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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Does Anybody REALLY Know What's Happening?

There are so many conflicting stories coming out of Japan about the condition of the hobbled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactor.  It seems so sad that already, various press outlets are spinning the story in any angle that suits their bias!  

Queen Ginger's most credible resource has opined that much of the concern and risk is overblown.  Apparently,  the design of the reactors and their current state pretty much precludes a Chernobyl type meltdown and public disaster.  

But here's one thing that confuses pea-brained Miss Ginger.  This article by CNN  describes the INES Rankings of Nuclear Disasters- sort of a "Richter Scale" of fall out risk, if you will.

The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale -- or INES -- ranks incidents from Level 1, which indicates very little danger to the general population, to Level 7, a "major accident" with a large release of radioactive material and widespread health and environmental effects.
"It's clear we are at Level 6, that's to say we're at a level in between what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl," Andre-Claude Lacoste, president of France's nuclear safety authority, told reporters Tuesday.
The core meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania, in 1979 caused no injuries or deaths, and only low levels of radiation were found later in plants and animals, experts said.
At least 30 people died following the 1986 explosion and fire at Chernobyl, and large swaths of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were contaminated from the nuclear fallout. Thousands of cases of childhood thyroid cancer resulted, according to Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which opposes the use of nuclear power.

It seems to Miss Ginger that there is a pretty large gap between TMI and Chernobyl!

At this point, even experts can't agree on the magnitude of the disaster.  There are articles pointing to suspected cover-ups by the Japanese government. There are articles speculating the risk is greater than we know. 

We do know that most of the dramatic explosions and clouds we have seen on the news are steam. We also know that if the containment systems are intact, this steam should be, for the most part, benign, and no cause for concern.  We also know that the control rods have been inserted successfully in all reactors, allowing the reactor to shut down properly. What we don't know for sure is whether the primary containment systems are intact, and whether there are spent fuel rods outside of an intact containment barrier.  

Miss Ginger also has no idea what the breach of these containment systems would mean.  With the reactors shut down and the control rods in place, is there less risk of radiation leak, even if the containment systems are broken?

Let's get answers and facts, people! Enough speculation! These people have enough on their hands- they don't need us making it worse with inaccurate and sensational information!


Kailyn said...

I must admit that I have been watching this all unfold from a selfish viewpoint. We here in California have known an earthquake or two. And my hike last February was on land bordering a nuclear power plant. Over the years we have been given numerous promises regarding the safety of these plants following a major seismic event.

I sincerely hope that this ends up being more like TMI than Chernobyl.

Bob said...

Check out Nutwood Beth's husband Ken's blog: Bucko's World.
He has some good insights into the situation.


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