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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Nuclear Power Plant Reactor Meltdown: Now We Know

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

After musing about the implications of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, I realized that the facility experienced at least one or more reactor core meltdowns.  Remember "The China Syndrome" with Jane Fonda, which postulated that such a meltdown would burn its way through the Earth to China?  And the brutal irony of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurring just as the movie opened?  Don't forget that the Chernobyl accident didn't send a destructive nuclear pile through the Earth either.  So what of the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear reactor core meltdown(s)?

Now we know.  Nothing of particular interest.  Now don't get me wrong, the Fukushima disaster was my worst nightmare as a pronuclear advocate.  In fact, I could not have imagined the scenario of THREE reactor buildings exploding and the resulting images being broadcast all over the world.  But those were hydrogen explosions and not nuclear explosions that are exemplified by fission or fission/fusion bomb explosions.  Note the distinction.  The meltdown(s) elevated the temperatures in the containment buildings to the extent that the hydrogen and oxygen in the water separated and the hydrogen encountered a heat source that ignited it.



But to the point: of what would happen if a nuclear reactor melted down?  Evidently, not much.  Now fission products and other nuclear radiation were spewed into the atmosphere due to the HYDROGEN explosion.  EPA even detected elevated levels of radiation at its monitoring stations on the west coast.  However, the meltdown did not 'melt to China,' nor did it destroy Japan. The radioactive contamination that has rendered a 12-mile zone around the facility is very serious, however, that is due more to the hydrogen explosions than the core meltdown(s).  The bottom line is that the core MELTDOWN(S) did not destroy Japan or the local area around the facility.  This worst of nucleaer nightmare scenarios has educated those of us who support nuclear power that maintaining cooling at the plant(s) is of utmost importance.

The Center has aggressively challenged the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) handling of the post tsunami disaster.  We called for the resignation of the president of TEPCO (and he resigned) and we continue to call for the resignation of Japan's prime minister because of his mismanagement of the aftermath of the tsuanmi disaster.  They should have sealed the site immediately after they realized that they lost control of the cooling systems.  Instead, TEPCO continues to fruitlessly attempt to reclaim the site.  This is insanity and represents the worst inclination of big business to navel gaze.  The brilliant are blowing it.  Seal the site.  Seal it now.  You should have sealed it before the hydrogen explosions.  The disaster was an unfortunate Act of God, but the TEPCO and Japanese government responses continue to be ridiculous.

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