General Question

skfinkel's avatar

Is anyone concerned about the radioactivity from the crippled (and possibly melted down) nuclear reactors in Japan?

Asked by skfinkel (13511points) March 12th, 2011

I hate to be overstating the case, but in addition to the devastation to the people and property in Japan, could the nukes cause a world wide radiation risk? Is this something anyone is thinking about?

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21 Answers

NostalgicChills's avatar

I haven’t actually thought about that.
Interesting.
I honestly have no idea, but all I can say is… I sure hope the radiation exposure doesn’t spread.

Garebo's avatar

Yes, I suggest start taking your Potassium Iodate in advance of the upcoming isotopic cloud coming to a theater near you.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Japan has 5 of their 22 nuclear reactors offline at the moment. That’s worrisome. The US still funds its programs to monitor radiation in the air, but I wonder if they would admit that there was any danger. We’ve only been hearing about the one reactor; what’s up with the others? There are more problems. Also see this about potential economic impact

Nullo's avatar

No. They said that the explosions did not damage the containment shell; I expect that they’re competent enough to tell.

JmacOroni's avatar

I am concerned, yes. With what appears to be the second partial meltdown, according to the latest statement from TEPCO, I worry about how far this will escalate before it stops. I am not necessarily worried about world wide-radiation risk, but I’m sure it could be possible. I’m certainly no expert on nuclear energy, but I can’t see how this wouldn’t be cause for concern.

Brian1946's avatar

I’m neither a nuclear physicist nor a meteorologist, but I don’t think any radioactive leakage would be propelled high enough to reach the jet stream, which I think is about the only way radioactive leakage from Japan could reach here in California.

However, I’ll be a little concerned until I’ve read that all necessary cooling water circulation has been restored to all the reactors, and that none of the containment vessels have been breached.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Yes. It sounds to me from listening to various experts on TV that this may in fact be a concern to Hawaii, and possibly to California.

Garebo's avatar

One thing I am sure of is you can never trust the media until they can’t hide it anymore from the public. Unless you are a climatic scientist familiar with these events, we will never know. Even then, most would never put there professional opinion out there in earnest, just low level radiation- let it slide by the radar.

JmacOroni's avatar

@Garebo I try not to jump to conclusions, but I’m inclined to agree with you. Something extremely fishy is going on with the information coming out of Japan. That also increases my concerns. I fear that it may be worse than they are letting on, and that is my honest opinion.

WasCy's avatar

No, I’m not a bit worried on any kind of global or international level. I expect that the worst that might happen – and I don’t even think it’s ‘likely’, only ‘possible’ – is that the affected plants could be ruined for future economic use, as happened in the US with Three Mile Island, and there could be some low-level local radiation release (whether or not that’s even detectable on any US location). We should not expect another Chernobyl. At least one of the plants was a boiling water reactor of the same general type as the Chernobyl reactor (not a pressurized water reactor such as Three Mile Island and most other commercial nukes in the US), but the Japanese have far better safeguards (and better procedures and practices, I expect) than the Russians had.

Garebo's avatar

Jmac, I am a conspiratorial paranoid-ignore me, LOL.

JmacOroni's avatar

@Garebo fair enough, but I’m not, and I’m still inclined to agree. I think that the conflicting information and other factors regarding the coverage of the events in Japan are.. suspicious. I don’t think it would be unrealistic, as it appears they are taking necessary measures to protect the people. Avoiding fueling the chaos and panic may outweigh the risks of downplaying what is going on right now, I could see how that would be reasonable. However, like I said, my personal suspicions about the accuracy of information only make me more uneasy. In the meanwhile, I will continue to hope that the worst is over with.

JLeslie's avatar

Japan is letting off radiotive vapor/steam to cool some of the effected power plants from what I understand. That must travel somewhat? I heard radiation levels are 8 times normal in the air just outside the plants, but I have not heard info on say 2 miles or 10 miles away. I would trust Japan more than the US to evacuate people actually. I heard people have been evacuated within a couple miles of the plants. But, I think the radiation matters. We might not see the effects for many years. In terms of it mattering around the world…it might be hit or miss depending on which way the wind blows?

Dog's avatar

I do not know how far this will go. I had a text from CBS news stating the #3 reactor was in crisis now.

My fear is not for myself- despite living on the coast of California. My heart cries for Japan. My fear is for it’s long and short term future and for those missing.

I also worry about our Japan based Jellies. Have we heard from them? Please check in guys!

zenvelo's avatar

I have some iodine tablets for me and the kids. I heard a nuclear scientist on the radio today, he said the experts in the US don’t have enough confirmed information from Japan yet, because it’s hard to get to the sites. And then it was mentioned that a radiation leak would take about 36 hours to reach the coast of California, where I live.

So yes, I am concerned.

mattbrowne's avatar

People who are not concerned right now can’t be serious. Now isn’t the time to promote views and fight ideological battles. The worst case scenario will have the worst effect in Japan itself. It all depends on the wind. Countries far away from Japan will benefit from a dispersal effect.

I’m really worried about the 36 million people in Tokyo, because they wouldn’t have a chance for evacuation.

Everything depends on the temperature developments inside the reactors. What I don’t understand is the lack of information about these temperatures. Do all thermometers depend on electic power?

Brian1946's avatar

What I glean from the following commentary by Dr. Michio Kaku at http://bigthink.com/ideas/31595 , is that the containment building at FD 1 was blown up but the reactor vessel within is still intact (as of over 16 hours ago):

“The Japanese reactor accident at the Fukushima Daiichi I plant is already the second worst nuclear power plant accident, second only to Chernobyl.

The situation changes hourly. But as of noon on March 12, here is what we know.

The reactor was hit with a double punch. The 8.9 earthquake knocked out off-site power. Then the subsequent tsunami caused the back-up generators to go out, meaning that the reactor was dead in the water, without any emergency power or back-up systems.

So think of driving a car without brakes, which is out of control.

The fail-safe systems failed. This is the accident that was never supposed to happen, the accident that engineers told us was unimaginable. Only battery power was left, about 8 hours worth, to keep water circulating over the core of the reactor. But after that was exhausted, temperatures began to rise, as well as pressures. (If the core of the reactor is ever exposed without water, temperatures can rise to 5,000 degrees F, at which uranium dioxide fuel beings to melt, initiating the China Syndrome.

It takes 30 minutes to several hours for an exposed core to melt down. Then a steam explosion might have enough force to rupture the vessel and containment.) Attempts were made to ship 14 back-up generators. This might have stopped the accident right there if the generators could energize the back-up pumps and keep the core covered with cooling water. But with the pressure inside the reactor rising 50% above normal, attempts were made to vent some of this dangerous, excess pressure. Radiation levels soared to 1,000 times normal levels inside the containment building.

But steam and hydrogen gas began to accumulate in the containment building. Suddenly, all hell broke lose. There was a hydrogen/steam explosion, which tore the entire containment building to pieces, leaving only the skeleton of the building. Four workers were injured. The utility expanded the evacuation radius from 2 miles, to 6 miles, then to 12 miles.

Plans were discussed to distribute iodine pills (to flood the thyroid gland with harmless iodine, to prevent radioactive iodine from concentrating in the thyroid and causing cancer.) These are last ditch measures in a nuclear accident. But fortunately, the reactor vessel (which actually contains the super hot uranium dioxide rods) was intact.

Think of a run-away car which has no brakes. Now imagine that the radiator explodes. This is the situation now.

The reactor is stable, but this is an illusion. It is sitting on a knife’s edge. Anything (a broken pipe, a secondary earthquake, loss of water, etc.) can set off a meltdown. Now, the utility is thinking of importing boric acid and sea water. This represents a very dire situation. Boric acid is used to absorb neutrons (to dampen the chain reaction) which was also used at Chernobyl to stop the accident there. (The Red Air Force was called into dump borated sand and cement onto the flaming core at Chernobyl to entomb the reactor).

Now, there is talk that the ulitity may want to flood the entire building with sea water in order to prevent the core from being exposed and causing a meltdown. This is like driving your run-away car off into a river to stop the engine and car from melting and exploding. This, obviously, would be a last ditch measure to prevent core damage. Flooding the core with sea water creates a whole list of secondary problems (such as contamination, health problems, instability, etc.) but right now, these secondary considerations are the last thing on the minds of the plant operators. They just want to stop the meltdown from happening.”

mattbrowne's avatar

Thanks @Brian1946 for sharing this. The best description I’ve seen so far. And Kaku is a very smart and knowledgable man. Cooling in other plants is failing too, including Tokai which is only 120 km north of Tokyo.

Brian1946's avatar

@mattbrowne

You’re most welcome.
I’m now following Kaku’s tweets.

Here’s his latest post regarding the nuclear disasters.

lylestephens01's avatar

@Brian1946 thats a very useful info, to where i live, text messages of wrong information had been pass that causes misinformation.

mattbrowne's avatar

It seems this is more up to date http://www.world-nuclear-news.org

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