As of Monday morning, the situation in Japan continues to deteriorate and we haven’t hit bottom yet. Every hour on the hour continues to bring more bad news with even more complications. This isn’t the type of situation that has a step-by-step emergency plan. We are witnessing a gigantic science experiment, with the Japanese people as guinea pigs. With everything seemingly have a domino effect at this point, the utility is literally making this up as they go along. Problems continue to arise at nearly every turn and is clearly making it difficult to gain traction.
News & Developments:
Three reactors (units 1,2,3) are now involved with partial meltdowns.
Units 1 and 3 have had their outer containment wall blown off by huge hydrogen gas explosions. (The hydrogen gas comes from a chemical interaction between water and the zirconium cladding surrounding the rods.
The gas explodes when it is vented and interacts with oxygen.)
All three units have had some core damage. Units 2 and 3 apparently were almost totally uncovered at some point, without any cooling water. Sea water is apparently leaking out of Unit 3, so that seawater is escaping as soon as it is flushed into the core. Even fire hoses are being used to keep sea water in the core. This also means that the reactors will become permanent pieces of junk afterwards, unfit for commercial use.
The water level gauge that measures how much water there is in the nuclear core is broken, and hence reliable figures are hard to get.
Radiation levels have soared. Several workers have shown full blown symptoms of radiation sickness (probably indicating that they absorbed perhaps tens of thousands of X-ray equivalents).
Unit 3 contains MOX fuel (mixed oxide fuel) which contains plutonium, which is one of the most toxic chemicals known to science. So a possible meltdown there might spread this deadly chemical as well.
The state of the nuclear waste units is unclear so there is always the possibility that the huge nuclear waste contained in these storage units might escape.
The utility states that the situation is, at present, stable. This might be true, but its the stability of hanging on a cliff by your fingernails.
Be sure to stay tuned to the blog for more developments.
It's well known that New York City (and the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant) sits on fault lines, making an earthquake entirely possible. A geological paper says that the eastern seaboard might need to worry about tsunamis as well.