Partial Meltdown Underway at Two Reactors in Japan; 200,000 Evacuated (Updated)

Details from the Washington Post on the partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daichi complex number 1 reactor:

Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of two heavily damaged nuclear power complexes near the center of Friday’s earthquake, told Japanese regulators Sunday that it faced a new emergency at one of its 10 reactors, even as it struggled to bring several others under control.

Earlier, the big electric utility took the unprecedented step of pumping seawater mixed with boric acid into the core of Fukushima Daiichi’s unit 1 reactor to tame ultra-high temperatures from fuel rods that had been partially exposed….

While Japanese authorities tried to calm citizens, they also began evacuating more than 200,000 residents from a 12.5-mile radius around two nuclear power complexes, made preparations to distribute potassium iodide pills, and warned people in the vicinity to stay inside and cover their mouths if they ventured outdoors. Federal safety agency officials said that as many as 160 people had been exposed to radiation from the plants.

“Only the gravest danger would justify an evacuation at such a moment,” said Peter Bradford, a former commissioner at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The evacuation, wider than announced the day before, followed an explosion Saturday that destroyed a building that housed both the reactor vessel and its containment building. Four workers were injured, but Japanese authorities said the containment building was intact.

The explosion was yet another indicator of dire problems inside Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, problems that might be plaguing other units as well. The explosion was caused by hydrogen, which nuclear experts said could only have been produced from inside the reactor vessel by the exposure of zirconium cladding that surrounds the fuel rods. Those rods are supposed to be covered by water, but at extremely high temperatures, steam reacts with the zirconium and produces hydrogen.

Video of the explosion from AP:

Even though this looks pretty scary, the reactor’s container is still sound.

CNN reports (hat tip BoingBoing) that the authorities believe a meltdown may be underway at reactor 3 as well due to the inability to cool the reactor’s core:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters there is a “possibility” of a meltdown at the plant’s No. 1 reactor, adding, “It is inside the reactor. We can’t see.” He then added that authorities are also “assuming the possibility of a meltdown” at the facility’s No. 3 reactor.

Later reports indicate that the emergency cooling system had stopped working at reactor 3, and that efforts were in progress to flood it with water as had been done with reactor 1, which would necessitate a release of steam that would have very small amounts of radiation.

The New York Times notes cooling is impaired at three reactors in a second nuclear plant, which may also require emergency intervention:
The cooling systems at three other reactors at a second nuclear plant had also failed, officials said. While backup systems might still be revived, if they could not, these reactors too could require emergency cooling, they said.

It also has this cheery news:

Japanese nuclear safety officials and international experts said that because of crucial design differences, the release of radiation at Daiichi would most likely be much smaller than at Chernobyl even if the plant had a complete core meltdown, which they said it had not.

Background and assessment from a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists via Rachel Maddow (hat tip reader Sufferin’ Succotash):

Update 5:30 AM: The Wall Street Journal reports (hat tip reader furzy mouse) that reactor 1 was safety tested assuming a maximum earthquake less powerful than the one that struck last week:

Separately, company documents show that Tokyo Electric tested the Fukushima plant to withstand a maximum seismic jolt lower than Friday’s 8.9 earthquake. Tepco’s last safety test of nuclear power plant Number 1—one that is currently in danger of meltdown—was done at a seismic magnitude the company considered the highest possible, but in fact turned out to be lower than Friday’s quake. The information comes from the company’s “Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 Updated Safety Measures” documents written in Japanese in 2010 and 2009. The documents were reviewed by Dow Jones.

The company said in the documents that 7.9 was the highest magnitude for which they tested the safety for their No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants in Fukushima.

Simultaneous seismic activity along the three tectonic plates in the sea east of the plants—the epicenter of Friday’s quake—wouldn’t surpass 7.9, according to the company’s presentation.

The company based its models partly on previous seismic activity in the area, including a 7.0 earthquake in May 1938 and two simultaneous earthquakes of 7.3 and 7.5 on November 5 of the same year.

As some readers have surmised, this was a classic underestimation of tail risk. The Journal article also has a nice interactive graphic and contains reassurances by officials that the vapor released contained “minimal” amounts of radiation and that the container was intact. The before and after shots from ABC (Australia, hat tip reader furzy mouse) are dramatic.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. libhomo

    People need to get out of denial about this. Nuclear power plants are shockingly fragile, considering the consequences of failure.

    1. attempter

      And those electric cars will fly!

      And we’ll all be living comfortable middle-class lives, working 20 hours a week. (As could still easily be arranged even now.)

      Yes, capitalism’s promises are going to come true any day now!

      1. leroguetradeur

        Capitalism makes no promises. Its socialists that do that.

        You’re correct to say later that intensive agriculture with composting etc is more productive, if you count only area and inputs. This has been known since at least the 17c, we find Thomas Tusser writing that planting is more productive than sowing.

        But if you take labor into account, its a whole different story. The story then is back to the land and subsistence agriculture and subsistence wages. As obtained in Europe all the last 1000 years, till mechanization.

        1. Toby

          Capitalism’s invisible hand ‘promises’ to deliver the best possible results to the maximum number of people. It’s an unproven assertion, an article of faith. Like a promise that can neither be broken nor kept, it is an unfalsifiable claim with a pseudo-religious following.

          I’m no fan of either socialism or capitalism, but tell me, leroguetradeur, what does socialism promise?

        2. attempter

          You’re not supposed to recall that “invisible hand”, Toby. The second anyone brings up capitalism’s unkept promises, it’s suddenly, “Invisible hand? Who said anything about an invisible hand? Who ever said capitalism maximizes prosperity for the most people?”

          subsistence agriculture and subsistence wages

          What you sneer at as “subsistence agriculture”, done the right way, would be a vastly more prosperous and fulfilling way of life than what increasing millions in this country and billions around the world are being condemned to by barbaric corporatism.

          And what’s the right way of doing it? It certainly doesn’t involve “subsistence wages” or any wage labor at all. We can achieve full employment at soul-enriching work as individuals and cooperatives growing food on our own lands.

          As I said below, only a few criminals stand in the way of humanity’s redemption.

          If anyone thinks this isn’t the only possible path, then what’s the alternative which:

          1. Achieves full, prosperous employment.

          2. Feeds everyone in the absence of cheap, plentiful fossil fuels.

          3. Redeems democracy.

          4. Requires no technological miracle*, but merely an act of political (really crime-fighting) will.

          *This miracle has to be both physical and political, since it’ll allegedly not be corporatized like every previous technology.

          1. leroguetradeur

            In many ways I agree that a society without malls, strip developments, endless freeways and endless driving would be a better one, and for many of us, once we got used to it, a more fulfilling and pleasanter one.

            I am just saying however, that when organic agriculture was practised as a way of life, it took an awful lot of very hard labor, not very well paid, because productivity was so low. Have you ever seen a horse plowing a field? It is one furrow at a time. You can get high yields from market gardens, but its not high in relation to hours worked.

            On the promises, people make promises, methods of organizing society do not. I guess socialists have promised the millenium but delivered massacres. Free market advocates have promised the invisible hand and delivered oligarchy and oligopolies.

            Of the two, the Russian experience convinces me that I do not want socialism. Cuba too. China too. But its admittedly a selfish point of view, and people with different backgrounds might not feel the same way.

          2. Otter

            “an awful lot of very hard labor”

            NOT true rogue. One of the most stubborn problems facing early industrialists was how to force peasants who were used to working on average about twenty (20) hours a week (and not at all on Sundays and numerous Saints’ Days) to work twelve (12) hours and more everyday, including Christmas.

            “not very well paid”

            Usually not paid at all. Setting aside the wealthy few, the only product was food and the only consumable, the same food. The a tiny circulation of coins was rarely needed and constantly at risk of confiscation.

            “because productivity was so low”

            High productivity is required only to support the profligate rich and the pointless wars of the same profligates.

          3. Toby

            On the promises, people make promises, methods of organizing society do not.

            That’s really cheap, lerogue.

            But perhaps you’d find Nikolas Luhmann interesting. He would argue that it is precisely methods of organizing society that make promises. People are ‘vehicles’ for and in the ‘grip’ of culture and ideology. Ideas are social phenomena/entities, so are the promises of socialism and capitalism, and all therefore all isms. It’s slippery out there.

    2. bob

      This is nonsense. Nuclear power, even with it’s accidents is much cleaner and safer than any other fuel.

      How much land, in aggregate has oil destroyed? How many live lost? Does the gulf coast count?

      Coal, even worse.

      But, say nuclear, and everyone gets nervous, and that makes good news.

      An energy plan for the US that started with 200 nuke plants would then give us the option going forward to peruse Solar and other alternatives on the scale necessary to make it work. Without that you are burning coal, as you are now, and will continue to do.

      The biggest threat to the oil and coal industries (and railroad) is Nuclear. They are very aware of this, and lobby hard against any change, or funding for nuclear. PR spotlights on non-events (yet) like this are an energy industry wet dream.

      1. Toby

        While I agree that fossil fuels are not clean, I disagree that nuclear energy is. There’s a film out right now called “Into Eternity”. Here is a synopsis:

        “INTO ETERNITY is a mind-bending film that explores the utter impossibility of storing nuclear waste for 100,000 years, the time estimated by scientists to render it safe. It is, on the one hand, a documentary about the Onkalo storage facility presently under construction in Finland, and on the other hand, a startlingly beautiful work of art and an urgent provocation that ponders the question of who – or what – will remain on this earth when that time frame has elapsed.”

        The Onkalo storage facility began being built in the 20th century, completion is currently estimated for some time in the 22nd century. Nothing man has ever built has lasted even a 10th of the time Onkalo must hold. To me, producing energy via nuclear fission is therefore reckless, and the only reason we ‘need’ to do so, to be so reckless, is to sustain an unsustainable system a little bit longer.

        Of course there will be competing claims since there are interests vested in both sides of the argument. This is one of the great difficulties of our age. Arriving at our best collective and most impartial guess as to the consequences of something of such profound importance is poisoned by monetary and profit considerations. I cannot believe ‘facts’ and figures any more, so err on the side of caution. One thing is clear enough though, perpetual economic growth is impossible. For me that destroys the one possible reason for supporting nuclear fission and its terrible risks.

        1. bob

          And once again, what would you use, NOW?

          The storage aspects are difficult, yes. What about the storage of coal slag? How many coal tailing piles are their lying around waiting to contaminate another river.

          West Virginia has some great examples of this.

          Look around for federal superfund sites. There are at least as many side effects and “problems” as their are with Nuclear.

          Your support is for Coal. Look into the NUCLEAR fallout from a coal plant, much more than for a Nuclear power plant, and over a much larger area. It goes out the smoke stack, and is not able to be stored.

          1. Toby

            I’m not for coal or fossil fuels, I’m for renewable energy sources. I’m not sure where you’re getting that idea. I’ve laid out some of my thinking elsewhere below.

            As for NOW, that’s one of those words, isn’t it. Had I the power, I would initiate a full on transition towards renewables, with huge investment into cold fusion, alongside a revolution in education, a redesign of transport, increased localized farming, eco-cities, deep monetary reform a la Franz Hoermann, increased automation where it makes environmental sense, concentrate on ending waged labour, and much else besides, all under the aegis of the priority of human and environmental concern, i.e. sustainability. We need fossil fuels to get us there, sure, and there is no ‘make the world better’ switch that can be thrown, so NOW is very relative, but the general direction is clear. Nuclear has to be phased out, not expanded. We need a new direction, not an ever more desperate scrabbling around just to keep in motion the long dead zombie that is poisoning us all.

            And I cannot be satisfied with “storage aspects are difficult”, but then, who am I, eh?

          2. bob

            What energy would you be using to make these “renewables”?

            You cannot pick them up off the ground, and even in cases where you can, energy is required to turn them into fuel or machinery.

            So, you want to make solar panels? How much energy goes into making one of them? Thousands? Millions? What is their useful life? 10 years, 20 years, even 30?

            This would all be marginal capacity (above the norm) and would use either more coal, or more natural gas.

            And speaking of natural gas, now we are pumping massive amounts of refinery sludge underground as part of a secret cocktail of “fracking fluid”. How long will that stuff stay underground? 10k years? There is already evidence that it doesn’t stay there for more than one hundred.

            Fear of Nuclear is completely unfounded, based on evidence of past “accidents” and comparing it to any other source of energy.

            But that is the point, keeping things the way they are, or supporting using more of the same (renewables).

          3. masaCrítica Ciclistas

            Our energy dilemma has no obvious solution, not dangerous isotopes, not coal-miner’s-lung, not fracking-tailings, nothing you can name. The less obvious default course of action is conservation. Any possible attempt at conservation will, given time, be overpowered by the inexorable march of overpopulation, that kind of overpopulation we have always reliably oversupplied. Birth control and, sooner than you think, birth patrol is our only solution to the dilemma. Birth patrol will arrive violently with a massive struggle between the multipliers and the killers. The final snapshot will not be a work of beauty.

            Good luck

          4. Toby

            I didn’t mention solar panels, I said renewables, and I said we need fossil fuels to get there. Whatever is the most sustainable way should be aimed for, as well as our science can get us there. The direction is the point I was making. We phase out burning stuff to ash and nuclear waste while building houses, cities and transportation to be as energy efficient as possible, and change much else besides, especially money and education. The direction I think makes most sense requires a lot less energy consumption than the consumerist, debt-driven, fantasy land we ‘enjoy’ at the moment. I don’t propose for one second to meet ever growing energy demand with renewables. It is ‘growth’ that is one of humanity’s core problems right now.

            As for over population, I don’t share that fear, masaCrítica Ciclistas. As a father of two I know what a challenge it is to raise children healthily. My wife certainly wants no more children. Population decline is actually a problem in ‘developed’ countries where a mix of feminism and better sex education have gone a long way to reducing family sizes. The UN (I think it was the UN) predicts global population peaking at around 9bn for example. We need a global perspective and good, relevant education for all, not birth patrols. Poverty and ignorance are the problems here.

  2. Unsympathetic

    Libhomo needs to get educated about this. Nuclear power plants are shockingly reliable given the difficulty of making energy from inert materials.


    It’s your choice to believe everything you want in your life is easy. However, if you actually think that’s realistic, YOU need to get out of denial.

    1. Toby

      You are insane. It is not remotely sensible to put economic ‘growth’ in front of environmental safety and the health of the people. Such a demand is absurd. Nuclear power plants generate energy, do they? Well duh! They also produce toxic waste which has to be safely stored for thousands of years, perhaps hundreds of thousands, and when, every now and then, something goes wrong, people suffer horribly. All this to defend economic ‘growth?’ No thank you.

      There are alternatives. We are required to rethink what we can reasonably enjoy doing as a species on this planet. There’s more to life than shopping in malls for more and more consumer junk, burning all the lights in the house, Perpetual Growth, money, riches, and so on. I’m not against fun, pleasure and so on, I’m no hair-shirt greener or whatever, but we’ve got to put the horse before the cart here. Defending economic growth at all costs is the problem. Renewable energies plus massive improvements in energy efficiency, plus deep monetary and educational change, is what we need to be exploring right across the planet. Keeping things as they are at all costs just to keep things as they are is killing us.

      1. attempter

        Even though I’m never surprised by anything anymore, this is maybe the most undistilled example I’ve seen yet of this flat earth refusal to recognize reality or give in even the slightest bit on things that are proven to be insane, even at the moment of greatest crisis, if such a show of humanity would compromise one’s vicious ideology of greed and materialism.

        It’s pretty amazing, but the pro-nuke shilling seems even more readily deployed than the Walker/union stuff, and you’re probably right about the reason why. Even more than a political issue like union pensions, the fact of how insane nuclear energy is strikes existentially at how insane are all delusions of infinite “growth” and Man’s Dominion of the Universe. It’s the same hubris as that of a bankster who truly believes in a quadrillion dollars’ worth of derivatives. Even at the height of this catastrophe, one must immediately rush to defend Wall Street the corporate welfare-based nuclear “industry”.

        Let me reiterate, since we keep getting the same industry talking point, in spite of the standard greenwashing, nuclear energy never “replaced” fossil-generated electricity. It was only deployed alongside it, to further feed the consumption monster. It’s the same scam as with large-scale corporatized deployment of renewable energy.

        I’ve never once heard of an existing coal-fired plant which was closed or a proposed one which was cancelled for any other than purely economic reasons. Never once have I heard, “because instead we have this nuclear plant”. And even the attempts of states like NJ to render in-state consumption less coal-based haven’t prevented the feds from forcing new transmission corridor projects upon them.

        1. Septeus7

          I’m frankly quite sadden at folks like attempter and Toby who should know better than use this event as proof anything other than even the best of human plans can fail.

          Both the quake and tsunami where beyond what a capitalist economist economy can build to withstand under the limits of reasonable cost estimates at the time of construction and perhaps beyond even the limits of Japan’s engineering capacity.

          Renewable Energy was hammered as well because a hydroelectric damn failed and has caused greater damage and probably several deaths. If either and Solar, Tidal, or Wind farms had been in way of that tsunami they would have trashed as well and mostly cause just as much damage. I believe that fire at the refinery has killed many people whereas the situation at the nuclear plant has failed to kill anyone so far we know.

          In the physical world there are trade offs for producing power with not producing power so only question is how power are willing to produce versus how much of the population want to access to it.

          If we take the lower energy density route then populations will fall back to pre-fossil fuel levels via mass die off of that can only be enforce by extreme authoritarian rule or we will can be sensible can stop cutting corners on infrastructure based on fake budget restraints (see MMT) and engineer the system to value people first by building the best systems we can build including better nuclear.

          But even then we must understand we will fail from time to time in extraordinary circumstances such as a 9.0 Earthquake.

          Somebody brought up the issue of subsidies and the graphs on this blog post so exactly why we rely on fossil fuels so much (

          If people want to talk about a renewables that doesn’t get much from the dole they would be talking about Geothermal (indirect nuclear) but all I hear about are stupid windmills and solar panels and stuff that doesn’t work more than half the time.

          If you believe in renewable then you must understand that all renewables have a much higher deaths per terrawatt level than nuclear (see subsidy post).

          So ask yourself how many more people am I willing to kill because I have a radiation phobia?

          1. Otter

            “reasonable cost estimates”

            What you mean, “reasonable”?

            Howcum “cost” excludes the really expensive costs?

          2. attempter

            I’ll let the quality of arguments like “a windmill toppling over does just as much damage as a reactor meltdown” speak for itself.

            I’ll just remind you to go back and read the threads. Nobody started out making the main point here to be criticizing nukes, even though the justification for doing so is self-evident. I for one only responded to the shills who were immediately out in force making every absurd conservative-style argument.

    2. Mark P.

      [1] The Japanese reactors are 40-year old BWRs (boiling water reactors) — early Generation-II designs — caught in the wake of a 9.0 scale earthquake, and with a long record of safety systems being inadequately serviced (there was supposed be redundancy with multiple diesel generators set up to power cooling systems in case of this current kind of situation; they’ve all failed).

      [2] Many other kinds of possible reactor designs exist. Nuclear reactor technology is much more diverse than most of us have any idea about or familiarity with.

      Specifically, almost all nuclear reactors today run on the uranium-plutonium (U-235 to Pu-239) fuel cycle, and the most common reactor type is the light-water reactor, or LWR. But the man chiefly responsible for the LWR, Alvin Weinberg, estimated that at the nuclear age’s start there were a thousand possible directions we could have taken in terms of reactor designs and fuel cycles. Weinberg himself favored the thorium molten salt reactor for civilian power-generation purposes, despite his design role with the LWR; he was fired by the Nixon administration after a quarter century of running Pine Ridge National Lab because he refused to get behind the fast breeder program the Nixon administration wanted (primarily, for bomb-building purposes).

      [3] Reactor design took the direction most people are familiar with today primarily for two reasons.

      Firstly, the U.S. defense establishment wanted plutonium for bomb-building in greater quantities than the Atomic Energy Commission could supply at the 1950s’ start.

      Secondly, Admiral Hyman Rickover became the de facto administrator of nuclear generator R&D — literally, the AEC administrator of the first U.S. civilian reactor, Shippingport, which was funded as a naval research reactor because Rickover wished to develop the larger reactors required for aircraft carriers. Rickover’s priority was simply to deliver reliable reactors for U.S. Navy submarines and then carriers as quickly as possible. The second U.S. nuclear sub, the USS SEAWOLF, in fact ran initially on a molten salt reactor, but there were heating problems, and water and molten salts are extremely bad news if they mix. So Rickover simplified things by settling on uranium-plutonium boiling-water reactors.

      [5] That said, the U.S. Navy currently operates more than 80 nuclear-powered ships and has accumulated over 5,400 “reactor years” of accident-free experience. It’s done this with seamen who in many cases have no technical training before they join the Navy. That’s possible because the Navy is fairly scrupulous in maintaining the standards Rickover set; till he was retired, Rickover personally interviewed everybody — down to the lowest seaman — who would be involved with shipboard reactors.

      [6] The Gen-III nuclear reactor designs in many case cannot go critical or melt down — it’s physically impossible. Moving to the thorium cycle — which is proliferation-resistant — and Gen-IV designs generally will solve many problems, especially including that of nuclear waste. Not only would Gen-IV designs like the IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) and the LFTR (Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor) achieve high burnup and close the fuel cycle, but various fusion-fission and fast-neutron reactor designs could burn down the long-lived actinides and eliminate radioactive waste altogether.

      [7] Let me repeat that. “Closing the fuel cycle” means solving the problem of nuclear waste. In other words, industrial nuclear transmutation looks about two to three decades away, and this is both good and bad news. Good news because it could make nuclear energy sustainable into the quite long-term future and solve the problem of nuclear waste. Bad news because it could put us at the dawn of the golden age of nuclear arms proliferation.

      1. Cedric Regula

        Thanks for the tech info.

        I much prefer to know the technology path over listening to “back to earth” greenies whom don’t see any problem with getting 7 Billion humans to move back into trees and live happily ever after like we did in the good old days. Or be allocated two sheets of toilet paper a day, and after you’ve had you way with the TP, toss it into the fireplace for heat and lighting. BTW, I have relatives in Amish/Mennonite country. They had their house built by them. If the Amish really were cut off from civilization, they would probably all be dead after the first bad winter. Or maybe not…they can use coal if they run out of trees in Ohio.

        Or there are the technical greenies, whom just know we’ve made huge advances in these technologies in recent years and all works well if we’d just try it, but nuke technology is mired in the distant past.

        I just noticed we have a new kind of greenie. The Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) Greenie. They know that you can just print money to acquire real and knowledge resources. Or maybe we need to change to a different kind of money or money system. One where money is not a store of value, but is used to acquire things we may value instead. You can even buy a book about it using old money. I’ll pass.

        But back to nukes. I’ll add to your info by pointing out Gen III designs make much less nuclear waste and they are ready for prime time. This gives us about a 50 year window where we add some waste to the long term storage problem, but on the other hand the whole world stopped building Gen II nukes in the 80s and these would be retired, slowing the rate of waste accumulation markedly. When Gen IV is ready, the waste problem no longer grows. In the case of the US with our vast deserts in the West, there must be some safe storage place for it.

        As far as nuke proliferation, I’m no expert on this, but I’ve heard that spent fuel from existing plants still needs to be enriched by a factor of 10 to be usable as bomb grade plutonium (tho it could still be used in a “dirty bomb). The tech needed to do this is difficult and is not easily acquired (Iran is trying to develop this capability from scratch). But in light of our options, it seems to make more sense to try and control enrichment technology and the bombs themselves than useful energy sources.

        Besides, I’ve become more worried about spliced DNA Weaponized Black Plague from the “Let’s wipe out humankind” crowd than I am about nuclear bombs at this point.

        1. Anon

          Fricking hilarious!

          As predicted in the previous thread on this issue, the problem of nuclear waste is always just about to be solved – and here are two fine examples proposing, respectively “two to three decades” for the longed-for miracle on the waste disposal front, and “In the case of the US with our vast deserts in the West, there must be some safe storage place for it.”

          An industry that cannot deal with its own waste matter should be shut down, period. We don’t allow environmental costs to be externalized by companies any more.

          The free lunch is over.

          (And it was never particularly “free”in the first place – see the reports on the € billions of over-run costs on new nuclear plant being built in Finland. Who’s gonna pick up the tab for that? Consumers and taxpayers, that’s who.)

          As for “the vast deserts in the West” that will open up their capacious hearts to the nuclear industry’s fecal matter, ever heard of Yucca Mountain?

          It was going to be the be-all-and-end-all of US nuke waste storage facilities, only it turned out that Nevada was one of the most seismically active places in the US (border with California, dontcha know?), and the plans were abandoned by the current administration in 2010:

          The Department of Energy moved Wednesday to end almost 30 years of trying to bury nuclear waste in Nevada.

          The motion submitted to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board represents the Yucca Mountain endgame… The president has said he wants to update the nation’s options for managing a stockpile of more than 100,000 tons of used reactor fuel and highly radioactive defense waste.

          (“DOE asks to halt Yucca Mountain”, 3 March 2010,

          Hey, but maybe we can put those 100,000 tons of waste in your backyard, for your kids to play near? A solution will surely be along by the time they reach adulthood.

          1. Cedric Regula

            I’ve got even more hilarious stuff in my repertoire as well.

            In the 70s when the decision was made between electric utilities, government agencies, and the DOE that nuclear energy should be pursued in the US, the DOE agreed to spend 20 years researching a suitable national site for waste disposal and developing it. Congress appropriated the funds. This was to be completed by 1997. In the mean time, utilities were to build temporary local facilities and store waste locally(or in those backyards, as we are wont to say).

            So we are off and running.

            Yucca Mountain was the best the DOE could come up with, and it is located 90 miles north of Vegas. And the project slowly ground to a halt. Since I don’t have seismic charts and ground water maps of these states next to CA, I don’t know if the other AZ, NV, or perhaps UT plots of land have problems making them unsuitable. Pay me for the next 35 years and maybe I’ll work on it.

            I have read some electric utilities have contracts with the DOE to provide the national dump site by 1997 and they were considering suing the DOE for breach of contract and trying to recoup costs of storing waste locally.

            You are quite astute at pointing out they still have all the waste stored locally and above ground. And even if they shut down all old nuke plants today that presently supply 20% of our electricity, that waste is still there. It’s even a National Security threat because it could be stolen for a dirty bomb.

            So now Obama/Reid has shut down Yucca Mountain and said the DOE will “study alternatives”.

            Pretty funny stuff, huh?

      2. Ray Phenicie

        Uranium is a renewable energy source? Transmutation of the element ‘____’ at what location on the planet is producing new sources of uranium? Did I miss the arrival of Superman?

        1. Cedric Regula

          Geologists say uranium is fairly common in the earth’s crust, but more mines would need to be developed.

          And everyone is hoping that fission is just a stop gap between fossil fuel and something better, made more urgent because of global warming.

          Princeton has a major cold fusion project going and state they hope to demonstrate “commercial feasibility” by 2035. But R&D on advancing physics by a significant degree can’t be counted on, let alone give a timetable for it. Then add another 20 years to roll it out the scale needed.

          But other things may come about as well.

          1. Toby

            Cold fusion looks more promising that 2035. Two Italian scientists have signed a deal with a Greek energy company to begin production. The demonstration to scientists and press was in February of this year. Apparently they can’t get it patented in America because cold fusion is impossible.

            But again, this is about, at its heart, getting off the perpetual growth gravy train. Energy is not our problem so much as soil fertility, over fishing, water tables, and so on. Only after we have revolutionized socioeconomics and accepted that sustainability must be our top priority, will we be culturally wise enough to wield our powers of production and consumption.

          2. Cedric Regula

            Yes, well if you drill down to the core problem, it is very Machiavellian. If they keep feeding us, we keep multiplying.

  3. Eric

    I don’t think I’d be so quick to label them as “shockingly fragile” since it’s been 25 years since the last major nuclear incident, and it took the sixth largest earthquake in modern history followed by a massive tsunami to trigger this catastrophe.

    Additionally, there are other types of nuclear generators which have passive safety features that will self-regulate in the event of some unforeseen disaster.

    Yes, the situation is terrible and may have potentially horrendous consequences, but it’s not an indictment of all types of nuclear power.

    1. Toby

      Yes, this is and indictment of all nuclear fission energy creation, because nuclear is not necessary. We assert that we ‘need’ it because growing energy demands require it. The problem is the growing energy demands. See my response to Unsympathetic.

      I notice lower down in the comments people saying the new models are safer. Perhaps they are, but my trust is gone. They were announced as safe initially, have been safe ever since, and are getting ever safer. Yet again and again problems occur. No one can foresee everything. We know this. We are not omniscient. Let’s get a bit more humble and put human and environmental concern front and center where it logically belongs. Prioritizing money and ‘growth’ is a recipe for horrible failure.

  4. Skippy

    25 years is but a blink in the planets eye, and hardly a scientific bench mark, especially when were talking about such materials and processes.

    Skippy…one aw-shit…wipes out a thousand at-a-boys…eh.

  5. Salviati

    I find it mindboggling when fools or hired hands confuse the likelihood of the tail event with the severity of the tail event. I will write this in bold so you idiots in government and in the weapons. power, and financial industries get the damn message:


    It is true for nuclear power, nuclear weapons, deep sea drilling, and many of the financial derivatives (ex. credit default swaps). So please stop trying to use the earthquake and tsunami as cover for the existence of such a potentially catastrophic structure.

    If that means we can no longer power capitalism, then so be it. Its not like it did the majority of people much good anyhow. Do you really think the suicide rate of the Amish is higher than the rest of Americans?

    1. Toby

      Well said, Salviati.

      We need to ask ourselves what it is we are defending here. Why ‘growth?’ What’s so f*cking good about it? Global poverty has doubled over the last 40 years during which time global GDP has tripled to quadrupled. Let’s get real here. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and the middle classes are being squeezed dry. For growth. This is why we need nuclear power stations!? We want to burn more and more stuff so we can buy more and more stuff. Why? Can’t we be better than that? Or, more neutrally, isn’t a radically different story desirable? Don’t we desire change? It’s what politicians promise every time, and every time they fail to deliver. And every time we are disappointed, a bit more cynical, a bit more lost.

      I’m not against technology, I’m for good, sound sense. We are creatures of nature, nature being change. We are not above nature looking down, exploiting it for our profit. We are of it, affected and affecting. Without change there is nothing at all. Capitalism and ‘growth’ had a good run, to put a positive spin on it and forget the terrible destruction for a second, but things change, always. We are almost 7 billion souls on this planet and counting. It’s time to wake up and smell the decay, as corny as that expression is.

      1. Salviati

        What I find interesting is that a completely predictable Black Swan has reared its head again. And you hear the same shit, “who would have thought that blah, blah, blah would happen”. Then you hear the praising of past performance, “financial innovation has led to increased efficiency in markets”, “nuclear plants are shockingly reliable at given the difficulty of making energy from inert materials.”

        Here’s a little heads up for everyone. Before you continue touting the benefits of nuclear power consider that there is no way in hell that the corporate owned US government will respond to a disaster of this magnitude with anywhere near the effectiveness of the Japanese government. Between the widespread dismantling of the state and the rampant lawlessness and lack of accountability of the private sector and government, we are completely unprepared. So even if a total nuclear catastrophe is averted in this case, you can guarantee that it would happen to US.

        1. Yulek

          Tell me, do you know, how many souls would have to lay down on the ground and die peacefully for us to go back to the amish way (especially growing food) without wars (especially over natural gas and oil)?
          Depending on how well we already exploited our environment, it’s between four and six biliion people. Do you seriuously think we need all that energy just to make cheap goods?

          I am sorry to inform you, but with the help of oil and natural gas we have overshoot ourselves like bacteria on growing medium, and if we cannot soon solve our energy problems, then they will become predicaments and a lot of us will simply have to die.

          1. Toby

            I’m not for mass death, not at all. Even though my emotion can make me sound shrill and proselytizing at times, at root I’m an optimist. That’s not rational optimism though, in the sense of ‘backed by facts’ (whatever they are), my optimism is more an emotional choice, an expression of how I choose to try to feel. But that hardly matters. Humanity is faced with a choice regardless of my position. (And yes, I do know how important oil and fossil fuels are for things other than cheap consumer goods, but that is not pertinent to the point I was making.)

            IF we embrace sustainable technologies, IF we redirect our socioeconomics away from ponzi scheme forced growth, IF we prioritize human and environmental concern, humanity has the potential to build a second Garden of Eden (no, I’m not religious). BUT, this has to be knowingly chosen. It can be forced on no one. People neither have to lie down and die nor be killed via war, famine or disease, but some mix of all those will happen at mass scale across the planet if we don’t wise up as a species.

            It’s neither here nor there that I want this or that outcome, or whether I appear to be coming from the Right or Left of the ideological divide. All that matters is the nature of nature and accepting the situation as it is and as it changes. Finite planet, finite resources, certain carrying capacity, certain level of technological prowess, and so on. There’s only a chance, a tiny chance, we transition sensibly. Far more likely we refuse to wake up in sufficient numbers and drive ourselves over the edge. We demand ‘hard evidence’ that ‘doom’ is upon us. We ignore ‘hard evidence’ that ‘doom’ is upon us. I don’t want it this way, it just seems stubbornly to be this way.

          2. Toby

            Why is wind not sustainable? Nuclear is not, because it produces highly toxic and unusable waste, and fissionable material is in limited supply. Solar is becoming more usable as you say, then there is heat differential too, and much else besides (tide, wave, geothermal). Cold fusion is coming back too, a recent demonstration uses hydrogen and nickel and produces copper as waste. I’m not sure if cold fusion would be sustainable, but it’s certainly more benign than fission. (In case you think cold fusion is a pipe dream, a Greek energy company is in talks to begin production of a cold fusion device.)

            But we can’t look at any of these things in isolation, nor should we welcome an energy solution which powers our current, unsustainable way of life. The only way this works is coupled with a new socioeconomics that gets us off our addiction to ‘growth.’ Part of that, a very important part of sustainability generally, is building things to last in as recyclable a fashion as possible. Forced and quick cyclical consumption must go. The focus must be away from monetary profit towards focus on long term societal profit that is as benign to the environment as possible. Societal and environmental health are inseparable. That’s what I mean by prioritizing human and environmental concern. The transition must be profound, it can’t be cosmetic. This isn’t about financial incentives and new taxes. Patchwork won’t work.

            Aside from renewable energies there are, for example, plus-energy housing technologies available to humanity today, houses that generate, over the year, more energy than they consume. Sadly, they ‘cost’ too much money. There are, for example, very ingenious designs for far more intelligent and low-energy cities and transportation. But again, they cost too much money to build. As it stands, we have the tech and the resources to do things sustainably, but the finance isn’t there. Obviously we have to change money and socioeconomics too. No more perpetual growth, no more profit maximization on monetary lines, and so on. Patchwork won’t work.

            We need to reorient, totally, the way we ‘do’ civilization. This is not about wind or solar or X powering our current way of life, it’s about changing our way of life, from the bottom up, including energy generation. And I am not talking about the Amish or primitivism. For me a far healthier and abundant future is a ‘high-tech’ future, as long as our technical ingenuity is guided by human and environmental concern first and foremost. While it isn’t we’re just digging our own grave, at first slowly, but ever more quickly as time moves on. And that’s what we’re seeing right now.

          3. charles 2

            Toby, don’t think that “money” is something that can be changed outside of the energy system. It is only in the mind of bankers that money can be created out of nothing. In reality, usable wealth is deeply linked to available energy sources. TINSTAAFL for economists and Second Principle for power plant designers are indeed the same thing.

          4. attempter

            Yulek, I’m not sure exactly what you mean. But if you mean we can’t feed ourselves with organic agriculture based on small and mid-size farms, that’s false.

            Study after study proves that organic agriculture based on diversified smallholder plots outproduce corporate monoculture. It produces comparable or more calories, and far more nutritiously.

            Here’s just a few links:

            The new UN report on the Right to Food assembles the science to date:

   UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food

            Here’s an earlier compilation of data:


            Here’s Cuba’s miraculous performance when they were abruptly cut off from cheap oil when the Soviet Union collapsed and they had to turn to agricultural near-self-sufficiency without massive fossil fuel inputs:


            So as with everything else, there are no natural obstacles to the solution, only artificial ones set up by criminals.

          5. Toby

            Charles 2, don’t worry, I see it that way too. There’s a kind of chicken and egg thing here, with everything needing to change at the same time, which is impossible. One way or another though we have to go through this. What I believe must happen is a manner of conscious change of direction followed by subsequent phases of implementation. But by no measure do I have any definitive answers. Besides, muddling through is all we’ve ever had, is all we can have.

            As to money I’m comfortable with ‘creating it out of thin air,’ as long as this ‘creation’ process is subsequent to a redefinition, at the cultural level, of what money is and what we need it for. Professor Franz Hoermann talks about a transition from ‘money as good’ to ‘money as information.’ I see a future money (actually the ‘developing’ world is already using it, ‘bankless,’ with mobile phone technologies, today) being more of a tracking of economic activity, and not as a store of value. It should be truly democratic, peer to peer, not require banking, not be a source of income (no usury), be a form of evidence of social contribution rather than something to accumulate as part of differential advantage and an ‘I’m all right, Jack’-style of competition.

            Professor Hoermann’s book, “The End of Money” is only available right now in German (“Das Ende des Geldes”). I’ve ordered it but don’t have it yet, so can’t flesh out the bare bones I’ve just presented. As soon as I know more, I shall be blogging on his ideas more fully. His ideas really excite me. He recognizes too the need for a revolution in education, for example, which must be far less hierarchical, become student-led, curiosity-led. A very open minded economist indeed. Rare, yes, but he’s not alone. The Austrians and Germans can now boast quite a number of radical and creative thinkers. More power to them I say!

            (For the interested I’ve translated some of Hoermann’s work at my blog.)

          6. Yulek

            Toby, you are correct, that we need to change our way of life, however, right now nuclear energy is the only source that is more potent than fossil fuels. Sustainable solutions are something we have to search for, however except for limiting the growth of our population there will never be a sustainable solution. Or should I say, that every energy source we can tap into has it’s limits, and our growth (mostly population growth) makes renewables unsustainable, and according to this:
            we may have already outgrown the renewables.

            So you are correct, we have to stop our growth, and change our economic models (after all earth is a sphere like object, and therefore has finite surface and finite volume). But nuclear power will have to stay and develop in to something safer.

            Attemepter, I will read through those studies, since you provided them, however as far as I know, we have exploited top soils so much, that without fertilizers nothing will grow in many places on earth (top soil erosion is a huge problem in many places, also there is a huge water problem).

          7. attempter

            Certainly in many places rebuilding the soil will take lots of work. With the right application of nitrogen-fixing crops, other forms of non-fossil fertilizer, integration of livestock and crop rotation, and other soil-building practices, the job can and will be done.

            That topic is mentioned in some of the pieces I linked.

          8. Toby

            however, right now nuclear energy is the only source that is more potent than fossil fuels.

            This is simply not true. Wind, for example, has a far higher EROEI than oil; some Danish studies put it at 40, whereas oil is around 10 and falling. Solar energy can be harnessed in all sorts of ways too, there are lots of interesting developments happening there. And there’s geothermal, heat differential, and much else besides. Sadly though, for every report saying X there’s another one saying NotX, a very destructive situation which I blame on vested interests, which I blame on our insane economics.

            This is not about pumping out as much energy as we possibly can just to sustain the beast that is destroying us. We can build far more energy efficient houses, including houses that produce more energy than they consume. I’m contemplating buying one but land is so expensive here in Berlin. Maglev trains as developed by ET3 use 2% of the energy that airplanes use. Cities can be designed to render car use redundant. There are so many ways of doing things that make a lot of environmental sense but very little ‘economic’ sense, which means our economics is insane, and has made us insane. We prioritize money over the environment and society and expect Hand, The Invisible to take care of our mess. That way is not working.

            Enough already. Demote money, promote wealth.

  6. Martin Lefebvre

    First of all, in all probability those reactor piles are a total write-off. However, the containment DID hold. This is a dome constructed of 6 feet thick armoured concrete that is designed to survive a nuclear near miss in the multi-megaton range. (I asked a nuclear physicist that workes closely with CANDU syle reactors: what would happen if a highjacked 747 full of fuel were to be rammed into a containment structure. His answer was that it would be a waste of a perfectly good high-jacked aircraft!

    Besides, could you picture the damage if that earthquake happened 80km from Hoover Dam?

  7. Dirk77

    Nuclear power plants and commercial airplanes: great safety records but great theater when one malfunctions. That said, Ike was one of the best presidents this country ever had but he should have listened to Edward Teller and focussed first on making reactors fail safe. These reactors appear to be pressurized light water ones, probably of a 1970’s design. Not the best examples of a reactor design. Sigh.

    1. Martin Lefebvre

      Yep, I can’t agree more. BWR types are a Gen II type reactors. This is 50s to mid-70s technology and does not have the passive safety features that have characterised the post cold-war era reactors. I’m acutally very interested in the current plans for gen IV reactors that have a burn rate of 1.8 and have passive cooling. In fact those reactors need constant human supervision to keep them running, since any in-attention will make them go sub-critical.

    1. Michael Iverson

      I could only imagine what people in the Bay Area are saying about the San Diablo Nuclear Power Station. Afterall, it is built write ontop of the San Andreas Fualt.

  8. howard

    diablo canyon is near san luis obispo, a good 250 miles from SF. closer to los angeles, maybe 200 miles. but the station is right between two faults of the san andreas system, so they got that going for them.

    1. jclass

      What they probably meant is that when the quake occurred the plant received an immediate warning and began shutdown before the shockwave hit.

  9. charles 2

    Edwin Lyman :”Any amount of radiation is a hazard, it is an established fact”

    Actually, no. The health physics society, which represents the scientists whose speciality is assessing the effect of radiation on health (as opposed to scientists who are tangentially “concerned” by it) states in July 2010 :
    “In accordance with current knowledge of radiation health risks, the Health Physics Society recommends against quantitative estimation of health risks below an individual dose of 5 rem in one year or a lifetime dose of 10 rem above that received from natural sources. Doses from natural background radiation in the United States average about 0.3 rem per year. A dose of 5 rem will be accumulated in the first 17 years of life and about 25 rem in a lifetime of 80 years. Estimation of health risk associated with radiation doses that are of similar magnitude as those received from natural sources should be strictly qualitative and encompass a range of hypothetical health outcomes, including the possibility of no adverse health effects at such low levels.”

    This is why it is a perfectly reasonable procedure to release small amount of short lived radioactivity, especially when the wind is blowing toward the sea, in order to ensure that the various containment keep their integrity. It is not an “hail mary pass” or “last ditch measure”, it is part of the emergency operating procedures.
    Same thing with flooding the containment of reactor 1 with seawater, I doubt this is a panic measure they just designed on the back of the envelope in the control room. I believe it is a very efficient way to cool the reactor once and for all, but probably condemns the power plant to go off grid definitively, and will make decommissioning more expensive. It is not a light decision. For those who think “if it is so efficient at solving the problem why not flood all reactors”, I would answer that Japan is going to need all the power it can get in the years to come. It takes a long time to bring a new power plant online, nuclear or not, whereas the remaining Fukushima Plants could be thoroughly inspected and restarted in just 12 to 24 months if damage is not too extensive.

    1. Otter

      I live in a city whose planners claimed it “perfectly reasonable procedure to release small amounts” of sewage into the river.

  10. gigoman

    Nuclear power is the best option for energy we have right now. Either don’t build em on earthquake fault lines or if you do, learn from this mess and build em safer. Oh, and retrofit plants like diablo canyon with improvements learned from this one. Also, nuclear power safety/design practices should be shared world wide.

    1. Raymond Robitaille

      If you factor in all the costs related to nuclear energy, including the cost of protecting ourselves from waste radiation over a period of 100,000 years, it is clear that it is not a profitable venture. That is why this industry always requires the support of the taxpayer. It is yet another example of socializing costs and privatizing revenue.

      Wind, solar and other decentralized and sustainable forms of energy are far more economical. Let’s hope these events become the last nail in the coffin of the nuclear energy industry.

  11. bmeisen

    Ever met a messi who hords nuclear waste? Show me one who would even be willing and I’d consider changing my mind – there is a place for nuclear power generation and it is not on this planet.

    1. charles 2

      I’ll take a CASTOR container full of vitrified fission products any time in my garden. I wouldn’t mind that some people don’t want to visit my place, as they would be precisely the kind of folks I would want to avoid.
      Actually, I am seriously considering purchasing a house in the vicinity of a NPP.

  12. Paul Tioxon

    Nuclear power plants boil water with the laboratory controlled radioactive material that is now going into the thousands of degrees. It was sold as too cheap to meter when it was rolled out in the 1950’s. Too bad it was not as cheap to construct. For decades, we have known how badly these plants were managed. For decades we know, the inherent contradiction of capitalism is drive costs to or even below what should be the minimum engineering specifications for safety. The ugly secrets about nuclear power were staring us in the face all along. The massive concrete cooling towers and hardened concrete containers were NOT overbuilt for letting steam go up and out, it is not that hot or dangerous, so why this military fortress like concrete edifice? The answer is that the military always knew these were radioactive dirty bombs waiting to happen. These plants have always been built to defeat the number one security threat: a direct hit from a 747 Jumbo Jet craft or its equivalent, whether by accident or design. An earthquake of this magnitude is obviously too much for even an island nation’s careful, and meticulous engineering and safety precautions. The sloppy, corrupt, profit driven utility industry does not give a damn if that happens to us.

  13. moslof

    Financial and oil industry regulators have been corrupted and whistleblowers intimidated into submission. Is the Nuclear Industry different?
    Instead of talking about new designs that will never be financed in this environment, we should be verifying that someone is looking under the hood of the older plants that we have (DOE included). Coverups have evolved into an art form and aggressive regulators seem to be a thing of the past.

  14. Jim the Skeptic

    Could we all just get a grip on our emotions?

    Japan is having problems with multiple nuclear reactors because of an earthquake and the resultant tidal waves. Everyone knew that Japan was susceptible to large earthquakes. Either these reactors have been woefully mismanaged or there were serious design flaws.

    Nuclear power has just gotten a huge black eye. So we are stuck with fossil fuels. Solar and wind energy will not change this significantly any time in the near future.

    Less than 1% of us list our occupation as farmers. We are never going back to an agrarian society! Farming requires skills that most Americans do not have. People who can not afford their homes, cannot buy a farm, so now we are talking about tenant farming with no skills. The only way we could significantly raise the number of farmers would be to use the 82nd Airborne Division to force people onto collective farms.

    The world is already experiencing grain shortages. Last fall the Russians announced a ban on all grain exports. China announced that it would be buying grain on the international grain market. North Korea announced that they would be buying grain on the international grain market and it became obvious that they needed more grain than they could afford to buy. Food shortages in the mid east have caused civil unrest.

    We could stop using corn to produce ethanol but then we would need more oil to produce gasoline.

    We are highly dependent on mechanized farming and that will continue.

    There are no easy answers.

  15. pastafarian

    Commercial nuclear power in the U.S. has required a large subsidy in the form of the Price-Anderson Act, which caps economic damages in the event of a release of radiation into the atmosphere such that victims would bear most of the costs. Think about it: the nuclear industry is either unwilling to buy or cannot buy commercial insurance against this risk.

    We have subsidized nuclear power and fossil fuels to the degree that energy consumers don’t have accurate price signals relative to renewables. Failing to account for externalities means we don’t know how much energy we can economically consume or which sources we should favor purely from a cost standpoint.

    1. bmeisen

      Right on pasta man! I’m baffled by these claims that we can’t do without nuclear power. We only have it because the true costs are hidden. The technology is a Dr Strangelove wet dream. Start charging the real prices and see how many people think it’s indispensible. The prices must reflect among other factors the true costs for R&D, insurance, and complete waste disposal.

      Claims that shutting off NPPs will lead to more use of fossil fuels serve the interests of big energy first. They have created and benefitted the most from current energy policy in the US. Their hegemony is the reason why costs for Americans do not reflect all of the consequences of their choices. Very few Americans appear to be able to think critically about their way of life, or if they do begin to think critically the consequences loom so threateningly that they reflexively turn away.

  16. TauCety

    Thanks for God,the oil industry has to clean everything after itself,like in the case of the BP Gulf leak.

    Oh,wait a second,they didn’t paid out the fraction of the damage :)
    Actually,if all of the reactor will melt down the result will dwarf the BP oil leak.

    Waste:what is the half life of the CO2?Or the ash from the coal plants? (infinite :) ) The ash will be dangerous even after million years,and the amount of it is higher by four-five magnitude.

  17. kievite

    Actually coal-based electrical generating plants produce more radioactive contamination then nuclear plants because coal is slightly radioactive.

    See: Radiation hazard stemming from coal-fired thermal power stations for population and production personnel
    D. A. Krylov

    Also Chernobyl is a special case. It was botched safety test conducted under the direction of incompetent sociopathic careerist who was Deputy Chief Engineer. He deliberately ignored instructions and dropped power below the allowable level. The reactor became uncontrollable at such level.

    1. Patricia

      The Chernobyl disaster began from botched testing but the reactions and cover-up were of the same type as for Katrina and the Gulf oil explosion, and the recovery was downright awful. And now, there are huge swaths of unusable land in perpetuity, as well as a leaky Chernobyl site, thousands dead, and radiation loose in the DNA of hundreds of thousands of people. And for what?

      Watch 2008 documentary on Chernobyl:

  18. guy baker

    Really though, how many of you BELIEVE the Japanese government and TEPCO is giving accurate up-to-date information on the situation at the nuclear reactors? As far as I can tell, all information is delayed by somewhere between 6 hours and a day and a half, meaning that your real-time discussion may not be based on real-time facts.

    Engineers and Japan specialists among you, what do you think is really happening right now?

    Engineers — are plutonium rods potentially involved as some media reports claim?

    Japan specialists — is there any reason to believe that Japan’s government is not being run in usual headless horseman style?

  19. Marasoiu Puiu Marian

    Aor Organization Freedomilenium&LinkedIn concern
    We are solidare with the peoples from Japanese country and we regret loose of many vuctims who dead in this terribile desaster of nature who strike from two sides,Eartquqe and the bigs waves of tsunamy who was created from the eartquaqe.We do all posibility to mobilization all aor members who is afilliation of aor organization to help with medicare cblanket ,clothes,tents all is ne4cessary in this causes.We cosulting aor experts in domain nuclesr energy to do the best solution to stabiliszation the situation created of the reactor nuclear exploded because it posibile to have much more problems if the temperature it is high and melting the reactor.It is a great problem because nobady don’t know with precision wat is situation in this moment,wat hapend in the reactor deep.Exist a soltion but is ipotetiacl solution to use a combination of water and nitrit of hidrogen ot to combination the water and amoniac liquid to freez the temperature from inside of reactor,but aor experts not have any guaranted that this method will be work.The God to have care of souls of peoples death and take crae and bless the peoples remain in alive in this great night mare.We do a signal alarm from all country from all corner of world to help the peoples japanes in this hard moments from them.We must to not forghet never that we do humans and we must to have compassion from athers peoples who have need from support.
    Mr.Marasoiu Marian Puiu
    Fondator Freedomilenium&LinkedIn concern

  20. SteveK9

    There is a lot of ridiculous hyperbole about this. Especially by career anti-nukes like Lyman. These 40-year-old reactors just experienced an event well outside their design. They weathered the earthquake well, although it was almost 10 X larger than the design spec. The tsunami overwhelmed the backup generators. These things are designed with defense in depth. For example the hydrogen gas explosion was not unexpected (they decided it was worth the risk) and the panels of the building blew outward to protect the primary containment — as desgined. It may well be that one or more of the reactors will be damaged to the point where it will have to be replaced, but there will be no hazardous release of radioactive material (just as was true at TMI). Having to replace things destroyed by this event will not be unique to the reactors.

    Modern designs include passive safety systems designed to cool the reactors in the case of a total loss of coolant, which do not rely on ‘active’ powered systems, e.g. the Westinghouse AP1000.

    If you want a longer analysis check out:

  21. skippy

    Looks like that first explosion was a big cannon pointed straight up, now repeated.

    Funny to hear about how little damage is/was done with the forces released, and the direction they moved in, girders in good nick, cladding was like watching leaves next to a cannon barrel.

  22. triggerfish

    Nuclear containment vessels are very tough. Yes, they can rupture/break under extreme circumstances, such as is going on now. There is no possible way to predict every man made or natural event that can affect every form of energy production. If we chose to live in a high tech world we need high energy. Mankinds demands cannot be met, our greed drives it. Nuclear is the clear choice if we want to continue to live as we do.
    There is a great deal of speculation, assumtion and lack of facts right now, so the sensationalism and neverending loop of hydrogen gas explosions go and on and on……developing a life of its own. Let the facts determine our choices regarding the type of power we wish to use. Solar, wind will not meet our very high needs. We must use all forms in a safe as possible/reasonable manner.

Comments are closed.