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Update on Japan's Nuclear Power Crisis | Union of Concerned Scientists

March 13, 2011, 3:30 p.m.--The nuclear crisis in Japan took a turn for the worse as serious problems developed at a second reactor at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear facility. Earlier concerns were focused on reactor Unit 1, but now the situation at Unit 3 is becoming serious.

Officials from Tokyo Electric reported that after multiple cooling system failures, the water level in the Unit 3 reactor vessel dropped 3 meters (nearly 10 feet), uncovering approximately 90 percent of each of the fuel rods in the core.

Authorities were able to inject cooling water with a fire pump after reducing the containment pressure by a controlled venting of radioactive gas. As with Unit 1, they began pumping seawater into Unit 3. Seawater is highly corrosive and probably precludes any future use of the reactor, even if a crisis is averted.

However, Tokyo Electric recently reported that the water level in the Unit 3 reactor still remains more than 2 meters (6 feet) below the top of the fuel and company officials believe that water may be leaking from the reactor vessel. When the fuel is uncovered by water, it overheats and suffers damage. It is likely that the fuel has experienced significant damage at this point, and Japanese authorities have said they are proceeding on this assumption.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Mar 13th, 2011 at 07:23:19 PM EST
if these nukes were about to be decommissioned, then surely this is a big crossroads, whether to up the ante and rebuild nukes, with even more hyper-paranoid insistence on 'safety measures' up to a, say, level of 11 so these pesky 9's can't phase it, then up the seawalls against the tsunamis, by which time you've probably doubled the unit cost.

the other big question i don't see asked yet is what green alternatives japan has to sub into their place.

is there decent tidal or wind to harvest? i imagine solar not being too significant, though still eminently sensible, seeing how germany lacks for sun yet has mounted a decent amount of arrays.


i know the japanese like their toys, a more gizmo-happy race'd be hard to find, and they like to have tokyo at night visible from alpha centauri, but assuming their priorities may be amenable to the kinds of shifts their landmass is undergoing, i hope there is massive public motivation to take a higher road, if the whole area is not rendered a mausoleum for a few tens of generations that is.

fingers crossed for progressive energy policy leadership to be reborn in the land of the rising sun.

the japanese are such obedient people, their complete lack of panic and social cohesion does them proud in these extreme situations.

as CH reminds us of the suicidally stupid decision to place nuke plants so close to fault lines, i hope some authorities in california are seriously considering some plan b so to decommission diablo canyon et al ASAP.

apollo programme, world wide, full tilt boogie, we have 40 years of heads in the sand to catch up and compensate for.

i also hope marroni is reconsidering his braindead plan for italy to rejoin the 'nuclear club'.

maroon, the cement companies are all mobbed out, way to make them richer, they did such a great job with the rubbish in naples, and the radioactive ships scuttled off calabria, you know this is going to pan out just dandy.

japan's nuclear hara-kiri, the writing on the wall for everyone else...

it does level the propaganda playing field for greener energies, against the massive superiority in media advantage the pro nukers have.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 13th, 2011 at 08:45:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw a windfarm or two in Kyushu (and quite a few roofs with solar panels are noticable on a train between Kobe and Osaka, say).

But Japan's landscape and politics does not appear to be favourable:

"To construct wind stations, you need to find places where strong winds blow. But such places are often on mountains or on the coastlines of islands and peninsulas, and the landforms are complex," said Hiroshi Imamura, a senior researcher at wind power consulting firm Wind Energy Institute of Tokyo.

Complex land features create unstable winds, making it difficult to stabilize power generation. And the several typhoons that either swipe or cross Japan each year threaten to damage the stations, hamstringing progress in Japan's wind power quest...

"It's understandable that power companies are buying less wind power out of concern over unreliable supply," said Arakawa.

Power surges can be a problem for industrial customers, said Hirotaka Hayashi, a spokesman at Hokkaido Electric. Utilities often need to cut back power generation at other plants to lessen the effect of excess power from wind energy.

"Continental European countries such as Germany and Denmark can transfer excess power from windmills to other countries," said Arakawa. "The electricity networks of Japan's 10 utilities aren't connected like those in Europe. That's the reason why it's difficult to install windmills in Japan."

To ensure steady supply, Tohoku Electric Power Co., Japan's fourth-biggest generator, in March started requiring owners of new windmills to store energy in batteries before distribution rather than send the electricity direct to the utility, said spokesman Satoshi Arakawa.

.... That requirement has increased wind project installation costs to 300,000 yen ($2,560) per kilowatt, from 200,000 yen, according to Toshiro Ito, vice president of EcoPower Co., Japan's third-biggest wind power supplier.

Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the Tokyo-based Institute for Sustainable Energy, believes Japan's dominant electric companies are preventing the growth of wind power. The country's 10 electric companies are formidable regional monopolies. The largest dominate the areas of Tokyo, Chiba and Kansai, and they leverage significant political clout.

"They act as regional monopolies, functional monopolies, and political monopolies," Iida said. "They are the rule makers and they make an effort to exclude wind power from their grid."

And here is a comment from the hot Oil Drum diary:

Where is the Prius built and designed? How about the Insight? How about a lot of the PV cells? The turbines that go inside windmills? For better or worse, the majority of "conservation" technologies have been built and designed in Japan. How did they do this? They built nuclear power plants to have clean reliable power. Semiconductor lines don't operate properly with even the slightest power fluctuations. You are never going to operate them with wind or solar power. This disaster's impacts on global supply chains are only beginning to be felt, let alone imagined. BAU just took a major hit in the BUTt. IMHO

by das monde on Mon Mar 14th, 2011 at 01:27:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks dm, like i said, hara kiri.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Mar 14th, 2011 at 06:03:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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