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Author Topic: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan  (Read 10832 times)

Garaballo

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Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2011, 09:09:30 AM »
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UPDATE 11.45pm: A NUCLEAR power plant exploded, a day after the huge Japanese earthquake damaged the facility's cooling system.

Not good, not good at all, Thankfully, Laguna Verde here in México is located in Veracruz, which has 0 seismic activity AFAIK.

Khrone, contact your GF, that's freaking serious, if she's near obviously tell her to take shelter on cinderblock buildings or better, take extreme hygiene etc to remove radio dust.

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #26 on: March 12, 2011, 09:48:49 AM »
    A nuclear engineer just got interviewed on Fox News, said it looked less like an explosion, more like the building (not the reactor itself) collapsed. He made it sound like that would reduce the radiation levels, but raised some other concerns, like the problem they're having cooling the reactor.

    I'm about as far from a nuclear physicist as it gets, though. Most of it probably went over my head.
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #27 on: March 12, 2011, 10:09:42 AM »
    My GF is safe.  She was in Tokyo when it happened.  She was on a train and then the trains shut down because power in the city went out.  She had to walk 3 hours to her hotel where people were crowded into the lobby because they were stuck there in the city. 
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #28 on: March 12, 2011, 11:11:47 AM »
    It blew up- the shockwave is visible in the closeup video.

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #29 on: March 12, 2011, 11:14:25 AM »
    http://www.kadena.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123246486

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    3/12/2011 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from Kadena are mobilizing to support disaster relief operations following Friday's earthquake and tsunami on mainland Japan.

    "We are here to stand beside our Japanese allies following this tragic event," said Brig. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, 18th Wing commander. "We are working with U.S. Forces Japan headquarters at Yokota to determine what we can do to help."

    Five HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters from the 33rd Rescue Squadron, as well as crews from the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons are bound for Yokota Air Base near Tokyo to support search and rescue missions.

    Also, more than 100 Airmen from Kadena are deploying to mainland Japan to help with search and rescue, provide additional medical capability, and to restore electrical power.

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #31 on: March 12, 2011, 02:30:50 PM »
    I agree with Nightcrawler on what he said in post #24.  In fact, I was thinking about that yesterday.
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #32 on: March 12, 2011, 02:41:53 PM »
    Are we talking Three Mile Island or Chernobyl level issues with the nuclear plant?





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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #33 on: March 12, 2011, 03:40:10 PM »
    I think it's more like Three Mile Island than Chernobyl.

    There seems to be some talk about a nuclear death cloud drifting across the ocean to rain horrible fallout all over the US West Coast, but, well, when your predictions sound like something from a SyFy Original, I stop paying attention to what you have to say.  :facepalm

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #34 on: March 12, 2011, 04:53:20 PM »
    The containment dome roof failed and released the internal pressure, thats all that happened here. Was any radiation released that question remains. I'm thinking this will end up like TMI which was a partial core meltdown, but since these are two different types of reactors...TMI being a PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) and Fukushima being a BWR (Boiling Water Reactor). I'm not sure how different the outcomes may be.
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #35 on: March 12, 2011, 10:17:19 PM »
    Apparently, now a second reactor site has been affected.
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #36 on: March 13, 2011, 03:31:16 AM »
    Apparently, now a second reactor site has been affected.

    Last I heard there were 5 different reactors with issues.
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #37 on: March 13, 2011, 07:54:22 PM »
    I would have jumped in earlier except I've been out of town (Florida IDPA state championship match) for the last 2 days.

    The affected reactors (that I've heard of) are BWRs not PWRs, which does indeed affect the systems and design of the various containment  buildings.  I was a PWR guy so I'm learning a lot of the background for this current story as we go, along with everyone else. There's generally been more heat than light coming out of the news, or more smoke than light, whatever, unfotunately.

    For the best, no-fooling technical discussion of the Japan reactor issues, I recommend "The Stupid Shall Be Punished" which is a nuclear submariner's blog.  A number of the ex-submarine guys chiming in are currently qualified civilian nuc power operators, and (imo) are much more worth listening to than any of the stupid a-holes the tv is putting on.

    Thread with comments, if you care to look, I think it's worth looking at if you're trying to figure out what's really going on with the affected Japanese BWRs:
    http://bubbleheads.blogspot.com/2011/03/japan-earthquake-tsunami-hits-guam.html#comments

    Small warning - some of the commenters get into a peeing contest with each other, and you have to skim past a bunch of submarine stories to get to the nuclear power plant talk (since the initial story out of Japan had to do with the tsunami, the first chatter on TSSBP was about guys who'd been through tsunamis on a submarine, of which there are a lot more than I expected).

    My take on the nutshell version is that there probably has been some core damage on at least one of the units, but that the Japanese are busting a hump to keep the cores water-cooled under very difficult circumstances.  There are still some intermediate- to long-term problems with decay heat removal, if I understood correctly.  It's bad at the site, but it's not a Chernobyl-size uncontrolled release of fission products by any stretch.  I'm optimistic about the odds of the Japanese to mitigate the accident.  I'm much less optimistic about the likes of our elected rulers keeping their heads about what the future of U.S. nuclear power will be.  A lot of the nukes on TSSBP think the markets opening tomorrow will bring about a huge sell-off of anything to do with nuclear power.

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #38 on: March 13, 2011, 09:36:17 PM »
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    I'm much less optimistic about the likes of our elected rulers keeping their heads about what the future of U.S. nuclear power will be

    This is the leftist excuse (not that they really needed one) to permablock nuke power advancement in the US. That's a given. What they are going to do to currently operating plants is what I'm also very worried about.

    Not to divert the thread, but causing higher energy costs, stopping advancement of sensible power options, throwing dump truck loads of red tape at sensible energy projects, making gas cost $10+ a gallon...all stuff the enviroweenies want/trying to do.


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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #39 on: March 13, 2011, 11:49:38 PM »
    http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/53461/fukushima-nuclear-accident-simple-and-accurate-explanation

    Here's the simple breakdown:

    The Japanese experienced a perfect storm, in which their nuke plants survived an earthquake 7 times stronger than they were designed to weather, then a tsunami, and then a sustained power outage which eliminated cooling ability for longer than thought possible, and then they moved to remedial efforts to prevent a full meltdown which will result in the reactors being a write-off but will prevent any dangerous release of radioactivity...after all of this, they will end up with something about as bad as TMI, but the media will treat it as the second coming of Chernobyl and start looking for Godzilla.

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #40 on: March 14, 2011, 11:10:07 AM »
    I'm much less optimistic about the likes of our elected rulers keeping their heads about what the future of U.S. nuclear power will be.  A lot of the nukes on TSSBP think the markets opening tomorrow will bring about a huge sell-off of anything to do with nuclear power.

    Glenn Reynolds makes an interesting point that GE is very heavily involved in the nuke power industry.  And GE and the O-admin have their hands quite deep in each others' pockets.  In an stopped-clock type instance, the crony capitalism might in this case prevent too much of an overreaction by the ninnies in DC.
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #41 on: March 14, 2011, 02:19:32 PM »
    http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/53461/fukushima-nuclear-accident-simple-and-accurate-explanation

    Here's the simple breakdown:

    The Japanese experienced a perfect storm, in which their nuke plants survived an earthquake 7 times stronger than they were designed to weather, then a tsunami, and then a sustained power outage which eliminated cooling ability for longer than thought possible, and then they moved to remedial efforts to prevent a full meltdown which will result in the reactors being a write-off but will prevent any dangerous release of radioactivity...after all of this, they will end up with something about as bad as TMI, but the media will treat it as the second coming of Chernobyl and start looking for Godzilla.

    Mike

    Mike,
    Sounds like your synopsis is perfect to me.

    I'll additionally paste some info I just got today from one of my JO buds who's one of the few of us still in the power industry.  The guy that sent me this (Buck) is an SRO-qualified civilian operator in addition to having been a submarine nuclear-trained officer.  This comes from an American Nuclear Society (ANS) statement that I hope is understandable.  After reading the ANS synopsis, I think your assessment of this incident being about like a TMI is spot-on.

    Quote
    American Nuclear Society Backgrounder:
    Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami; Problems with Nuclear Reactors
    3/12/2011 5:22 PM EST

    To begin, a sense of perspective is needed... right now, the Japanese earthquake/tsunami is clearly a catastrophe; the situation at impacted nuclear reactors is, in the words of IAEA, an "Accident with Local Consequences."

    The Japanese earthquake and tsunami are natural catastrophes of historic proportions. The death toll is likely to be in the thousands. While the information is still not complete at this time, the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami will likely dwarf the damage caused by the problems associated with the impacted Japanese nuclear plants.


    What happened?

    Recognizing that information is still not complete due to the destruction of the communication infrastructure, producing reports that are conflicting, here is our best understanding of the sequence of events at the Fukushima I?1 power station.

        * The plant was immediately shut down (scrammed) when the earthquake first hit. The automatic power system worked.
        * All external power to the station was lost when the sea water swept away the power lines.
        * Diesel generators started to provide backup electrical power to the plant's backup cooling system. The backup worked.
        * The diesel generators ceased functioning after approximately one hour due to tsunami induced damage, reportedly to their fuel supply.
        * An Isolation condenser was used to remove the decay heat from the shutdown reactor.
        * Apparently the plant then experienced a small loss of coolant from the reactor.
        * Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) pumps, which operate on steam from the reactor, were used to replace reactor core water inventory, however, the battery?supplied control valves lost DC power after the prolonged use.
        * DC power from batteries was consumed after approximately 8 hours.
        * At that point, the plant experienced a complete blackout (no electric power at all).
        * Hours passed as primary water inventory was lost and core degradation occurred (through some combination of zirconium oxidation and clad failure).
        * Portable diesel generators were delivered to the plant site.
        * AC power was restored allowing for a different backup pumping system to replace inventory in reactor pressure vessel (RPV).
        * Pressure in the containment drywell rose as wetwell became hotter.
        * The Drywell containment was vented to outside reactor building which surrounds the containment.
        * Hydrogen produced from zirconium oxidation was vented from the containment into the reactor building.
        * Hydrogen in reactor building exploded causing it to collapse around the containment.
        * The containment around the reactor and RPV were reported to be intact.
        * The decision was made to inject seawater into the RPV to continue to the cooling process, another backup system that was designed into the plant from inception.
        * Radioactivity releases from operator initiated venting appear to be decreasing.



    Can it happen here in the US?

        * While there are risks associated with operating nuclear plants and other industrial facilities, the chances of an adverse event similar to what happened in Japan occurring in the US is small.
        * Since September 11, 2001, additional safeguards and training have been put in place at US nuclear reactors which allow plant operators to cool the reactor core during an extended power outage and/or failure of backup generators - "blackout conditions."



    Is a nuclear reactor "meltdown" a catastrophic event?

        * Not necessarily. Nuclear reactors are built with redundant safety systems. Even if the fuel in the reactor melts, the reactor's containment systems are designed to prevent the spread of radioactivity into the environment. Should an event like this occur, containing the radioactive materials could actually be considered a "success" given the scale of this natural disaster that had not been considered in the original design. The nuclear power industry will learn from this event, and redesign our facilities as needed to make them safer in the future.
    [edited to replace missing text that didn't copy/paste over, sorry for not catching it earlier]
    « Last Edit: March 14, 2011, 07:40:32 PM by xsquidgator »

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #42 on: March 14, 2011, 06:49:51 PM »
    Thanks for posting that. I learned some things for sure.
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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #43 on: March 15, 2011, 02:25:32 AM »
    xsquidgator, Coronach a HUGE thanks for that information. 

    It has been infuriatingly difficult to learn anything about what actually happened on the news.  The anchors are clueless which is to be expected but most of the "experts" they've been bringing in to explain things were from advocacy groups who didn't do anything but recite talking points (both pro and con) and contributed precisely nothing.  The actual nuclear experts with technical knowledge didn't really have a clue about what happened and I think were just excited they had been asked to be on TV and talk to the hot anchorbabe.  I realize the subject is somewhat technical but my god were fox and cnn useless.  The anchors were trying to distill a somewhat complex issue to a 2nd grade level and in doing so the viewer learned nothing other than "churn-yo-bill! three mile island! meltdown!  china sindwome!  this is the ends weez all gonna die!".  Made me wanna throw things at my tv.

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #44 on: March 15, 2011, 03:08:05 AM »
    Part of what has been frustrating me is news harping about exposure levels.  Levels are X times greater than normal.  I know enough to know it is more complicated than that.  And X times greater than extremely low and barely detectable may still be insignificant.  I defer to those who really know--like someone who works in nuclear medicine and has a background in naval reactor operation, for example.

    I keep waiting to hear that carbon-14 has been detected, and the flooded areas around the power plants contain hydronium hydroxide.

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #45 on: March 15, 2011, 06:41:26 AM »
    Part of what has been frustrating me is news harping about exposure levels.  Levels are X times greater than normal.  I know enough to know it is more complicated than that.  And X times greater than extremely low and barely detectable may still be insignificant.  I defer to those who really know--like someone who works in nuclear medicine and has a background in naval reactor operation, for example.

    I keep waiting to hear that carbon-14 has been detected, and the flooded areas around the power plants contain hydronium hydroxide.



    Exactly my frustration with the "reporting" going on.

    Forgive me for lecturing, but if I may, a little RadCon 101 here.  This is ultra- ultra-condensed from several  nuclear engineering and USN training courses.  Oversimplifying but the gist is correct.

    Natural background radiation that you get sitting at home is about 0.5 to 1 mR/day (0.0005 to 0.001 Roentgen).
    Roughly, 1 Roentgen (1 R) is about 1 rad, which is about 1 rem.  These are all similar but not identical units of radiation exposure to people.  1 R ~ 1 rad ~ 1 rem.  1 mR ~ 1 mrad ~ 1 mrem.

    So, on average, each person in the US gets maybe 300 mrem per year.  A CAT scan will give you maybe 1-4 rem to the part of the body that got scanned.  A chest x-ray will give you about 0.005 rem (5 mrem).  That is, a chest x-ray is as much radiation exposure as sitting in your house for a week.

    Federal (and most U.S. states) regulate radiation exposure to workers and general members of the public as a matter of safety.  The exposure limits, how much you're allowed to get, are very conservative.  Members of the public are not allowed to get more than 100 mrem per year from all sources of radiation, other than medical.  If an industrial concern say wants to get a radioactive materials license and do stuff with it, part of the licensing process is for them to demonstrate that whatever doses teh public gets from their stuff is much less than 100 mrem per year.  As a radiation worker, I'm safely allowed to get up to 5,000 mR (5 rem) per year.  Contrary to what most people think, I'm allowed to get a LOT more occupational radiation exposure now as a civilian than the US Navy allowed me to get as a military nuclear operator.  Try convincing someone who watches CNN of that, though.

    Acute radiation exposure: this has HUGE error bars on it, there is a lot of uncertainty due to person-to-person radiosensitivity.  But, it would take an acute (all at once, in less than a couple of hours) whole-body exposure of about 25 rem (that's 25,000 mrem) to actually cause enough changes to your blood and bone marrow that a lab could even detect the changes and tell that you'd had even some radiation exposure.

    Getting about 100 rem (or about 100 R or about 100 rads, or 100,000 mrem) to your whole body is enough to cause radiation sickness.  Nausea, vomiting, possible loss of hair, stuff like that.  Your bone marrow (which produces your blood cells) and GI tract are messed up.  If all you got was a one-time exposure like that, you  should pull through, with rest and medical care, but it'll take at least a month to heal the damage and get sort of back to normal.  

    A whole-body exposure of 400 rem is more serious.  About half of the people who get that much in one shot will die within a month or so.  More of them would survive, if lots of medical care is available.  If this kind of exposure happens only to you and there's a hospital nearby, your chances are a lot better than if 10,000 people got this exposure and there's not enough acute hospital care for everyone.

    An acute dose of about 1,000 rem is even more serious.  Almost everyone, or everyone, who gets that much in one shot will not survive, even with an ICU unit level of care.  Massive damage.  A young, strong person with loads of acute medical care might theoretically pull through.  If it happened to a lot of people, uh uh.  The Chernobyl firefighters who valiantly tried to extinguish the reactor on fire got several thousand rem each in an hour, and died within days.

    So, now, IF the damned reporters would report facts about exposure levels in mR/hr, you might get a little useful information.  Generally, the venting operations going on release radioactive material that quickly disperses.  The radiation exposure someone standing at the power station fenceline would get is usually pretty darn small, even in an accident like this, unless the roof of the containment just disappears like happened in Chernobyl.  That's not what the explosion was in Japan, even though it's called a reactor building.  At Three Mile Island, they had to vent some radioactive gas from inside the containment.  The dose to someone standing on the TMI fenceline ould have been about 50 mR, if any civilians had been still there when this venting occurred.

    From what I've just told you, you can see that 50 mR (0.05 rem) is no big deal at all in terms of exposure. It's way more than normal in terms of "you were exposed to 50 times the daily background level" but it's still not much exposure.  Our own government very safely allows you to get twice that each year.  Me as a radiation worker?  I'm allowed to get 100 times that much, safely, each and every year.  I've never gotten that much, and you don't just go get radiation exposure for no reason, but 50 mrem isn't anything to worry about if that's as high as the exposures got.  That was the theoretical maximum a member of the public could have gotten from the TMI accident.  The actual maximum received was much less, because the only members of the public around were as far away from the TMI plant property line as they could get!

    There's not much hard info coming out of Japan on exposure kind of stuff, mostly because the radiation exposures to people have been very small as far as I know.  The main concern is that if they have an uncontrolled release of radioactivity (like breach of containment, which hasn't happened and I don't think is expected to happen), then the exposures to people around there could be very large, hence the 12 mile evacuation.

    Hope that helps, I'll cut this off for now.  I've been typing this while at work for the last hour, preparing a linear accelerator for treating patients with radiation.  (probably delivered something like 50,000 rads to a piece of plastic this morning in the past hour, like we do every morning, to get it all tuned up and running).  You wouldn't want to be that piece of plastic!  We give significant doses of radiation to treat cancer, and radiation patients can suffer some of the same side effects from radiation, depending on what part of the body we're treating.  The treatments work with relatively few side effects through because cancer patients are closely monitored during their treatments, because we're treating limited portions of the body instead of the entire body, and because we control the rate at which radiation is administered to allow the body to heal itself in between treatments.



    (UPDATE)
    http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/Radiation_leaps_after_Japan_plant_blasts,_warnings_for_Tokyo.html?cid=29698946

    Ok, finally some numbers.  Right outside the reactor building has been reported at 400 mSv per hour.  I hate SI units here by the way, give me the old-time U.S. units of Roentgens, rads, and rems.  One Sievert (Sv) is 100 rem.   thus 400 mSv is 40 rads per hour.  See above for how much exposure 40 rads would be.  Nutshell - if you stood there for a little over a half hour, you'd start to have some detectable blood changes from the radiation.  In two and a half hours, you'd get enough to probably get some radiation sickness.  You would however reach your U.S.-allowed limit of 100 mrem in just a few seconds.  I as a radiation worker would get my annually-allowed 5 rem or 5 rads in about 1/8 of an hour (5/40), or 7-8 minutes.  Ok, don't stand right outside the reactor building until or if they get a handle on the situation inside the building.

    This is RIGHT OUTSIDE THE BUILDING, mind you.  The exposure rate, rems per hour, drops off very quickly  as you move away from the source of the radiation.  Levels outside of the plant property are elevated but still within the legal limits I mentioned, per a news story on drudge right now (sorry don't have the link handy).  That 100 mrem per year (0.1 rem per year) I mentioned is generally what is internationally recognized as an exposure limit for members of the public, or "civilians" if you will.

    If it makes any difference, we/I do these calculations frequently in cases where we implant patients with radioactive material and then tell the nursing staff, and anyone visiting the patient, where they can stand and for how long.  Dose = doserate x time.  Therefore time = dose / doserate.
    « Last Edit: March 15, 2011, 08:02:18 AM by xsquidgator »

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    3-15-11 Japan reactor update story
    « Reply #46 on: March 15, 2011, 07:09:40 AM »
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12733393

    Quote
    On Monday a hydrogen blast at the Fukushima Daiichi's reactor 3 injured 11 people and destroyed the building surrounding it. The explosion was felt 40km (25 miles) away and sent a huge column of smoke into the air.

    It followed a blast at reactor 1 on Saturday.
    ...
    Both explosions at the plant were preceded by cooling system breakdowns but the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said neither blast penetrated the thick containment walls shielding the reactor cores.

    It said radiation levels outside were still within legal limits.

    There's a LOT (a mega-lot) of volatile fission product radioactive material locked up in the core, sealed inside the fuel rods.  If the fuel rods melt, those fission products are now floating around inside the reactor vessel.  The water coolant inside the reactor vessel is normally radioactive a bit because of some other things, but they're not a problem and decay away quickly after reactor shutdown.  Fission products hang around a much longer time (the cesium-137 that is easily detectable has a 30 year half life), which is a big part of why you want to keep them sealed up inside the fuel rods, which are inside a sealed reactor vessel and piping, which are sealed inside a containment volume shell, which is itself inside an armored containment building.  Because this is a BWR, it could also get into the reactor building except that the operators isolated the reactor inside its containment when the accident first happened.  If my BWR understanding is correct, the "reactor building" is what houses the turbine generator and condenser which is normally radioactive in a BWR.  That's what blew up due to venting hydrogen into it, but it didn't affect the reactor vessel itself inside its containment where pretty much all of the radioactivity and fission products are.

    So long as they can keep water level up inside the reactor to keep the rods cool, they'll be fine except for the reactor permanently ruined part, but at least no one will get hurt and eventually this can get cleaned up and disposed of in a safe way (like TMI).  The Japanese government is saying it's likely that they've had core damage (melting), which releases the radioactivity to float around inside the reactor vessel itself.  So long as the containment building maintains its integrity, there should not be any real offsite radiation exposure problems.  There may be detectable radioactivity though because they do occasionally have to bleed off steam contaminated with fission products (from the core damage).  I believe that's the nature of our 17 USN aircrew and helos that were contaminated; detectable radioactivity but not enough to give the aircrew any significant radiation dose.  If the crew were wearing radiation dosimeters which I'm sure were available, them flying off of a nuclear aircraft carrier, then we'll actually be able to put a number on the the radiation exposure they got.  I am very confident that the exposure they got from delivering aid to that area is down in the millirem (mrem) range, if it's even enough to measure.

    (UPDATE) - Appears to be correct on the exposure of the USS Reagan to the plume, no specifics on the aircrew but I don't think they got much either.  The "30 days of background" radiation mentioned is in the 10-20 mR (0.01 R or 0.01 rem) range which is pretty darned small.  

    Quote
    "The source of this airborne radioactivity is a radioactive plume released from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant," said a statement posted on the website of the US 7th Fleet.

    "The maximum potential radiation dose received by any ship's force personnel aboard the ship when it passed through the area was less than the radiation exposure received from about one month of exposure to natural background radiation from sources such as rocks, soil, and the sun," it added.


    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.d02c6a09fef6ef8420ae895e0e60469b.41&show_article=1
    « Last Edit: March 15, 2011, 03:34:55 PM by xsquidgator »

    xsquidgator

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #47 on: March 15, 2011, 07:44:54 AM »
    One more point, if I may, regarding radioactivity, radiation, and media coverage.

    Geiger counters are good, cheap, rugged instruments for detecting (not necessarily for precisely measuring, though) the presence of radiation, or of radiation emitted by radioactive material.  It's only a matter of time before some news a-hole shows a Geiger counter held over something coming out of the area around the power plant, with the needle jumping and the counter going 'click click clickity click' and making it sound like "oh noz we're all going to die".

    Gieger counters (Geiger-Mueller detectors, more precisely, which is why we call them "GM detectors" in the trade) are very very sensitive.  Sitting here on my desk is one that clicks about 6-8 times each minute due to natural background radiation, that's stuff like cosmic rays and gamma rays from the naturally-occurring uranium in the dirt under my feet.  The same stuff is in the dirt you're standing on too.)

    When we're looking for radioactivity, we use 100 counts per minute above background as a limit, more than 100 cpm over background and you have something you need to clean up.  Remember I said these GM counters are REALLY sensitive.  That means it doesn't take much at all to make them go nuts.  In the Navy on my submarine, we had these little ceramic tiles in the showers and heads, you see them all over the place for bathrooms and the like.  Well, they have enough uranium and thorium in them to make a typical GM counter run up to about 60 counts per minute.  Nothing wrong with them, it's just what it is.  Want to see something really dramatic?  Hold a GM counter over a Coleman kerosene lamp wick.  Those things for whatever reason are loaded with Thorium.  They'll run a GM counter way up past 100 counts per minute.  They're not dangerous or anything, it's just naturally-occurring radioactive material.

    Please remember that if they show any drama-queen footage on the tv of someone scanning something with a GM detector and it's clicking or beeping away and they're acting all scared.  Baloney.

    One last small funny story related to that.  I'm a (American Board of Radiology certified) radiation physicist who works in a cancer hospital.  One day one of the pulminologists (a lung doctor basically) came over to talk to me.  His in-law who worked in Homeland Security was visiting his house, and his little belt clip-on radiation detector started beeping when he got near the kitchen counters.  They were really nice, expensive, granite counter tops.  (Granite is naturally radioactive with uranium and some other things in it.  It also gives off radon gas).  This doctor said he wasn't concerned but that his wife was afraid of the kitchen now, could I go talk with his wife and reassure her.  So fine, I took one of the GM counters from work over to his house one day and showed his wife.  Holding the probe up against the kitchen counter, the GM meter was clicking along merrily at a couple dozen counts per minute.  There's a meter (needle pointing to a number) and an audio speaker that makes a click each time it detects a radiation event, it sounds scary if you're not used to it.  But I explained and all to her that it was no big deal, not much radiation at all even if she were to sleep on top of the counter every night for every day of the year.  So as I was leaving she said "Thanks for coming over.  I didn't really care about it, but my husband has been afraid to go into the kitchen for the last couple of weeks and now he doesn't have to worry!"    ;D

    xsquidgator

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    Headline (Drudge) - "Radiation Levels Soar"
    « Reply #48 on: March 15, 2011, 01:35:53 PM »
    grrr.

    Below is the Drudge headline picture.  

    To be honest, saying this is "Soaring" isn't entirely inaccurate, but it needs to be put into context.

    The survey meter in the picture (presumably in Tokyo) reads 2 micro-Sieverts per hour.  If you do the unit conversion (1 Sv = 100 rem) that's equal to 0.2 mR/hr, or 200 micro-R per hour.  That's a relatively small radiation level and no big deal by itself; you could live your whole life 24/7 at that level and only get about 1.5 rem per year, less than 1/3 of what a radiation worker is allowed to get.

    Of course, the problem is that this number is rising due to a "rising source term" as we'd say in the nuc business, and who knows how high it will go.  There's also the matter of internal contamination, of ingesting or inhaling some of the airborne radioactivity, having it lodge inside your body, and delivering additional dose.

    I also think, based on reading the weather websites, that this is a temporary thing for Tokyo and points south, even if the release of radioactivity continues.  IIRC the winds are supposed to blow to the east within a day or so, so let's hope that happens.

    If I lived in Tokyo, I wouldn't worry about the radiation levels so long as they don't get too much higher, and I'd probably stay inside as much as possible.  At these levels and for probably a short time (a day or two maybe) this should be no worry, but that's contingent on the weather blowing back out to sea again soon, and hopefully reducing or stopping the release of radioactivity from the affected plants.  Still ok for now, but it would be good to see the levels rise as little as possible so that they don't get up to worrisome levels.

    (UPDATE) - I just realized the story linked to the picture on Drudge
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_japan_earthquake
    does not provide any radiation levels, other than qualitatively like "high" and the like.  The meter in the picture doesn't necessarily read 2 uR/hr either, since there's a switch on each of these meters to scale the response.  If it's on "x1" then it's 2 uR/hr but it could be on "x10" or "x0.1".
    Frickin worthless journalists.


    Precious Roy

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    Re: Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan
    « Reply #49 on: March 16, 2011, 02:39:14 AM »
    One last small funny story related to that.  I'm a (American Board of Radiology certified) radiation physicist who works in a cancer hospital.  One day one of the pulminologists (a lung doctor basically) came over to talk to me.  His in-law who worked in Homeland Security was visiting his house, and his little belt clip-on radiation detector started beeping when he got near the kitchen counters.  They were really nice, expensive, granite counter tops.  (Granite is naturally radioactive with uranium and some other things in it.  It also gives off radon gas).  This doctor said he wasn't concerned but that his wife was afraid of the kitchen now, could I go talk with his wife and reassure her.  So fine, I took one of the GM counters from work over to his house one day and showed his wife.  Holding the probe up against the kitchen counter, the GM meter was clicking along merrily at a couple dozen counts per minute.  There's a meter (needle pointing to a number) and an audio speaker that makes a click each time it detects a radiation event, it sounds scary if you're not used to it.  But I explained and all to her that it was no big deal, not much radiation at all even if she were to sleep on top of the counter every night for every day of the year.  So as I was leaving she said "Thanks for coming over.  I didn't really care about it, but my husband has been afraid to go into the kitchen for the last couple of weeks and now he doesn't have to worry!"    ;D

    When Civil Defense coordinators would come to the school on career day or do a program for the boy scouts they always brought one of those old "fiesta ware" plates that were slightly radioactive.  Made the geiger counter click along pretty good and elicited a nice reaction from the audience.  Speaking of which I've got an old civil defense CD V-700, a 700M, a 720, a 717 and a handful of dosimeters (I collect cold war and civil defense junk) I was gonna send away and get re-calibrated but it would probably take forever now with everything happening in Japan.
    If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.

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