Skip to comments.Slideshow: Fukushima Plant Passed Ultimate Test
Posted on 04/29/2013 6:30:03 AM PDT by null and void
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant performed beyond its best expectations after being struck by a mammoth earthquake and a 40-ft-high tidal wave in 2011, experts said last week.
More than two years after the earthquake and tsunami struck, studies are now showing that radiation exposure levels were much lower than originally predicted. Thus far, the only deaths directly attributed to the nuclear plant have been related to the evacuation of residents, and not to radiation exposure. The powerplant did an incredible job, Jeff Terry, an associate professor of physics at Illinois Institute of Technology, told Design News. Even with multiple meltdowns and explosions, there were no radiation-related fatalities.
The performance of the plant has been a surprise to some. Media reports initially following the disaster predicted thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands, of fatalities.
Click the image below to start the slideshow.
But a recent study published in Transactions of the Japan Academy indicated that radioactive cesium levels were too low to detect in 99 percent of the 22,000 residents examined in Fukushima Prefecture over the past two years. Internal exposure levels of residents are much lower than estimated, wrote Ryugo Hayano, a physics professor of physics at the University of Tokyo in the recently published study.
To be sure, there are still many legitimate concerns about the effects of the disaster on the plant. Thousands of Fukushima residents still cant return to their homes and groundwater at the plant is contaminated. Tea leaves, rice, beef, and other agricultural products may also be affected by low doses of radiation. Moreover, molten fuel almost certainly flowed through steel reactor vessels and is now believed to be residing inside concrete containment buildings, where it may have to remain for years. We wont know how bad it is until someone gets in there, Terry told us. And that could take five to 10 years.
Still, exposure levels have been low for residents and plant workers alike. First-year radiation doses for individuals in the area of greatest exposure were measured at 2 rems (a rem is a measure of biological damage to tissue), according to a University of California-Berkeley physics professor in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Those levels are only slightly higher than what individuals are typically subjected to, but are not considered dangerous.
On average, 0.6 rems per year is normal, while nuclear powerplant workers are limited to about 5 rems per year. According to the 1982 book, Nuclear Power: Both Sides by Michio Kaku, 1,000 rems would kill a person a few days after exposure, 500 rems would kill half of the exposed population within a few weeks, 200 to 400 rems would cause radiation sickness and hemorrhaging, and 50 rems would cause no immediate visible effects, but could induce long-term damage.
In this case, the public got hardly any dose at all, James F. Stubbins, a professor of nuclear, plasma, and radiological engineering at the University of Illinois, told Design News. And the workers doses were low, too.
Experts who talked to us said the Fukushima plant did amazingly well, considering the magnitude of the disaster. The 40-year-old plant withstood an earthquake that measured a 9.0 on the Richter scale, even though it was designed for an 8.2 (because those numbers are measured on a logarithmic scale, thats nearly a 10X difference). The earthquake was then followed by a 15-m high tidal wave -- about 10 m higher than called for in the plants original design.
I try to remind people that there were 20,000 people killed by the tsunami and the earthquake, Stubbins told us. There were basically no people killed by the Fukushima power plant.
Ultimately, those numbers are bound to change. One study predicted there will still be between 15 and 1,300 cancer fatalities worldwide as a result of the accident, and approximately two to 12 cancer cases among the plants workers over many years.
Still, experts point out that whatever the ultimate number of deaths, it will only be a small fraction of the total fatalities associated with the earthquake and tsunami. And its far less than the number of automotive fatalities on American roads every year.
We have to remember, this accident was caused by one of the worst earthquakes ever known, Ahmad Hassanein, head of the nuclear engineering department at Purdue University, told us. The reactor was 40 years old and it stood up well. Given the situation, it did better than expected.
Terry added that the Fukushima plant was safer for the public than comparable coal-burning plants. People like the idea of being perfectly safe, he said. But youre never going to get that. When you convert one form of energy to another, nothings ever going to be perfectly safe.
Yes. Look at our own Pacific North West, or for that matter how much the coastline changed after the 1964 Good Friday Alaska quake.
Come to think of it, 1964 was more than 30 years ago...
Sea water. Primary constituent: Di-hydrogen monoxide...
What I find amazing is the poor planing for emergencies. The whole disaster was a result of no cooling water for the reactor due to damage from the quake. I will never understand why the reactor was not designed to have a backup system with its own independent power source to pump cooling water in an emergency.
All it would have taken is a couple of diesel engines and pumps. These are cheap. They had a whole damn ocean of water to use if necessary.
I have certainly learned not to believe the hysteria of the MSM. They are selling commercials, not delivering news.
The earthquake didn't take out the reactors. The resulting tsunami flooded the emergency generators and knocked them out of action. And when you think about it, earthquakes and tsunamis are not disjoint events so this probably should have been foreseen.
It did. As a matter of fact each reactor had three diesel generators (DG) to supply power to the emergency cooling water systems.
Unfortunately the DGs and the electrical busses that they fed were swamped by the Tsunami. The DGs and the electrical busses were in the plants basement.
When the tsunami hit the flood water filled the basement knocking out the emergency DGs and the electrical busses.
You can’t judge them too harshly for not forseeing a 9.0 earthquake and a fifty-foot tsunami, I don’t think.
Bump for later