We are two weeks into the Fukushima Daiichi tragedy. Now the Unit 3 Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) has apparently breached. That is, it's leaking. Oh, no. This may make it impossible to keep coolant covering the damaged reactor core, greatly increasing the likelihood of a meltdown or even an RPV explosion -- a very violent steam explosion or steam/hydrogen explosion, which would release huge amounts of radioactivity all at once.
In typical Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), the control rods are inserted into the RPV from the bottom. Just one more stupid part of a stupid design, like the spent fuel pools being above the reactors.(But don't go thinking other reactor designs are much better. They each have their own problems.)
Fuel pellets that have broken off are likely to gather at the bottom of the RPV. The extra heat and radioactivity can damage the seals between the control rods and the RPV. This might be the cause of the leaks.
Radiation levels 10,000 times more than normal were found when technicians tried to get near the reactor. Two workers received serious radiation burns from water that seeped into their boots.
Who knows how many gauges and control mechanisms have already been destroyed? Or how many more are undoubtedly failing as they get clogged with soot, salt, seaweed, contaminated water, boron, and radioactive debris?
The operators are losing control: Things are overheating, evaporating, steaming, boiling, burning, melting. A full-scale meltdown, even without an RPV explosion, can render the entire area fatally radioactive to those who remain for more than a few seconds even with many layers of protection. So they'll run out of operators, sooner or later.
The Unit 4 spent fuel pool is particularly precarious because THAT fuel was just recently removed from the reactor and is very "hot" both thermally and radioactively. It won't just sit there. It will burn. It might even collapse into a critical configuration.
Is a meltdown in Unit 3 now inevitable? The Japanese Prime Minister says he cannot rule out things getting much worse.
One meltdown will be tragic. But we will be lucky now if it is ONLY one.
And yet, the mainstream media can still present "experts" who will tell the public that the U.S. nuclear industry is somehow different.That it is more "safety-conscious." It reacts faster to problems. It's taking the "lessons learned" from Fukushima Daiichi very seriously. They'll always say things like that.
The public has to demand that the plants be shut down. (Or they can just demand that the illogical and immoral Price-Anderson Act be abolished and put the liability for an accident where it belongs -- that would work, too.)
I don't know how to stop what is happening in Japan from turning worse. It seems that nobody does. But I do know how to stop the same thing from happening here in America: SHUT THE PLANTS DOWN!
Nuclear power is certainly not green energy, and it has never lived up to its promise of being clean, too cheap to meter, safe, reliable, or even merely cost-effective. But it sure is living up to its threats, and to the most dire predictions of its opponents.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|