Radiation Fears Escalate After Second Nuke Explosion
March 14, 2011
(ChattahBox World News)— Japan is facing a nationwide disaster of calamitous proportions after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the country on Friday, raising the horrifying specter of nuclear meltdowns and long term radiation contamination. The radiation released into the air could go on for months, and there is a possibility that radioactive plumes could eventually reach the United States. On Monday, a second explosion occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that blew the roof off of the plant. So far, Japanese plant operators have prevented full-blown nuclear reactor meltdowns, by desperately poring seawater over the partially exposed radioactive fuel rods, after the electricity and diesel generators powering the cooling systems failed. To release the pressure, the operators are forced to purposely release radioactive steam into the air. And the problems from radiation exposure are just beginning. Crew members of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan were exposed to radiation on Sunday when the ship encountered a radioactive cloud in the Pacific. And hundreds of residents near the Fukushima Daiichi plant are believed to have been exposed, with at least one operator suffering from actual radiation sickness.
How is nuclear power looking now? Is it time yet, for a more serious investment in renewable energy resources in this country? With the GOP “drill baby, drill” crowd and global warming deniers controlling the debate, don’t hold your breath.
Japanese nuclear power plant operators are desperately working around the clock to stave off a full meltdown disaster.
The New York Times writes:
“Technicians are essentially fighting for time while heat generation in the fuel gradually declines, trying to keep the rods covered despite a breakdown in the normal cooling system, which runs off the electrical grid. Since that was knocked out in the earthquake, and diesel generators later failed — possibly because of the tsunami — the operators have used a makeshift system for keeping cool water on the fuel rods.
Now, they pump in new water, let it boil and then vent it to the atmosphere, releasing some radioactive material. But they are having difficulty even with that, and have sometimes allowed the water levels to drop too low, exposing the fuel to steam and air, with resulting fuel damage.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a public statement to allay fears about radiation from Japan reaching the West Coast, or Alaska and Hawaii, saying no “harmful levels of radioactivity” were expected. But behind the scenes, the U.S. government is preparing for the worst.
“One main player is the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Officials said they had activated its National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center, which draws on meteorologists, nuclear scientists and computer scientists to forecast plume dispersal.
Separately, energy officials said the agency was readying plans to deploy two-person monitoring and sampling teams, if necessary. The teams would travel to consulates, military installations and Navy ships to sample the air in a coordinated effort to improve plume tracking.
Finally, the department was preparing what it calls its Aerial Measuring System. Its detectors and analytical equipment can be mounted on a variety of aircraft. Officials said the equipment and monitoring team are staged out of the department’s Remote Sensing Laboratory at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and are on two-hour call.”
The crew on deck aboard the Ronald Reagan were exposed to about a “month’s worth of radiation in about an hour,” which although troubling, is not enough to make them ill. More troubling, is the report that U.S. military helicopters flying 60-miles away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, became covered with radioactive particles.
Now that American nuclear experts are on the scene in Japan, it’s evident that the radiation problems and efforts to prevent a meltdown, will be ongoing for months to come. The New York Times quoted a senior official as saying, “under the best scenarios, this isn’t going to end anytime soon.”
As the world watches the horrific events unfold in Japan, the prospect of expanding our own nuclear capabilities, no longer looks as appealing. Homeland Security chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said on Sunday, the United States needs to reassess our plans for nuclear expansion.