Nuclear Clouds Pose Potential Risk
I was going to do a post on Black Rain, but this caught my eye over at the NY Times.
NY Times reports:
Even as workers race to prevent the radioactive cores of the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan from melting down, concerns are growing that nearby pools holding spent fuel rods could pose an even greater danger.
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.
By late Tuesday, the water meant to cool spent fuel rods in the No. 4 reactor was boiling, Japan’s nuclear watchdog said. If the water evaporates and the rods run dry, they could overheat and catch fire, potentially spreading radioactive materials in dangerous clouds.
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.
“It’s worse than a meltdown,” said David A. Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists who worked as an instructor on the kinds of General Electric reactors used in Japan. “The reactor is inside thick walls, and the spent fuel of Reactors 1 and 3 is out in the open.”
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.
My Note: So what happens to the ocean, and fish, and birds??? And IF the radiation spreads out a couple thousand miles over the Pacific, will it be picked up by the jetstream? What about Hawaii? Hawaii is 3850 miles from Japan;
Related: Union of Concerned Scientists