From the good folks at the Union (of Concerned Scientists): http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/safety/fukushima-anniversary-report.html?utm_source=SP&utm_medium=link2&utm_campaign=fukushima-anniversary
And the GOOD news is that we got lucky – it could have been SO much worse. And we all loves us some good news, right? Details at http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nuclear_power/fukushima-anniversary-report-3-5-12.pdf.
A lot of people who saved the bacon of a lot of other people are in for some nasty cancers after getting excessively dosed trying to calm down and clean up around the 3 reactors that melted down. But, once they melted down and made massive quantities of hydrogen gas, the vented H2 gas then blew up, massively and spectacularly, in each reactor, as can be seen in this picture. Those will be brutal deaths, as the radioisotopes that were inhaled act like fully automatic machine guns on a molecular level, tearing up the important molecules in cells, and allowing mutations to happen much faster than they can be dealt with. Plus that radiation damage also depresses the ability of the body to fight off other infections; radiation poisoning is also painful.
Luck was also in the air with respect to wind direction – at least for the humans in Tokyo. A lot of the emanations and stuff launched airborne went out to sea, or went northwest towards relatively unpopulated areas. But there are hundreds of square miles where “hot spots” of radioactive cesium (134 and 137) exist, much like blood spatter from a real machine gun fired at close range on living beings. A Geiger Counter is a required traveling companion in those regions. And evidently the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) is in the money again as they get a fee for recruiting the desperate or none to smart or too old for children to work “Cleanup” – these hot spots get shoveled up and stashed away. It’s a messy business, and dust will get inhaled through dust-masks.
Anyway, welcome to nukes, the reality version, the reality being that these are at best a Faustian bargain. Much like the Jurasic Park tales, chaos seems to creep into the picture, and one unlikely but inevitable event (a big earthquake) trashed one reactor by damaging the cooling water feedline, so it was just plain doomed anyway. But 45 minutes later comes the follow-up tsunami, with a 45 foot tall wall of water overwhelming the 18 foot tall seawall, and mowing out the back-up generators lined up along the lagoon and also the ones in the basements of the reactors. Combined with the loss of external power where the grid lines were severed, that led to a “station black-out, which is NEVER supposed to happen. And that led to LOCA – Loss Of Coolant Accident – also never supposed to happen, especially to THREE reactors plus a fourth (and bigger, too, and with plutonium fuel (MOX) just for good measure), on refueling shutdown. And then one after another, boom, and a nasty rad-puke. Reactor 3 and 4 had a common vent line system, and the explosion in #3 vented into and damaged #4, especially the spent fuel rod swimming pools. Fun, wow!
The company that owns them (TEPCO) used to be one of the biggest companies in the world, and they had recently partnered with some US ones (NRG, owner of the Huntley coal burner) for a two nuke new complex in Texas, near the coast where hurricanes are known to cross over, along with massive storm tides. But that is no more. TEPCO is the corporate equivalent of the walking dead, a zombie whose assets are dwarfed by the damage that has been caused. Of course, TEPCO owns a big chunk of the Japanese business and government establishment, too, and damage control and the loss of wealth is also in effect. And with the right connections, such business losses can get socialized, and who knows, they may crawl back from the corporate grave. But, don’t buy TEPCO stock… or bonds, unless you really like those wild, low probability bets…
So far, all Japan has done is shut most of their nukes, and fired up a lot of oil, coal and natural gas fired generators, as well as gone on a crash energy conservation program. There was a recent report that some floating wind turbine designs will be tried offshore from Fukushima (water gets really deep really fast there), and thus the 5000 or more MW of transmission lines can at least get reused. We keep waiting for them to go on a massive renewable energy construction binge, but entities like TEPCO are fighting that as hard as they can. Sometimes bad habits are hard to kick….
Last year the US had 4 close calls (see UCS story at top link) – two from tornadoes trashing the grid connections, one from an earthquake and the last from an epic flood in Nebraska – another one of those “once in 500 year floods” that seem to pop up at least once a decade in these Global Warming times. In Alabama, not all of the emergency generators worked as they were supposed to… and the earthquake at the North Anna unit in Virgina was so wimpy compared to what Japan got nailed with last year, though it was above the design limits for that reactor.
And guess what, as the icesheets retreat/melt/decompose and as the planetary warm-up alters our weather patterns, seismic activity gets instigated/initiated. All that massive weight (mile thick glaciers, for example) of frozen water presses down on land, but when it melts (Greenland is a prime example, as is Alaska), the inelastic earth rebounds, and cracks widen, strains result, and earthquakes happen. Who’d a thunk – see http://motherjones.com/environment/2012/02/climate-change-linked-to-volcano-eruptions-earthquakes.
And besides, what’s the alternative to nukes – burning more coal and fracking the beans out of the southern half of NY State? Ugh. I think I will let this really cool advertisement from Wind Power Monthly say it, picture-wise.
Advertisement from Global Wind Power (http://www.globalwindpower.com/projects-for-sale/development-done-differently.aspx) as seen in Wind Power Monthly, March 2012: (http://www.windpowermonthly.com)
And by the way, lots more jobs are to be had via this approach than milking old nukes for a few more years (but more importantly, making huge profits on fully depreciated investments), fracking for losses in the Marcellus regions (right now a big money loser – see http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-big-fracking-bubble-the-scam-behind-the-gas-boom-20120301 ) and strip-mining coal. So if you want job maximization (as in several times for the same quantity of money invested) and at affordable electricity prices, stick with the really photogenic and cool owl… But if you are really hard up for a job, maybe you might see your local Yakuza rep, as there seems to be an endless need for radioactive soil scoopers in Japan, and not many questions will be asked…