24 Hours at Fukushima
November 4, 2011 4:37 PM   Subscribe

As part of their special report Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Power, the IEEE has published 24 Hours at Fukushima, chronicling the events that turned a disaster into a catastrophe, and detailing what might have been done to prevent them.
posted by ob1quixote (20 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I gotta question a part of the "24 Hours" piece's logic. They criticize the Japanese government's withholding of information, saying "And in the absence of information, the panicked public began to associate all nuclear power with horror and radiation nightmares." So the conclusion would be that if more information had been released, the public wouldn't have panicked as much. And then the article describes the mindblowing clusterfuck that was taking place in the first 24 hours. I can tell you this, if I had been in Japan and I had gotten a play-by-play like that, I would have been halfway to Greenland by Day 2.

I think the public associates nuclear power with horror and radiation nightmares because of all the horror and radiation nightmares that keep happening at nuclear power plants.
posted by facetious at 4:50 PM on November 4, 2011 [8 favorites]

Scientist Marco Kaltofen Presents Data Confirming Hot Particles
Washington, DC - October 31, 2011 – Today Scientist Marco Kaltofen of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) presented his analysis of radioactive isotopic releases from the Fukushima accidents at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Mr. Kaltofen’s analysis confirms the detection of hot particles in the US and the extensive airborne and ground contamination in northern Japan due to the four nuclear power plant accidents at TEPCO’s Fukushima reactors. Fairewinds believes that this is a personal health issue in Japan and a public health issue in the United States and Canada.
posted by finite at 5:23 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is apparently more info about the criticality in Unit 2 and the fallout situation now too.

Also, India has plans to build a thorium reactor of the heavy water variety, as opposed to molten salt.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:39 PM on November 4, 2011

I would dearly love to see a Fukushima follow-up post that lays out the facts for how bad the situation truly is.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:40 PM on November 4, 2011

I would dearly love to see a Fukushima follow-up post that lays out the facts for how bad the situation truly is.

Well I made this post earlier this month that takes a stab at it.

IAEA Mission on remediation of large contaminated areas off-site the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP with a summary overview.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:33 PM on November 4, 2011

MEXT has also published a map with fallout levels. There are two maps at the link. The one on the left is an interactive map. The one on the right is a PDF. With the interactive map, click it; on the destination page, scroll down to the bottom and click the button on the left that says 同意 (I accept).
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 PM on November 4, 2011

Fukushima China Syndrome. Hard to guage how true this is.
posted by stbalbach at 8:00 PM on November 4, 2011

Atomic Power Review is a well-informed blog that follows Fukushima in detail.
posted by stbalbach at 8:05 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Fukushima China Syndrome clip is several months old. It's really hard to tell what's happening on-site, as there is almost no reporting these days (this lack of reporting curiously coincides with Kan's departure as prime minister).
posted by KokuRyu at 8:12 PM on November 4, 2011

Here's an interesting primer on how nuclear power companies make "donations" to local governments.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:12 PM on November 4, 2011

Wouldn't you say the America, or really Uruguay, Syndrome in Japan?
posted by jeffburdges at 8:26 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's evidence of small fission reactions taking place at Fukushima reactor no. 2.
posted by eye of newt at 12:08 AM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

"The rest of Fukushima Dai-ichi now faced a cataclysmic scenario that nuclear power plant operators have long feared but never experienced: a complete station blackout."

I believe previous discussions on MeFi had reached agreement that this was the crux of the system failure; no electricity = loss of reactor control.

"As the operators surveyed the damage, they quickly realized that the diesel generators couldn't be salvaged and that external power wouldn't be restored anytime soon. In the plant's parking lots, workers raised car hoods, grabbed the batteries, and lugged them back to the control rooms. They found cables in storage rooms and studied diagrams. If they could connect the batteries to the instrument panels, they could at least determine the water levels in the pressure vessels."

This had to be the most surreal and desperate moment of these operators lives. I imagine each of them, alone, unbolting their battery terminals, and turning to return into the plant, lugging a battery that was simultaneously heavy and obviously a puny possible contribution, insignificant in scale but perhaps crucial in time.
posted by dglynn at 4:07 AM on November 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

The Non-Battle of Fukushima …

Cold shutdown is an abstract (advertising) concept unrelated to conditions in the destroyed reactors at Fukushima.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:32 AM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Now that it's been a week and there isn't much activity on this thread anymore, I have something to say, especially to the Fukushima thread participants living in Japan among the people marking this as a favorite: I was wrong. I'm sorry.

I'm not in the nuclear reactor operation trade, but I could see myself doing that job. It's an awesome responsibility, and I just presumed that the kind of people who would accept it have a mindset like mine. Were I in that field, I could see myself having a ritual saying just like I do now, except instead of it being about a scratch monkey, it would be something like, No matter what, the reactor must come first. No matter what, I owe it to myself, my coworkers, and my countrymen that this reactor be operated safely. No matter what, I must do so. No matter what. (cf. The Roads Must Roll)

In the weeks that followed the Tohoku disaster, I unwittingly carried water for METI, TEPCO, et al. because it just never occurred to me that the people in charge would sit on their hands long enough for the situation to get out of control. I just couldn't envision a situation where the powers-that-be could know an a hour after the waters started to recede that without electricity, they would lose control of the reaction, the emergency backup generators were stuck in traffic and weren't going to make it, and the boss wouldn't then get on the horn to everyone in a thousand mile radius asking, Who can airlift generators to Dai-ichi right now? We'll lose the reactor without them!

This article makes it clear that yes, they didn't know how bad it really was until much later, but they knew it was much, much worse than they were telling people at the time. To the point where I was having arguments about the semantics of whether or not all the criteria for a given level of nuclear emergency were a necessary precondition for an incident being classified at that level, while Reactor #1 was dropping its core on the floor. Even ten days later I was naively assuming they wouldn't just pump seawater through the compromised and contaminated reactor vessel and let it run back out into the ocean. All of which now, in the cold light of day, was just wrong. They totally did do all those things no-one-would-ever-do and worse besides.

Despite any arguments I made or supported to the contrary, it is now clear the nuclear disaster at Fukushima is at least as bad as—if not worse than—Chernobyl. Hence, I must apologize, especially to those living in Japan who might have been misled and therefore potentially harmed by my naive optimism and typical engineer's can do attitude. I was wrong. I am very sorry.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2011 [5 favorites]

Cesium levels hit tens of billions of becquerels at river mouth

A joint study by Kyoto University and the University of Tsukuba, among other entities, estimated that water at the mouth of the Abukumagawa river running through the prefecture was contaminated with cesium levels of about 50 billion becquerels a day.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:05 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

A new analysis of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi indicates more extensive melting probably occurred at unit 1 than previously thought, although the predicted status of units 2 and 3 remains about the same.

The bulk of unit 1's nuclear fuel went through the bottom of the reactor vessel as well as about 70 centimetres of the drywell concrete below, according to the analysis released today

The extensive fuel damage means that injected water becomes highly contaminated, while holes in the pressure vessels allow this to accumulate in the building basements.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2011

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