Sixth Japanese nuclear reactor loses cooling
Updated Yet another reactor in Japan's Fukushima nuclear-power complexes has lost its cooling, bringing the total number of problematic reactors in northeastern Japan after Friday afternoon's megaquake to six.
This information was provided in a one-line advisory by Japan's Kyodo News, which is closely montoring developments at Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) and Fuskushima No. 2 (Daini): "6th reactor at Fukushima nuke plant loses cooling functions."
In addition, Kyodo News reports that "15 people near Fukushima nuke plants [have been] exposed to radioactivity."
Kyodo News did not indicate which of the two Fukushima plants suffered the sixth failure. Daiichi has six reactors; Daini, seven miles away, has four. From reports by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), however, it appears as if the most recently troubled reactor may be at the Daini plant.
At the Daiichi plant, TEPCO says – and as we reported earlier – the building housing reactor No. 1 exploded on Saturday afternoon, and the reactor itself, according to TEPCO, is "under inspection". In addition, TEPCO says, "We have been injecting sea water and boric acid which absorbs neutron into the reactor core" – a process that will introduce impurities sufficient to irreparably damage the reactor.
In regard to Daiichi's reactors Nos. 2 and 3, TEPCO says: "After fully securing safety, we are preparing to implement a measure to reduce the pressure of the reactor containment vessels under the instruction of the national government." Reactor No. 4, which TEPCO claims was "shut down due to regular inspection", and Nos. 5, and 6 which TEPCO says were in an "outage due to regular inspection", were experiencing no problems as of the time of TEPCO's Sunday morning report.
At Daini, TEPCO is preparing to initiate a "partial discharge of air containing radioactive materials" to "fully secure safety" at all four reactors.
Casualty reports at Daiichi include two workers injured during the earthquake, radiation exposure to one worker, and four workers "injured and transported to the hospital" as a result of Saturday's explosion.
At Daini, according to TEPCO, as of Saturday afternoon "A seriously injured worker is still trapped in the crane operating console of the exhaust stack and his breathing and pulse cannot be confirmed. Currently, the rescue efforts are under way."
No later report has included information on the status of that rescue effort. ®
In a report on Sunday morning at 8am Japan time (Saturday at 11pm in London and 6pm in New York), TEPCO reported about the injured worker at the Daini plant: "The operator trapped in the crane operating console of the exhaust stack was transferred to the ground at 5:13PM and confirmed the death at 5:17PM."
"Daiichi means "first". "Daini" means "second.." Reactors 1,2, and 3 at daiichi" were commissioned starting in 1970, and reactor 1, the one that failed first, was scheduled to be decomissioned this month after 40 years of operation. It was first designed less than 20 years sfter the start of the atomic age. It failed because the diesel backup generators (used only to run the emergency pumps) failed after an hour of operation after the worst earthquake in a thousand years, and the failure mode (so far, at least) means only that this reactor which is at its end life anyway, will need to be scrapped. The containment vessel did not (and probably will not) fail, and at worst a few workers will get a small amount of extra radiation. The new problems are at reactors 2 and 3, which share the same (failed) generators.) 2 and 3 are only slightly newer and have only 2 and 3 years of life, os the loss is small.
Because we are cynical and sensible enough to understand what a bad idea it is. We can see what can go wrong..
Just like building on a flood plane, and not being surprised when it .. well.. FLOODS..
The same people who are against bringing "modern comforts to tribal people" is debatable, but look at the hard evidence. Western society is fine for western environments, but wearing clothing that will rot in a few months is not really practical for Amazonian rainforest dwellers. Moving to a village of a few hundred people will remove all the game in the local area quickly. Small nomadic family units will preserve it.
Western lifestyles and western appliances do not work in extreme conditions like this.
History is littered with the misery caused by heavy handed, sometimes well meaning westerners coming in and totally screwing up the lives of whole tribes on pretty much every continent.
Take a look at the Inuit tribes in Canada around the turn of the last century, who had kids kidnapped so they could be brought up in "a civilised way" the unprecedented cost in life of the slave trade. The exploitation of Aborigines in Australia, the poverty stricken Amazon tribes who existed for thousands of years undiscovered and unhindered, living with their environment, not fighting it every step of the way. Yet as soon as western society gets involved, they live in poverty and are usually exploited in one way or another.
Please.. Stop being so superior. Ignorance is nothing to be proud of.
Quite a few engineers have suggested that in the past, and there are many things to recommend it.
Uranium / plutonium fission was picked in the early days to generate plutonium for bombs, and to kick off the nuclear fuel cycle (which is what Sellafield was originally all about). Going back to first principles and choosing not to make bombs from the waste products means thorium is surely very viable.
I know that the EU got asked by CERN to fund thorium reactor research. The EU, bless 'em, pushed the proposal over to some Frenchie for evaluation. His view was meh, won't work, so it wasn't funded. Turns out he worked for the French nuclear industry with a uranium PWR design to flog. Conflict of interest or what.
India is putting some work in to it too. India has HUGE reserves of thorium...
Getting back to the situation in Japan, things are pretty bad. But it is pretty impressive how so far, despite huge levels of abuse thrown at these things, the actual vessels themselves don't seem to have been breached. Let's hope it stays that way.
There are going to be some interesting design reviews coming out of this. One is surely why was all the emergency cooling systems sufficiently low down to be affected by the tsunami (I am assuming that inundation is the root problem here). Put it on the roof out of water's way. Another is that these problems are seemingly arising because of insufficient electricity to run the cooling gear. One does wonder what would the situation be if they had just kept them running? Of course I don't know if that was even a viable option after the tsunami struck, and might certainly have been a gamble after the quake shook it all about in the first place.
Also I wonder how well the staff themselves are coping. They must be under a lot of stress, and people don't often make the right decision under such circumstances. I wonder how long it took to transition from an attitude of 'can we save the reactor intact' to 'can we just stop a containment breach no matter what the cost'? No one wants to be the one to make that call, especially when such a transition inevitably means an acknowledgement of some sort of failure, some deviation from the acceptable norm. It is especially difficult to make such an admission in Japanese society.