Fukushima – A Disaster Waiting In The Wings?

Should we be concerned at the latest news of a hike in the severity level at the Fukushima nuclear generating plant to 7, bringing it on a par with Chernobyl?

Chernobyl Reactor Building

We can all remember what happened at the Russian plant, but the experts tell us there is no danger of a repeat. Now that is reassuring news, certainly to the Japanese, and probably for the rest of us too.

The whole episode however leaves me with some questions, most important of which is, why was a nuclear plant built on the coast in an earthquake/tsunami zone? Reactor One was opened in July 1967, and since then another five have been built on the same site.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/Noqk78bjE-Q

The Cause Of A Tsunami

It is safe to assume that we did not know as much in 1967 as we do now about earthquakes and the effects, but even so, it seems to me the Japanese were taking a big chance in building such a facility right on the sea shore.

I can well imagine their desire to have a ready supply of water for cooling the reactor, but then surely, better precautions should have been taken to protect the installation against the possibility of a tsunami.

The Tsunami Strikes

History has shown us on many occasions that earthquakes under the sea cause tsunami’s, so it should be obvious, even in 1967, that the site would be prone to just such an event.

I freely admit, I am no nuclear scientist or structural engineer, but it seems to me that building such a plant on the coast at Fukushima, knowing the possibilities, should have received more attention.

The main difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima is that in the former accident the reactor vessel ruptured, releasing large amounts of radioactivity into the atmosphere, whereas in the latter, this did not happen and the reactor vessel remained intact. Contrary to popular opinion, there is never a chance of a nuclear explosion at a nuclear power plant, even if meltdown does occur.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/Z69rtx3YlE0

Fukushima Reactor

Each reactor at the Fukushima plant has a secondary containment vessel which is designed to prevent the release of radioactive particles into the atmosphere even in the event of a reactor containment vessel breach. This was not the case at Chernobyl and indeed, very few Russian plants had such a safety facility (lessons learned).

Furthermore, The Chernobyl reactor was ‘fired up’ at the time of the accident while experiments were carried out on the power generators for the emergency cooling system. At Fukushima the reactor shut-down automatically when the earthquake was detected.

Typical Reactor Cooling System Generator

It would seem that the problems began at Fukushima when the various backup cooling pumps, that supply the core with water to keep it from overheating, lost power when the tsunami destroyed the generators supplying the pumps. It would appear that perhaps more protection should have been given to these vital components.

Fukushima Damage

The disaster at Fukushima, though of natural causes, does indicate that more attention must be given to the siting of nuclear power plants, especially in earthquake prone countries around the famous ‘Ring of Fire’ bordering the Pacific. It indicates that all nuclear plants should be inspected to see what improvements can be made to the operating systems when a natural disaster strikes, and most specifcally, protection of the cooling apparatus.

Anyone wishing for a simple straight-forward explanation of the events at Fukushima should visit the following site:

http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation/

Its all well and good for armchair ‘experts’ to give their opinions, and as we all know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I should hope that some valuable lessons have been learned from this disaster and steps are taken to see such an event is never repeated.

Fukushima Heros

In the meantime, we should not forget the brave men and women who have been working tirelessly to prevent a major disaster at Fukushima at the risk of their own well-being. I salute you!

One thing is sure, we are a long way from doing away with our nuclear power plants despite all the hype that has been generated, for until the scientists come up with something better we are stuck with it. At this moment in time we have no other way of keeping up with the ever increasing demands for power.

Roy. 

One Response to “Fukushima – A Disaster Waiting In The Wings?”

  1. That is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!|

    Like

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