As a former commissioner at the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Peter Bradford knows something about nuclear power accidents. He had been serving as one of the nation’s top nuclear officials for over two years when, in March 1979, more than half of the fuel in the Unit 2 reactor at Three Mile Island (TMI) melted down — the worst nuclear power accident ever to have occurred in the United States.
I asked Bradford today what he thought of the claims, widespread in the media and in press statements released by some in the nuclear power industry, that the current situation in Fukushima Daiichi, Japan, is not as grave as the accident at TMI thirty-two years ago.
“I’ll be quite surprised if the events at Fukushima are ultimately considered to be less serious than TMI,” he responded, adding that more people have already been exposed to high levels of radiation in Japan than were exposed at TMI.
Bradford, who served on the NRC from 1977 to 1982, also warned against a mindset common in the US nuclear power industry that what is happening now in Japan can’t happen here.
“The phrase, ‘it can’t happen here,’ has been a harbinger of trouble in the nuclear industry,” he said. “Soviet experts came to TMI and solemnly intoned that such an accident could not happen in the Soviet Union because they did not have that type of reactor. They got Chernobyl. After Chernobyl, experts from many nations deplored the unique inadequacies of the Soviet system — inadequate containment, dangerous design, complacency, secrecy. Of course the [Soviet] design did not exist in their countries, one of which now has Fukushima. No doubt the next accident will also be different in its specifics. Nuclear spokespeople in every other country will then spout owlish and well-financed explanations of why it cannot happen to them.”
Bradford’s experience at TMI — where the full extent of the damage to the reactor core wasn’t known until a decade after the accident — makes him skeptical of broad assessments concerning the current situation in Japan.
“It’s important to realized that we know only a small percentage of what we will need to know to reach firm conclusions one way or the other,” he says. “Three days into TMI, much that we believed we knew turned out to be wrong.”
Archive for March 13th, 2011
Posted by Xeno on March 13, 2011
Posted by Xeno on March 13, 2011
Police in Gas Masks: Photo By Kaname Yoneyama / AP
Update: I spoke to a nuclear physicist this morning about the Japanese nuclear melt downs who said Chernobyl was different because it didn’t have the containment that these Japanese reactors have and also it was being used to make weapons, so Chernobyl was more like an A-bomb in terms of the contamination.
These won’t be anywhere near as bad. Still bad, but not Chernobyl bad. Another thing about these meltdowns is that they won’t reach us because they won’t go airborne. This is because there won’t be the kind of explosion that happened at Chernobyl which threw radiation high into the air. The radiation in this case will mostly be dispersed by
the sea. There are three reactors in Japan, he said, that they are now watching. With Chernobyl, the core ate through the vessel and landed on the concrete floor and when it did this, it spread out and cooled and turned into glass, which stopped the chain reaction. He also said there won’t be a “China Syndrome” for the Japanese reactors where they eat into the earth and keep going.
What caused the problem in the case of one reactor is that the back up power failed and then the battery back up ran out of power because they skimped on the battery power. The back up only lasted (4 to 6?) hours. The meltdown would not have happened if they had enough battery back up to keep cooling the core until the reaction completely shut down.
… a hypothetical idea of an extreme result of a nuclear meltdown in which molten reactor core products breach the barriers below them and flow downwards through the floor of the containment building. The origin of the phrase is the fictional idea that molten material from an American reactor could melt through the crust of the Earth and reach China.
- via Wikipedia
From Twitter: FLASH: #Japan chief cabinet secretary says risk of explosion at building housing #Fukushima Daiichi No. 3 reactor. Confirmed by Reuters and AFP.
Stratfor is reporting that the Japanese nuclear reactor container has been BREACHED!
Japanese Officials are now operating under the presumption that TWO reactors have either already melted down or are on their way to a meltdown. Critical core cooling systems have failed at both reactors. This situation has gone from bad to worse real quick.
U.S. nuclear officials have warned that we are in “uncharted” territory and that pumping seawater to cool the nuclear reactor is nothing short of an act of desperation.“Sky News is reporting that up to 160 people may have suffered radiation exposure. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says people are being tested for radiation exposure.”
At the same time officials in Washington State have stated that Washington will face NO threat of radiation regardless of what happens. The idea that these officials can predict that at this moment is an absolute joke and very unprofessional. Even in the event of a significant release from the reactor, radiation would be diluted before reaching our state and levels would be so low no protective action would be necessary, officials say, reported King5.com
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) confirmed the meltdown Saturday afternoon. Fukushima is one of the 25 largest nuclear power stations in the world. The NISA is affiliated with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
High levels of cesium and iodine, by-products of nuclear fission, are being reported and providing more evidence that a nuclear meltdown is currently underway.
It is now certain Japan is experiencing a Chernobyl event. “At this point, events in Japan bear many similarities to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Reports indicate that up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of the reactor fuel was exposed. The reactor fuel appears to have at least partially melted, and the subsequent explosion has shattered the walls and roof of the containment vessel – and likely the remaining useful parts of the control and coolant systems,” Stratfor explains.
“Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago,” said Kevin Camps, a nuclear waste specialist. …
As the image above illustrates, the prevailing jet stream moves from Japan to the United States across the Pacific Ocean. Airborne radiation would work its way into the jet stream and reach the United States in less than 36 hours. Jet streams flow from west to east in the upper portion of the troposphere.
By downplaying this serious disaster, the Japanese government is not only endangering its own people, but also millions of people in the United States and Canada.
There could be up to six meltdowns.
Horrible for people in the area and this makes the coming California super storm even more scary. And what about that huge solar flare that will hit us? Will that shut down cooling to our nuclear plants?
Now I’m glad I have a radiation detector, the RadAlert 50. I’ll let you know if the levels go up. Right now I’m at 0.016 milliroentgen(mR)/hr. The units mR/hr apply to gamma or x ray radiation, but an exposure of 1 mR gamma or x radiation results in a dose equivalent of approximately 1 mrem. The current regulatory occupational exposure limit in the United States for workers is 2.5 mrem/hr.
If you are in the area of the meltdown, get out of there. If you can’t evacuate, here is more info on what to do in case of a disaster like this:
By appearances, that’s pulverized concrete dust, indicating that a violent explosion occurred. We can be certain that the outer containment structure is completely missing. – via chrismartenson
This earthquake may be upgraded to 9.0 and the reactors are not designed to withstand quakes of this magnitude. There was plenty of warning that this could happen. In July 2007 another quake in Japan caused serious damage at a reactor.