Via EUReferendum, I have read—with great interest—this article on the situation surrounding the Fukushima nuclear incident.
Whilst media outlets, such as the BBC, have been amplifying the dangers (whilst simultaneously appearing to downplay them) the simple fact is that, according to the linked article, there really is no risk.
The article is written by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston: he is a PhD Scientist, whose father has extensive experience in Germany’s nuclear industry. As such, Oehmen can be taken as a rather more authoritative source than, for instance, the BBC's Roger Black; I have been unable to find a biography for the latter but, given the lack of scientific qualifications in the rest of the BBC's environmental team, I think that we can assume that Oehmen is rather more believable than Black.
Anyway, the whole article is utterly fascinating—laying out, as it does, not only what happened in Japan but also describing, in detail, exactly how a nuclear plant of the light water design actually operates.
So, I recommend that you read it all—I will simply leave you with Oehmen's conclusions:
- The plant is safe now and will stay safe.
- Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.
- Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented. All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.
- There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment. The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.
- The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree. Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the “main” nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.
- The seawater will then be replaced over time with the “normal” cooling water
- The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change.
- Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage. This will take about 4-5 years.
- The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)
- I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. About half of Japan’s nuclear reactors will probably have to be inspected, reducing the nation’s power generating capacity by 15%. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. That will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to potential power shortages during peak demand, in Japan.
If you want to stay informed, please forget the usual media outlets and consult the following websites:
As Oehmen points out, he has published this in order to provide an accurate portrayal of the situation—something that he has not seen, and you will not see, in the hysterical articles written by the under-qualified hacks of the MSM.