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The meltdown that wasn't : Nature News

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake rocked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station at 2:46 p.m. on 11 March, but the real emergency began an hour later. A wall of water swept across the site, washing away power lines and the fuel tanks for the emergency backup generators designed to take over if grid power failed. Inside the control room of the unit 1 reactor, the lights went out and the 1970s-vintage analogue gauges drifted to zero.

It will probably be years before anyone knows exactly what happened inside the three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi that seem to have partially melted down in the wake of the tsunami. But from press reports, public statements and interviews with experts, it is possible to work out the most likely scenario. And already it is clear that decisions made in the initial 24 hours by the handful of operators in the control room probably averted a much greater nuclear catastrophe than the one that now faces Japan.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 22nd, 2011 at 01:53:13 PM EST
They cite a nuclear engineer who sees the seawater flooding using fire engines for pumps as the crucial improvisation that prevented a full meltdown.

They also draw up an explosion scenario for the meltdown: a hydrogen explosion within the containment vessel (which was not nitrogen-flooded like the pressure vessel).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 22nd, 2011 at 03:37:30 PM EST
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Though we shouldn't forget the Finnish report stating that seawater will cause severe damage from crystalized salt.

And then the just posted news that there is damage.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Mar 22nd, 2011 at 03:52:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We knew there was going to be severe corrosion damage from seawater. What the Swedish report said was that too much saltwater will result in coating the fuel or fuel canisters with a layer of crystalised salt which will act as a thermal insulator and prevent any further cooling of the fuel elements. If that happens, a meltdown becomes more, not less likely. Also, seawater cooling is less effective the longer it is used.

So, in what may be my last act of "advising", I'll advise you to cut the jargon. -- My old PhD advisor, to me, 26/2/11
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 23rd, 2011 at 05:33:39 AM EST
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