Following the fifth largest earthquake in recorded world history, a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, has resulted in the closure of all Japan’s nuclear power reactors, one of which, the Fukushima reactor, is overheating and in danger of a meltdown if coolant is not restored soon. It’s like a pressure cooker… when you have something generating heat and you don’t cool it off or release the steam…
Reported from abc NEWS, Scientists said that even though the reactor had stopped producing energy, its fuel continues to generate heat and needs steady levels of coolant to prevent it from overheating and triggering a dangerous cascade of events.
They go on to say, “Up to 100 percent of the volatile radioactive Cesium-137 content of the pools could go up in flames and smoke, to blow downwind over large distances,”
“Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago.” said Kevin Kamps, a nuclear waste specialist.
Fukushima I (there are two plant locations) is one of the 25 largest nuclear power stations in the world.
How would a nuclear plant meltdown unfold?
* Control rods are driven back down into the core upon emergency (if rods don’t make it all the way… trouble)
* The coolant (water) could cease if backup systems fail (electricity, pumps, generators, batteries)
* Reactor continues to produce heat
* Numerous venting valve systems would release pressure above ~1,000 psi into containment vessel
* Eventually the uranium fuel encasement metal will melt (2,200 deg F)
* Radioactive contamination then released into the reactor vessel
* Radiation escapes into an outer, concrete containment building
* Radiation escapes into the environment.
Not only would such a disaster be horrible for the local region and Japan, but other countries, namely the U.S. would be effected next by airborne radiation particles, the magnitude of which is yet to be determined.
Why would the west coast USA be in danger?
The prevailing jet stream winds are blowing from Japan directly across the Pacific ocean to the west coast of the United States. Any airborne radiation would make its way across with the jet stream, reaching the U.S. in approximately 36 hours, depending on the actual speed of the jet.
Image of the Jet Stream from Japan to the U.S. (image Above the post)
BBC News Asia-Pacific is now reporting that radiation levels inside the nuclear reactor are 1,000 times of normal, and there are now high levels (unspecified) ‘outside’ of the nuclear reactor plant. They report that people are being evacuated in an approximate 6-mile perimeter.