Watching Fukushima

Michael “Lorenzo” Warby has been watching the unfolding nuclear events in Japan. He nominates this as the best site to keep up with the latest. This is his roundup.
 
Maybe the real damage was done by the tsunami which knocked out the diesel generators, so the earthquake itself was not the main culprit at the site. If correct this is major news in terms of the safety of nuclear power stations. How many in the world are at risk from tsunamis?
 
 Q: So they’ve actually shut down the plant in Japan and they’re just trying to cool it?

 A: Okay, well if you’re talking specifics, the plant that we’re aware of that is in the most difficulty right now is the Fukushima plant, Unit One.  That plant is a General Electric boiling water reactor, it first achieved criticality in 1970, it’s similar to a couple of other plants that we have here in New England. It’s very similar to Pilgrim, which is down in Massachusetts, and Vermont Yankee, in Vermont. 

And, that plant was automatically shut down, when the earthquake occurred, and for about the first hour, they were running on their diesel generator. Once a plant shuts down, it has two ways to get electricity, one is from the grid, and another is from emergency diesel generators that they have on site. In this case, because of the magnitude of the earthquake, the grid basically went dark, so they were operating on their diesel generators and everything was functioning as it should be. But then, based on news reports, about an hour after the earthquake and the shutdown, the tsunami hit, and flooded the plant, where the diesel generators were, and that caused them to lose their diesel generator power and reduced them to their emergency battery backup power only.

 

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92 Responses to Watching Fukushima

  1. Myrddin Seren

    E.M. Smith ( Chiefio ) and Verity Jones are kind of sharing some commenters who statedly have past experience in reactor operations.

    Still not perfect knowledge, as people are relying on public sources, but those folk are chasing down interesting insights.

    One commenter who has been quite active boballab had this to say on the tsunami impact:

    “NHK had the guy on from Tokyo University that did the report for the Japanese government 10 years ago (after the 1995 Kyoto quake) on that fault line where he stated bluntly they never expected that fault to be able to produce a quake higher then in the low 8?s and that they expected a High 7 to Low 8 quake within 30 years. From there they ran models on what size Tsunami they would get and that came back with no bigger then 25 to 30 ft (less then 10 meters). From there they wen’t in put in those 10 meter high seawalls and re-did there buildings to withstand a quake of the size they predicted. They admitted they were wrong in the interview and with the new data about how the sea floor in that area is they re ran the computer models on how high a Tsunami would get from a 9.0. Turns out in the shallow bays and such the wave got well over 40 ft in height in the simulation, just like what really happened since it went over 10 meter walls. ”

    And once the seawalls were overtopped, the backup generators were lost – and the rest is nightly news.

    Computer models – only as good as the assumptions and data.

  2. badm0f0

    Maybe the real damage was done by the tsunami … If correct this is major news in terms of the safety of nuclear power stations. How many in the world are at risk from tsunamis?

    It would be foolish to narrow the focus of risk evaluation to one specific type of event & then use the improbability of this event type to determine probability of risk. The risk to reactors is not of a tsunami but failure of back-up power during a critical incident.

    As far as I can gather (many) reactors built more recently have been designed to cater to this possibility, with more robust power redundancy & also allowing the core to continue being cooled even in the event of complete failure. Some older reactors have also been upgraded since construction but the question is whether this is standard or whether it is at the discretion of plant operators or dependent upon the regulatory regime/jurisdiction.

  3. rog

    How many in the world are at risk from tsunamis?

    Coastal power stations are at risk of wind, wave and surge activity. Geological evidence of tsunamis places much of the worlds coastline at risk.

  4. Entropy

    That’s no doubt fairly true. The Japanese, though, have limited options.

    I am finding it very hard reading the MSM to understand what is going on. The collectives performance on this matter is really, really poor.

  5. rog

    This isnt a bad site, relatively free from dogma and partisan bickering.

  6. JC

    Coastal power stations are at risk of wind, wave and surge activity. Geological evidence of tsunamis places much of the worlds coastline at risk.

    Quodge, is a geologist now.

  7. boy on a bike

    Solar radiation is much more of a risk. 1850 Australian die each year from skin cancer.

    Prediction – a lot more Australians will die this month – even this week – from skin cancer than all the Japanese that will die from their reactor problems.

  8. rog

    You are up early JC, wet the bed again?

  9. JC

    Quodge,

    you really nailed it with the geological report you gave us.

  10. JC

    Personally,

    I think this is the best comment about the accident so far.

    Quodge says at another site. (It’s snappier than a nail gun).

    obviously you wouldnt build a nuclear power plant in place that had risks, known and unknown.

  11. Louis Hissink

    The real problem is that this powerstation is a Light Water type and coolant loss kills the nuclear chain reaction instantly.

    However the real problem is the residual heat and that can melt the core – and this is what all the effort is focussed on.

    Nuclear meltdown? Only in the imaginative constructs of the cerebrally over excited who also imagine a future armageddon from CO2 in the same parallel universe.

  12. Louis Hissink

    In case one is confused with my previous post, the real problem indeed is that the media are not discriminating between LWR types, and the others that under the catstrophe at Fukushima would run out of control like Chernobyl. Fukushima is a LWR reactor and cannot produce a nuclear armageddon.

    The problem is that the media have lumped all nuclear reactors into the “same” category – that of politically very incorrect.

  13. JC

    Louis:

    From what I understand as each day passes the material cools down even more, so what is the current panic about this morning as I don’t quite get it.

  14. No Worries

    This site is pretty good at monitoring, although the Miyagi and Fukushima areas have been “under servey” (sic) for a few days now. Ibaraki, located between Tokyo and Fukushima is showing concerning readings.
    The site is a bit slow, probably getting more traffic than usual atm.

  15. JC

    oops

    I read somewhere that it takes around 5 days for the material to cool down and pose no danger to anyone even if there was no coolant.

    Is this correct?

  16. val majkus

    Louis loved this ‘Only in the imaginative constructs of the cerebrally over excited who also imagine a future armageddon from CO2 in the same parallel universe.’

    But wondering if that word ‘constructs’ is the right word for the context – but a great one liner; thanks

  17. rog

    Seems that the consensus on Catallaxy is that nuclear power is safe, clean and cheap as chips. First job for Libs, when they get back into power, is to push ahead for a great big nuke power station in NSW and….hey, they can do it now in Victoria….what is up with these guys?

  18. Infidel Tiger

    How come lefties are so cool with the “nuclear power plants” being built in another famous earthquake prone country – Iran?

    Maybe they know any radiation from those plants is likely to be released in Tel Aviv.

  19. rog

    oops

    I read somewhere that it takes around 5 days for the material to cool down and pose no danger to anyone even if there was no coolant.

    Is this correct?

    Here we have JC flipping through some old editions of Popular Mechanics. Over at BNC there is lots of guessing going on, based on dodgy news reports. Situation normal.

  20. Jc

    Quodge links to zoo as evidence but criticized pop mechanics

  21. Louis Hissink

    JC,

    I suspect that’s right.

  22. Louis Hissink

    Given that France gets 80% of its electrical power from nuclear stations, it’s a little interesting that not one peep comes out of the left here about the home of the Jacobites and egalitarians that makes France the socalist utopia they think it is.

    Zut alors, what hypocrisy!

  23. Rafe

    Rog, can you say how many of the nuclear power stations in the world could possibly be hit by a tsunami?

    What is your objection to nuclear power stations in Australia, also making billions by storing the nuclear waste of the world?

  24. daddy dave

    From what I understand as each day passes the material cools down even more, so what is the current panic about this morning as I don’t quite get it.

    Because a death toll in the thousands, and damage bill in the billions, just isn’t enough. No, they’ve got to take it to cartoonish proportions.

    The public hears the word ‘nuclear’ and assumes nuclear explosions, fallout, massive numbers of potential deaths, and the media isn’t about to tell them otherwise.

  25. Tillman

    Why don’t they just drop a nuke on Fukushima? Wouldn’t that shut the reactors down quick smart?

  26. C.L.

    They’re calling it radiation phobia. The people who made fun of Palin for saying she could see Russia from her veranda are seeing nuclear death rays from Sendai.

  27. rog

    No idea Rafe but there is recent history of tsunamis around the pacific and north Atlantic. In Australia there is also evidence of tsunami activity. So it’s probably safe to say that most if not any part of the coast runs the risk of inundation.

  28. jtfsoon

    what are you saying quodge?

    that if we build nuclear plants in sydney a tsunami will sweep them away?

  29. Infidel Tiger

    We should ban all coastal development. As rog has pointed out – there are risks.

  30. Tillman

    Let’s hope that finally a proper dialogue about liquefied coal will open up.

    If you have a liquefied coal plant on a barge, it can just surf the tsunami inland, where it will then be conveniently located to provide power to all the refugees who have fled the coast.

  31. Tillman

    Also, the massive amounts of life-giving CO2 emitted by the liquefied coal barge will encourage the regrowth of the palm trees that were washed away by the tsunami.

    You bedwetters need to stop thinking lose/lose and start thinking win/win.

  32. Gabrielle

    rog has discovered that Australia is 100% coastline.

  33. Louis Hissink

    If Kevin Rudd thought there would be a high risk of his luxury beachhouse being inundated by a tsunami, then he would not have bought it in the first place. And of course not factoring in the sea level rise modelled by the climate cranks.

  34. Rafe

    Rog, the question was, how many existing nuc power stations are in places where a tsunami could creep up and swamp them? What is the risk at Lucas Heights for example?

    BTW I have been invited to an election party on Sat 26 and because the location is waterside I have requested assurance that it is tsunami-safe because Gaia will probably be very angry when the nasty anti-Green Liberals win. Will probably take my gumboots anyway, just to be on the safe side.

  35. rog

    My advice to you Rafe is that you should wear a lifejacket, flippers, snorkel and mask. That way you might connect with people more aligned to your way of thinking.

  36. rog

    Just thinking out loud, they could macerate the scones or canapes or whatever they are dishing up at this venue and pour it down your snorkel. Mixed in with a bit of vino collapso should be enough to keep Rafe out of harms way for a while.

  37. JC

    What a low life piece of dirt you are Quodge. Rafe is one of the nicest people around here and you attack him?

  38. rog

    Here he is, the smelly bit that is stuck to everyones shoe.

  39. rog

    Shorter JC, he’s my bitch.

  40. JC

    Yep, quodge you’re the shit on people’s shoe.

    Why are you here. You have nothing at all to contribute and you’re a bitter and twisted prick. Homer at least was entertaining and involuntarily funny. You on the other hand seem to be everyone’s pinata.

  41. JC

    Just thinking out loud……

    Says quodge. lol.

  42. rog

    You dont know why I am here?

    I always knew you were stupid but didn’t expect that you you volunteer proof.

  43. JC

    Quodge;

    why do you want to be the site’s pinata? You have nothing to contribute and whenever you don’t attack someone for reasons to do with attention seeking people laugh at the stupid things you post. You then get angry and the vicious cycle continues.

    Do yourself a favor and go. It’s advice with the best intentions.

  44. Rafe

    Rog you are lowering the tone. Why would you want to pick on a nice, quiet and inoffensive person like me? It probably counts as bullying. If you persist I am going to report you to someone. Are you hoping that I will crack under the strain, throw you to the ground and jump up and down on you? I will certainly need to wear my gumboots for that.

  45. rog

    The latest from Barry Brook

    In sum, this accident is now significantly more severe than Three Mile Island in 1979.

  46. Gabrielle

    This must be very exciting for you rog. You must be jumping for glee and clapping your hands with great excitement.

  47. rog

    Try not to take it so personally

  48. Samuel J

    Always want the last word, don’t you Rog? It wouldn’t be so bad if you had anything sensible to say.

  49. Infidel Tiger

    Here is Brook’s full quote:

    In sum, this accident is now significantly more severe than Three Mile Island in 1979. It resulted from a unique combination of failures to plant systems caused by the tsunami, and the broad destruction of infrastructure for water and electricity supply which would normally be reestablished within a day or two following a reactor accident. My initial estimates of the extent of the problem, on March 12, did not anticipate the cascading problems that arose from the extended loss of externally sourced AC power to the site, and my prediction that ‘there is no credible risk of a serious accident‘ has been proven quite wrong as a result. It remains to be seen whether my forecast on the possibility of containment breaches and the very low level of danger to the public as a result of this tragic chain of circumstances will be proven correct. For the sake of the people there, I sure hope it does stand the test of time.

    It shows him to be a thoroughly decent man and Rog to be a lonely, bitter and twisted, Berkshire Hunt of man.

  50. rog

    Barry Brook throws up more questions than answers;

    1) if the plant was designed for earthquakes why was it not designed for tsunamis, which naturally follow earthquakes;

    2) why did the emergency systems fail in an emergency

  51. C.L.

    3) why weren’t warmies this upset about Rudd and Gillard getting four insulation workers killed and 200 houses burned down to ‘combat climate change’?

  52. JC

    Quodge, you gaint brained donkey wannabe.

    The Quake itself was a 1000 year event and we have not experienced a 9 Richter in recorded modern history.

    The nukes actually handled such an event pretty decently as the systems did work and the reactors were intact.

    The tsunami was also massive and corresponding in size to the quake in terms of energy.

    Didn’t they teach you critical thinking in 9th grade?

    The only questions that ought to be raised is why are you here and what value do you offer?

  53. JC

    why did the emergency systems fail in an emergency

    They failed because they required outside sources of electricity once the independent sources were knocked out by the giant wave.

  54. Gabrielle

    Actually the emergency systems did not fail at all. All reactors in operation were shut down at the very first detection of the quake. The ECCS kicked in as it was supposed to do. Only when the tsunami hit did the cooling system sustain damage.

  55. C.L.

    Question for engineers: why don’t they build the replacement within the confines of a giant, concrete sea-walled structure?

  56. JC

    Yes gab and Barry deals with that too. Quodge is unable to read for very long because his head will hurt otherwise he would’ve see it.

  57. JC

    Question for engineers: why don’t they build the replacement within the confines of a giant, concrete sea-walled structure?

    Good question, CL.

    I think if you look at the pics there actually are sea breaks and walls in the perimeter of the nukes that were most likely meant to function like that.

    But I believe the wave was so freaking huge and powerful it literally over whelmed the structures.

    The force of the freaking quake shortened the world day and moved that island by several feet as I’m sure you’ve heard.

    It wasn’t ever planned for 1000 year event.

    This is quake of biblical proportions. Frankly I’m amazed just how few people died for something this big.

  58. Just need to build them a bit further up the hill and the jobs right.

  59. JC

    I think there would have been a problem building too high though Pickles because the nukes may require sea water availability perhaps on gravitational plane in order to access sea water in an emergency. That would be my guess as I can’t imagine locality wasn’t a factor in the design stage.

  60. Infidel Tiger

    The newest reactors don’t need any of those protections. Would’ve been sweet as a nut.

  61. C.L.

    Let’s not overlook one of the biggest lessons of this catastrophe. National governments that bankrupt themselves with Keynesian folly may – in the blink of an eye – find themselves fiscally anemic at the worst possible hour, thus compounding the emergency and risking complete socio-economic breakdown.

    We had a taste of it here too, with broke Queensland and Commonwealth governments without fiscal power at the crucial time. Any generations-hence deficit degeneracy (I’m not talking about manageable red ink) ought to be a crime punishable by dismissal from office and/or imprisonment.

  62. JC

    The newest reactors don’t need any of those protections. Would’ve been sweet as a nut

    yea and the more onerous regs and other shit they place on new nuke the less likely are we going to see old nukes de-commissioned until 110% necessity. The perversity of all this is that because the power firms have not been allowed to renew the technology, they’ve stuck with the old stuff as that’s based on old regs and if they are changed to any material degree it will require compensation. Hence lots of 40 year old reactors.

    Governments fuck things up with everything they touch.

  63. C.L.

    More about Fukishima designs and potential design problems at FuturePundit:

    … the Japanese reactors had back-up generators designed to withstand 6.3 meter waves but the plant was hit by 7 meter waves. So for want of an additional 0.7 meters of protection the reactors have undergone partial meltdowns.

    And yes, building big sea walls can be done and is done:

    San Onofre is designed for a 7.0 quake and has a 25 foot high wall to protect from tsunami.

    Picture here. Not sure that would have helped at Fukishima, though.

    Is Diablo Canyon state of the art?

    Diablo Canyon is 85 feet above the ocean. Plus, it has a gravity fed back-up water reserve. So it looks like it is at much lower risk of a tsunami.

    Picture of Diablo Canyon here: a thing of real beauty.

  64. rog

    It’s called shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

    Emergency systems failed in an emergency. Or if that is too complex how about in an emergency there was an emergency with the emergency system. Or, emergency systems are not to be used in an emergency.

    Better still, in an emergency RUN.

  65. .

    How many people will be permanently ill or die from this outdated reactor being hit be a 8.9 quake/tsunami?

    Is this less than how many people die from particulate carbon 14 burned from a coal power station of similar power output?

    Just answer the questions.

  66. C.L.

    The death toll of Fukushima and Three Mile Island is still lower than the Rudd-Gillard pink batts catastrophe.

  67. Infidel Tiger

    I can not believe that their are calls to evacuate Australians from Japan at the taxpayers expense. FFS, they’ll be exposed to more radiation on the way home than they would be sitting in Tokyo.

    We are a nation of dribbling, spineless, turds.

  68. C.L.

    How come Gillard hasn’t suggested we evacuate residents of the approximately 200,000 still wired-to-explode houses she and Rudd boobytrapped?

  69. JC

    This is a really bad precedent now, IT. It’s happened twice.

  70. JC

    That’s great news, Gab.

    I’ve found an enormous amount of respect for the Japanese as a result of the recent events.

    A truly incredible people.

  71. Infidel Tiger

    Any Australian who accepts a taxpayer funded flight home from Japan should be met at the airport by a baying crowd who pelt them with microwave ovens.

    What sort of mooching loser is living or holidaying in a foreign country without the means to buy a plane ticket?

  72. jtfsoon

    Rudd truly is a grandstanding jackass. Is there no limit to the extent to which the man will go to seek publicity, from going all Churchillian about Libya to this latest stunt?

    Can someone pay for Graeme Bird to move next door to his new condo?

  73. JC

    Extremely interesting news on the financial front. G7 through the Japanese have announced large scale intervention to weaken the Japanese yen. the intervention appears to be unsterilized which will mean more funds added to the financial system.

    this was the only shoe that needed to drop in terms the oceans of liquidity.

  74. JC

    What sort of mooching loser is living or holidaying in a foreign country without the means to buy a plane ticket?

    They aren’t. Incentives are important. If a fucking grandstanding moron offers you a free plane ride back home on taxpayer expense most people would take it and then try to cash in their return.

    However they should be pelted with rotten tomatoes at the airport if they took off because they were worried about extra radiation the equivalent of an x-ray.

  75. JC

    In fact any Australian that ‘escapes” Tokyo because of the radiation fears ought to have their citizenship revoked and thrown in the most hostile area of Afghanistan where a little bit of radiation would the least of their fucking worries.

  76. JC

    The little turd ought to be the first test case in having his citizenship revoked and dumped in Afghan. I actually think it wouldn’t be a bad swap. For every boat person we dump a Rudd like creature in Afghan, which ought to please the Greens as our population wouldn’t go up.

    In banking it’s called an asset swap.

  77. C.L.

    This free plane ride thing is a new one. I get the feeling it’s here to stay. Grandstanding, ‘compassionate’ and mawkish fuckwit politicians (of both sides) will now automatically declare free travel for anyone within cooee of a melodrama.

  78. No Worries

    Great environment for ticket scalping.

  79. boy on a bike

    You’re calling the little turd an “asset”?

    “toxic asset” perhaps – but not an asset.

  80. boy on a bike

    Where’s rog when you need him? The nuclear hysteria is clearly a conspiracy whipped up by airlines to increase ticket sales.

  81. JC

    You’re calling the little turd an “asset”?

    ummmm technically he’s what in banking is called a Tier 3 “asset”. It’s the dump account banks use for those “hard to value” assets. In reality it’s the account used to dump all the crap they’ve accumulated.

  82. JC

    Where’s rog when you need him?

    STFU boy. 🙂 He’s outside at the moment chewing on a filthy dug up bone. Why are you calling him over?

  83. Gabrielle

    “Is fear stalking the streets of Tokyo?” asks RTE correspondent Paul Cunningham. “No. But there is a lot of anger being directed at the int media for scaring the public.”

    http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/anger_rising/

  84. jtfsoon

    In Japan even organised crime lends a helping hand.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2288514/

    Police aren’t the only ones on patrol since the earthquake hit. Members of the Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate, have also been enforcing order. All three major crime groups—the Yamaguchi-gumi, the Sumiyoshi-kai, and the Inagawa-kai—have “compiled squads to patrol the streets of their turf and keep an eye out to make sure looting and robbery doesn’t occur,” writes Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, in an e-mail message. “The Sumiyoshi-kai claims to have shipped over 40 tons of [humanitarian aid] supplies nationwide and I believe that’s a conservative estimate.” One group has even opened its Tokyo offices to displaced Japanese and foreigners who were stranded after the first tremors disabled public transportation. “As one Sumiyoshi-kai boss put it to me over the phone,” says Adelstein, ” ‘In times of crisis, there are not Yakuza and civilians or foreigners. There are only human beings and we should help each other.’ ” Even during times of peace, the Yakuza enforce order, says Adelstein. They make their money off extortion, prostitution, and drug trafficking. But they consider theft grounds for expulsion.

  85. JC

    They make their money off extortion, prostitution, and drug trafficking. But they consider theft grounds for expulsion.

    lol..At least they have a semblance of core ethics.

    But WTF?

    One group has even opened its Tokyo offices to displaced Japanese and foreigners who were stranded after the first tremors disabled public transportation.

    They have an office? Like they have senior vice presidents extortion hookering etc.

    hahahahahhaha

  86. jtfsoon

    the wikipedia article is pretty fascinating

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakuza

    Until recently, the majority of Yakuza income came from protection rackets in shopping, entertainment and red-light districts within their territory. This is mainly due to the reluctance of such businesses to seek help from the police. The Japanese police are also reluctant to interfere in internal matters in recognized communities such as shopping arcades, schools/universities, night districts and so on.[citation needed]

    In this sense, yakuza are still regarded as semi-legitimate organizations. For example, immediately after the Kobe earthquake, the Yamaguchi-gumi, whose headquarters are in Kobe, mobilized itself to provide disaster relief services (including the use of a helicopter), and this was widely reported by the media as a contrast to the much slower response by the Japanese government.[8][9] For this reason, many Yakuza regard their income and hustle (shinogi) as a collection of a feudal tax.

    Yakuza frequently engage in a uniquely Japanese form of extortion, known as s?kaiya (???). In essence, this is a specialized form of protection racket. Instead of harassing small businesses, the yakuza harasses a stockholders’ meeting of a larger corporation. They simply scare the ordinary stockholder with the presence of yakuza operatives, who obtain the right to attend the meeting by a small purchase of stock.

    They also engage in simple blackmail, obtaining incriminating or embarrassing information about a company’s practices or leaders. Once the yakuza gain a foothold in these companies, they will work for them to protect the company from having such internal scandals exposed to the public. Some companies still include payoffs as part of their annual budget.

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