Skip to comments.Fukushima vs Chernobyl vs Three Mile Island
Posted on 01/14/2014 11:48:26 AM PST by dirtboy
In March of 2011, an undersea earthquake sent tsunamis thundering across Japan, killing nearly 20,000 people and creating the most expensive natural disaster in history. Among the casualities was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was almost completely submerged by the tsunamis; an unprecedented event. Power was lost (obviously), cooling systems stopped, and the net result was a complete meltdown of three of the plant's reactor cores. It was a perfect storm of worst case scenarios. And now, even years afterward, some are calling it a worldwide radiation disaster, worse than even Chernobyl, that will produce a staggering death count for decades or even centuries. Today we're going to evaluate these assertions and see if we can separate fact from fiction.
With the shocking end-of-the-world-scenario headlines such as "Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Are Over" and "28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima" either Fukushima was the worst environmental disaster ever, or some of the worst misinformation ever is being trumpeted. To find out which, we'll put it into context with the two other best known nuclear disasters: the 1986 explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine, and the 1979 partial meltdown of a reactor at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania.
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Our planet's entropy has, long ago, already rid itself of any credible threat from the Fukushima radiation, outside of the immediate evacuation zone. Fishing has long been suspended from Daiichi's vicinity, so there is no way that eating a legally caught fish can give you any significant Fukushima radiation.
The Fukushima disaster will probably end up being the most expensive industrial accident and cleanup in history, but it has certainly not been among the most dangerous, thanks largely to Japan's prompt action. The newest World Health Organization assessment concludes:
...No discernible increase in health risks from the Fukushima event is expected outside Japan. With respect to Japan, this assessment estimates that the lifetime risk for some cancers may be somewhat elevated above baseline rates in certain age and sex groups that were in the areas most affected.
Clearly it wasn't good, but if you want to be able to develop proper response plans, you have to understand the correct facts about the situation. Absurdly exaggerated and sensationalized reports do not help anyone; rather they increase confusion, and decrease our ability to respond to such events appropriately.
The reactor at TMI didn’t partially meltdown. The core ended up as rubble. The vessel itself held.
Time for some serious investment in fusion research. Fusion is a lot safer. And wind and solar are only token efforts with very questionable results.
Besides, if we are all going to be driving around in electric cars, then we need a massively upgrade to our power grid and production plants.
Thanks for posting that!
I am so screwed.
Thorium reactors are also a good alternative.
Somehow, we remember Hiroshima of 1945 and not the thriving metropolis it is now, After all, if you listen to all the talking heads, no one could be living there for 10,000 years yet.
“..: the 1986 explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine,..”
I stopped reading right there. That statement is false: the Chernobyl reactor never “exploded”. It was steam lines that exploded and destroyed the reactor vessel.
My father was a nuclear engineer and he had a copy of the government (USA) report which I read. Those men who ordered the test of the steam system, operating it beyond its safety standards, were executed by the Russian government.
By the way, thank you for posting this article. There are “intervenors” who, no matter how silly they appear in the end, are trying to disrupt and/or stop energy production in the USA. They get articles out to the public, which doesn’t know anything about nuclear power, and basically lie about it.
It doesn’t matter whether the subject is about nuclear plants or not. They pursue a vast array of other energy issues: LNG shipments, petroleum pipelines, nuclear development, coal production and coal power plants - they are basically communists, pretending to be environmentalists who hate America and will go to any lengths except putting themselves in harm’s way, to destroy this nation.
I was assured by some of the top PhD's at Princeton University fusion labs that commercial fusion power is only 5 or 10 years away. Of course, that was 40 years ago they assured me of that. ;~))
I think you could pump the entire global GDP at fusion research, and you will get no closer to a solution. There are just too many fundamental areas we do not yet understand. Maybe someday, but I would not include fusion power among any foreseeable options. Certainly worth investigating, but it not something we should bet the farm on.
And I'd add, until we figure out how to do it, we have no idea if it would be safer.
How do you know that? What is their operating experience?
Keanu Reeves already did it...
Yes it did. Look at the pics.
>>Fusion is a lot safer.
Hard to say about something that doesn’t exist.
Theoretically it might be. Practically, once such a thing exists, it might not be.
The steam lines ruptured, destroyed the reactor and pulverized the fuel. This caused plutonium particles to form in the steam rising from the ruins. Later, when the coolant (which was flammable) caught on fire, plutonium particle were part of smoke.
Be careful reading Wikipedia. They are not 100% accurate on this subject.
The fuel used in power plants will not explode. It will become very hot due to loss of coolant, causing other things to happen, but it will not explode.
Here are some examples for you.
If you smile radiation wont harm you.
All the nuclear contamination is confined to the harbor.
Fukushima did not suffer a meltdown.
Okay well if it was a meltdown it was only partial.
Okay well if it was a significant meltdown it still did not breach the RPV.
Blah, blah, blah. Nothing but lies from the nuclear crowd so far. When, if ever, will they stop ? And I was sitting on the fence, in a neutral position, before they started the Fukushima lie train.
Obviously this idiot never held a fishing pole with a greater then 50 lb tuna on the line.
The coolant at Chernobyl did not catch on fire, as the coolant was steam. Rather, it was the graphite moderator that burned. In a thermal reactor, which includes almost all of the operating power reactors (there might be a couple of fast reactors out there), the moderator slows down the neutrons. While a uranium (or plutonium) atom fissions, the emitted neutrons are moving at extremely high speeds and must be slowed down if they are to cause additional fissions and sustain the chain reaction.
In pressurized water reactors (such as Three-Mile Island) and boiling water reactors (such as Fukashima), water acts as both the coolant and the moderator. In an RMBK reactor, such as Chernobyl, graphite is the moderator and steam is the coolant. Almost all of the operating power reactors in the world are either pressurized water reactors or boiling water reactors.
Back in the 1970s, my advisor in grad school said that we would need 20/20 vision to see a functioning fusion (tokamak) reactor, by which he meant it might happen by the year 2020. Well, we are almost to 2020 and we really haven’t made any progress on some the formidable engineering problems since my advisor made that statement.
BTW, at the time, his PhD thesis was one of the most widely cited papers on tokamaks.
The article badly mischaracterizes the Three-Mile Island accident, treating it as steam generator tube rupture, when it was actually a small-break LOCA, in effect.
You’ve never been in a neutral position on the nuclear power question, at least not on Free Republic.
Firstly, Fukushima’s nuclear operations successfully shutdown post-earthquake. What happened after that, being destroyed by a tsunami, was not the fault of the plant’s operators and is not a nuclear accident.
The coolant systems were destroyed. Nuclear fuel gets very hot unless it is cooled, usually by water. However, after a period of time (I believe it is two or three years) the fuel can be set out in plain air and cooled in that manner. That is how spent fuel is stored at decomisioned Nuclear Plants like the former Trojan Nuclear facility at Goble, Oregon.
Was there a meltdown? Big f****** deal. I don’t care. The fuel isn’t going anywhere.
“But, but,...there is a big plume of radiation coming out of Fukushima and killing tens of thousands of people on the west coast of the US!!!”
I remember reading that here on Free Republic and responded very calmly — no. There haven’t been deaths in the US due to radiation from Fukushima. It is not happening.
I eat clams from Willapa Bay in southwest Washington State. I also eat wild salmon caught at sea off the northwest’s coastline as well as from the Columbia River. I have the means to test for the presence of radioactivity, and the seafood I just mentioned is not dangerous to eat.
Note: all seafood has a level of radioactivity. It is normal and States periodically check for it.
The report I read stated that the reactor at Chernobyl was graphite cooled.
So, it was the graphite that caught fire. The photos from that time are very graphic, showing flames leaping in the shattered reactor vessel.
The greatest harm experienced as a consequence of the TMI incident was the mental angst engendered by overblown, semi-hysterical press accounts.
TMI had a failure of the pilot-operated relief valve on the pressurizer along with the associated instrumentation which showed the valve had closed.
There was one operating successfully for several years at Oak Ridge in the 1960s.
The thorium approach was abandoned because it didn’t produce materials for nuclear weapons.
I agree. The failure of the pilot-operated relief valve to close was effectively a small-break Loss of Coolant Accident.
For what it is worth, I spent about eight hours the Sunday following the accident (which occurred the previous Wednesday) analyzing data from the TMI site.
No, actually I suspect that the U-233 bred in a thorium reactor would make a dandy weapons pit.
That may be; I don’t know a whole lot about thorium reactors.
It’s my understanding that they were considered to be less compatible with the US nuclear weapons programs than were uranium-based and plutonium-based reactors.
Safer than Fission wrt radiation.
Good point. Fusion has certainly had a lot of opportunity and money already.
I was referring to radiation.
Just so the rest of you know, prior to the radiation leak... “justa-hairyape” had a comb over. : )
Really? Then explain why the United States never used Light Water reactors to produce weapons materials.
You said there was no explosion. There was and without a containment vessel, radioactive material was vented. Over 1 million people have died from this. I don’t use Wikipedia.
If you are talking about Chernobyl, I’ve already explained how the reactor was breached. The nuclear fuel did not explode.
The number who have died due to Chernobyl: 31 so far.
I don’t know the details.
The explanation I’ve heard for the discontinuation of the US government thorium reactor program was that it was somehow inconsistent with the rest of the uranium/plutonium activities, which were oriented towards weapon production.
Wow. Only 5 lies in your response. Early on in the Fukushima accident, within a week or two, I stated here on Freerepublic what my position was, neutral. And I stated that how the nuclear industry responds to this accident would determine what side off the fence I would end up on. Can dig up the post for you if you like. The reason I am now anti-nuke, is because of responses just like yours. You do not even care if it melted down. That is criminal behavior coming from a nuclear shill. Hope to god you are not currently working at a nuke plant.
We know now that the earthquake caused mortal damage to the Fukushima reactors. That damage busted the cooling piping that the fire engine cooling hoses were trying to use. Yes the tsunami took out the generators, but the earthquake damage was the mortal blow.
And of course you are lying about not caring about a meltdown. You are required by law to care.
And another lie is no deaths in US. It is impossible to know that.
Oh and while you are eating your salmon and clams, you probably should at least be aware that China has banned all shell fish from the northeastern Pacific. First time ever. And there are currently bans on certain species of shell fish from that region. Bans by the US and Canadian governments.
Next time read the tag line.
You are full of crapola. How sad!
There were amazing things happening at the Princeton Physics Lab... then they shut the Tokamak Generator down.
I disagree... The "mental angst" contributed to a defective national energy policy which caused our children to be sent overseas to police the Middle East oil supply... If this had not happened, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, Fallujah would not be flying the Al-Qeada flag, and Iran would never consider having a nuclear program of any sort.
Landed a 85 lb tuna on 30 lb test. Took a long time and he would have spooled me if I did not thumb the reel. Was near Alijos Rocks half way down the coast of Baja. In the open ocean, Tuna are more or less unstoppable.
A book published in 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences, entitled Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, puts the Chernobyl death toll at 985,000 people between 1986 and 2004.
Having grown up in the PNW, I can honestly say that there are very few things from the sea that are quite as good as a Willapa Bay oyster.