(Updated) Expert: Threat of Nuclear Catastrophe in Japan -- "Could Be Worse Than Chernobyl"

The Associated Press reports“Japan ordered thousands of residents near a northeastern nuclear power plant to evacuate today following a massive earthquake that caused a problem in the plant’s cooling system.”

The Institute for Public Accuracy issued the following release:

Kamps is a specialist in nuclear waste at Beyond Nuclear. Last year he was in Japan assessing the state of nuclear facilities there. He said today: “The electrical grid is down. The emergency diesel generators have been damaged. The multi-reactor Fukushima atomic power plant is now relying on battery power, which will only last around eight hours. The danger is, the very thermally hot reactor cores at the plant must be continuously cooled for 24 to 48 hours. Without any electricity, the pumps won’t be able to pump water through the hot reactor cores to cool them. Once electricity is lost, the irradiated nuclear fuel could begin to melt down. If the containment systems fail, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur.  

“In addition to the reactor cores, the storage pool for highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel is also at risk. The pool cooling water must be continuously circulated. Without circulation, the still thermally hot irradiated nuclear fuel in the storage pools will begin to boil off the cooling water. Within a day or two, the pool’s water could completely boil away. Without cooling water, the irradiated nuclear fuel could spontaneously combust in an exothermic reaction. Since the storage pools are not located within containment, a catastrophic radioactivity release to the environment could occur. Up to 100 percent of the volatile radioactive Cesium-137 content of the pools could go up in flames and smoke, to blow downwind over large distances. Given the large quantity of irradiated nuclear fuel in the pool, the radioactivity release could be worse than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor catastrophe of 25 years ago.”


Japanese officials say that everything has been contained so far.

Obviously, our thoughts go out to everyone impacted by this disaster.

Update1: Japan's trade minister said, "a small radiation leak could occur" at Fukushima nuclear plant - after officials said a pressure build-up had occurred in one of the power station's reactors. (Via: AJE)

Update2:The Washington Post reports:

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said Friday that a fire broke out at the Onagawa nuclear power plant but was later extinguished.


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday morning that U.S. Air Force planes in Japan had delivered coolant to a nuclear power plant affected by the quake.

AlterNet / By Joshua Holland

Posted at March 11, 2011, 6:17am

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