Really this is a global topic but I wanted to post the chain of emails I have been sending to my family in St Louis. I thought some of you might find some value in it. I've been a bit obsessed with the nuclear side of the catastrophe because I have consistently felt that official sources are either sugar coating or just plain wrong and I HATE being uninformed, especially with such a dangerous situation.
Officials say no radiation is released. Supposedly the inner chamber is still intact.
However, I can’t help but be concerned by what I see in the second video -- you can see the superstructure of one of the four reactors completely obliterated. And what about the piping that they were using to cool that reactor? Is THAT intact? http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/for-battered-japan-a-869316.html
The numbers that officials cite seem silly -- numbers like ‘600 dead’ and potentially ‘over a thousand’. I saw entire hotels demolished by walls of water. I suspect in some areas ‘over a thousand dead’ will be within a few square miles. And then there are the million households without water… That won’t help matters. It seems like official statements are only intended to allay the public’s fears.
If they are not contained, then the fallout will spread. Look at this map of the Jetstream. http://www.stormsurfing.com/cgi/display_alt.cgi?a=npac_250
These are winds at a particular altitude so who knows if the material will make it that high or how far it will be carried. Of course, we don’t know how much of the radioactive material will make it all the way across the pacific, but I am worried at least about the west coast and Mexican crops this year. At worst, I’m worried about fallout in my back yard, though it’s probably unlikely in any significant amount.
Anyway, if you have friends on the west coast you might want to send them a gift basket including some of this: Potassium Iodide (KI)
It saturates the thyroid so it can’t take any more iodine in, which is important because fission containment failures generate a lot of radioactive iodine isotopes, which would otherwise collect in your thyroid and could debilitate or kill you.
Here are some updates that have been placed chronologically on a news blog. The times on these entries are Japan local. I think that’s 14hrs ahead of us, so 1:09am on 3/15 is 11:09am 3/14 in St Louis. I hope it doesn’t get worse -- it looks like they only distributed enough KI for all of the reactor-displaced people to receive a single dose.
The nuclear disaster in Japan's north appears to have worsened overnight after an error blocked the flow of water into one of the stricken reactors at the Fukushima plant.
An air flow guage was accidentally switched off, resulting in a rapid rise in pressure and the exposure of the fuel rods in one of the plant's six reactors.
Authorities are battling to avoid a meltdown and have imposed a 20-kilometre exclusion zone around the plant, forcing 210,000 people to be evacuated from the area.
A partial meltdown is likely underway at three of the four reactors at Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant, says Japan's cabinet secretary.
The nuclear fuel rods inside reactor Nos. 1, 2 and 3 appear to be melting after being exposed. Yukio Edano says:
Although we cannot directly check it, it's highly likely happening.
This is where we run into a terminology problem. Some experts would consider that a "partial meltdown", while others reserve the term for when nuclear fuel melts through a reactor core's inner chamber, but it contained within the outer shell.
Nuclear fuel rods at the No.2 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant - where both reactors Nos. 1 and 2 have already had explosions and partial meltdowns - are once again exposed, Japanese media is reporting.
The rods, normally surrounded by cooling water, heat rapidly once exposed - quickly building pressure inside the reactor core.
If water levels fall too far, there is a risk of meltdown, damage to the reactor core and a large radiation leak.
Some 230,000 doses of iodine have been distributed to evacuation centres around the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, the IAEA says.
The neighbourhoods surrounding the plant, the site of two reactor explosions in recent days, have been evacuated of around 185,000 residents, said the International Atomic Energy Agency - the UN's nuclear watchdog.
However, Japanese safety officials told the IAEA:
The iodine has not yet been administered to residents; the distribution is a precautionary measure in the event that this is determined to be necessary.
This situation is touch and go. Every time it gets better it gets worse. Most recent example:
Great news…? Japan Earthquake Update (15 March 2011, 03:35 CET)
Japanese authorities yesterday reported to the IAEA at 21:05 CET that the reactors Units 1, 2 and 3 of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant are in cold shutdown status. This means that the pressure of the water coolant is at around atmospheric level and the temperature is below 100 degrees Celsius. Under these conditions, the reactors are considered to be safely under control.
Japanese authorities have also informed the IAEA that teams of experts from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant?s operator, are working to restore cooling in the reactor Unit 4 and bring it to cold shutdown.
The IAEA continues to liaise with the Japanese authorities and is monitoring the situation as it evolves. And then there’s: Japan Earthquake Update (15 March 2011, 06:15 CET)
Japanese authorities informed the IAEA that there has been an explosion at the Unit 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The explosion occurred at around 06:20 on 15 March local Japan time.
Japanese authorities also today informed the IAEA at 04:50 CET that the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is on fire and radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.
Dose rates of up to 400 millisievert per hour have been reported at the site. The Japanese authorities are saying that there is a possibility that the fire was caused by a hydrogen explosion.
The IAEA is seeking further information on these developments.
The IAEA continues to liaise with the Japanese authorities and is monitoring the situation as it evolves.
Then again, Kyodo News states:
NEWS ADVISORY: Water not poured for Fukushima's spent nuke fuel, level unconfirmed (16:27)
Read below and you’ll find that statement much more disturbing. Also, some of the up-to-the-minute links below are very interesting. Be sure to look at them. And if I didn’t include you in the previous emails, you can see them at the bottom of this message.
Nevermind on the ‘Great News’. That was apparently only related to the Fukushima II (Daina) plant. That had NOTHING to do with the Fukushima I (Daiichi) plant. The situation is NOT under control there, and has been upgraded to level 6. Chernobyl was a level 7. The MOX (Plutonium mix) reactor, #3, is still in a very bad state. Will send updates when I have time. If I’m annoying you let me know and I’ll take you off the list.
It is interesting to see bureaucracy snap into action as Germany and the US decide to shut down old reactors either for safety checks or permanently.
Also a bit disturbing is the spent fuel rods stored on top of the reactors. They don’t have convenient places to dispose of them, so they may have years’ worth of spent fuel rods sitting in the pools. I’d really like to know how much was stored in the affected reactors. If anyone knows, please share.
It seems like that might be the biggest source of danger at the moment, since the tops have blown off these buildings, and those pools and their spent cores are exposed – we know this is the case in reactor 4, whose spent rods caught fire because their cooling water stopped circulating and/or was blown or leaked away. Now they’re dumping water on them from helicopters. If the tanks are damaged – and realistically it’s hard to imagine they aren’t after such tremendous explosions – then I suspect dropping water from helicopters is going to be ineffective at pouring water in faster than it leaks out. And eventually those pilots are going to have to be switched out due to radiation exposure. Apparently last time a number was reported, there were only 50 people on site trying to control the reactors. So they have to maintain cooling of 6 reactors, and 6 spent rod cooling tanks with 50 people and a bunch of cobbled-together generators..?
No sources this time, because I have no time, and because half of this is my opinion.
13hrs ago TEPCO announced Fukushima I reactor 2 may have melting fuel.
8hrs ago the radiation level at the gates of Fukoshima I are about that of one full body CT scan every hour.
3hrs ago a 6.4 quake struck, but not in the area where a large aftershock is expected. No tsunami warning.
A totally unconfirmed source says he has a contact near Fukushima who said workers there are fighting a losing battle and that the site will eventually have to be abandoned.
NHK mentioned in an update that they weren’t sure how well a jerry-rigged cooling system would hold up if all workers leave the site.
Japan's Meteorological Agency says the focus of the quake was in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture and it struck at 10:31 PM Tuesday, local time.
The quake had an estimated depth of 14 kilometers with a magnitude upgraded from 6 to 6.4.
The agency says there may be slight changes in sea levels but there's no need to worry about tidal damage.
Fujinomiya City in Shizuoka Prefecture was struck with an intensity of 6-plus on the Japanese scale of zero to 7. The quake was felt across the Tokyo and Tohoku areas.
The agency says there is a possibility that aftershocks with an intensity of 5-minus to 5-plus could occur within a week.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 02:28 +0900 (JST)
TEPCO: 8,200 microsieverts recorded at plant
Tokyo Electric Power Company says radiation levels reached 8,217 microsieverts per hour near the front gate of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power station at 8:31 AM Tuesday.
Anyone in this kind of environment would be exposed to more than 3 years' worth of naturally occurring radiation within a single hour.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 09:29 +0900 (JST)
More explosions in reactors, cracked reactor ceiling in Fukushima I #4, dangerously hot spent fuel rods, 6.5 quake earlier.
Potential of criticality in spent fuel rods, meaning nuclear chain reaction outside of the reactor: http://www.abc.net.au/news/events/japan-quake-2011/
TEPCO says it is considering spraying boracic acid by helicopter to prevent spent nuclear fuel rods from reaching "criticality" again, restarting a chain reaction, at the troubled No. 4 reactor of its quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant.
''The possibility of recriticality is not zero,'' TEPCO said as it announced the envisaged step against a possible fall in water levels in a pool storing the rods that would leave them exposed.
Officials now claim it is possible for the fallout to reach the US. Here is a very thorough article on it, so I’ll spare you my rambling and let you read it: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366341/Japan-tsumani-earthquake-America-nuclear-accident-radiation-alert.html
I have tried not to be alarmist, but you probably really should have bought your west coast friends some KI when it was actually available for sale. Good luck finding it now.
Someone asked me if any iodine would do. Hell if I know?! I guess people on the west coast really are starting to take this seriously.
Ask your doctor. J but from what I understand, iodine solution that you put on scrapes is not ingestible. It’s a chemically (re)active form of iodine that can kill you if you drink it. Apparently, though, if it is absorbed through the skin it can be benficial.
Supplements with iodine (kelp, etc.) are apparently insufficient. If I understand correctly, the point of taking Potassium Iodide is to saturate the thyroid, which is prone to absorbing iodine, with a stable form of iodine in order to prevent it from absorbing any radioactive iodine. Therefore, the dosage of Potassium Iodide is quite high, whereas a supplement might be a couple orders of magnitude less, and would do nothing to saturate the thyroid. Absent radioactive iodine, those supplements might promote thyroid health, but with radioactive iodine present, you would end up with a little good iodine and a lot of radioactive iodine.