unclear nuclear: getting the story right

To understand the hype and FUD going on with the Japanese nuclear headlines, see Fukushima Nuclear Accident – a simple and accurate explanation.

Along with reliable sources such as the IAEA and WNN updates, there is an incredible amount of misinformation and hyperbole flying around the internet and media right now about the Fukushima nuclear reactor situation.

There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity.

The earthquake that hit Japan was 7 times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for … So the first hooray for Japanese engineering, everything held up.

The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. That is one of the most serious accidents for a nuclear power plant, and accordingly, a “plant black out” receives a lot of attention when designing backup systems.

Things were going well for an hour … Then the Tsunami came, much bigger than people had expected when building the power plant

When designing a nuclear power plant, engineers follow a philosophy called “Defense of Depth”. That means that you first build everything to withstand the worst catastrophe you can imagine, and then design the plant in such a way that it can still handle one system failure (that you thought could never happen) after the other. A tsunami taking out all backup power in one swift strike is such a scenario. The last line of defense is putting everything into the third containment (see above), that will keep everything, whatever the mess, control rods in our out, core molten or not, inside the reactor.

If you want to stay informed, please forget the usual media outlets and consult the following websites:

The use of seawater to cool the systems is noted in this discussion as being a rather last ditch effort. Such a tactic prevented significant core melting at the expense of polluting all of the hardware. One reasonable idea for this tactic was that the plants were already past a planned decommission date so the cleanup seawater would normally require would not be needed as this event just finalized the decommission schedule.

The media is in full flower on nuclear FUD mongering. Bets are already being placed on how the anti nuclear anything crowd will use this event to further their cause. The fact of no significant injury except for those resulting from diminished energy resources will be shoveled under the rug and the many thousands of dead and injured by those same forces of nature that disabled the plant will also be set aside to suit ideological purposes. That will be a tragedy to compound the disaster if it occurs as many seem to think based on what they have seen in times past.

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