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Old 03-14-2011, 09:18 AM   #81
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Just skyped with my son in Osaka. The issues folks there are dealing with are not in sync with what we are seeing in the news (meltdown crisis) but do reflect what people everywhere face after such a disaster. Clean water, food and shelter. Locating survivors, contacting relatives and friends. It's cold in northern Japan. In Tokyo and the surrounding area, gasoline for cars. People can't get to work. Business volumes everywhere dropped today - so much revolves around Tokyo. Power rationing. Japan is not used to power outages, so even a few hours is unusual. Apparently Tokyo airport is jammed.

Japan has a very tightly knit social fabric - this will help recovery efforts.
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Old 03-14-2011, 09:21 AM   #82
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In other news, I saw that Japan moved 8 feet.

Wow, I never thought of it that way. I keep thinking of shaking/swaying back and forth from vibrations. I'm reading that the major 'shaking' in most quakes last less than a minute, not sure about this one.

Imagine pushing a city block 8-13 feet ( 8 was the average) all herky-jerky in less than a minute. Amazing that the building could withstand that at all.

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Old 03-14-2011, 04:50 PM   #83
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I was mesmerized by the helicopter footage of the advancing tsunami wave across the countryside. It looked so surreal. It didn't even look like water, just this black mass of cars, houses, boats, and debris, rapidly washing over the tidy countryside, consuming everything in its path. I tried to imagine what it must've been like for the people in the cars driving along the road helplessly, with nowhere to go (the road being parallel to the front of the advancing wave). Or the people in all those buildings, who may not have even seen it coming. Just horrific and surreal.
The first time I saw that clip, I thought it was an ad for a new video game. It's so surreal that the mind doesn't want to accept it as real. Unfortunately, it is.

There was one clip where the seawater was flowing over the quay wall into the town, spilling cars, trucks and even semis like confetti. And then a boat was washed into the span of a bridge, before going under. I think I saw people clinging to the side of that boat, and being washed away.

The 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and many other countries was probably worse, but there weren't cameras set up, as there are in Japan. Technology is enabling us to see this disaster unfolding. It's absolutely horrifying, and I just can't imagine where people can begin to put their lives back together again.

I feel the least I can do is to go out and buy some Japanese products to support their economy.
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Reuters Timely Update on Continuing Nuclear Issues
Old 03-14-2011, 07:34 PM   #84
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Reuters Timely Update on Continuing Nuclear Issues

Analysis: Nuclear plant's steel shell faces unprecedented test | Reuters
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Old 03-14-2011, 07:54 PM   #85
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2) That 230,000 is the total for 2004. Thailand had < 10,000
Right, I just meant that that earthquake/tsunami resulted in 230,000 deaths.
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Old 03-14-2011, 08:31 PM   #86
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Right, I just meant that that earthquake/tsunami resulted in 230,000 deaths.
Totally freaking over this number.
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Old 03-14-2011, 08:43 PM   #87
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Rumors flying around the net that one of the reactors has a cracked containment vessel. Anybody here see anything along those lines?
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Old 03-14-2011, 09:03 PM   #88
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BBC Key points:

"Radiation levels around Fukushima have risen substantially above the legal limit - the plant's operator says"
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Old 03-14-2011, 09:28 PM   #89
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Sorry if my reply was a bit snarky. I see too much "helpful health advice" on the Internet, much of it probably actively harmful. I'm glad to see that the authorities are on top of it (although I suspect their action is more about reassurance and "being seen to do something" than anything else).

In other news, I saw that Japan moved 8 feet.
And according to the same article, the earth moved 4" off of it's axis!
That is a heap of energy. I wonder how they determine that? Earth - moon laser hookup?

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Old 03-14-2011, 10:10 PM   #90
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Rumors flying around the net that one of the reactors has a cracked containment vessel. Anybody here see anything along those lines?
The latest bulletin....

Japan: New radiation leaks harmful to health - Yahoo! News
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Old 03-14-2011, 11:23 PM   #91
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it truly is a horrifying situation, i can't imagine how the survivors are dealing with such a tragedy. i feel for them as i did for us on 9/12 but this is really far beyond that.

what i'm curious about is the debris. what will become of the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks? will the entire vehicle be scrapped or would they try to salvage parts like tires and wheels? interiors are shot and the electronics are too but some parts may be usable.

also where do they take all the debris? i imagine steel is recycled but so much is just crushed and mangled material. it would create a mountain the size of everest!
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Old 03-14-2011, 11:47 PM   #92
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Rumors flying around the net that one of the reactors has a cracked containment vessel. Anybody here see anything along those lines?
Apologies in advance to anyone who knows about nuclear plants and wants to chime in. Here's what I think I've read:
Things at Fukushima Daiichi Unit Number 2 have apparently deteriorated. Reporting indicates an explosion occurred in the suppression pool (or "torus", a doughnut-shaped compartment is normally partially filled with water and is located below the nuclear core). The higher radiation readings seen around the plant after that explosion have increased fears that the containment vessel may have been breached (the suppression pool is connected to core containment vessel).

The other reactors which were the major concern yesterday seem to be cooling well at this point. There was a small fire in an ancillary building associated with a different reactor, but that reactor was shut down before the earthquake/tsunami, and the fire was a non-event.

It will be interesting to see what the news calls these problems at the Japanese nuclear facilities. I have seen references to the "accidents" at Fukushima and the other plants. As another commentator said " There are four entire trains missing and possibly washed away--will these events be called railroad accidents?". The backup generators needed to power the cooling water pumps (in the event the plant's own power was lost AND power from the grid was unavailable) were protected by walls that protected against a 10 meter wall of water, but this wave was at least 1/2 meter taller than that.
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Old 03-15-2011, 12:38 AM   #93
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This does not sound good.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/wo...?_r=1&src=tptw

Let us pray.....
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Old 03-15-2011, 12:11 PM   #94
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This was sent to me in an email today....

Satellite Photos - Japan Before and After Tsunami - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com
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Old 03-15-2011, 05:48 PM   #95
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Apologies in advance to anyone who knows about nuclear plants and wants to chime in. Here's what I think I've read:
Things at Fukushima Daiichi Unit Number 2 have apparently deteriorated. Reporting indicates an explosion occurred in the suppression pool (or "torus", a doughnut-shaped compartment is normally partially filled with water and is located below the nuclear core). The higher radiation readings seen around the plant after that explosion have increased fears that the containment vessel may have been breached (the suppression pool is connected to core containment vessel).

The other reactors which were the major concern yesterday seem to be cooling well at this point. There was a small fire in an ancillary building associated with a different reactor, but that reactor was shut down before the earthquake/tsunami, and the fire was a non-event.

It will be interesting to see what the news calls these problems at the Japanese nuclear facilities. I have seen references to the "accidents" at Fukushima and the other plants. As another commentator said " There are four entire trains missing and possibly washed away--will these events be called railroad accidents?". The backup generators needed to power the cooling water pumps (in the event the plant's own power was lost AND power from the grid was unavailable) were protected by walls that protected against a 10 meter wall of water, but this wave was at least 1/2 meter taller than that.
It is incredibly difficult to figure out what is actually happening at Fukushima by reading news reports. The nuclear industry uses very precise terminology, because it is very important to be precise about what you are describing. Journalists are not so precise. In the first instance, journalists are not trained in this area, don't know basic physics and engineering concepts and can't properly explain them. Accordingly, they conflate concepts and use the wrong terms. Almost as important is the journalists' overwhelming urge to sensationalize.

As I mentioned earlier, the key to avoiding a melt down of the fuel rods is to keep them covered with water inside the reactor pressure vessel. As the name suggests, the pressure inside is high. Pumping water into the vessel at a high back pressure is difficult if you need high volumes. To use the low pressure, high volume pumps, they need to depressurize the vessel. The outflow from the depressurization system is directed into the suppression pool, which is a water filled pool located in the torus. It scrubs the steam that exits the reactor pressure vessel and helps to remove some of the contamination. It also condenses the steam and thereby helps keep the pressure in the concrete containment dome from getting too high.

From what I have read, there was an explosion in the torus of Unit 2. It was probably caused by hydrogen gas released to the torus when the reactor vessel was depressurized. (recall that if the zirconium fuel cladding gets too hot, it reacts with any water to generate hydrogen gas.) It appears that the pressure reading on the torus then indicated atmospheric pressure, which could be an indication of a breach of the torus or containment dome (both of which are made of steel-lined concrete 6 to 8 feet thick). Or it could be a problem with the pressure gage. A visual inspection apparently failed to find any breach of the containment.

One critical fact that the news reports get wrong is that the torus is not connected to the reactor pressure vessel. The reactor pressure vessel is a big, ultra-strong steel pot with walls 6 inches think. It holds the fuel assemblies, the control rods and the water. Think of a spaghetti pot with the colander inside. After the zirconium tubes containing the fuel, the reactor pressure vessel is the primary means by which the radioactive material is contained. The RPV sits on a big concrete pedestal in the center of the giant concrete containment dome, which is substantially larger in diameter. The torus is connected to the containment dome. So even if the torus is breached, so long as the RPV is intact, the radioactive materials are contained (except what may be deliberately released in the steam when depressurizing the RPV).

Unfortunately, the fire may be a big deal. After nuclear fuel is used up in the reactor, the rods are removed and put in the spent fuel pool, which is a giant concrete swimming pool about 45 feet deep. (the news reports have erroneously called this a "reactor cooling pool". It's not). The fuel is usually covered by about 30 feet of water and the water in the pool is run through heat exchangers to keep it cool, since the fuel, while spent, continues to generate some heat. If the pool is not cooled (say, due to a total power failure) it will gradually heat up and could boil. The rate at which this occurs depends on the amount of fuel in the pool. I understand that the pool in Unit 4 had more spent fuel than the other units' pools. If the water should boil off to the point where the spent fuel is exposed to the air, it can catch fire. That would be a very bad thing, because it could result in the spread of contamination. As with the fuel melting in the reactor, the solution is to put water back in the pool, which is what they are trying to do now. I cannot tell from the current reports whether the fuel was on fire or it was something else.

Here is a Nuclear Regulatory Commission document with some decent diagrams, so you can see what I have been talking about.

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/teachers/03.pdf
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Old 03-15-2011, 05:55 PM   #96
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Nice discussion, thanks. What keeps them from going in helicopters, or sending balloons, or pilotless planes, to directly measure radioactivity all around?

Since what we are concerned with is leakage of radioactive material, and if it is present it must announce itself to proper instruments, why can't this story be added to the rest?

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Old 03-15-2011, 06:11 PM   #97
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Wow - this really puts everything in perspective. It looks far worse than the media originally reported. Its like Katrina in the sense that the result of the initial disaster causes as much damage (or more) than the disaster itself.
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Old 03-15-2011, 06:44 PM   #98
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It is incredibly difficult to figure out what is actually happening at Fukushima by reading news reports. . . .
Gumby, thanks very much for the corrections, explanation, and additional link. That clears things up considerably.

I hope when this is over and the facts are known that someone will write an accurate account, understandable to the general public, about what happened. It will be a heck of a story. That will be a really useful public service as the next phase of the inevitable policy debate begins. Congress is already calling for hearing on US reactor safety, but that's likely to produce more heat than light.
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Old 03-15-2011, 07:00 PM   #99
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The reporting of radiation levels is equally misleading, particularly in its confusion between radiation levels and the concept of radioactive contamination.

Radiation is the particles emitted from a radioactive substance. It is typically measured in micro-sieverts or milli-sieverts per hour. Contamination is a radiation emitting substance that is somewhere we don't want it to be (like on my food or my skin).

A fixed source of radiation is easy to deal with. The mantra for nuclear workers is "time, distance and shielding". We minimize our exposure by minimizing the time we spend in a radiation field. We can also minimize exposure by using distance, since the strength drops with the square of the distance. For example, if we measure gamma radiation at 1000 uSv at 1 meter, at 2 meters, it will be 250 uSv. At 10 meters, it will be only 10uSv. We can also put shielding between us and the radiation source. For example, 2 inches of lead is called a "tenth thickness" because it will reduce the radiation by a factor of ten, as will 2 feet of concrete.

So, when I read breathless articles that the radiation level reached the precise figure of 1132 uSv/hr, that really doesn't tell me much. Is that the steady state level or was it that high for only two seconds? Where was the measurement taken? If you've ever seen a nuclear plant, you know that it's a long, long way from the reactor to the site boundary. The real safety issue is what is the level where the nearest people live. That has not been reported, as far as I can tell.

Contamination is the bigger issue. Radioactive materials can be gases, liquids or solids. Gases just dissipate in the atmosphere and are not generally considered a major hazard. Airborne particulate matter is the real issue, because is can settle out over a wide area. If it settles on my skin, it is now a very localized and close source of radiation exposure. But most types of radiation (in particular alpha and beta radiation) do not penetrate skin and it is easily washed off. Inhaling particulate contamination or ingesting it in food or water is much more problematic, since it is not as easy to decontaminate internally and the lung and stomach tissue does not block alpha and beta radiation.

In contamination, we are concerned with the radioactive content of the material released and how thickly or thinly it is spread. Total radioactive content is typically measured in curies (ci) and surface contamination in picocuries per 100 sq. cm.
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Old 03-15-2011, 07:17 PM   #100
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I see, thank youk. So can they or are they sampling the surface ground, parking lots, etc. nearby? The stuff cannot hide, so it seems that all people need to do is take the instruments and start looking around, as if they were looking for lost rings on a beach.

There must be something I do not get about the difficulties involved.

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