Originally Posted by NA6C-Guy
Chernobyl style as in a large section of land around the site being closed off, whether a serious danger is present or not, I doubt the government would allow residence in that zone. Even without an actual meltdown, there is still minor radiation leakage, which will probably keep the surround area abandoned at least for a little while.
Oh Noes! Radiation! We'll all be killed!
Actually, the fact that there has been a release of radiation strongly supports the theory that a meltdown has already occurred at Units 1, 2 and 3 at Fukushima-I.
I still don't see why this would leave any land uninhabitable.
Chernobyl just isn't a reasonable comparison here. What happened at that plant was that the core itself- the container housing the actual fuel rods- exploded. It was a steam explosion (not a nuclear explosion) caused by a massive power excursion while the reactor was operating
, and it was really all down to the physical design of the thing. Not only was there no containment building, but there was no actual reactor vessel in the sense that we think of them. No sealed stainless steel kettle, just a huge hole in the ground lined with concrete. I'm not taking poetic license here. The RBMK-class reactors literally consisted of a big hole in the ground filled with graphite and plutonium, with a large shed constructed over top of it to keep the rain out.
Regardless, the fact is that at Chernobyl, the explosion of the core caused a substantial quantity of plutonium and all sorts of nasty fission products to be ejected out of the core and scattered all over the town of Prypiat and the other areas which now constitute the Zone of Alienation.
That simply cannot happen here.
I sort of hinted at this in my last post, but the fact is that the events at Three Mile Island unit 2 (TMI-2) in March of 1979 still seem hugely parallel to what's going on right now in Japan. In both cases, a loss of feedwater led to what is known as a LOCA: Loss Of Coolant Accident.
In the TMI-2 accident, the water level dropped below the top of the fuel rods, causing the degradation of the cladding of the rods (which released radioactive isotopes into the water surrounding the core) followed by the melting of the upper portion of the fuel bundles. As designed, the molten fuel fell to the bottom of the reactor vessel, where it stopped.
At this point, of course, the pressure inside the containment building was getting deliriously high from all the steam that had been blasting out of the top of the pressurizer, and there was a lot of gaseous hydrogen building up inside the dome (this is a byproduct of the cladding on the fuel rods decomposing in the presence of steam) and so they did the only reasonable thing- they vented the containment building. No filtration, no preparation, they just opened the valves and let it all blow outside. Lots of steam, bearing lots of airborne radioactive isotopes.
After all was said and done, do you know how large of an area was permanently sealed off? A few hundred square yards. All of it sitting under the containment building. The airborne contamination dispersed, the panic subsided, and life went back to normal. After all of the investigations and lawsuits were done, they even restarted the #1 reactor (located a few hundred feet from unit 2) and it continues to operate to this day. In 2009, they extended its operating license for another 20 years, so it's currently set to keep going through at least 2034.
All in all, it seems like a pretty good script for what's going on right now over in Japanland. They lost cooling for an extended period of time, and all indications (from the present level and composition of airborne radioactive isotopes) suggest that the cores did become uncovered, that the fuel cladding did decompose, and that a meltdown has probably already taken place at all three affected reactors. (If true, this is actually kind of cool- the first time in history that multiple meltdowns have occurred simultaneously under any circumstances. Whole textbooks are going to be written about this.)
The point is that assuming Godzilla doesn't show up, this is probably about as bad as it's likely to get. If the reactor core had been breached, it'd be pretty damn obvious. And assuming that they keep that seawater flowing into the vessel for the next few days until decay heat production drops to passive shutdown levels, the reactors should stabilize in their current configurations, and in a few years they'll be able to drop cameras down into them and we'll know for sure what actually happened over the weekend.
But I just see no plausible scenario in which any area larger than the power plant itself need be closed off to the general public for more than a few weeks.
Originally Posted by y8s
nuclear power technology is already set back 30 years.
First, thanks for the link. I'd already read that article, but it may be of use to others. Also, for those who care, here is a really fascinating (and very thorough) analysis of the events leading into and immediately following the TMI-2 meltdown: http://www.engineering.com/Library/A...le-Island.aspx
It's lengthy, but if you are at all interested in things like reliability and human-factors engineering, it's a hell of a good read.
As for 30 years already happening? Well, yeah. That was my point. After TMI, mass hysteria and media hype pretty much shut down the industry. It's only been within the past few years that we've started to get over our fears and think about getting back on track with the only clean, reliable, fully domestic source of power that actually has the ability to sustain our power needs (at our present and projected levels of consumption) for the foreseeable future.
And now this happens.
Yeah, it'd be great if everyone just decided to become more power conscious, but the reality is that it just ain't so. If anything, the demands on our grid are going to skyrocket if EVs and plugin hybrids gain mass acceptance. Replacing your light bulbs with CFLs and putting your PC into hibernation when you're not using it won't even make a dent in what your car is going to suck out of the wall as you sleep. Not to mention the fact that we've got whole segments of humanity in regions like China and India who are just now becoming able to move into fancy apartments in the city with streetlights, air conditioning and electric washing machines. If we don't start building more nukes now, then Mad Max ain't far off.