Doomsday Scenario at Fukushima
Senior Associate, Radioactive Waste Management Associates
The slow motion events occurring at Japan’s (or GE’s) Fukushima reactor cannot be sugar-coated. It is a doomsday scenario unfolding.
Nuclear reactors are not the same as coal/oil/gas electricity plants. Unlike conventional plants, they cannot be turned off. So while brave workers were tending to Units 1, 2 and 3 reactors, attempting against all odds to keep the reactor from overheating, the fuel pool at Unit 4 was left untended; without makeup water to cool them, the fuel rods overheated. Above 1800 oF, an exothermic reaction, a fire, took place with the zirconium cladding around the uranium pellets. Zirconium burned, forming zirconium oxide and hydrogen gas, which then exploded and released radioactive cesium, a semi-volatile metal, to the atmosphere.
Near the plant, the radiation levels dangerously escalated to 400 milliseiverts/hour (or 40 rems/hour in U.S. parlance). Considering background is on the order of 1 milliseivert per YEAR, this means a yearly background dose every 9 seconds. Put plainly, workers at the Fukushima reactors are putting their lives in immediate jeopardy.
Fukushima Explosion: Japan Nuclear Plant Rocked By Hydrogen Explosion (VIDEO)
AP/The Huffington Post First Posted: 03/14/11 01:33 AM Updated: 03/14/11 08:01 AM
SOMA, Japan – The second hydrogen explosion in three days rocked Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant Monday, sending a massive column of smoke into the air and wounding 6 workers. The plant’s operator said radiation levels at the reactor were still within legal limits.
The explosion at the plant’s Unit 3, which authorities have been frantically trying to cool following a system failure in the wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami, triggered an order for hundreds of people to stay indoors, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radiation levels at Unit 3 were 10.65 microsieverts, significantly under the 500 microsieverts at which a nuclear operator must file a report to the government.