Talk about a warning! I don't get many calls at 1 am, let alone 3 am, but I got both tonight.
53 countries -- including mine -- are under threat of tsunami waves. According to the Kyoto News Service, at least 11 nuclear reactors in Japan have automatically shut down.
First it was a 7.2 earthquake two days ago, near Honshu, Japan. Then a 6.0. Then two more 6-range earthquakes, followed by an 8.9 mega-quake about five hours ago -- the largest in Japan's history -- that triggered tsunami alerts, warnings, and advisories all around the Pacific. The waves haven't hit our area -- yet.
We're supposed to see waves of "only" a foot or so here in California, in a few hours. But sometimes tsunami waves converge as they hit the coast and are significantly larger than expected. Sometimes they pile up on each other as they hit the shore. I doubt they've shut the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors down as a precaution... They should do so, of course. Permanently.
Right now, every news service is showing videos of waves pushing large boats into buildings and dragging cars, trucks and even houses -- and presumably people -- out to sea. Fires are raging up and down the coast of Japan.
In a nuclear reactor in Northeastern Japan, something in the turbine room caught fire and is burning as I write this. No radiation leakage anywhere, so far... other than the usual, constant radiation releases from every nuclear reactor, everywhere. (Always called trivial by authorities, even these leaks are not.)
Any large releases might not be announced for days or weeks, if ever. They don't want to cause a panic, of course...
It looks just like what happened during the Indonesian earthquake, when perhaps 250,000 people were killed. The death toll is apparently going to be orders of magnitude less.
But if nukes get involved, it could just as easily be orders of magnitude MORE, if the earthquake or the tsunami triggers a meltdown of a nuclear reactor.
The Japanese have a phrase for that: Genpatsu-Shinsai -- a meltdown triggered by an earthquake.
Railroad cars full of explosive chemicals have NOT been reported to have smashed into dry cask storage, as could happen at San Onofre in a tsunami.
Spent fuel pools might be safe at the moment, although there are reports of problems with an "Emergency Core Cooling Unit" and a "nuclear emergency" was reportedly declared at one plant.
Pipes, fittings, valves, control lines -- all have undoubtedly been weakened by the violent shaking.
Every nuclear power plant contains tens of billions of Curies of radiation within them, PLUS their spent fuel pools of used reactor cores which hold billions more Curies of radiation, and in many cases, extremely dangerous "dry casks" of highly radioactive used reactor cores, holding billions more.
Chernobyl is the standard against which all modern disasters are measured: The current estimate is that about a million people died because of Chernobyl. Recently, the French government (of all people...) released an animation of the winds during the first two weeks after Chernobyl's meltdown.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|