March 12, 2011

Chernobyl in Japan?

Filed under: Dance of Death, Scientism/Technocracy — Tags: — Russ @ 5:24 am


I can’t tell how bad it is yet, but after dire news of how officials at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Okuma were trying to stave off a meltdown, we’re getting reports of an explosion inside the plant.
Here’s the text of two e-mail alerts from Stratfor:

Red Alert: Japan Warns of Possible Nuclear Meltdown
March 12, 2011

Japanese officials are cautioning that a nuclear meltdown may occur at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant near the town of Okuma. According to Japan’s Jiji Press, some of the reactor’s nuclear fuel rods were briefly exposed to the air after the reactor’s water levels dropped through evaporation. A fire engine is currently pumping water into the reactor and the water levels are recovering, according to an operator of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the plant. A TEPCO spokesman said the company believes the reactor is not melting down or cracking and that workers are currently attempting to raise the water level.

If a meltdown takes place — essentially the core of the reactor overheating and damaging the fuel rods themselves — it would be the first since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and the Three Mile Island incident in 1979.

Red Alert: Explosion Reported at Japanese Nuclear Plant
March 12, 2011

An explosion occurred March 12 at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan, Japanese news agency Jiji reported, citing local police. Reports of an explosion and smoke come after Japanese officials cautioned that a nuclear meltdown was possible. Officials at the plant had reported that part of the reactor core was exposed to air for a brief moment and that they were attempting to raise the water level to continue cooling the reactor. Officials later stated that steam was vented from the power plant to release the pressure built up by evaporating water. If an explosion occurred, it would indicate that the additional water pumped into the reactor has been unable to stave off the meltdown reaction inside the reactor core and that the plant is experiencing a far more serious crisis than initially reported by the Japanese authorities.

Here’s the latest from Al Jazeera.


  1. Here’s more:


    At this point, events in Japan bear many similarities to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Reports indicate that up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of the reactor fuel was exposed. The reactor fuel appears to have at least partially melted, and the subsequent explosion has shattered the walls and roof of the containment vessel — and likely the remaining useful parts of the control and coolant systems.

    Comment by Russ — March 12, 2011 @ 6:25 am

  2. Red Alert. Obviously the work of Islamic terroristas.

    Comment by tawal — March 12, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

    • They call everything Red Alert.

      But we can be sure it was at least some pesky environmentalist’s fault.

      Comment by Russ — March 12, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

  3. Here’s another Stratfor e-mail. Based on this and some other stuff I read, maybe the explosion wasn’t actually in the reactor. (Not that I believe what the government says.)

    Special Report: Officials Claim Positive Signs on Japanese Reactor
    March 12, 2011

    New developments at Japan’s earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor No. 1 may suggest positive signs for authorities’ efforts to contain the problem. But many dangers and risks remain.

    Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that while an explosion did occur at the plant, it did not damage the steel container around reactor No.1, where emergency workers are still struggling to cool down the reactor core after nuclear fuel rods were damaged following the failure of cooling systems due to the earthquake damage and short power supply. Edano said the explosion did not occur within the reactor container and thus did not lead to a large leak of radioactive material. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency claims that radiation levels support the view that there has been no breach of the container around the reactor, though they have risen as a result of actions taken to relieve pressure in the container by releasing radioactive steam.

    If accurate, these would be positive developments for the attempt to avert a meltdown in the reactor core. A number of nuclear engineers and experts interviewed in the press have also suggested that the explosion at the nuclear plant was not caused by a breach of the reactor itself, but rather involved the sudden release of hydrogen, which Edano confirmed, saying the hydrogen had been trapped between the reactor core and the surrounding containment structure, and exploded when released and mixed with oxygen. The government did not call for an expansion of the evacuation area of 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) around the two plants, and the fact that the evacuation zone has not been expanded is a positive sign.

    It is too early to say, however, that a catastrophe has been averted. The nuclear safety agency said the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the nuclear plant, had succeeded in relieving pressure, but confirmed that some of the nuclear fuel had melted and that further depressurizing was necessary to continue to contain the reactor heat and pressure. TEPCO claims it is continuing to pump sea water and boric acid into the reactor container in order to substitute for the failed cooling process. Edano estimated it would take five to 10 hours to fill the container and 10 days to complete the process of cooling.

    A number of questions remain. For instance, Edano claimed radiation levels were decreasing around the area, whereas the nuclear safety agency pointed to the fact that the release of steam to depressurize the reactor resulted in increased radiation levels. Other questions include the nature of the earlier explosion and whether it is true that the container was not damaged; whether radiation levels are as negligible as the government says; whether pressure in the reactor is indeed dropping; the sustainability of the cooling effort which is using batteries due to the lack of electricity; and the status of the Fukushima Daini reactors that were also reported to have had cooling malfunctions (water levels and radiation levels there last appeared to show no cause for worry). Thus while the official statements suggest some progress, potentially making this incident more similar to Three Mile Island than Chernobyl, nevertheless details are sparse and the situation remains precarious.

    Comment by Russ — March 12, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

    • I love SSF4! Cant wait for new characters in arcade edition.

      Comment by Ezenwa — April 26, 2011 @ 2:00 am

  4. http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110312-japanese-government-confirms-meltdown

    Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said March 12 that the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear plant could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core, Japanese daily Nikkei reported. This statement seemed somewhat at odds with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano’s comments earlier March 12, in which he said “the walls of the building containing the reactor were destroyed, meaning that the metal container encasing the reactor did not explode.”

    NISA’s statement is significant because it is the government agency that reports to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. NISA works in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission. Its role is to provide oversight to the industry and is responsible for signing off construction of new plants, among other things. It has been criticized for approving nuclear plants on geological fault lines and for an alleged conflict of interest in regulating the nuclear sector. It was NISA that issued the order for the opening of the valve to release pressure — and thus allegedly some radiation — from the Fukushima power plant.

    NISA has also overseen the entire government response to the nuclear reactor problems following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It is difficult to determine at this point whether the NISA statement is accurate, as the Nikkei report has not been corroborated by others. It is also not clear from the context whether NISA is stating the conclusions of an official assessment or simply making a statement. However, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, also said that although it had relieved pressure, nevertheless some nuclear fuel had melted and further action was necessary to contain the pressure.

    If this report is accurate, it would not be the first time statements by NISA and Edano have diverged. When Edano earlier claimed that radiation levels had fallen at the site after the depressurization efforts, NISA claimed they had risen due to the release of radioactive vapors.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 12, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

    • Thanks, Tao. I was about to post that one myself. It looks like there’s no good reason to be sure of anything at this point.

      Comment by Russ — March 12, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

      • The Japanese government’s silence speaks volumes. I’m sure the news is bad. Really bad.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 12, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

  5. A second meltdown at the same facility may be underway.


    Comment by Russ — March 13, 2011 @ 2:43 am

  6. Interesting and thorough-seeming piece from “nuclear safety expert” Stoneleigh . . .


    Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 13, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    • Very interesting. It sounds like she knows what she’s talking about, although I don’t know how to judge the technical arguments.

      “We’re probably closer to the beginning than the end of this crisis.”

      On the other hand, I’m an expert in assessing the kind of management which simply decreed by fiat that an earthquake of this magnitude will never occur, and therefore the system doesn’t have to be constructed to withstand it.

      Similarly, I don’t care how many times I hear that Chernobyl-magnitude disasters can’t occur in Western-style reactors. Even if the exact same kind of core explosion is impossible, knowing these cadres as well as I do, I know that any level of corruption, neglect, and SNAFU is possible, and these days likely.

      Does anyone here believe that nuclear power plants are exceptions to the otherwise universal trend in our economies?

      What Stoneleigh says at the end, about how this technology is complex beyond man’s capacity to wisely manage, and requires such wisdom on a timeline far longer than we can reasonably expect, was true before we became a kleptocracy. How much worse are things now?

      I read yesterday that Obama wants to expand nuclear capacity even as he slashes spending for waste disposal. The waste issue is horrific in itself, and symbolic of the insanity of the whole project. We pile up more and more waste which to this day we haven’t figured out what to do with. We know there’s no safe way to dispose of it. Yet we keep piling it up.

      Can anyone doubt that it will eventually be simply directly dumped somewhere that poor people live?

      To still support nukes is to already be complicit in this future crime against humanity.

      And that’s in addition to the future Chernobyls, lots of them, if this industry follows the same trend line as every other.

      But I guess I’m being alarmist. The same alarmists used to say there was a mortgage bubble, and that turned out OK, right?

      Comment by Russ — March 13, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

      • It reminds me of the Johann Hari oped the other day that linked the rise of Somali pirates to covert nuclear dumping going on off the coast of Somalia. Apparently there is evidence that European countries have unilaterally chosen the coast of Somalia as a dump site for their nuclear waste.

        Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

        Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply.


        All the economic force on the planet bends in the same direction: cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, no matter the human cost. You can no longer compare the safety record of the past with anything that happens now. Short-term profits will be wrung out of anything at hand, especially revenue sinks like preparedness and safety. If you think I’m exaggerating you haven’t been paying attention. Deepwater Horizon? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Anything that can go wrong will. The financial imperative demands it.

        Comment by reslez — March 15, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

      • Thanks for that example, reslez. I heard of illegal corporate fishing and “regular” waste dumping as the reason for the pirates. I hadn’t thought of this. I might use that link somewhere.

        All this is exactly what Larry Summers called for, right?


        Comment by Russ — March 16, 2011 @ 5:24 am

  7. What’s fundamentally wrong about nuclear power generation is the self-evident demand it imposes for centralized command and control. This
    loads future human beings with a terrible constraint on the freedom to change the form and scope of our political life when faced with the burden of reactor and waste sites.

    Comment by barfield — March 13, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    • That’s probably my own #1 objection to it, even prior to the danger and waste disposal issue.

      In everything the solution is clearly to decentralize and relocalize, yet believing in nuclear energy is to want to double down on radical top-down centralization, concentration of economic and political power, the power of technocratic elites, massive corporate welfare, big government, and all the rest of it.

      Comment by Russ — March 13, 2011 @ 4:09 pm

  8. From a Friends of the Earth e-mail:

    Right now, the situation concerning several of Japan’s nuclear reactors is extremely fluid, and frankly, there is a lot of speculation. However, we are fairly confident in the news reports that indicate two nuclear reactors are in partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi facility (known as Fukushima No.1). As we all witnessed yesterday, reactor #1 at Fukushima Daiichi experienced a hydrogen explosion. Currently, reactor #3 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is also experiencing serious problems. We are watching this reactor with particular concern because it is being powered by plutonium fuel (MOX) — a fuel that burns hotter and is more unstable than traditional fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy is considering using this fuel in reactors owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

    We are also hearing reports that officials are fighting for control of three additional reactors at a different facility, the Fukushima Daini facility (known as Fukushima No. 2). There are 23 reactors in the U.S. which have the same design as the ones under threat of meltdown in Japan and we will be monitoring how to address their safety problems.

    Comment by Russ — March 13, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

  9. this footage from the BBC ‘when the tsunami hit’ is an amazing close-up (in case you haven’t seen it) here

    Comment by LeeAnne — March 13, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  10. Sorry about the link not working: BBC video here

    Comment by LeeAnne — March 13, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

  11. A second explosion. Still just happy talk from TPTB.


    Comment by Russ — March 14, 2011 @ 2:22 am

  12. We’re all screwed at this point. So roll a spliff, crack open a brew, and remember what Bob Marley said: “have no fear for atomic energy, for none if them can stop the time”. I for one believe these are the end days, so I plan to PARRRRTYYY!

    Comment by shawnee — March 16, 2011 @ 10:35 am

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