Update: Are Japan’s Nuclear Particles A Threat To West Coast?
Here are updates on Japan’s nuclear emergency. Please note, Asheham Press is cautious of violating copyright or other copyrighted material.
UPDATE: MARCH 15, 2011: NEW YORK TIMES: SEPARATE POST ON THIS ARTICLE. HERE ARE KEY EXCERPTS
The pools, which sit on the top level of the reactor buildings and keep spent fuel submerged in water, have lost their cooling systems and the Japanese have been unable to take emergency steps because of the multiplying crises.
The pools are a worry at the stricken reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant because at least two of the reactors have lost their roofs in explosions, exposing the spent fuel pools to the atmosphere. By contrast, reactors have strong containment vessels that stand a better chance of bottling up radiation from a meltdown of the fuel in the reactor core.
If any of the spent fuel rods in the pools do indeed catch fire, nuclear experts say, the high heat would loft the radiation in clouds that would spread the radioactivity.
A 1997 study by the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island described a worst-case disaster from uncovered spent fuel in a reactor cooling pool. It estimated 100 quick deaths would occur within a range of 500 miles and 138,000 eventual deaths.
The study also found that land over 2,170 miles would be contaminated and damages would hit $546 billion.
That section of the Brookhaven study focused on boiling water reactors — the kind at the heart of the Japanese crisis.
If the spent fuel is a few months old, most of the iodine 131 — one of the most dangerous radioactive byproducts in spent fuel — will have decayed into harmless forms.
But the cesium 137 in the spent fuel has a half-life of 30 years, meaning it would take about two centuries to diminish its levels of radioactivity down to 1 percent.
It is cesium 137 that still contaminates much land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor, which suffered a meltdown in 1986.
“I assume they are doing triage,” Mr. Lochbaum said of the Japanese, with emergency personnel first trying to avoid core meltdowns and then turning their attention to the cooling pools.
He added that the explosions at the reactors at Daiichi could complicate efforts to try to reach the cooling pools and keep them filled with water.
ASHEHAM NOTE: The question is IF the radiation spreads to the Pacific Ocean will it be a threat to Hawaii which is 3850 miles from Japan or the West Coast by way of the jet stream? And how about the environmental effects on fish and birds and the ocean’s ecology?
UPDATE: 2:25 PM PST: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD: Radiation from nuclear plants damaged in Japan’s earthquake is unlikely to reach US territory in harmful amounts, US nuclear officials say.
“Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the US Territories and the US west coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity,” the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a statement on Sunday.
“All the available information indicates weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea away from the population,” the statement read.
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The office also said it sent two boiling-water reactor experts as part of a US Agency for International Development (USAID) emergency team helping respond to the crisis in Japan.
The NRC is coordinating with the US Department of Energy and other federal agencies in providing “whatever assistance the Japanese government requests” as they respond to conditions at several nuclear power plant sites following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the statement read.
UPDATE 9:35 PM PST: LIVE CNN WORLD WEATHER: I just listened to a “weather” style report on CNN. The reporter discussed the nuclear reactor meltdown scenario. The bottom line was IF there was a “major meltdown” this would propel radiation into the atmosphere and would “affect the entire world.” There was no other comments and the reporter did not elaborate as to the effects.
UPDATE 10:15 PM PST: LIVE CNN WORLD WEATHER: I just listened to an expert describe possible scenarios due to radiation release into the atmosphere. Locally, for Japan, the concern is for black rain. This is where radiation in the air and clouds combine with rain and the rain will fall onto the ground where it would contaminate people and the soil and other areas. There was no commentary about areas outside of Japan in this report.
I am researching my concern as I live on the West Coast: Are radioactive particles from Japan’s damaged nuclear reactors a threat to the West Coast of the United States? Somebody in official capacity has to have considered this question. I do not want to speculate and start any panic, but this seems to be a valid question to ask as three nuclear reactors are severely damaged. If any of my readers are hearing or reading anything that may shed light on this issue, please leave a comment along with the resource.
Two excerpts from two articles:
St. Louis Beacon
While the extent of radiation leaks from the damaged reactors was unclear this weekend, Dr. Ira Helfand, a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, told reporters that “the Japanese government should be preparing for the worst-case scenario. After one year of operation, a commercial nuclear reactor contains 1,000 times as much radioactivity as was released by the Hiroshima bomb.” He added that, “no one, including the plants operators, can say what is going to happen.”
Shirakawa, Japan (CNN) — Japanese authorities are operating on the presumption that possible meltdowns are under way at two nuclear reactors, a government official said Sunday, adding that there have been no indications yet of hazardous emissions of radioactive material into the atmosphere.
The attempts to avert a possible nuclear crisis, centered around the Fukushima Daiichi facility in northeast Japan, came as rescuers frantically scrambled to find survivors following the country’s strongest-ever earthquake and a devastating tsunami that, minutes later, brought crushing walls of water that wiped out nearly everything in their paths.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters there is a “possibility” of a meltdown at the plant’s No. 1 reactor, adding, “It is inside the reactor. We can’t see.” He then added that authorities are also “assuming the possibility of a meltdown” at the facility’s No. 3 reactor.
A meltdown is a catastrophic failure of the reactor core, with a potential for widespread radiation release.
The efforts to control the temperature of atomic material, by pumping in sea water and boron, are taking place at the same facility where four were hurt late Saturday in an explosion. Edano said only a “minor level” of radiation has been released into the environment — saying it all came from a controlled release of radioactive steam, insisting there have been no leaks.
“We do not believe it is harmful to human health,” he said.
About 180,000 people are being evacuated from within 10 to 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles) of the Daiichi plant — which is in addition to the thousands that have already been taken away who live closer by. More than 30,000 more people were being evacuated from their homes within 10 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiini nuclear facility located in the same prefecture.