Science Local experts speculate on what's going on in Japan?  


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Video all in Japanese showing the extent and the power of the explosion and venting at the

Fukushima, Japan Nuclear Power Plant

The recent Earthquake and resulting Tsunami in Japan has triggered an international outpouring of aid and sympathy.

In Bruce County where power is so important there has been much discussion around coffee about what happened and is happening at the power plants located near the ocean in northern Japan.

The disaster is ongoing at this writing and it is with great sympathy that the world views the Japanese people's struggle to cope with yet another disaster.

People who work with nuclear power every day locally are trying to sort out exactly what occurred and why?  Since about one in every six nuclear reactors are in Japan and Japan exists on the 'ring of fire', many precautions had been taken.

Nuclear power plants need water and this accounts for the location near the ocean of the reactors involved in the disaster.  A chain of events happened so quickly that the plant had no time to react.

 It appears that the force of the quake alerted some automatic systems that would shut the reactor down, but the powerful Tsunami changed everything.   The shut-down took place, but not cooling to the extent needed.  First power was lost and the backup generators were flooded and probably damaged.  A third level of system kicked in that depended upon batteries, but these do not have long life without recharge.

Current reports show that a combination of venting and a dramatic explosion have further dimmed  any clear picture of what is going on as of March 12, 2011 at 9:47 pm. (see above video) The Japanese authorities, who are normally reticent to speculate are now faced with not only world-wide aid, but also a storm of questions.

What is alarming is that cesium-137 has possibly  been detected in the atmosphere. Hopefully this is either not true or in very small amounts. To have some level of cesium in the venting could be expected.  How much was released is the question.

Large amounts of it would be almost impossible to contain once released.  Since it has a half-life of about 30 years, it would pose a long term threat to northern Japan.  The nearby farms and fish processing industry would most certainly have to shut down.

Some experts are saying that using large amounts of untreated sea water to cool the core is an indication of how serious the situation has become. After doing this reconstituting the plant would be difficult.

To further confuse the situation, it has been reported that they are using large amounts of boron to try to cool the core.  They must have had it on hand or rushed it to the site.  It might have been part of their fail-safe process.

Peter Bradford, former head of the US Nuclear Regulartory Commission, said that if the cooling attempts fail:  "...at that point it's a Chernobyl-like situation where you start dumping in sand and cement."

If the core melts all will depend upon the structure of the containment building.  It's unclear how good this structure is.  At Chernobyl it was weak, but at Three Mile Island much stronger.  Some experts, who are familiar with the systems used in Japan claim that it is well engineered and strong.

The dignified and orderly Japanese people will now need all the help they can get.

When Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper are on CNN 18 out of 24 hours, you know that something serious is going on someplace.  Cooper is on his way to the site.


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Saturday, March 12, 2011