels likely to affect human health, and the map that's going around (ostensibly from the Australian Radiation Services agency) showing hundreds-of-rads levels of exposure on the US and Canadian west coasts (and Hawaii) are wildly inaccurate, and denied utterly by that agency.

D) The explosions have been due to hydrogen buildup after the piles were partially exposed, and were a known issue - again, the tsunami wiping out the backup generators' fuel supply meant that the hydrogen scrubbing equipment wasn't able to operate, but the various other non-powered safety features have worked appropriately.

E) Despite all the high rhetorical heat surrounding the issue, the Japanese are excellent operators of nuclear power, with an outstanding safety record.

Besides which...if you must be critical, maybe you could save your "I told you so" for after they've dealt with more than ten thousand of their compatriots killed?

1 The islanders whose atolls were devastated by nuclear testing were definitely affected, but it wasn't meant as an attack on them or their home - reprehensible experimentation with non-consenting human subjects? Absolutely! - but not deliberate attack.


My understanding of the situation from a technical perspective is rather more serious than that.

I won't go pointing fingers at the Japenese for this though. We have plenty of reactors just as old and in all likelihood maintained less well in the USA.
Frankly, the fact that these 40 year old reactors, not built to withstand the stresses they've been subjected to, have held up as well as they have even when everything that could possibly go wrong, did go wrong, is damned impressive.

I'm still not in favor of more nuclear power plants, but that's a matter of diminishing returns, cost-ineffectiveness, and the dwindling supply of uranium, not safety.
While I'll admit to being anti nuke (both power and weapons) as a whole adult life thing, I just wish the ^%&*%^! media would STFU with the panic mongering about things they have no knowledge of!
I hear all that and go "impressive. Is there a way to make them tsunami-proof as well as earthquake-proof if they build more?" You know. Given that tsunamis are often associated with earthquakes and stuff.

But my first reaction, before I even got ANY of the details, was to Google up Doctors Without Borders, and donate. It's all I can do from here.