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Large earthquake off coast of Japan
March 10, 2011 10:12 PM   Subscribe

Preliminary magnitude 7.9 off Honshu at 05:46 UTC The Pacific Ring of Fire has been living up to its name lately. BBC flash reporting a Tsunami Alert has been issued.
posted by Celsius1414 (3282 comments total) 174 users marked this as a favorite

 
I will be very happy if there is no further interesting news about this event.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:20 PM on March 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


There was a 7.2 in the same area yesterday and a few aftershocks in the 6 range since.
posted by birdherder at 10:23 PM on March 10, 2011


In Tokyo. FUCK. That was scary. So far no one hurt in my office.
posted by gen at 10:23 PM on March 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


Yikes. Hopefully the tsunami doesn't amount to anything...
posted by tracicle at 10:25 PM on March 10, 2011


Looking at the archives on the USGS site (which I've learned about only today when looking for info after my buddy Facebook'd about feeling his Tokyo skyscraper surroundings shaking), this is the strongest quake since Sept. 2009.
posted by birdsquared at 10:25 PM on March 10, 2011


NHK is showing significant damage in Iwate prefecture.
posted by gen at 10:25 PM on March 10, 2011


New revision at the USGS link now saying Magnitude 8.8!
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:26 PM on March 10, 2011


My sister is at the airport there near Honshu, which she just said is being evacuated. Hoping she and everyone there survives and thrives.... (*Fingers crossed*)
posted by Lynsey at 10:27 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. 7.9 is very strong. 8.8 is simply massive.
posted by Justinian at 10:28 PM on March 10, 2011


I just saw this twitpic of aftermath and this video.
posted by mathowie at 10:30 PM on March 10, 2011


Here's hoping that everyone is okay and we get some cool mass dampener videos.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:30 PM on March 10, 2011


Oh shit. I believe 8.8 puts this in the top 5 recorded quakes of all time.

Apparently one of the problems with measuring quakes of this magnitude is that it's harder to define.
posted by loquacious at 10:31 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm hearing unconfirmed reports of a teenager with wings and a sword standing on top of Tokyo Tower when it happened.
posted by kafziel at 10:32 PM on March 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fuck, I just hope the 8.8 isn't ANOTHER pre-shock!
posted by birdsquared at 10:33 PM on March 10, 2011


Japanese television has shown major tsunami damage in northern Japan on Friday, following a magnitude-7.9 earthquake.

Public broadcaster NHK showed cars, trucks, houses and buildings being swept away by tsunami in Onahama city in Fukushima prefecture.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:34 PM on March 10, 2011


According to this link, 8.8 would make this earthquake the 5th-7th largest in the world since 1900!
posted by flyinghamster at 10:35 PM on March 10, 2011


this happened less than an hour ago...


checked cnn, msnbc, fox news


only fox news is covering it now - . -
posted by flyinghamster at 10:38 PM on March 10, 2011


CNN is showing it, including scary footage from NHK.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:39 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to this link, 8.8 would make this earthquake the 5th-7th largest in the world since 1900!

Yeah, I was over-rating it by placing it in the top five. But USGS and other geologic may change the rating after several months, as well as dispute each others results like with the Sumatra quake.
posted by loquacious at 10:39 PM on March 10, 2011


CNN has been covering it non stop, dunno why you didn't see it.

MSNBC, though, is showing the daily rerun of "The Ed Show". They really are a shoestring network.
posted by Justinian at 10:39 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


you are right cnn is... i just checked cnn headline news on accident
posted by flyinghamster at 10:40 PM on March 10, 2011


Al Jazeera Live
posted by Feisty at 10:42 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


there are pictures of a big tsunami now.
posted by Justinian at 10:42 PM on March 10, 2011


Al Jazeera live stream
posted by philip-random at 10:43 PM on March 10, 2011


Live stream here: from NHK
posted by hellojed at 10:43 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the Al Jazeera link, Feisty and philip-random, this looks like good coverage.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


msnbc stopped its war on education now
posted by flyinghamster at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2011


According to the USGS site, there have been 22(!) 5.0+ magnitude quakes in the past three days in the same area, starting with a 7.2 on the 9th.
posted by birdsquared at 10:45 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


now i wish i studied stochastic processes
posted by flyinghamster at 10:46 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks hellojed.
posted by -t at 10:47 PM on March 10, 2011


Oh God. This is not good.
posted by flippant at 10:48 PM on March 10, 2011


If there's one thing I have faith in right now, it's the building codes in Japan
posted by hellojed at 10:52 PM on March 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


Okay, in the Al Jazeera feed of Kamaishi. They are showing the cars floating there, and people have the gonads to drive on the flooded road right next to it. WTF, are you nuts?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:52 PM on March 10, 2011


Just got an email from USGS, looks like an aftershock (or just another "shock", there has been a lot of them...).
posted by BungaDunga at 10:52 PM on March 10, 2011


Now showing revision to 8.9.

These great earthquakes are so bloody elemental -- the earth moves, great waves of water destroy the coast, fires are started...
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:55 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, just watching on CNN video of the tsunami moving whole buildings.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:56 PM on March 10, 2011


There's been a 7.1, 6.8 and 2 6.4's since the now 8.9
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:56 PM on March 10, 2011


Holy shit. Whole buildings being swept away on Al Jazeera.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:56 PM on March 10, 2011


Tokyoite here. That was by far the biggest quake I've experienced. Big time scary on the 6th floor of a bookstore downtown. Half the books fell down. There have been at least three aftershocks, one of those very big. I feel seasick, still now. Wow
posted by zardoz at 10:57 PM on March 10, 2011 [23 favorites]


Horrifying video. Horrifying.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:57 PM on March 10, 2011


Oh s--- is all I can say to the MSNBC coverage - they just showed the tsunami waves hitting.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:57 PM on March 10, 2011


Live coverage: here

Allow scripts from aljazeera.net and brightcove.com
posted by clorox at 10:58 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Possibly just downgraded slightly to 8.4? Tsunami wave 13 feet high.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:59 PM on March 10, 2011


The tsunami footage (we're watching CNN) is terrifying. God.
posted by rtha at 10:59 PM on March 10, 2011


There are buildings on fire in the debris/mudslide moving inexorably with the tsunami.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:01 PM on March 10, 2011


The tsunami footage (we're watching CNN) is terrifying.

This.
posted by juv3nal at 11:03 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watching cars drive on roads that are about to be subsumed in water and debris. The is surreal.
posted by rtha at 11:04 PM on March 10, 2011


This footage is unbelievable.

A friend in Japan reports that he is safe, trying to get back to Tokyo, but all the trains shut down.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:05 PM on March 10, 2011


Holy shit. Live footage of the tsunami on Al Jazeera. This is insane.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:05 PM on March 10, 2011


There's a freaking ship floating on a layer of water down a field.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:05 PM on March 10, 2011


The tsunami footage (we're watching CNN) is terrifying.

It's just awful. That wave is just awful. Taking vehicles and buildings with it. I'm all chocked up.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:07 PM on March 10, 2011


Enormous wave of debris destroying everything. Fires within the devastation. I've never seen anything like this.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:08 PM on March 10, 2011


I have Al Jazeera in a browser tab and MSNBC on TV... the footage they're showing is identical right now.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:09 PM on March 10, 2011


Holy hell.

It's too surreal to feel anything, at least for me, right now.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:10 PM on March 10, 2011


Oh god. The earth is trying to kill us all or something. WTF, planet?!

This is fucking awful.
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:10 PM on March 10, 2011


Dude on CNN just said that the tsunami footage we're looking at is 100 km inland? Can that be right?
posted by rtha at 11:10 PM on March 10, 2011


Footage shows the breakers for the second wave coming in now. Probably taller than the first.
posted by Punkey at 11:11 PM on March 10, 2011


Living in Southern California, I can't help but imagine this happening somewhere nearby. Literally chilling.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:11 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Absolutely mind boggling.
posted by brundlefly at 11:11 PM on March 10, 2011


Another huge wave coming on the feed. Unreal
posted by hellojed at 11:11 PM on March 10, 2011


Holy hell, are we sure this isn't footage from Deep Impact?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:12 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


CNN and Al Jazeera (YouTube channel) are both showing live footage from NHK. Try the YouTube stream if you can't get others to load.
posted by hat at 11:12 PM on March 10, 2011


Absolutely horrifying. I can barely form words.
posted by faineant at 11:12 PM on March 10, 2011


I have lost all satellite transmissions. No cable tv, only internet.This is getting scary, watching CNN midstream it froze.The scenes were,,,I'm speechless.Tsunami alerts for Russia, Marianas :Praying for all of you
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 11:12 PM on March 10, 2011


'Copter footage - two people walking. Camera cropping moves them out of frame as wave of destroyed buildings approach.
posted by Feisty at 11:13 PM on March 10, 2011


This is totally surreal watching a tsunami live. Holy shit.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:14 PM on March 10, 2011


My mouth has been hanging open for many minutes. This is unreal, to watch a tsunami wave come in, to see it crash into the backflow of the previous wave. A long line of waves coming in.
posted by rtha at 11:15 PM on March 10, 2011


Be safe everyone. Take care as best you can - I am praying for you.
posted by helmutdog at 11:15 PM on March 10, 2011


5 M6+ aftershocks so far. I'm so glad my wife and son are well inland from Tokyo.
posted by birdsquared at 11:16 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've had a massive tsunami phobia for years. Watching this is killing me. I'm considering just going to bed and dealing with it in the morning, but man... I don't know if I can go to sleep. All you folks be safe.
posted by brundlefly at 11:16 PM on March 10, 2011




Watching the tsunami in Japan live right now...surreal.

Worried that we'll have a shock here in SoCal too. When one side of the 'ring of fire' has a quake, sometimes the other side has sympathy pains.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:18 PM on March 10, 2011


Holy hell. I can't watch live footage & y'all's descriptions sound just unreal. I'm sending the best of thoughts to all in this insanity's path.
posted by item at 11:18 PM on March 10, 2011


I'm trying to see something on the news about it. They had a quick two minute story and now it's something about 'healing hands'. Thanks, channel 7!
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:19 PM on March 10, 2011


Stay safe and keep checking in, people in the way of this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:20 PM on March 10, 2011


Hawaii Tsunami Watch
Pacific-Wide Tsunami Watch/Warning

Current estimate time of arrival at Hawaii is 0259 AM Local. Let people know.
posted by Punkey at 11:20 PM on March 10, 2011


Just checking in here because maybe a couple people who know about me know that I live in Japan. I'm on the west coast, so I'm basically tsunami-proof, but there was a pretty big earthquake about 100km-ish from here a month ago. But I'm okay, for what it's worth.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:21 PM on March 10, 2011 [13 favorites]


We can watch people being swallowed up by a tsunami live and we can't do anything about it. The extraordinary extent and the terrible limitations of our technology.
posted by andraste at 11:21 PM on March 10, 2011 [49 favorites]


AJ showing a (refinery? power plant?) wreathed in flames, small fires ringing candy-cane striped smokestacks which appear untouched.
posted by boo_radley at 11:22 PM on March 10, 2011


Jonathanstrange, the best bet you have is The Al -Jazeera stream linked previously
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 11:22 PM on March 10, 2011


I'm sure this fascination with those waves will turn into utter horror later, but right now I can't process both.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:23 PM on March 10, 2011


Agreed, andraste...

I'm watching footage of the initial wave coming upon cars and yelling at the screen hoping they drive like hell and aren't swallowed up.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:23 PM on March 10, 2011


There was a footage of something on fire and being moved along in the debris flow. That will be the iconic shot here.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I switched channels. There's footage now of an oil refinery on fire. It's an inferno.
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:23 PM on March 10, 2011


oh my god, the gas storage units.
posted by boo_radley at 11:24 PM on March 10, 2011


Wow, this is horrible. A wave just ate Sendai Airport, surrounding a large crowd of refugees on the roof, and there's an oil refinery on fire in Chiba-ken.

It's like '95 all over again.
posted by vorfeed at 11:24 PM on March 10, 2011


Sendai Airport has been inundated.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:24 PM on March 10, 2011


Us too, rachaelfaith. There were a whole lot of cars just stopping before and people getting out and running. I think the road might be damaged from the quake and that's stopping people getting away.
posted by andraste at 11:25 PM on March 10, 2011


I'm just outside Tokyo, and the fucked up thing is this is my last day at this school. I was all set to go home hours before the earthquake, but some students from the music club invited me to see them flail away at their guitars for awhile. I stayed, and it was fun, and then all hell broke loose. I've never really been scared during an earthquake before, but then teachers in my office told me to get under my desk.

No one is hurt, and there were no classes today, just student clubs and sports teams, so there aren't as many students here. I'm feeling sick from the aftershocks, and it's hard to tell when the next one starts, since everything seems to be rolling.

I heard from my sister in law that my wife and her parents are okay, but I still can't get through to anyone. I'm worried about my house, and my cat. I have no idea when the trains will be running. My s-i-l said that one of the factories near her school had an explosion, and there's black smoke in the air in Soga, near Chiba City. (No Neuromancer jokes, k?) I'm worried about the gas in my house, since you're supposed to turn it off when you leave, but we never do. Fuck. Fuck this is not fun.

I hope all the Japan Mefites are okay. We should meet up, do a headcount, then start drinking to relieve the stress.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:25 PM on March 10, 2011 [67 favorites]


AJ just stated that the quake was felt as far away as Beijing.
posted by zachlipton at 11:26 PM on March 10, 2011


Thanks, youhavetoreadthistwice. I put on ABC2, a 24 hour news station and am hooked up now.
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:26 PM on March 10, 2011


Be safe, Ghidorah.
posted by rtha at 11:27 PM on March 10, 2011


Stay safe, Ghidorah, gomichild, the esteemed flapjax at midnite, and all other Japanese MeFites.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:27 PM on March 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


Holy crap holy crap holy crap holy crap. Glued to Al Jazeera.
posted by Phire at 11:28 PM on March 10, 2011


Word has it that Tokyo Disneyland is getting hit, which is just an extremely weird and post-apocalyptic sort of mental image. This is just so surreal. I just got off the phone with a friend, telling him that the entire first floor of the school he's in 30m from the coast in a 3m tsunami area (arriving in about fifteen minutes) is likely to be submerged, and suggesting that he get in his car and just drive, preferably toward the mountains.

This is on basically every channel here right now. The coverage is inescapable.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:28 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


.


I can't watch any more, I think.

In 2004, wasn't there a real-time thread here that surfaced a quick-turn projected wave height simulation while the tsunami was rolling? I looked for the thread but it didn't seem to show in the search results.
posted by mwhybark at 11:28 PM on March 10, 2011


From the 'well, at least it's not raining department...

It's just starting to fucking rain.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:28 PM on March 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Welp. Not getting to sleep tonight like I'd planned. Al-Jazeera streaming on the laptop and MSNBC on the TV.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:28 PM on March 10, 2011


reports 10 meter tsunami hit the airport
posted by faineant at 11:29 PM on March 10, 2011


So glad gomi has just, like a few days ago, moved to Australia.
posted by tracicle at 11:29 PM on March 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


Ten meter tsunami hit Sendai Airport. Enormous conflagration at an oil refinery.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:29 PM on March 10, 2011


Al Jazeera says Kyoto news is reporting a 10m tsunami hit the Sendai airport
posted by Decimask at 11:29 PM on March 10, 2011


This is big.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:31 PM on March 10, 2011


I can't... these people waving their arms and white sheets frantically out of their windows- I can't watch.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:32 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Without a hint of irony, the cnn woman just said she's being flooded by tweets. Really, cnn?
posted by heyho at 11:32 PM on March 10, 2011


The airport shown on the al jarezza network is sendai, according to google maps, just confirmed by the news anchors as well.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:33 PM on March 10, 2011


Even my industry is not so morbidly creative as to put shit on fire inside a giant roving wall of mud. Dear God.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:33 PM on March 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


REVISED TSUNAMI WARNING
posted by Punkey at 11:33 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


google map of Sendai, including the airport, if you want to match the footage to a map.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:33 PM on March 10, 2011


THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC
OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...
WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.
... A WIDESPREAD TSUNAMI WARNING IS IN EFFECT ...
A TSUNAMI WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR
JAPAN / RUSSIA / MARCUS IS. / N. MARIANAS / GUAM / WAKE IS. /
TAIWAN / YAP / PHILIPPINES / MARSHALL IS. / BELAU / MIDWAY IS. /
POHNPEI / CHUUK / KOSRAE / INDONESIA / PAPUA NEW GUINEA /
NAURU / JOHNSTON IS. / SOLOMON IS. / KIRIBATI / HOWLAND-BAKER /
HAWAII / TUVALU / PALMYRA IS. / VANUATU / TOKELAU / JARVIS IS. /
WALLIS-FUTUNA / SAMOA / AMERICAN SAMOA / COOK ISLANDS / NIUE /
AUSTRALIA / FIJI / NEW CALEDONIA / TONGA / MEXICO /
KERMADEC IS / FR. POLYNESIA / NEW ZEALAND / PITCAIRN /
GUATEMALA / EL SALVADOR / COSTA RICA / NICARAGUA / ANTARCTICA /
PANAMA / HONDURAS / CHILE / ECUADOR / COLOMBIA / PERU
posted by Punkey at 11:34 PM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is this the big, overdue earthquake that we've been expecting?
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:34 PM on March 10, 2011


That wall of mud, fire and debris just inexorably crawling, creeping inland is really hard to watch.
posted by loquacious at 11:34 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't... these people waving their arms and white sheets frantically out of their windows- I can't watch.

Yeah, some weird trembling inside my head started when I saw that. I'm pretty sure I saw a body on some debris for a moment.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:35 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Assessment for West Coast of the US and Alaska is coming soon.
posted by Punkey at 11:35 PM on March 10, 2011


.

First death reported.

Watching the tsunami spread around on these fields is absolutely surreal. It looks almost like it's computer generated, with boats and trucks and flotsam and jetsam floating around.
posted by kdar at 11:35 PM on March 10, 2011


ENOUGH ALREADY MOTHER NATURE!
posted by Space Kitty at 11:36 PM on March 10, 2011


A giant wall of water.

On fire.

What
The
Fuck
posted by mrzarquon at 11:36 PM on March 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The woman on there now is describing the way the rumble just kept growing - I know how it is and it's a horrible, horrible feeling. Those poor people, I am so sorry.
posted by tracicle at 11:36 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've watched a few cars driving at rather high speeds trying to outrun debris/water, and then getting cut off and trying to turn around, even though they're cut off behind as well. Then I lose them in the debris.
posted by loquacious at 11:37 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy fuck, the wall of water. Jesus. I need a drink.
posted by Phire at 11:37 PM on March 10, 2011


Today was high school and middle school graduation in Japan, meaning that a large number of kids had just gone home safely.

Also, I'd like to point out that there was an action movie recently called Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 which imagined the disaster that would happen if Tokyo was hit by a big earthquake. Now Tokyo really was hit by the worst earthquake in a very long time, and I haven't seen reports of a single building falling down, nor have the trucks and boat docks slamming into bridges and buildings caused any noticeable damage. I feel very grateful to be living in a country that plans seriously for these disasters.
posted by shii at 11:37 PM on March 10, 2011 [31 favorites]


Assessment for West Coast of the US and Alaska is coming soon.

Huh. It never even occurred to me to worry about the west coast. Wouldn't the size and strength of a tsunami dissipate rapidly with distance as the length of the wavefront becomes longer and longer?
posted by Justinian at 11:37 PM on March 10, 2011


A NHK stream is also live at http://jibtv.com/program/?page=0
posted by zachlipton at 11:37 PM on March 10, 2011


Feeling kind of cold and sick.

gomichild must be freaking out about all her friends back home. But I'm glad she's safe.
posted by rtha at 11:38 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ten fucking metre tsunami. Oh fuck.
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:38 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


NHK (watching it on my phone, from the post-apocalyptic future!) is showing the refineries on fire near where my s-i-l works. I'm getting less optimistic about the condition of my house.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:38 PM on March 10, 2011


Sorry to hear it Ghidorah.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:39 PM on March 10, 2011


Best of luck to you and your family, Ghidorah. I'm so sorry.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:39 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That refinery complex in Ichihara that's on fire... that's the biggest one in Japan, yes? The one overlooking the bay?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:39 PM on March 10, 2011


Ghidorah - I am so sorry. If I were there I would come and sit with you.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:40 PM on March 10, 2011


Justinian: Probably not, the last serious tsunami that hit California was after the 1964 Alaska earthquake, a 9.2. That caused a 6 meter tsunami in northern California.
posted by Punkey at 11:40 PM on March 10, 2011


Statement for the West coast of the U.S. NO tsunami warning, watch or advisory is in effect for these areas.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:40 PM on March 10, 2011


Oh god, ghidorah. I'm thinking of you all.
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:40 PM on March 10, 2011


The main quake was 8.9 on moment magnitude scale (US) and 8.4 on Japan Meteorological Agency scale.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:41 PM on March 10, 2011


Roof caved in on a 600 student graduation ceremony
posted by mrzarquon at 11:42 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


A tsunami seems to have hit Fukushima, too. Man, it looks just chaotic.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 PM on March 10, 2011


IvoShandor: That was the original statement issued at 2158 PST. The PTWS is still preparing its assessment given the existence of new tsunami data.

Tsunami Warning Revised for Hawaii
posted by Punkey at 11:43 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


USGS list of latest earthquakes M5.0+ -- look at all the aftershocks.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:43 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My heart goes out to all of you in danger or with loved ones in danger. I'm so, so sorry!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:43 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah, I am so sorry.
posted by faineant at 11:43 PM on March 10, 2011


Thanks for the kind words, but it's just a house. The upsetting thing is that the world just won't fucking stop shaking. There is, right now, another fucking aftershock. It's really starting to upset me in an emotional way. But again, thanks to everyone.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:45 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two different tsunami warning centers in the U.S. Linked from tsunami.gov. Watch for updates. Alaska, Cali and other west coast areas are covered by one, and the rest of the Pacific by the other.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:45 PM on March 10, 2011


I've been watching the AlJazeera feed for the past hour. I should be either doing homework or going to bed (well, both, just not at the same time), but I can't tear my eyes away from this. The tsunami footage is so hard to process -- watching cars and people on the roads, trying to get away, and then suddenly being engulfed by the wave of water, mud, and burning debris.

The only thing my brain has to relate this to is a big-budget disaster movie...but I'm having a hard time with the realization that all those cars aren't being driven by CGI sprites.
posted by djwudi at 11:46 PM on March 10, 2011


MSNBC hoping people are not stupid enough to go down to the beaches to watch the tsunami in the warned areas. Reporting that the tsunami moves at about the speed of a jet plane so that's about how much time it will take.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:47 PM on March 10, 2011


Wow. This footage is just unreal. Prayers for all Mefites and everyone who will be affected.
posted by pearlybob at 11:47 PM on March 10, 2011


Prime Minister (Japan's) saying basically what everyone one of us are thinking, that's trying to minimize the after-effects...how sad it makes me. Absofuckinglutely nothing anybody can do.
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 11:48 PM on March 10, 2011


Good lord, the footage of the wave of water and flaming debris and large boats being swept ashore, and then as the camera pans, you see cars racing from it ... oh hell, I hope they survived.
posted by zippy at 11:48 PM on March 10, 2011




Jesus, watching a 40+ foot boat being pushed across those fields likes its a styrofoam bouy is disturbing.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:48 PM on March 10, 2011


the large boats swept ashore are about as long as what looks like an 18-wheeler tractor trailer in the shot.
posted by zippy at 11:49 PM on March 10, 2011


IvoShandor: Thanks for the heads up. I can't think of the last time the west coast of US and Canada was threatened by a Japanese tsunami, and neither can Google. West Coast MeFites, we can probably breathe easy.
posted by Punkey at 11:50 PM on March 10, 2011


Fuck. Watching cars trying to escape the water. There aren't words.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:50 PM on March 10, 2011




zippy- thats 60ft + in that case.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:51 PM on March 10, 2011


The tsunami footage is so hard to process

Yeah, my brain is having a hard time figuring these images out. No disaster movie I've ever seen has even come close.
posted by rtha at 11:51 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear Earth, I'm so sorry I bitched about the 4 inches of rain we're getting. I take it all back, I swear.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:52 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Weather Channel also following along. They're kind of groping their way along. Was watching MSNBC, and they're trying to figure out what happens when the wave hits Hawaii and the US West Coast. It's really hard to say. There are too many variables in the undersea terrain that dictate how the wave appears on any coastline.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:53 PM on March 10, 2011


I can't think of the last time the west coast of US and Canada was threatened by a Japanese tsunami, and neither can Google. West Coast MeFites, we can probably breathe easy.

The opposite (US Coast to Japan) happened according to scientists in 1700, Cascadia Earthquake
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:53 PM on March 10, 2011


Ivo, thanks, that was more or less what I was looking for.
posted by mwhybark at 11:53 PM on March 10, 2011


This is terrible, but I have to give credit to the Japanese for preparedness. If this was almost anywhere else, the destruction would have been many many times worse.
posted by geckoinpdx at 11:53 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh. It never even occurred to me to worry about the west coast.

Alaska and mainland US Pacific Coast is not currently on watch. It will be re-evaluated shortly.

If you're on the Pacific I'd keep an eye on the news or warnings tonight. If it's not a problem when it hits Hawaii, it'll likely be nothing here on the West coast.

Something that can happen that can't really be predicted is the effect of a tsunami surge on harbors, channels or river outlets. There have been cases of really small tsunami surges being amplified when they enter narrower and shallower waterways. For example a 6" (yes, inch) tsunami surge caused extensive damage at a harbor near where I grew up that amplified it in just the right way, which tossed a lot of expensive boats and docks around and made a mess of things.
posted by loquacious at 11:53 PM on March 10, 2011


Has anybody elese have freezing of cable signals? I know this is no time for speculation, and I can't find anything related to solar flares/storms except the one from the day before yesterday but it brings the weird in me...
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 11:55 PM on March 10, 2011


so heartbreaking to see a car moving because that if it's moving that means there's someone in it and if it's anywhere in the same shot as the wavefront, they are not making it out of harm's way. I can't watch anymore.
posted by juv3nal at 11:56 PM on March 10, 2011


Wow, Japan has been absolutely pummeled by quakes over the last 3 days. Ottawa had a 5.0 a while ago, I can't even imagine something 10,000 times as powerful.
posted by Decimask at 11:57 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to give credit to the Japanese for preparedness. If this was almost anywhere else, the destruction would have been many many times worse.

This times a thousand.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:57 PM on March 10, 2011


Thank god the nuclear power stations shut down automatically.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:58 PM on March 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so sorry, Japan :(
posted by heyho at 11:58 PM on March 10, 2011


> Yeah, my brain is having a hard time figuring these images out. No disaster movie I've ever seen has even come close.

The pace of the liquid moving is something I have never seen on this scale before.

It looks like all the times I built a play dam at the beach and then let it go and saw it was away the debris and stuff i put in it's path.

Its just instead of toy boats, its covering 60ft + vessels, and outpacing cars driving at full speed on the highway.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:59 PM on March 10, 2011


Watched a little white car, driving towards the wave, seeing the wave approach, panic stop, 3 point turn, and burning rubber for about 10 feet before the wave caught him.

No words. I just feel sick.
posted by pjern at 12:00 AM on March 11, 2011


Oh my god. Feeling utterly overwhelmed watching that Al Jazeera live video.

So worried about flapjax.
posted by nickyskye at 12:00 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


National Data Buoy Center http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/

(sorry if this is a double, I'm not keeping up well with all the posts.)
posted by girlhacker at 12:00 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Farming in that area will be devastated for years. When the wave sweeps away farm buildings, you can see all the rich topsoil get washed out.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:00 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


BBC article, with live video feed linked inside:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:01 AM on March 11, 2011


and then as the camera pans, you see cars racing from it

..and you can see one individual running down the road and sucked into the maelstrom..
posted by stbalbach at 12:01 AM on March 11, 2011


Heard that my Tokyo coworkers are okay, though there are some buildings on fire near them. Amazing that even after a 8.8 they have internet. I'm not sure San Francisco would fair the same.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:01 AM on March 11, 2011


.

Not going to sleep well tonight.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:02 AM on March 11, 2011


My daughter was evacuated from the Tokyo airport. No word from her since.
posted by Cranberry at 12:02 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there a relationship between climate change and earthquake incidence?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 AM on March 11, 2011


Hope you hear from her soon, Cranberry.
posted by tracicle at 12:03 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


So worried about flapjax.

Yeah, can we have a quick sound off? I'm sure many people are busy, away from computers and whatever, but it would be nice to know you're all okay.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:03 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I added some NZ tweeters to my feed after the Christchurch quake and they had reported a notably large aftershock today. IIRC it's not super scientific to relate widely separated seismic activity but it's, you know, hard not to.

Again trying to think back to 2004, didn't someone note that the various wave-height measuring devices (noted on the map Ivo linked upthread) report data to the web publically? Seems like I recall refreshing several datapages as the water moved across the ocean.
posted by mwhybark at 12:04 AM on March 11, 2011


Cranberry - my buddy in Japan said that phone lines (including cellphones) are problematic, so that's likely why you haven't heard from her. Narita is not terribly close to the ocean.
posted by birdsquared at 12:04 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there a relationship between climate change and earthquake incidence?

I'm not aware of a direct causal relationship.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:05 AM on March 11, 2011


It's hard not to feel a little depressed at the contrast, my neighbors down the hall just showed up, drunk and merry and oblivious. Didn't feel like telling them.

On the other hand, none of us are anywhere near a coastline of any sort. So that's good news on a personal level, I suppose. Still, would be nice to not know about this right now.

Sleep time, I think. The truly terrifying thing (for me) is that the Cascadia fault is still raring to go off pop, and that's where my family lives. Gonna bet that the US will be so, so much less prepared for a tsunami/earthquake of this magnitude.

Is there a relationship between climate change and earthquake incidence?
No, but I hear HAARP and chemtrails have been causing them.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:05 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm unfamiliar with tsunami/earthquake relations... there are some reports of incoming, larger tsunami waves? 10 meters? Is that true/possible? Can anyone find a source for this?

I hope what I've heard is wrong.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:05 AM on March 11, 2011


I would imagine that flapjax is walking home with the rest of Tokyo. Hope to hear from him soon
posted by Burhanistan at 12:06 AM on March 11, 2011


AJE is going into re-run territory now, the speech from the PM has been played twice and some of the footage of the wave of water pushing along debris is definitely being repeated.
posted by Phire at 12:06 AM on March 11, 2011


@BungaDunga - Yeah especially looking across the valley where I live, you can see the line of the San Andreas fault...along with all the new houses they built right on top.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:07 AM on March 11, 2011


Tsunami waves come in multiple... waves.

Narita is not terribly close to the ocean.

Narita is supposed to be back open.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:07 AM on March 11, 2011


Girlhacker linked to the bouy thing I was thinking of.
posted by mwhybark at 12:07 AM on March 11, 2011


Comparative Infographic
posted by a non e mouse at 12:07 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I was going to go to sleep, but I need to stay up for final word on West Coast.
posted by brundlefly at 12:07 AM on March 11, 2011


Thanks, ZeusHumms.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 AM on March 11, 2011


> 10 meters? Is that true/possible? Can anyone find a source for this?

reports are a 10 meter wave at Sendai airport, which is the giant wall of water that Al Jazerra has been showing sweeping over cars and debris. The 10 meters may be 'wave at landfall' it would get lower the further inland it got, but would have a huge amount of inertia behind it.

earthquakes in the ocean can shift a huge amount of land mass, that displaces a huge amount of energy into water, which transfers to waves, which make tsunamis. The shallowaer the earthquake, the more the energy gets turned into waves, etc.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:09 AM on March 11, 2011


The NHK live feed is carrying the cabinet minister's press conference if you want an alternate stream.
posted by zachlipton at 12:09 AM on March 11, 2011


Any news how far inland has the damage has progressed?
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 12:09 AM on March 11, 2011


walking home with the rest of Tokyo

I just checked. 18 km. Probably the best way to go about it.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:10 AM on March 11, 2011


A mention of a Tsunami surge, upthread - Vancouver Island had one in 1964 at the end of the 30 mile long Port Alberni inlet. This incident occured with a second wave that was 3 meters high, devastated the town, but fortunately no lives were lost.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:10 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you, mrzarquon.
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:10 AM on March 11, 2011


The NHK live feed is carrying the cabinet minister's press conference if you want an alternate stream.

Bah.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:10 AM on March 11, 2011


I add my hopes that all Mefites and friends and family of will come through this safe and sound.

Here in southern Korea, about 800 kilometres away, it's late afternoon and I felt no tremor when it happened. Given we have the whole of Japan between us and the quake, I don't think there's a wave warning here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:10 AM on March 11, 2011


5.9
6.1
6.1
6.3
5.9
5.8
6.3
6.3
7.1
6.8
6.4
6.4


And that's just the M5.0+ aftershocks.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:10 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]




National Weather Service in US can't seem to agree on their websites. West Coast Tsunami center shows no watch as of 9:58pm Pacific, NWS in Portland shows tsunami watch for Oregon/Washington Coasts as of 11:59pm Pacific.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:11 AM on March 11, 2011


Correction to above comment: Tsunami WATCH for Washington and Oregon.
posted by Punkey at 12:12 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm unfamiliar with tsunami/earthquake relations... there are some reports of incoming, larger tsunami waves? 10 meters? Is that true/possible? Can anyone find a source for this?

I think 10 meters is possible, but it depends on the topology of the land underwater leading up to the coastline. 10 meters was reported at one airport. When the tsunami hits other parts of the world, the height will be be dependent on the energy in the wave, plus how the local coastlines are shaped underwater.

The wikipedia description has a nice graphic that shows how the wave height can build close to shore.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:12 AM on March 11, 2011


That refinery fire, damn.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:13 AM on March 11, 2011


Ichihara oil refinery fire now even worse. Horrifying pics on CNN.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:13 AM on March 11, 2011


Ah, quite. Watch. Sorry.

Thanks. Yes, definitely need to go to bed. Stay safe and sane, MeFites.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2011


No Tsunami Watch yet for Vancouver, BC as far as I know so far. As others have mentioned there is one for Washington tomorrow around 4:00 PM. I have two friends in South Korea right now, hoping to hear from them that they are alright! My thoughts are with the people in Japan!
posted by Bron-Y-Aur at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


After watching that footage of the airport several times, I have to ask where all the aircraft are? Did they get swept away? And were there passengers on them at the time?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2011


oh god people on my twitter feed stop RTing the goddamn quakeprediction idiot
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:15 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


A seismologist in new zealand said their current estimate was 1 meter, which considering that their tidal range is 2 meters for that region, if the wave hit at low tide, it wouldn't be a big problem. at high tide, it would just be like a serious tidal flooding.

However the bigger problem is even at low tide, you would not want to be at the beach, the waves are traveling at closer to jet speeds, and there are going to be frequent and repeated battering of them, not to mention that the tides usually are draw out as the waves approach (the early hawaii tsunami claimed a lot of lives because the tide went out so quickly that people went down onto the beach to collect all the fish left behind, not knowing about the oncoming wave), so even though there may not be structural damage in a place getting a 1 meter tsunami surge, it still means "don't go in the water" from all the places I have seen.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:16 AM on March 11, 2011


The National Weather Service mentions the potential tsunami time hitting Oregon:

THE ARRIVAL TIME FOR THE INITIAL WAVE ON THE OREGON AND
WASHINGTON COAST IS ESTIMATED TO OCCUR AROUND 715 AM.


which matches the tsumani time chart mentioned earlier.
posted by eye of newt at 12:17 AM on March 11, 2011


Al Jazeera just showed a hellish inferno at that oil refinery. Jesus fucking Christ.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:17 AM on March 11, 2011


Tsunami watch now up for the Northern Oregon and Southern Washington coasts. Florence, OR, to Long Beach, WA, roughly.
posted by dw at 12:17 AM on March 11, 2011


Giant refinery fireball on the Al Jazeera stream.
posted by zippy at 12:18 AM on March 11, 2011


I have two friends in South Korea right now, hoping to hear from them that they are alright!

Don't worry, they are. I'm as close to Japan as you can be and still be on mainland Korea, basically, and as I said above, I felt nothing. Unless we do get a sea surge, but I have so far no heard that this is expected.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:18 AM on March 11, 2011


Okay, since tsunami warnings and watches are out for the vast majority of the Pacific Rim at this point, I think it's worth stating the NOAA definitions for both:

Tsunami Watch - An alert issued to areas outside the warned area. The area included in the watch is based on the magnitude of the earthquake. For earthquakes over magnitude 7.0, the watch area is 1 hour tsunami travel time outside the warning zone. For all earthquakes over magnitude 7.5, the watch area is 3 hours tsunami travel time outside the warning zone. The watch will either be upgraded to a warning in subsequent bulletins or will be cancelled depending on the severity of the tsunami.

Tsunami Warning - Indicates that a tsunami is imminent and that coastal locations in the warned area should prepare for flooding. The initial warning is typically based on seismic information alone. Earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 trigger a warning covering the coastal regions within 2 hours tsunami travel time from the epicenter. When the magnitude is over 7.5, the warned area is increased to 3 hours tsunami travel time. As water level data showing the tsunami is recorded, the warning will either be cancelled, restricted, expanded incrementally, or expanded in the event of a major tsunami.
posted by Punkey at 12:20 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just heard on Al Jazeera site, "This is the biggest earthquake to hit Japan in at least 300 years."
posted by nickyskye at 12:20 AM on March 11, 2011


That refinery fire is insane. I suppose all they can do is watch it burn.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:20 AM on March 11, 2011


South and Central California NOAA Tsunami watch just came up on Emergency Broadcast Stytem. Arrival times: SanFrancisco 8:16, SantaBarbara 8:24, LaHoya 8:48.
posted by zengargoyle at 12:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Don't worry, they are. I'm as close to Japan as you can be and still be on mainland Korea, basically, and as I said above, I felt nothing. Unless we do get a sea surge, but I have so far no heard that this is expected.

They are! Just heard from them. She says people there aren't that concerned about it affecting them much, but of course they are worried for those in Japan right now.
posted by Bron-Y-Aur at 12:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Watching live coverage on NZ TV, not sure of the source (Newsline?), but showing the studio lights rocking in a strong aftershock.
posted by tracicle at 12:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Basically, for this earthquake, if you're within 3 hours of tsunami travel time from an area given a tsunami warning, then you're going to be under tsunami watch. It's NOT something that you need to panic about, but it does mean that you should pay attention to further news alerts, in case the tsunami is more severe than predicted.
posted by Punkey at 12:23 AM on March 11, 2011


My friend in west Tokyo says that there is very little structural damage in Shibuya, but everything to the north is smoke and fire from the inferno at the Chiba Prefecture.
posted by sarastro at 12:23 AM on March 11, 2011


Holy cow. This footage is just awful to watch. Just saw the fireball as well, and hearing the first death reports come in - eight so far, on the feed I'm watching.
posted by po at 12:23 AM on March 11, 2011


Is there a relationship between climate change and earthquake incidence?

There's some theories and proof that melting glaciers or ice packs redistribute the weight, which when that ice is on land actually weighs a significant amount, which can cause earthquakes as previously weighed down crust floats a little higher on the magma, which can cause a local quakes.

But good luck trying to tie that into large scale plate tectonics and geology and proving the theory. If you can do that you can probably accurately model and predict quakes, too, but the system is difficult to observe, and it's so complicated that's it's very difficult to to model anything but smaller segments of the whole geological system.
posted by loquacious at 12:23 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


For anyone unfamiliar with how the Richter Scale works, the 8.9 magnitude is 1000 times stronger than the initial 7.7 assessment.

My thoughts are with everyone affected.

loquacious: "Huh. It never even occurred to me to worry about the west coast.

Alaska and mainland US Pacific Coast is not currently on watch. It will be re-evaluated shortly.
"

Local news in LA just reported a tsunami watch for LA and Ventura Counties, and "strange water currents" for L.A. because of the fault lines.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:23 AM on March 11, 2011


That refinery fire is insane. I suppose all they can do is watch it burn.
They have showed a bunch of teeny little fire trucks, spraying tiny ineffectual streams near the refinery fire. They might as well be spitting on it.
posted by bink at 12:25 AM on March 11, 2011


"Tsunami expected to hit #Hawaii at 8 am this morning according to @ABC News."
posted by nickyskye at 12:25 AM on March 11, 2011


I am in western Tokyo right now. The first earthquake was the biggest that I've ever experienced, and it was the same for the other residents of the apartment building I live in. Aftershocks have mostly been weaker, but are still happening. A rather strong one is happening now as I write this.

No damage in my immediate area but we are in the outskirts. I haven't seen more central areas of Tokyo, but a friend says that they've evacuated the highrise she works in and let everybody go home. Trains are not running from what I know. It was actually eerie how little things seemed to have changed when we went outside after the first quake. The power lines were all still swinging a little bit, but traffic had picked up again. I had little idea of how major the damage had been until I went back and switched on the TV.

I have relatives in Miyagi, not too far from the epicenter. I can't yet reach them by phone, but I'm hopeful that they are ok. They live inland and on high ground.
posted by mariokrat at 12:25 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


At this point, we should assume that Hawaii will get hit with a tsunami in a few hours, right? I'm reading that sirens are sounding in Honolulu, but will most people in smaller towns or on the other islands get warned in time? Will they go house to house?
posted by Asparagirl at 12:25 AM on March 11, 2011




LA Ch 9 news saying entire West Coast under Tsunami Watch, but that's to be expected.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:27 AM on March 11, 2011


"Russia evacuates 11,000 people from areas that could be affected by tsunami, including Kuril islands and Sakhalin island."
posted by nickyskye at 12:27 AM on March 11, 2011


This is a horrible thing to have happen ever, but the timing is particularly cruel given the number of Japanese citizens likely killed in the Christchurch earthquakes and the generosity of the Japanese government in sending so many of their experienced Urban Search and Rescue teams to NZ to help out there.

As noted already, those shots of the Tsunami waters are absolutely mind-bogglingly awful.

Kia Kaha Japan
posted by urban greeting at 12:27 AM on March 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Is there a relationship between climate change and earthquake incidence?

In Greenland/Iceland, as ice caps melt the earth rebounds upwards causing increased earthquakes.

A more immediate effect is the 'Supermoon' coming on March 19th, when the moon and sun align on opposite sides of the earth increase of earthquakes due to gravitational pull.
posted by stbalbach at 12:28 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


@Asparagirl - I expect so. They're well prepared there.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:28 AM on March 11, 2011


But good luck trying to tie that into large scale plate tectonics and geology and proving the theory. If you can do that you can probably accurately model and predict quakes, too, but the system is difficult to observe, and it's so complicated that's it's very difficult to to model anything but smaller segments of the whole geological system.

Yeah, I was just wondering if all the extra heat energy in our environment ends up as an input to tectonic fault movement — in other words, if earthquakes are stronger of late, on average, as a result of global temperature increases.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:28 AM on March 11, 2011


Asparagirl: "At this point, we should assume that Hawaii will get hit with a tsunami in a few hours, right? I'm reading that sirens are sounding in Honolulu, but will most people in smaller towns or on the other islands get warned in time? Will they go house to house"

Asparagirl, yes - a friend's relative living in Hawaii left off of Facebook about 20 minutes ago saying "Gotta go, just heard tsunami sirens," so they're clearly expecting it.
posted by po at 12:29 AM on March 11, 2011




For anyone unfamiliar with how the Richter Scale works, the 8.9 magnitude is 1000 times stronger than the initial 7.7 assessment.

Er, that's overstating it by a bunch. A one-step increase in the scale we use now (which is related to but not the same as the much older Richter scale) means about a 30fold increase in energy release. And two step increase is about a one thousand times increase in energy release. So 1.2 is a lot closer to 32x than 1000x.

Even so, energy release is not the same as the strength of shaking. You don't feel one thousand times as much of a jolt between a 7.0 and a 5.0. Oh, it's definitely feels a bunch more intense but not a thousand times more intense.
posted by Justinian at 12:30 AM on March 11, 2011




stbalbach: Not sure if you were being sarcastic, but that "supermoon" thing is sheer astrological crackpottery.

My thoughts are with all those affected in Japan and the surrounding areas.
posted by teraflop at 12:31 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


the generosity of the Japanese government in sending so many of their experienced Urban Search and Rescue teams to NZ to help out there.

My thoughts exactly. I hope we can mobilise a New Zealand contingent fast and in numbers, but I imagine many of our people are at their limits already.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:33 AM on March 11, 2011




Erm, I meant to say -outside- of Honolulu, in Hawaii, Asparagirl. So more than just Honolulu has sirens - don't know about really rural areas, but I'd imagine door to door might be the way to go.
posted by po at 12:36 AM on March 11, 2011


O hell. Just talked to a neighbour -- her sister is currently in Kiribati. Which is about 1m about sea level, near the equator. I don't hold out much hope for them or many other low islands at the moment.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:38 AM on March 11, 2011


"Yeah, I was just wondering if all the extra heat energy in our environment ends up as an input to tectonic fault movement — in other words, if earthquakes are stronger of late, on average, as a result of global temperature increases."

The heat in the atmosphere is nothing compared to the heat within the Earth, it's like comparing a candle to a nuclear bomb. This is a terrible tragedy, but it's just random, the product of natural forces.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:38 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Christ.
posted by maxwelton at 12:38 AM on March 11, 2011


Justinian: "For anyone unfamiliar with how the Richter Scale works, the 8.9 magnitude is 1000 times stronger than the initial 7.7 assessment.

Er, that's overstating it by a bunch. A one-step increase in the scale we use now (which is related to but not the same as the much older Richter scale) means about a 30fold increase in energy release. And two step increase is about a one thousand times increase in energy release. So 1.2 is a lot closer to 32x than 1000x.


Wow, I've been Doing It Wrong my whole life! I stand corrected.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:39 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Revised Hawaii Tsunami Warning

Fortunately, I just checked the tide tables, with a new estimated arrival time of about 0300, the tsunami should reach Hawaii a half-hour or so before low tide, so the impact should be minimized.
posted by Punkey at 12:39 AM on March 11, 2011


stbalbach: Not sure if you were being sarcastic, but that "supermoon" thing is sheer astrological crackpottery.

Read the article I linked, it talks about the increase chance of earthquakes (and ignore the astrology stuff).
posted by stbalbach at 12:40 AM on March 11, 2011


And another earthquake in Fukushima and Ibaraki. STOP EARTHQUAKING JAPAN
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:44 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Emergency services in HI are authorized to evacuate inundation zones, those areas calculated to be affected severely by sudden increases in ocean height. They will go door to door if necessary, as well as try to close access to any who try to enter or re-enter.

I think they're predicting a surge of 2m, based on measurements taken by deep ocean buoys.
posted by CancerMan at 12:44 AM on March 11, 2011


One of the scariest experiences of my life. Hope I don't have to go through that again (or worse!) My wife and I spent a good five minutes (that felt like an eternity) huddled under the kitchen table as all our shelves came crashing down around us, glass shattering, TV and computer monitors fracturing, the walls shaking and swaying, the heavy wood table covering us sliding back and forth across the kitchen floor. Still aftershocks now, sheltering in a cafe with free wifi...every little shock is scary.

Up north things are much worse. Massive flooding, tsunamis washing away the shoreline.

Have family up that way we can't contact, telephone lines are jammed.

Makes me want to move to a country that doesn't have earthquakes. Taking suggestions...
posted by jet_manifesto at 12:44 AM on March 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


The feeling of dread from watching this on TV (where there's a new announcement every time there's a new earthquake) feels a lot like watching the World Trade Center in 2001.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:45 AM on March 11, 2011


Or Katrina.
posted by bink at 12:46 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


jet_manifesto: If you want to avoid natural disasters entirely, Ireland's pretty nice. Some nasty winters, but that's about it. And I hear land's pretty cheap there right now!
posted by Punkey at 12:46 AM on March 11, 2011


jet_manifesto, I'm seriously considering the same.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:47 AM on March 11, 2011


Predictions of another quake imminent for NE Honshu.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:47 AM on March 11, 2011


Read the article I linked, it talks about the increase chance of earthquakes (and ignore the astrology stuff).

It talks about it by saying "there isn't an increased chance".
posted by mrnutty at 12:47 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Japan issues warning of "imminent strong quake" in Honshu.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:47 AM on March 11, 2011


Tsunami sirens already going off in Hawaii.
posted by nickyskye at 12:48 AM on March 11, 2011


NHK's live coverage has switched to a program on historic playing cards. This is rather soothing.
posted by zippy at 12:50 AM on March 11, 2011


NHK's live coverage has switched to a program on historic playing cards.
Is this part of the "stay calm" initiative?
posted by girlhacker at 12:52 AM on March 11, 2011


LA Times has statement from West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

"Cindi Preller of the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center told Fox 11 News that the tsunami could cause some unusually high tides but not major inundations.

It's possible that officials will ask that beaches be cleared as a precaution."
posted by Punkey at 12:54 AM on March 11, 2011




Al-Jazeera just said 8 confirmed deaths, many missing.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:55 AM on March 11, 2011


Sadly, Korean TV is reporting a much higher death toll than Al-Jazeera at the moment.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:56 AM on March 11, 2011


how many zeroes do you think we'll have to add to that confirmed death number?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:57 AM on March 11, 2011


Watching the wave of debris sweep over populated roads.. I'd guess too many.
posted by Wyatt at 12:58 AM on March 11, 2011


Why am I hearing nothing on the subject of what those of us in the unaffected areas can do to help? Besides the twitter hashtag #prayforjapan (which is the sickest joke I've heard today - a Loving God doesn't do shit like this)
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:58 AM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]




Red Cross will be your best bet I'd wager, if you want to donate. Honestly, with the quake here donating to Red Cross was the best way to help - sending goods is impractical and people without training coming in to "help" just adds to the danger. Send cash. And love, and good thoughts. But cash, seriously.
posted by tracicle at 1:01 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I suspect there will be many a surfer dude out there with his board this morning.
posted by Justinian at 1:01 AM on March 11, 2011


Wikipedia current events has a link to a Reuters article saying 10 confirmed deaths. Death tolls are a hard thing to predict. I remember my mom calling me around 10am (11am New York time) on September 11th saying that they were estimating 15,000 dead. The total ended up being 3,000. So maybe we will add a zero, or more, but I hope for the best and just listen for the confirmed deaths.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:02 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to avoid natural disasters entirely, Ireland's pretty nice.

Iceland? That place full of unpronouncable volcanoes?
posted by WhackyparseThis at 1:03 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Direct Relief
posted by Wyatt at 1:03 AM on March 11, 2011


Neighbour's sister rang from Kiribati -- did she have any news? The hotel TV said there had been an earthquake in Japan. No warnings, no siren, all the local govt buildings are lights out and asleep. The tallest building on the island is two stories. Neighbour is freaking out, I would too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:04 AM on March 11, 2011


Here in Alaska my news coverage just got interrupted by a NWS tsunami warning. My fiancé is currently on St. Paul island. It's a tiny island with pretty much no high ground. I'm terrified for him and saddened for Japan and everyone everywhere who will be affected.

I hope that the international community will respond swiftly and effectively.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:04 AM on March 11, 2011


charmcityblues, how imminent? Is there air transport? Can he get off the island?
posted by IndigoRain at 1:06 AM on March 11, 2011


Hawaii reporting here. Radio is suggesting people in evac zones head to higher ground. There are crazy lines at all the gas stations. Access to Waikiki and some of the beach areas is being restricted.

We've had several near misses in the last few years, but this one feels different, if that makes any sense. Everyone I've spoken to, however, is torn between preparing and fretting about Honshu. I know a dozen people there. I can't even watch the footage.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:07 AM on March 11, 2011


Whacky: They're all dormant, "active" only in the sense that they have fumaroles or other mild activity, or are extinct. By and large, Ireland is one of the safest places on the planet when it comes to natural disasters.
posted by Punkey at 1:07 AM on March 11, 2011


egads, nothing to say but fiercest good wishes for the safety of all our Mefites and their loved ones. (And taking heavy things off high shelves in the event of any aftershocks that may decide to pop up in SoCal.)
posted by scody at 1:10 AM on March 11, 2011


This is, by many standards, the Big One that Japan has been preparing for all these years.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:10 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just donated to the red cross, wish I could do more.
posted by maxwelton at 1:10 AM on March 11, 2011


BULLETIN
TSUNAMI MESSAGE NUMBER 4
NWS WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER PALMER AK
1244 AM PST FRI MAR 11 2011

THIS MESSAGE UPDATES THE ALERT STATUS TO WARNING AND ADVISORY.

...A TSUNAMI WARNING IS NOW IN EFFECT WHICH INCLUDES THE
COASTAL AREAS OF CALIFORNIA AND OREGON FROM POINT
CONCEPCION CALIFORNIA TO THE OREGON-WASHINGTON BORDER...

...A TSUNAMI WARNING IS NOW IN EFFECT WHICH INCLUDES THE
COASTAL AREAS OF ALASKA FROM AMCHITKA PASS ALASKA/125 MILES
W OF ADAK/ TO ATTU ALASKA...

...THE TSUNAMI ADVISORY IS EXPANDED TO INCLUDE THE COASTAL
AREAS OF CALIFORNIA FROM THE CALIFORNIA-MEXICO BORDER TO
POINT CONCEPCION CALIFORNIA...

...THE TSUNAMI ADVISORY IS EXPANDED TO INCLUDE THE COASTAL
AREAS OF WASHINGTON - BRITISH COLUMBIA AND ALASKA FROM THE
OREGON-WASHINGTON BORDER TO CHIGNIK BAY ALASKA...

...THE TSUNAMI ADVISORY CONTINUES IN EFFECT FOR THE COASTAL
AREAS OF ALASKA FROM CHIGNIK BAY ALASKA TO AMCHITKA PASS
ALASKA/125 MILES W OF ADAK/...

http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=WCA&product=TSU&format=txt&version=1&glossary=0
posted by hat at 1:11 AM on March 11, 2011


Me too. I'd heard some of Japan's quake rescue teams who had gone to help out in Christchurch NZ haven't come home yet...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:13 AM on March 11, 2011


NHK website down now? CNN, MSNBC, and AlJazeera all seem to be re-airing the same NHK clips, with the same editing. Haven't seen new footage for over an hour. Not to be crass, but wheres the actual new, live stuff.
posted by yesster at 1:13 AM on March 11, 2011


Small quakes just off Hawaii-- a 2.5, 2.8, 3.3, and 4.5 in the last hour. That's not helping me feel any better about the large portion of my friends who are on vacation there.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:13 AM on March 11, 2011


I think there are still several hours. I trust that the community has an emergency plan in place. Hopefully the rise in water won't be significant. Perhaps they'd put people on boats and ride it out on the open ocean? Trying to get in touch with him but comms are spotty (unrelated to the events of today).

Hopefully the warning is an abundance of caution.

I hope that the areas in imminent danger have successfully activated their systems.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:13 AM on March 11, 2011


A small swarm of earthquakes just hit Hawaii. I think they said the largest was 4.5.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:14 AM on March 11, 2011


Charmcityblues- St. Paul is up in the Bering Sea which is shallow and the Aleutians will take the brunt. Plus the coastline is rocky and definitely higher than 3m so I wouldn't worry. I've been on St. Paul when the ocean was throwing 30' waves around and it was no problem.
posted by fshgrl at 1:14 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you, fshgrl.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:15 AM on March 11, 2011


The earthquakes off of Hawaii are probably more related to the ongoing new eruption site on Kilauea than the Japan quakes. USGS Press Release about recent Hawaiian eruptions
posted by Punkey at 1:16 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do I donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross for maximum efficacy? Or the American branch?
posted by Phire at 1:17 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hawaii address search for evac info:
http://www.scd.hawaii.gov/
posted by girlhacker at 1:19 AM on March 11, 2011


A small swarm of earthquakes just hit Hawaii. I think they said the largest was 4.5.


Police deployed to keep people away from the beach in SF. I live about 10min from the ocean but I'm on a fairly steep hill. If a wave does hit it's going to be pretty astonishing to see.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:19 AM on March 11, 2011


Waiting to see what happens in Hawaii (tsunami due in 3hours 30minutes) before I start worrying about California in 7+hours... I live "close to the coast" but well above sea level with 3 miles of hills between me and the water. If there's a real problem, I'm at the higher ground that folks in Avila Beach and Shell Beach should go to - I'll have to find some coffee to brew...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:19 AM on March 11, 2011


best tweet I've seen in a while, from @daveewing: The headline you won't be reading: "Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and government building codes". Buts it's the truth.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:21 AM on March 11, 2011 [90 favorites]


Top of Tokyo Tower bent by earthquake

Google's machine translation:
The top of Tokyo Tower seems bent under the influence of earthquake-11 pm, Minato-ku, Tokyo . . . (March 11, 2011) [Jiji]
posted by clorox at 1:23 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hopefully the rise in water won't be significant.

A tsunami expert from New Zealand has emphasized that at these kinds of distances, any surge on this side of the Pacific will generally be less than the tidal range of many places, charmcityblues.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:24 AM on March 11, 2011


That video of the cars trying to out run
that huge racing slurry of boats, houses, fire,
and mud was terrifying.
I thought my little problems were bad.
This is so sad.
.
posted by quazichimp at 1:25 AM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


American Red Cross disaster relief fund - You can help people affected by disasters, like the New Zealand earthquake, floods and tornadoes across the U.S., and countless other crises at home and around the world by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief.
posted by tracicle at 1:25 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know whether this is real or photoshopped, but it's heartbreaking.
posted by orthogonality at 1:26 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not possible for me to put into words what watching this from New Zealand feels like - we will feel so strongly for the people of Japan, and be so powerless to help as we cope with the aftermath of Christchurch.

I'm also feeling sick about our low-lying Pacific 'neighbours' - Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and all the rest.

What a night of horrors this will be.
posted by Catch at 1:28 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


orthogonality: I think that image is from a completely different event. The graphic at the top says 'record-breaking rains.'
posted by mariokrat at 1:28 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


CNN spanish saying there's imminent Taiwan tsunami (ongoing)
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 1:30 AM on March 11, 2011


Yes, PTWC predicts tsunami landfall in Taiwan in ten minutes. That'll be our first real indication of how bad this will be as it spreads.
posted by Punkey at 1:31 AM on March 11, 2011


Also, CNN reverting to the mean, talking about how "the tsunami will circle the globe" and putting up landfall times for places like Chile. Way to prevent panic there, folks.
posted by Punkey at 1:32 AM on March 11, 2011


Al Jazeera lady: It's like a big container of cats...
posted by dirigibleman at 1:34 AM on March 11, 2011


Yeah, same in spanish. I'll abstain from tryíng to update again. In response to Punkey
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 1:36 AM on March 11, 2011


An interesting observation on Al Jazeera:

The quake was the biggest in 140 years. It surpasses the Great Kanto quake of 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.

Japan should be pretty goddamn proud of itself, once it's recovered. At the moment, the death toll is in single digits. That's four orders of magnitude better than the last really big one, and they have a lot more people to protect. I'm sure the eventual death toll will be higher than eight, and they'll probably slip back to a three-order-of-magnitude improvement, but that's still incredibly impressive.

They have done a phenomenal job getting ready. Now it's up to their rescue services and response teams.

Best of luck, Japan. Wish we could do more to help.
posted by Malor at 1:36 AM on March 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


"When you jump a magnitude from 7 to 8, it's not 10 times stronger, it's a 1000 times stronger," said Cabrera. "With an 8.8 earthquake that shallow, that close to shore, there will be more than one tsunami."
via
posted by a non e mouse at 1:37 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Word on Twitter in Japan is that Suntory (beverage company) has made their vending machines free in areas hit by today's earthquake and flooding. Like, just push the button.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:38 AM on March 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


I have a Taiwanese TV feed, flash required, but they're mostly showing Reuters, NHK, and CNN footage.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:39 AM on March 11, 2011


The difference between a big earthquake in Chile/ Japan and in Haiti is just incredibly sad.
posted by fshgrl at 1:39 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Am I correctly seeing the NHK feed as saying that the JMA scale estimate has been revised to 8.8? Would that make the Richter estimate higher than 8.9? I'm not really up on how the JMA/ shindo scale translates to Richter magnitudes.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:42 AM on March 11, 2011




Allright, so what's the deal with this tsunami reaching the US? Santa Monica, specifically.
posted by phaedon at 1:46 AM on March 11, 2011


Now they're doing missing persons reports requesting a response, from family members, on NHK Educational. Between this and seeing footage of people taking refuge in an elementary school gym with "そつぎょうおめでとう" ("congratulations on graduation") written on a banner on the wall there is something ridiculously heartbreaking about this.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:47 AM on March 11, 2011


News reports from Taiwan indicate maximum wave heights of about a meter, mostly only a few dozen centimeters tall.
posted by Punkey at 1:48 AM on March 11, 2011


Allright, so what's the deal with this tsunami reaching the US? Santa Monica, specifically.

8:32am estimated arrival time, per NOAA, phaedon. Probably not large enough to be a problem, but we should stay alert all the same.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:49 AM on March 11, 2011


phaedon: LA Times blog post on waves Posted above, but worth reiterating: the wave heights on the west coast will be maybe a couple feet.
posted by Punkey at 1:50 AM on March 11, 2011




No actual capital W warning south of Lompoc, southlanders, currently an Advisory only. Back with a link in a moment.
posted by mwhybark at 1:52 AM on March 11, 2011


Thanks rongorongo.
posted by Catch at 1:52 AM on March 11, 2011


http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/lox/

South coastal CA NOAA info
posted by mwhybark at 1:54 AM on March 11, 2011


Santa Monica is under Tsunami Advisory

The Tsunami Warning zone is from Point Conception (between Santa Barbara and SLO near Lompoc) to the Oregon-Washington border.
posted by clorox at 1:54 AM on March 11, 2011


That's about as good news as we're getting from you, Punkey. Thanks everyone, Cranberry hope yu hear from your daughter real soon.Doctor Fedora, Ghidora and all japanese-based mefites let us know how can we help.
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 1:55 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well I guess I really did prepare for the big one by moving to Cairns, Australia before it happened.

Finally all my friends and family have checked in. Even my moving company has - and my guy sounded so upset.

Thinking of all you guys still in Japan.
posted by gomichild at 1:55 AM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Amazing sea footage (sorry about the ad, if someone can find a better link)
posted by a non e mouse at 1:55 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ground, what are you doing in the air?! Ocean, what are you doing on the land?! Get down! You do not belong there. You are ocean and ground.

Here's hoping for as few aftershocks and tsunamis as possible. And that everyone remains safe, and well.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:00 AM on March 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


News update on my friend: he's fine. So am I. The Red Cross is already accepting donations, though, according to the TV, but there's nothing on their web site yet that I can find.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:02 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's an emergency warning from a nuclear power plant in Fukushima (Japanese only).

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to build all these NPPs on a major fault line after all.
posted by sour cream at 2:02 AM on March 11, 2011




I just recorded the tsunami warning siren here in Kihei, Maui. Streaming local TV coverage here.
posted by prinado at 2:07 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Any word on whether the Japanese search and rescue people had got back from Christchurch before this happened? Japan, we really appreciate your help there, and hopefully NZ can do something to help you now.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:10 AM on March 11, 2011


It seems that they (the nuclear power plant operators and the government) are forced by law to declare a nuclear emergency, and that's why they call it an "Article 15 emergency announcement" or some such. They also say that there is no danger of any radiation leaks.

But then again, I wouldn't trust the authorities at all in such matters. After all, this is a country where doctors will often not tell their patients that they have cancer, because it might upset them too much and thus reduce their self-healing abilities. I predict denial until undeniability, followed by a few token resignations.
posted by sour cream at 2:10 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]




Alright, it looks like the media outlets have settled into that lull between the actual disaster and the first real segments on the ground on damage and loss of life. Fortunately, the tsunami was by and large well under a meter in height when it made landfall at Taiwan, so it looks like that, unless something truly unfortunate happens to Hawaii, the tsunami damage will be restricted to Japan and the low-lying islands in the western Pacific.

Good luck to all you MeFi'ers in Japan and elsewhere, and to anyone else caught in this disaster. Let's hope that this becomes known as the largest earthquake with the least loss of life in history. Night, all.
posted by Punkey at 2:14 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, thanks Punkey.
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 2:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Punkey - where did you find the information about the severity of the tsunami in Taiwan?
posted by askmehow at 2:22 AM on March 11, 2011


Man, you can watch the aftershocks spreading north and south from the hypocenter in realtime on the USGS maps. There's dozens of quakes exceeding 5.x now ranging from just northeast of Tokyo to almost to the northern tip of Honshu over a range of approximately 400 miles.
posted by loquacious at 2:24 AM on March 11, 2011


I found it difficult to hear prinado's link, so I looked up another example from a few years back on Oahu. Those civil defense sirens used to have different tones for different events such as air raids, but nowadays I think they just serve to alert people to tune into radio or TV for information about the emergency.
posted by CancerMan at 2:29 AM on March 11, 2011


Askmehow, Punkey's signed off. I don't know where the Taiwan sources he found were, but here's a random blog update that appears to confirm that info.
posted by mwhybark at 2:33 AM on March 11, 2011


a non e mouse: ""When you jump a magnitude from 7 to 8, it's not 10 times stronger, it's a 1000 times stronger," said Cabrera. "With an 8.8 earthquake that shallow, that close to shore, there will be more than one tsunami."
via"

I mentioned this upthread but was told this was incorrect. Are there different scales people are referencing?

posted by Room 641-A at 2:33 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm a bit north of Kyoto, and quite far from the epicenter, but it was still shaking my elementary school enough to set off the alarm and have all of us huddling in the center of the classroom. First time I've had that kind of scare. No real damage here, but I hope the folks in Sendai and the other spots that got hit are doing alright.

It was pretty scary watching that tsunami wave creeping into Sendai on a live feed; just creeping inland slowly, but nothing anyone could do to stop it.
posted by p3t3 at 2:37 AM on March 11, 2011


Hope you're OK, Flapjax.
posted by nicolin at 2:38 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the "1000 times stronger" thing:

The Mr. Cabrera quoted there is apparently a meteorologist, according to the article. He's not a seismologist or even a geologist; he may have misspoken or misremembered. Justinian is correct that going from a 7 to an 8 is about a 30x increase in energy release.

There are a couple of different magnitude scales (Richter magnitude, moment magnitude, etc.). Well, I should say, different ways of measuring magnitude; they all use the same scale, and while they might be off by 0.1 or 0.2 or something from each other, the numbers tend to be pretty similar.
posted by mandanza at 2:40 AM on March 11, 2011


From Okinawa the tsunami just went throughg an hour ago, about a foot or two. Guam was also spared.
posted by aggienfo at 2:46 AM on March 11, 2011


There is a warning in effect for all the west coast of North America - what are the possibilities that it will still be strong enough to damage when hits?
posted by molecicco at 2:47 AM on March 11, 2011


mandaza: Thanks for clarifying that for me. I was trying to wrap my head around comparing this earthquake to the Northridge quake.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:47 AM on March 11, 2011


Got to say, our state government has really prepared the state well for this sort of thing. Current Facebook rumors suggest that they're predicting a 6ft wave here in Hawaii. That's pretty bad, but obviously nothing like what happened in Honshu.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:49 AM on March 11, 2011


Mapping of this morning's quakes - and tsunami information - from the British Geological Survey. This page seems to be getting frequent updates.
posted by rongorongo at 2:49 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a warning in effect for all the west coast of North America - what are the possibilities that it will still be strong enough to damage when hits?

Almost none.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:55 AM on March 11, 2011


Forecasted wave heights (amplitudes) for the Pacific coast of North America, including Alaska, from the West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

The current largest forecasted amplitudes of 1 m to 2.5 m appear to be expected around southern Oregon and northern and central California.
posted by hat at 2:58 AM on March 11, 2011


Not sure what reactor it is but Al Jazeera is reporting that they're having issues with the cooling and backup systems of a reactor that's been shut down. Backup power generation to operate the water cooling pumps has failed and a nuclear emergency/situation/warning has been declared.
posted by loquacious at 2:58 AM on March 11, 2011


Boats, ships and trucks tossed like toys. Floating flaming debris. Praying for the people.
posted by fixedgear at 3:07 AM on March 11, 2011


I hope New Zealand will respond with the same sort of help Japan offered us. Awful.
posted by rodgerd at 3:07 AM on March 11, 2011


I am struck by difference in government response between Katrina and this disaster. the Japanese government is already putting into action a well-prepared well-practiced disaster plan, and the water hasn't even stopped coming yet.

Our government sat on it's thumbs and rotated for days.
posted by pjern at 3:16 AM on March 11, 2011 [27 favorites]


Was the recent 8.9 earthquake 350 times stronger than the 6.3 Christchurch earthquake?

350 times worse than Christchurch? Also, is there any corroboration that one of the quakes lasted over 5 minutes.

Can someone check my math here?
posted by hal_c_on at 3:18 AM on March 11, 2011


the Japanese government is already putting into action...

Yeah, and how.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:19 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here in Hilo we got a little shook up with the 4.6 quake a couple of hours ago; most of us have moved the crap out of our businesses here on Bayfront. The cops are kicking everybody out at 2:00am and the first wave (if any) is now expected to hit at 3:46am. Oh, and there are no stores selling beer.
posted by IslandTrust at 3:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Tokyo MeFite here. Made it home and just cooked dinner. Aftershocks still coming in. Very surreal. Tohoku region (Iwate, Miyagi, Sendai) looks really bad.
posted by gen at 3:29 AM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Not sure of how good a source people will consider this but Sky News here in the UK is running with the following two disturbing headlines

'Ship carrying 100 people swept away by Tsunami'
'State of emergency issued at nuclear plant following cooling system failure'
posted by numberstation at 3:35 AM on March 11, 2011


Just as a point of comparison, ALJ is saying the reactor is "threatening meltdown." SKY is saying there is "no radioactive event."

My understanding from what Sky is saying is that a state of emergency whenever there is a cooling system failure, but that there are multiple backup systems. Their commentator was speculating that the pumps may have been disrupted by the water drawback right before the tsunami, but that these are mechanical systems that should be able to be restored.

I have no idea which point of view - end of the world, or low-key well-planned problem - is most reflective of reality so I'm just going to sit here in the middle and assume Japan is on top of this.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:39 AM on March 11, 2011


Japanese news is also reporting that a cooling system failure is in process. Not sure which nuclear reactor.
posted by gen at 3:40 AM on March 11, 2011


Opposite coast of Japan here, and the earthquake didn't do much here except make me slightly dizzy, but... my good friend who came to Japan with me lives right on the coast in Fukushima Prefecture. We had a jokey conversation about our school lunches on gchat at about 1pm... haven't heard from him since. Fuck.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:41 AM on March 11, 2011


Yeah, the nuclear power plant situation sounds like a recipe for a meltdown and is extremely worrisome to hear just bits and pieces about. It takes a long time for a reactor core to cool off even if it's completely shut down and not currently undergoing a reaction.

If they can't get backup generators running to start pumping a lot of water very soon the control rods and core can melt and then you can't shut the pile down. We really don't need another Chernobyl happening right now. That would be worse than multiple tsunamis.

The most recent report says there's no radiation leak occurring. Yet. Or they're not reporting it yet.
posted by loquacious at 3:42 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this affecting transpacific flights as well?
posted by infini at 3:43 AM on March 11, 2011


Terrifying twitter messages: a state of emergency. 4million without electricity. Fire inferno at the nuclear plant. A fear of meltdown. #PrayforJapan
posted by dflemingecon at 3:48 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Official statement, I assume:
Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano says the nuclear power plant in Fukushima developed a mechanical failure in the system needed to cool the reactor after it was shut down in Friday's earthquake. He said the measure was a precaution and there was no radiation leak at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. He said the facility was not in immediate danger.
Via the Guardian's live blog.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:51 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I live in central Tokyo. I was at work when the first quake hit -- we got shaken around quite a bit, and evacuated down 22 stories to Hibiya Park, where the next strong aftershock occurred. There is no feeling quite like the sensation of the earth moving from side to side underneath your feet.

After an hour, my colleagues and I went back upstairs (no elevators, of course) to get our belongings, then I made the hour-long walk home. I was lucky -- all of the trains from Tokyo on east are stopped for the rest of the day and night, and taxis are ridiculously hard to come by, meaning several million people stuck without a way home. Phones are essentially useless, but internet is working. Emails are taking hours to be received.

We're still being shaken around by aftershocks, but we have power, water, and gas. The poor residents of Tohoku are not nearly so lucky.

Aftershocks and tsunami are still occurring, and the full extent of the damage is still unknown.

Please keep us all in your thoughts.
posted by armage at 3:52 AM on March 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


I hadn't heard about the nuclear reactor troubles until now. At Asahi Shimbun (Japanese), they're reporting that both the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors in Fukushima shut down automatically, but because of the failure of external power sources and emergency diesel generators, they're not able to cool the reactors down normally. They are looking at ways to cool them in other ways, but they're unable to confirm whether the reactor temperatures are falling.

Scary, but perhaps nothing to get worried over yet.
posted by mariokrat at 3:55 AM on March 11, 2011


I just timed the main tremor felt in central Tokyo at 1 minute 20 seconds.
The 5.6 I went through lasted about 15 seconds. It felt like 2 minutes and changed me into an atheist.
So I guess that would have seemed like a ten minute earthquake, and most likely would have seen me born again, again.

I'm so relieved that there wasn't any catastrophic building collapses, but I fear the toll of the tsunami.

That shit is chilling. The stuff of nightmares.

My feelings go out to the people feeling pain and or grief.
posted by Duke999R at 4:08 AM on March 11, 2011


Ghidorah, gen, jet_manifesto, zardoz, flapjax, woodblock100, everyone: stay safe. Please keep posting updates here, if possible. I'm glued to TV Asahi right now, but we all want to be sure that you and your families are okay.
posted by armage at 4:08 AM on March 11, 2011


Latest updates: 40 dead, 39 whereabouts unknown, 244 injured according to Asahi Shimbun. Dead include 3 in Tokyo, 2 in Kanagawa, 2 in Chiba, Ibaraki 1. Largest confirmed magnitude is 8.8.
posted by armage at 4:11 AM on March 11, 2011


Yeah, we're glued to NHK and ANN and Twitter.
posted by gen at 4:11 AM on March 11, 2011


Just had a call from my sister, who was in a coastal city but is OK. I thank the fates.
posted by jaduncan at 4:13 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


200 people may be trapped at a ski resort near Sendai.
posted by armage at 4:13 AM on March 11, 2011


The Ginza Line, Ōedo Line, and part of the Hanzōmon Line are back in operation.
posted by armage at 4:14 AM on March 11, 2011


Another aftershock right now... A good bit of shaking up on the 12th floor here.
posted by armage at 4:14 AM on March 11, 2011


If you're looking for someone in Japan, or if you live in Japan want to let people know that you're all right, Google's set up a special site.
posted by armage at 4:16 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's an image of a forecast model from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, giving a better idea of what is expected to show up on the west coast of North America.

You can see how the amplitude gets smaller aross the ocean, but in certain pockets can get larger again as it approaches the coast, although the predictions still suggest it will be pretty tame by the time it shows up (although, earthquake magnitude measurements seem always to be revised upwards after they are first reported, and I worry that this might be a conservative estimate).
posted by molecicco at 4:18 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


1.36 million households without power in Miyagi Prefecture alone, according to TV Asahi.
posted by armage at 4:19 AM on March 11, 2011


My thoughts are also with those who are affected in Japan - armage, definitely appreciating your updates. Stay safe.
posted by molecicco at 4:19 AM on March 11, 2011


Whirlpool video
posted by a non e mouse at 4:19 AM on March 11, 2011


Asahi TV just reported that the Fukushima nuclear reactor may have released radiation; officials are ordering nearby residents to evacuation immediately.
posted by armage at 4:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Please stay safe, all of you!
posted by tommasz at 4:22 AM on March 11, 2011


Altogether 4.04 million households across ten prefectures without power (TV Asahi).
posted by armage at 4:23 AM on March 11, 2011


Tokyo Metro: Fullly resuming lines: Ginza and Oedo Lines. Partial resumption: Hanzomon, Asakusa and Mita Lines.
posted by armage at 4:26 AM on March 11, 2011


Yomiuri Shimbun (Japanese) is reporting that 1,864 people living within a 2 km radius of the No. 2 reactor have been ordered to evacuate. They're saying that the water levels in the reactor are dropping, which may lead to the release of radiation.
posted by mariokrat at 4:26 AM on March 11, 2011


Indian Beach in Ecola State Park, Oregon Coast, it is going to be death on a stick out there. I'll bet it will be packed.
posted by humanfont at 4:27 AM on March 11, 2011


.
posted by caddis at 4:28 AM on March 11, 2011


Thanks mariokrat -- I misspoke, the reactor has *not* released radiation as of this moment. There is just a fear that radiation could be released due to the low water level.
posted by armage at 4:28 AM on March 11, 2011


Tokyo Metropolitan Police just released updated casualty figures for the entire affected region: 59 dead, 55 unaccounted for, 241 injured
posted by armage at 4:30 AM on March 11, 2011


I know this seems self centered, but how worried should I be about this tsunami in Oakland? (All I know right now is what I've read here and the fact that my mother called to tell me.)
posted by madcaptenor at 4:35 AM on March 11, 2011


Oakland? You're not on the coast, right? Nothing to worry about. SF has cleared people from the beaches I last heard.
posted by gen at 4:38 AM on March 11, 2011


Translated Twitter feed
posted by a non e mouse at 4:40 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


@madcaptenor Tsunami waves are estimated to begin striking Hawaii at 5:07am Pacific time (3:07am Hawaii) so that should be an indicator of what we can expect here in California. But living in the SF Bay, I'd imagine we'd be pretty well protected.
posted by sambosambo at 4:42 AM on March 11, 2011


Absolutely shocking, but an incredible testament to Japanese preparedness and engineering -- had this happened pretty much anywhere else in the world, we'd be talking about a death toll in the tens or even hundreds of thousands, rather than roughly 100 (which of course is still tragic).
posted by modernnomad at 4:42 AM on March 11, 2011


Most of Oakland should be OK

It's Alameda and Treasure Island that are gonna get it if it's bad enough.
posted by clorox at 4:46 AM on March 11, 2011


madcaptenor, According to the information in this post by hat from a couple of hours ago, the forecast wave heights in the SF bay area should be well below 1m.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:47 AM on March 11, 2011


modernnomad I definitely agree that Japanese engineering and preparations will greatly reduce the harm, but it will be awhile until there is an official death toll (it is still extremely early) and unfortunately, I suspect it will be much much much higher than roughly 100.
posted by molecicco at 4:48 AM on March 11, 2011




clorox, a friend of mine lives in Alameda and posted a facebook status update saying he's glad he just bought a kayak.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:49 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video of a massive explosion at a Chiba oil refinery (Nikkei)
posted by armage at 4:52 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


unfortunately, I suspect it will be much much much higher than roughly 100.

Unfortunately, based on what I've seen on the news, I am forced to agree with you.
posted by armage at 4:53 AM on March 11, 2011


I do not believe these preliminary death tolls can possibly be accurate, and sadly, I think they must be far too low. Yeah, the Japanese are amazing at engineering. But this thing looks like more than a match for their best.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:55 AM on March 11, 2011


From Hong Kong to Japan and all the Japan MeFites: be safe.
posted by bwg at 4:55 AM on March 11, 2011


Very little physical damage around me, but I'm still a bit distraught. NHK is on the TV behind me. The announcer is relaying personal messages to and from the affected areas. She reads out the name and address of the sender and recipient, with a one or two sentence message. "Are you ok? Please call." "The children are fine. We are waiting to hear from you."

They showed people huddling inside a designated evacuation point in a small school in Sendai. When the camera went through the door and cast its lights on the people inside, they covered their eyes. They'd been sitting in the dark, bundled up in winter coats, and listening to the radio. Power is out there. Temperatures in Sendai are around the 1 degree centigrade mark.

The aftershocks are mild, where I am, but they continue. Sometimes, it's hard to tell whether the ground is really moving or not, so I try to sit as still as possible whenever something feels out of balance.

After so many hours, I still can't reach my relatives. They live a couple of hours of Sendai. The power must be out there too, and the phone lines are overloaded.

My wife's family lives near Christchurch. They were horrified when they first heard news of the quake here. I feel like our family has dodged two big bullets in as many months.
posted by mariokrat at 4:55 AM on March 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


Another smaller aftershock now.
posted by armage at 4:57 AM on March 11, 2011


mariokrat, my thoughts are with you and your family. (Are you in Tokyo?) I hope you can get in touch with them soon. NTT East has made all public payphones free in their service area, so if you can't get through via your mobile, I suggest trying that.
posted by armage at 4:59 AM on March 11, 2011


I check my facebook before I go to any news sites...thankfully my first indication of the earthquake/tsunami was the post my friends made saying they were ok-they just moved to Japan a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, what horrible and sad news to wake up to this morning. My heart goes out to the people of Japan.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:01 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


looks like sirens have gone off in Oregon coastal towns, I'm relieved to read evacuations are in progress (the vast majority of my friends and family are in the Northwest, many of them in coastal towns...): Oregon coast braces for tsunami surges surpassing 6 feet (about 2m)
posted by fraula at 5:03 AM on March 11, 2011


Hoping Hawai'i doesn't get hammered.
posted by bwg at 5:05 AM on March 11, 2011




"Many bodies" discovered in the Arahama area of Wakabayashi Ward, Sendai (Fuji TV)
posted by armage at 5:08 AM on March 11, 2011


Ungh. MSNBC is really, really committed to keeping the political wonk guests they signed up for this morning on the air despite actual news occurring.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:10 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]




I'm in Tokyo. The earthquake was unbelievable: massive, violent, and long. Apparently the main quake was a minute and a half.

The aftershocks are still happening, just a minute ago was the latest. They're the most nerve-racking aspect; the main quake is long over, but these goddamn aftershocks keep coming, some of them really strong. I've lived in Japan for over seven years, and in the last 8 hours I've experienced more earthquakes than in the previous seven years combined. By a wide margin. I've counted at least a dozen aftershocks.

Trains were stopped all afternoon and evening, though they seem to be back on track a bit now. I walked home and it took me two hours, good thing Tokyo is relatively flat. The queues for buses and taxis are crazy. Lots of people are stranded wherever they were when the quake hit.

I'm dizzy. It's weird, but it's kind of hard to sense when a quake starts and when it ends. It really is like being on a ship on the ocean, and then suddenly the land is still again. There's some inner ear stuff going on that's making me constantly woozy. I've overheard lots of people saying the same thing.

There's all sorts of mayhem all over Japan. I just hope they get that nuclear reactor in Fukushima under control.

If this wasn't the Big One, it was certainly a Big One. Biggest one in recorded history, bigger than the 1923 I think. There were some old people saying they never experienced anything like it, so take that how you will.

I have a friend who lives near the coast in Chiba, probably where a tsunami hit. I really hope he's ok.
posted by zardoz at 5:11 AM on March 11, 2011 [37 favorites]


I'm relieved our Japan mefites are checking in and are OK... my prayers are with everyone, also with those within the tsumai warning zone.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:12 AM on March 11, 2011


Sidebar this thread, please.
posted by bwg at 5:14 AM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Large explosion/fire in Sendai; details unknown (Asahi TV)
posted by armage at 5:15 AM on March 11, 2011


Glad you made it home safely, zardoz.

Another decent-sized aftershock as I type this.
posted by armage at 5:18 AM on March 11, 2011


Glad you're okay, zardoz.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:18 AM on March 11, 2011


That fire in Sendai is likely a refinery fire in Shiogama, a city in Miyagi Prefecture (Asahi TV)
posted by armage at 5:19 AM on March 11, 2011


Update: Police reporting 200-300 bodies discovered in the Arahama area of Wakabayashi Ward, Sendai (TBS News)
posted by armage at 5:24 AM on March 11, 2011


Photos
posted by clorox at 5:25 AM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm glad the others here are ok. We just felt a large-ish aftershock here in Mitaka, but smaller ones have been coming pretty regularly.

NHK is listing deaths by prefecture. The numbers may not be incredibly high (yet), but I'm astounded how far away from the epicenter some of them are occurring.
posted by mariokrat at 5:25 AM on March 11, 2011


.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:29 AM on March 11, 2011


Christ, this looks like a freaking explosion.
posted by bwg at 5:30 AM on March 11, 2011


Waves were due in Kauai at 3:07 and in Oahu at 3:20am. We're seeing a small surge here in Waikiki but so far it's on the order of inches, not feet. Still waiting for the all clear.
posted by zanni at 5:31 AM on March 11, 2011


Christ, this looks like a freaking explosion.

It was.
posted by clorox at 5:32 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Please keep us posted if you can, zanni
posted by bwg at 5:33 AM on March 11, 2011


Asahi Shimbun is reporting that those people in Wakabayashi drowned to death, though they don't specify the number. Only that their were many.

Horrifying.
posted by mariokrat at 5:33 AM on March 11, 2011


Tokyo Metro Namboku Line back in operation.
posted by armage at 5:34 AM on March 11, 2011


Another aftershock just now.
posted by armage at 5:35 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm seeing the Shindo levels of these aftershocks and just thinking how big they are. Bloody hell.
posted by gomichild at 5:38 AM on March 11, 2011


What the hell was that whirlpool I just saw on TV??
posted by gomichild at 5:39 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another aftershock just now.

Here is the USGS's list of quakes above 5.0 magnitude. They've been hitting regularly for the 7 hours since the big one.
posted by clorox at 5:40 AM on March 11, 2011


Video of a massive explosion at a Chiba oil refinery (Nikkei)

Holy crap. I can't even get a sense of scale on that thing. It looks like the entire refinery went up. Just roughly guessing from the scale of the towers and estimated distance based on horizon and atmosphere haze that fireball looks like it could be a half mile to a mile wide and a mile or three tall.

I could be vastly overestimating it but that may be the largest non nuclear explosion and fireball I've ever seen video of, maybe even including the Pepcon rocket fuel explosion in Nevada.
posted by loquacious at 5:40 AM on March 11, 2011


Yurakucho Line back in operation between Ikebukuro and Shin-Kiba (Tokyo Metro)
posted by armage at 5:47 AM on March 11, 2011


It is so weird to be sitting here at my desk in North Carolina reading about this when I know that my ex husband and our daughter are fast asleep and don't know anything yet. My ex comes from Japan so all his family and friends live there-- he and my daughter are planning a trip there in early May. They will both be waking up in about 20 minutes to this horrifying news. They also live in the Calif coastal tsunami inundation area according to that chart posted earlier, but I'm assuming that it won't be anything too significant.

My brother lives in Hawaii and would normally be surfing at dawn because that is what he does every morning, but mercifully he is in jail at the moment.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:47 AM on March 11, 2011 [28 favorites]


NHK just has a map with post-its stuck on to note the numbers of dead by ken. So surreal.
posted by Muttoneer at 5:49 AM on March 11, 2011


Holy crap. I can't even get a sense of scale on that thing.

Another angle with a very helpful point of reference.
posted by clorox at 5:52 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Offshore reef at Waikiki beach is exposed (via hitsunami.info)
posted by buzzv at 5:54 AM on March 11, 2011


Another angle with a very helpful point of reference.

Ok, not as big as I thought, but still huge.
posted by loquacious at 5:57 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm listening to Hawaii County PD right now, they are gathering a situation report on wave size, I'll check in here once I hear anything.

My thoughts are with everyone affected in Japan. Glad to see some of our Japanese Mefites checking in...
posted by rollbiz at 5:58 AM on March 11, 2011


Correction: Offshore reef at Diamond Head is exposed (via hitsunami.info)
posted by buzzv at 5:59 AM on March 11, 2011


Hawaii County officials reporting waves are still coming in, unable to determine size but it sounds like an under control situation at this time.
posted by rollbiz at 6:01 AM on March 11, 2011


Things have slowed down on the news front for now, so I'm going to call it a night. I may be back if the aftershocks wake me up.

(Another aftershock now. Damn, this is getting old fast.)

Tomorrow will likely bring lots more bad news, so I hope other Japan-based Mefites who haven't checked in yet are safe and sound. Here's hoping that they post to this thread once they're able.
posted by armage at 6:02 AM on March 11, 2011


Video of a massive explosion at a Chiba oil refinery (Nikkei)

That fireball is a BLEVE from one of the tanks, almost certainly. There's nothing to do at that point except let it burn out. If firefighters have the resources, they might be able to cool other tanks to supress further explosions, but I'll bet they're just evacuating at this point.
posted by bonehead at 6:02 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes rollbiz. . .I have friends in Kona and another set who is vacationing in Kona. . way to early to call and check on them. . .keep us informed. .. thanks.
posted by Danf at 6:02 AM on March 11, 2011


armage: "Things have slowed down on the news front for now, so I'm going to call it a night."

Thanks armage. I have to be up early myself, so I must pack it in as well. Hong Kong will suffer no sea effects whatsoever.

Not looking forward to the updates when I wake up. I hope the numbers of victims will not climb substantially.
posted by bwg at 6:07 AM on March 11, 2011


Tsunami Warning Center says it will not be a significant event in Hawaii
posted by samsara at 6:07 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm off to bed too. I really need to turn NHK off. Good night. Take care. A better day tomorrow.
posted by mariokrat at 6:13 AM on March 11, 2011


There's a video clip they keep showing that shows a road with a major fracture/rupture running right down the middle of the center stripe like someone unzipped the road. The rupture is even following the curve of the road and the center stripe.

So unreal.
posted by loquacious at 6:13 AM on March 11, 2011


If you want to avoid natural disasters entirely, Ireland's pretty nice.

Iceland? That place full of unpronouncable volcanoes?


Ireland != Iceland.

(This bit of pedantry is all I can really contribute right now. Not really able to process the disaster. *hugs everybody in the world*)
posted by kmz at 6:17 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Focus has some photos up.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:18 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I live and work in Kanagawa, so I was relatively lucky. Long walk home on completely dark roads (no street lights, no traffic lights, just headlights), but I got there in the end, and my family is fine.

Like armage, I hope that all the other Japan Mefites who haven't checked in, and their families, are okay, and will post to that effect when they can.
posted by No-sword at 6:20 AM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


No delays planned for BART; MUNI's website has no news.
posted by clorox at 6:21 AM on March 11, 2011


Yeah, local (San Francisco) morning news here is all about the ocean-side roads that have been closed as a precautionary measure, but the tide will be out when the waves are expected to hit, and they're forecasting 2-3.5 feet from Point Reyes to Santa Cruz.
posted by rtha at 6:25 AM on March 11, 2011


Still not hearing about anything higher than 3 feet in HI County. Good news so far...
posted by rollbiz at 6:26 AM on March 11, 2011


I dont know if the video on the front page of BBC News was linked here but it is seriously going to give me nightmares. The way that water and debris just creeps over the land, destroying everything in its path.
posted by vacapinta at 6:28 AM on March 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


I live in San Francisco itself, just south and west of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I think the only injuries that might happen as a result of tsunami activities will be if the on-the-scene reporters elbow each other too hard when they're jockeying for position while standing in front of the seawall out at Ocean Beach.
posted by Bindyree at 6:31 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


All these assurances of no radiation leakage are making me nervous.
posted by ryanrs at 6:32 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is like reading issue 16 of Akira.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:32 AM on March 11, 2011


The thing is, Tokyo didn't get hit by a huge earthquake, exactly. The epicenter was 250 miles away.

To put that in comparative terms, that's about the same distance as San Francisco to Bakersfield or San Luis Obispo in Southern California. From San Diego near the Mexican border to Los Vegas, or New York City and the border of Maine. Houston and Baton Rouge. From London, across the channel and across the bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, and 10 miles into Germany.

This quake was just that massive. There are a lot of heavily populated places in Japan it's closer to than Tokyo, really... many miles away. Some have been heavily damaged by the quake, or completely wiped out by the tsunami. This quake was so big that it could be felt over 1500 miles away... about the distance from Paris to Moscow.

As it stands, Japan faces some potentially crippling problems with its vital electrical infrastructure, its transportation infrastructure, its ability to refine petrol, etc. Things could get bad. But in actual fact, it got a distant, glancing blow. Even Tokyo's rigorous building standards would likely not withstand such a quake, were it a direct hit.
posted by markkraft at 6:33 AM on March 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Why do they give these running totals of confirmed dead when it is obvious that we are not going to know for a long time to come? Does anyone really believe it will be tens or hundreds? What about coral-reef islands and the places that are not the centers of the media world? Just say that the extent of the damage and fatalities will take weeks to assess.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:34 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


4 hours and 20 minutes later, I'm home, and mostly the house is in surprisingly good shape. The cat seems entirely unbothered. Mrs. Ghidorah is holed up at work for the evenly with coworkers, and the family is all okay. Sometime later, I'll try to write up the surreal walk home. Meanwhile, thanks for all the well-wishing, and in general for being fucking awesome. I love you guys.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:35 AM on March 11, 2011 [132 favorites]


Why do they give these running totals of confirmed dead when it is obvious that we are not going to know for a long time to come?

24 hour news cycle. Reporters need something to talk about on air.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:37 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But in actual fact, [Japan] got a distant, glancing blow.

The burning, smoking, waterlogged crater once known as Sendai might disagree.
posted by stelas at 6:37 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why do they give these running totals of confirmed dead

Because the authorities have to start counting and the reporters hound them for the latest count.
posted by ryanrs at 6:38 AM on March 11, 2011


vacapinta, that video is unbelievable. The water looks like it's alive. This is terrible.
posted by biscotti at 6:38 AM on March 11, 2011


Just had email from my daughter who was allowed back in Tokyo airport and wifi. She is ok and trying to book a flight back to LA, then home to Portland OR.
Thanks for the good wishes.
posted by Cranberry at 6:39 AM on March 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't know why but I just started crying reading Ghidorah's latest comment.
posted by kmz at 6:39 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


The burning, smoking, waterlogged crater once known as Sendai might disagree.

I think this was in the context of Japanese building codes vs. an 8.8 earthquake. Neither of which matters to a tsunami.
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was video editing and didn't feel a thing here in Kyoto, so a very different experience from the Kobe earthquake that I was much closer to.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:40 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


That video has scared the shit out of me. Oh, I saw a white car turning and trying to escape. Maybe it was the same one referenced above? I can feel myself in that car. I'm so, so sorry for that person and everyone who has been affected.
posted by h00py at 6:41 AM on March 11, 2011


The government has issued an evacuation advisory to people living within a three-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant in quake-stricken Fukushima Prefecture.

No no no no no no no no
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 6:41 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No no no no no no no no

It's purely a precaution. The reactor is already shut off and no leakage has been detected.
posted by stelas at 6:41 AM on March 11, 2011


Reviewing this at my job (yes I'm on the blue at work shhh) and I have just received an email sent out to everyone in the firm with news on the earthquake; it also mentioned that the Hawaiian offices already reported in to say that the surge hit already, but was only three feet; and the anticipated "storm surge" in California is supposed to be only about two feet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on March 11, 2011


BTW, I have a friend doing JET in Fukuyama-shi in Hiroshima Prefecture. She hasn't responded to multiple queries on Facebook, but based on the map on Wikipedia, it looks like she should be pretty safe from everything. Right?
posted by kmz at 6:42 AM on March 11, 2011


Seems the worst of it has passed in Waikiki. I watched what almost looked like time lapse photography of the Ala Wai canal rising from low tide to high, water moving very quickly, but it's now moving on out. Will have to wait for daylight to see if there is damage.
posted by scottymac at 6:44 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If anyone's interested, the aftershocks are still coming in every 10 minutes or so, but they're slowly trending downward in magnitude with a slightly larger one about every hour.
posted by clorox at 6:48 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hiroshima is pretty far from the epicentre kmz.
posted by gomichild at 6:49 AM on March 11, 2011


Oh hell - fires across Miyagi prefecture.
posted by gomichild at 6:51 AM on March 11, 2011


"I live in San Francisco itself, just south and west of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I think the only injuries that might happen as a result of tsunami activities..."

...would be the surfers out near Mavericks, who want to ride a *really* big wave.

San Francisco isn't the real risk. The big risk in California is Crescent City near the Oregon border, which frankly, couldn't be better designed by nature to be a death trap in the event of tsunamis. Fortunately, the coastal areas all have evacuation warnings. The forecast tsunami amplitude for Crescent City is 8.2 feet... significantly higher than most coastal areas. Tsunami amplitude is measured relative to normal sea level, not crest-to-trough wave height, and doesn't take into account that at 7:23, when the first tsunami is forecast to strike the area, the tide level forecast is 2.7 feet above sea level.

So basically, a sustained wave of water up to perhaps 12' high is a possibility. Not the worst case scenario certainly, but not safe, either. Wouldn't want to be a boat owner, really.
posted by markkraft at 6:53 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That BBC video of the wave coming into Sendai....holy hell. What can you do to protect people against an event like that? A huge, burning mass of debris rolling across the land just obliterating everything. I'm in Vancouver and get to spend the day working in a building 100 years old. Will be feeling nervous until I'm out of there.

My thoughts are with the people affected and I hope the mortality rate turns out to be as low as could be expected.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2011


Yay, Ghidorah's cat!
posted by nicwolff at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2011 [29 favorites]


The infocus pictures linked upthread are just mind blowing.
posted by cashman at 6:58 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The big risk in California is Crescent City near the Oregon border, which frankly, couldn't be better designed by nature to be a death trap in the event of tsunamis.

Could they have used a more terrifying soundtrack for that video? :( Tsunamis are freaky enough as it is...
posted by Nattie at 6:59 AM on March 11, 2011


Flapjax? Stay safe Pacific Mefites. Were thinking about you here.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 7:02 AM on March 11, 2011


I can't stream video here at work, but reading everyone's posts, and looking at the still photos on the news sites just makes me grieve. I hope everyone is as safe and sound as possible.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:04 AM on March 11, 2011


I live in the evac zone in Marina del rey.

The Marina amplifies this stuff. I wonder if my wife has to evac. I'm in Austin right now.
posted by Lord_Pall at 7:08 AM on March 11, 2011


hoping flapjax et al are ok. glad Ghidorah and cat etc are. i can't watch any more of this coverage.
posted by peterkins at 7:08 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not the thread I wanted to come back to this morning.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:11 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]



4 hours and 20 minutes later, I'm home, and mostly the house is in surprisingly good shape. The cat seems entirely unbothered. Mrs. Ghidorah is holed up at work for the evenly with coworkers, and the family is all okay. Sometime later, I'll try to write up the surreal walk home. Meanwhile, thanks for all the well-wishing, and in general for being fucking awesome. I love you guys.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:35 AM on March 11 [19 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]


You hug the shit out of that cat for all of us.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:12 AM on March 11, 2011 [57 favorites]


So glad to see so many Mefites in Japan checking in. I'm not sure I can stand looking at some of the videos described in this thread; the text is scary enough.
posted by immlass at 7:12 AM on March 11, 2011


Google Person Finder.
posted by schmod at 7:14 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


...would be the surfers out near Mavericks, who want to ride a *really* big wave.

Watching the footage of the tsunami last night, when the camera pulled back to show the waves coming in, I was a little ashamed to find myself thinking that it looked like a beautiful break.

Ghidorah, I send skritches to your cat and hugs and well-wishes to you and yours. So glad to hear you're all okay.
posted by rtha at 7:15 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can someone help me find out what the situation's like in Atsugi? My sister's there teaching a course. She posted to Facebook right after the quake but that's the last I've heard, and all I can come up with so far is that Narita traffic was diverted to the base, but nothing else about current conditions.

I'm probably just going to be a nervous nellie until she emails me all annoyed to say "everything's fine and I had a whiskey and went to bed, jeez".
posted by padraigin at 7:16 AM on March 11, 2011


So relieved to find that my family and old friends and students are ok.

I was in Tokyo when the Great Hanshin Earthquake hit and had hoped never to see anything like that again. The damage is just stunning.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 7:18 AM on March 11, 2011


Has flapjax reported in yet?
posted by Meatbomb at 7:20 AM on March 11, 2011


I had been avoiding watching the videos, because I know myself too well. Then I watched the BBC one that vacapinta linked to. Then I walked into the bathroom and threw up. My god, the cars driving...
posted by gaspode at 7:20 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yay, the three people I personally know who live in Japan right now are fine. Despite all of my usual complaints about Facebook, it really is useful for checking in with people when stuff like this happens.
posted by limeonaire at 7:21 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree, limeonaire. Facebook has proved its worth to me today. I haven't heard from everyone yet, but it went a long way to giving me some peace of mind over a good majority of my friends there. I hope they all continue to stay safe. My heart goes out to the people up north.
posted by zerbinetta at 7:24 AM on March 11, 2011


. Justinian is correct that going from a 7 to an 8 is about a 30x increase in energy release.

Yes. The confusion comes that going from a 6 to an 8 is a 1000x increase in energy released. Today's nightmare was 8.9 MW

Do you all remember Kobe in 1995? That quake was 6.8 MW. So, the 2011 Sendai quake released more that 1000 times the energy of the 1995 Kobe quake.
posted by eriko at 7:37 AM on March 11, 2011




Isnt going from 6 to 8, 100x...not 1000x?
posted by hal_c_on at 7:42 AM on March 11, 2011


BBC reporting a dam burst in Northern Japan.
posted by Optamystic at 7:42 AM on March 11, 2011


Al Jazeera video of tsunami through town. (Same footage as from live stream.)
posted by stoneweaver at 7:43 AM on March 11, 2011


Mother-in-law in Bandon, OR, called this morning at 7:30 (Eastern) to tell us she was evactuating. It was the first we'd heard of anything, so it was a bit surprising.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:43 AM on March 11, 2011


Ghidorah, so glad to hear you're all okay.
posted by zarq at 7:44 AM on March 11, 2011


Isnt going from 6 to 8, 100x...not 1000x?

From the Wikipedia Richter Scale article:

The energy release of an earthquake, which closely correlates to its destructive power, scales with the 3⁄2 power of the shaking amplitude. Thus, a difference in magnitude of 1.0 is equivalent to a factor of 31.6 ( = (101.0)(3 / 2)) in the energy released; a difference in magnitude of 2.0 is equivalent to a factor of 1000 ( = (102.0)(3 / 2) ) in the energy released.

posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:45 AM on March 11, 2011


But it's the humidity that'll get to you.
posted by ryanrs at 7:45 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Odd. I live in Port Alberni on the west coast of Vancouver Island where there was a fairly big surge back in 1964. They've closed all the schools in town today in case of another surge and we're only under an advisory.
posted by kanata at 7:50 AM on March 11, 2011


Isnt going from 6 to 8, 100x...not 1000x?

No. In both Richter and Moment Magnitude, one step is 101.5 higher than the next, so from 0 to 1 is a factor of 101.5=31.62 increase, two steps is 103=1000 and three steps is 104.5=31,620.

Stellar Magnitude uses steps of 100.4, a difference of 1 is 2.51 times brighter or different, and a difference of 5 is 105*.04=102=100 times.
posted by eriko at 7:52 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Err, 105*0.4=102. Sorry.
posted by eriko at 7:52 AM on March 11, 2011


Oktober, thanks. That was exactly what I needed. I'll make sure to send money to your commisary account in hell.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:56 AM on March 11, 2011


That didn't come off quite as witty as I'd hoped. Sorry.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:56 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


NW Washington coastline has advisories, arrival times started about twenty minutes ago. Haven't heard anything yet.
posted by warbaby at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2011


Here in Guandong province they put an advisory out not to go near the coast in case of surges, but nothing significant here.
Thoughts and prayers with everyone affected by this.
posted by arcticseal at 7:59 AM on March 11, 2011


CNN, MSNBC, and AlJazeera all seem to be re-airing the same NHK clips, with the same editing.

Probably because they're mostly pulling the video from the same Reuters and APTN rushes.
posted by Jahaza at 8:01 AM on March 11, 2011


That didn't come off quite as witty as I'd hoped. Sorry.
No apologizing after what you went through! Enjoy your cloned bluefin tuna sushi!
posted by girlhacker at 8:02 AM on March 11, 2011


I've been off and on watching this since I woke up. No sign of flapjax yet.
posted by infini at 8:08 AM on March 11, 2011


reruns for you, the end of blissful ignorance for me.

Random bit of very Chiba specific damage. I walked home along route 14, which links Kisarazu to Tokyo. Between Makuharihongo and the Hanamigawa river, the sidewalks were broken in several areas, and there was a disturbing amount of exquisitely smooth mud covering the sidewalks. I heard there was going to be a Tokyo Bay tsunami, does anyone know if that's what happened in Makuhari?
posted by Ghidorah at 8:09 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Girlfriend evacuated from her hotel job in Eureka. They called all the guests at 6am to plead with them to get to higher ground and pulled the fire alarm for the most cantankerous. My girlfriend is now safe in the hills.

Incidentally, I was caught thinking of a plant I was monitoring in Point Reyes, with its only wild population existing less than a quarter mile inland, at sea level. These are the events which demonstrate the danger of low ecological rigor.
posted by Wyatt at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ghidorah, after the day you've had, I'd consider an ability to speak coherently a pretty big accomplishment. Don't worry. Go hug your kitty some more.
posted by cmyk at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Probably a long shot, but if anyone knows anything about how things are going in Rokkasho-mura, I would be grateful to hear it. Rokkasho is north of Hachinohe in Aomori-ken. I spent part of a summer there a few years back, and I haven't really kept in touch with anyone, but... I want to know that everything is all right.
posted by Vibrissa at 8:19 AM on March 11, 2011


My brother lives in Hawaii and would normally be surfing at dawn because that is what he does every morning, but mercifully he is in jail at the moment.

I shouldn't be laughing at this, but I am. Glad your brother is safe, Secret Life of Gravy.

Such devastation on that tiny, crowded island, and such hardship ahead. I can't even imagine it.
posted by orange swan at 8:20 AM on March 11, 2011


Lots of people gathering at Palisades Park in Santa Monica now. I didn't hear that they'd closed the beaches but I don't see a single person out there.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2011


According to an INGV preliminary estimate, the earth axis has registered a change of about 10 cm. (link, italian)
posted by elpapacito at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Hitting Santa Cruz, CA now... (as reported to me)
"water is flowing out of the harbor"
posted by fluffycreature at 8:25 AM on March 11, 2011


BTW, I have a friend doing JET in Fukuyama-shi in Hiroshima Prefecture.

She'll be fine, Hiroshima's very far away and I've heard from multiple friends in Hiroshima who say there is no damage there.
posted by ripley_ at 8:27 AM on March 11, 2011


.
posted by angrycat at 8:27 AM on March 11, 2011


The county emergency services here in coastal California ran a reverse 911 a couple hours ago advising everyone within the inundation zone to evacuate, so I ended up out of the house and at work about 4 hours early. Not expecting anything dangerous, but hoping my house's carpets stay dry.
posted by hat at 8:32 AM on March 11, 2011


Shit, we're just about due for another Tokai earthquake, aren't we? How's Shizuoka-ken holding up? Specifically, any word from Fuji-shi? I lived there '97-'98.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:33 AM on March 11, 2011


Crescent City gauges indicate a measured 4.6 ft wave, and one suspect line with "-99" for the data... maybe the gauge considered the data erroneous or it went outside the design limit. I scoured Google News feed for what's going on in Crescent City but all the news stories are pretty devoid of any info, basically parroting the stories about there being warnings in effect. Where is the hard hitting journalism?
posted by crapmatic at 8:41 AM on March 11, 2011


My friends in Japan are alive, did the same walk home as Ghidorah (glad you're okay, G!). They said they couldn't call each other or find out if their building was still there, but they walked for hours, worried and reeling from the aftershocks, updating and checking in through Facebook because they couldn't get cell reception.

I will never curse FB again for being a piece of crap timewaster, because unlike on 9/11, I was able to verify Mark was alive as soon as I heard because of it. I remember calling him for hours and getting a busy signal that day, worried he'd been unable to get out of the towers; he was late to work that day and saw the buildings collapse, but wasn't inside, though I wouldn't find that out until three days later.

Afterwards, he moved away from NYC because he couldn't get over how 9/11 affected him. He picked Tokyo, and has lived there for almost a decade. And now, his girlfriend is ready to leave Tokyo, though she's a native, because of this. It's like tragedy followed him there.

Praying for all MeFites in Japan/Hawaii/coastal areas of the US right now. Japan is incredibly well-prepared for such events, thank God.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:42 AM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Between Makuharihongo and the Hanamigawa river, the sidewalks were broken in several areas, and there was a disturbing amount of exquisitely smooth mud covering the sidewalks

Sounds like you found signs of soil liquefaction.
posted by loquacious at 8:42 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


FYI, here's a breakdown of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 for comparison to the events of the last 24 hours.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:44 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Live stream from santa cruz.
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/livenow?id=8007618
posted by johnstein at 8:47 AM on March 11, 2011


Live webcam of Ocean Beach, San Franciso (via the Guardian blog).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:48 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Somehow I missed hearing about this last night (wtf? I watched the news for a good 20 minutes before bed and it was all about mild local flooding without a mention?!), but the first thing I did this morning when my husband told me was to check on metafilter to make sure Ghidorah and other Japanese mefites were okay. Hugs to you and your kitty, G--and all of you in Japan.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:51 AM on March 11, 2011


Unicorn, I've gotten to the part about the ethnic mass murders following the quake & am completely horrified. (And ashamed.) I had no idea.
posted by PepperMax at 8:52 AM on March 11, 2011


geez, EndOfInvention - i was watching that livecam about half an hour ago and there were 45 viewers... now there are over 3000
posted by lapolla at 8:53 AM on March 11, 2011


Loquacious, that looks almost exactly like what I saw. I even saw a manhole cover looking almost exactly like this photo, and the mud looked just like the mud surrounding the two cars in this photo. I'd always thought soil liquification needed absurd (9.0 plus) earthquakes to occur, but I guess not. When the earth stops behaving like a solid, it's really easy to start to worry about other things we take for granted.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:55 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Watching the SF Bay for the past 30 minutes. Oddly calm. Aside from the ferries and one cargo ship, no boats out.
posted by zippy at 8:59 AM on March 11, 2011


Emergency services in HI are authorized to evacuate inundation zones, those areas calculated to be affected severely by sudden increases in ocean height.

I was in Kauai last year during the Chilean earthquake, and we had to be evacuated, not that anything significant happened. Though it did get me researching some of the terminology. Basically, the "inundation zones" are anywhere from sea level to 30 feet above, which may not sound like much, but in an tourist area, those areas tend to be rather densely populated.

Anyway, good news for Hawaii thus far. Here's hoping for the best for those in Japan and other more severely afflicted zones.
posted by philip-random at 8:59 AM on March 11, 2011


I'd always thought soil liquification needed absurd (9.0 plus) earthquakes to occur, but I guess not.

8.9 is an absurd earthquake -- the difference in energy between 9.0 and 8.9 is 1.4x. But it can happen in much smaller quakes -- Loma Prieta and Kobe both had big liquifaction problem. The big factor is the soil you've built on -- typically, the more groundwater, the more likely liquification can happen.
posted by eriko at 9:03 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm not an expert but, afaik, soil liquefaction is about how much shear stress the earth can withstand. Soil type (and hydration) is really, really important. Clays, in particular, are very suseptible. Get a clay into shear behaviour and it can self-lubricate. The grey colour of the mud in those photographs are telltales for silt/clay soils.
posted by bonehead at 9:04 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


eriko, of course you're right, it's just that Chiba is pretty far from where the earthquake hit. Then again, essentially everything in that area, between that road and the bay is built on reclaimed land, which probably had a lot to do with it.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:06 AM on March 11, 2011


Just heard on the news that there's some damage to boats in the harbor at Crescent City, CA. Doesn't sound like anything too major.
posted by OolooKitty at 9:07 AM on March 11, 2011


J Raw Footage by YoshiEatsWasabi. Apparently the earthquake continued for approximately 20 minutes.
posted by nickyskye at 9:08 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


.
posted by desjardins at 9:08 AM on March 11, 2011


.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:12 AM on March 11, 2011




Do I donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross for maximum efficacy? Or the American branch?

ICRC is ONLY for armed conflict - so, donate to ICRC if you want to support relief efforts in Libya. For disaster relief, your best bet is to donate to your national society or to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (this is the federation of all national societies).

Canadian Red Cross
posted by arcticwoman at 9:16 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do I donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross for maximum efficacy? Or the American branch?

I hate to tell people with money in hand to hang tight, but if you want to donate directly to the relief efforts in Japan and be sure that's where every dollar is going, hang tight. This event will wind up with a specific donation path listing, and when it does it will be here.

If you want to assist with disaster relief in general, including in Japan, use the "Where the Need is Greatest" or the "Disaster Relief for Countless Crises" links on that page.
posted by rollbiz at 9:22 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jeeeezus. I can't believe that ABC news is going with the 'this disaster might be good for the american consumer' angle. W.T.F?????
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:26 AM on March 11, 2011


re liquifaction: this video demonstrates liquifaction in a wheelbarrow going over cobblestones, so it doesn't take a huge earthquake: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvYKcCS_J7Y Liquifaction was a big problem in the recent Christchurch earthquake. When the inevitable large earthquake hits Vancouver BC, it'll be interesting to see what happens in Richmond which was basically built on silt.
posted by Emanuel at 9:27 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Then again, essentially everything in that area, between that road and the bay is built on reclaimed land, which probably had a lot to do with it.

DING DING DING WE HAVE A FACTOR.

Reclaimed land is infamous for liquefaction in earthquakes -- both Kobe and Loma Prieta saw the worst damage, and the most soil liquefaction, on areas that were reclaimed.
posted by eriko at 9:28 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


For certain values of "interesting".
posted by steambadger at 9:29 AM on March 11, 2011


PepperMax, yeah, it's quite depressing, isn't it? I had no idea, either, until I visited Japan and heard about the ongoing enmity between various cultural communities and how they got started. Sometimes the worst outcomes from natural disaster occur from the spread of misinformation and panic - something we hopefully will avoid in the future with the ability to communicate clearly and quickly on an international level thanks to the Internet.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:29 AM on March 11, 2011


When the inevitable large earthquake hits Vancouver BC

I hope you knocked on wood when you typed that.
posted by Hoopo at 9:30 AM on March 11, 2011


I just sent a donation to the Red Cross, but will be happy to donate again when the money can be targeted to the relief efforts in Japan.

Twitter has been great in letting me know that friends are okay in Japan.

I hope the rest of the Japan Mefites check in soon (have they all checked in yet?)
posted by Julnyes at 9:30 AM on March 11, 2011


Backing up whatever anyone says in this thread about people worrying more about the global economic impact than loss of life and infrastructure right now - sorry if I don't give a crap about Wall Street right now, though I'm sure we'll all be feeling it in some way.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:31 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


still no word from Flapjax?
posted by Ghidorah at 9:31 AM on March 11, 2011


...something we hopefully will avoid in the future with the ability to communicate clearly and quickly on an international level thanks to the Internet.

The internet is great for communicating quickly and clearly, but it can spread misinformation about as quickly as accurate information. Using twitter to follow what's been going on in Wisconsin has been stressful just from trying to separate confirmed reports from rumors.
posted by Vibrissa at 9:33 AM on March 11, 2011


Ghidorah, someone mentioned over on the MeTa thread that flapjax does not have a mobile phone so that could be it.
Glad you & your family (human & feline) are OK
posted by pointystick at 9:34 AM on March 11, 2011


Very glad to hear our Mefi Japan contingent checking in. After seeing the picture of a cat perched on a car floating in a flooded area, I'm absurdly pleased that Ghidorah's cat is okay. Hoping to hear from flapjax very soon.
posted by empyrean at 9:35 AM on March 11, 2011


Flapjax is probably sleeping.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:36 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was the recent 8.9 earthquake 350 times stronger than the 6.3 Christchurch earthquake?

350 times worse than Christchurch?


No, it's a lot worse than that. The difference in energy release between a 8.9 and a 6.3 is 103.9. Or nearly 8000x worse. I've been in 6.3 earthquakes. They're not fun but there is absolutely no comparison with a 8.9, which I can barely imagine.

But I want to repeat that a difference in energy release isn't exactly the same as a difference in shake intensity. This difference in shake intensity between 8.9 and 6.3 is huge but it isn't going to feel 8000x more intense.
posted by Justinian at 9:36 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


An in-traffic photo from during the refinery explosion linked upthread, and a different video of it from someone's apartment.
posted by cashman at 9:36 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I just saw a TV reporting (probably incorrectly) that the price of oil in the US is likely to go down slightly in the near future. The reason? Japan isn't going to require as much in the near future.

I shit you now.

Fuck network news channels.


Stay safe Tokyo!
posted by quin at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2011


now not
posted by quin at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2011


Can someone check my math here?

The difference in energy release when you increase one step is 101.5. To compare two earthquakes the formula is 101.5(m1 - m2).
posted by Justinian at 9:39 AM on March 11, 2011


At some point, comparing Christchurch and this (Sendai?) is like comparing apples & oranges. It feels like one really has to be there to understand the damage and extent of it. Energy is just one part of an earthquake - there's local topography and geography, building construction, and personal readiness.

I think for many people, one or the other is more than just a number.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:40 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The cooling system for Fukushima I Reactor 1 is currently running via battery backup. The JSDF is securing additional batteries and will be flying them in. That's maybe 8 to 12 hours of cooling for the core...

It's an older BWR that came online in 1971... pressure is building in the core...

God. Damn. It.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 9:40 AM on March 11, 2011


This morning the story on CNBC was "how is this going to affect Toyota sales?" Of course, they are the business channel, so maybe it's best they stick to what they know rather than interviewing geologists.
posted by vespabelle at 9:40 AM on March 11, 2011


Wow... hoping the aftershocks continue to get smaller and they've seen the worst of it.

I'm supposed to fly to Tokyo on Monday, enroute to Hokkaido for a two week ski trip. I wonder what the likelihood is that it will happen?

The folks I'm going with are all mountain rescue members here in the states -- any idea who would be the best contact if we wanted to help with the recovery efforts?
posted by Pantengliopoli at 9:40 AM on March 11, 2011


Yeah flapjax has no mobile phone so he won't check in until he's home and computer and Internet and power ok. People have been stranded all over the place.
posted by gomichild at 9:42 AM on March 11, 2011


Ugh, I just saw a TV reporting (probably incorrectly) that the price of oil in the US is likely to go down slightly in the near future. The reason? Japan isn't going to require as much in the near future.

Oil prices fall below $100

Awful, but rational, I suppose.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:43 AM on March 11, 2011


At some point, comparing Christchurch and this (Sendai?) is like comparing apples & oranges. It feels like one really has to be there to understand the damage and extent of it. Energy is just one part of an earthquake - there's local topography and geography, building construction, and personal readiness.

Yeah, bearing in mind that the bad ChCh quake was 6.3, but they had a 7.5 quake last year that didn't kill anyone.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:43 AM on March 11, 2011


And woodblock doesn't have a mobile phone either btw so same scenario.
posted by gomichild at 9:44 AM on March 11, 2011


The JSDF is securing additional batteries and will be flying them in. That's maybe 8 to 12 hours of cooling for the core...

By which time a larger generator will be flown in or a local emergency generator will be back online. I'm willing to be they're grabbing batteries first because (as long as the charge was monitored), you don't have to make any assumptions about availability of fuel. If they're being very paranoid, there's a standard interface, and all they'll have to do is plug these into the power units.

It's a measure of how severe the quake was here. Batteries are probably the 4th level backup (First power is the plant itself, 2nd is grid, third is generator, fourth is batteries.)
posted by eriko at 9:45 AM on March 11, 2011


The cooling system for Fukushima I Reactor 1 is currently running via battery backup.

Does anyone have a link to a technical explanation for this?

Also, why can't they bring in generators? This seems more straightforward than bringing in batteries.
posted by zippy at 9:45 AM on March 11, 2011


The US Navy Commander, Fleet activities, Sasebo Japan has a facebook page. It says the Navy and Marines are preparing Operation Tomodachi, but they can't move without a request from the Japanese government.

Other 7th Fleet assets are also preparing for assistance operations.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:47 AM on March 11, 2011


Televison explains infrastructure must be repaired then bring reactors on-line. I believe it takes 12-24 hours to re-set when going off line.
prayers for the great peoples of Japan and great hope for Mefis in Japan are safe.
posted by clavdivs at 9:50 AM on March 11, 2011


I know it's not much but Maru the cat is safe.
posted by hellojed at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2011 [40 favorites]


The cooling system for Fukushima I Reactor 1 is currently running via battery backup. The JSDF is securing additional batteries and will be flying them in. That's maybe 8 to 12 hours of cooling for the core...

It's an older BWR that came online in 1971... pressure is building in the core...


My husband has a paper route along with his day job so he had no idea about what was going on till he woke up from his post paper nap this morning. I filled him in regarding the earthquake, tsunami, fires, and possible problems with the reactor, to which he responded, "What next? Godzilla??????"

I don't think he was trying to be funny, either.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2011


Maru is safe.

Obama says that one US aircraft carrier is already off the coast of Japan, and more are on their way.
posted by schmod at 9:55 AM on March 11, 2011


had to update
Fukisnima reactor requires battery until full power is restored. Onagawas' turbine house has a fire.
posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on March 11, 2011


No, it's a lot worse than that. The difference in energy release between a 8.9 and a 6.3 is 103.9. Or nearly 8000x worse. I've been in 6.3 earthquakes. They're not fun but there is absolutely no comparison with a 8.9, which I can barely imagine.

One shouldn't really get hung up so much on the momentary magnitude or Richter scale values, because they are not really a good indication of the actual havoc wrought.

For example, you say "6.3 is bad." Well, the 6.3 is an indication of the total power released by the quake. It's bad if you stand in or above the epicenter, still bad 100 miles away, but not so bad a 1000 miles away. The waves propagate essentially spherically, so I would guess that also the power attenuates by ^-1/3 over distance or something like that.
An 8.9 quake is not really devastating if it happens in Siberia or in 5000m depth in the middle of the ocean, but much more so if it happens just outside of Sendai.

For comparison, earthquake maps in Japan are much more detailed. Essentially, right after the earthquake, they'll have a number of "earthquake watchers" phone in to a central agency to report the felt strength of the earthquake, assigning numbers to subjective phenomena such as "walls were shaking", "pictures fell from walls", "wall crumbled". The result is a subjective map of numbers that gives a very good indication of the damage. Much better than just a single number, such as 6.3, which says little about the actual damage at a particular place at an unknown distance from the epicenter.
posted by sour cream at 10:02 AM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Has anyone heard from woodblock100? I've just emailed him, but there's no update on his blog. From the maps of the quake, I can see that Ome (where he lives) is a bit further inland than the hardest hit areas, but that emergency shelters have been established at Tama High School and Ome High School nearby, so it's definitely affected, and I'm worried.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:04 AM on March 11, 2011


If you're looking to help financially, my Methodist friend sent me this link to the UMC relief project (a press release about it can be found here):
In response to the Earthquake on March 10, 2011 that struck Japan, The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will be working with local communities to rebuild. UMCOR is now better able to help when earthquakes and tsunamis or other disasters hit the area. UMCOR works in shelter and infrastructure reconstruction, water and sanitation, income generation, health and nutrition, education and community development.
100% of all contributions to this fund go directly to emergency relief and long-term recovery support. I'm sure there will be dozens of other orgs receiving for this as well... Please post whatever you can about them here so generous MeFites can see their options.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:07 AM on March 11, 2011


sour cream, USGS does shindo-style subjective mapping for US quakes, too; you just have to dig on the site a little. I've reported SoCal quakes to them a few times.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:08 AM on March 11, 2011


From WaPo:`` Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday morning that U.S. Air Force planes in Japan had delivered coolant to a nuclear power plant affected by the quake.

"They have very high engineering standards, but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake and didn't have enough coolant," she said, "and so Air Force planes were able to deliver that." It was not immediately clear which plant received the coolant. ''
posted by BeerFilter at 10:10 AM on March 11, 2011


The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) has an updated announcement (PDF, dated 11 Mar 11) on the reactor situation:

Quake Triggers Evacuation of Residents Surrounding Fukushima-1
NPS

After a massive earthquake struck northeast Japan at 2:46 p.m. on March 11,
Fukushima Prefecture issued an evacuation directive at 9:00 p.m. to residents
living within a 2-km radius of the Fukushima-I Nuclear Power Station (NPS). The
Fukushima-I-2 NPS suffered a loss of feeding water for its cooling system,
caused by the cutoff of power supply.

... the reactor core still has a sufficient amount of water for cooling, with no
danger of the nuclear fuel being exposed. Several emergency generator vehicles have
rushed to the scene to provide the necessary power for the water supply.

... while there
was no confirmation of radiation leaking from the reactor ... the government [directs] residents living with a 3-km radius to
evacuate, and other residents living outside that limit but within a 10-km radius [are] urged to stand by at home.


Nikkei.com has this:

The radiation level is rising in the building housing a turbine of the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant ... the operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday.

The company also said ... the air pressure level has also soared inside the container of the reactor.

posted by zippy at 10:10 AM on March 11, 2011


Well emergency centers have been set up all over - lots of people stranded far from home.

It's night time in Japan and people have had an exhausting day. Power is out in some areas which means no Internet and woodblock100 does not have a mobile phone. Give it a few more hours until things become more stable power-wise and people have rested.
posted by gomichild at 10:10 AM on March 11, 2011


I hate cold weather earthquakes in Japan. So many people still use those stupid, smelly, kerosine heaters, especially older folks, and they are a giant hazard when the ground starts shaking. When I had my earthquake training a few years ago we were instructed to turn off any stoves or heaters before seeking shelter under a desk or table because fires are so much more dangerous than the earthquakes themselves, and they spread making it a danger to anyone else nearby.

Seeing all those homes and offices on fire in the pictures is just terrifying.
posted by Alison at 10:11 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just realized I had a phone number for woodblock100's daughters. I spoke with one of them and she said that he's fine. He was away from home at the time of the quake, and was stranded since the trains aren't running, but he's at the home of one of his print collectors, and is in touch with family in Canada.

Phew.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:12 AM on March 11, 2011 [25 favorites]


Japan MeFites, thank you all for checking and staying safe.

Eriko, clavdivs, zippy thanks for the update on the reactor. I can only imagine what feats the plants engineers are doing to ensure that a core breach does not occur. Let us hope that nothing else gets in their way.

Has anyone heard from Flapjax yet?
posted by PROD_TPSL at 10:15 AM on March 11, 2011


I'm getting audio but no video on Al Jazeera live stream (OSX 10.6.6 under both Firefox and Safari), anybody else? Any ideas? What other live streams are good?
posted by ottereroticist at 10:17 AM on March 11, 2011


Seeing all those homes and offices on fire in the pictures is just terrifying.

While I hate them too, kerosene heaters typically have an earthquake shutoff mechanism. I think some of the fires we're seeing are coming from LP (propane) gas canisters used for hot water heating in houses.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:17 AM on March 11, 2011


side note: I am hitting paywalls and subscription walls on several Japanese news sites when trying to look up information about the reactor situation - news site owners, this would be an excellent time to drop your paywalls as doing so may save lives.
posted by zippy at 10:18 AM on March 11, 2011


Finally catching up on this thread. Best wishes and high hopes for everyone in Japan, their loved ones, and their pets.
posted by marxchivist at 10:18 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another quake just hit Ibaraki and the surrounding areas. NHK says magnitude 3, so everyone should be ok. My in-laws are there, so I hope for the best.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 10:19 AM on March 11, 2011


The quake was just updated to a 9.0
posted by MrVisible at 10:21 AM on March 11, 2011


I recorded some rather unsettling emergency evacuation warnings from STV Abashiri Station NRN this morning.
posted by mykescipark at 10:23 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


One shouldn't really get hung up so much on the momentary magnitude or Richter scale values, because they are not really a good indication of the actual havoc wrought.

This is what the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale was designed for - it gives a measure of earthquake damage and severity, not just the amplitude and energy of the seismic event itself. According to the USGS, they are tentatively estimating the 8.9 (now 9.0, on preview) quake as an 8 (VIII, severe shaking and moderate to heavy damage) on the Mercalli scale.

Here's the USGS "Did you feel it" page for the 8.9 quake (there are separate pages for each aftershock). You can see Mercalli estimates from all over Japan.
posted by dialetheia at 10:24 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If they can't get backup generators running to start pumping a lot of water very soon the control rods and core can melt and then you can't shut the pile down. We really don't need another Chernobyl happening right now. That would be worse than multiple tsunamis.

Just wanted to comment here that there's essentially zero danger to the public here; unless a reactor is just about on top of the epicenter of a truly massive earthquake, there's no possible way it could take enough damage to leak anything.

Assuming that Japanese reactors are built at least as well as ours (and considering that they've been building them for a lot longer than we have, that's probably a safe assumption), there simply is no failure mode that will release radioactivity, short of physical breach of three containment vessels that are built to absolutely ridiculous standards. The China Syndrome is total bullshit, a complete fabrication. It's a fictional story that people treat as true.

Western reactors are some seriously space-age shit, with multiple layered safety systems. Even if the worst happens, like at Three Mile Island here in the US, nothing dangerous will get out. They're designed so that the core will slag itself, and then flow down into capture basins underneath the reactor, where it's separated into sub-critical masses. You lose the reactor for decades, until it cools down enough to be safe to clean out, but nothing escapes, and there's no danger of explosion.

The sum total of the radioactive release from TMI was some radioactive krypton gas. This was done deliberately, to speed recovery efforts. It wasn't detectable fifty feet downwind from the reactor. Krypton is one of the 'noble gases'; it doesn't interact with much of anything, so it doesn't bioaccumulate. It's very much like it's not even there, for all the impact it has. It just floats around, and occasionally decays into something else. Even if it happens to be inside you when it decays, the damage is completely unnoticeable compared to all the other natural sources of radiation we're exposed to. And if you breathe in some of it, you'll promptly breathe it back out again, because it just doesn't bind to anything.

But, of course, the media and politicians thrive on fear and spectacle, so all you got was nonstop horror about a radiation leak on TV, while the engineers on site were busily rolling their eyes. Mysteriously, you didn't hear about the eye rolling.

Even if something really dire is happening in that reactor, nothing is going to get out. The only damage will be monetary. They might lose the plant, and perhaps some workers if they're foolishly brave. There will be no civilian injuries or deaths.

Don't confuse Russian engineering with Western nuclear power. The Chernobyl-style plants are inherently unsafe, and absolutely should be decommissioned. I wouldn't want to live within five hundred miles of one. But I'd be perfectly happy living immediately next to any of the Western plants, including this one, even right now this very minute, when it's having trouble. The evacuation order is probably legally required; from a safety standpoint, it's incredibly unlikely to be necessary.

The current designs for new plants are even better than the ones we have now, and the ones we have now are just fucking amazing engineering. If you feel safe enough about aviation engineering to fly, Western nuclear plants should not scare you. We've had only one 'crash', and nothing outside the plant was damaged. It did exactly what it was intended to do.
posted by Malor at 10:26 AM on March 11, 2011 [105 favorites]


More information on the IAEA statement concerning the cooling system problems, rising pressure, and overall concern at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
posted by samsara at 10:27 AM on March 11, 2011


The reactor is already shut off and no leakage has been detected.

Can someone tell me what it means that the reactor is shut off? I thought it took weeks (months?) to shut off a reactor.

Unfortunately, all I know about nuclear reactors has come from mystery and thriller novels. And watching that depressing Soviet documentary about the heroism of the Chernobyl first responders.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:27 AM on March 11, 2011


People near Fukushima reactor, please evacuate ASAP.

Japan's top government spokesman Yukio Edano told an evening press conference, ''We have a situation where one of the reactors (of the plant) cannot be cooled down.'' But the chief Cabinet secretary said the evacuation instruction was only precautionary.
posted by zippy at 10:28 AM on March 11, 2011


From Zippy's link: ''No radiation has leaked outside the reactor. The incident poses no danger to the environment at the moment,'' Edano said.

Jesus but that's ominous.
posted by jbickers at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2011


ASAP vs. only precautionary, eh?

Fixating on the nuclear reactor is pretty weird. Like it will do more damage than the massive wall of water that killed a lot of people.
posted by smackfu at 10:30 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm of course reading between the lines, given the rapidly changing news regarding the reactor. So I apologize for being alarmist, however reports currently state that TEPCO is considering releasing potentially radioactive steam from the reactor.
posted by zippy at 10:34 AM on March 11, 2011


This is a good reminder that everyone should have a go-bag and an evacuation plan in place. I know that the damage here on the West Coast can't compare, but when I woke up I only had about 20 minutes notice prior to the arrival of the first Tsunami wave. Not a problem this time because the wave was less than 5 feet, but a wake up call for the future.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:36 AM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks for sharing the links and updates, everyone. I wish I could do more than donate to the Red Cross.
posted by dragonplayer at 10:38 AM on March 11, 2011


Here's one such report from Asahi.com and another here regarding a potential venting of radioactive material.

Where officials seem to be adjusting to an as-yet uncontrolled situation at a nuclear reactor, I feel it's sensible to encourage people to head the government's advice to evacuate the area.

I can't do anything to prevent the tsunami, but I can help get out the word of an event that may occur in the future.
posted by zippy at 10:39 AM on March 11, 2011


small_ruminant: Can someone tell me what it means that the reactor is shut off? I thought it took weeks (months?) to shut off a reactor.


There are a lot of safety thresholds that must be crossed before there is imminent public danger. I think there are a number of automated systems that can close down I believe that they'd tell people to leave ASAP over pretty low-level concerns, but it's not something to balk at.

More on this: Japan: 11 nuclear reactors shut down
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday morning that U.S. Air Force planes in Japan had delivered coolant to a nuclear power plant affected by the quake.

"They have very high engineering standards, but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake and didn't have enough coolant," she said, "and so Air Force planes were able to deliver that." It was not immediately clear which plant received the coolant.
Emergency Declared at Japanese Nuclear Plant
Heat from the nuclear fuel rods must be removed by water in a cooling system, but that requires power to run the pumps and to align the valves in the pipes. So the plant requires a continuous supply of electricity even after the reactor stops generating its own power.

An analyst with the World Nuclear Association, a major international nuclear power group, told Reuters that he understood fresh cool water was now being pumped into the cooling system at Fukushima, reducing the threat of a meltdown.

“We understand this situation is under control,” the analyst said, adding that he understood that a back-up battery power system had been brought online after about an hour and began pumping water back into the cooling system, where the water level had been falling.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:39 AM on March 11, 2011


Has anybody seen an update as to the missing commuter train?
posted by PepperMax at 10:41 AM on March 11, 2011



This is a good reminder that everyone should have a go-bag and an evacuation plan in place. I know that the damage here on the West Coast can't compare, but when I woke up I only had about 20 minutes notice prior to the arrival of the first Tsunami wave. Not a problem this time because the wave was less than 5 feet, but a wake up call for the future.


That's a great point; a lot of people stock canned goods, bottled water, batteries and the like, but they do so in an inconvenient place like a cellar, basement or storage closet, where it might take you an hour to get it and get out.

It's a great idea to keep a 5-minute bag in your front closet with absolute basics (a bottle of water, some snacks and a change of clothes) and whatever other provisions you need somewhere a little further out. Even if you don't use it for an emergency, it's sometimes helpful when you're heading in/out of the house quickly.
posted by dflemingecon at 10:42 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a great idea to keep a 5-minute bag in your front closet with absolute basics (a bottle of water, some snacks and a change of clothes) and whatever other provisions you need somewhere a little further out. Even if you don't use it for an emergency, it's sometimes helpful when you're heading in/out of the house quickly.

And if you have a car, one in the trunk.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:45 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fixating on the nuclear reactor is pretty weird.

I suspect a lot of us who are eyeing Fukushima-I warily grew up in the mid-80s/ remember Chernobyl/ have been trained since a young age to be very alert to possible nuclear mayhem.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:47 AM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


A huge section of Kessanuma seems to be on fire

Kessanuma is in Miyagi, north of Sendai, and is the home of the Japanese tuna fleet.

It's worth noting that the tsunami affected a huge area of Japan's coastline. The live feed I'm watching now shows destructive tsunami waves in Muroran in Hokkaido, far to the north of Sendai.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:49 AM on March 11, 2011




If you're trying to conceptualize the relative magnitudes of the Richter scale, this graph from the SD geological survey may help.
posted by zennie at 10:50 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Less alarming new details on efforts to cool Fukushima reactor:

Another official at the nuclear safety agency, Yuji Kakizaki, said that plant workers were cooling the reactor with a secondary cooling system, which is not as effective as the regular cooling method.

Kakizaki said officials have confirmed that the emergency cooling system — the last-ditch cooling measure to prevent the reactor from the meltdown — is intact and could kick in if needed.

"That's as a last resort, and we have not reached that stage yet," Kakizaki added.

posted by zippy at 10:51 AM on March 11, 2011


I'd like to also say that, as a proponent of nuclear energy being a crucial part of getting the world off fossil fuels, this reactor holding up (or not) could serve as a huge "make or break" point in the eyes of the world, even though this does seem to be a reactor from a few tech-generations back.

Simply put, if it fails/breaches, even if to no huge adverse effects, it's a black eye and if it stands fast then I would hope it would be an example of what proper engineering/construction can promise for the nay-sayers.

So, yea, the fixation is a bit odd, but not at all unjustified if you're looking at the macro-level.

My thoughts are with Japan.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:53 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The wording of this Slashdot article title is dumb, but the topic is worse: beware a massive influx of "tsunami relief" scams and malware.
Charity scams have always been a favorite of fraudsters. After Hurricane Katrina, the FBI felt it necessary to issue a warning when over 4,500 web sites appeared, all attempting to collect donations to help hurricane victims.
...
Scams are already spreading across Facebook, which started in a matter of minutes after the news broke of the earthquake in Japan.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:59 AM on March 11, 2011


I'd like to also say that, as a proponent of nuclear energy being a crucial part of getting the world off fossil fuels, this reactor holding up (or not) could serve as a huge "make or break" point in the eyes of the world, even though this does seem to be a reactor from a few tech-generations back.

Simply put, if it fails/breaches, even if to no huge adverse effects, it's a black eye and if it stands fast then I would hope it would be an example of what proper engineering/construction can promise for the nay-sayers.


Not to spoil anything, but you just described much of the storyline of the latest episode of V.
posted by limeonaire at 11:00 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


TBS TV is currently reporting a large quake centering Nagano (center of Honshu), with tsunami warnings now for the entire Japan see coast.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2011


Magnitude 6 just hit Niigata in the west.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2011


Japan "Sea" coast
posted by KokuRyu at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2011


Finally heard from my mom and brother on Maui. They were up all night and had two sets of friends sheltering in their high-ground house. Apparently the police shut down all the roads and weren't letting people travel, so all precautions were taken.

I can't imagine what everyone with family in Japan is going through, not to mention of course, those actually there. Terrifying.
posted by threeturtles at 11:05 AM on March 11, 2011


Bastish.net (long time Nagano blogger) reports that things are okay where he is near the center of this latest quake.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another one in Ibaraki just now :(
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 11:10 AM on March 11, 2011


I just asked my sister, who lived in Japan until recently and who I assume still has some friends there what she's heard about the situation.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:12 AM on March 11, 2011




Among other things, Ibaraki has a lot of nuclear power plants right along the coast, just north of Oarai, which already experienced a tsunami.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:15 AM on March 11, 2011


My brother, who lives in Chiba, is fine. It's ridiculous, though. He's a translator and does a lot of simulcast work, and was looking at a totally impossible amount of shows to get through yesterday because of things outside his control, and then the quakes started. He apparently ran outside for the first time since moving to Japan and did some of his work in a park. But it seems that, because his building is very new, it's one of the safer places to be. His internet has stayed connected the whole time, and although he says that the air outside is full of smoke and he could hear explosions from the refinery, I think it was, the worst that happened to him was some stuff got knocked over. Still, terrifying.

The irony is that he's been awake this whole time freaking translating things, and worrying about his neighborhood, and the shows that caused him to be late on this current stuff are being preempted by news!

He can be very single-minded, my brother. I told him not to get himself killed because he was too busy translating things, but apparently he really is safest hunkered down in his own building. Yesterday he mentioned something on IM about "maybe I can get an extension on some of these... I don't know if I have a good enough reason to ask for one..." Feel secure in knowing that your anime will have good subtitles, damn it, come hell or high water, literally!
posted by Mizu at 11:17 AM on March 11, 2011 [34 favorites]


And another in the west just now :(
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 11:17 AM on March 11, 2011



"Tokyo is now feeling pounding strokes!"
posted by nickyskye at 11:13 AM on March 11 [+] [!]


The guy from your link has been on the air for 13 hours straight. He must be exhausted!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:25 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And only one bathroom break. Yikes.
posted by nickyskye at 11:28 AM on March 11, 2011


Link to feed from Japan Meteorological Agency showing all quakes as they come in (and they really are coming in a lot now).
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 11:30 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]






Lots of mid sized quakes hitting all kinds of areas on Honshu now - Shindo 6 in Niigata and 4 in Chiba - usually quakes of this size warrant enough attention and warning.
posted by gomichild at 11:36 AM on March 11, 2011


Mother of God, the earth just won't stop shaking...

My thoughts and best hopes are with all the people of Japan.

Peace.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:42 AM on March 11, 2011


Any of these smaller quakes would be enough for a major news item and crisis here, much less so many of them.

"Smaller" being extremely relative.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:43 AM on March 11, 2011


For those wonkishly following progress on cooling the Fukushima-1 reactor, here's a detailed description of this reactor's design (PDF) from the Asian Nuclear Safety Network.

Some points:

Unit 1 at Fukushima is an older Boiled Water Reactor (BWR vs the newer Advanced ABWR). In the document, Fukushima-1 is also referred to as BWR-3. Section 2.3 (p. 8) gets into the cooling and backup system details.

From my imperfect understanding of the news (IAA Engineer, but IANA Nuclear Engineer) it sounds like the backup high pressure core cooling system may have failed, and that plant operators are using the next line - the low pressure core cooling system - now (with three low-pressure reflooder systems in reserve, plus additional redundant systems if those fail).

In the event of a gas release, there is a "standby gas treatment system" in place to remove radioactivity from that gas before it is released into the atmosphere (p. 10)

If all the cooling systems fail, and I should note that there are presently active cooling systems running according to the news, here's a description of the systems in place to deal with this:

"[F]ollowing a loss of coolant accident, the temperature of fuel cladding could rise
and hydrogen could be generated by a water-metal reaction, which could impair the
containment integrity due to hydrogen gas combustion. In order to prevent such a case, BWR
containments are kept inert with nitrogen gas ... during normal operation, and the 11
flammability control system to prevent hydrogen combustion by recombining the generated
hydrogen gas with oxygen gas."

Like Malor wrote earlier, there is a lot of carefully thought-out redundancy, systems that continue to operate at this plant. However, I have not read anything about a passive system to separate the core in the event of a containment breach in either the BWR or ABWR designs; anyone have a link?

posted by zippy at 11:43 AM on March 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


The American Red Cross has updated their donation page to allow donations directed to Japan
posted by Vibrissa at 2:30 PM on March 11 [1 favorite +] [!]

Thanks for the link - donated again!
posted by Julnyes at 11:44 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


and a different video of [the oil refinery fire] from someone's apartment

My god. The massive explosion at 17 seconds is scary enough, but then a few seconds later the shock wave hits the cameraman. Probably about as visceral a moment as anyone watching halfway around the world is likely to get.
posted by mediareport at 11:46 AM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


From a Canadian Red Cross press release:

(Alberta) March 11, 2011: The Red Cross is responding to a powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan overnight. The earthquake, the worst in Japan's history, has triggered a tsunami warning across 20 countries along the Pacific coast.
The Red Cross response was immediate. Local volunteers have been working around the clock to support emergency response efforts including evacuation, search and rescue and emergency first aid.
The Canadian Red Cross is monitoring the situation closely and is ready to rapidly respond with emergency supplies and personnel if needed.
The Japanese Red Cross responded immediately following the quake. Volunteers are supporting search and rescue activities and providing first aid to survivors. They are deploying tent clinics and 15 medical teams to the affected area.

Canadians seeking information on Canadian citizens believed to be in Japan should contact the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’ Emergency Operations Centre at 1-800-387-3124 or emailing sos@international.gc.ca.
Albertans are encouraged to support Red Cross relief efforts by making a financial donation to the Canadian Red Cross Japan Earthquake/Asia-Pacific Tsunami fund. Donations can be made online at www.redcross.ca/helpnow, at your local branch office or by calling toll free 1-800-418-1111. Canadians can also text in their donations to the Canadian Red Cross. Text ASIA to 30333 to make a $5 per text donation.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:47 AM on March 11, 2011


Any confirmation as to whether the Nagano quake is an aftershock or a separate event?
posted by ozomatli at 11:48 AM on March 11, 2011


So I'm from an area with little to no seismic activity, is it common when big earthquakes hit for the aftershocks to continue for as long as these have (12 hours if I'm reading everything right)?

Or maybe a better way of phrasing this is: so has the ground really been shaking on and off for half a day? I think I'd go crazy!
posted by quin at 11:52 AM on March 11, 2011


InFocus has new images (was 24, then 33, now 40), and wow.
posted by cashman at 11:52 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


ozomatli: My understanding is any earthquake that occurs close in time to another is considered to be an aftershock.
Earthquakes usually come in clusters divided into foreshocks, mainshocks and aftershocks. If an aftershock is stronger than the mainshock, it becomes the mainshock and the mainshock becomes a foreshock. Make sense? Basically they're all earthquakes, but they're related.
~Straight Dope
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:52 AM on March 11, 2011


Any confirmation as to whether the Nagano quake is an aftershock or a separate event?

The Professor of Seismology on BBC Worldwide says it's a separate quake, caused the energy movement in the underground region.
posted by dflemingecon at 11:53 AM on March 11, 2011


is it common when big earthquakes hit for the aftershocks to continue for as long as these have (12 hours if I'm reading everything right)?

Yes, often for days or even weeks
posted by Hoopo at 11:53 AM on March 11, 2011


Shocking photo set from National Geographic, including the huge frightening whirlpool.
posted by Rumple at 11:53 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heard via Twitter that four people were washed out to sea in Crescent City, with two recovered alive, one dead, and one missing.
posted by cmyk at 11:54 AM on March 11, 2011


Any confirmation as to whether the Nagano quake is an aftershock or a separate event?

Not yet reported. There was a 6.2 and a 5.5 in the same area per USGS. Nikkei.com with the quick blurb.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:55 AM on March 11, 2011


Japan's nuclear safety agency plans to release what it described as "slightly radioactive" vapor from a nuclear power plant damaged by Friday's record 8.9 earthquake, authorities said.

The temperature in one reactor's nuclear fuel rods has built up to 50% above normal levels since the six-reactor facility was shut down following the most powerful earthquake on record in the island nation, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported. via LA Times
posted by futz at 11:56 AM on March 11, 2011


It's being reported by the USGS that there have been at least 100 separate aftershock events now of magnitude 5.0 or higher. Crazy.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:00 PM on March 11, 2011


Jeez, don't even know what to say, but I'm hoping for everyone there.
posted by snsranch at 12:05 PM on March 11, 2011


The announcers on TBS are now wearing hard hats.

If you think that the Christchurch earthquake is going to cost at least $11B to recover from, and there are probably a good 50 communities the size of Christchurch that have been affected, all the way from Chiba to Hokkaido...
posted by KokuRyu at 12:09 PM on March 11, 2011


Some fuckin' crazy visualizations from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab:

Tsunami Wave Height Model Shows Pacific-Wide Impact

Pacific Ocean Floor Affects Tsunami Propagation
posted by gman at 12:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


InFocus has new images (was 24, then 33, now 40), and wow.

Oh, wow. I started from the top and at first thought that #10 was toy planes and cars among some small debris... It took a moment or two to realize they were real (and that the debris was not just some wooden splinters). The sheer magnitude of this disaster is just beyond comprehension.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:11 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 12:11 PM on March 11, 2011


4 people washed out to sea in Crescent City and the harbor destroyed (again, last destroyed by a tsunami in 2006).
posted by fshgrl at 12:14 PM on March 11, 2011


Someone on NPR this morning (from the USGS? Probably?) said that the thing with aftershocks is that they don't really decrease in intensity much (maybe 1 magnitude) over time but they do decrease in frequency. So if they're still coming frequently, they'll still be very big.

Oh Japan, I am so sorry.
posted by marylynn at 12:16 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus. More on Crescent City.
posted by rtha at 12:16 PM on March 11, 2011


Good God: USGS Says Worst earthquake to hit Japan in nearly 1,200 years.

This is an epochal event.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:18 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I look at those InFocus photos - #33 and #34 for example - and I wonder how the heck you clean up something like that. How the hell do you even begin?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:18 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]




What is special about Crescent City compared to the rest of the California coast? Did they build a harbor in a really bad spot?
posted by smackfu at 12:18 PM on March 11, 2011


am I correct in thinking that the aftershocks may be more damaging than the initial event? I thought the first quake was out to sea -- these aftershocks are closer to shore/on land?
posted by angrycat at 12:20 PM on March 11, 2011


and I wonder how the heck you clean up something like that. How the hell do you even begin?

The excavators they use for demolition can pretty much take care of anything with hydraulic grapples and cutting arms. I just watched them take a massive factory building down to the ground and trucked away in less than a month. If you don't have to be careful with the stuff, it's not too hard.
posted by smackfu at 12:24 PM on March 11, 2011


"Half of Japan is safe, half is not."

"Aftershocks still happening. Magnitude 5.0. Still the possibility of another tsunami. Over 100 earthquakes just happened."

YoKoSoNews. Live streaming Japanese newstation, in English.
posted by nickyskye at 12:25 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


What is special about Crescent City compared to the rest of the California coast? Did they build a harbor in a really bad spot?

Here's a Newscientist page with faultline graphics, pictures, information and a ton of in-text links. An earlier update on that page about Crescent city said:

"California's Crescent City, which is susceptible to tsunamis because of its confined bay, could get up to 1 metre. Residents have been urged to move to higher ground."
posted by cashman at 12:25 PM on March 11, 2011


Just to cross-post, because I've been worried: ocherdraco posted on MetaTalk, flapjax & family are fine.
posted by booknerd at 12:26 PM on March 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Still waiting to hear from gc. He's in Morioka, in Iwate province but well inland. I know I probably needn't be too worried, but there have been earthquakes since Tuesday, which was when he last checked in, and I'm concerned given how many more are happening.


... while posting this: 6.1 earthquake near Morioka about an hour ago.

I've used the Google Person Finder linked above but no luck. I've tried Facebook and Twitter. I know I need to be patient, but does anyone have any insider on the conditions in that region? There are so many that it is hard to find information from there.

You guys, again, prove to be amazing. Thank you for all of the helpful links. I'm just hoping he'll have access to something soon so that he can let us know he's okay. My thoughts are with all Japan-based Mefites.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:27 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man oh man oh man. Did not even hit me how terrible this was when I first heard 'cause I'd been up 30+ hours video editing. Had some sleep now, and all I can say is very proud of the Japanese people for what seems like proper emergency procedures, and I hope there's no more suffering. Also like many I am hoping flapjax pops in to say hello, and am glad for the check-ins from users over there. zardoz, did you not have your giant floating stone head? did the SDF confiscate it for search and rescue work?

My husband has a paper route along with his day job so he had no idea about what was going on till he woke up from his post paper nap this morning. I filled him in regarding the earthquake, tsunami, fires, and possible problems with the reactor, to which he responded, "What next? Godzilla??????"

I did not realize you were enspousened to a nine year old :p
posted by jtron at 12:28 PM on March 11, 2011


What is special about Crescent City compared to the rest of the California coast? Did they build a harbor in a really bad spot?

Also, if you look at that NOAA wave simulation visualization linked by gman, you can see a single red line extending into the northern California area - I would guess that the seafloor is influencing the wave propagation as described in gman's other link. Thanks for the links, gman!
posted by dialetheia at 12:30 PM on March 11, 2011


another 6.6, 1km depth, near honshu
posted by Mach5 at 12:31 PM on March 11, 2011


and that 6.6 was on the WEST coast. damn. the earth is hungry today.
posted by Mach5 at 12:35 PM on March 11, 2011


eleven M6+ aftershocks so far.
posted by yeolcoatl at 12:36 PM on March 11, 2011


If you check out Latest Earthquakes M5.0+ in the World - Past 7 days on the USGS site, you can just keep scrolling and scrolling. Just mind-blowing.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:36 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


They're trying to bring Fukushima-I under full control with the normal safety systems, because that will allow them to restart the reactor after repairs. There are three basic emergency core cooling system -- one using steam from the reactor to start a high pressure flooding system, one that releases pressure into a condensation pool to allow low pressure systems to flood the core, and then the last line, which is the Standby Liquid Core Control System.

This consists of a series of redundant battery operated pumps and explosively opened valves that will, under any pressure that the containment vessel can stand, fill the core with a large amount of coolant laced with neutron absorbers. This will turn off the reactor. It would also require a complete overhaul to ever restart it. They'd prefer not to go there, because if they can just get the normal cooling flow online, they can keep using the reactor after this.

The usual "oh shit!" accident starts with a large break loss of coolant accident which rapidly drains the core. This isn't occurring here -- if it was, there would be no pressure inside the containment vessel.

The one worrying aspect here is the lack of onsite power, which is seriously hampering efforts to cool the core. The low pressure systems can't feed water into an overpressurized core, which is why they're talking about a steam release, but the failure of the backup generators is a big deal, and I'm sure everyone is going to be taking a very good look at assumptions about backup generators reliability and availability during an emergency.

It's clear that Fukushima-I has some coolant, though the flow rate isn't adequate, and I'm sure there are three tracks going -- replenishment, getting power online to activate the high pressure systems (which can get coolant in even with the high pressure in the core environment) and someone's very carefully watching for a certain temperature. If they reach it, that person will hit a button and a few hundred tons of borated coolant are going to shut that core down -- and probably shut the reactor down permanently.
posted by eriko at 12:41 PM on March 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


From the USGS Earthquake list that Celsius1414 posted, there have been almost if not over 100 quakes since the initial 8.9, several of them over 6.0 in magnitude - a few of them only 1km deep, and most of them every few minutes or so. That's just complete insanity.
posted by empatterson at 12:42 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Network for Good has a nice roundup of which charities are helping, and how.
posted by zarq at 12:44 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So geologist types. How does this compare with the aftershocks witnessed by the Chrismas Day earthquake and the Chilean quake in recent years?
posted by humanfont at 12:46 PM on March 11, 2011




Wow. That list Celsius1414 just posted from USGS is horrifyingly mind boggling. Not only do they just not stop coming today, look at two days ago when there were apparently a whole bunch of "small" earthquakes in the same place. So terrifying. I have been glued to this thread all day.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:50 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Knowing that flapjax at midnite is okay makes me feel a lot better; so I'm celebrating by enjoying this recent song he did. Morbid humor, yes; but when the devil breathes down your neck, you take all the laughs you can get.

Good luck out there, FAM and everybody else in harm's way. To the extent that I'm capable of prayer, my prayers are with you.
posted by koeselitz at 12:51 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, TEPCO says two staff missing at Fukushima-1. I hope they are OK.
posted by zippy at 12:52 PM on March 11, 2011


Another 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Nagano just happened minutes ago. Apparently it's on a different plate, which is highly unusual.

Five of Earth’s massive plates meet in this area and grind upon one another: The Okhotsk plate, the Pacific Plate, the Filipino Sea Plate the Eurasian Plate and the far western edge of the North American Plate all converge within this area broadly defined as the northwestern Pacific but more regionally defined as Japan and more locally as northern Japan.
posted by nickyskye at 12:54 PM on March 11, 2011


From the every cloud has a silver lining department (sub-department of WTF): Tsunami could help clear out dead fish in Redondo Beach
posted by Rumple at 12:55 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Note to non-engineers: 2.1x design capacity does not mean it's 2.1x past the pressure range considered normal. Every important design has a factor of safety built into it. Otherwise this reactor would have exploded when the pressure reached 1.00001x design capacity. Obviously this didn't happen. Anyone happen to have that number for this pressure vessel or for reactors in general? Pretty cool number to know....
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:59 PM on March 11, 2011


Maybe I'm a hard-hearted bastard or something. I read that news report up there about the guy who got washed out to sea at Crescent City, and I'm having a real hard time feeling sorry for him.

He heard that a tsunami was coming, and he went down to the harbor so he could take pictures of it. And the wave caught him and took him out to sea. Seems to me that if someone goes that far out of their way to get into trouble, they deserve what they get.

I feel really bad for all the people suffering in Japan, but not for him. He's a Darwin Award winner.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


:-( I hate this tragedy and the breathless reaction to it.
posted by eeeeeez at 1:02 PM on March 11, 2011


He died for our satisfaction. A YouTube martyr.
posted by nickyskye at 1:03 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Looking at live TBS footage of Rikuzen-Takada City in Iwate, north of Sendai. Just utter devastation. Apparently the tsunami traveled 2-3 kilometers inland. The entire city is flooded and filled with debris.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:03 PM on March 11, 2011


Interesting picture of the wave entering the harbour at Emeryville, California.
posted by Rumple at 1:03 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]




I don't know if these figures relate to the design pressure of the containment vessel, however the PDF I linked to earlier has this to say about water pressure (p. 13):

... There is just a single
circuit in a civilian BWR in which the water is at lower pressure (about 75 times atmospheric
pressure) compared to a PWR so that it boils in the core at about 285°C. The reactor is
designed to operate with steam comprising 12 to 15% of the volume of the two-phase coolant
flow (the "void fraction") in the top part of the core, resulting in less moderation, lower
neutron efficiency and lower power density than in the bottom part of the core...

posted by zippy at 1:06 PM on March 11, 2011


Fukushima-1 reactor pressure may have reached 2.1x design capacity

Careful. Design capacity is normal rated load. What to worry about is when it reaches the safety margin, which is much higher than 2.1x normal rated load.

I presume that what they mean is "the pressure inside the containment vessel is now 2.1 times the normal pressure." This is significant, and this is a cause for worry if they can't get the high pressure systems online, because it will reach a point where they'll have to vent that pressure, and at that point, the possibility of a significant release of radioactive materials will occur.

How they'll vent is through a designed vent system that runs through a series of pipes into a pool, acting as a condenser. If it works correctly, there will be a radioactive release into the condensing pool, but that's designed for. However, if you overload that pool's ability to cool the steam, pressure will rise there, and they'll be forced to vent it outside.

I do not know at what pressure they will vent, but they do -- there's a safety limit, if they reach a certain percentage of that, they'll vent the core and hope it stays onsite. After they do so, the pressure in the core will be low enough that the low pressure systems will be able to get a significant amount of coolant into the core -- the venting system is part of the safety design, for this very contingency -- rising core temps leading to pressures beyond the ability of the low pressure systems to cope with, and the high pressure systems being offline.
posted by eriko at 1:08 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


eleven M6+ aftershocks so far.

I counted 18 on USGS, 20 if you count the 6.2 near Nagano and the 6.6 in the northwest.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:09 PM on March 11, 2011


damn. the earth is hungry today.

Water sloshing above. Other stuff sloshing beneath. Volcanoes like... breaking... dams.
posted by zennie at 1:12 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


He heard that a tsunami was coming, and he went down to the harbor so he could take pictures of it. And the wave caught him and took him out to sea.

People underestimate danger all the time. Reminds me of that post where a mother, father and daughter were pushing the button to blow up a smokestack and it fell the wrong way. The kid was almost immediately out of there, but the others just kind of stood there watching it happen.

With the footage of this earthquake, you could see that one live shot of a bridge where cars are rolling in the water (left to right) like logs and there are a few people on the bridge, just taking pictures. As if the water couldn't just destroy that bridge and take them with it. Meanwhile houses in the background are being swept away. But still there were a couple of people on the bridge. Not rescuing anybody, not doing anything but taking pictures (one seemed to be) and watching.

Maybe it's harsh to criticize those who do that, but my first instinct is to run and get to safety. Maybe if you're young or you just don't care or this gives you the opportunity for fame, you go try to capture memorable pictures or video to show 10 or 15 years down the line. I don't know.

And to end this on a useful note - Economist chart of most powerful earthquakes since 1900.
posted by cashman at 1:14 PM on March 11, 2011




For years, I have been harping on secondary (non-structural) earthquake hazards in my organization. Stuff like heavy projectors stored up high over desks, or unsecured water heaters or chemicals stored on non-lipped shelving. I usually get a lot of derision for this, but maybe there is a window now for some improvement.

The geology of the northwest is similar (OK not as chaotic) to Honshu in that it is a subduction zone involving a couple major plates. No reason, other than blind chance, it does not happen in the US, and it will one day, unless someone figures out how to shut off plate tectonics.
posted by Danf at 1:19 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I haven't turned on the TV since waking up (it's still 6:00 here), but last night, before going to bed, my wife pointed out that while TV stations are showing an amazing amount of footage of the earthquake, and tsunamis, there's absolutely no footage from of Disneyland.
posted by Bugbread at 1:19 PM on March 11, 2011


Regarding aftershocks, the February 6.3 quake in Christchurch was technically an 'aftershock' of the 7.1 quake of September 2010.

Christchurch had been experiencing regular aftershocks during all the months in between. We'd been told to expect an aftershock of around 1 order of magnitude less than the original quake, but until the 22nd of February, I think none of the general public realised what that might mean - a possibly more devastating quake in a different location, at a different depth.

A grim lesson to learn, and a possibility I can't help considering for Japan.
posted by Catch at 1:20 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, explanation of why the generators failed. When the quake hit, they scrammed the reactor, when offsite power was lost, the generators started. But Fukushima is on the coast. An hour after the quake, the tsunami hit and wrecked the backup generators on that reactor.
posted by eriko at 1:28 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


...Meanwhile houses in the background are being swept away. But still there were a couple of people on the bridge. Not rescuing anybody, not doing anything but taking pictures (one seemed to be) and watching....Maybe it's harsh to criticize those who do that, but my first instinct is to run and get to safety

It's entirely possible that's as close to safety as they could get, the highest point they could reach on foot in the small amount of time before the water got there. I don't know how many rescue opportunities there are while the tsunami is still washing through town. I nearly hyperventilated during a 4.X earthquake in Japan, which is considered "small". It's very humbling and shocking when the ground and buildings around you are moving and there's nowhere to run or hide, and these guys didn't have just that--they had the sea coming at them too. I wouldn't be comfortable writing those guys you saw on TV as rubberneckers or gawkers.
posted by Hoopo at 1:29 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't find details yet on the exact design pressure for Fukushima-1, but it uses a Mark-I containment vessel designl; Nine Mile Point Unit 1, built around the same time (1969) uses a containment vessel design of the same name (Mark-I) is rated at a Maximum Internal Design Pressure of 62 psig.

I had not heard of psig before, but it's psi calibrated relative to the environment. According to Wikipedia's entry on Pounds per square inch: "At sea level, Earth's atmosphere actually exerts a pressure of 14.696 psi") as opposed to a vacuum." The article goes on to suggest that here normal non-engineering use would be to call the above figure "62 psi."

posted by zippy at 1:30 PM on March 11, 2011


Catch, I see that you are in Napier, one of my favourite places in all the world. That's due in no small part to how the city was rebuilt after the 1931 quake there.

Let's hope Christchurch (and Japan) rebulids as successfully as Napier did!
posted by Herodios at 1:30 PM on March 11, 2011


For those who missed it, per ocherdraco in MetaTalk: flapjax at midnite is okay.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:32 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


^ One of my friends from dance works at TokyoDisney. He was off today, and out of the city with some Japanese friends who were able to post on Facebook for him. Those pictures from Disney are pretty crazy, especially when I compare them to the pictures he's posted from earlier.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:32 PM on March 11, 2011




holy crap, hats off to engineers
posted by Mach5 at 1:35 PM on March 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


Al Jazeera just had a small blurb about how prepared Japan is for this sort of event: sirens, alerts on mobile phones, elevators and escalators that automatically stop, trains that do the same… incredible, really.
posted by reductiondesign at 1:39 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Update in Japan. Evacuation order around nuclear plant extended from 3 kilometers to 10 kilometers.
posted by nickyskye at 1:40 PM on March 11, 2011


Hi, Herodios, yes, we've just recently comemmorated 80 years here in Napier, and the history of this town shows that totally devastated areas can be rebuilt - although the 'where to start' is mind boggling.
When you look at the 'Art Deco' architecture around town, block after block of it in the CBD, whole suburbs of it, you have to remember why it is there.
posted by Catch at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


From that page linked above with photos of Tokyo Disneyland, here is the Twitter feed of David Landsel, who is the Travel editor for the New York Post, who was stranded at Tokyo Disneyland and had to spend the night there with 30,000 other people. Quotes from his Twitter timeline:

"Crowds still inside DisneySea at close to midnite - restos now shelters. Dinner: seaweed rice and chocolates"

"What a bizarre (and wonderful) place to be trapped! Cast is being so good to us."

"Our neighbors here in the cafe are group of schoolgirls eager to practice English. Lots of laughs"

"All In our little corner here agree - its defo Suntory time!"

Props to the Disney staff and "castmembers" for taking care of so many frightened people so well while probably being so worried about their own homes and families.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:49 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm actually now starting to worry about Fukushima-1. We know they've lost onsite and offsite power. The item about the US flying in coolant confused me -- BWR coolant is water -- until I realized that the coolant wasn't the normal coolant in the reactor, it was the neutron absorbing coolant in the last-line safety defense.

That implies that the system was damaged. Maybe just a punctured tank, but who knows?

They built the reactor to withstand a major earthquake, and it did -- then a major tsunami rolled over the site as well, and has done some real damage to the saftey systems.

The question is "what's left?" If they have to use the last-ditch core control coolant, will the pumping systems work?

They're worried now, with the secondary damage, they don't know what systems are going to work. They may already be out of redundancy. They're probably going to be forced to vent the core -- it's a shitload better than allowing the pressure to risk breaching a coolant line or whatnot, but I'm getting the sense that the plant operators are no longer confident that they can maintain cooling.
posted by eriko at 1:50 PM on March 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


Ugh. Where does that leave us, Eriko? What would venting the mean? Is this like a TMI situation (where I understand very little radiation was actually released), or a Chernobyl-level clusterfuck?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2011


eriko, your commentary in here is much appreciated.
posted by mwhybark at 1:57 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Admiral Haddock: So far, TMI levels -- if you see a report of "1000x normal radiation", realize that normal radiation is incredibly low, so 1000x is still very low indeed.

I doubt there will be anywhere near as massive a release as Chernobyl. There's a real containment building here, even in the case of massive core damage, you're not going to get core material thrown out of the reactor like you did there. The heat that's causing the problem is all latent heat -- the reactor is scrammed, the chain reaction has stopped, but the core is very hot and will take a couple of days to fully cool down.
posted by eriko at 1:59 PM on March 11, 2011


Is this like a TMI situation (where I understand very little radiation was actually released), or a Chernobyl-level clusterfuck?

From what I understand of the situation, venting will be terrible, but not catastrophic. I think they're a long way away from any type of systemic breach where they lose control over the situation.
posted by dflemingecon at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2011


[16:53:24] <Benetablet> radiation level from the uav at the fukushima main entrance gate (outside the plant) 8 times normal
[16:53:53] <Benetablet> radiation sensors on airborne uavs are overloaded, many have gone non responsive
[16:55:38] <Benetablet> pressure sensor on number 1 reactor containment vessel is now registering zero pressure, possible malfunction or breach of containment
[16:57:29] <Benetablet> fukushima has now overloaded the SPEEDI remote monitors
I can't provide a source for this (overheard on IRC) but, jesus fucking christ...

.
posted by yeoz at 2:01 PM on March 11, 2011


[17:00:17] <Benetablet> explosion just occurred at fukushima reactor building 1

!!!
posted by yeoz at 2:02 PM on March 11, 2011


Some less than positive news from 2002 about Fukushima-1's inspection history.

I really hope they got on top of this.

"On August 29 [2002] ... the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced ... that TEPCO has falsified the inspection records and attempted to hide cracks in reactor vessel shrouds in 13 units of the 17 nuclear power plants owned by TEPCO including Fukushima I...."

Here's the TEPCO Press Release from October 2002.:

"Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) received an order today from the Nuclear and
Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) to stop the operation of Fukushima Daiichi
Nuclear Power Station´s Unit-1 reactor for a year because of the problem relating
to leak tests on the primary containment vessel at the reactor in 1991 and 1992.
TEPCO has humbly accepted the NISA order, and intends to take appropriate
measures in relation to it."
posted by zippy at 2:03 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting picture of the wave entering the harbour at Emeryville, California.
posted by Rumple


The pictures I've been seeing have been incredible and have shown the sheer power that the planet can unleash. But for some reason that photo above may have been the most awe-inspiring (probably partly because I'm American and can relate to the scene in that photo). Just looking at that wave hitting the California coast and realizing it is literally a ripple from a massive tragedy on the other side of a gigantic ocean...it makes me feel very tiny in a way the other photos haven't.
posted by marxchivist at 2:03 PM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Where on IRC?
posted by anigbrowl at 2:04 PM on March 11, 2011


yeoz, I really hope that's just someone being a troll. A horrible evil, evil troll.
posted by royalsong at 2:05 PM on March 11, 2011


Al Jazerra and AP reporting that radiation has leaked outside
posted by lpcxa0 at 2:07 PM on March 11, 2011


The "8 times normal" quote is mentioned on the guardian liveblog attributed to "Japanese industry ministry's nuclear and industrial safety agency"
posted by pixie at 2:07 PM on March 11, 2011


WSJ reporting 8x normal radiation detected at plant gate, with source of info as Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).
posted by zippy at 2:08 PM on March 11, 2011


Someone...

Someone find confirmation on Fukushima, god dammit!

Did the core just cook off?

Jesus fuck this is not happening...

this is not happening...

fuck.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 2:08 PM on March 11, 2011


[17:04:14] <Benetablet> prime minister has announced 10km evac zone is now an emergency evacuation, citizens will be forcibly evacuated
[17:05:48] <Benetablet> nhk announces secondary explosions at fukushima reactor building 1, appear to be pressure explosions
[17:06:29] <Benetablet> tepco confirms loss of containment of core 1
i'm seriously feeling like throwing up here... anigbrowl: i sent you a mefimail
posted by yeoz at 2:08 PM on March 11, 2011


Dear God, if you exist please prove the Deists wrong and intervene in human affairs and suspend the natural laws of the universe. Thanks.
posted by tommasz at 2:09 PM on March 11, 2011


Also, TEPCO announced they were "implementing measures" to reduce pressure. Here's their press release.
posted by zippy at 2:09 PM on March 11, 2011


Was speaking to my husband tonight. He commented while this was huge, and awful, he can't help but compare it to the devestation he was cleaning up months after the Boxing Day Tsunami. I hope that there are a lot of headlines celebrating how building standards, modern living conditions and good engineering saved lives here.
posted by Megami at 2:09 PM on March 11, 2011


Please don't work yourselves up people, based on rumor and speculation based on Googling.
posted by smackfu at 2:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean, 8x normal levels at the gate? Isn't the gate going to be at practically zero?
posted by smackfu at 2:11 PM on March 11, 2011


LAT background on reactor.

Ferimi's pile in the squash court had a "suicide squad" on top of the pile holding buckets of cadmium solution as a last-chance damper if the control rods didn't work. The special coolant would be something like that: soak up all the neutrons.
posted by warbaby at 2:11 PM on March 11, 2011


So far, TMI levels -- if you see a report of "1000x normal radiation", realize that normal radiation is incredibly low, so 1000x is still very low indeed.

That 1000x reported by MSNBC.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:12 PM on March 11, 2011


For years, I have been harping on secondary (non-structural) earthquake hazards in my organization.

When I worked at a hinged Southwestern Bell high rise office in St Louis, on top of the New Madrid Fault, all of our equipment was attached to our desks with heavy duty velcro for this very reason.
posted by nomisxid at 2:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nothing on the NHK english site about explosions
posted by pixie at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2011


yeoz, I really hope that's just someone being a troll. A horrible evil, evil troll.

Yeah, but he's saying it correctly. The only part that doesn't ring true is 'Explosion' -- but a massive steam release from a large breach or the venting system (deliberately) failing to vent the core would look like one from a remote camera.

If that's where we are, they don't have much choice -- vent, get a firetruck, and pump water into the containment vessel. Ideally, you throw borax in there as well, boron is a great neutron absorber.

(on preview)

Also, TEPCO announced they were "implementing measures" to reduce pressure

Okay, that's good -- they think the low pressure coolant system is online, then -- vent the pressure, eat the small TMI scale release and get coolant moving through the core and this all settles down.

Venting in this circumstance is by design and the system was built to do so safely -- but an offsite release of radioactivity is more likely.

As to the 8x at the gate? One particle, on a worker, bumping into a gate can read that. Call me when we hit 105 times at any real distance, then I'll hop on the panic train.
posted by eriko at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes. TBS and NHK would be freaking if this were the case. They aren't.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 2:15 PM on March 11, 2011


As a Gen-Xer, I have prepared for this moment with a patented blend of terror and nihilistic glee.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:15 PM on March 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


I mean, 8x normal levels at the gate? Isn't the gate going to be at practically zero?

Yes. Indeed, it's so low that it could be random chance. 8x is a panic reaction. The 1000x is a sign that something is motile, but it could be from a core release, or it could be coincidence (guy working on primary coolant loop, earthquake hits, he runs outside without taking off the bunny suit.)
posted by eriko at 2:16 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "1000x" figure, as far as I have tracked down, is from within the reactor, not outside.
posted by zippy at 2:16 PM on March 11, 2011


Deep breaths, everybody. Remember on 9/11, when the networks started reporting that over ten thousand people had been killed? Please, don't panic based on unattributed IRC comments.
posted by steambadger at 2:17 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


BBC live video on the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. Radiation has apparently already leaked. Newscasters are now calling it Japan's Chernobyl.
posted by nickyskye at 2:17 PM on March 11, 2011


I plotted out the magnitude of the earthquakes as a function of time near Japan. The frequency of the aftershocks amazes me. I also found it interesting the large gap in time before the huge earthquake hit. I am going to try to keep updating this picture as time progresses. This begs for a Fourier analysis in the future.
posted by ozomatli at 2:17 PM on March 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


As a Gen-Xer, I have prepared for this moment with a patented blend of terror and nihilistic glee.


Protect and survive?
My brand is 100% terror nausea.
posted by Catch at 2:18 PM on March 11, 2011


Yomiuri newspaper says that radioactive steam is leaking inside the reactor but not outside yet (as of 10 mins. ago)
posted by Jeanne at 2:19 PM on March 11, 2011




The "1000x" figure, as far as I have tracked down, is from within the reactor, not outside.

The Grauniad has this "The level of radiation in the control room of the No 1 reactor of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is "1,000 times higher than normal," according to Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency, visiting the site."

This could be another example of someone working near the primary loops, and running into the control room without fully decontaminating themselves, figuring that's better than not getting to control in the emergency.

Or, it could be venting -- but the control area is usually pretty well shielded and such, because they need the operators to be able to stay on station.
posted by eriko at 2:19 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


This guy still seems to be going strong: http://yokosonews.com/live
posted by crickets at 2:20 PM on March 11, 2011


Kyodo News reports 1000x normal radiation levels inside the control room (not outside), with NISA the source of the news.
posted by zippy at 2:20 PM on March 11, 2011


but an offsite release of radioactivity is more likely.

But note that not all radioactivity is equal, by any means. Some is dangerous; some hardly matters. That krypton release from TMI, for instance, was not a problem. Radioactive carbon, on the other hand, would be extremely bad, because that stuff gets bound into tissues. And some elements are just inherently dangerous; uranium, even the depleted kind that's barely radioactive at all, is very toxic.

In other words, if they do vent some radioactivity, it's important to find out exactly what's being flushed. It's quite possible that they could be irresponsible, and release dangerous gas to try to save their billion-dollar plant. Or, it could be entirely shrug-worthy.
posted by Malor at 2:21 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


While, I'm relatively confident that any failure of the reactor can be contained, this definitely seems to be alarming. However, even a little alarm x thousands of tweets can cause a panic. Hopefully people stay calm and avoid getting hurt in some sort of mass panic.
posted by vuron at 2:22 PM on March 11, 2011


All the channels here in Tokyo are reporting on cars being on fire, a garbage furnace electrical plant being shut down, and a smaller quake taking out a bridge. So, yeah, it's definitely too early to panic about radiation. If the situation were that serious, it would be the top topic of discussion on every channel.
posted by Bugbread at 2:23 PM on March 11, 2011


Also live streaming tv here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/tbstv
posted by nickyskye at 2:23 PM on March 11, 2011


Newscasters are now calling it Japan's Chernobyl.

That's not even a remotely fair comparison. Chernobyl was caused by unbelievably poorly executed experimentation by the wrong people with so many failure points along the way that it is mind blowing. That, followed by not informing anyone for days and allowing several hundred thousand people to get irradiated instead of evacuating due to the Soviet government's actions.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:24 PM on March 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's quite possible that they could be irresponsible, and release dangerous gas to try to save their billion-dollar plant.

Very true. At a certain point, that pressure *will* be released if the core cooling isn't restored, the venting system will fail and release the pressure before it reaches a level that could compromise the containment vessel.

An unregulated release from a vent system failure would be bad, but several orders of magnitude less bad that a full containment breach.

This venting will be mostly steam -- so the vast majority of the radioactive material will be gases, and anything heavy will condense out quickly and land in the condenser pool.
posted by eriko at 2:25 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Newscasters are now calling it Japan's Chernobyl

Not even wrong, given current information.
posted by zippy at 2:25 PM on March 11, 2011


Russia Today is about as reliable as Fox News.
posted by kmz at 2:27 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The amount of radiation released at the exterior gate is 0.59 microSievert per hour. Light radiation poisoning starts at 0.5 Sievert -- the current level is still less than you would get from an X-ray. This is worrying but not Chernobyl at all. Yet.
posted by Jeanne at 2:28 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


they have some news on nhk world
posted by atomicmedia at 2:30 PM on March 11, 2011


Right, Chernobyl was a poorly designed system that had a shit-ton of human wrongdoing and stupidity, followed by massive radiation leakage. Fukushima is a relatively modern design that got hit by two different Acts of God (massive earthquake plus massive tsunami) and has not released any radiation...well, not yet.

It's not right or fair for the media to paint all nuclear power plants, nor all nuclear power accidents, with such a broad brush. As scary as this is, we really don't have any other good long-term sources of power, unless you'd like more coal stacks in your backyard belching soot for decades to come.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The amount of radiation released at the exterior gate is 0.59 microSievert per hour.

Remember: human effects start at .5Sv, this is .00000059Sv.
posted by eriko at 2:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


No, it's a lot worse than that. The difference in energy release between a 8.9 and a 6.3 is 103.9. Or nearly 8000x worse. I've been in 6.3 earthquakes. They're not fun but there is absolutely no comparison with a 8.9, which I can barely imagine.

People, can we just let the fucking magnitude numbers go already? It's all fun and games to calculate the energy released and to look at a table and say 'this one is a lot worse than that one.' But in reality there's no correlation whatsoever between the magnitude number for a quake and the resulting damage or death toll, because where the quake happens, how deep, near what etc all have a much greater are all variables with a much greater influence on the result. Actual death and destruction is the only meaningful indicator of 'worse', otherwise the Fiordland quake and the Kashmir quake were just as bad as each other at 7.6. I mean, one had 76,000 people die, but look at this equation!
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Japan's Chernobyl apparently means "biggest nuclear disaster in Japan", which means that even a tiny problem qualifies as a "Chernobyl" as long as it's bigger than all past nuclear problems.

I guess, by the same token, that time I dropped the vacuum cleaner down the stairs is "Bugbread's Tunguska", since it was a bigger impact than when I dropped a broom down the stairs.
posted by Bugbread at 2:31 PM on March 11, 2011 [45 favorites]


nhk live is reporting overheating with all 3 reactors
posted by atomicmedia at 2:32 PM on March 11, 2011


eriko, thanks for your comments in this thread.
posted by hat at 2:33 PM on March 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Actual death and destruction is the only meaningful indicator of 'worse', otherwise the Fiordland quake and the Kashmir quake were just as bad as each other at 7.6. I mean, one had 76,000 people die, but look at this equation!

That's not fair at all. There are enough of us math nerds here who feel hella bad about all tragedy but still want to see the nuts and bolts of how things work. The two feelings are not mutually exclusive, and talking about the nuts and bolts during a tragedy, for some of us, is actually a comfort.
posted by dflemingecon at 2:33 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Japan's Chernobyl apparently means "biggest nuclear disaster in Japan"

Wouldn't that make this Japan's Chernobyl?
posted by dersins at 2:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


radiation sensors on airborne uavs are overloaded, many have gone non responsive

This should be easy to verify, are there actual UAVs in the sky above the reactor? Anyone see that in the video footage.

The IRC log sounds very sci-fi. Like something out of a videogame. Maybe that's just me trying to deal with what could be a horrible situation, but it sounds fake.
posted by formless at 2:34 PM on March 11, 2011


For anyone interested, Malor's comment about the safety of Western nuclear reactors from the Deepwater Horizon disaster thread is worth a read if you need something to increase your confidence about the Fukushima plant.

Still gonna cross my fingers though.
posted by sambosambo at 2:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


@dersins I think Godzilla jokes were banned about 12 hours ago…
posted by bobloblaw at 2:35 PM on March 11, 2011


from the BBC:
Japanese authorities have warned there could be a small radiation leak from a nuclear reactor whose cooling system was knocked out by the earthquake. Technicians at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are set to release vapour from the unit in question to lower the pressure and prevent a meltdown.

It's scary, but not yet Chernobyl-scary.

The sun's coming in in Japan, which must be a comfort to the many people in shelters. It's not clear to me if the fires are under control at the refinery and gas-storage plant. The pictures of the tsunami, the sheer size of it hitting the coast, are awesomely terrifying. The image of a wall of water with burning buildings in it, moving at the speed of a fast river, just scares the living fuck out of me. As an atheist, I'm not sure what I'm praying to, but prayer seems the only task I can accomplish.
posted by theora55 at 2:37 PM on March 11, 2011


Japan's Chernobyl apparently means "biggest nuclear disaster in Japan", which means that even a tiny problem qualifies as a "Chernobyl" as long as it's bigger than all past nuclear problems.

There were those two bombs we dropped.
posted by smackfu at 2:39 PM on March 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


Yeah, 1000x in the control room seems pretty unlikely to me. I don't really know anything about that specific plant layout, but I think the control rooms are usually outside the second level of containment, within the outer containment dome.

I think it's more likely that they're seeing high levels of radiation around the control rods, inside the first level of containment. That's really, really bad -- if that's the case, they may very well lose the plant. It'll have to be mothballed, and they won't be able to get in there to clean it out for at least fifty years. But I think that's about the worst possible scenario.

If it really is the control room, remember that there's at least one more full containment dome around all that.... something like ten or twenty feet of reinforced concrete.

Nookular power is scary, so everyone overreacts and makes even small things sound much more serious than they actually are. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy -- people get scared about something that wasn't dangerous, so they incorrectly believe that it must have been dangerous after all, and then get even more scared about even smaller things. It's a self-amplifying feedback loop.

I'm sticking with my prediction: nothing particularly dangerous will be released. The plant may melt down, but civilians will be in no real danger.
posted by Malor at 2:40 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


YokosoNews: "We are kinda about 90% sure that there may be a leak."
posted by steambadger at 2:40 PM on March 11, 2011


ozomatli  I plotted out the magnitude of the earthquakes as a function of time near Japan.

ozomatli, it'd be great to see that replotted with the 101.5-increase-per-mag scaling on the y-axis, if you're up for it.
posted by hat at 2:40 PM on March 11, 2011


The fundamental, as I understand it, is that the reactor is still generating heat at an extreme rate, and that heat has to get out into the environment one way or another. Done well, the heat will get out without destroying too many internal components of the plant. To get the heat out you can: cool with normal systems, which isn't happening any more; vent radioactive coolant directly into the atmosphere, which is happening; or, the thing breaks up or melts or whatever resulting in the release of actual core material, which happened at Chernobyl. Case 1 is an interesting engineering story, case 2 is bad, case 3 is.. well.. Chernobyl.


the reactor is scrammed,

Do we know that? Hell, I don't really know what scrammed means.. I'm pretty sure in this case the reactor core is still critical, still maintaining a chain reaction, generating heat at completely unnatural levels.. I mean, as far as I know "scrammed" only means that they have done what they can to shut down the reaction, and it is still hours/days away from actually stopping.. Is that right?

Also, there is a lot of confused language in here--bizarre mix of technical details and laymens terms. Like Clinton's "coolant"--for a while I just thought they meant power back up for the coolant system--but I'm sure you are right that it is some kind of special neutron absorbent stuff. "scrammed" is kind of like that..
posted by Chuckles at 2:41 PM on March 11, 2011


I will say this from Eriko's post and other poster's on here - some very knowledgeable people in this thread.

On a lighter note - the safety of nuclear plants should be up for some serious consideration. If a plant can survive major earthquakes, and a tsunami and not explode right away; I'll take it any day. Mass hysteria be damned, I would rather invest in nuclear power then keep being in the pockets of oil companies.
posted by lpcxa0 at 2:42 PM on March 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


That, followed by not informing anyone for days and allowing several hundred thousand people to get irradiated instead of evacuating due to the Soviet government's actions.

Actually, it was something like several hundred million people that they irradiated, if not most of the planet, with Europe bearing the brunt of the direct fall out. Just because someone didn't immediately die from radiation sickness doesn't mean that they didn't absorb more than a natural background dose or later die of cancer. We're still dealing with that problem.

And, true, Chernobyl was a really bad mix of shoddy engineering, bad safety, bad government response and cover up - and is indeed apples and oranges.

And while I appreciate Malor and eriko's knowledgeable and tempered response - I really don't have a lot of personal faith that we're getting the whole story yet, and I don't have a lot of excess faith for nuclear engineers, either, who are arguably biased and more comfortable making grim calculations about the danger involved.

If human history is any guide, statements along the lines of "it's utterly fail proof and completely safe" from engineers are at best pure hubris. Nature and all of it's chaos and dynamic behavior has a nasty habit of responding with "Yeah, what about this? I bet you didn't think of this."

If I was near that reactor or any reactor during a quake this large the first thing I would be doing was getting the fuck away from that reactor. Granted, I'm paranoid and easily startled, but you wouldn't have to tell me to evacuate twice, precautionary measure or no.
posted by loquacious at 2:42 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anyone watching CNN now? What's that building they're showing with the people on the roof and why does it appear to be the only building out in the middle of nowhere?
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:43 PM on March 11, 2011


I'm a little confused about the seismic intensity. Japan uses a different scale than the West (not Richter), but the Japanese Meteorological Agency's site has both magnitude and Shindo numbers for all the quakes. The highest I'm seeing is 7.9 magnitude (Shindo 7) at 05:53 UTC. Is it because the 8.8 was at the epicenter, and it was 7.9 at the measurement site?
posted by Bugbread at 2:44 PM on March 11, 2011


That's the airport.
posted by bobloblaw at 2:44 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


the reactor is scrammed,

Do we know that?


Yes. NISA and TEPCO have reported this. All this means however is that the reactors automatically shut down in the earthquake, as they were designed to do. A SCRAM is an emergency shutdown.
posted by zippy at 2:44 PM on March 11, 2011


Yomiuri's confirming that radiation is 1000x normal inside the main control room.
posted by Jeanne at 2:45 PM on March 11, 2011


What's that building they're showing with the people on the roof and why does it appear to be the only building out in the middle of nowhere?

Not watching CNN, but it sounds like Sendai Airport from yesterday. The middle of nowhere was caused by the tsunami. It used to be somewhere.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:48 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]




No source I have seen from within Japan has said anything more serious than the 1000x figure within the control room and that NISA and TEPCO were likely planning to release pressure taking the wind direction into account (that is, waiting until the wind would blow any release to sea).
posted by zippy at 2:48 PM on March 11, 2011


TBS has live feed of the aftermath in Kessanuma, Miyagi. Just utter devastation. The train station, several kilometers inland, was wrecked by the Tsunami... Footage has switched to Rikuzen-Takada, several kilometers north in Iwate.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


50,000 now evacuated from around the nuclear plant
posted by atomicmedia at 2:49 PM on March 11, 2011


The Japanese urban search and rescue teams which had been helping in the search for Christchurch earthquake victims for two weeks, is heading back to Japan to help with the earthquake and tsunami crisis there (New Zealand Herald).

Damn but I feel for those guys. Flying long-distancce to spend weeks looking for bodies, thinking your work was nearly over, and then having to keep going - but back in your home, in a far worse situation.

Heard on BBC that Japan has asked for help from NZ; I think everyone who can help will do their utmost.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:51 PM on March 11, 2011


Yomiuri reports on the control room radiation level (in their Japanese edition, via Google Translate) "Dose of 150 micro Sievert per hour control room ... equivalent to about one-fourth of X-ray examination of the stomach."
posted by zippy at 2:52 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Japanese authorities have warned there could be a small radiation leak from a nuclear reactor whose cooling system was knocked out by the earthquake.

...and the air downtown was safe to breathe after 9/11, yessiree bob....
posted by vrakatar at 2:52 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reports that they are having issues with Fukushima no 2 as well as the significant problems with no 1 are troubling.

What % of the power needs of Japan are met by these plants? Significant interruptions are bound to make recovery significantly more difficult.
posted by vuron at 2:53 PM on March 11, 2011


I'm hesitant to copy/paste any more of the chatter i've seen on IRC without external confirmation, so I won't...

But, it did occur to me that these people still working in the control room have probably seriously considered that they might not make it out alive at this point, but, I presume they are still working as hard as they can to try to get things under control. I'm not sure I can fully understand what's going through their minds right now, but, I do think they are heroes.
posted by yeoz at 2:53 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Aerial view in Ishinomaki shows a giant bulk carrier beached inland, plus a lot of smaller (but still big) ships. Can't even imagine cleaning up this mess.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:53 PM on March 11, 2011


I'm curious - if a coal plant were to be hit this hard, how nasty would the resulting conflagration, if any, be?
posted by zippy at 2:54 PM on March 11, 2011


On a lighter note - the safety of nuclear plants should be up for some serious consideration. If a plant can survive major earthquakes, and a tsunami and not explode right away; I'll take it any day.

An interesting twist that I hadn't thought of, but yeah, if those reactors come out on the other side of this in fair or at least inoperable but not-dangerous condition, it could very well change the dialog about how we generate clean, safe power.

It would be a very bizarre legacy for this earthquake to leave, but if something positive can be borne out of this tragedy, all the better.
posted by quin at 2:54 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


YokosoNews: "It's 7:53 Japan time. I've been broadcasting for... no, I don't want to keep saying that."

I think I love this guy.
posted by steambadger at 2:55 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll say it for him — he's approaching 17 hours :)
posted by crickets at 2:57 PM on March 11, 2011


Background. The Fukushima plant has six reactors. At the earthquake, two shut down correctly and have cooling, three were offline for maintenance, and then there's #1, which shut down but lost at least some measure of cooling. At least, that's what I've seen from official sources. Other sources have all six reactors exploding and everyone in Japan dead.

...and the air downtown was safe to breathe after 9/11, yessiree bob....

You can spot a large leak of radioactive materials, just look for all the people throwing up a lot, then dying. 150μSv is a way above normal dose, but it is not a lethal dose by any means, and you've have to be there for a very long time for it to become so.
posted by eriko at 2:57 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a layperson, the lesson I'm taking from this about the relative safety of things is: nuclear power plants are less dangerous than land, which is less dangerous than water. But all three together are fucking dangerous beyond belief.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Other sources have all six reactors exploding and everyone in Japan dead.

CBC Radio's World at Six headline was just read, "Japan in Ruins". So ya, hyperbole is a problem.
posted by Chuckles at 3:02 PM on March 11, 2011


@KokuRyu "Aerial view in Ishinomaki shows a giant bulk carrier beached inland..."

Is there a screen cap of that? Not being morbid, job related.
posted by digitalprimate at 3:02 PM on March 11, 2011


nhk world said that 3 reactors were having thermal problem, but #1 was the worst.
posted by atomicmedia at 3:02 PM on March 11, 2011


Yeah, eriko, I was indicating that perhaps the government was understating the severity, but then I am a cynic about stuff like that.
posted by vrakatar at 3:02 PM on March 11, 2011


I watched a movie before bed and slept in late today. Ever so strangely, while all this went on, I was dreaming about surviving a tsunami without any awareness of the real thing going on in the waking world. Not the rarest dream, I think a lot of us get those. But it was prolonged and very grimly realistic. I was trying to make sure the pets were still fed though there was no food to be gotten. Then my mother in the dream explained to me that it was all in my head, a result of being out of my meds (side effects of sudden cessation of prozac: tsunami). So I woke up agitated at dream mom for not stopping me sooner, and relieved. Then disturbed.

Fuck, I'm glad there are islands between me and Japan. And I hope all the best for the wonderful people of that beautiful country. And no more prophecies, subconscious.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:05 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nasa images of the Japan earthquake.
posted by nickyskye at 3:05 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good morning from Tokyo, everyone. Lots of aftershocks, as you know, but nothing serious down here.

Kessennuma, a city northeast of Sendai, was engulfed in "a sea of fire" earlier this morning according to the Asahi Shimbun. Ōminato, somewhat northeast of Kessennuma, is under several meters of water.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police (who has jurisdiction over all the other prefecture police) is reporting that 184 people are confirmed dead and another 708 are missing, but this doesn't include the 200-300 bodies found yesterday in Sendai. The unofficial toll is over 1,000 dead and missing and will continue to rise.
posted by armage at 3:06 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


TEPCO's most recent press release on Fukushima-1.

Excerpts:

At 6:08PM, we announced the increase in reactor containment vessel pressure,
assumed to be due to leakage of reactor coolant. However, we do not believe
there is leakage of reactor coolant in the containment vessel at this moment.

Indication from monitoring posts installed at the site boundary did not show
any difference from ordinary level.

No radiation impact to the external environment has been confirmed.
We will continue to monitor in detail the possibility of radioactive material
being discharged from exhaust stack or discharge canal.

There is no missing person within the power station.

A seriously injured worker is still trapped in the crane operating console
of the exhaust stack and his breathing and pulse cannot be confirmed.

A worker was lightly injured spraining his left ankle and cutting both knees
when he fell while walking at the site. The worker is conscious.
posted by zippy at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somebody asked Katz, the Yokoso News guy, whether the Gundam statue in Odaiba was okay. Katz didn't know.

Geeksters gonna geek...
posted by steambadger at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2011


Apologies, the above were for Fukushima-2, not -1.
posted by zippy at 3:08 PM on March 11, 2011


Holy shit! This video shows the terrifying size and scope of the waves more clearly because it was shot on ground level instead of from a helicopter.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:08 PM on March 11, 2011 [18 favorites]


Hey, I'd just like to say thanks to everybody posting in this thread. I've been following the news all day from the East Coast of the US and metafilter has by far been the best source of accurate, timely information.
posted by something something at 3:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [27 favorites]


Ditto. I have a coworker with a lot of family in Japan (they're okay), and another who lived in Sendai several years ago for a college internship. They keep coming to *me* for updates.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:13 PM on March 11, 2011


Yokoso News guy is Katz Ueno.

Facebook.

Blog gateway. (not super active)

Self-hosted bio. Open source dude!
posted by mwhybark at 3:18 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks to those who answered but I don't think we're talking about the same thing. I've seen the airport, this wasn't the airport, it looked more like a hospital, or big government or academic building, with nothing else around it. It looked like some people might have been wearing lab coats? CNN had it on for a long time but Wolf Blitzer only said that people on the roof looked desperate, he never said what the building was.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:18 PM on March 11, 2011


I gave the wrong link above for the TEPCO press release for the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station. This is the correct TEPCO press release link
posted by zippy at 3:19 PM on March 11, 2011


We've been working all day trying to find out if my niece is ok. She arrived in Otsuchi (north of Sendai) yesterday morning at 5am our time to document the dolphin hunt.

Her page on Google Person Finder: http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com/view?id=japan.person-finder.appspot.com%2Fperson.2620121
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 3:20 PM on March 11, 2011


I've been keeping an eye on this thread on one of my screens all day while working, and keeping my roomies updated. Less of a firehose than twitter, but still at internet speed. Thanks guys!
posted by tempythethird at 3:20 PM on March 11, 2011


One worker has died at the Fukushima No. 2 reactor; another two at the No. 1 reactor are missing (Asahi Shimbun).
posted by armage at 3:21 PM on March 11, 2011


CrazyLemonade, I think that was the same one NHK World was showing a few minutes ago, but they just called it "an office building" and they were waiting for rescue because of flooding. They were talking about a hospital in the same segment but I don't think the footage was of that.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:21 PM on March 11, 2011


Thanks, Lyn.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2011


From NHK World: they are going to vent
posted by atomicmedia at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2011


Some good news: 240 people confirmed to be safe in Rikuzen-Takada, a city between Kessennuma and Ōminato on the Iwate coast (Asahi Shimbun)
posted by armage at 3:25 PM on March 11, 2011


atomicmedia: "From NHK World: they are going to ven"

How I wish that were not eponysterical.

Japan does not need this on top of everything else.
posted by bwg at 3:25 PM on March 11, 2011


CrazyLemonade, if I half-heard right and have the right picture in mind, the building has nothing around it because all of the wooden houses around it washed away. I only half caught the segment on NHK.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:25 PM on March 11, 2011


NHK is showing a live feed of the SDF rescuing someone off the roof of a house surrounded by water and debris in Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture.
posted by armage at 3:26 PM on March 11, 2011


*Govt To Declare Emergency At Tepco Fukushima Daini Plant *Tepco: Temperatures Rising At Fukushima Daini No.1, No.2 Reactors via Nikkei
posted by futz at 3:27 PM on March 11, 2011


I'm having a great deal of trouble trying to parse the truth about what's actually happening from English-language online and television news sources. Headlines and talking heads are ranging from "officials trying to prevent a nuclear meltdown" to "a little nuclear venting is nothing to worry about" to tasteless fucking Godzilla jokes.

Can any kind person here either point me to a 'just-the-facts' English-language news source or simply explain what the hell is going on and how bad it really is in relatively layman's terms? I understand medical lingo but I don't 'speak' nuclear physics! Venting seems bad to me, but I'm not understanding the toxicity levels.
posted by zarq at 3:32 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


swimming naked, the very best thoughts to you and your niece. Hang in there, and let us know when she turns up.
posted by steambadger at 3:32 PM on March 11, 2011


zarq: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 3:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


ozomatli, it'd be great to see that replotted with the 101.5-increase-per-mag scaling on the y-axis, if you're up for it.

No problem at all. Here is the energy release (normalized to a magnitude 6.0 earthquake). So a reading of 10 means 10 times more energy was released and 100 means 100 times, etc...
posted by ozomatli at 3:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, here's another (hypothetical) take on the Fukushima issue. I'm not freaking out. Yet.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:35 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poor Yokoso News guy. He's going to pass out facefirst into that fuzzy microphone.
posted by saturday_morning at 3:36 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dodecadermaldenticles: "zarq: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/"

Thank you!
posted by zarq at 3:36 PM on March 11, 2011


...it sounds like Sendai Airport from yesterday. The middle of nowhere was caused by the tsunami. ...It used to be somewhere.

Here is Sendai airport on Google maps - the terminal buildings look to have been separated from the sea by 600m of land and a canal. The entire area of the airport looks like it was quite heavily urbanised - not really like a typical "middle of nowhere out of town" airport.

Earlier today I watched some BBC news reportage where the anchor was making phone call with a correspondent in the surviving part of the terminal building. The reporter said something like "I'm OK - the airport building seems fine and please can you hang on a moment while I rebook myself on the next flight back to Toyko". The news showed this conversation as a background to footage of the rest of the airport getting wiped out by the tidal wave. "Good luck with that!" said the anchorman.
posted by rongorongo at 3:36 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201103110812.html has the only properly detailed English language report I have seen so far, that plus the TEPCO bulletins seems like the most useful data sources.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:37 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/

I'm not sure what language the broadcast is in, but it's not English
posted by desjardins at 3:38 PM on March 11, 2011


Tepco has been issuing announcements every 15 minutes or so over the local-area PA system to ask people to conserve power due to continued shutdowns of power plants.
posted by armage at 3:38 PM on March 11, 2011


loquacious: "If human history is any guide, statements along the lines of "it's utterly fail proof and completely safe" from engineers are at best pure hubris. Nature and all of it's chaos and dynamic behavior has a nasty habit of responding with "Yeah, what about this? I bet you didn't think of this.""

Engineers (at least competent engineers) don't talk about things being impossible to fail. When they say something is "fail safe" they mean they've thought about all the failure modes and designed the system to be safe when it fails.

Such is the case for Western reactor designs, as eriko and malor have mentioned. Of course not everything is 100% guaranteed, but I think when you get into the "anything is possible" mode of thinking, the things you're really talking about are like 'what if an asshole space alien fires a death ray directly at the reactor core' level of possible.

Worst case, they lose the reactor, it costs a lot of money, but thousands of people are not going to die.
posted by danny the boy at 3:39 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


desjardins: If they're just listing shit, right now it's French. They'll switch back to English when the lists are done-- they run through a lot of languages and list tsunami warning areas.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:39 PM on March 11, 2011


I'm not sure what language the broadcast is in, but it's not English

It was in English and they will go back to English in a little bit presumably. They switch it up.
posted by zachlipton at 3:39 PM on March 11, 2011


OK, the accent threw me off there.
posted by desjardins at 3:40 PM on March 11, 2011


NHK World appears to be doing a short multi-language roundup. Most of the coverage for the past couple of hours has been Japanese with a (very good) translator talking over. Occasionally it's subtitle-only.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:40 PM on March 11, 2011


Oh crud, Yomiuri's JP page reporting on Fukushima-2 (no news on their English page yet). Google translate says the headline is:

"Fukushima second primary emergency, loss of cooling function ..."
posted by zippy at 3:40 PM on March 11, 2011


zarq, I don't think any such resource presently exists.

From what they were saying on the BBC, they're planning on a release of 'slightly radioactive steam'. I assume that means that the water has absorbed some neutrons from the plant, and that either the hydrogen or the oxygen is therefore unstable and radioactive.

My guess is that the half-life on that kind of radioactive material will be very short; being small atoms, they're likely to be very unstable lugging around an extra neutron. I suspect that, within a few hours, any steam they release will be normal water again. It should just be a matter of staying out of the immediate downwind area of the plant for a day or so. You wouldn't want to breathe it, but it shouldn't be a long-term problem at all.

As long as they keep people out of the area until tomorrow, I don't think it'll be a hazard to anyone.
posted by Malor at 3:41 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"THE SEA OF JAPAN COAST OF AOMORI PREFECTURE!"

There we go, English is back for a while.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:41 PM on March 11, 2011


Three of four runways are back in operation at Haneda Airport (TV Asahi)
posted by armage at 3:42 PM on March 11, 2011


JAL has cancelled 87 domestic and 14 international flights; ANA has cancelled 43 domestic and 18 international flights.

Narita Airport is only open for departing flights; no word on when they will begin accepting arrivals.
posted by armage at 3:43 PM on March 11, 2011


It's a boiling water reactor. Venting the pressure is like taking the weight off a pressure cooker: the escaping steam carries away some of the heat. It's a feature, not a bug. They are designed to vent in emergencies. You don't want to vent, but it's made so you can to avert worse problems. Better not to, but if you must, you must.

The reactor only has a pressure vessel. It is not surrounded by a containment vessel.

There is a lot of uncertainty about what kind of radioactivity will be vented because we don't know the details. Water is not going to be radioactive, but there can be stuff dissolved in it that can become radioactive by neutron capture. Three Mile Island was a worse situation because there was a hydrogen bubble that ignited inside the pressure vessel.

Don't be freaking out too much. The health effects from that burning refinery are probably going to be worse than radiation from venting. They are saying they're watching for an off shore wind. Dilution isn't the solution for radioactivity, but it does lower the potential dosage at one spot by spreading it around to a wider area of lower doses. We're still talking CAT-scan levels, not Chernobyl.

Keep Clam.
posted by warbaby at 3:43 PM on March 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


Malor, thank you. People on tv (and various other sources) keep mentioning Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, but it's obvious that they're speculating wildly. (And irresponsibly.)
posted by zarq at 3:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kyodo news is in english too.
posted by futz at 3:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Warbaby, anigbrowl and futz, thanks!
posted by zarq at 3:46 PM on March 11, 2011


Ever wanted to watch footage from an idiot shooting and narrating his own (near) Darwin Award? Well, now you can! Here's some Tsunami footage from Kona, Hawaii this morning. That guy is damn lucky...and a total dumb-ass.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:49 PM on March 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


I want to take a moment to say that TEPCO has been really good about getting news out. I can't think of a situation in the US where an involved company has released apparently non-spin Press Releases about a disaster like this.

Here's their latest. Excerpts:

Evacuation has been instructed by the national government to the local
residents within 10 km radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station
and Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station.

(I believe previously the evacuation orders were only for 10km around Fukushima Daiichi. Daini is 7km south IIRC)

Measurement of radioactive material (Iodine, etc.) by monitoring car
indicates increasing value compared to normal level. One of the
monitoring posts is also indicating higher than normal level. We will
continue monitoring discharge of radioactive material from exhaust stack
and discharge canal, etc.

We have decided to implement measures to reduce the pressure of the
reactor containment vessel for those units that cannot confirm certain
level of water injection by the Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System,
in order to fully secure safety.

Hydro Power Station

11 stations in Fukushima Prefecture, 1 station in Tochigi Prefecture,
3 stations in Yamanashi Prefecture, were shutdown due to earthquake.
Power stations in Gunma Prefecture have been restored.

Blackout in TEPCO's Service Area
Total of about 1.17 million households are out of power.
posted by zippy at 3:51 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow - according to a press conference, their earthquake monitoring in Japan is pretty much shot, the sensors too damaged by the intensity and duration of the earthquakes, so they're sort of working blind as regards further updates. USGS detection will obviously be delayed due to distance.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:57 PM on March 11, 2011


I'm trying to keep people in Japan as calm as possible. A friend lives within spitting distance of Mt. Fuji and is worried about the volcano waking up.

Does anyone have a link to a Japanese seismological agency tracking it or a USGS page tracking it so that I can calm him down?
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 3:57 PM on March 11, 2011


MSNBC wins the award for most sensationalist headline(s). Like seriously.

"Radioactivity surges at
stricken Japanese nuke plant"

In like size 40 font, then below it:

"Power company says it's lost control"
posted by cashman at 3:58 PM on March 11, 2011


zarq, it looks like I was wrong there. Warbaby implies that the water itself can't carry the radioactivity, but that there could be other trace elements that do.

If that's the case, the significance of the release will depend almost entirely on what, specifically, is in the water that's radioactive. If it's something like krypton (a noble gas), it's not especially worrisome. Noble gases don't bind with anything, so even if you get a snootful, you just breathe it right back out again. You get dosed by whatever broke down while it was in your lungs, but it doesn't stick around. And it rapidly dilutes into the air, so it has almost no effect.

If, however, it's something that bioaccumulates, especially if it has a fairly long half-life, it could be a problem. How much of a problem depends on the quantities released. They're making it sound like it's a very small amount, but we don't know. Without knowing the substance and the quantity, it's not really possible to make an informed risk assessment.

For some perspective, remember that coal plants are dumping hundreds of tons of radioactive waste into the atmosphere every year, and nobody really complains about that. Coal has lots and lots of uranium in it -- so much, in fact, that if we were to refine the U-235 in coal and use it in reactors, we could get more power than we do by burning.
posted by Malor at 3:59 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've just watched a video showing my niece and her companions after the quake, but before the tsunami. They were recording on a cellphone and stopped driving by the side of the road to look down into the bay where they talk about hearing the tsunami sirens. Therefore, I assume they were on or heading to higher ground when the tsunami hit. I'm going with the positive assumption that they are safe but unable to get cell signal.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 4:02 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


zarq, one example: radioactive iodine is a common waste product in plants, and that's really bad to be exposed to, because it heads straight for your thyroid and stays there, dosing your brain for years. The normal treatment for that is to give people regular iodine, preferably pre-exposure, so that the thyroid 'fills up', and the radioactive stuff is mostly shed.

We just can't know what the risks are until we know what's in that steam, and how much of it there is.
posted by Malor at 4:05 PM on March 11, 2011


so much, in fact, that if we were to refine the U-235 in coal and use it in reactors, we could get more power than we do by burning.

I recently went on a tour of the Lawrence Berkeley Labs, and one of the people who works there pointed out that "burning" 1 gram of, I think it was uranium, in a reactor, is equivalent to burning 1 ton of coal in terms of energy released. The binding energy in an atom is so much greater than that between atoms in a molecule.
posted by zippy at 4:06 PM on March 11, 2011


Malor, I would think one primary danger would be tritium. Natural oxygen is O16, but O17 and O18 are both stable. Natural hydrogen is nearly all protium, but it's possible that some has converted to deuterium (which is stable), and some of that in turn to tritium, which is not. Tritium is a beta source, half life about 12 years.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:10 PM on March 11, 2011


NHK World is back to news in English
posted by atomicmedia at 4:10 PM on March 11, 2011


NHK just said that the "1000x" radiation WAS in the control room.
posted by atomicmedia at 4:11 PM on March 11, 2011


That's it I'm taking up smoking. If I'm going to breath in toxic slightly radioactive gasses, I'm at least going to get a buzz and a sexy deep voice out of it.
posted by humanfont at 4:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Guardian:

11.55pm GMT: For informed commentary on the nuclear reactor problems in Japan, those of you with Twitter accounts should follow @arclight who appears to know the stuff.
posted by psyche7 at 4:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency was the source for the above comment
posted by atomicmedia at 4:15 PM on March 11, 2011


Chocolate Pickle, from the Wikipedia page:

Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen, which allows it to readily bind to hydroxyl radicals, forming tritiated water (HTO), and to carbon atoms. Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally (its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin), but it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin.[14][15][16][17] HTO has a short biological half life in the human body of seven to 14 days, which both reduces the total effects of single-incident ingestion and precludes long-term bioaccumulation of HTO from the environment.

So not too big a deal. I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to drink any, but it sounds like minor exposure isn't too much of a problem.
posted by Malor at 4:16 PM on March 11, 2011


Japan's Chernobyl apparently means "biggest nuclear disaster in Japan"

Well, there's always Tokaimura^ (which, as it happens, is not that far from Fukushima).
posted by dhartung at 4:21 PM on March 11, 2011




Evacuation area around Fukushima-#2 plant just expanded to 3km.
posted by zachlipton at 4:25 PM on March 11, 2011


I think this is new -- emergency declared at second nuclear plant.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:26 PM on March 11, 2011


Worst case, they lose the reactor, it costs a lot of money, but thousands of people are not going to die.

I'm not sure what's up with the nuclear power love in this thread. Maybe it's to reduce the worry among readers. But there is definitely an increased risk of cancer to the residents in the local area if they're venting the reactor.

It's not just a choice between just coal and nuclear. Solar and hydroelectric are also options. I'm just not seeing this event as an argument in favor of nuclear power. I'm seeing it as the opposite.
posted by formless at 4:26 PM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


That @arclight feed is pretty good. I like this entry, presently at the bottom of the page:

"@aflatbeddarkly Welcome to the 24 hour news cycle. Nobody ever sold a paper by telling people not to panic ;)"
posted by Malor at 4:28 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


NHK reporting that they're beginning the venting of Fukushima-1 now.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:29 PM on March 11, 2011


humanfont: "That's it I'm taking up smoking. If I'm going to breath in toxic slightly radioactive gasses, I'm at least going to get a buzz and a sexy deep voice out of it"

Or end up sounding like Selma Diamond.
posted by bwg at 4:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


IIRC, the Hanford Downwinders biggest problem was Iodine. Trintium is very difficult to produce and is not a big deal in most reactors.

Depending how long the fuel has been in the reactor, it will have increasing amounts of waste elements. Old fuel is really dirty. It's only if the fuel gets broken up is there a really big problem (Chernobyl), TMI was not a big radiation problem and this reactor is going to be less than TMI, even with the venting. A meltdown is not likely, according to experts in the LA Times article
"These first-generation boiling water reactors have the least margin of safety of any reactor design," said Frank N. von Hippel, a Princeton University physicist and former White House advisor.

Without electrical power to circulate water inside the core, the cooling water would begin to boil off, he said. But operators still should be able to add new cooling water and keep the core fully immersed while it cools down.

"It doesn't sound like we are in meltdown mode," he said.
Don't be getting freaked out by the "1000x" - that's compare to normal background radiation which is virtually nil. Most of the news reporting is technically uniformed and more than a little hysterical.

formless - it's not love, but it's not unfamiliarity.
posted by warbaby at 4:30 PM on March 11, 2011


MSNBC wins the award for most sensationalist headline(s).

Nah. The Daily Mail retired that trophy a few hours ago, with a headline that said something like "Japanese Will Vent Reactor In Desperate Bid To Avoid Explosion". Never bet against the Daily Mail.
posted by steambadger at 4:31 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


oops - this LAT article.
posted by warbaby at 4:32 PM on March 11, 2011


formless: "I'm not sure what's up with the nuclear power love in this thread."

I don't think it's love. What it is is respect for the knowledge of some folks that are contributing here and a desire to hear more from them. Attacking the basis of their knowledge as the event itself unfolds might discourage further commentary. It's to be expected that folks with a deep knowledge of the technology have a positive opinion of it.

Once the event is past we can return to our regularly scheduled strong disagreements about the advisability of and risk-tolerance required for the deployment of nuclear power.

Also, up thread, it should be noted that zippy shared some pretty critical information about the trustworthiness of the administrative entity running the plants.
posted by mwhybark at 4:35 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


These videos on the LA Times site, taken during the quake, are amazing.

The one in the grocery store, when they're standing under the 6-foot shelves trying to keep all those bottles from falling down onto their heads, had me yelling at the monitor.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:37 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]




But there is definitely an increased risk of cancer to the residents in the local area if they're venting the reactor.

That's not necessarily the case. There's some evidence now, in fact, that ongoing low levels of external radiation exposure is actually cancer-preventive. Radiologists, IIRC, suffer from markedly lower cancer rates than the general population. And there was a study on dockworkers who worked on nuclear vessels in the 1950s and 60s... the researcher there said their overall lifespans were about three years longer than normal, almost exactly what you'd get if you removed cancer as a cause of death. She found this quite startling.

The hypothesis is 'hormesis' -- that the ongoing small amounts of damage keep your cell-repair mechanisms working better. High doses are still bad, internal doses are bad, and bioaccumulation (where you embed radioactive material into your cells) is very bad, but low amounts of external radiation may actually be beneficial, rather than harmful.
posted by Malor at 4:38 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


ozomatli  No problem at all. Here is the energy release (normalized to a magnitude 6.0 earthquake).

Ace, thanks a lot.
posted by hat at 4:41 PM on March 11, 2011


but low amounts of external radiation may actually be beneficial, rather than harmful.

[Citation Needed]
posted by loquacious at 4:42 PM on March 11, 2011


I am no lover of nuclear power, but I like panic even less.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 4:43 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Good morning all. Lousy attempt at sleep around 3 am, followed by jumping up at every aftershock, panicky, until about 5, when I realized that most likely, nothing would happen, and that if it did, there'd be just about nothing I could do, so I managed to get some fitful sleep until about an hour ago.

Couple things: au, my cell phone provider, seems to have a new earthquake alert by text feature, which had my phone going off all night last night. It was interesting noting the distance between the quake and the time it took. The Nagano quake alarm went off well before I felt the quake, but the Chiba quake alert came pretty much after everything had started shaking, go figure.

I tried watching a little CNN, but it was way too much DOOM! TERROR! for me, so I flipped over to the Japanese news networks. Calm, measured tones, giving out information, being reassuring. I'm glad to hear Flapjax and Woodblock are okay. Any gc news yet?
posted by Ghidorah at 4:43 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


[Citation Needed]

The Wikipedia page on radiation hormesis seems pretty good.
posted by Malor at 4:46 PM on March 11, 2011


But there is definitely an increased risk of cancer to the residents in the local area if they're venting the reactor.

If there is (which is somewhat unlikely, as it sounds as if the vented steam is only slightly radioactive at worst), it will probably get lost in the increased cancer risk due to simple exposure to the debris from the earthquake/tsunami.
posted by jlkr at 4:46 PM on March 11, 2011




It's to be expected that folks with a deep knowledge of the technology have a positive opinion of it.

As an engineer, I can respect that. I imagine the engineering that goes into nuclear reactor design is among some of the finest in history, Apollo-level in terms of safety and thoughtfulness. It's obvious the Japanese have put a lot of thought about safety from quakes into their engineering systems.
posted by formless at 4:47 PM on March 11, 2011


so I flipped over to the Japanese news networks.

The difference is truly staggering. I mean, I know I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I always am.
posted by aramaic at 4:47 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lived in Tsuruga, a nuclear power town (3 sites with 2 fast-breeder reactors and 5 conventional reactors) for 10 years, and I have to say that it's likely the people living near the TEPCO Fukushima plants have been receiving "hormesis"-level doses of radiation for years. For one thing, low-level waste is shipped by conventional transport trucks around town and on highways. As well, there are always minor accidents that never get reported.

Unsurprisingly, nuclear power is a tremendously political issue in Japan. It's used as a rural economic development tool, and for good reason. Many of the places in Japan that host nuclear facilities have nothing else driving their economies, especially after the hollowing out of Japanese industry over the past 15 years.

It's a sad state of affairs, really. In exchange for a healthy local economy with high-paying jobs (and not an inconsiderable amount of construction graft), residents are expected to live with the threat of being irradiated. It's possible to live in denial - most of the nuke plants are located out of sight in isolated locations, and people in other parts of Fukui would sometimes tease me for living in Tsuruga, despite the fact that they lived downwind from the plants, thanks to prevailing winds.

But what can you do? The ruralities in Japan that I've been to that don't have things like nuke plants are dying.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:48 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an engineer, I can respect that. I imagine the engineering that goes into nuclear reactor design is among some of the finest in history, Apollo-level in terms of safety and thoughtfulness.

This is true, but Zippy's comment upthread about poor maintenance records at this reactor worries me. It doesn't matter how well it's freaking engineered if they don't keep everything working properly.
posted by Malor at 4:51 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


IAEA press release 1133

Short version. Fukushima I reactor 2 has lost power to cooling systems, officials are working to restore, mobile electrical supplies (batteries? generators?) on site.

Fukushima I reactor 1 to be/is deliberately vented, will be filtered.

Water level in all three operating reactors remains over the fuel elements (this will limit the temperature the fuel rods can reach.)
posted by eriko at 4:53 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just read on twitter that the 81 people swept away on a boat have been found alive and are being airlifted to safety.
posted by jvilter at 4:54 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I imagine the engineering that goes into nuclear reactor design is among some of the finest in history

That largely depends on the reactors. From what's public knowledge about places like Sellafield, and what I've heard from people who've worked in the British nuclear industry, I wouldn't want to share an island with the half-arsed crap they've built.
posted by rodgerd at 4:56 PM on March 11, 2011


formless: "I'm not sure what's up with the nuclear power love in this thread…

It's not just a choice between just coal and nuclear. Solar and hydroelectric are also options. I'm just not seeing this event as an argument in favor of nuclear power. I'm seeing it as the opposite.
"


I feel like a couple of posters stepped up to dispel what was basically a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt, which is pretty much endemic to any discussion about nuclear power, and even more so here since it's a rapidly developing news story. I think the earthquake isn't going to change anyone's minds about anything; people are going to fit this into whatever narrative they already have in their heads about nuclear, positive or negative.

But it's not useful to anyone to go on thinking the sky is falling when it isn't. This is a serious situation but they way it's being reported is entirely sensationalistic. And the average person's understanding of nuclear power is not based in actual, verifiable facts, but vague emotional reactions. Combine the two and you've created the perfect environment to produce the least sensible nuclear policy.

I don't want to further derail this, and we can chat further if you're interested, but you're absolutely right. Coal or nuclear is not the choice on the table. We need coal, nuclear, hydro, solar and yeah, oil. All of it, for the foreseeable future. Not having nuclear be a part of our total energy solution is magical thinking.
posted by danny the boy at 4:57 PM on March 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


I'm an engineer. I have a positive attitude towards nuclear power vs. coal. I also have a great deal of respect for the nuclear program in Japan, which, when hit with two huge natural events, managed to: a) plan in advance, b) shut down reactors, c) identify problems, d) call for help, and e) keep everyone up to date.

In the US, with Katrina, we failed to have a plan, the mayor and governor obstructed outside efforts for aid, and news was terribly thin on the situation.

With respect to venting gasses, one of TEPCO's press releases mentions testing for iodine in the atmosphere, among other elements.
posted by zippy at 5:00 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fukushima 2: Reactors 1-4 all shut down automatically, however, cooling systems have failed on three of the reactors recently (that is, probably a case of battery exhaustion or generator failure.) This could be an issue, but these reactors had cooling after shutdown considerably longer than Fukushima 1 Reactor 1.
posted by eriko at 5:00 PM on March 11, 2011


BBC reports that venting has been done on one of the reactors (no word which one, probably Reactor 1 at Fukushima 1.
posted by eriko at 5:02 PM on March 11, 2011


This video from the LA Times page is pretty interesting, because the guy shooting the video clearly gets an automated alert on his computer desktop about twenty or thirty seconds before the heavier shaking really hits his location. Is that kind of early warning app common in Japan? And is there a version for the US or other areas? Having your computer or cellphone automatically give you even five or ten seconds of warning time for a quake would be nice.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:05 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


ENOUGH ALREADY MOTHER NATURE!
posted by Space Kitty


Maybe Mother Nature is saying 'Enough' to humans?
posted by yoga at 5:06 PM on March 11, 2011


Nebraska Professor Videotapes Japan Earthquake (from the observation deck of the Tokyo Tower)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:08 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


They're saying that the venting is releasing only a small amount of radiation and that the wind is blowing it towards the ocean.
posted by spiderskull at 5:08 PM on March 11, 2011


Some more info on the venting.
posted by spiderskull at 5:09 PM on March 11, 2011


Having your computer or cellphone automatically give you even five or ten seconds of warning time for a quake would be nice.

Man, imagine you're out with some friends and you get a little alert on your phone. Put your finger to your temples, start shaking a little, "something is a'comin."
posted by floam at 5:09 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Because I am unaware of his credentials, is Malor a nuclear engineer or some other credible nuclear power insider?
posted by BeerFilter at 5:09 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe Mother Nature is saying 'Enough' to humans?

Oh, give me a fucking break. Try saying that after watching someone get washed out to sea. Real people with real lives are being affected here.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [29 favorites]


au, my cell phone provider, seems to have a new earthquake alert by text feature, which had my phone going off all night last night.

Docomo and SoftBank, too. I kept getting woken up by them (four) throughout the night, regardless of how strong they actually turned out to be.
posted by armage at 5:12 PM on March 11, 2011


(But no, I don't think there's anything like that for the US. There are things that can tell you AFTER the earthquake, but Japan has a unique system that analyzes the initial waves from the earthquake, used some sort of heuristic to determine if there was a large enough earthquake coming next, and then sent out alerts.)
posted by floam at 5:12 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Asparagirl, last night was the first time I'd ever gotten an alert, and I got at least five during the night, for quakes in Nagano, Chiba, Fukushima, and elsewhere. I got, at most, a ten second warning.

Damn. Aftershock. Could whoever is in charge of making the earth shake just stop it already and make your nefarious demands? It's getting very, very old, very fast.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:14 PM on March 11, 2011


Having your computer or cellphone automatically give you even five or ten seconds of warning time for a quake would be nice.

I believe some of the energy generated by a quake is dispersed in waves that travel at different speed, some faster then others. I guess that's how the early warning app works? I am looking forward having that kind of application on my desktop or cellphone.
posted by elpapacito at 5:16 PM on March 11, 2011


Can someone comment on the number and size of the aftershocks with this event? Is this a common amount, and a common relative power for other large scale earthquake events?
posted by birdsquared at 5:18 PM on March 11, 2011


also, Asparagirl, there are multiple earthquake apps available for the iPhone, at least. They are mostly marketed as info apps, like weather apps, but I would bet there are one or two that provide configurable location-based notification alerts.
posted by mwhybark at 5:18 PM on March 11, 2011


ah, I misread the interest. Of course the info in those apps is based on past events.
posted by mwhybark at 5:20 PM on March 11, 2011


hm, on reflection, a quick roundup of the available apps (iPhone or not) would be a great post here. I have a couple of Twitter alerts but they deliver within a few minutes of the triggering alert and I use them mostly to be able to keep track of what's just happened somewhere *else,* as I have loved ones in two quake zones in addition to living in one myself.
posted by mwhybark at 5:23 PM on March 11, 2011


Found my own answer. Crap - looks like hundreds of shocks is par for the course.
posted by birdsquared at 5:25 PM on March 11, 2011


The Wikipedia page on radiation hormesis seems pretty good.

That Wikipedia article reads like homeopathy for nuclear medicine. Most of the information is "we don't know if this actually works outside a lab, and all other known and established evidence is contrary to this theory".

I'm certainly not going to be running out and getting some kind of voluntary inoculation dose based on that information.

I am indeed afraid of fission and ionizing radiation, and I am indeed very wary of the nuclear power industry and their engineering practices, and I don't consider nuclear power plants to be on the same level as, say, Apollo project grade engineering because the two things are really apples and oranges. The Apollo project had a blank checkbook and didn't have to generate an income to stockholders or be useful beyond some high flying science and a technology show-and-tell war involving a lot of hot-rodded ballistic missiles. And if the Apollo program blew up it wasn't a disaster involving millions of people, beyond the emotional tragedy.

And I felt this way before Chernobyl when I was a kid, but I don't think that's unwarranted when you're talking about an energy production scheme that has deadly byproducts that stay deadly for tens and hundreds of thousands of years, and we still haven't figured out what to do with that kind of waste in the long term. I think the whole thing is a fool's errand for cheap, easy electricity and people should really learn to turn off most of the lights in their houses and learn to use a lot less electricity in general, but I feel the same way about coal and oil, too.

Anyway, I'm contributing to the derail. I'll stop, but can you maybe tone down the nuclear energy fandom a bit? I also appreciate the information, and again, I'm admittedly prone to panic when it comes to nuclear power - but it feels like you're cheerleading a bit too eagerly for nuclear power and I think it's kind of creepy.

Even if the reactor operates within designed failure parameters and even if it can really slag itself in a total meltdown and not be a Chernobyl-grade crisis, it's still going to be a massive disaster and not ok or acceptable in any sense of the word.

For fuck's sake, they're currently venting radioactive steam to save money instead of quenching the core with neutron-absorbing coolant, which would be costly and time consuming to recover from. Someone just made that decision to release radiation instead of shutting the whole thing down. I'm glad I'm not that person, but I really wonder if the people around the plant feel the same way about it as the operators do. I wonder if there was time to actually put it to a vote if people would rather not have electricity for a while or more expensive electricity instead of venting steam and trying to be cost effective, but "safe".
posted by loquacious at 5:26 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


For fuck's sake, they're currently venting radioactive steam to save money instead of quenching the core with neutron-absorbing coolant

How do you know this is the case?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:28 PM on March 11, 2011


Large earthquakes generate a lot of large aftershocks, but this seems pretty extraordinary to my non-seismologist eyes. Here's information about the Chile 8.8 earthquake from last year, for comparison: "In the time period since the earthquake's origin at 2010-02-27 06:34 to 2010-04-26 21:00 UTC, the USGS NEIC has located 304 aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater. 21 of these aftershocks have magnitudes of 6.0 or greater."

In comparison, I count 20 aftershocks of 6.0 or larger already, and it's not done yet.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:30 PM on March 11, 2011


Evacuation area around Fukushima-#2 plant just expanded to 10km.
The 3 Km evacuation has already been completed (via)
posted by Lanark at 5:30 PM on March 11, 2011


KokoRyo: I'm basing this on Eriko's comment upthread.
posted by loquacious at 5:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Radiation" is a "think of the children" word. If you fly much you've been exposed to all sorts of radioactivity you wouldn't have been if you had stuck to sea level, and people die horribly every day from radiation poisoning (skin cancer) induced by a nearby natural fusion reactor.

We should definitely hold nuke stations to the highest standards we can, but breathing in exhaust, coal fumes and tobacco smoke are things you should be more worried about, by a long-shot.
posted by maxwelton at 5:31 PM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]




hm, on reflection, a quick roundup of the available apps (iPhone or not) would be a great post here.

Seconding this. Or even better, if anyone knows of a publicly available real-time API that provides earthquake sensor data. I would be interested in hearing about the heuristics used to determine when to send an alert.

Living on the west coast of the US, I'm like to prepare myself more for this kind of thing.
posted by formless at 5:33 PM on March 11, 2011


correction
Evacuation area around Fukushima-#1 plant just expanded to 10km. (80,000 people)
Evacuation area around Fukushima-#2 plant expanded to 3km.
posted by Lanark at 5:33 PM on March 11, 2011


Japanese officials may only have hours to cool reactors that have been disabled by Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami or face a nuclear meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) (9501.T) is racing to cool down the reactor core after a highly unusual "station blackout" -- the total loss of power necessary to keep water circulating through the plant to prevent overheating.


Reuters story from about an hour ago.
posted by gerryblog at 5:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some expert commented about 10 minutes ago on BBC world news that:
- indeed if you multiply a very small number by 1000, it still is a very small number. Therefore, if the radiation leak is very small, even a 1000 times increase can still be well within non hazardous limits.
- what is odd, according to him, is that that more than one cooling systems failed at once, thus pratically negating the effects of redundancy. He speculates that it may take days, months or years to really know why all these system failed at once.
posted by elpapacito at 5:35 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not knowing a thing about nuclear engineering or the actual dangers, if any, involved with letting off some of the steam in this particular situation, I think it's probably a bit early to judge and condemn.
posted by floam at 5:35 PM on March 11, 2011


Nevermind building an early warning iPhone app -- we've got oarfish! This article was published exactly one week ago in the Telegraph:
Oarfish omen spells earthquake disaster for Japan

Japan is bracing itself after dozens of rare giant oarfish - traditionally the harbinger of a powerful earthquake - have been washed ashore or caught in fishermen's nets...


Those concerns have been stoked by the unexplained appearance of a fish that is known traditionally as the Messenger from the Sea God's Palace...

In recent weeks, 10 specimens have been found either washed ashore or in fishing nets off Ishikawa Prefecture, half-a-dozen have been caught in nets off Toyama Prefecture and others have been reported in Kyoto, Shimane and Nagasaki prefectures, all on the northern coast.

According to traditional Japanese lore, the fish rise to the surface and beach themselves to warn of an impending earthquake - and there are scientific theories that bottom-dwelling fish may very well be susceptible to movements in seismic fault lines and act in uncharacteristic ways in advance of an earthquake - but experts here are placing more faith in their constant high-tech monitoring of the tectonic plates beneath the surface.

"In ancient times Japanese people believed that fish warned of coming earthquakes, particularly catfish," Hiroshi Tajihi, deputy director of the Kobe Earthquake Centre, told the Daily Telegraph.

"But these are just old superstitions and there is no scientific relationship between these sightings and an earthquake," he said.
Note to self: when a "Messenger from the Sea God's Palace" shows up, listen to him.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:35 PM on March 11, 2011 [33 favorites]


Some details from Wikipedia on the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system in Japan. Unfortunately it's not available in English or overseas, as it is closely tied into domestic broadcast and communications systems.
posted by armage at 5:36 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Loq, maybe they don't have enough on hand. Think once, think twice, think chicken soup with rice, then post. I find when I don't follow this formula I have been known to fly off the handle.
posted by mwhybark at 5:37 PM on March 11, 2011


Asparagirl, that crazytalk was from March 2010.
posted by floam at 5:38 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


"they're currently venting radioactive steam to save money instead of quenching the core with neutron-absorbing coolant"

This is completely false and made up to cause fear and outrage.

"Someone just made that decision to release radiation instead of shutting the whole thing down."

This is completely false and made up to cause fear and outrage.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:38 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


2010?! Arrrrgh! Sorry about that.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:40 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay folks, signing off for now. Many train lines in Tokyo are running again, so I'm going to check out what damage there might be at my friend's house. To Mefites in Japan: be careful of aftershocks, everybody.
posted by armage at 5:40 PM on March 11, 2011


Those oarfish are pretty wild looking. I can see why they're considered messengers from the Sea God's Palace.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:41 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Note to self: when a "Messenger from the Sea God's Palace" shows up, listen to him.

Mr. Oarfish...good evening. As a duly designated representative of the people of Japan, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:42 PM on March 11, 2011 [18 favorites]


Asparagirl: "Nevermind building an early warning iPhone app -- we've got oarfish! "

cf also Namazu.


Either "Oarfish" or "Namazu" would be a great name for a location-aware earthquake notifier app.

Hey, remember the sardine mass kill in Redondo Beach harbor a day ago? HMMM. NO, not really.

but HMMMM.
posted by mwhybark at 5:42 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe Mother Nature is saying 'Enough' to humans?

FFS the Earth is not a person with conscious intent. Let's have a little respect for science here. This is plate tectonics, not a vengeful sky fairy acting out against her uppity subjects.
posted by modernnomad at 5:43 PM on March 11, 2011 [13 favorites]




gingerbeer: "Those oarfish are pretty wild looking. I can see why they're considered messengers from the Sea God's Palace"

"King of Herrings"

that thing is a HERRING?
posted by mwhybark at 5:43 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


gingerbeer: "Tsunami Waves Could Clear Dead Fish from Redondo Beach"

yeh, yeah, 'swhut'm SAYIN
posted by mwhybark at 5:44 PM on March 11, 2011


Latest TEPCO updates here, here, and here, summary:

Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power
Station Unit 1
[Fukushima-1 Unit 1] shut down at 2:48PM on March 11th due to the earthquake. Its Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System was used to inject water into the
reactor to cool it. Today at 3:48AM, water injection by Make-up Water
Condensate System began. Subsequently, at 5:22AM, the temperature of the suppression chamber exceeded 100 degrees [C]. Reactor pressure suppression function was lost, at 5:22AM.

Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power
Station Unit 1
[Fukushima-2 Unit 1] also shut down at 2:48PM. Its
Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System was used to inject water into the
reactor to cool it. Today at 4:50AM, water injection by Make-up Water
Condensate System begun. Subsequently, at 5:32AM, the temperature of the suppression chamber
exceeded 100 degrees. Reactor pressure suppression function was lost at 5:32AM,

Make-up Water Condensate System was used to inject water into the reactor
to cool it. Subsequently, at 6:07AM, the temperature of the suppression chamber
exceeded 100 degrees. The reactor pressure suppression function was lost at 6:07AM.

[All three bulletins conclude with this safety assessment]

Safety and Impact to the Environment
- Currently, water level to cool irradiated fuels in the reactor is
maintained.
- Indication of monitoring posts installed in the site boundary is not
different from normal. Currently, no radiation impact to the external
environment has been confirmed.

We will continue monitoring in detail discharge of radioactive material
from exhaust stack and discharge canal.
posted by zippy at 5:44 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia says "king of herrings"
posted by gingerbeer at 5:45 PM on March 11, 2011


Also, quick update: amusing Japanese folk mythology DEBUNKED due to article publication date, please disregard, except for amusement purposes.
posted by mwhybark at 5:46 PM on March 11, 2011


I misread the TEPCO announcements. All three mentioned above are for Fukushima-1. The summarized text is correct, but my translation of Fukushimi Daini as "Fukushima-2" in one heading is not.
posted by zippy at 5:46 PM on March 11, 2011


I believe some of the energy generated by a quake is dispersed in waves that travel at different speed, some faster then others. I guess that's how the early warning app works? I am looking forward having that kind of application on my desktop or cellphone.

That would require updated infrastructure. Dunno if it's this way where you are, but as Katrina and the BP spill demonstrated, here in the US we are less interested in infrastructure than we are in day-late-and-a-dollar-short responses which minimize responsibility while maximizing private profit.

At this point, I can't imagine the magnitude of disaster it'll take before we have a serious national dialogue about reinvesting in our own safety. Alas, it seems likely that we'll find out.
posted by vorfeed at 5:47 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Argh, -2, not -1.
posted by zippy at 5:47 PM on March 11, 2011


I wish those Redondo sardines had been cleared by the tsunami, as a truckload of them were spilled on the freeway not that far from where I live. :)

The editors went all out on the headline:

"Fish foul freeway frenzy on Friday"
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:47 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


For mwhybark, and anyone else more interested in oarfish than nuclear panics: oarfish video.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:48 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can be interested in BOTH oarfish and oysters, i mean nuclear panics.

Celsius, clearly you guys need some oarfish. Or giant grunnions!
posted by mwhybark at 5:49 PM on March 11, 2011


mmm, oysters

/homer
posted by mwhybark at 5:50 PM on March 11, 2011


if you live in Seattle, comcast has unencrypted digital cable channel 245, the japan channel, which is showing all news instead of their regular programming.
posted by nomisxid at 5:50 PM on March 11, 2011


That would require updated infrastructure. Dunno if it's this way where you are, but as Katrina and the BP spill demonstrated, here in the US we are less interested in infrastructure than we are in day-late-and-a-dollar-short responses which minimize responsibility while maximizing private profit.

Uh, where I am you have to fight government from relaxing building construction code so as to please their mafioso friends; and to fight government from giving l'Aquila reconstruction business to their mafioso friends as well. It seems more or less like the U.S., but with Tony Soprano in charge.
posted by elpapacito at 5:52 PM on March 11, 2011


I believe the three TEPCO announcements above were legally mandated as the result of three separate ventings of gas at 5:22am, 5:32am, and 6:07am.
posted by zippy at 5:54 PM on March 11, 2011


mmm, grunions...
posted by gingerbeer at 6:00 PM on March 11, 2011


This just up at CNN:
Reactors at two Japanese power plants can no longer cool radioactive substances inside, a prominent electric company said Saturday, according to a news agency report that added that atomic material may have leaked out of one of the plants.

Citing the Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan's Kyodo News Agency said that radioactive substances may have seeped out of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo.

...

Temperatures of that plant's coolant water was hotter than 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), the news agency said, an indication that the cooling system wasn't working.
posted by gerryblog at 6:00 PM on March 11, 2011


Because I am unaware of his credentials, is Malor a nuclear engineer or some other credible nuclear power insider?

*snort* I though he was an economist.

He's just making shit up, and maybe reading some wikipedia. Shit like this isn't even wrong.
posted by ryanrs at 6:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have to say, I'm impressed with the Japanese news. Not that they're being good on purpose, of course, but they somehow are managing to avoid going that extra mile to add as much FUD as possible, like they usually do. On a day to day basis, they're no better than the "Something in your house is killing your children! Details after the commercial break!" stuff in the US, but today they're all acting...I dunno...like professionals concerned with conveying news to people. I wasn't in the US for 911, but was it like that? Did they stop all the scary music and infographics and wild exaggerations for a day or two?
posted by Bugbread at 6:01 PM on March 11, 2011


Also, armage, other folks in Japan - any idea why neither my wife nor I (both AU users) have not gotten any alerts whatsoever?
posted by Bugbread at 6:03 PM on March 11, 2011


Bugbread, what I remember most about American news coverage of 9/11 was how they started with an 'estimated' 20,000 death toll and went down...
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have not yet seen this TEPCO press release translated from Japanese into English, but it appears to show radiation monitoring data, and if I am reading the table correctly, it shows readings somewhere around or in the reactor peaking at 1590 nGy/h. Could a Japanese speaker please translate this?
posted by zippy at 6:06 PM on March 11, 2011


Apologies if this has been linked to above, but I didn't see it anywhere: the IRIS Global Seismic Monitor -- a world map of all recent seismic activity updated in real time (or pretty close). It's something I check every so often, and it has made me realize just how common earthquakes, even relatively large ones (magnitude 6 to 6.5) are. Thousands of much smaller quakes happen every day, and dozens of large ones - it's just that most of the time they don't happen in exactly the right (or wrong) place and at the right (wrong) magnitude to cause the kind of devastation that we've seen recently in Christchurch and now in Japan.

Still, for as long as I've kept an eye on this thing, I've never seen it look the way it does now: the place on the map where Japan should be is just one gigantic red dot. Surreal. My thoughts are with everyone in Japan.
posted by Marla Singer at 6:07 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


By the way, the oarfish gets its "Messenger from the Sea God's Palace" name from Urashima Taro, one of the more widely-known Japanese legends. The story is quite worth reading.
posted by vorfeed at 6:12 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Someone just made that decision to release radiation instead of shutting the whole thing down."

This is completely false and made up to cause fear and outrage.


But it is true. As soon as the reactors lost primary cooling systems, they Could indeed have triggered the emergency systems that would have quenched everything down, but at the cost of permanent damage. What's missing from that statement is the truth that there are reasons other than just money at stake. Hospitals need power and can't run on backup power forever, especially when infrastructure for delivering fuel is damaged, for example.
posted by nomisxid at 6:12 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, armage, other folks in Japan - any idea why neither my wife nor I (both AU users) have not gotten any alerts whatsoever?

Good question -- I don't have an au phone so I can't say for sure, but perhaps your location according to GPS was such that it didn't receive the notifications? Either that, or the general network congestion meant that the notifications never reached you (which would be more worrying to me).
posted by armage at 6:13 PM on March 11, 2011


I think what's most disturbing is that, as others have noted above, apparently the plants failed several safety checks (which is entirely, absolutely unsurprising given the track record of Japan's nuclear power industry), and the diesel generators just should not have shut down so soon.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"We've been working all day trying to find out if my niece is ok. She arrived in Otsuchi (north of Sendai) yesterday morning at 5am our time to document the dolphin hunt."

@swimming:
I am on Richard O'Barry's Facebook, and he reported 16 hours ago:
"blood Dolphins team is currently working in Asia, but not threatened by the earthquake/ tsunami. Our thoughts go out to those who are"

I have left him a message. Hopefully, he can pass along any information he knows.
posted by markkraft at 6:16 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


and the diesel generators just should not have shut down so soon.

Are those generators made to endure a tsunami though? Can you possibly bolt down something like that in such a way that it doesn't get swept away and continues to function after the water has drained away?
posted by royalsong at 6:17 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's missing from that statement is the truth that there are reasons other than just money at stake. Hospitals need power and can't run on backup power forever, especially when infrastructure for delivering fuel is damaged, for example.

I also didn't think about the human cost of rebuilding or scrapping the reactor after that kind of shutdown, which would be messy. But so would a full melt down or serious leak.

I'm really glad I'm not the one who has to make those decisions. I'm not saying they're easy.
posted by loquacious at 6:22 PM on March 11, 2011


Arclight on Twitter, a fellow who works as a consultant to a reactor vendor ("they don't pay me enough to spin this," he says), seems to think that flooding might have killed the generators early.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:23 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any gc news yet?
posted by Ghidorah


None yet. I'm really not sure what to think, either--he's in an area I didn't think would be as severely affected (Morioka). I haven't been able to find any news specific to that region other than the '6.1 aftershock near Morioka' blurb from earlier today. Does anyone know the status of that particular region in terms of phone/internet functionality, structure stability, landslides, anything? I've been combing everywhere but I think most anything on it is being drowned out by the state of other places.

I don't know how concerned I should be, but he's kind of a gadget geek and I would assume if he had any cell phone/internet connection he'd have let someone know.

Thanks so much for your concern, Ghidorah. I'm glad you and yours are okay.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:26 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, this stuff makes you think horrible existential thoughts. It's great that the Japanese enacted strict regulations and were as prepared for this as possible—and that matters tremendously and should be a lesson to those who think that government can't do anything or isn't worth subsidizing.

but those pictures are nonetheless apocalyptic and utterly terrifying. I feel guilty just sitting here and seeing those images even though I know awful disasters happen all the time about which I can do nothing other than send a donation and pray.
posted by Maias at 6:27 PM on March 11, 2011


Update here. Tokyo.

Sleepless night with aftershocks every 5-10 minutes. Slowly decreasing in strength, with occasional stronger tremor every hour or so. Even as I type this the house sways slightly, hanging lamps swaying. Makes you feel slightly seasick. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the movement has stopped or if you are just dizzy. When the walls creak, my heart crawls up my throat. I'm learning what PTSD feels like.

Last night was surreal. A huge stream of quake refugees - people fro
every walk of life, from school kids to grandmothers, corporate warriors to street punks - poured out of the city along all major routes. I followed the crowds for a while along the Ome Kaido, a main road running due west out of Shinjuku. So many faces, determined to get home and see their families. I was reminded of every zombie/apocalypse film you've ever seen, the roads jammed, trains stopped, people fleeing the urban core for the safety of the hills. But all was calm and orderly. People would help each other - young men offering to carry the bags of grandfathers, conversations struck up by strangers asking for news and directions.

My family is planning to walk over to a friend's place soon and take advantage of the fact that they still have hot water. Damn I need a
hot shower. It's those little things. A few stiff drinks wouldn't be out of order either.

All the best to everyone affected by this, especially those in the frozen north. At some point, when things have calmed down I hope us Tokyo Mefite 3/11 earthquake veterans can get together to trade war stories. Community is an essential element of humanity.
posted by jet_manifesto at 6:28 PM on March 11, 2011 [45 favorites]


I also didn't think about the human cost of rebuilding or scrapping the reactor after that kind of shutdown

I watched some documentary about Chernobyl years ago, and was amazed at the calmness of so many people working to put out fires and building the containment building over the site, all the while knowing they were going to die for doing it.

The entirety of my Japanese fluency comes from my dim memories of reading Shogun 30 years ago, does anyone watching the Japanese channel know if they have a flashing border around their image of japan in the corner to show the areas already affected, or is it to warn of places expected to be hit by additional tsunami caused by aftershocks?
posted by nomisxid at 6:29 PM on March 11, 2011


For fuck's sake, they're currently venting radioactive steam to save money instead of quenching the core with neutron-absorbing coolant, which would be costly and time consuming to recover from. Someone just made that decision to release radiation instead of shutting the whole thing down. I'm glad I'm not that person, but I really wonder if the people around the plant feel the same way about it as the operators do. I wonder if there was time to actually put it to a vote if people would rather not have electricity for a while or more expensive electricity instead of venting steam and trying to be cost effective, but "safe".

Billions of dollars in additional economic impact, additional power disruptions, the combination of which will which will result in additional deaths. Or expose some as yet unknown number of people to the risk equivalent of smoking a few packs of cigarettes. Ok let's vote.
posted by humanfont at 6:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


and the diesel generators just should not have shut down so soon.

They worked just fine for an hour. Then a tsunami hit them.
posted by eriko at 6:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


horrible existential thoughts...but those pictures are nonetheless apocalyptic and utterly terrifying.

Try this one.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:32 PM on March 11, 2011 [42 favorites]


Thanks for that, furiousxgeorge.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:36 PM on March 11, 2011


nomisxid - the flashing borders are for warnings - the pink medium, the red high.
posted by birdsquared at 6:43 PM on March 11, 2011


I have not yet seen this TEPCO press release translated from Japanese into English, but it appears to show radiation monitoring data, and if I am reading the table correctly, it shows readings somewhere around or in the reactor peaking at 1590 nGy/h. Could a Japanese speaker please translate this?

The important part says roughly:

"As shown by the radiation situation below, confirmed by mobile monitoring posts around the power plant, values are normal. There is thought to be no effect on the outside environment at the present time."

The top chart is 計測結果, Measurement Results. Chart headings go Measurement Time (for example, 3月12日 is March 12 and 午前/午後 are AM/PM, 7時35分 is 7:35), Measurement Location (the most common being 正門付近, "Front Gate Area"), γ (Gamma) Rays, and Neutron Rays.

The bottom (boring) chart is 風向、風速, wind direction and speed.

I'll leave interpretation of the numbers to someone who knows something about nuclear science!
posted by vorfeed at 6:43 PM on March 11, 2011


Comcast has unlocked NHK World for its customers, if anyone wants to watch on tv.
posted by sugarfish at 6:44 PM on March 11, 2011


Thanks for that pic, furiousxgeorge. In all sincerity.
posted by KathrynT at 6:45 PM on March 11, 2011


The old guy doesn't look as happy when it's his turn and they have to trade places. :(
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:47 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thanks for that pic, furiousxgeorge. In all sincerity.

Thirded. That's a great picture. He looks so relieved and happy, and he's got some styling sneakers going on on.
posted by loquacious at 6:48 PM on March 11, 2011


loquacious:
For fuck's sake, they're currently venting radioactive steam to save money instead of quenching the core with neutron-absorbing coolant, which would be costly and time consuming to recover from.
That is not the only reason to not just dump shit tons of coolant straight into the core. There is a limit to how quickly you can cool the core, if it cools too fast, it'll crack from thermal shock (imagine moving a glass bottle from the freezer into a boiling water bath), coupled with the fact that Fukushima I unit 1 is from 1971, extra care needs to be taken (info from @arclight).
posted by thebestsophist at 6:50 PM on March 11, 2011


Maybe someone already posted this above, but the GOP proposed budget includes significant cuts to the tsunami warning system.

They probably want it to be privatized. Just imagine a subscription service with various options, the cheapest might be that you get sent a postcard by US Mail, the most pricey might include a rescue helicopter.
posted by mareli at 6:50 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Make that "Main Gate" rather than "Front Gate" above. I think I was typing faster than my brain.
posted by vorfeed at 6:51 PM on March 11, 2011


New Zealand to send 48 Urban Search and Rescue workers to Japan.

It's a pitifully small drop in the bucket, but ...
posted by Catch at 6:55 PM on March 11, 2011


Thank you, vorfeed. Here's the chart, with vorfeed's translations:

Measurement Resuits
11 Mar
(計測時間)   (測定場所)   (γ線)  (中性子線)
 [  time  ]   [ location] [gamma]  [neutron]

午後5時30分  体育館付近  49 nGy/h    -
    40分  Front Gate   56 nGy/h    -
    50分  管理棟    64 nGy/h    -
午後6時45分  MP-6   56 nGy/h    -
午後7時00分  MP-7   57 nGy/h    -
...
12 Mar
(計測時間)   (測定場所)   (γ線)  (中性子線)
 [  time  ]   [ location] [gamma]  [neutron]

午前0時00分  Front gate   60 nGy/h  0.001μSv/h未満
    10分  正門 [portal?] 62 nGy/h  0.001μSv/h未満
...
    50分  正門     64 nGy/h  0.001μSv/h未満
午前4時00分  正門     69 nGy/h  0.001μSv/h未満
    40分  正門    866 nGy/h    -
    50分  正門   1002 nGy/h    -
午前5時00分  正門   1307 nGy/h    -
    10分  正門   1590 nGy/h  0.001μSv/h未満
午前6時25分  MP-8付近 1.21μSv/h     -
    30分   正門   3.29μSv/h  0.001μSv/h未満
            MP-8付近 1.53μSv/h     -
    40分  正門   4.92μSv/h  0.001μSv/h未満
午前7時35分  MP-8付近 2.47μSv/h    -
    40分  MP-8付近 2.56μSv/h    -
    45分  MP-8付近 2.53μSv/h    -
    50分  正門   4.97μSv/h  0.001μSv/h未満
        MP-8付近 2.50μSv/h    -

posted by zippy at 7:00 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


s/Front gate/Main gate/g per vorfeed
posted by zippy at 7:01 PM on March 11, 2011


any idea why neither my wife nor I (both AU users) have not gotten any alerts whatsoever?

I don't really know what the deal is. I got seven alerts between five pm yesterday and 6:50 this morning, but none since, but there have been aftershocks all morning long, and no alerts. With au, the alerts come as C-mail, and you might need to set your phone to receive them.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:03 PM on March 11, 2011


Luckily, working at home, I have been spared all the headaches that come with total train blockages, but a friend of mine, a single mother, had to walk from her workplace to her son's nursery school. She walked for 8 hours, finally getting there at 1 a.m.
posted by Bugbread at 7:05 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]




Thanks for that pic, furiousxgeorge. In all sincerity.

Fuck yeah, human kindness. Thanks from here too, george.
posted by steambadger at 7:10 PM on March 11, 2011


We should definitely hold nuke stations to the highest standards we can, but breathing in exhaust, coal fumes and tobacco smoke are things you should be more worried about, by a long-shot.

Remember when the Large Hadron Collider was going to spit out antimatter and destroy the universe? If you happened to sit down right then and rank all the risks you faced in life, you probably noticed that "being consumed by antimatter" was right at the bottom; or at least lower than anything that didn't involve vampires or poisoned gingerbread. But, still, a lot of people worried about it -- and most of us felt a little tingle when we thought about. Because, hey: end of the universe.
posted by steambadger at 7:20 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was just talking to my sister back home a little while ago, and she was worried about me not being able to fly out of here for a trip home on Thursday. While Sendai and the immediate area are going to be a long time recovering, I told her I thought Tokyo and the Kanto area would likely be back to normal by Tuesday at the latest, because this is what Japan does. It has a problem, then it fixes it so people can get back to work.

As I was telling her this, the doorbell rings, and it's a delivery guy with something Mrs. Ghidorah ordered online. I told my sister this, and she was floored. How the hell is there a delivery the day after an earthquake? I asked the delivery guy, and he told me "Work never stops." I thanked him, and told him to be careful, and he jogged back to his truck to make more deliveries.

This place amazes me sometimes.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:28 PM on March 11, 2011 [60 favorites]


How the hell is there a delivery the day after an earthquake? I asked the delivery guy, and he told me "Work never stops."

That is Japan, in a nutshell.
posted by gen at 7:33 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


The oarfish article is from 2010... which means those oarfish spent a whole year plotting their revenge!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank you, vorfeed. Here's the chart, with vorfeed's translations:

正門 [portal?] -- sorry I didn't make this clear, but this is just "Main Gate" (as opposed to 正門付近, "Main Gate Area". I'm not sure why they specified a difference.) Likewise, all the MP-8付近 entries mean "MP-8 Area". 体育館付近 is "Gym Area" and 管理棟 is "Control Building". 0.001μSv/h未満 is "less than 0.001μSv/h".
posted by vorfeed at 7:48 PM on March 11, 2011


On the last leg of my journey home today, coming via a different route than I'd usually take home, I passed a temple and stepped into the graveyard. Snapped this picture of a wall of ojizousama, and this one of fallen ojizousama, brought down by yesterday's quake.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:49 PM on March 11, 2011 [28 favorites]


Well, hey, flapjax. Some folks have been asking about you.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:53 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, flapjax. What's up with you, man?
posted by steambadger at 7:54 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know, MrMoonPie! I posted an update in the MeTa thread!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:54 PM on March 11, 2011


I'll copy/paste what I put in the MeTa thread! Coming right up!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:54 PM on March 11, 2011


Hi friends. Thanks for your concern. My family and I are all fine and unscathed, I'm so thankful to report. I was waaay out in Saitama (north of Tokyo) teaching English to little kiddies at a classroom in a huge new shopping mall. I was on a 20 minute beak between classes, about to step into a food store, when the huge structure started to shake...

I made a beeline for the nearest exit. The quake was LONG. Standing out in the parking lot was like standing on a raft. The parking lot was doing a slow ripple, I ain't lying... All the cars in the lot were rocking back and forth on their wheels. A huge electrical tower nearby was swaying. The facade of the mall (enormous, and made of concrete and glass) was rippling and swaying. The whole scene was, well, damn, really something. And terrifying, of course.

And the reason I didn't post anything til now is that I just now got home. I was an hour and a half north of Tokyo (and that's on EXPRESS trains) and of course there was no train service last night. Had to stay at a 24-hour "family restaurant" called Gusto. Americans can just imagine Denny's, for atmosphere. Food's better, though, being Japan.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:56 PM on March 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm glad the food was better than Denny's. Silver lining and all that.
posted by Wyatt at 7:59 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


heh heh!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:00 PM on March 11, 2011


More video of stupid people intentionally standing near the water's edge to film an incoming tsunami -- this time, from Crescent City, California. Not quite as bad as the guy in Kona earlier, but yeesh.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


tl;dr summary of the radiation measurements reported by TEPCO: the neutron readings ranged between 0 and barely detectable, while the gamma readings got as high as 4.97 μSv/h.

An airline pilot might get 2-4 mSv/year, so at the highest rate currently monitored outside of the reactor, you would have to stand in that place for, what, 1000 hours, to get the same dose as a professional pilot receives over a year of flying (never mind the levels only stayed that high for one ten minute period).
posted by zippy at 8:03 PM on March 11, 2011


On the way back from Ichikawa, on a bridge next to a graveyard, someone pointed out the older stones, placed on the hillside, had fallen over.

Still, Gusto? Better than Denny's? They have no pancakes. Saizeriya, maybe, but not Gusto.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:07 PM on March 11, 2011


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: "The oarfish article is from 2010... which means those oarfish spent a whole year plotting their revenge"

I would deem they were trying to throw us off the scent. That's right: they had hoped to fire a red herring across our gunnels.
posted by mwhybark at 8:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No pancakes? In the middle of the night? What's that you're saying?
posted by gingerbeer at 8:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sounds fishy to me, gingerbeer.
posted by mwhybark at 8:12 PM on March 11, 2011


Just a quick note, for everyone who's asked, Mrs. Ghidorah just got home safe and sound. I gave her the hugs you'd sent, and all is well. I'm finally able to relax for the first time since about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Thank you all so much for all the support.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Anyone else notice in Obama's quick speech on Friday at ~12:30 PM EST he misspoke and said the US currently has an aircraft carrier IN Japan? Ooof.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:13 PM on March 11, 2011


Speaking of Japanese 'keeping calm and carrying on', just got back from a concert by the world famous KODO drummers. I can't imagine how it feels to charge on stage in a country halfway around the world from your home and loved ones.

But they brought it, and it was a breathtaking show.

Oh, and about those awesomely-engineered Japanese skyscrapers waving...

Tuned mass damper baby, yea that's the shit!
posted by anthill at 8:15 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hawaii breathes a sigh of relief as islands escape major damage. Glad for some good news.
posted by nickyskye at 8:21 PM on March 11, 2011


Anyone else notice in Obama's quick speech on Friday at ~12:30 PM EST he misspoke and said the US currently has an aircraft carrier IN Japan? Ooof.

I don't understand the issue: The nuclear powered USS George Washington is currently based at Yokosuka, the first time a U.S. nuclear powered ship has been permanently based in Japan.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:29 PM on March 11, 2011


Hawaii breathes a sigh of relief as islands escape major damage. Glad for some good news.

Yeah now they only have that volcano to worry about.
posted by scalefree at 8:31 PM on March 11, 2011


Jeff Jarvis: A Wish for a Twitter Witness Tag
It would be terribly useful if there were a separate convention for tweets from witnesses to major events so their reports can be separated from the discussion that follows. How about !jpquake for witnesses vs. #jpquake for discussion?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:32 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


six-or-sixy-thirty: I think I've discovered why gc hasn't reported in. This press release (pdf) from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency seems to say that the entire Iwate Prefecture is without power.
posted by thebestsophist at 8:37 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Union of Concerned Scientists on the reactors.

From the BBC:

A similar warning, but with a more doom-laden tone, comes from Edwin Lyman, a senior staff scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He tells Reuters: "We don't have all the information but every indication is that the type of event that occurred there is one of the most serious things that can happen to a nuclear reactor."

Mr Lyman goes on to raise the spectre of Chernobyl: "In the worst case the entire core could melt through the steel reactor vessel and escape into the containment building, and then the containment is the only thing that is standing between the radiation in the reactor and the atmosphere. There is a chance if that does occur that there will be over pressure, the containment can fail and you might have a release on the order of the Chernobyl accident."

So, of course they focus on the worst case scenario, without going into detail about how likely such a scenario is...
posted by BungaDunga at 8:55 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


anthill, I saw those guys a while back. Good stuff.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:56 PM on March 11, 2011


That's right: they had hoped to fire a red herring across our gunnels.

Sigh. It's spelled gunwales. And, while we're at it, the senior deck guys are boatswains.
posted by eriko at 8:56 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


We have flapjax.

(had to do it. Had to.)
posted by eriko at 8:59 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


@Touruma: Fuel rod was exposed 90cm above the water inside the reactor core at 11:40AM. Now water for fire-fighting being injected. Fukushima No. 1 NP
Not sure of the original source. If true that's very much unhappy.
posted by scalefree at 8:59 PM on March 11, 2011


EMRJKC94: Black humor on a pun vector. My apologies but I thought it was grimacey humorous at the time. I would normally think of an aircraft carrier as being "offshore" of a country, or "off the coast" of Japan, not literally in the country.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:00 PM on March 11, 2011


For those who aren't following @arclight: At Fukushima 1 Reactor 1, they said that the fuel rods were exposed by 90mm (the rods are total about 12-15 feet long total). They are now injecting fire water (as in water from the hydrant), which is considered a last ditch effort. If this doesn't work, there aren't too many more options, and there is going to be core damage.
posted by thebestsophist at 9:00 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting explanation of a licensed senior reactor operator/control room supervisor

I read earlier that the reactor did not have a pressure containment, only a pressure vessel. This means there's one, not two pressure barriers between the core & atmosphere.

People are not good at assessing low risk/high impact situations. Typically, they vastly overestimate the dangers of things that won't happen and ignore or minimize the dangers that stare them in the face. This is a huge disaster and the public health aspects will not emerge for at least a day or two.
posted by warbaby at 9:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was in Japan two weeks ago to renew my work visa. Yeesh.

Best wishes to Japan, here's hoping the casualty number is as small as possible.
posted by bardic at 9:05 PM on March 11, 2011


Rod exposure is bad because if not in the water, they can get hot enough to be damaged by the heat. This can increase the amount of radioactive material in the water if the fuel elements get broken open.
posted by warbaby at 9:06 PM on March 11, 2011


Here's a diagram of a boiling water reactor to help visualize what @arclight is discussing in that Twitter feed.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Dr. Zira; that helps, because a lot of the terms sound like random alchemical devices if you don't have much of a science background ("Once the Core leaves the Vessel, the Rod disperses additional Quintessence into the Aether," etc.)
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:22 PM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Is it still called the China Syndrome if it happens in Japan?
posted by scalefree at 9:26 PM on March 11, 2011


> Is it still called the China Syndrome if it happens in Japan?

Maybe Brazil Syndrome? Or just Sambadrome...
posted by Burhanistan at 9:29 PM on March 11, 2011


Ah, more like South Atlantic Syndrome. Anyway.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:30 PM on March 11, 2011


infinitywaltz: Yes, that is exactly why I posted it. To visualize SCIENCE, i.e., figure out this weird language of vessels and rods and melty cores.
As a wee Dr. Zira, TMI scared the living bejeebus out of me. Rather than get sucked in by the fear of OMGCOREMELTDOWNCHERNOBYL, I really appreciate arclight's technical explanation, because we're not really getting much of that from the TeeVee news right now.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:33 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


90 mm? Is that really enough exposure to be a serious danger? I'm picturing a container full of boiling water around the rods; wouldn't the steam from the other 12 feet be enough to bathe the top few inches?

Is it even still boiling, if the temperature is 10% of what it was when it's running?
posted by bink at 9:36 PM on March 11, 2011


They're reporting temperature rises indicative of possible meltdown on TV now. Not confirmed, but not baseless speculation, either.
posted by Bugbread at 9:36 PM on March 11, 2011


Cringely has posted an analysis of Secretary Clinton's 'coolant' remark which largely confirms speculative analysis posted here over the past day. His slightly different take is that he thinks the worst-off plant is a write off and that TEPCO has known that since making the decision to initate the request for assistance. He presents his bona fides in the post as well, stating,

"I worked as an investigator for the Presidential Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, 32 years ago, and a few months studying the plumbing TMI’s Unit 2, which is actually younger than the errant Japanese reactor, gives me a very healthy respect for the danger in Japan."


Cringely runs hot and cold, so make what you will of it.
posted by mwhybark at 9:36 PM on March 11, 2011


According to @Tourouma whom @arclight has retweeted in the past: "Nuclear plant safety committee detected cesium, a substance that is not normally detected unless, according to an expert, fuel rod melts."
posted by zippy at 9:40 PM on March 11, 2011


90 mm? Is that really enough exposure to be a serious danger?

Centimenters not millimeters. That's 3 feet.
posted by scalefree at 9:40 PM on March 11, 2011


bink, the coolant really needs to surround the rods to cool them down -- think of the engine in a car. If you drive through the fog, it won't cool the engine as effectively as circulating coolant will. Plus the water can absorb free neutrons, which may not be a concern in this particular plant, i dunno.
posted by KathrynT at 9:41 PM on March 11, 2011


There's reports of a possible meltdown all over Twitter now, seemingly originating from these breaking news updates from Kyodo News:

BREAKING NEWS: Radioactive Cesium detected near Fukushima plant: nuke safety commission

BREAKING NEWS: Fukushima nuke plant might be experiencing nuclear meltdown
posted by gerryblog at 9:41 PM on March 11, 2011


eriko: "That's right: they had hoped to fire a red herring across our gunnels.

Sigh. It's spelled gunwales. And, while we're at it, the senior deck guys are boatswains
"

right, bosuns, all spelt delibritly capn.
posted by mwhybark at 9:42 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, Kyodo news is running those in a breaking news banner, no details though.
posted by zippy at 9:43 PM on March 11, 2011


Sorry, my mispelling, it was 90cm, not mm.
posted by thebestsophist at 9:43 PM on March 11, 2011


bink: Yes, we're not talking about a household tea kettle. Once the temp in those rods reaches a level where it affects their structural integrity all bets are off. The previous fog analogy is a good one. No exposed rod would be 'bathed' in condensation like a sweaty mug on a humid day or something, any liquid on them would flash to gas instantly with little heat lost in the transformation (compared to being submerged).

Sounds like this just took a turn for the moderately worse. I hope nuclear power bears this media hit as it should instead of getting a total black eye.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:44 PM on March 11, 2011


Oh fffffffuuuuuuuuu ...

Asahi Shimbun: nuclear meltdown may have occurred:

According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, "meltdown" Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Unit 1 Toukyoudenryoku may have occurred, the core cooling water is declining, one of the top of the fuel rods at about 4 m - exposed about 5 meters, it is a situation that can not cool enough. TEPCO and have a fire engine from the injection.

(via Google translate)
posted by zippy at 9:46 PM on March 11, 2011


The NHK's stance:

「燃料のごく一部が溶けて漏れ出たのだろうと思われるが、原子炉はすでに停止しているうえ、冷やされている状況だ。ほとんどの核燃料は原子炉の中におさまっているので住民には冷静な対応をお願いしたい」

"It does seem that part of the fuel rod has melted, but as the reactor is disabled it is currently cooling down as whole, so we ask that residents remain calm."

Many Japanese people are translating/retweeting this.
posted by shii at 9:49 PM on March 11, 2011


From Twitter, reports that Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon, died in the tsunami.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:49 PM on March 11, 2011


...followed by a flurry of tweets saying no, he's alive but he just fainted. And the only news story either way is 404'ed. Now I don't know what to think.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:52 PM on March 11, 2011


The title for the Something Awful thread all day: 8.9 Quake & Tsunami hits NE Japan: Pokemon jokes = Ban
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:54 PM on March 11, 2011


The tweets in Japanese are either commenting on the English rumor or saying that it's a false rumor that does not correspond to any information from within Japan.
posted by shii at 9:54 PM on March 11, 2011


TEPCO has updated its radiation monitoring chart (PDF, in Japanese).

There are significantly higher radiation peaks on it than previously, including:

12 Mar 11
- 10:20 gamma 180.2 µSv/h
- 10:30 gamma 385.5 µSv/h
- 10:40 gamma 162.9 µSv/h

all, I believe, taken at the front gate of the plant
posted by zippy at 9:57 PM on March 11, 2011


Remember folks, meltdown doesn't mean Chernobyl. It would still be contained.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:57 PM on March 11, 2011


The title for the Something Awful thread all day: 8.9 Quake & Tsunami hits NE Japan: Pokemon jokes = Ban

I only wish that standard could be applied to Godzilla jokes and the entire planet.
posted by gerryblog at 9:58 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would still be contained.

Well, we hope.
posted by zippy at 9:58 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good for the SA mods! Next thing you know Anonymous will be declaring war on idiot newscasters that can't get facts right.

gerryblog: they did mention Godzilla jokes too btw.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:59 PM on March 11, 2011


Tajiri updated his Facebook after the earthquake, and the Nintendo Twitter feed says no one was hurt.
posted by rachaelfaith at 10:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It could still be contained, but let's not forget that roads, bridges, and general infrastructure have been wiped out. Getting crews and equipment in to service the reactor may be impossible right now.

/paranoid
posted by bardic at 10:01 PM on March 11, 2011


NHK has a much clearer post -- cesium detected, implying a compromised fuel rod. There's not much you can do to save this reactor as a going concern -- dump water in and keep dumping and venting until you can get the pumps running, then wait for it to cool down.

Fukushima 1 Reactor 1 is basically now TMI Reactor 2 -- core compromised, containment holding. I'm worried about the nearly five orders of magnitude leap in radiation readings -- 162.9μSv/hr is still a very low dose, but any jump like that is bad news -- esp. since it's gamma.
posted by eriko at 10:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


good god. this can't actually be happening can it? not a meltdown, too?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:01 PM on March 11, 2011


With Chernobyl it literally was China Syndrome, uncontrolled chain reaction that melted straight through the floor. There's no chain reaction here, just very hot rods not cooling off fast enough.
posted by scalefree at 10:02 PM on March 11, 2011


One thing I will note -- the tsunami will have killed far more than this reactor will.
posted by eriko at 10:02 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So what happened to the "neutron absorbing" stuff that was discussed upthread. Isn't it time to admit this reactor is a loss and dump it in?
posted by Windopaene at 10:03 PM on March 11, 2011


Even if not a soul is harmed, I have a bad feeling this is going to be a dreadful blow to the politics of nuclear energy in the US.
posted by floam at 10:04 PM on March 11, 2011


With Chernobyl it literally was China Syndrome, uncontrolled chain reaction that melted straight through the floor. There's no chain reaction here, just very hot rods not cooling off fast enough.

No, with Chernobyl, it was a huge power transient in a reactor made of flammable materials (RBMKs used graphite moderators) and no containment vessel. It didn't melt, it blew up. What was left melted, but the reason Chernobyl was such a nightmare is that it quite literally threw *tons* of core material out into the environment.

Not micrograms. Tons.
posted by eriko at 10:04 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eriko, after that spike, the values at that monitoring location went to double-digits. 10-20x previous reported values, but 1/10th peak.

- 11:50 17.10 µSv/h
- 12:00 23.21 µSv/h
posted by zippy at 10:04 PM on March 11, 2011


Anyone have any thoughts on when/if they make the decision to coffin the reactor?

Note: this is the 'neutron absorbing' stuff injection.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:04 PM on March 11, 2011


Even if not a soul is harmed, I have a good feeling that this is going to be a dreadful blow to the politics of nuclear energy in the US.
posted by Windopaene at 10:05 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even if not a soul is harmed, I have a bad feeling this is going to be a dreadful blow to the politics of nuclear energy in the US.

Not if containment holds, yielding a negligible impact on the surrounding area. It'll be a live demonstration that it's possible to engineer a nuclear power plant to be safe in the worst-case scenario.
posted by fatbird at 10:06 PM on March 11, 2011


Isn't it time to admit this reactor is a loss and dump it in?

Core reactions are under control -- the fuel rods are in. The problem is that the core is still very hot, and will remain so for a while, and there's not enough coolant flowing by to keep the core safe.

Borated water would just slow them down from dumping just water in.
posted by eriko at 10:06 PM on March 11, 2011


shii: "It does seem that part of the fuel rod has melted, but as the reactor is disabled it is currently cooling down as whole, so we ask that residents remain calm."


Isn't this somewhat contradictory? I mean, if there's exposed fuel rod which cannot be cooled, won't it start making it possible for the other rods to heat up as well by reducing the effectiveness of the, what, water, I guess?

eriko, I apologize for my spelling japery! explain away!

Also, I am now ready to ask why it seems that the special flown-in coolant hasn't been used, or was used on other reactors, or was used and failed.
posted by mwhybark at 10:06 PM on March 11, 2011


Yes, this is a great day for the coal industry.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:06 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Over the decades, the Japanese public has been reassured by the Tokyo Electric Power Company that its nuclear reactors are prepared for any eventuality. Yet the mystery in Fukushima is not the first unreported problem with nuclear power, only the most recent. Back in 1996, amid a reactor accident in Ibaraki province, the government never admitted that radioactive fallout had drifted over the northeastern suburbs of Tokyo. Reporters obtained confirmation from monitoring stations, but the press was under a blanket order not to run any alarming news, facts be damned. For a nation that has lived under the atomic cloud of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, total denial becomes possible because the finger on the button is our own.
posted by gerryblog at 10:07 PM on March 11, 2011


I've been following along with little to say. It may amuse you to know that I went straight to my local sake bar and kept the owner updated via this thread, all while NHK was on in the background. But I just wanted to say that I'm so happy to hear from those in Japan and I hope those we haven't heard from are ok.
posted by Errant at 10:08 PM on March 11, 2011


And it doesn't matter how "safe" a nuclear reactor can be. The fact is, it is always the human elements involved, and the huge economic consequences of operator's actions, or lack thereof, that scares the shit out of me.

We saw the same thing with the Deepwater Horizon.
posted by Windopaene at 10:09 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Note: TMI was the same sort of accident. The reactor was scrammed and no longer critical, but latent and decay heat wasn't removed and resulted in core damage.

Basically, there's two sources of heat in a reactor. There's the primary reactions when the core is critical, and then there's decay reactions from those. When you scram a reactor, the primary reactions stop, but you need to keep the core cool while the decay reactions take place.
posted by eriko at 10:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you may have started to answer some of that right as I posted, specifically where you said,

"Borated water would just slow them down from dumping just water in."

I'm also curious about the differential between the 90cm exposed-rod information and the unclear-referent 4m / 5m in the Googlefish translation of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency report from Asahi Shimbum. I'm guessing Japanese isn't your string suit but maybe you can recognize the dimensions.

@arclight just posted he's getting set for a Skype appearance on CNN.
posted by mwhybark at 10:10 PM on March 11, 2011


Anyone have any thoughts on when/if they make the decision to coffin the reactor?

It's already housed in a containment vessel.

However, according to the Asahi:

 炉心溶融は、想定されている原発事故の中で最悪の事態だ。これが進むと、爆発的な反応を引き起こして広く外部に放射能をまき散らす恐れもある。

[My rough translation on the fly]: Core meltdown is the worst-case scenario... If the situation continues there are fears it may result in an explosion and the release of radioactivity into the environment.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:10 PM on March 11, 2011


The only other good thing I could imagine coming out of this, but I won't get my hopes up, would be stronger investment in next-gen reactor designs.

Bill Gates did a TED talk touching on a technology that may burn our current stored waste in the future. That's cool.
posted by floam at 10:11 PM on March 11, 2011


And it doesn't matter how "safe" a nuclear reactor can be. The fact is, it is always the human elements involved, and the huge economic consequences of operator's actions, or lack thereof, that scares the shit out of me.

But this is, unfortunately, one of those weird human cognitive quirks. Because using coal for power causes far more toxic exposure, health risks, and death under normal operating conditions than nuclear power does under anything except the most extreme failure modes. But we aren't wired to process slow-burn risks the same way as sudden catastrophic ones, even if the former are way more problematic from a rationalist examination.
posted by Justinian at 10:12 PM on March 11, 2011 [36 favorites]


KokuRyu: This seems relevant, according to a couple of sources, but I can't read it.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20110312/t10014623511000.html

The only other good thing I could imagine coming out of this, but I won't get my hopes up, would be stronger investment in next-gen reactor designs.

Well, that and we'll start planning for a combination magnitude 9 earthquake *and* tsunami hitting a reactor within an hour.

Jesus, talk about hitting a perfecta.
posted by eriko at 10:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


We have to remember that Fukushima 1 Reactor 1 is a 40 year old design. The newer reactor designs emphasize passive cooling a whole lot more which makes this sort of situation a lot less likely.
posted by thebestsophist at 10:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interactive NYT Map

Thank god this was 270km from Tokyo is all i can say.
posted by dydecker at 10:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And of course solar and wind are very dangerous...
posted by Windopaene at 10:15 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


(citation for my last post)
posted by thebestsophist at 10:16 PM on March 11, 2011


KokuRyu: Poor vocabulary on my part, I meant kill the reactor by flooding the containment with neutron absorbers.

Justinian, you beat me to it.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:16 PM on March 11, 2011


Solar and wind can't replace coal or nuclear. They're intermittent, you need something constant you can dial up or down for it all to work.
posted by floam at 10:16 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


It'll be a live demonstration that it's possible to engineer a nuclear power plant to be safe in the worst-case scenario.

The only other good thing I could imagine coming out of this, but I won't get my hopes up, would be stronger investment in next-gen reactor designs

Yeah, I think it's important that people understand that we're talking about a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor ("BWR") that's almost 40 years old. Unfortunately, because we here in the US live in a society where there's not much room for subtlety (and, for that matter, facts) in public discourse, if it goes badly, then I suspect OMG NUKULAR DANGER DANGER DEATH is going to dominate the debate.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:17 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Windopaene, take your jihad against nuclear energy (and your de facto emrace of burning fossil fuels) to Metatalk.
posted by bardic at 10:17 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The newer reactor designs emphasize passive cooling a whole lot more which makes this sort of situation a lot less likely.

Yes. The ESBWR design doesn't need pumps, it uses convection to keep fluid moving around the core. You can ignore this reactor after a scram for three days with no core damage, so long as there's coolant in the vessel.

What killed this reactor is the lack of pumps, not the lack of water. What killed the pumps was, of course, water.
posted by eriko at 10:18 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Googlefish on that nhk.or.jp link eriko just posted:

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww3.nhk.or.jp%2Fnews%2Fhtml%2F20110312%2Ft10014623511000.html

"According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency Ministry of Economy, in the vicinity of Unit 1 in the site of nuclear power plants Fukushima Daiichi "cesium", "iodine" is a radioactive substance called because it was detected, the reactor core in the No. 1 announced that melts out and try some of that fuel.

"Cs" or "iodine" is what happens to the fission of uranium fuel in nuclear fuel rods, NISA is "is filled with uranium fuel [cladding] melted tube of metal, called potential "is said. In Unit 1, but continues to inject water into the reactor, lower the height of the water to cool the reactor, a bundle of fuel rods, "fuel assemblies" is exposed to about 70 cm 1 meter up to The fact that, Nuclear Safety Agency, "the possibility of water leaking from the containment can not be denied," I explained.

Meanwhile, the evacuation of residents, "In view of weather conditions and the amount of leaking and need to extend the range of 10 km radius of the shelter is not" I said.

University of Tokyo professor Sekimura Naoto, "it seems to be a small portion of leaking fuel rods melted, most of the nuclear fuel inside the reactor is still 納Matsu. In addition, the reactor has already stopped to-ridden and badly, but the situation has cooled down. I want to ask residents to respond calmly, "I said. "


not sure what the out of place 'I said' stuff indicates. Looks like the info from upthread abit about the 70cm-90cm exposed rod and cesium.
posted by mwhybark at 10:18 PM on March 11, 2011


Isn't this somewhat contradictory? I mean, if there's exposed fuel rod which cannot be cooled, won't it start making it possible for the other rods to heat up as well by reducing the effectiveness of the, what, water, I guess?

Exposed doesn't mean fission is occurring or will occur. They stopped the reaction hours ago. This is just residual heat taking too long to cool off.
posted by scalefree at 10:19 PM on March 11, 2011


I wonder when CNN is going to air the Skype interview arclight just finished? Because apparently the only news that happens after midnight involves reruns of Anderson Cooper and Eliot Spitzer.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:19 PM on March 11, 2011


mwhybark, I'm not clear on that, but I have a number of other reasons to believe the situation won't escalate:

1) Workers were evacuated for their own safety, which makes it sound like the reactor is naturally going to cool.

2) The evacuation radius has not expanded from 10km.

3) Asahi TV which is making the most dire predictions is not even reporting on this on the moment.

eriko, a rough translation of the story:

According to the Nuclear Safety Agency, radioactive cesium and iodine have been detected around Fukushima Nuclear Energy Plant No. 1. They announced that it appears that some part of the core has already melted.

The Nuclear Safety Agency stated that "the metal pipe surrounding the uranium fuel appears to have melted". They are continuing to pour water into the reactor, but 1.7 meters of fuel rod remains exposed.
[This statement was added 10 minutes ago] The Nuclear Safety Agency stated that "it is not infeasible that the coolant chamber is leaking."

As for the evacuation of residents, they stated that "in view of the weather conditions and the amount of leaking, there is no need to extend the evacuation radius from 10km".


Followed by the college professor's statement, "It does seem that part of the fuel rod has melted, but as the reactor is disabled it is currently cooling down as whole, so we ask that residents remain calm."
posted by shii at 10:20 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


To try to show myself as balanced, I don't understand why you are allowed to use reactors which don't make heavy use of passive cooling. Mark I BWR reactors should not be in operation in this day and age, and should be shut down by government regulation if necessary.
posted by Justinian at 10:20 PM on March 11, 2011


Because taking them offline would cause disruption of the energy flow, and would cost lots and lots of money and company profits?
posted by Windopaene at 10:22 PM on March 11, 2011


And of course solar and wind are very dangerous...

Frankly, the great danger of solar and wind is that we'll keep burning coal and ignoring nuclear power while paying vague lip-service to an all-solar-and-wind grid.
posted by vorfeed at 10:23 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


So replace them and take them offline as the new plants come online. Yeah, I understand that is expensive. Anything having to do with power generation is expensive. It's less expensive than running a plant, be it nuclear or coal, until the thing falls apart or explodes.
posted by Justinian at 10:23 PM on March 11, 2011


General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor ("BWR") that's almost 40 years old.

I thought is was an BWR/3, not a BWR/1 -- still a very old design.

Shii: Thank you very much for the translation. The 1.7m exposed rod is bothersome -- 80cm more than originally reported. But if they can keep water in, they can keep the core mostly intact.
posted by eriko at 10:23 PM on March 11, 2011


I love how network news broadcasts what I picked up from y'all here 2+ hours after the fact, leaves out non-uber technical and very useful details, and labels it 'BREAKING NEWS'.

@Justinian: Mandating the use of the bleeding edge, and nothing else, of the tech ladder has its own dangers, complications, and costs of course.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:24 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Japan: Radiation medical team en route from Tokyo to Fukushima via SDF Helicopter, will establish camp 5km from reactor in case treatment for radiation exposure necessary (via CNN.com's live stream)
posted by zippy at 10:25 PM on March 11, 2011


The Fukushima-1 Unit-1 reactor is designated BWR-3. It uses a Mark I containment vessel.
posted by zippy at 10:26 PM on March 11, 2011


Fossil fuels my butt. One of my cars burns biodiesel, the other, is soon to be replaced with a Nissan Leaf (all electric). My house is heated with biodiesel. And my hot water is heated with solar.

And I'm done with this particular thread derail. But I never intend to live within 10km of a nuke plant...
posted by Windopaene at 10:26 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fukushima I-1 was due for decommissioning in two years.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:26 PM on March 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


It seems that arclight was too informative for US CNN so they only put him on CNN International? Anderson Cooper mostly showing old footage labeled breaking news.
posted by zachlipton at 10:26 PM on March 11, 2011


shii: "Asahi TV which is making the most dire predictions is not even reporting on this on the moment."

shii, a bit of media context for us would be helpful, if you are willing. Asahi TV and Asahi Shimbum are alligned media entities, with Shimbum being the older and a newspaper, correct? Both of these entities are privately owned, I think.

NHK is a national TV network. Is it private?

Is Shimbum, like, the 'liberal' paper/media org, like the Guardian in the UK, for example?

Helping to understand the editorial direction of the news sources clarifies the meaning of the stories we're scrabbling through.

Your presence and commentary, like eriko's, is appreciated. Thanks for taking the time.
posted by mwhybark at 10:28 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pokemon jokes = Ban

SA is winning the enforced decency wars compared to MeFi then.

Fukushima 1 Reactor 1 is basically now TMI Reactor 2 -- core compromised, containment holding. I'm worried about the nearly five orders of magnitude leap in radiation readings -- 162.9μSv/hr is still a very low dose, but any jump like that is bad news -- esp. since it's gamma.

I'm worried you're worried.

then I suspect OMG NUKULAR DANGER DANGER DEATH is going to dominate the debate.

Because that's the real tragedy here, right?
posted by rodgerd at 10:28 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fossil fuels my butt. One of my cars burns biodiesel,
Pretty dirty and releases CO2.

the other, is soon to be replaced with a Nissan Leaf (all electric).
Probably really powered by coal then.

My house is heated with biodiesel.
CO2, is causing global warming.

And my hot water is heated with solar.
Cool.
posted by floam at 10:29 PM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


KokuRyu: This seems relevant, according to a couple of sources, but I can't read it.



経済産業省の原子力安全・保安院によりますと、福島第一原子力発電所の敷地内の1号機の周辺で「セシウム」、「ヨウ素」という放射性物質が、検出されたことから、1号機で炉心にある核燃料の一部が溶け出たとみていると発表しました。

Rough translation: Authorities say that they have recorded Cesium and Iodine radioactivity the No 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, which indicates a partial core meltdown.

「セシウム」や「ヨウ素」は核燃料棒の中のウラン燃料が核分裂して発生するもので、原子力安全・保安院は「ウラン燃料が詰まっている『被覆管』と呼ばれる金属製の筒が溶けた可能性がある」と話しています。

Rough translation: Basically the uranium fuel has fused with the metal jackets or sheaths containing the rods.

また、1号機では原子炉に水を注入し続けていますが、原子炉を冷やす水の高さが下がり、核燃料棒を束ねた「燃料集合体」が、最大で1メートル70センチほど露出しているということで、原子力安全・保安院は「格納容器から水が漏れている可能性は否定できない」と説明しています。

Rough translation: Since approx 170 cm of the fuel assembly has been exposed, there is the possibility that coolant is leaking from the containment vessel.

一方、住民の避難について、「漏れた量や気象状況などから見て、半径10キロという避難の範囲を広げる必要はない」と話しています。

Rough translation: 10 km radius evacuation is necessary.

東京大学の関村直人教授は「燃料棒のごく一部が溶けて漏れ出たのだろうと思われるが、ほとんどの核燃料は今も原子炉の中に納まっている。また、原子炉はすでに停止しているうえ、冷やされている状況だ。住民には冷静な対応をお願いしたい」と話しています。

Rough translation: A Tokyo University researcher said that although there may be a limited meltdown, the most of the nuclear fuel is contained, and the reactor is cooling off, so local residents should remain calm.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The sun is a radiation leaking nuke plant.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:31 PM on March 11, 2011


And my hot water is heated with solar.
Cool.


Well, then, it's doing a lousy job at hot water, isn't it. :-)

RIGHt. We're all freaking out. BAD NUKE JOKES: GO!!!

I think I've lost an electron.

Are you sure?

I'm POSITIVE!!!!11!!
posted by eriko at 10:31 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


hey, come on, cut out the sniping. we can do that later. Matt and cortex are on the road and almost certainly relieved that we're playing as nicely as we are.
posted by mwhybark at 10:32 PM on March 11, 2011


floam, still more green a household than typical. And not glowing in the dark!
posted by carmina at 10:32 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which is why I don't live within 10km of the sun.
posted by Windopaene at 10:32 PM on March 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


not you, eriko, I meant upthread. we're commenting so quick the responses are offset.
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 PM on March 11, 2011


I thought is was an BWR/3, not a BWR/1 -- still a very old design.

Here's the source but it's from NIRS, so I'm trying to find an alternate neutral source.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:33 PM on March 11, 2011


KokuRyu: Thanks.

My biggest weakness is that I've never really learned another language -- I can often dope out anything in the Romance category, but when it comes to the Asian languages, I can clearly tell there's intelligence there, but I CAN'T UNDERSTAND IT, WAAAAHHHHHH.
posted by eriko at 10:33 PM on March 11, 2011


hey, come on, cut out the sniping. we can do that later. Matt and cortex are on the road and almost certainly relieved that we're playing as nicely as we are.

Sir, I must insist that you take your anti-sniping jihadery to MetaTalk forthwith.
posted by gerryblog at 10:34 PM on March 11, 2011


I want to know how the official statements went from "the rods are well under water, but we're going to have to release a little steam" to "170cm of the rods were exposed" with no statement in-between
posted by zippy at 10:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Matt and cortex are on the road and almost certainly relieved that we're playing as nicely as we are.

Oh, shit. *picks lock on scotch cabinet, drinks hella whisky*
posted by loquacious at 10:35 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]



Which is why I don't live within 10km of the sun.

The technical term for what just happened there is "Oooh, SNAP!"

Well played, sir.
posted by eriko at 10:35 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just don't understand what the article means by "coolant leaking from the containment vessel". Is the containment vessel the big concrete dome or box housing the reactors? If so, how would the coolant get out?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:35 PM on March 11, 2011


floam, still more green a household than typical. And not glowing in the dark!

That is true. I was kind of being a dick and it's completely commendable and better than what most other people are doing. Just not a solution to all our problems or an obviation to nuclear/coal. I try to do my part by not owning a car and living in a tiny apartment.
posted by floam at 10:36 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah hell. @arclight was on CNNI and not CNN? You mean I turned that crap on for nothing? Anyone see the video online yet?
posted by thebestsophist at 10:36 PM on March 11, 2011


My house is heated with biodiesel.

CO2, is causing global warming.


Please bear in mind that the CO2 released when you burn biodiesel was previously taken up by plants from the atmosphere, not released from petroleum reservoirs in the ground. So the process as a whole is carbon-neutral.
posted by teraflop at 10:36 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


zippy: I don't know what the official statements are, but the Japanese news has been broadcasting for over an hour that 90cm were exposed. Not that "there is a rumor", but that they were. Since that info can only come from Tepco, all I can think is that maybe they aren't translating every official statement into English?
posted by Bugbread at 10:36 PM on March 11, 2011



Which is why I don't live within 10km of the sun.


The leak is strong enough to cause cancer even at your current range. :(
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:37 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


KokuRyu -- I'm worried about that as well. There is a secondary containment -- the BWR design has "hot" water flowing through the turbine, so it's contained as well, and there's the venting pools and such for steam blowoff that might be where the primary coolant is leaking to.

But, boy I'd want to know where it's going. It's not anywhere near as bad as letting the core melt, but if the water pouring in is pouring out, that's a major release -- and we're now well beyond TMI. (we're nowhere near Chernoybl, though -- remember, *tons* of core escaped the reactor there.)
posted by eriko at 10:38 PM on March 11, 2011


mwhybark, first off, my apologies, I'm still in a news and beer-induced haze and confused Asahi TV with Asahi Shinbun. They are separate and unrelated corporations.

Japanese news media are very serious about attributing statements to sources which means that important events sometimes go poorly reported; for example, during the Ibaraki incident mentioned above the government simply made no statement, so the news reported no statement. Japanese society has always distinguished between these official reports and rumor. For example, everyone in Japan knew sumo was rigged before the official scandal came out (Americans knew the same about the WWF, right?). Similarly, the religious cult Soka Gakkai/SGI controls a medium-sized political party in Japan, all educated adults know this, but the news media scarcely if ever reports on it.

You can see above that the NHK quoted a long statement by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. This is the only confirmed information we have. The NHK is very similar to the BBC, although more responsible because it follows these reporting rules. TV stations also follow these rules for the most part.

Asahi Shinbun is the most liberal paper and more open to reporting analysis from scientists who don't just want to say "keep calm and carry on". It's possible they are speaking the truth but I am following the conservative line in thinking that it's all speculation right now.
posted by shii at 10:39 PM on March 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry, you're right Bugbread, I should have said "release steam" to "90cm exposed." I didn't find anything in-between these.
posted by zippy at 10:39 PM on March 11, 2011


Just wondering if it would be more helpful to have the nuke stuff in its own thread, seeing as how it's taking on the characteristics of a disaster-within-a-disaster.
posted by dhartung at 10:40 PM on March 11, 2011


> Americans knew the same about the WWF, right?

WHAT!?!?!
posted by djwudi at 10:41 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


gerryblog: "Sir, I must insist that you take your anti-sniping jihadery to MetaTalk forthwith"

ha-ha, not yet. keepin it on the down-low.
posted by mwhybark at 10:42 PM on March 11, 2011


If any good has come of this disaster it's that Bugbread has finally come out of hibernation. Nice to see you back, Bugbread.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:43 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those that don't know, the press in Japan is pretty well controlled through the press club, or Kisha Club system. Essentially, if reporters are good, and their media company plays within the rules, they'll be allowed to attend press conferences and get information directly from official sources. If they don't play by the rules, they can find themselves banned from the conferences, locked out of the official stream of sources, while their competitors get the 'real' news.

In Japan, the tabloid weekly papers are almost universally not allowed in, which is why they frequently can report things that mainstream club members can't. They print a lot of bullshit, but they also tell a lot of truth (like, say, the sumo thing, months and years before it became officially reported). I'll be interested in seeing what Shukan Post and Spa have to say about this in the coming weeks.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


KokuRyu:
I just don't understand what the article means by "coolant leaking from the containment vessel". Is the containment vessel the big concrete dome or box housing the reactors? If so, how would the coolant get out?
Basics:

The ceramic fuel is stored in fuel rods.
The fuel rods are kept in the reactor vessel, which is where all the nuclear reactions take place.
The reactor vessel is in a containment building, kept far away from cities.

In order for for the bad stuff (technical term) to get out into the public, each of those barriers needs to be breached. Currently, only the rods have started to damage. Now this definitely a really bad thing (another technical term), but there are still layers of protection between the radiation and people.
posted by thebestsophist at 10:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The aftershocks seem to be abating. Didn't sleep very well last night as they would hit every half hour or hour or so. At about 4 a.m. was a VERY big aftershock that woke us up completely.

Tokyo has been spared almost completely. The trains stopping all day and night yesterday turned the city into a weird refugee camp, with people walking home from their offices. I walked 7 miles and it took me something like three hours. The entire way there were people in front and ahead of me.

But we're the lucky ones. Japanese TV is, naturally, non-stop coverage of the quake, every network. The scenes in Iwate and Fukushima and Sendai and a hundred other places in northern Japan is just devastating. The vast majority of the deaths and damage comes from the tsunamis.

I don't know how much of this footage is filtering through overseas, but it's fucking incredible how much damage there is. Entire towns are destroyed. Tens of thousands of houses destroyed. Displaced people are staying in school gymnasiums and the like. At the time of this writing, they are saying 1,600 people confirmed dead, and that number is only going to climb higher.

Northern Japan, and all along the eastern coast (think, say, Maine to Georgia) has borne the brunt of this quake.

As I type this, another aftershock. -sigh- So ready for this to be over with. Guess I picked the wrong week to live in an earthquake zone.
posted by zardoz at 10:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


WWF, WWE... you know, wrestling.

BTW, I only knew about the Ibaraki nuclear accident vaguely, but it looks like it was well-reported on: the NHK wrote a book and it seems like most Japanese people knew about it immediately.
posted by shii at 10:45 PM on March 11, 2011


Thank you very much, shii. That was more or less what I had imputed with regard to the media entities. Your backgrounder on unreported common knowledge was also very helpful.
posted by mwhybark at 10:46 PM on March 11, 2011


Thanks for dumbing it down; I had no idea I sounded so stupid!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:46 PM on March 11, 2011


shii: "WWF, WWE... you know, wrestling."

djwudi was pulling your leg, shii, feigning ignorance of rigged matches.
posted by mwhybark at 10:47 PM on March 11, 2011


At the time of this writing, they are saying 1,600 people confirmed dead, and that number is only going to climb higher.

I pray that I'm wrong, but Kobe killed 6000. If Japan didn't lose 10,000 people from this one, they're incredibly lucky. I saw the footage of that tsunami running more than a kilometer into Sendai -- and almost everyone who was hit by that water would have died.
posted by eriko at 10:47 PM on March 11, 2011


Damn it, I keep forgetting to cite my sources: posted by thebestsophist at 10:48 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dr. Zira: I'm trying to find an alternate neutral source.

Here you go.
posted by zippy at 10:49 PM on March 11, 2011


one thing to look at, in terms of the Kobe quake, was how long it took the government to get into Kobe and start disaster relief operations. They were incredibly slow, leaving many to fend for themselves at first. I've heard about the local Yakuza in Kobe being, at first, the best at distributing aid after the Hanshin quake. This time, at the very least, the government seems to be doing a pretty amazing job.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:50 PM on March 11, 2011


shii: "Shinbun"

ALSO noted. I kept looking at the word I was typing and couldn't tell offhand if it looked right or not.
posted by mwhybark at 10:51 PM on March 11, 2011


I'm falling deeply in love with this arclight guy.

arclight responds to a recent tweet, 'Nuclear is not going to doom us. Paying more attention to Charlie Sheen & Lindsay Lohan than to energy needs & the environment will'

Anyone have a link to his interview with CNN(I)? I apparently was one of the lucky ones on CNN classic and missed it.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:51 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu: I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to come across that way. I wrote how I like to read when stuff is being summarized. (That's basically what my personal notes would have looked like.)

Basically, in order for the nuclear contaminate to break out, the fuel would have to melt through *everything.* From what I've read, it's pretty unlikely to go through the contamination building.
posted by thebestsophist at 10:54 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, zippy. That .pdf you linked to is fascinating.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:55 PM on March 11, 2011


thebestsophist: but what happens when coolant liquid that's been in contact with the rod filling leaks into the environment? Isn;t that what they are afraid now?
posted by carmina at 10:57 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm watching ABC's 20/20 here in Los Angeles (near 11pm Fri) and they're showing Godzilla.

For more than a decade now the blue has been the first place I go when there is a "big" event. Even with the sometimes silly sniping, it's still the best news source on the 'net. Getting to read first-person accounts of things like this right here is -- even after ten years! -- just amazing.

So. Thanks, @mathowie. You rule.
posted by GatorDavid at 10:57 PM on March 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


"in terms of the Kobe quake"

Not to mention the fact that the hospitals turned away non-ethnic Japanese (Kobe being a port with a large population of Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.).

Hopefully Japan will do a better job this time around.
posted by bardic at 10:58 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basically, in order for the nuclear contaminate to break out, the fuel would have to melt through *everything.*

The more likely scenario (according to this random source, and IANA nuclear engineer) is:

"following a loss of coolant accident, the temperature of fuel cladding could rise
and hydrogen could be generated by a water-metal reaction, which could impair the
containment integrity due to hydrogen gas combustion"

In other words, you don't need to melt through the steel containment vessel, necessarily, you could also rupture it via an internal explosion.
posted by zippy at 11:01 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


great mystery of life: CNN's live web feed of NHK's live web feed is 10 or more seconds ahead of the same feed on NHK's site
posted by zippy at 11:04 PM on March 11, 2011


Zardoz: Correction, 1,600 dead and missing. Which, of course, will rise, but 1,600 dead is very different from 1,600 dead and missing. (I'm watching TV Asahi, which says 1,400, but close enough).
posted by Bugbread at 11:06 PM on March 11, 2011


zippy: "great mystery of life: CNN's live web feed of NHK's live web feed is 10 or more seconds ahead of the same feed on NHK's site
"


remember @MayorEmanuel's time vortex? and that whirlpool this morning? and the international date line? and the 10cm axial shift?

See, the answer's just, like, staring you in the face

posted by mwhybark at 11:09 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


carmina: what zippy said. When releasing pressure, my understanding is that as long as they keep track of how much is released into the atmosphere, and hope for a good wind, radiation diffuses to safe levels relatively quickly.

(Note: My understanding of this is limited to the bits I can understand and remember from conversations with nuclear engineer and physics friends, this is not even close to my field of study.)
posted by thebestsophist at 11:10 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Besides evacuating the immediate area, can they get potassium iodide tablets to the communities that are likely to be downwind of any kind of leak? They're cheap to manufacture and store, they don't have side effects, and if taken before exposure they would prevent people's thyroids from sucking up radioactive bits. They don't protect against significant radiation exposure, of course, but they're better than nothing -- especially for kids, who IIRC had ridiculous rates of thyroid cancer after Chernobyl.

I lived in New York during and after 9/11, and my little hometown in Westchester county pre-emptively passed out free potassium iodide tablets to residents in case terrorists ever targeted the nearby Indian Point nuclear power plant. I can't imagine a well-prepared country like Japan wouldn't have a cache of them somewhere too.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:12 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just got a message from gc, he says that they are doing well in Morioka. Without power or heat, but with water. Phone is dodgy, and internet is even worse.
posted by thebestsophist at 11:13 PM on March 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


great mystery of life:

CNN is probably getting their feed directly through an analog or digital satellite link, which is then being encoded and streamed from an "earth station" that's physically closer to you, resulting in less hops.

NHK's internet feed probably has to hop through more internet hops to get to you (unless you're in Japan.)

HOWEVER... that's all probably moot. Streaming MP4 and/or FLV/flash video is notoriously laggy. You can induce a ten to twenty second delay just by loading the same stream in two different tabs or windows. Try stopping and restarting them. They'll almost always be out of sync.

Streaming media delivery isn't very time precise. Very little of the internet is. It was never designed to be an end-to-end circuit replacement of a direct connection like a plain old telephone system or a CCTV/Cable feed. There are many hops between you, your ISP and either CNN or NHK's servers. Not all of your packets may route the same way every time, either.
posted by loquacious at 11:14 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Skip the NHK World feed (which seems to be looping); get the real thing.
posted by clorox at 11:20 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


To give people a sense of scale with regards to the outer shell of the reactor, I found this on the SA post, referencing Sizewell A which is an older reactor. Please note the numbers are not intended as exact figures, only to give some scale of what surrounds similar devices around the world.

The foundations for the reactors and associated boilers are provided by a reinforced concrete raft 8 feet (2.4 metres) thick, founded on the sand with a designed net bearing pressure of 3.5 tons per square foot. The biological shields are 100 feet (30.5 metres) high and vary between 10 and 14 feet (3 and 4.3 metres) thick. The composite steel and reinforced concrete cap above each reactor is 12 feet (3.7 metres) thick.


Anyone want to refresh my memory on what effects the age of this reactor might have on the intended vs. actual strengths of the reactor vessel / structure? I remember that long term exposure to radiation does odd things to the metallurgical properties and weakens them (can make them brittle? sound right?) over time. Since this reactor was due to be decommissioned I can't help but wonder if it wasn't approaching that time anyway... Are similar structural degradations seen in the concrete as well?
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:24 PM on March 11, 2011


Japanese government, via NHK's live stream: "some fuel rods may have melted, some fuel may be outside the reactor."

TEPCO's latest statement on Fukushima-2 Units 1 and 2 have had coolant leaks inside the reactor containment vessels (they don't quite say this, but the levels are lower than expected, and for every other unit they say "we do not believe there is any reactor coolant leakage inside the reactor containment vessel."

Also:

"one of our employees working in the Unit 1 was irradiated at over
100mSv level(106.3mSv). Because of absence of industrial physician, so he
will be diagnosed at a later day."
posted by zippy at 11:32 PM on March 11, 2011


"Yet the mystery in Fukushima is not the first unreported problem with nuclear power..."

Given all the information we are getting from Fukushima, and the fact that we can see their rad levels in realtime... and we have access to their previous safety reports, and know exactly how they're made and what problems to expect... and the fact that they're getting a lot of media attention now, well...

Unreported?!
posted by markkraft at 11:34 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


and the fact that they're getting a lot of media attention now, well...

As mentioned above, the fact that the core was exposed went unreported until the core was exposed by nearly one meter. They went from "we've got it mostly under control, the core is under water, we're working and everything's going to be ok" to "ok, our bad, the core appears to have melted a bit and, hmm, it's now exposed by 90cm ... no, now 170cm."
posted by zippy at 11:45 PM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so glad this is now the thread in which I can brag about the newly manufactured electric car I'm going to buy, and all the other totally conscientious steps I've taken to make my incredibly comfortable first world lifestyle as conspicuously righteous as possible.

Oh god what am I saying? You don't think all this earthquake business is going to delay shipment of my Nissan Leaf, do you??

hanbagu
posted by danny the boy at 11:52 PM on March 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Crap. From the Reuters live feed:

Japan Nuclear Safety Commission: still trying to confirm if there was an explosion at Fukushima plant; Several people appear to have been injured after reported Fukushima plant explosion - Jiji
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:56 PM on March 11, 2011


...followed immediately by "Japan Nuclear Safety Agency has heard that explosion was not at reactor."

I've got my iPad out with NHK World running, but don't know how much information they'll give.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:58 PM on March 11, 2011


"They went from "we've got it mostly under control, the core is under water, we're working and everything's going to be ok" to "ok, our bad, the core appears to have melted a bit and, hmm, it's now exposed by 90cm ... no, now 170cm."

...and now there's an explosion.

Why, oh why, didn't they give us advance notice of this mysterious pending explosion *before* the earthquake hit?!
posted by markkraft at 12:01 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


TEPCO says workers on the ground injured. Explosion was at 4pm "near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant." Witnesses spotted smoke. That's about all NHK is saying.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:02 AM on March 12, 2011


The core height in Fukushima-1 Unit-1 is 3.66m, so being 1.7m exposed I believe means 46% of the core is above water.

The core diameter in this reactor is 3.44m. In a "conventional BWR" the reactor pressure vessel has an inner diameter of about 6.4m (necessarily the measurements of this unit).

Assuming the core is the only thing inside the vessel, and the entire core is exposed by 1.7m (rather than an individual rod) then we can come up with an approximate figure for the amount of missing water.

(a) core cross-sectional area = pi * (3.44m)2
(b) containment vessel cross-sectional area = pi * (6.4m)2
cross-sectional area of vessel not occupied by core: b - a = 91.5 m2

height of exposed core: 1.7m

1.7m of missing water = 1.7m * 91.5m2 = 156m3

= 155 550 liters = 41 091 gallons

Again, I am not a nuclear engineer, I'm also terrible at checking my figures, but this seems like an enormous amount of water to just go missing.
posted by zippy at 12:08 AM on March 12, 2011


asahi is showing a recording of the explosion. Just a giant, sudden cloud of smoke. The time on the video seems to suggest this happened an hour and a half ago, but is just now being reported. They're showing video on Asahi, but the other channels just seem to be showing footage of the plant prior to the explosion.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:09 AM on March 12, 2011


a most inconvenient earthquake
posted by philip-random at 12:10 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]




My wife just told me that the announcers on Asahi are saying that it was a planned explosion to release pressure. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:12 AM on March 12, 2011


Stuff keeps happening right when I have to go to bed...

Explosion footage.

Putain!
posted by clorox at 12:14 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


...doom doom doom-doom-doom I LIKE SAYING 'NUCULAR WESSLES' doom-doom doom doom-doom-doom doom...
posted by loquacious at 12:14 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


this seems like an enormous amount of water to just go missing.

For comparison, an olympic size swimming pool is about 600,000 gallons (2,271,247 Liters)
posted by sambosambo at 12:15 AM on March 12, 2011


That happened hours ago. What the hell? How does something that visible stay unknown until now?
posted by floam at 12:15 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The outer building of the 1st reactor has been blown apart. NHK video is showing before/after scenes. They are repeating over and over: people in the area ... get indoors, close the windows, seal all air vents. Wear a moistened mask.

Doesn't sound good at all.
posted by woodblock100 at 12:17 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, about checking my figures. I should have used the radius, not the diameter. Doing so, I get:


(a) core cross-sectional area = pi * (.5 * 3.44m)2
(b) containment vessel cross-sectional area = pi * (.5 * 6.4m)2
cross-sectional area of vessel not occupied by core: b - a = 22.9 m2

height of exposed core: 1.7m

1.7m of missing water = 1.7m * 22.9m2 = 38.9m3

= 38 900 liters = 10 300 gallons

posted by zippy at 12:19 AM on March 12, 2011


That did not seem like a controlled explosion. What a nightmare.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:19 AM on March 12, 2011


NHK is just showing this still. What does it say?
posted by clorox at 12:19 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone in .jp have the public announcement from the nuclear safety committee yet? I don't have it on NHK World.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:20 AM on March 12, 2011


I don't think you want an anything explosion, controlled or otherwise, with a nuclear reactor.
posted by zippy at 12:21 AM on March 12, 2011


What does it say?

Scene as of 9 this morning, and scene as of 4:30 this afternoon
posted by woodblock100 at 12:21 AM on March 12, 2011


clorox: They're comparing an image from 9am to an image at about 4am to show that an outer wall of one of the buildings is missing.

Nothing from the nuclear safety bureau here.
posted by shii at 12:22 AM on March 12, 2011


Ghidorah wrote: My wife just told me that the announcers on Asahi are saying that it was a planned explosion to release pressure. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

fairytale of los angeles wrote: Explosion footage.

That was planned? That was a huge and rather high velocity explosion. That also didn't look like it was purely steam. It looks like there's debris and smoke in that cloud.

Yeah, I'm admittedly crazy and jumpy and... but this is all starting to get really fishy.

On preview: The outer building of the 1st reactor has been blown apart. ... Doesn't sound good at all/

Holy shit no that doesn't sound good at all.
posted by loquacious at 12:22 AM on March 12, 2011


All the horrible stuff that has happened in Japan and to people there, and just now with this latest news I'm getting kind of sick to my stomach and anxious. Not sure what that says about me.
posted by floam at 12:22 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


NHK is just showing this still. What does it say?

I don't know what it says but if it's a before and after still, the "before" pic seems to have four reactors, and the "after" pic seems to have three.

That can't be good.
posted by Avenger at 12:23 AM on March 12, 2011


TEPCO saying it might have been hydrogen used to cool the reactor, per the Reuters feed (here).

floam: Go play Bejeweled or something, get a bite to eat, do something else. Please take care of yourself.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:23 AM on March 12, 2011


There should be an announcement on NHK shortly. In the meantime, the on-air staff sound completely freaked out.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:24 AM on March 12, 2011


Reuters: "Explosion heard at Japan's Fukushima nuke plant"

An explosion was heard and smoke was seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) (9501.T) Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, Jiji news agency quoted the police as saying on Saturday.
posted by zippy at 12:25 AM on March 12, 2011


Japanese newscasters are pointing out that one of the reactor(?) buildings seems to be missing. I don't know what they're saying but they look pretty grim.
posted by Avenger at 12:27 AM on March 12, 2011


I have invited a friend who is a real-live actual nuclear plant engineer to participate here. I hope he accepts.
posted by pjern at 12:28 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Asahi was playing the footage at slow speed, and yeah, there were four buildings. Now there are three. 4 people injured, is what they're saying.

NHK seems to be saying to wear a mask or a wet towel over your face if you're in the area. So much for those feelings that the worst was over.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:28 AM on March 12, 2011


Somebody linked to actual video above
posted by KokuRyu at 12:29 AM on March 12, 2011


Avenger: NHK World announcer (who looks freaked out) is saying "some of the outer wall has fallen down."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:29 AM on March 12, 2011


FYI: I didn't play with legos enough as a kid and suck at spatial things — I initially thought a different building had blown in that before/after than actually had. On their news they've circled the leftmost building on the bottom as the one affected. You can see there's something still there but it's quite different and smaller now.
posted by floam at 12:31 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ. Please be something other than what it sounds like.
posted by danny the boy at 12:31 AM on March 12, 2011


I know next to nothing about nuclear plant design but I suppose it's possible that the core could still be contained even with the reactor building blown off? I want to believe that's true because the alternative is unspeakable.
posted by Avenger at 12:32 AM on March 12, 2011


Where's Malor? Wasn't he scoffing at how there's not going to be a problem with this?
posted by zardoz at 12:33 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The guy on NHK1 just now was pretty pissed at TEPCO, and is recommending a thorough raking over the coals once things clear up.

They're recommending all kinds of radiation protection measures: don't use outdoor water, don't eat vegetables which are outdoors, change clothes when coming home, damp towel over face, etc.

Again, for MeFites unfamiliar with Japanese geography: This is for the local area. These warnings are not for the Tokyo area. Tokyo is 240km away.
posted by Bugbread at 12:33 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The tone of the NHK anchors is unsettling, and they keep saying "microsieverts."
posted by clorox at 12:34 AM on March 12, 2011


We are now getting an announcement over the city-wide public address system about the explosion - and I'm nowhere near the event (I'm in Ome on the west side of Tokyo). They are asking people to turn on their TVs and keep themselves up to date with events as they progress.
posted by woodblock100 at 12:34 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


zardoz: "Where's Malor? Wasn't he scoffing at how there's not going to be a problem with this?"

1. We have no idea what the hell just happened, or what it means.
2. Maybe the most appropriate reaction here isn't "HA! YOU WERE WRONG, JERK!"
posted by danny the boy at 12:35 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Avenger: I'm no nuke engineer-- my former nukeE-major buddy is offline right now-- but my understanding is that it's a steel containment vessel inside a concrete structure. Arclight concurs, and adds that the fuel inside the fuel rods of a reactor is ceramic with a high melting point. This is called "defense-in-depth:" your fuel melts at a very high temp, and you keep everything far away from densely populated areas and bottled up in steel and concrete.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:38 AM on March 12, 2011


so, uh, what the hell is 1015 Microsieverts, and how bad is it?
posted by Ghidorah at 12:38 AM on March 12, 2011


Can someone please summarize the last four hundred comments that I missed? What has happened in the last six hours while I was away from the news?
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:39 AM on March 12, 2011


so, uh, what the hell is 1015 Microsieverts, and how bad is it?

Earlier in this thread:

an airline pilot might get 2-4 mSv/year

(That m is milli, not micro.)
posted by floam at 12:39 AM on March 12, 2011


One hour's exposure to 1015mSv == your yearly exposure.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:40 AM on March 12, 2011


The NHK World woman is repeating that factoid very intently, over and over. One hour of 1015mSv exposure is equivalent to how much radiation you normally catch in a year (depending, of course, on location and elevation and so on).

(She's said it like five times in the last two minutes. Something has hit the fan, I fear.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:41 AM on March 12, 2011


Sievert: "1 Sv = 1 J/kg of absorbed energy." It's a measurement that shows how bad, for a living thing, exposure is.

1 Sv = 100 rem

"For acute (that is, received in a relatively short time, up to about one hour) full body equivalent dose, 1 Sv causes nausea, 2-5 Sv causes epilation or hair loss, hemorrhage and will cause death in many cases. More than 3 Sv will lead to LD 50/30 or death in 50% of cases within 30 days, and over 6 Sv survival is unlikely. "
posted by zippy at 12:41 AM on March 12, 2011


Am I missing something here? One of the containment buildings has vanished. From my layman's perspective, that means there is a tremendous amount of irradiated debris and fuel (ie, "fallout") in the area.

Am I totally out to lunch here and succumbing to hysteria?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:42 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


thanks fairytale. Floam, sorry, but I never really paid attention in science class.

It looks like there's about to be some sort of official announcement shortly.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:42 AM on March 12, 2011


"Can someone please summarize the last four hundred comments that I missed?"

Video seems to shows the power plant blowing up. You are now up to speed.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:43 AM on March 12, 2011


Summary: explosion at nuclear plant, concrete wall 'blown away', fuel may be melting, venting halted, civilians in region ordered to seal homes, avoid consuming food, breathing exterior air. Not an event yet, but 'huge probabily...be prepared for worst.'

:-(
posted by anigbrowl at 12:43 AM on March 12, 2011


It looks like the concrete containment building has blown away and just a twisted(?) steel frame remains.
posted by Avenger at 12:43 AM on March 12, 2011


(also, 1000 microSieverts = 1 milliSievert = .001 Sievert)
posted by zippy at 12:43 AM on March 12, 2011


I know next to nothing about nuclear plant design but I suppose it's possible that the core could still be contained even with the reactor building blown off?

That's the idea - the outer building you see in those stills is really a relatively soft shell - there is a much stronger containment structure inside. Not that things do not look grim, but it is entirely possible Bad Stuff has not started happening yet.

so, uh, what the hell is 1015 Microsieverts, and how bad is it?

It is of the order of magnitude of exposure you get from natural sources in one year. Here is a chart that will give you a rough sense of scale.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:43 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


"a planned explosion to release pressure..."

Perhaps what is meant is that they basically dumped a serious amount of something to cool things out, and that it hit the superheated core, immediately became steam, and caused an explosion as a result?

Obviously, they thought they had the problem under control, but it got away from them and got bad very, very quickly. They likely reacted in an emergency, last-ditch effort, and, well...
let's hope it helped cool things down a bit. Any news available on the radiation level out there?!

I don't think TEPCO can exactly be blamed for this distaster, as I suspect they've had a ton of expert consultation on this from early on, and probably did pretty much everything right with what they had to work with. Stilll... I wouldn't want to be their CEO right now.

So, what's the record for the deepest, deep bow in Japanese history anyway? Or if its that bad, do you just off yourself?!
posted by markkraft at 12:44 AM on March 12, 2011


I am in complete shock at how slowly the cable/tv newsfolk are at getting the news of this out. It's like none of the news producers are following this on the net at all.
posted by batgrlHG at 12:44 AM on March 12, 2011


How does something that visible stay unknown until now?

10km evacuation area?
posted by zippy at 12:45 AM on March 12, 2011


Photo of black smoke billowing out one of the power plants. (via @ilovetypography)
posted by thebestsophist at 12:46 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, sure, but his previous statements made it seem like anyone who thought there could be a problem were the jerks. But Malor knows what he's talking about far more than I.

Now, according to the Japanese announcers, people should avoid being outside. Fucking hell. Maybe that's just being overprotective, but it seems clear that no one really knows what's going on. I'd truly like Malor's insight given the change in circumstances.
posted by zardoz at 12:46 AM on March 12, 2011


Photo of black smoke

that's nothing to do with the current situation at the nuclear plant. That's an oil-fired generating station in the pic.
posted by woodblock100 at 12:47 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll join you in your hysteria, KokuRyu. We're pretty freaked out, and were just about to head out to the store. As mentioned above, yeah, we're hundreds of kilometers away, and we decided to stay in. I know how unreasonable we're being, but fuck it. Why take unnecessary chances.

The problem, markkraft, is that Tepco has a pretty shoddy recent history with safety, honest reporting of incidents, and has been pretty untrustworthy of late.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:47 AM on March 12, 2011


Photo of black smoke

if it bleeds, it leads
posted by philip-random at 12:48 AM on March 12, 2011


Hey, guys. We just got power back here in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. It's been about 27 hours since the quake and just recently has AU been delivering messages. Internet started to work shortly after that. I am happy to report that myself and azuresunday are alive and well, though getting tired of all these aftershocks. I probably slept about three hours last night.

We did a tour of Morioka today. At Aiina, near Morioka station, a shelter has been set up and about four hundred people are inside. Everything has been calm and orderly, and we've been impressed with the way people are handling it.

I was in the teachers room of a school in Takizawa when the earthquake happened. As people mentioned above, my earthquake alarm went off before the quake happened, which gave me and the other teachers about 10 seconds to prepare. Several other phones had this as well. As far as I know, it's a standard feature on many flip phones here. We went outside after the main shaking died down and rode out the major quakes from there. I've been super impressed with the building construction in the area. There's been some damage, but far less than I expected.

Thanks for your concern, guys. I love you. I'll keep you posted if things change.
posted by gc at 12:48 AM on March 12, 2011 [31 favorites]


everybody take a deep breath
posted by philip-random at 12:49 AM on March 12, 2011


Good to see you, gc!
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:49 AM on March 12, 2011


Kokoryu, that's my layman's read on it too. Hopefully we'll hear from eriko again soon. @arclight went to bed but I would guess he's not asleep any more.

Oh my god, I sure hope that did not happen.
posted by mwhybark at 12:50 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, this guy is giving a speech but I have no idea what he's saying, and furthermore he sounds really stressed and out of breath, which is making ME really nervous.
posted by shii at 12:51 AM on March 12, 2011


Unrelated to the nuke plant, here's a video of skyscrapers wobbling like jello molds in what i believe is Shinjuku. Which is actually a pretty amazing example of good building engineering that they can sway and move that much without shedding glass curtain walls or collapsing.
posted by loquacious at 12:51 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]




The thing on NHK is the briefing on what just went down. TimeOutTokyo's Twitter feed has realtime translation, more or less.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:53 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is that Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano?

Can anyone fill us in on what he is saying?
posted by Catch at 12:53 AM on March 12, 2011


The disaster guy speaking live at the press conference is providing absolutely no clarity: "Yes, there was an explosion, but we cannot confirm that it resulted in release of radioactivity."
posted by KokuRyu at 12:53 AM on March 12, 2011


Yes, that is Edano. @Touruma on Twitter is another fairly decent source for those of us who don't speak Japanese.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:54 AM on March 12, 2011


Oh shit, that's Edano I was watching. Basically, he's saying keep calm, carry on, we're going to help out everyone, no idea what that explosion was, be wary of tsunamis...
posted by KokuRyu at 12:55 AM on March 12, 2011




Edano is now appealing to the media to use sound judgement when relaying information to the public in order to prevent panic.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:56 AM on March 12, 2011


I'm impressed that the building performed like that. I hope ours would hold up as well as those did. When I took the local earthquake safety course in SF their worst case scenario for the financial district was that streets could be under many inches of broken glass if we had a big quake centered here. Also they said that you could expect building sway of around 2in per floor.
posted by oneear at 12:56 AM on March 12, 2011


Worst speech ever. He's saying "stay in your homes, if you have to go outside wear long pants, it's probably not dangerous but we have no idea what happened". All of this while sounding very much like he's trying to stave off his own panic. I couldn't have heard a more terrifying official announcement if there was a bubonic zombie apocalypse.

I'm going to head out to the bar... PM Kan told us all to watch the news but this is a little too much news for me.
posted by shii at 12:57 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Holy crap look at Rumple's video.

At 0:47 you can see the roof(?) of the reactor building blow off in a flash. Then it just disintegrates. Holy crap.
posted by Avenger at 12:57 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Edano's just saying that they're still checking on what actually happened so everyone just please calm down. On preview, what KokuRyu said. And to me Edano always sounds like that, so it's not like he's panicking or anything. I think he's just exhausted. I would be too after all that's happened in the last 24 hours.
posted by misozaki at 12:58 AM on March 12, 2011


Avenger, I think the "white line" above the building right after the explosion isn't the roof but rather the shock wave, visible because the water vapor in the air condensed for an instant as it passed.

Still not at all good.
posted by The Tensor at 1:01 AM on March 12, 2011


That might have been a shock wave, rather than part of the structure.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 1:02 AM on March 12, 2011


Guy on NHK right now is a safety officer from NISA, apparently.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:03 AM on March 12, 2011


Could the shock wave pass through the building without destroying the building, though?
posted by Rumple at 1:03 AM on March 12, 2011


Yeah, I was just thinking on second thought that it looks like a shockwave. Still, awful.
posted by Avenger at 1:03 AM on March 12, 2011


Evacuation radius for Fukushima Daini (the second reactor complex, 10km south of the explosion site) is now up to 10km from previous 3km.

Rumple: Prefectural officials and local news, per Reuters, report that the Fukushima Daiichi 1 ceiling collapsed.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:06 AM on March 12, 2011


I'm just tuning in to hear this news about possible rolling blackouts and nuclear plant explosions. I feel like I should be worried.
posted by mariokrat at 1:08 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just woke up. When I went to be this seemed sort of under control. Now I'm watching NHK World via cable and am sort of bewildered. So station #1 has had an explosion and lost a tower, and station #2 has had the evacuation cordon extended to 10km like station #1? I think I somehow missed that we had an issue with two stations.

Must say I'm impressed with this anchor, she's doing a good job with breaking news and lots of papers literally being dropped on her with updates. It does make such a difference when the people reporting the news are factual rather than JAPAN'S CHERNOBYL fear mongering.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 AM on March 12, 2011


report that the Fukushima Daiichi 1 ceiling collapsed

That would appear to be an understatement.
posted by zippy at 1:12 AM on March 12, 2011


From Reuters: TEPCO says 4 people who were injured after explosion don't have life-threatening injuries - Kyodo

and

Japan chief cabinet secretary Edano: Confirms radiation leak at Fukushima plant
posted by bink at 1:12 AM on March 12, 2011


My Japanese coworker is watching NHK and SMSing me cynical little observations. He thinks Edano and the NISA guy are hiding something.

Zippy: Yeah, I just saw the better pic on NHK. "Appears to have been forcibly degloved of all its concrete at high speed" would be more accurate.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:14 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The disaster guy speaking live at the press conference is providing absolutely no clarity: "Yes, there was an explosion, but we cannot confirm that it resulted in release of radioactivity."

I don't know if this is providing any comfort to anybody, but a release of radioactivity that would require emergency intervention is a pretty easy thing to detect: If we're discussing confirmation, their worries are about legal liability, not impending nuclear doom.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:15 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


report that the Fukushima Daiichi 1 ceiling collapsed

That would appear to be an understatement.


Yeah.
When walls vaporize,
ceilings tends to collapse.
posted by philip-random at 1:15 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The general consensus amongst the Japanese people I know (including my wife) is that there is just no information. Given the circumstances, it's understandable. There is probably no telephone or phone service, and the few people on the ground are probably totally busy just keeping alive. At the same time, NHK apparently has not been rebroadcasting the "explosion" video, which I guess is all part of the effort of a media outlet using "sound judgement".
posted by KokuRyu at 1:15 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Asahi.com is saying that more than 40,000 people in the area are being evacuated, and that high levels of radiation were measured just prior to the explosion in the vicinity of reactor 1 at daiichi.
posted by mariokrat at 1:16 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


My Japanese coworker is watching NHK and SMSing me cynical little observations. He thinks Edano and the NISA guy are hiding something.

Yeah. Jesus wept.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:17 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain what sort of monitoring equipment they have/had in the containment buildings and reactor vessels? I was under the impression that at some level of radiation, electronics fry and stop working. Obviously they can't just lift the hatch and peek either.

Can someone explain how were they figuring out how much of the fuel rods were exposed? I mean, to us it seemed like the jump from 90cm to 170cm to "what the fuck just happened" was really fast, but how much earlier would the engineers on the ground have known?
posted by thebestsophist at 1:17 AM on March 12, 2011


This is what makes nuclear energy fucking scary.

Redundant redundant redundant backups would have been a good idea; underground, where a tsunami can't knock them out.

Christ in a sidecar.
posted by bwg at 1:19 AM on March 12, 2011


Arclight's awake.
posted by bink at 1:21 AM on March 12, 2011


A Korean (?) channel, YTN, broadcasts digital OTA here in Seattle on 44.4, and they are running the NHK explosion and b-roll over and over. The news structure appears to be earthquake news story, reactor explosion story, other earthquake story, reactor explosion story, etc.

Dammit, I was nearly asleep!
posted by mwhybark at 1:21 AM on March 12, 2011


Did not expect to see that today.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:21 AM on March 12, 2011


I wonder which Article & Clause of the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness this is covered by.
posted by scalefree at 1:21 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I motion we ban Water. It is proving to be the greatest threat to human civilization on the planet.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:21 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


thanks for the heads up, bink.
posted by mwhybark at 1:22 AM on March 12, 2011


@KokuRyu: are people generally calm? I'm trying to imagine what people would be like here, and the words that come to mind are "sheer panic."

(Wow, when I unintentionally start two paragraphs with the same phrase, I know I need to go to bed.)
posted by thebestsophist at 1:22 AM on March 12, 2011


Did not expect to see that today.

Things I didn't expect to see in the last 24 hours: shit on fire in moving walls of mud, a nuclear containment structure ceasing to exist in under a second, a shindo-scale 7/ Richter 8.9 earthquake... really, at this point, just take your pick.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:22 AM on March 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Just as an FYI for those who haven't followed nickyskye's link to the BBC live feed page, it has pretty constant updates as they get anything. They're being pretty cautious about reporting incorrect info too...
0919: So, just to recap, there are growing fears about damage to two Japanese nuclear plants following Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake. There's recently been an explosion at a building at one of the plants, which is called Fukushima-Daiichi, or Fukushima I. It's not clear what the building contained.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:25 AM on March 12, 2011


thebestsophist, just as anecdata, roughly thirty seconds into the news conference, my wife/translator fell asleep, and hasn't woken since. I don't know what it's like near the plants, in the evacuation zone, but if last night was any indication, I'd imagine acceptance of the situation, and doing what needs to be done to deal with matters people can't directly control. Sheer panic is probably not in the top ten of emotional states.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:26 AM on March 12, 2011


a shindo-scale 7/ Richter 8.9 earthquake

I read it's been bumped to 9.0. Oh & you forgot volcanoes, there's a couple of them gone off too.
posted by scalefree at 1:26 AM on March 12, 2011


Redundant redundant redundant backups would have been a good idea; underground, where a tsunami can't knock them out.

Christ in a sidecar.


"We'll get it right next time," said the bureaucrat.
posted by philip-random at 1:28 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain what sort of monitoring equipment they have/had in the containment buildings and reactor vessels? I was under the impression that at some level of radiation, electronics fry and stop working. Obviously they can't just lift the hatch and peek either.

So, I am not an expert in this or anything, but in grad school I knew a few people who did ecological work in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. There are battery powered Geiger counters, both hand held and permanent installations around the place measuring the radiation levels which vary quite a bit over short distances. They know where the "hot" zones are pretty well exactly. Everyone wears a badge that monitors total radiation exposure over time: it's like one of those temperature strips you put on a kids forehead: requires no power and it turns colors as your exposure mounts and when it gets to red, or whatever color, you have to leave the Exclusion Zone because you've had your years worth of exposure. I believe badges like that are used at most nuclear facilities for workers.
posted by fshgrl at 1:28 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


@arclight just RT'd Katz at http://yokosonews.com/live - poor guy's still hangin' tough, looks like he got a shirt change in there.
posted by mwhybark at 1:31 AM on March 12, 2011


Better video of the explosion.

On this one they do a slow motion replay and you can clearly see the supersonic blast shockwave centered on the building.

That was not an intentional incident or release at all. That was a properly brisant explosion to be able to form a shock front like that. Something has very clearly gone seriously wrong.

Does anyone know what the prevailing jet stream travel time is across the Pacific? And is there a map or a way to determine where the jet stream currently is meandering?
posted by loquacious at 1:31 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So is this the event that spawns Gojira?

Sorry, just trying to take the edge off a little.
posted by bwg at 1:31 AM on March 12, 2011


So, let's say there is an incident of undetermined quantities of radioactivity.....which way are the air currents going?
posted by jgee at 1:31 AM on March 12, 2011


I'm starting to freak out; my brother lives in San Francisco and I'm certain he's asleep, not following this. As a precaution, I want to wake him up and have him aware of what's going on. I know, I know, borrowing trouble.

Cell phone goes directly to voicemail. Could be on vibrate, could be off, could be in a coat pocket.

This is why I keep a land line, even though I never use it. You *hear* it when it rings.
posted by tzikeh at 1:34 AM on March 12, 2011


I don't know what things are like in the Fukushima area, but at the Bugbread place, there's not a great deal of worry about immediate danger. I (and my wife) feel bad for the people up there, but it is a long way away.

People are preparing for serious aftershocks here in Tokyo (technically, Kawasaki). The supermarket had almost empty shelves in the milk, water, and ramen areas. The shoppers were all calm and relaxed, but buying stuff just-in-case. If you've lived in a hurricane-prone area in the US, it feels like the buying before a hurricane: people buying supplies just in case, but not out of panic.

Chainmails have started: my wife got two in the last hour. One purports to be from a friend of a friend (FOAF) of someone who works at TEPCO, and the other from a FOAF of someone who works at the Chiba chemical works. Both are just general advice about avoiding possible chemical polluted rain in case it rains, to conserve power, to fill the bathtub, that kind of stuff. Good advice, but almost certainly not from anyone official anywhere.
posted by Bugbread at 1:34 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


jgee: "seawards", according to the TimeOutTokyo twitter feed. That's good.
posted by floam at 1:35 AM on March 12, 2011


Jet stream: http://squall.sfsu.edu/gif/jetstream_pac_h48_00.gif
posted by anigbrowl at 1:36 AM on March 12, 2011


Hey folks, I'm back from checking on my friend's house in Jiyugaoka. (A belated welcome to flapjax -- glad you're safe, even if you did have to suffer through the food at Gusto.)

The Tokyu Toyoko Line was running, but stopping at all stations. Loads were moderate. Jiyugaoka itself, a pretty crowded shopping area on the weekend, had light crowds. I'd say about 30% of shops were closed for the day, and some of those that were open were due to close early or were only offering a limited menu due to supply chain issues. My friend's house was fine, fortunately -- no damage or shifting of furniture. It helped that she lives on the 2nd floor, I suppose.

On my way back I stopped off in Shinjuku; it seemed like any other day, to be honest. The weirdest thing was Yamada Denki -- they had turned off all of their TVs and about half the lights to conserve power. It was only about half as crowded as it usually is on a weekend. The employees I talked to said they were open as usual until 21:00... There were actually some good bargains to be had (like a 500 GB portable hard drive for under 5000 yen!).

The rumored rolling blackouts/brownouts have yet to occur. The local conbinis and supermarkets were pretty low on milk, bread, etc., but were operating normally. I saw lots of delivery men rushing around. The local Matsuya is doing a brisk trade in gyudon.

Tokyo is slowly getting back to normal -- now we need to look north and rebuild.
posted by armage at 1:37 AM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"We'll get it right next time," said the bureaucrat.

I think you mean "the corporate officer".
posted by rodgerd at 1:38 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Scaremongering crap already being passed around: http://img847.imageshack.us/img847/438/fallout.jpg
posted by slightlybewildered at 1:38 AM on March 12, 2011


I suspect it's already in the thread somewhere already, but do we know how much time passed between the initial earthquake and the tsunami making landfall?
posted by philip-random at 1:38 AM on March 12, 2011


tzikeh: If you're worried about his safety on the west coast, that's probably going a little overboard. I can understand wanting to share the experience of this going down though.

(I mean, we set off a couple nuclear BOMBS in Japan once upon a time, Americans were OK. It's just way way too far away. I imply no real knowledge of course.)
posted by floam at 1:38 AM on March 12, 2011


floam - I want him awake and aware so that he can follow the news and make his own decisions about his safety. I don't think that people should be fleeing the west coast, at the moment, but then, I couldn't have imagined anything like what's happened in the past 36 hours. I don't think any of us could.
posted by tzikeh at 1:41 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Weather forecast in Japan, winds blowing south from nuclear plant, could expose Tokyo.
posted by nickyskye at 1:42 AM on March 12, 2011


So the Japanese, you know, IN JAPAN, are casually going to the store to get milk and bread while the Americans halfway around the world are freaking out and running for the hills. Sounds about right.
posted by danny the boy at 1:44 AM on March 12, 2011 [38 favorites]


tzikeh: "I'm starting to freak out; my brother lives in San Francisco and I'm certain he's asleep, not following this. As a precaution, I want to wake him up and have him aware of what's going on."

Oh, let him sleep! There's no plausible chance that radiation from the plant will hit the US in quantities to be concerned about, and that wouldn't happen overnight anyway.
posted by mwhybark at 1:45 AM on March 12, 2011


I don't know about you, but I'm about to head out to buy water, food, and flashlights in case anything happens overnight. Also, cake. My wife wanted a piece of cake.
posted by mariokrat at 1:46 AM on March 12, 2011


I just signed up for an account on MeFi. I've casually lurked for a long time, but, tonight, glued to this thread and the Refresh button, it seemed like a good time to take things to the next level.

My ex-girlfriend lives in Nagoya City, in Aichi Prefecture. I met her a year ago, her first week in Vancouver. We broke things off when her year-long vacation was up, but it wasn't a clean break. We still care about each other.

I've been sending her e-mails pleading her to stay indoors. She sends me sporadic replies, when she's not doing something. Like so:

driving... im watching tv in car. already strong nuclear leaking.

This is something I won't forget anytime soon.
posted by monomyth at 1:46 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


tzikeh: Thing is, though, we do imagine these things. We simulate disasters on huge supercomputers. We devise means of dealing with them, point by point, incident by incident. We improve our handling of emergencies with greater scientific knowledge and more data.

Shit, people in my line of work simulate this stuff for entertainment purposes-- because it's possible to do so, given a reasonable render farm and some software.

I know you're worried for your brother. Certainly we're all worried. But these are not unimaginable occurrences beyond the reach of engineering to comprehend, and your brother will be in a much better place to make decisions after a solid night's sleep. It's OK. Hang out with us instead.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:47 AM on March 12, 2011


Danny boy, if you're referring to my comment, I am not talking about "running for the hills." I'm talking about wanting my brother to follow the news, because it's good to know what's going on in a case like this. I'm sure all the Japanese people "casually" going to the store to get milk and bread are also following the news as closely as they possibly can.
posted by tzikeh at 1:47 AM on March 12, 2011


tzikeh: Even if this was like, worst case scenario and defied physics and literally blew up all of Japan, I imagine potential fallout would still take a certain number of days to get to the US. I really don't think anybody needs to be woken up at 2AM. But you're right, I didn't think I'd be seeing this power plant blow up earlier.
posted by floam at 1:47 AM on March 12, 2011


YTN now showing b-roll of the plant's foundation excavations. Japanese guys in hard hats looking down into a hole by the ocean. How can I not think of Gojira?
posted by mwhybark at 1:47 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So there's people at the site of the explosion, and they're not wearing protective gear or anything?
posted by Kevin Street at 1:49 AM on March 12, 2011


Anyone who checks out slightlybewildered's "scaremongering crap," it's very much worth pointing out that Australian Radiation Services is a corporation, and not a government entity. This is a very important distinction.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:51 AM on March 12, 2011


How can I not think of Gojira?

I think it's obvious by now if you've been paying attention. They're just doing some very subtle priming to lessen the shock once word of what's really going down gets out.




< /hamburger>
posted by clorox at 1:51 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


@Kevin, that sounds like archival footage.
posted by slightlybewildered at 1:52 AM on March 12, 2011


Okay, moving away from my personal concerns, can someone who knows about things like this explain something to me:

"The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis."


Seriously? It shifted the Earth on its axis? Is this unheard of, or does this happen often and it's not really a big deal?
posted by tzikeh at 1:52 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some good news amidst the darkness, for swimming naked when the tide goes out and her previously missing niece, Carisa.

About an hour ago, Richard O'Barry posted the following in response to requests for information on volunteers, who were monitoring dolphin kill and captures near Japan.


"Cove Volunteers are OK. They have all just phoned in and everyone is safe. They spent the night on a hill. The town was destroyed. They walked out this morning, abandoning their cars"

The Sea Shepard Cove Guardians posted in greater detail here:

After more than twenty-four hours since we last heard from them, Sea Shepherd Director of Investigations Scott West was able to call his wife Suzanne to report that he and the entire Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian crew are alive and unharmed.

They had to abandon their two cars in the devastated port city of Otsuchi where they spent the night on a hill. The entire town around them was destroyed. They walked out over scattered debris, roads that were completely wiped out, and walked past numerous dead bodies amidst piles of rubble. At one point yesterday they saw and heard a woman in the water screaming for help, but she was washed out to sea before they could do anything to rescue her.

The Cove Guardians went to Otsuchi to document the slaughter of Dall’s Porpoise. Every year the fishermen slaughter over 20,000 of these gentle creatures. They had just filmed a fishing boat returning from a porpoise hunt when they saw the water in the harbor receding and they immediately headed for high ground. The time from the Earthquake to the Tsunami striking Otsuchi was about eight minutes.

The Cove Guardians were right in the midst of the most devastating Tsunami to ever hit Japan, and we are thankful they have all survived and are well.

Scott West was only able to send out this quick message, as his mobile phone was fading:

We are all 6 safe and out of Otsuchi. Now in Tono at hotel with no power, Internet, water, or food. Have IPhone until battery dead. -- Scott


From Wikipedia:
Ōtsuchi (大槌町, Ōtsuchi-chō?) is a town located in Kamihei District, Iwate, Japan.
As of 2003, the town has an estimated population of 16,727


*sigh* What a horrible way for the dolphin kills there to stop. I doubt many of the local fishermen even had a chance, considering that the tsunami hit just minutes after the earthquake would've stopped.
posted by markkraft at 1:52 AM on March 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


monomyth: "I just signed up for an account on MeFi."

Welcome aboard. Nagoya's pretty far south from the damaged plant, isn't it?
posted by mwhybark at 1:52 AM on March 12, 2011


tzikeh: To some small extent it must happen every time, ol' Newton's laws. Chile quake may have tipped Earth's axis.
posted by floam at 1:54 AM on March 12, 2011


Nagoya's really far from the danger zone, actually. Hundreds of kilometers. She's almost certainly fine.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:54 AM on March 12, 2011


Also, cake. My wife wanted a piece of cake.

No matter what the situation or country, cake is the solution.
posted by armage at 1:55 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


tzikeh: It happens any time you change the distribution of mass. Think of yourself on ice skates, in a tight spin. Move your arms, shift your mass, and your spin changes. The planet works the same way.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:56 AM on March 12, 2011


So there's people at the site of the explosion, and they're not wearing protective gear or anything?

Neither of the explanations I can think of are pleasant ones.
posted by zippy at 1:57 AM on March 12, 2011


Kevin Street: "So there's people at the site of the explosion, and they're not wearing protective gear or anything"

no, not at all, it was, like, historical promo footage from when the plant was built.
posted by mwhybark at 1:58 AM on March 12, 2011


NHK's weatherman has an incredibly delicate voice!

I'm going to bed. Stay safe, everyone.
posted by clorox at 1:58 AM on March 12, 2011


....unless, of course, it's Yellowcake.
Grar. I started the day on this thread and still can't stay away. Metafilter I tip my hat to you.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:59 AM on March 12, 2011


So the Japanese, you know, IN JAPAN, are casually going to the store to get milk and bread while the Americans halfway around the world are freaking out and running for the hills. Sounds about right.

I don't really think that's constructive or considerate of the understandable fear in this thread.

This is scary shit, and for most of the thread, you've been dismissive of the critical arguments against nuclear power and downplayed the potential dangers. Your comments about nuclear power being off the table being "magical thinking" come to mind.

Hopefully, this horrible event can move us towards some more magical thinking.
posted by formless at 1:59 AM on March 12, 2011


mhybark: Thank you. MeFi rocks.

And well, it's all relative. tzikeh's worried for his brother in San Francisco. Distances IRL don't necessarily reflect felt distances.
posted by monomyth at 2:00 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Authorities have extended the evacuation radius from 10 km to 20 km from both Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants, TV Asahi is reporting.
posted by armage at 2:01 AM on March 12, 2011


Yeah, sorry. Too tired to post. Hard to go to bed after this, but it's time.

Hopefully it will turn out to be something non-vital that exploded, and they'll have a handle on everything in the morning. Got to believe that now.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:01 AM on March 12, 2011


tiny derail, sorry - monomyth, I'm a woman. I suppose it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of these events, but, just an FYI.
posted by tzikeh at 2:02 AM on March 12, 2011


Distances IRL don't necessarily reflect felt distances.

So true. I feel so close to so many of you wonderful, caring Mefites. Good night.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:04 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Japanese coworker says "they are not able to get into [the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1] facility." He's watching one of the Japanese feeds, dunno which one.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:04 AM on March 12, 2011


"Scaremongering crap already being passed around"

Ummmmm...... We're well into worst case scenario. Like for real. Real potential plumes of radioactive fallout floating around the globe. This is real. I think it's waaaaaaay past the point where we need to laugh at this stuff as crazy.

Give me facts, please. But don't giggle over this shit.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:06 AM on March 12, 2011


formless: "I don't really think that's constructive or considerate of the understandable fear in this thread.

This is scary shit, and for most of the thread, you've been dismissive of the critical arguments against nuclear power and downplayed the potential dangers. Your comments about nuclear power being off the table being "magical thinking" come to mind."


What exactly is the virtue of panicking? What is to be gained from being irrationally afraid? Yes this shit is scary, but it's a lot scarier, and unnecessarily so, if we ignore reality. Dismissive is exactly right. I'm on Team Get-A-Grip.
posted by danny the boy at 2:07 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not giggling at anything. The time for that graphic may come but it's not right yet.
posted by slightlybewildered at 2:08 AM on March 12, 2011


I think it's worth pointing out that mainland Europe is situated somewhat closer to Chernobyl than the west coast of the US is to Japan. The impact of nuclear plumes carried by winds - even huge ones likely to be far larger than what we're looking at in Japan in a worst case scenario - are not unknown. We know the impact, both immediate and long term. This is not a situation that requires evacuation, storing water, or hoarding food stuffs. There is little people can do except go about their normal business.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Heh. My apologies. And hello, tzikeh.
posted by monomyth at 2:09 AM on March 12, 2011


Real potential plumes of radioactive fallout

Is it real, or is it potential?

Seriously, there's a time for panic about this -- but now is not yet that time, especially if you don't live within a 20 km radius of either of those nuclear plants.
posted by armage at 2:09 AM on March 12, 2011


hello, monomyth. :)
posted by tzikeh at 2:09 AM on March 12, 2011


Boston.com's The Big Picture photogallery: Massive earthquake hits Japan
posted by Auden at 2:11 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


US Ambassador to Japan will make a statement according to a recent tweet he sent:
http://twitter.com/#!/ambassadorroos

Saw some info retweeted that news conference said to not spread rumors and thus panic, so I can understand why people want to be calm about the potential worst case scenarios.

I'm finding that Time Out Tokyo twitter mentioned above really good - and here I've grown up thinking the Time Out magazine was the place to turn for movie info, etc. - and now they're a news source for me. Suddenly it's a strange news world out there.
http://twitter.com/#!/TimeOutTokyo

Other twitters I'm watching (all new to me, just searching for info that's better than current US news which doesn't seem to have anyone on the ground):
http://twitter.com/#!/tokyoreporter

http://twitter.com/#!/nobi

http://twitter.com/#!/survivingnjapan

http://twitter.com/#!/Touruma

(Sorry if I'm repeating any, haven't finished reading this whole thread, too busy reading/watching everyone's links, rolling eyes at US cable news channels lack of info.)
posted by batgrlHG at 2:11 AM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Evacuation zone widened to 20km now, per NHK.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:12 AM on March 12, 2011


So, let's say there is an incident of undetermined quantities of radioactivity.....which way are the air currents going?

Ok, here we go.

The prevailing trans-pacific wind currents in the northern hemisphere are from east to west.

Considering the force of that explosion and considering that the reactor may or may not be on fire, we may actually be looking at a very serious radiation threat here in North America. It depends if the reactor actually burns and sends up a plume high enough to enter the jet stream.

Because it's not reactor of the type that Chernobyl was, even if the reactor completely melts down and burns it shouldn't release as much debris, especially in the form of radioactive carbon, which is noted up thread for being particularly dangerous to carbon based life forms because, well, we accumulate carbon.

But, yeah. I'm officially worried - for myself. This is exactly the sort of selfish self-preservation I was frustrated at trying to convey up thread when arguing against the safety of nuclear power, and why I'm personally concerned above and beyond empathy for all the crazy shit going on in Japan in the last 30+ hours.

If you're in the Western US you may or may not want to be worried as well.

Again, there's not much you can do about it. You can take iodine thyroid tablets to block your thyroid absorption of radioactive iodine isotopes. You can stay indoors. You can have indoor/outdoor clothes. Don't smoke or eat or otherwise stick your unwashed hands in your mouth, nose, or eyes. Basically all the things you would do if you were trying to survive being in the fallout zone of a nuclear weapon explosion. I'm having trouble finding a decent link to an oldschool Civil Defense style "How to handle radioactive fallout" guide, but basically you want to pretend to be Howard Hughes with a severe case of germ phobia. Wash your hands. Don't touch shit you don't have to touch. Don't go outside if you don't have to.

But you shouldn't panic. This isn't exactly the same as Chernobyl. It's not the same as a nuclear weapon's fallout either, which throws tons of radioactive dirt into the air and intentionally forms a massive fireball that rockets straight into the stratosphere. And even if it was the same as Chernobyl the fallout in Europe wasn't enough to immediately kill you or give you radiation sickness or poisoning.

Any precautions you take during a fallout incident like this are merely to prevent exposure to absorbing radioactive dust into your body where it can linger for the rest of your life and slowly irradiate delicate parts of your innards.

The international media is all over this, whereas Chernobyl was kept a secret for days. The explosion and plume doesn't look like it's big enough or hot enough to enter the jetstream, but this entirely depends on the severity of the explosion, if the reactor is burning or not and if it's still actually shut down.

If there is a serious plume of radiation it'll take at least 2 days to reach the West Coast of the US and Canada, or as much as 5-6 days. It will probably hit Alaska/BC/Washington first. Depending on wind and weather a fallout incident could last just a day or three or up to as much as 10 days, depending on what isotopes are released, how much, and how much of the smoke and dust actually made it to the jet stream.

A real worry should be that the control and fuel rods for the reactor have been so badly damaged that it's going critical again - without system controls in place. If the fuel/core is going critical again, watch out. It'll burn. Chernobyl didn't have an earthquake to deal with and as far as I know they never were able to actually extinguish it. If I'm recalling my history correctly it burned itself out and went mostly subcritical because the molten fuel slag mixed with the control rods and graphite. Bombing a small target the size of a reactor with sacks of boron from a moving helicopter is really difficult, and wasn't very effective during Chernobyl even when they did manage the odd direct hit.

Me? Beyond watching the web first and news second I'm just going to refill my jugs of earthquake water. I already packed my bug-the-fuck-out bag last night in case of tsunami evacuation. I have a couple of medical filter masks. I know where my towel is.
posted by loquacious at 2:13 AM on March 12, 2011 [18 favorites]


"There is little people can do except go about their normal business."

People on the west coast of the US will start waking up in a few hours, and seeing this. In 48 hours it will be impossible to buy water, plastic sheeting, or duct tape within 100 miles of the coast.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:16 AM on March 12, 2011


"The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis."

That will probably mess with GPS and other geo systems I assume? I know it's a minor thing in all this, but that would have to be a headache. When you think of the world map, you think of it as constant. An immutable object. It's not supposed to move. Amazing.
posted by formless at 2:17 AM on March 12, 2011


Chernobyl is 2000 km from where I live. Japan to Hawaii is approx 6000 km. Let alone the rest of the US.
At the distance of 2000 km I remember that biggest impact was gras and produce couldn't be consumed for a while by respectively cattle and people.
So my suggestion is that people in the US take a deep breath.
posted by joost de vries at 2:20 AM on March 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I summarized this for some folks out thread, so lemme see if I can get to a 'what we know now.'

A building at the site of the most heavily damaged reactor exploded. There has been very little direct information about this released.

After the explosion was announced, NHK has shown footage of the explosion and also images of the site before and after showing the exploded building's structure still in place.

Shortly after the explosion was announced, authorities recommended that members of the public in a certain area, which I don't think we've identified in here, follow minimal fallout procedures.

Before the explosion, the plant operators had announced that a portion of the reactor core had not been able to be cooled properly, apparently reporting two values, 90cm and 1.7m.

A report of cesium monitored near the plant was cited, but it may not have originated with the operators. Cesium is associated with melting fuel elements.

The operators had been talking about the necessity of venting the damaged reactor to lessen internal pressure. That building pressure was at least partially composed of hydrogen.

Since @arclight came back on line he has noted that hydrogen explosions are a known hazard of venting processes but in general has tried to to present interpretive information.

Prior to the explosion (?) atmospheric values for radiation doubled in the area of the plant.

After the explosion, radiation increased from 9.x value to 1000x value (guesstimating and blowing the units completely, but a hundred fold increase in radiation.

What we don't know:

Whether the reactor core vessel itself was blown apart
Precisely what sort of explosion took place

What seems likely
The explosion may have been an accident associated with venting and caused by the hydrogen igniting

----

Actually, this cheers me up somewhat. If the reactor core had blown up too, wouldn't that internal framework we can still see be blown up and bent? Instead, the explosion force seems to have only stripped the concrete off the building.

Additionally, can we hypothesize what local radiation values might be if the core was exposed? Can we get that from looking at Chernobyl?
posted by mwhybark at 2:22 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't really think that's constructive or considerate of the understandable fear in this thread.

What's not considerate is looking at this and reacting with obsessive concern for a "yes, but how will this affect the West Coast of the US?" scenario that Michael Crichton would be ashamed of.

If there's a serious leak/meltdown it will be a huge problem for Japan, since it's such a small country, and deliberately tries to be self-reliant for staple foods as much as possible. You've got 120 million people in a space only 50% larger than New Zealand's 4 million; the same size a Germany.

It'll also be pretty scary for South Korea and China, depending on what ends up where. But the US? Gimme a break.
posted by rodgerd at 2:22 AM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


(Incidentally, thanks heaps to eriko and zippy for some lucid and non-"Fuck you hippies"/"nuclear power will kill us all" information here.)
posted by rodgerd at 2:24 AM on March 12, 2011


joost de vries: "So my suggestion is that people in the US take a deep breath"

joost, my interest is explicitly NOT related to issues of my personal safety, and I would think that is true for most US participants in this thread.
posted by mwhybark at 2:24 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plastic sheeting? That's kinda 2003.

formless- compared to the Banda Aceh earthquake? not so much. Nautical charts for pretty large areas of the Indian Ocean are still off by 15-20' in elevation. If you're in a boat 15' of elevation is a big fucking deal. The coastline moving 8' laterally is not a big deal for navigation purposes.
posted by fshgrl at 2:25 AM on March 12, 2011


rodgerd: What's not considerate is looking at this and reacting with obsessive concern for a "yes, but how will this affect the West Coast of the US?" scenario that Michael Crichton would be ashamed of.

Being concerned about people on the west coast of the U.S. is not mutually exclusive to being devastated about the situation in Japan, and all of the people there.
posted by tzikeh at 2:26 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


So dust doesn't cross vast oceanic scales?

"Significant amounts of plant nutrients have been found in atmospheric mineral dust blowing from a vast central African basin to the Amazon, where it could compensate for poor rainforest soils."

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100809/full/news.2010.396.html
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:28 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to say that I never had a use for Google Chrome before last night. The auto-translate function is saving my ass. If you've never tried it, give it a whack on this Asahi article. It's not perfect, but it does help a great deal in getting the gist across.

(The first sentence of the first paragraph is talking about "elevated possibility of meltdown in Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1," in a very general way; I had Japanese coworker help me out reading it.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:28 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not get all derail-y here.

I keep this thread open to get the latest updates from the hive mind, as it's much faster than the news agencies.
posted by bwg at 2:28 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Pacific wind pattern forecast.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:29 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


loquacious: "If you're in the Western US you may or may not want to be worried as well."

Ha, loquacious lives in my old neighborhood and we are less than 10 miles away from one another. My reaction is more-or-less diametrically opposed. There will not be any local effects, unless you count the complications to nuclear power in the US that will certainly follow on this. Which is not something that distresses me in the least. It should be really hard to build nuclear plants - but I really think we should keep that debate out of this thread.
posted by mwhybark at 2:34 AM on March 12, 2011


y6y6y6: "So dust doesn't cross vast oceanic scales?"

Sure it does.

But the small size of the plant, plus the inherently low altitude of any dust-plume from this explosion - or god forbid others - combined with the inherent heaviness of radioactive elements, pretty much guarantees no US fallout. I'm no expert and do not claim special insight, so feel free to ignore my analysis. But I do urge you to think about it as well.
posted by mwhybark at 2:38 AM on March 12, 2011


I'm personally not all that keen on "there will not be X" statements, given the number of "there will not be X" statements that have since been violated in this incident.
posted by zippy at 2:38 AM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've got to punch out; my translator just headed to bed, so I'm not much use for picking out bits of Asahi articles and NHK broadcasts, and my speed-Twitter skills decay past 2:30am.

(Also, you wish you had coworkers as awesome as my translator. He's a badass.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:40 AM on March 12, 2011


I take it back, Locquacius' factual analysis is not so far off mine. But I don't think an uncontrolled core fire is likely and therefore there won't be any lofting of radioactive materials.
posted by mwhybark at 2:42 AM on March 12, 2011


I, for one, am not so much worried about the effects of how anything happening in Japan today/tonight/tomorrow affects California, but there is this thing called the Ring of Fire, where Japan, New Zealand and Chile have recently been severely shaken. If you draw a straight line from Japan to Chile and another line at a 90 degree angle from New Zealand, that points pretty much straight at us in California, where the seismic activity has been rather quiet. As they say in the movies - too quiet.

And I live five miles from the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which has operated without significant problem for almost 30 years (it was the plant the "No Nukes" protest concerts failed to stop) and is coming up for 're-commissioning', because, yeah it's getting old but the local unemployment rate is already 12%... I'm adjacent to Highway 101 for a quick evacuation, but it hasn't been a thing I've thought about except when PG&E sends out their Annual Emergency Guide. So I'm not planning to sleep well anytime for the next several years.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:42 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


zippy: "I'm personally not all that keen on "there will not be X" statements, given the number of "there will not be X" statements that have since been violated in this incident"

ha, fair enough.
posted by mwhybark at 2:42 AM on March 12, 2011


Additionally, can we hypothesize what local radiation values might be if the core was exposed?

Not an expert in catastrophic nuclear reactor accidents (nobody is, really), but I'm pretty confident they would be in the glow-in-the-dark, detect-from-miles-away range.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:42 AM on March 12, 2011


I'm adjacent to Highway 101 for a quick evacuation

Given the normal movement of traffic on the 101 (or any highway in Southern California), I would not count on any evacuation being quick. One thing I learned at my CERT training is that, in the event of an emergency, with 95% certainty I'd be walking it.
posted by mykescipark at 2:45 AM on March 12, 2011


Ha, loquacious lives in my old neighborhood and we are less than 10 miles away from one another. My reaction is more-or-less diametrically opposed. There will not be any local effects,

And I sure hope you're right.

To be clear, I'm not panicking. I'm not raiding a grocery store. I'm not taping my windows shut. Hopefully everything over here is going to be ok.

But I'm on alert and trying to be aware and prepared. There's a huge difference between wanting to be prepared and freaking out.

Sorry if the self-concern seems too selfish in the face of the very real trauma and loss of life and limb going on in Japan, but I'm concerned about both places. There's not a whole lot I can do about Japan except express my sympathy. But I can be prepared here, just like I prepared to be ready to evacuate to higher ground early this morning, however unlikely it was.
posted by loquacious at 2:45 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two new updates from TEPCO, Japanese-language only:

東北地方太平洋沖地震における当社設備への影響について 【午後5時現在】

and

福島第一原子力発電所の現状について 【午後4時40分時点】
posted by zippy at 2:46 AM on March 12, 2011


At the distance of 2000 km I remember that biggest impact was gras and produce couldn't be consumed for a while by respectively cattle and people.

Interestingly, the restrictions are still in place in parts of Wales.
posted by biffa at 2:47 AM on March 12, 2011


Not an expert in catastrophic nuclear reactor accidents (nobody is, really), but I'm pretty confident they would be in the glow-in-the-dark, detect-from-miles-away range.

Eyewitnesses will confirm that Chernobyl did indeed glow rather faintly above the shattered roof of the reactor complex, but from all accounts I've seen it was reported to be very faint, like aurora strength light or less.

The miles away detection part happened, too. But it was days and days later when radiation monitoring stations started lighting up with things like cesium and other signs of a reactor gone wrong.
posted by loquacious at 2:48 AM on March 12, 2011


@arclight points at this as a best-data source for the moment:

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Battle_to_stabilise_earthquake_reactors_1203111.html
posted by mwhybark at 2:49 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK so I'm watching NHK World (which features on the fly Japanese to English translation) and they are saying that the fuel rods are melting, but that what they are investigating now is the integrity of the container. They are still reporting no change in the radioactivity readings outside the plant.

Are other people also watching this and is my understanding correct?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:49 AM on March 12, 2011


loquacious: "But I can be prepared"

I'm glad to hear it. I'm glad you're doing it. Being consciously engaged in that is something important.

I seem to remember that NOVA on Chernobyl actually was able to show a bit of that, in a fuzzy VHS-quality video kind of way.
posted by mwhybark at 2:52 AM on March 12, 2011


Thanks for that summary mwhybark.

I just got back from shopping at the home center and supermarket. All the bottled water was sold out, and people were buying remaining drinks by the box. Cup ramen was also generally gone, and many other ready-to-eat foods were running low. At the supermarket, there was no bread and no milk, save for a a few 500 ml cartons. No prepared meals were left, but that's not necessarily unusual for this time of night.

I stopped at a convenience store on the way home to look for bread, but the clerk said that they didn't receive any shipments today.

I know it's not time to panic, but this is going to mess with my breakfast tomorrow. (And in the back of my mind, I remember that it's because of a massive earthquake and its aftermath, but it's not been serving me to dwell on that.)

I did find cake though.
posted by mariokrat at 2:56 AM on March 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm located midway between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach and will make it at least several miles down the 101 before the South County realizes something's wrong and the inevitable gridlock occurs... assuming I'm constantly vigilant. That's why I'm not getting any sleep.

I need to restock my water and Spencer's Market has Crystal Geyser in gallons for 69 cents.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:58 AM on March 12, 2011


Norwegian newspapers are reporting that the Japanese military have found 300-400 dead in the town Rikuzentakata alone. Fuck.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:58 AM on March 12, 2011


in California, where the seismic activity has been rather quiet. As they say in the movies - too quiet.

Man, I'm with you on this. For however worthless and unscientific it is, my earthquake intuition, radar or spider sense or whatever has been been on high alert for most of the year, and pegged for the last week, like I can feel a really big quake coming, particularly for California. Particularly for mid/central California along a major fault line.

Something is just... really weird about the quake activity lately. Something seems to be afoot, and I can't seem to shake that feeling. No, it's not a doom and gloom, end of the world or otherwise eschatological feeling at all, but more of a "Holy shit some really big change and challenges are coming on real fast, and I have no idea what it might be."

Anyway, superstition set aside, try an 9.0 on a populated segment of California and it's not going to fare anywhere near as well as Japan. The structural damage from North Ridge was intense, and that was only a 6.7.
posted by loquacious at 3:00 AM on March 12, 2011


The miles away detection part happened, too. But it was days and days later when radiation monitoring stations started lighting up with things like cesium and other signs of a reactor gone wrong.

You are talking about fallout reaching the monitoring stations, which definitely did happen - you can still detect fallout Cesium from Chernobyl in most of Europe today (this is not necessarily dangerous, it's just easy to detect at minute levels).

What I was referring to is direct radiation from the exposed core, it would probably be detectable, e.g. with a helicopter-mounted portable detector although I don't know if we have any actual readings from Chernobyl.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:00 AM on March 12, 2011


loquacious: "But I can be prepared"

I'm glad to hear it. I'm glad you're doing it. Being consciously engaged in that is something important.

I seem to remember that NOVA on Chernobyl actually was able to show a bit of that, in a fuzzy VHS-quality video kind of way.

I'm crawling back into bed. No more reactor explosions overnight, m'kay? See you in the morning.
posted by mwhybark at 3:01 AM on March 12, 2011


mariokrat, that's just uncanny. I just got back, too. No milk, eggs, bread, or much juice. Most meat gone, few fruits/veggies left. Cup noodle gone. No prepared food. Oil, soy sauce, miso (Japanese staples) all gone, and only the giant bags of rice left behind.

Still plenty of beer.

On the way home, I stopped at the local yakitori guy (a store front operation with a gas grill, and skewers of chicken and assorted pork gizzards, damn tasty), and he had been busy all day, and was nearly sold out. We talked about the quake, and told each other to be careful. I check the convenience store, no milk, no juice, no cup noodles, no bento meals, no bread of any kind. No onigiri.

No cake.

Talked to the neighbor, seeing as his shutters were down, after having been up all last night. He'd been stuck in western Tokyo at his university campus, and just been able to get a train this morning.

A friend is coming over to stay tonight. His apartment is in an ancient building, and he said there were cracks in the walls, and it didn't feel safe. Still feeling minor aftershocks here.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:03 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Guardian has shifted its live focus somewhat to the nuclear alert along with the quake aftermath.
posted by hat at 3:03 AM on March 12, 2011


oops, sorry about that, not sure how that doubled. I flagged it for deletion. I'm still going to bed. Take care, all.
posted by mwhybark at 3:04 AM on March 12, 2011


Looks like three comments got duplicated. Weird. NOT OMINOUS. Just let pb know when he wakes up.

I know the Northridge (one word); I was 3 miles from the epicenter with my home relatively unharmed although my father's apartment 5 miles farther away was 'red flagged'. That's why the intensity of the second Christchurch did not particularly surprise me.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:07 AM on March 12, 2011


I know the Northridge (one word)

Whoops. I'm an LA-born native, I swear.
posted by loquacious at 3:11 AM on March 12, 2011


Though on the face of it they seem very banal, you can imagine the kind of ground movement it would take to topple these paper and household products off of their carts sitting on a flat parking lot. Snapped those at a drug store parking lot on my way to the train station, shortly after the quake.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:13 AM on March 12, 2011


The cake selection was slim... And the beer was ample here as well. I picked up a few, because beer's calories in an emergency, right?

I just remembered that I walked past a gas station which was closed early and had big "Sold Out" signs out front.

"That's Japan," says my wife.
posted by mariokrat at 3:15 AM on March 12, 2011


/me eats cake after midnight in NZ to show solidarity with Ghidorah.
posted by Catch at 3:15 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tried to sleep for a few hours. I think I made it two hours before I got restless and logged on to MeFi to see news of the explosion. And then video of the explosion and Edano's (not very reassuring) statement.

This is not good for someone with major anxiety issues to wake up to. I'm just really scared for a lot of people right now... hopefully those people feel fairly calm, since I'm probably producing enough anxiety for the lot of 'em.
posted by rachaelfaith at 3:16 AM on March 12, 2011


these paper and household products

Wait, what in the hell is that in the second picture? Is that some kind of strawberry flavored or scented food-wrapping cling film or paper or something?
posted by loquacious at 3:17 AM on March 12, 2011


Video of the tsunami from inside Sendai airport.

There's no way you could outrun that on foot. One moment it's dry, the next moment cars are floating.
posted by loquacious at 3:22 AM on March 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


I was reading an Ask Metafilter question about fallout, and in an answer, Muirwylde linked to this fascinating description of nuclear meltdowns (for some horrified version of 'fascinated').

In the light water reactor section, there's this list of the steps involved in a meltdown:

1. Core uncovery.
2. Pre-damage heat up.
3. Fuel ballooning and bursting.

"In less than half an hour, the peak core temperature would reach 1100 K. At this temperature, the zircaloy cladding of the fuel rods may balloon and burst. This is the first stage of core damage. Cladding ballooning may block a substantial portion of the flow area of the core and restrict the flow of coolant. However complete blockage of the core is unlikely because not all fuel rods balloon at the same axial location. In this case, sufficient water addition can cool the core and stop core damage progression."

4. Rapid oxidation.

"The next stage of core damage, beginning at approximately 1500 K, is the rapid oxidation of the Zircaloy by steam. In the oxidation process, hydrogen is produced and a large amount of heat is released....

5. Debris bed formation. "When the temperature in the core reaches about 1700 K, molten control materials [1,6] will flow to and solidify in the space between the lower parts of the fuel rods where the temperature is comparatively low....

6. (Corium) Relocation to the lower plenum. "In scenarios of small-break LOCAs, there is generally. a pool of water in the lower plenum of the vessel at the time of core relocation. Release of molten core materials into water always generates large amounts of steam. If the molten stream of core materials breaks up rapidly in water, there is also a possibility of a steam explosion. During relocation, any unoxidized zirconium in the molten material may also be oxidized by steam, and in the process hydrogen is produced. Recriticality also may be a concern if the control materials are left behind in the core and the relocated material breaks up in unborated water in the lower plenum."

Putting on my speculative, not a nuclear engineer hat, for a moment, based on what official sources have said, we've had: 1) core uncovery, 2) pre-damage heat-up, 3) believed fuel damage (Cesium detected, indicating ...).

Now, the question is whether we've had 4) rapid oxidation. It does seem a decent explanation for why the building blew apart. I guess I'm wondering whether there was a steam explosion, a hydrogen explosion, or both.

The article continues:

"Though most modern studies hold that it is physically infeasible, or at least extraordinarily unlikely, Haskin, et al state that that there exists a remote possibility of an extremely violent [fuel-coolant interaction - hot stuff landing in cold water] leading to ... an alpha-mode failure, or the gross failure of the RPV itself, and subsequent ejection of the upper plenum of the [reactor pressure vessel] as a missile against the inside of the containment, which would likely lead to the failure of the containment and release of the fission products of the core to the outside environment without any substantial decay having taken place"

Given the visible shockwave going straight up, I'm wondering whether the top of the reactor pressure vessel blew straight up and out as described in that scenario.
posted by zippy at 3:24 AM on March 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


Jesus, loquacious, in that Sendai Airport video, I could see at least two people outside walking or running before the water hit.
posted by zippy at 3:28 AM on March 12, 2011


loquacious: "Video of the tsunami from inside Sendai airport.

There's no way you could outrun that on foot. One moment it's dry, the next moment cars are floating
"

Jeebus, I kept thinking: get off the ground floor, people!
posted by bwg at 3:28 AM on March 12, 2011


I'm in Yokohama right now, and I'm wondering if it's time to head to Kyushu. Can anybody tell me if I should get as far away as possible from the reactor up in Fukushima? There are still tickets available for the shinkansen. Would a difference of a few hundred miles from where I am now make much of a difference if things do get worse?
posted by farce majeure at 3:28 AM on March 12, 2011


Here's a highish res picture showing the extent of the damage in Rikuzentakata.
posted by Dumsnill at 3:30 AM on March 12, 2011


For probably inappropriate comic relief, here's a squid-obsessed webcomic illustrating part of what I wrote about the "Ring of Fire"
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:40 AM on March 12, 2011


Sorry, not the extent, a small part of the devastation.
posted by Dumsnill at 3:43 AM on March 12, 2011


"Wait, what in the hell is that in the second picture? Is that some kind of strawberry flavored or scented food-wrapping cling film or paper or something?"

Hehe, no. Just regular cling wrap. Each size has a different fruit, which makes it easy to tell between them in a crowded drawer. The box with the strawberries is the small one, and the grapefruit one is the big one.
posted by Bugbread at 3:44 AM on March 12, 2011


There is a news conference on right now, and they've announced that the explosion occurred in the outer parts of the reactor. Severe amounts of radiation don't seem to have been released.
posted by mariokrat at 3:44 AM on March 12, 2011


Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano is telling us that there wasn't a nuclear meltdown; hydrogen release caused the explosion of the building.

This is bad but not worst-case scenario.
posted by gen at 3:46 AM on March 12, 2011


According to translation from my hero at Yokosonews:

Some reaction involving what was vented from the reactor resulted in an explosion that affected the container building, reactor itself is in tact. Armageddon averted, for now, according to this.
posted by tempythethird at 3:47 AM on March 12, 2011


As mariokart said, they're saying the containment vessel (?) didn't explode, the building around it did.
They also said that detected radiation levels were actually lower after the explosion.
posted by Bugbread at 3:47 AM on March 12, 2011


Wait, other Japanese speakers - I was typing, and I missed something. Did he say they're going to flood the reactor with sea water or something like that?
posted by Bugbread at 3:48 AM on March 12, 2011


He did say that, yes.
posted by mykescipark at 3:50 AM on March 12, 2011


Yes. He's said their going to use sea water and boric acid(?)
posted by mariokrat at 3:50 AM on March 12, 2011


Hehe, no. Just regular cling wrap.

Oh, good. You probably just prevented my head from exploding in disbelief at the idea of fruit flavored cling wrap. Though Roy Orbison would be pleased, if only reluctantly and with resignation.
posted by loquacious at 3:51 AM on March 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Man, the kids finally went to bed, and I want to watch this news with a beer, but I don't want my reflexes dulled in the event of another quake...
posted by Bugbread at 3:52 AM on March 12, 2011


For those afraid of how this would effect the west coast of the US, consider the fact that the US dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan that carried radiation in our direction, as well as numerous above-ground nuclear tests on numerous Pacific islands, several using full-scale hydrogen bombs, which threw huge amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere.

... and then, get a sense of proportion and half a clue.

I'm in San Francisco, and happily aware that I am about 100 miles further away from the nuclear power plant in Japan than the Japanese were from Chernobyl. The Pacific is a *BIG* ocean, you know...
posted by markkraft at 3:53 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Edano loves to say 未曾有. I can't help thinking about what this press conference would sound like if it were PM Aso.
posted by Bugbread at 3:54 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. He's said their going to use sea water and boric acid(?)

This combined with the 20km evacuation zone means the reactor has suffered at least a partial meltdown, and it's still critical or undergoing fission. They wouldn't be bombing it with sea water if it wasn't an emergency to cool it down, and they wouldn't be using a neutron poison like boron or boric acid if it wasn't fissioning.

We haven't heard the full story yet.
posted by loquacious at 3:56 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Time Out Tokyo is giving a translation of the news conference. Question to Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Sect.: Is there really no risk of a radiation leak?

Answer: No, because we're filling the container with boric acid and sea water.
http://twitter.com/#!/TimeOutTokyo/status/46538470113554432

Isn't the boric acid a bad sign?
On preview - heh, guess I'm not the only one wondering about that.
posted by batgrlHG at 3:56 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Containment vessel?!

Was it a nuclear wessel?!
posted by markkraft at 3:59 AM on March 12, 2011


They're saying that after the explosion, the radiation level dropped to 860.
posted by Bugbread at 4:00 AM on March 12, 2011


Boric acid would do a great job of neutralizing the radiation, right?! And lots of cold sea water would cool things down?!

Sounds like a great idea to me, considering the options available.
posted by markkraft at 4:00 AM on March 12, 2011


It may be too late to mention, but if you're in Japan, the guy they're talking to on 日テレ is very knowledgeable about reactors.
posted by Bugbread at 4:02 AM on March 12, 2011


There was a really excellent posting here on adding boric acid to the reactor. The boric acid will permanently kill the reactor. Good in the short term, but long term it could cause a serious electricity production problem.
posted by chrisulonic at 4:03 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else listening to Yokoso? He said that the radiation levels decreased from 1015 microsieverts to 800 and then all the way down to 70 microsieverts.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:05 AM on March 12, 2011


"The boric acid will permanently kill the reactor."

Yes please, thanks! Besides, the last time I heard, blowing the top and walls off of a nuclear reactor kills the reactor too.

Gee, I guess they'll have to decommission this plant two years early...
posted by markkraft at 4:07 AM on March 12, 2011


Bugbread who knows how long the state of emergency will last, have a beer, your kids need you to be sane too.
posted by tempythethird at 4:08 AM on March 12, 2011


> Something is just... really weird about the quake activity lately. Something seems to be afoot, and I can't seem to shake that feeling.

My wife said the same thing. I said that people are hard-wired to interpret patterns in things even if there are no patterns to be seen and that if you dropped disasters onto the timeline of history randomly, they would seem to cluster just because they'd be in a Poisson Distribution.

(Remember, there's a huge evolutionary penalty for not seeing a pattern - you get eaten by the leopard - and very little for seeing one where it doesn't exist.)

Don't worry, there are more disasters coming - but they'll mostly be man-made...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:10 AM on March 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


... and then, get a sense of proportion and half a clue.

Hi. I have some sense of proportion and more than half of a clue. I grew up in family where my grandpa was the neighborhood cold war Civil Defense coordinator and a retired Colonel in the USAF and was involved in OSI during WW 2 and SAC during the cold war. He kept bulk unmilled wheat in lead boxes for long term emergency food storage among other things. I grew up reading CD survival/incident publications and, yeah, I'm kind of obsessed with our collective atomic history.

As a child of the Cold War I'm probably pretty well informed and aware. As an example of my sense of proportion and well-adjusted nature to these threats I actually have no desire to store bulk wheat in lead boxes. As I noted above it's extremely unlikely that appreciable or notably dangerous amounts of radiation will reach the US from this incident.

However, wanting to be aware of and prepared for the risks of a radiological event is not lacking in clue. If anything, saying "this will never happen" about an event where a bunch of "this will never happen" events actually have happened is lacking in cluefulness.


Last - you do realize that they've banned atmospheric nuclear weapon testing for a reason, right? That the entire world is now measurably more radioactive than it was before nuclear testing began, right? You know that most metals like lead and steel made after/during atmospheric testing are all now measurably radioactive, and that material old lead is prized by scientists who need it for radiologically sensitive instruments and experiments?

Fallout from atmospheric testing wrapped around the entire world, and may be responsible for the increased post-nuclear global cancer rates. Those tests all had an effect on the planet. Each and every last one of them.
posted by loquacious at 4:11 AM on March 12, 2011 [28 favorites]


My friends are in Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa. How worried should I be about them at this point?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:11 AM on March 12, 2011


Not worried at all, Alia. They might be a bit upset, but more than likely they're just fine.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:13 AM on March 12, 2011


Thanks, Ghidorah.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:14 AM on March 12, 2011


Bugbread, I know exactly how you feel. I just had a kirin stout, thinking it would be a nice release from all this shit. The whole time I'm drinking it, I was thinking that, in case something happens, it would be better to be sober.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:15 AM on March 12, 2011


Kanagawa is not an area for concern.
posted by gen at 4:17 AM on March 12, 2011


The whole time I'm drinking it, I was thinking that, in case something happens, it would be better to be sober.

It's that thought (and the remains of a cold) that have kept me from breaking open a bottle of Hakkaisan.

I settled for some tea and some episodes of The Wire. Compared to the news right now, light entertainment.
posted by armage at 4:18 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a good pic of what remains of the reactor building.

It looks like a steel/metal framed building that had metal panels or tiles for a skin. This would explain the big square chunks of debris that were flying away in the explosion.
posted by loquacious at 4:21 AM on March 12, 2011


"Last - you do realize that they've banned atmospheric nuclear weapon testing for a reason, right?"

Sure. That said, any reasonable scientific analysis of the likely radioactive leakage here relative to just a single one of those hydrogen bomb tests would come up with a result with a 1 in front, before the slash, and a *whole* lot of zeroes after the slash. So many zeroes, in fact, that the digit immediately after that slash would hardly matter.

As far as radioactive explosions go, this is strictly for amateurs. For people in the West Coast, this is like having the neighbor's kid take an old watch with glow-in-the-dark hands on it, and light it off with a few M-80s.
posted by markkraft at 4:22 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anybody else feeling a little washed out inside the cranium at this point?
posted by bwg at 4:24 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


So here's some things that are concerning. What's the need for the seawater and boric acid if the case wasn't compromised.
posted by gen at 4:30 AM on March 12, 2011


The Cringely post that chrisulonic linked to above is solid analysis from someone who was directly experienced with Three Mile Island's meltdown.

Key points:
I’m guessing the US Navy delivered a load of sodium polyborate from some nuclear aircraft carrier reactor supply room in the Pacific Fleet. Its use indicates that the nuclear threat is even worse than presently being portrayed in the news.
and
An earthquake with such loss of life is bad enough, but Japan has also just lost 20 percent of its electric generating capacity. And I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that none of those 11 reactors will re-enter service again, they’ve been so compromised.
Which is really not good news at all.
posted by loquacious at 4:31 AM on March 12, 2011


What's the need for the seawater and boric acid if the case wasn't compromised.

I suspect that we're not getting the full story, unfortunately. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that they're not even releasing factual radiation measurements to the public at this point.

The more I've been reading about TEPCO and hearing from others about the company the less I trust that they're actually telling the whole truth.
posted by loquacious at 4:37 AM on March 12, 2011


"They wouldn't be bombing it with sea water if it wasn't an emergency to cool it down, and they wouldn't be using a neutron poison like boron or boric acid if it wasn't fissioning."

First off, we already know that they were/are/are still trying to cool it down. And, judging from what we know, it's a safe bet that it has been cooling.

But seriously, the plant was clearly a complete write-off once they had that explosion... one which was almost certainly caused by rapidly overheating coolant, rather than a breach in the reactor core. If you had a problem like this with leaking radiation, wouldn't you want to do whatever it took to bring the radiation levels back to normal and cool the core down ASAP, in order to avoid the level of risk / liability?!

Sounds to me like they're making the best possible choice available to reduce that risk and liability for their company, no longer constrained by efforts to actually keep the plant operational.
posted by markkraft at 4:40 AM on March 12, 2011


I wouldn't assume they are telling the whole truth.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Regardless of how dishonest this company is, the whole planet is watching this right now. Any dishonesty from them at this point will be uncovered and just damage their reputation even further, and I think they know that.
posted by tempythethird at 4:41 AM on March 12, 2011


TEPCO has a history of lying to the public (see wikipedia.) I don't trust them at all right now.
posted by gen at 4:43 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think TEPCO is lying, because they know that the truth will come out, and they would totally shoot themselves in the foot. I wouldn't be surprised if they're holding information back, however.
posted by Bugbread at 4:43 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatever the case, let's just hope they are 100% focused on mitigating radiation leakage; the folks who live in that area and indeed all of Japan need a break right now.

The earthquake and tsunami knocked them down, they don't need to be kicked as well.
posted by bwg at 4:44 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with gen and flapjax on this one. They've just been involved in too much covering up in the past. Something will come out at some point, either the plant not having been maintained, or some sort of negligence with something. It's Tepco we're talking about.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:47 AM on March 12, 2011


Noriyuki Shikata (Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Public Relations, Director of Global Communications at Prime Minister's Office of Japan.) "Trend of μ Sv/h of Unit 1 this afternoon. 1,015(at 15:29), blast (15:36), 860(15:40), 70.5 (18:58). After blast, radioactive level lowered."

Discuss.
posted by gen at 4:48 AM on March 12, 2011


I place no trust in TEPCO either, and they may sure be crooked, but they're not cartoon evil. I'm sure their first priority is shutting down the reactor safely. I'm sure their second priority is covering their asses. But I'm not worried about the order of those priorities.
posted by Bugbread at 4:52 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe TEPCO when they're describing the status of the reactor and what's being done to contain it.

I don't (and won't) believe them when asked to account for their maintenance history up until the earthquake.
posted by armage at 4:53 AM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


My God. In Miyagi Prefecture, there's a small town of 10,700 people that was hit by a tsunami. 700 people are accounted for. Ten thousand people are missing. This is just one town. Ten thousand people, gone.

This is gonna get a lot worse before it gets better.
posted by zardoz at 4:57 AM on March 12, 2011


Off the TEPCO subject, I know, but this little clip from the 22nd floor of a Tokyo building will give folks an idea of how loooong this damn thing was. Not to mention how scary.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:58 AM on March 12, 2011 [18 favorites]


Off the TEPCO subject, I know, but this little clip from the 22nd floor of a Tokyo building will give folks an idea of how loooong this damn thing was.

Question: Why do all of those office workers have hard hats? And why are most of the women wearing face masks even before the quake really starts rocking?
posted by loquacious at 5:07 AM on March 12, 2011


Fuji TV reporting: 10,000 people missing in tsunami-hit town of Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi prefecture (population: 17,800)
posted by gen at 5:08 AM on March 12, 2011


loquacious: "Question: Why do all of those office workers have hard hats? And why are most of the women wearing face masks even before the quake really starts rocking"

I would guess they have hard hats for earthquakes. The face masks, if Japan is anything like Hong Kong, are for people who are sick and don't want to infect their co-workers.
posted by bwg at 5:10 AM on March 12, 2011


Why do all of those office workers have hard hats?
Par for the course. My apartment came with a hat, several flashlights, and a couple fire extinguishers. If there is anything Japan is neurotic about, it is safety... perhaps with good reason.

Why are most of the women wearing face masks even before the quake really starts rocking?
Allergy season, and I have been told this year is worse than average.
posted by whatzit at 5:11 AM on March 12, 2011


Loq: Dunno about the hard hats, but masks are common in Japan starting in winter (to keep others from getting a cold if you have a cold) through late spring (due to severe hay fever allergies).
posted by Bugbread at 5:11 AM on March 12, 2011


loq, bwg nailed it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:11 AM on March 12, 2011


I think it's part of the building code: everyone has to have helmets. I was wearing mine on the 22nd floor all the way down to Hibiya Park.
posted by armage at 5:12 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The earthquake and tsunami knocked them down, they don't need to be kicked as well."

And yet, we've heard nothing lately about the fires that are, presumably, still raging in some parts of Japan, which are far more of a threat to human life than this incident appears to be.

Hell, I posted about what seemed to be an entire town of 16,000 people being swept out to sea, and nobody batted an eye.

Yes, I know nuclear is scary, and radiation leaks are bad, but the thing is, very few people were particularly scared when they said they would be venting some radioactive steam from coolants. Well... sounds like they did that. Unfortunately, not in a particularly controlled manner, but hey... it cooled things down pretty quick, it seems. So yes, by all means, flood it in boron and water, bury it in concrete, and stop pussyfooting around, dragging things out with half-efforts, in order to try saving a 40+ year old power plant. It's not worth it.

I am frankly far more concerned about fires. About disease. About Japan's ability to get food and water, gas and electricity to all its people. To get raw materials to those who process them, so as to meet the needs of those who use them, oftentimes in very critical ways. (It's not just food... it's the plastic and paper that they come in, too, oftentimes by boat, truck, and train. But what do you do when the harbor -- and the fishing fleet -- has been destroyed, the train tracks are trashed, crops are submerged under salt water, and the gas refinery just burnt to the ground? )

All of this isn't the least bit easy, considering just how much the Japanese need to import, just to maintain their society. If Japan has one of the world's greatest infrastructures, it's largely out of necessity, in order to meet their people's needs. As such, when that infrastructure is ruined, Japan is especially vulnerable.

But right now, I'm mostly aghast at the thought of whole towns being washed out to sea, left to wonder how many towns and cities we're talking about here, how many tens of thousands of people may have died, and how many of them could or could not evacuate to high ground from their coastal towns, only a scant few minutes after a nauseatingly huge and lengthy earthquake.

The nuclear situation is unfortunate. And its outcome in completely uncontrollable, too. But what the Japanese people need, now, when it still could perhaps help people, is a sense of perspective.
posted by markkraft at 5:13 AM on March 12, 2011 [43 favorites]


That video was surreal. The guy shooting it seems to waver somewhere between fascination and boyish glee, and he gets quite a few shit-eating grins on camera from his co-workers. No idea if I would or wouldn't respond in the same way though.
posted by tempythethird at 5:14 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re: Hardhats, To: All.

That... that is fucking awesome. Office workers keep hard hats around, and apartments come with them? I've been known to keep a first aid kit and space blanket and shit in my backpack or pockets, but I've never even thought about keeping a hard hat around w/r/t earthquake preparedness. Granted many of the places I've lived aren't very vertical.

*adds bike helmet to quake supply list*
posted by loquacious at 5:16 AM on March 12, 2011


People are worried about the nuke plants because they pose a potential serious risk to the rest of the world. Japan is already a disaster, and no one doubts that or doesn't sympathize. But it would sure be nice if this could be, you know, contained to the current scale of tragedy.

Folks are always going to pay more attention when the disaster might affect them personally. Human nature.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:18 AM on March 12, 2011


Yokoso reporting large aftershock hitting Sendai and Fukushima.
posted by marsha56 at 5:21 AM on March 12, 2011


That aftershock looked massive, news cameras on Japan TV shaking violently. A commenter on Yokoso's feed said they felt it in Singapore.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:23 AM on March 12, 2011


Hell, I posted about what seemed to be an entire town of 16,000 people being swept out to sea, and nobody batted an eye.

Sky News just broke in to report that with a figure of 9.5k people. That is so horrifyingly hard to take in, I'm pretty sure I didn't even absorb it the first time I read it. It sounds like a made up impossibility. I'm so sorry it isn't.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:28 AM on March 12, 2011


For future reference only, the video I had pointed out above is at a more permanent link here
posted by vacapinta at 5:31 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes please, thanks! Besides, the last time I heard, blowing the top and walls off of a nuclear reactor kills the reactor too.

This represents a misunderstanding of how nuclear reactors work. Blowing the thing to bits or melting it into a pile of slag will not stop the reaction, and is arguably the worst thing that you can possibly happen. (A combination of those two things happened at Chernobyl -- the reaction still hasn't stopped)
posted by schmod at 5:31 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


This site has Yokoso side by side with Japanese TV feeds.
I think they are the same channels he is watching on his monitors.
I don't speak Japanese, so I just mute the other two feeds.
posted by at the crossroads at 5:33 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


As someone with many friends in Japan (mostly accounted for now, thankfully), I've been doing a lot of phoning and skyping and reading for the last couple days... and I just had to pop in here to say that the technical / reactor information in this thread is better than anything else I have read on the internet or seen on television for the last two days.

Who knew that this would be something MeFi did so well?
posted by rokusan at 5:34 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


markkraft: ""The earthquake and tsunami knocked them down, they don't need to be kicked as well."Hell, I posted about what seemed to be an entire town of 16,000 people being swept out to sea, and nobody batted an eye."

Don't misunderstand my comment; the threat of nuclear contamination would be getting kicked while down, but the implied meaning is that Japan is down, and down hard.

No one knows the full extent of the catastrophe, and at this point it looks as though more horrific reports will be made, such as yours.

All I'm saying is that I hope this reactor situation can be dealt with swiftly so that people can get back to helping those devastated by the quake and tsunami.
posted by bwg at 5:36 AM on March 12, 2011


According to the guardian, NHK is reporting a magnitute 6 earthquake in Fukushima at 22.15 Japan time.
posted by Admira at 5:36 AM on March 12, 2011


Yeah, at the crossroads link is better than mine. I would favorite it if I could, but I just ran out of favorites for the day. (sigh...)
posted by marsha56 at 5:40 AM on March 12, 2011


This last aftershock was pretty big. A 6.0 quake on any other day would be news -- today, it's just a footnote.
posted by armage at 5:42 AM on March 12, 2011


A commenter on Yokoso's feed said they felt it in Singapore.

Exceedingly unlikely. Again, I'm as close as you can be to Japan and not actually be in Japan, pretty much, and we've not felt a wobble.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:44 AM on March 12, 2011


The human suffering is immeasurable.

Let us hope that the environmental devastation, whether it's caused by radiation or the billions of tons of non-biodegradable debris, will compel us to re-evaluate our addiction to consumerism and the human-led devastation of the planet that it requires.
posted by mareli at 5:44 AM on March 12, 2011


Not likely.
posted by ryanrs at 5:47 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Japanese TV stations are gradually moving away from news and back towards "news" -- gripping stories of tragedy and hope, backed by dramatic music. Reporters obviously thrilled to be able to ask questions to someone sobbing while looking at a pile of rubble that used to be their house. Now they just need to find a heroic firefighter or self defense force member, and they'll have the hat trick.
posted by Bugbread at 5:48 AM on March 12, 2011


I noticed the same thing, Bugbread. Good (?) to see a sense of normalcy returning to the country, if only in part.
posted by armage at 5:50 AM on March 12, 2011


Okay, good to hear. T'was just a commenter on his feed, so not a totally reliable source. But it sure looked powerful.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:50 AM on March 12, 2011


One thing I was noticing when watching NHK yesterday was how often the reporters 噛んだ - sometimes four or five times in the same sentence, and they didn't apologize for it like they usually do.
posted by emmling at 5:59 AM on March 12, 2011


emmling, care to explain for people unfamiliar with the language or culture?
posted by lizzicide at 6:02 AM on March 12, 2011


I've got a friend staying over because his apartment building is riddled with cracks. We're all pretty nervous, but I think I'm in my element, which is, essentially, trying to calm other people, because it keeps me from realizing how freaked out I am personally. And I've been trying to calm everyone down, then the new Fukushima quake just hit, and we finally just went all out and got ready for whatever. The earthquake kit was just restocked with basically whatever we've got onhand, without worrying if the expiration date is in a couple months, as we might need it tonight. We've all got bags packed, my wife is making rice just so we'll have onigiri in case we do lose power (I've got a couple chicken breasts going. Trust me, chicken onigiri are awesome).

And the thing is, I'm realizing just how fucking panicked we are, and just how fucking ready I am for this shit to stop. I'm tired. I'm nervous. The new Fukushima quake makes me feel like this isn't about to calm down anytime soon. I was vaguely thinking/hoping that the shaking would all be over by tonight, or tomorrow, and things could maybe start to get back to normal.

I will use up my last bit of rational thought here, before I just go bugshit. To all of the people worried about Japan's future, and it's ability to recover, Japan has, economically, been in the toilet for the last twenty years. Construction, which had been a backbone of the economy, has been in the same toilet. Honestly, I think this could have the same effect that war has traditionally had for the u.s. economy. The construction industry is suddenly necessary and vital in a way it hasn't been for years. This is, and will remain, a hideous tragic natural disaster. There is a chance, though, that Japan will come through this stronger than before.

And now I'm going to let myself panic a little.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:03 AM on March 12, 2011 [47 favorites]


Ghidorah- where was your friend's building that was cracked? In my neighborhood (Minato-ku) I cannot see any evidence of a 9.0 M quake.
posted by gen at 6:05 AM on March 12, 2011


Hang in there Ghidorah, we're all pulling for you and all the other Japan MeFites.
posted by bwg at 6:05 AM on March 12, 2011


If any mefites in Japan are looking to flee to relative normalcy as can be found in Kyushu, I'd be willing to help as best as I can, although my apartment is relatively miniscule. It feels so weird to me that this is the same big but not too big country that I am living in, as everything is going pretty much as usual here.
posted by that girl at 6:09 AM on March 12, 2011


Would somebody mind whipping up a linklist (to post in this thread or on a Wiki) of comments of interest in this thread, so that I might link to it elsewhere? In other words, this thread is getting a bit unweildy, but, as it is a fantastic source of information (esp. wrt the reactor, links to feeds, photos, etc.) it would be nice to have a meta-organised point of reference for people to jump into it and navigate within ... especially for non-MeFite friends, family and lurkers who might want to read the good bits in here, but are unfamiliar with the site and overwhelmed by the massive wall of text.

(I would do it myself, but I don't have the time and I didn't favorite comments consistently, so I'd have to reread the whole thread and I'm barely keeping up as it is!)

Also, thank you to everybody here. This truly is an amazing community of people helping, caring and informing. And most of all, comforting.

Personal anecdote: I remember sometime around 1997, there was a huge earthquake in California. It woke me up violently and I stayed awake the whole night through, terrified and shivering in my bed, listening to the radio (which was broadcasting stories of alien abductions; that didn't help). I had nobody to call and I felt so alone. It was one of the worst nights of my life. I just longed to connect to another human, but I was too scared to leave the house. To hear a voice from somewhere, anywhere would have been such a relief. I wish MeFi had existed; I wish I'd known about this place through the many disasters that I've personally and collectively weathered through in the decade since.

There are many people out there, just wandering the internet, seeking out an echo. Which is why I am so grateful for each and every one of the voices heard here; it is because all of you that my tears aren't those solely of sadness, but also joy and comfort. Keep on.

posted by iamkimiam at 6:09 AM on March 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


"This represents a misunderstanding of how nuclear reactors work. Blowing the thing to bits or melting it into a pile of slag will not stop the reaction..."

Actually, your comment represents a misunderstanding of basic logic.

Large parts of the area outside of the core blew up. Last I heard, that makes a nuclear plant unsafe to operate, to the point that it's basically a complete write off. And if you know you've got a complete write-off on your hands, then what you can do that's most effective to stop the reaction -- even if it destroys the nuclear plant -- is suddenly on the table.

As Cringely wrote, the nuclear plant had "a huge plumbing system that was likely compromised and vulnerable" after the quake. It seems likely that some of the pipes burst, but that containment was still maintained on the core.

The whole gradual venting of steam idea was, in reflection, an unwise half-measure, trying to save a plant that likely should've been written off entirely from a safety standpoint. It made it through over 40 years, existing into the modern age with outdated cooling technology that, tragically, required working pumps to maintain.

Does Japan need the power? Sure, it could use it... but I disagree with Cringely. I think we'll see old, somewhat dangerous nuclear power plants -- as many as can be somewhat justified -- staying online for a few years, perhaps at diminished output, only to be replaced by a whole bunch of new plants with newer safety standards. It'll be a gamble, but then again, not having power for their people isn't much of an option.
posted by markkraft at 6:10 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah, sending you lots of internet hugs! Take good care of yourself. Get some rest when you can. Thanks for all your posts here. It's good for all of us on the other side of the planet to get a feel for what so many are going through.
posted by marsha56 at 6:10 AM on March 12, 2011


Chiba-chuo. Old, old building. Where I live, in Inage, and Chiba Chuo registed at lower five on the Shindo scale. Not fun. Getting fucking tired of this.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:11 AM on March 12, 2011


Everyone in Japan, we're rooting for you.
posted by arcticseal at 6:11 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a chance, though, that Japan will come through this stronger than before.

There's more than just a chance - it's nearly the only certain bet in this thread.

Life will go on. Japan will be rebuilding and back to living in the future before we know it. And we'll all grow and adapt from this, not just Japan.

Be safe, and go forth and kick ass. The world has your back.
posted by loquacious at 6:12 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ghidorah--if it's any consolation, I'm going bugfuck, too. The constant aftershocks are freaking me out, even though it's unlikely we'll get another Big One. It ain't over yet, but you're not the only one.
posted by zardoz at 6:13 AM on March 12, 2011


Well, I'm off to bed.
posted by Bugbread at 6:18 AM on March 12, 2011


And, yeah, they're now showing multiple clips of people being reunited with lost dogs on the news here. I dunno if the worst is over, but the TV stations are definitely returning to normal.
posted by Bugbread at 6:20 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stumbling over your words is rather a big deal here, especially if you're on TV. On non-news shows, if you misspeak (the word in Japanese is 噛む - kamu - to bite/chew, to stumble over your words) they make fun of you. On the news, the announcer tends to apologize and then say it properly and continue with the news story. Most of the time announcers don't kamu so hearing that many mistakes without any mention of it was strange.

Life in Kansai is normal, so if any of you are needing a break, I've got a spare futon.
posted by emmling at 6:21 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm off to bed, too, I hope there aren't any big goddamn earthquakes to wake me up.

The footage I've watched today is mind-blowing. Forget Kobe, this outdistances Kobe by a mile. This is Japan's biggest disaster since WWII.
posted by zardoz at 6:21 AM on March 12, 2011


The news is returning to normal, all right.

This video report by CNN kind of pisses me off.

Maybe it's time I hit the sack too, before I blow a gasket.
posted by bwg at 6:24 AM on March 12, 2011


Folks who skipped over it: flapjax' earthquake on the 22nd floor clip is another one of those extra-vivid "you are there and horrified" experiences.
posted by mediareport at 6:36 AM on March 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Judit Kawaguchi
# town of 17,000 seems to have only 3 buildings standing, hospital, some wedding place and one more building. rest are gone. #japan about 2 hours ago via web
# This town in Miyagi prefecture is just gone, incredible devastation, all buidlings except hospital are gone, highway in pieces., ppl missing about 2 hours ago via web
# Minamisanrikucho town is the name, 10,000 ppl missing. horrible, whole town is gone. highway broken into bits, in mud, all mud, all gone
posted by adamvasco at 6:38 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's time I hit the sack too

BREAKING NEWS: Reports are coming in from an overpressurized Big White Guy in Hong Kong that's threatening to blow a gasket. Crisis response teams are standing by with gallons of cold beer in an attempt to cool the core of the BWG before a gasket breach... uh, sorry. I should probably sleep, too.
posted by loquacious at 6:41 AM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Deep breaths, everybody. Remember on 9/11, when the networks started reporting that over ten thousand people had been killed? Please, don't panic based on unattributed IRC comments.
posted by steambadger

everybody take a deep breath
posted by philip-random

So my suggestion is that people in the US take a deep breath.
posted by joost de vries
Not to sound alarmist but AIRBORNE CONTAMINANTS ARE POTENTIALLY SLOUCHING THEIR WAY TOWARD MY HEMISPHERE AND YOU'RE ALL ASKING ME TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH?!

OK, that sounded alarmist
posted by mazola at 6:45 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Not to sound alarmist but AIRBORNE CONTAMINANTS ARE POTENTIALLY SLOUCHING THEIR WAY TOWARD MY HEMISPHERE AND YOU'RE ALL ASKING ME TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH?!

Relax. Here, have a cigarette.
posted by loquacious at 6:48 AM on March 12, 2011 [20 favorites]


> Yes please, thanks! Besides, the last time I heard, blowing the top and walls off of a nuclear reactor kills the reactor too.

> This represents a misunderstanding of how nuclear reactors work.

> Actually, your comment represents a misunderstanding of basic logic.

markkraft and schmod, are you perhaps talking at cross purposes rather than disagreeing so much? markfraft you're talking about "killing the reactor" in the sense of it ever being useful for the generation of power again? And schmod you're talking about "killing the reactor" in the sense of the nuclear fusion no longer happening? Yes?
posted by adamt at 6:49 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]




How a Nuclear Plant Works.
posted by ericb at 6:54 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, which opposes nuclear energy, told msnbc.com Friday that TEPCO was facing a potential catastrophe.

"What's critical is, are they able to restore cooling and prevent fuel damage? If the fuel starts to get damaged, eventually it will melt through the reactor vessel and drop to the floor of the containment building," raising the odds that highly radioactive materials could be released into the environment, he said.

But Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the U.S.-based Nuclear Energy Institute, said that while the situation was serious, a meltdown remains unlikely and, even if it occurred would not necessarily pose a threat to public health and safety.

"Obviously that wouldn't be a good thing, but at Three Mile Island about half the core melted and, at the end of the day … there were no adverse impacts to the public," he said. *
posted by ericb at 7:00 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


possible liquefaction

Correction: Very obvious and remarkable liquefaction on reclaimed coastal landfill land in Chiba City. I didn't make it to the end of the video before posting the link. Of all the quake videos I've watched today ever in my life, that one is the most surreal and strange. (And relatively harmless/anxiety free.)
posted by loquacious at 7:06 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's an eerie video, loq. It's one thing to watch videos of buildings shake and sway, but watching cracks in the earth narrow and widen just blew my mind.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:09 AM on March 12, 2011


Holy shit ... that video is wild. Yeah ... the Marina District in the 1989 San Francisco earthquake was hit hard due to liquefaction, as it sits on landfill. If Boston were to have an earthquake, much of the city would be affected, since Back Bay, the South End, etc. is all land fill ... not to mention the amount of brick-and-mortar construction used here. Brick buildings crumble easily. New England sits on a fault. As a matter of fact, the Cape Ann quake of November 1755 was estimated at a magnitude of 6.2.
posted by ericb at 7:16 AM on March 12, 2011


七転八起
Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight.
posted by tommasz at 7:22 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Words, I have none.
posted by klue at 7:27 AM on March 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have to go bleach my monitor after that
posted by troll on a pony at 7:30 AM on March 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


Klue, holy fuck. That's crazy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:31 AM on March 12, 2011


That was awful.
posted by gen at 7:31 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by zerbinetta at 7:33 AM on March 12, 2011


klue, wow. I wish I'd never seen that. And I was actually getting excited about being able to go home for a short trip.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:34 AM on March 12, 2011


Wow, you were able to find reprehensible comments from a few douchebags on the internet. Congratulations?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:34 AM on March 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


> Not to sound alarmist but AIRBORNE CONTAMINANTS ARE POTENTIALLY SLOUCHING THEIR WAY TOWARD MY HEMISPHERE AND YOU'RE ALL ASKING ME TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH?!

A gentle reminder to our friends on the west coast of North America: In the worst-case scenario (which is not happening), the only direction you can go is downwind. Please consider that before acting on your instincts to flee.
posted by ardgedee at 7:34 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Words, I have none.
posted by klue at 9:27 AM on March 12 [1 favorite +] [!]


OMG. Sick, twisted. And I bet they would all claim to be Christians. Where's a WWJD bracelet when you need one?
posted by marsha56 at 7:38 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where's a WWJD bracelet when you need one?

I challenge anyone to find a passage in the Gospels where Jesus gloats over other people's misfortunes.
posted by tommasz at 7:42 AM on March 12, 2011


Words, I have none.
posted by klue at 9:27 AM on March 12 [1 favorite +] [!]


I have words for the people in that link.

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

If you know what I mean. And I know you do.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:42 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nice derail, klue.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:43 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


what a weird awful trend. as a non-psychologist, I wonder if this is an ugly manifestation of a) compassion fatigue and/or b) increasing isolationism
posted by angrycat at 7:43 AM on March 12, 2011


tommasz, there is no such passage, as you knew. In fact, for those who want to judge others' misfortunes, He DID say the following:

1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

(from Luke 13, if anyone is interested.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:45 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


That video was surreal. The guy shooting it seems to waver somewhere between fascination and boyish glee, and he gets quite a few shit-eating grins on camera from his co-workers. No idea if I would or wouldn't respond in the same way though.

I think making light of a situation and joking about it is a fairly common defence mechanism at times of stress.
posted by chill at 7:45 AM on March 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


And now let's spend the next half-hour talking about the .00005% of Americans who actually believe that Japan is suffering this tragedy as a result of karmic backlash from Pearl Harbor.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:46 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


That popped up in the Something Awful thread too, there isn't much to say. America is a nation of 300 million people 27% of whom are crazy right wingers. It doesn't represent the rest of the country. Japan is pretty well admired in American culture, especially among young people who don't know anyone who fought in a war 70 years ago.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:47 AM on March 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I came here for the smart.
posted by mazola at 7:47 AM on March 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


Words, I have none.

The thing is, based on the language, everyone posting about Pearl Harbour was born 50 years later. It's not like we've stumbled upon a nursing home filled with old racists; this is a bunch of people who have been affected by Pearl Harbour in no conceivable way.
posted by dflemingecon at 7:48 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


So based on layperson newsjunkie status I think the following incompressible news stories are unfolding:
-an extreme loss of life from the tsunami with whole towns sucked out to sea and tens of thousands missing
-multiple damage reports from the quake and aftershocks including fires from kerosene heaters
-two separate nuclear sites with multiple reactors are having problems one of the reactors at one site has had some kind of explosion. Expert reaction ranges from this is very bad to we don't know yet how bad.
posted by humanfont at 7:49 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can we get back on track please?
posted by futz at 7:49 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


On a more productive note, is the Red Cross going to do what they did for Haiti and have a way for people to give by texting from their phones?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:49 AM on March 12, 2011


Here is a map detailing how long the fallout will take to get to the US and where people will have to evacuate from.


It's fake, just trying to change the subject.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:50 AM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got in a taxi today, and to my surprise the driver, although Panjabi, was a devout evangelical born-again Christian who proceeded to proselytize me immediately. It was all about how Japan was the beginning of the End Times and Jeremiah this and Revelations that and how I had my last chance now to find Jesus before it all came down. Weird as hell in a Panjabi accent I'd expect to be preaching the virtues of submission to the prophet. Perfectly friendly, utterly insane.

I was looking at 20 minutes on the West Side Highway with this shit, and Japan very much on my mind.

I rarely do this, but I told him I was a non-believer with dear friends in Japan and would he please shut up and just drive.

He took the hint. I tipped him rather well. I just wasn't in an ethnographic mood today.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:51 AM on March 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


Oh, and the remark that triggered my ire was something about how the Japanese worship idols and were paying the price.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:51 AM on March 12, 2011


St. Alia: Yes, text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. More information is here: Redcross.org
posted by lizzicide at 7:52 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have to leave for a little while. But, I just want to apologize for participating in that derail. Flue's intentions were good, but I can see how that's not what we should be doing here. And I do sincerely regret feeling the need to jump in and thereby further getting off track. A learning experience. I'll do my best to be more thoughtful in the future.
posted by marsha56 at 7:55 AM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just tuned into my local AM radio Saturday Swap Shop here in eastern North Carolina for a bit of something different. You know, those local yard-sale shows where Robby's got a dishwasher for $50 OBO... First thing I hear is someone calling in to relay a message to Megan that her brother in Japan is about 80 miles from Fukushima but is currently fine. Wasn't expecting that.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:57 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shit. Can't believe I'm participating in this derail. BUT, the tweet that launched the "if you feel bad about the tsunami, google Pearl Harbor death toll" came from comedy writer Alec Sulkin handle @thesulk. He has written and produced episodes of Family Guy, is (was) the boyfriend of Sara Silverman, and is followed by many prominent actors/writers/directors/producers. His wikipedia page has already been hacked and someone has produced a highly editorialized opinion about the tweet. I've done my uber small part and tweeted to Patton Oswalt to get him to unfollow this douche. If we can get some highly prominent people to rebuke and unfollow this guy, perhaps he will take the hint and remove the post from his wall and offer an apology.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:03 AM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the thing is, I'm realizing just how fucking panicked we are, and just how fucking ready I am for this shit to stop.

Ghidorah--if it's any consolation, I'm going bugfuck, too.

Gidorah, zardoz, and any other Tokyo-area mefites: I'm scheduled to be in Yokosuka at the end of April/first week of May and will gladly buy you the libation of your choice. The natural disasters I've lived through were weather-related so they were over when the winds died down. The idea of aftershocks going on for days has got to be mind-blowing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you folks in Japan.
posted by Runes at