Global/Local State of Dangerous Accidents
Prime Minister Mr. Naoto Kan got on a helicopter to observe the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the early morning of March 12, 2011.
In the evening of the day after he returned to Tokyo, the building housing the first reactor unit exploded due to hydrogen explosion.
Since then, in several days, the third reactor unit exploded in the same way as the 1st unit; the second reactor unit partially exploded; and the fourth unit fired.
PM Mr. Kan did not very often appear before reporters and TV cameras. But, his approval rating rose up from 20% to 30% (Former President Mr. George W. Bush marked 80% or so after the 9/11 Terror). Yet, he and his party DPJ lost the local elections widely conducted in a unified manner all over Japan a week ago. His scheme to establish grand coalition with the major opposition party LDP was rejected by President of the LDP Mr. Sadakazu Tanigaki.
Now, PM Mr. Kan shows his will to raise the rate of the consumption tax as a means to obtain funds for recovery of the affected area, including 800,000 victims of any sort, from the 3/11 Disaster.
Some politicians and people concerned seem to get prepared for an extraordinary political situation, though it is the LDP that is responsible for the government policy on nuclear energy in Japan in these 50 years, since the DPJ took power for the first time in 2009.
PART I: Past Nuclear Accidents
The New York Times' list of the past nuclear plant accidents:
1. Sodium Reactor Experiment (SER)
Location: Santa Susana Field Laboratory, California, United States
Reactor type: sodium-cooled graphite-moderated thermal power reactor
Power: 20 MWt; 6.5 MWe
History: initial criticality: April 25, 1957; first produced electricity in July 1957; operated two years, partial core meltdown accident from July 12 to 26, 1959, resulting in melting of as much as one-third of the fuel; shutdown July 26, 1959 (appears to have been operated for several days with its core partially melted); converted to HEU-Th fuel; second core operations began September 1960; permanently shutdown in February 1964.
2. Stationary Low-Power Reactor No. 1 (SL-1)
Location: National Reactor Testing Station (now Idaho National Laboratory), United States
Reactor type: experimental, gas-cooled, water-moderated
Power: 3.3 MWt; 300 kWe
History: initial criticality March 1961; prompt criticality accident Jan. 3, 1961; shut down May 1964
3. Enrico Fermi Unit 1 Reactor
Location: Newport, Lagoona Beach, Frenchtown Township, Monroe County, Mich., United States
Reactor Type: Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor ( LMFBR)
Power: 200 MWt; 65 MWe (gross); 61 MWe (net)
History: initial criticality Aug. 23, 1963; commercial operations began August 1966; partial fuel melt accident Oct. 5, 1966, two of the 105 fuel assemblies melted, but no contamination was recorded outside the containment vessel; closed November 1972
4. Chapelcross Unit 2 Nuclear Power Plant
Location: Annan, Dumfreshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Reactor Type: gas-cooled, graphite moderated; Magnox
Power: originally 180 MWt, up-rated progressively to 265 MWt, originally 23 MWe (gross) progressively up-rated to 60 MWe (gross); 50 MWe (net)
History: start-up May 1959; while under evaluation for the commercial reactor program, experienced a partial blockage in a single fuel channel May 1967, contamination was limited to one region of the core; shut down June 29, 2004
5. Saint-Laurent A-1 Nuclear Power Plant
Location: St. Laurent-Nouan, Loir-et-Cher, Centre, France
Reactor Type: gas-cooled, graphite moderated
Power: 1570 MWt; 405 MWe (gross), 390 MWe (net)
History: grid connection March 14, 1969; commercial operation June 1969; 50 kg of uranium began to melt Oct. 17, 1969; permanently shut down May 27, 1992
6. Saint-Laurent A-2 Nuclear Power Plant
Location: St. Laurent-Nouan, Loir-et-Cher, France
Reactor Type: gas-cooled, graphite moderated
Power: 1690 MWt; 465 MWe (gross) [uprated to 530 MWe (gross)], 450 MWe (net)
History: started November 1970; grid connection Aug. 9, 1971; commercial operation November 1971; heat excursion causing some fuel melting March 13, 1980; permanently shut down May 27, 1992
7. Three Mile Island Unit 2 Nuclear Power Plant
Location: Londonderry Township; Dauphine County, Pa., United States
Reactor Type: Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR)
Power: 2,568 MWt, 808 MWe (gross); 776 MWe (net)
History: initial criticality December 1978; partial core melt accident March 1979; decommissioned 1979
8. Chernobyl Unit 4 Nuclear Power Plant
Location: Pripyat, Ukraine, Soviet Union (now Ukraine)
Reactor Type: RBMK-1000 (graphite-moderated water-cooled)
Power: 3,200 MWt; 1,000 MWe (gross); 925 MWe (net)
History: destroyed in full-core melt accident April 26, 1986
9. Greifswald Unit 5 (KGR-5) Nuclear Power Plant
Location: Lubmin, East Germany (now Germany)
Reactor Type: VVER-440, Model V-230, Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR)
Power: 1,375 MWt; 440 MWe (gross); 408 MWe (net)
History: grid connection April 24, 1989; commercial operation Nov. 1, 1989; near core melt with 10 fuel elements damaged Dec. 7, 1975; permanent shutdown Nov. 24, 1989
PART II: The world's worst nuclear accidents
Soon after the 3/11 Disaster, some media focused on the Fukushima Nuclear Plant.
- March 28, 1979: 140,000 people are evacuated after an accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, United States. The reactor's core suffers partial meltdown, causing contamination within the plant but none outside. There are no casualties. The accident registers five on the International Atomic Energy Agency's seven-point scale of nuclear accidents.
- August 1979: A leak of uranium at a secret nuclear site near Erwin in Tennessee, United States, contaminates some 1,000 people.
- January-March 1981: Four radioactive leaks occur in succession at the Tsuruga nuclear plant in Japan. According to official figures, 278 people are contaminated.
- April 26, 1986: The world's worst nuclear incident occurs when Reactor Number Four at Ukraine's Chernobyl plant blows up after an experiment goes wrong and the top of the reactor blows off. Some 200 people are seriously contaminated, of whom 32 die within three months. The accident is only revealed after a giant radioactive cloud is registered moving across northern Europe.
The fall-out is recorded as being equivalent to that from more than 200 atomic bombs of the type dropped by the US on Hiroshima in 1945. Hundreds of thousands of residents are evacuated from the area and a similar number are estimated to have been contaminated by radiation. The incident registers the maximum seven on the international scale.
- April 1993: An explosion at a secret reprocessing plant in Tomsk-7 in western Siberia releases a cloud of radioactive gas, including Uranium-235, Plutonium-237 and various other fissile materials. The number of casualties is unclear.
- November 1995: Serious contamination is reported at Chernobyl during the removal of fuel from one of the plant's reactors. The incident is reported only after an apparent attempt to cover it up.
- March 11, 1997: Work at the experimental treatment plant in Tokaimura, northeast of Tokyo, is partially halted after a fire and an explosion expose 37 people to radiation.
- September 30, 1999: Two workers die in an accident at the uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, Japan -- the world's worst since Chernobyl, rating four on the seven-point scale. Workers at the plant pour too much uranium into a precipitation tank as they cut corners to save time and can only watch helplessly as a blue flash signals the start of Japan's most serious nuclear accident.
It exposes more than 600 people to radiation and forces around 320,000 to shelter indoors for more than a day. Two of the workers who triggered the disaster die from their injuries in hospital, three and six months after the incident. The first had been exposed to 17,000 times the average annual dose of radiation.
- August 9, 2004: Four workers are killed and seven others severely burned by a leak of non-radioactive steam at a nuclear plant in Mihama, 350 kilometres (220 miles) west of Tokyo.
PART III: Nuclear and Chemical Accidents
Not only nuclear plants but some chemical plants are also counted.
Dec. 12, Chalk River, nr. Ottawa, Canada: a partial meltdown of the reactor's uranium fuel core resulted after the accidental removal of four control rods. Although millions of gallons of radioactive water accumulated inside the reactor, there were no injuries.
Love Canal, nr. Niagara Falls, N.Y.: was destroyed by waste from chemical plants. By the 1990s, the town had been cleaned up enough for families to begin moving back to the area.
Oct. 7, Windscale Pile No. 1, north of Liverpool, England: fire in a graphite-cooled reactor spewed radiation over the countryside, contaminating a 200-square-mile area.
South Ural Mountains: explosion of radioactive wastes at Soviet nuclear weapons factory 12 mi from city of Kyshtym forced the evacuation of over 10,000 people from a contaminated area. No casualties were reported by Soviet officials.
nr. Greifswald, East Germany: radioactive core of reactor in the Lubmin nuclear power plant nearly melted down due to the failure of safety systems during a fire.
March 28, Three Mile Island, nr. Harrisburg, Pa.: one of two reactors lost its coolant, which caused overheating and partial meltdown of its uranium core. Some radioactive water and gases were released. This was the worst accident in U.S. nuclear-reactor history.
Dec. 3, Bhopal, India: toxic gas, methyl isocyanate, seeped from Union Carbide insecticide plant, killing more than 2,000 and injuring about 150,000.
April 26, Chernobyl, nr. Kiev, Ukraine: explosion and fire in the graphite core of one of four reactors released radioactive material that spread over part of the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and later western Europe. 31 claimed dead. Total casualties are unknown. Worst such accident to date.
Sept. 18, Goiânia, Brazil: 244 people contaminated with cesium-137 from a cancer-therapy machine that had been sold as scrap. Four people died in worst radiation disaster in Western Hemisphere.
Sept. 30, Tokaimura, Japan: uncontrolled chain reaction in a uranium-processing nuclear fuel plant spewed high levels of radioactive gas into the air, killing two workers and seriously injuring one other.
Aug. 9, Mihama, Japan: nonradioactive steam leaked from a nuclear power plant, killing four workers and severely burning seven others.
July 17, Kashiwazaki, Japan: radiation leaks, burst pipes, and fires at a major nuclear power plant followed a 6.8 magnitude earthquake near Niigata. Japanese officials, frustrated at the plant operators' delay in reporting the damage, closed the plant a week later until its safety could be confirmed. Further investigation revealed that the plant had unknowingly been built directly on top of an active seismic fault.
February 7, Port Wentworth, Georgia: an explosion fueled by combustible sugar dust killed 13 people and injured several others at the Imperial Sugar plant near Savannah.
March 12, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Japan: an explosion in reactor No. 1 caused one of the buildings to crumble to the ground. The cooling system at the reactor failed shortly after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. By Tuesday, March 15, two more explosions and a fire had officials and workers at the plant struggling to regain control of four reactors. The fire, which happened at reactor No. 4, was contained by noon on Tuesday, but not before the incident released radioactivity directly into the atmosphere.
Frankly speaking, Japan has failed in management of its nuclear power plants. There must be a kind of arrogance in behaviors of power utility companies, government authorities and regulators, politicians, and academic people especially of the University of Tokyo. Though in 1990's and 2000's the Japanese nuclear industry enjoyed a leading position in the world on equal terms with the U.S. and France, something has been apparently insufficient since Japan is totally on the very active earthquake/volcanic belt surrounding the Pacific Ocean unlike the U.S. and France.
PART IV: US Department of Energy
The state of radiation around the Fukushima Nuclear Daiichi Plant has been monitored also by the U.S. Department of Energy.
(Click to enlarge.)
As Japan has US Treasury securities and bods worth $900 billion, the radioactive state of Tokyo must be a big concern for the United States.
The capital of the largest ally of the U.S. is still safe from the threat of radiation. But, Japan might need more support from the nuclear giant America to fix the matter as quick as possible.
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The point at issue is whether any of the three pressure vessels of the 1st to the 3rd reactor units of Fukuhsima Daiichi can sustain itself, containing and cooling nuclear fuel, and whether more than 1000 spent fuel rods of the 4th reactor unit can be also cooled down.
If it is carried out, Tokyo is safe.
If we fail in it, Tokyo might face a big trouble. Both the Three Mile and the Chernobyl accidents were all about one reactor vessel, respectively. But, there are four reactor units in trouble in Fukushima No.1 Plant.
The distance between Tokyo and the Plant, 250 km, and the general direction of air flow from Tokyo Prefecture to Fukuhsima Prefecture might be of a little help. But, as on September 11, 2001 another hijacked jet plane might have been flying over Washington DC, ultimate safety is yet to be confirmed on Tokyo since March 11, 2011.
Yet, 35 million people are peacefully and diligently living around Tokyo or on the Kanto Plain as usual as if they were under protection of something deeply spiritual (the Tokyo radiation level today is 0.076 micro-sieverts per hour, which is very safe like in any other cities in the world).
(It will be gone with wind...
Mar 4:16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
Mar 4:17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.