Japanese, Russian and Indonesian Volcanoes Erupt ... 5 Japanese Nuclear Reactors In Danger ... 1 Is Leaking and May Melt Down Within 24 Hours

George Washington's picture


Update: It's possible that a meltdown may already have occurred at one nuclear power plant. As AP wrote 4 minutes ago:

official with Japan's nuclear safety commission says that a meltdown
at nuclear power plant affected by the country's massive earthquake is

Ryohei Shiomi said Saturday that officials were checking whether a meltdown had taken place at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, which had lost cooling ability in the aftermath of Friday's powerful earthquake.

Reuters reports:

Japanese nuclear authorities said that
there was a high possibility that nuclear fuel rods at a reactor
at Tokyo Electric Power's Daiichi plant may be melting
or have melted, Jiji news agency reported.


Experts have
said that if the fuel rods have been damaged, it means that it could
develop into a breach of the nuclear reactor vessel and the question
then becomes one of how strong the containment structure around the
vessel is and whether it has been undermined by the earthquake.

Volcanoes have reportedly erupted in Japan, Indonesia, and Kamchatka Russia today, presumably due to the massive Japanese earthquake. There have been no reports of damage from the eruptions.

In addition, there are problems at three Japanese nuclear power plants.

The Fukushima plant is leaking radiation, and a nuclear expert says that things are getting worse, and "Fukushima has 24 hours to avoid a core meltdown scenario". (See Tyler Durden's report).

MSNBC reports:

situation is still several stages away from Three Mile Island when the
reactor container ceased to function as it should," said Tomoko
Murakami, leader of the nuclear energy group at Japan's Institute of
Energy Economics

Two other Japanese nuclear reactors are now in trouble as well. Two other Japanese nuclear reactors are now in trouble as well [UPDATE: It is now up to 5 nuclear reactors].

As MSNBC notes:

systems failed at three quake-stricken Japanese nuclear reactors
Saturday, sending radiation seeping outside one and temperatures rising
out of control at two others.

surged to around 1,000 times the normal level in the control room of
the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima Daichi plant, Japan's Nuclear and
Industrial Safety Agency said. Radiation — it was not clear how much —
had also seeped outside, prompting widening of an evacuation area to a
six-mile radius from a two-mile radius around the plant. Earlier, 3,000
people had been urged to leave their homes.


Tokyo Electric
Power Co. said Saturday that the temperatures of its No.1 and No.2
reactors at its Fukushima Daini nuclear power station were rising, and
it had lost control over pressure in the reactors.




an hour after the plant shut down, however, the emergency diesel
generators stopped, leaving the units with no power for important
cooling functions.




Hours after the evacuation order,
the government announced that the plant will release slightly
radioactive vapor from the unit to lower the pressure in an effort to
protect it from a possible meltdown.

Good luck to the Japanese scientists bravely trying to avert catastrophe. As MSNBC notes:

Japan has a "tremendous amount of technical capability and resources" to respond to the issue ....

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onarga74's picture

How do you get ahold of the author George?  His newer article on this is like 1/2 in code and gibberdiddles.


Diamond Jim's picture

In geology we have a saying that fits all this:


Civilization exists with geological consent,

subject to change without notice.....

snowball777's picture


"...armies of engineers...to analyze the soil...the food we contemplate...the water that we boil..."

Robert Neville's picture

Fuk U Shima?

Who is Shima?

Withdrawn Sanction's picture

Good points, Geekgrrl

Frank Knight (1930s?) made a useful distinction between risk and uncertainty.  Risk is that small subset of uncertainty that we can "quantify" with a probability distribution.  That distribution comes from either experience (such as history tells us male 20 year olds are more likely to have an accident than female 20 year olds), or from knowing the population set (such as the number of red and black spaces on a roulette wheel).  In risk situations there's always a chance things can turn out differently than we expect (than our probabilities tell us), but that's the nature of risk.  Uncertainty's another beast entirely.  With uncertainty we have no or very little information to inform our judgement about the likelihood of future events.

In the case of the reactors, we have some debateably similar incidents in the past, but not enough observations from which to draw useful/accurate probabilities.  So, in my book, it remains in the realm of true uncertainty.  So anyone who talks as if they know what will happen is talking out of their hat.

nmewn's picture

"In risk situations there's always a chance things can turn out differently than we expect (than our probabilities tell us), but that's the nature of risk."

Well stated.

My thoughts turn to what must have been the discussion of risk around the planning/engineering table before construction, when a young engineer asked what if the power or the pumps for the coolant are compromised...do we have a stand alone back up system in place?

Furthermore...do we in US nuke plants?...being a proponent of nuclear power I would like to know, not that an earthquake is going to strike within 16 miles of every one...but this is a part of risk management...trying to factor in all the what if's.

Robert Neville's picture

We had the meltdown at Three Mile Island. Very little happened because the containment system worked. The deign is good provided the containment vessel is not damaged. The reactor cores are also self moderating so they shut down if it starts to melt. I think a better question would have been; Should we build a reactor in seismically active areas? I am also a proponent of nuclear power and accidents make it less likly that we will ever fully embrace it.

nmewn's picture

Well, from what I understand as of now, a chain of events have happened.

An automatic shutdown of the plant happened because of the earthquake. Likewise, somehow, outside power can't be backfed into the plant from the outside world as they were depending on battery power to pump coolant. I don't know if other power plants "automatically" shut down because of the earthquake to cause this situation or what.

Which get's to my larger point of stand alone backups on site not critically dependant on battery's or outside power...that is, if a hurricane or tornado were to throw trees onto transmission lines outside power could not be used for coolant pumps and the battery's would still discharge over time.

I'm not in the nuclear power industry, so I don't know what "self moderating" means. It's my understanding they have to slowly "turn down" which takes time & pumping coolant which requires power for the pumps.

Help on that one?

New_Meat's picture

nmewn-the earthquake (seismic event) occurred and caused the measured parameters to initiate a scram (reactor trip).  These are BWRs, where the water passing through the core turns to steam, leads out the top of the reactor vessel and off to the turbine.  Because the water has been in the neutron field, some of the Os in H2O have a proton knocked off and become N isotope 16 that is kinda' energetic.  Maintenance guys do not go into areas with direct line of sight to the pipes because the N-16 'shine' burns them up.

Automatic shutdown means insert the control rods (BWR is insert from the bottom).  PWRs (Crystal River, St. Lucie, Turkey Pt. e.g.) take advantage of gravity and drop the rods from the top of the vessel as God intended.  But  the story doesn't end with the initial shutdown.  Fissions can be prompt (all stop when the control rods are inserted) or delayed (exponential decay, takes like 72 hours to get pressure/temperature/decays down.

All of the units have 2x redundant forced cooling systems.  That is, emergency diesel generators power pumps with suction from seismically designed vessels and can force water into the core.  One of the cooling mechanisms (not preferred, but better than not) is feed and bleed, where water is forced in and steam is let off to atmosphere.

Tough to know what is going on; lotta stupid speculation.  But this is an older unit (daiichi) with the Mark I containment design.  There was a report of the wetwell (suppression pool) at 100 DegC which means that steam line break of some kind has happened.  Cycle sketch and some marketing info here:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Containment_building (see the BWR piece).  Usually, the containment buildings are "Primary Containment" that is reinforced concrete and "Secondary Containment" that is stronger than a Butler Building.  That is the square-ish building that vanished in the "After" photo.

Mechanism for the explosion?  H2 detonation is my first guess.  Root cause?  I'd start looking at multiple structural failures from the seismic event.  Didn't see any tsunami innundatoin.

- Ned

{checkered carreer, n'est ce pas?}

nmewn's picture

Thanks Ned,

"Mechanism for the explosion?  H2 detonation is my first guess.  Root cause?  I'd start looking at multiple structural failures from the seismic event.  Didn't see any tsunami innundatoin."

Yes, possibly clogged water intakes or valve failure initially maybe. The pressurized H buildup was tremendous...which means it wasn't getting out to me (vented properly...but they did vent at least once, so something else went wrong, unless that was accidental) and accumulated outside the vessel itself, but inside the building housing it...I haven't seen where the core is exposed and burning through the "floor", so I'm operating under the assumption it is still intact (the vessel itself).

On Crystal River, it's good to know what type of BBQ grills are on sale around here...LOL...good on ya, thanks.

"{checkered career, n'est ce pas?}"

It would seem so, for us both ;-)

New_Meat's picture

nmewn, there's venting of the primary system (the higher pressure Reactor Coolant System) that has power operated relief valves and ASME Code Safety Valves (spring loaded).  Their purpose is to prevent primary system overpressurizing.  But (again if true as "reported") the suppression pool was heated up to 100 DegC (boiling at atmospheric press) then there was some kind of in containment pipe break.  Mk I routes that steam through the pool.  That knocks down the pressure spike and makes primary containment less costly to build.

Then there is secondary containment building which doesn't hold pressure but is meant to capture activated gasses.

... er ... exactly what kind of BBQ do you folks smoke, down on Crystal Rivrer? ;-)

- Ned

nmewn's picture

Just got back from errands.

Dude!...you got a handle on this schtuff!

"er ... exactly what kind of BBQ do you folks smoke, down on Crystal Rivrer?"

Well...ya know, beef, fish and...welll, um...ya know, no offense ;-)

New_Meat's picture

none offered, just wonderin'.  All of these billboards down south: big black/white cow sez "Eat more chik'n"  thats my theory-y'know, the other white meat ;-) - Ned

nmewn's picture

None taken.

On the billboards...that's Chick-Filet. The owner is a southerner, Atlanta I believe, and is super religious, closed on Sundays...so if you get-a-hankerin ;-)

And speaking of chickens and Crackers.

We have what are called gopher tortoises down here...back during the last depression the people would catch them and eat them because they couldn't afford chicken even...hence, Cracker chickens, if you ever run across the term being used.

They're a "protected species" now...not because they are scarce but because they are a revenue source to the state...if a guy is starving, catches one to feed himself and family and is caught it's a fine & jail time...however a land developer can bulldoze thousands of acres of land for a subdivision (bury them alive to suffocate) with the proper permit & fees.

Helluva racket.

To me they're a damned nuisance...horses, cattle and my front tractor tire will find their burrow entrances wherever they are.

Anyways...the story of the cracker chickens...LOL.

You said "these" instead of "those" billboards...you on one of your trips down here?

newstreet's picture

What does this have to do with Charlie Sheen?

honestann's picture

That huge reactor building just vaporized like a little toy.

I saw zero flames, so probably there was not hydrogen gas exploding or any other flammable exploding.

What it looked like was somehow water and the superhot fuel came in contact, and a large quantity of water vaporized instantly, which literally vaporized that entire huge building in a tiny fraction of a second.

Now, that could have been the fuel burning through the vessel.  But it is a bit strange that they have showed no additional activity in that location (unless they've suppressed everything after that explosion).

Assuming the vessel is in tact, that explosion was huge, and that means the cooling tubes that go in-to and out-of the vessel are now probably just open holes.

That means no system exists to control anything.  If that's true, then presumably the next step is for the super-hot fuel and/or fuel by-products to burn right through the bottom of the vessel.

Once the fuel hits the water table, which is almost certainly not very far below ground in that area, there will be a massive explosion of steam and radiative particles into the air.

Not good.

bunkermeatheadprogeny's picture

Remember the hero Russian heliciopter pilots who died a slow, painful, radition death after the multiple drops of concrete onto Chernobyl?  Japan will now have to assemble a new kamikaze helicopter squad to do the same.

bunkermeatheadprogeny's picture

Unfortunately, GS owns all of the superhuman robots.

bunkermeatheadprogeny's picture

Damn, my strategy to avoid Gulf of Mexico seafood was to eat Alaskan salmon and King Crab (at least I've had my fill for the year).  Glad Maine had a banner lobster season this year.

robertocarlos's picture

I'm watching a movie about giant spiders. There's no shortage of them now.

THE DORK OF CORK's picture

It looks very bad and is but there is a small possibility that the pressure vessel is intact and the explosion was the result of a release of pressure outside this which blew the containment structure.

The Japanese moderator is water not graphite which is not as bad but the steam is still radioactive.

However if the pressure vessel blew then Japan will need more kamikaze pilots who will pour sand on this disaster.

May God be with them.


tim73's picture

This just in! GODZILLA QUITS! "I cannot compete with this shit.", it said to journalists and dived head on into Pacific.

greenfire's picture

LOL.  Kinda like Obama's press conference today.  It's damn hard to stick to the talking points with all this other STUFF going on. 

nmewn's picture

Probably for the best as he never makes any sense when he holds one.

Whether he's saying because we have more oil rigs which (in his mind) equals more US oil production (even if they are idle) or pontificating about bully's in the schoolyard as teachers ransack state capitals or squawking about eating celery sticks as he wipes the burger grease off his tie, it's hard to keep up...LOL.

TruthInSunshine's picture
  1. Japan nuclear plant update: Walls and roof of a building at site destroyed by blast - NHK via Sky News
  2. Japan nuclear plant update: Government officials tell AP there was shaking, white smoke at site http://on.msnbc.com/hAQkNs
greenfire's picture

Not good.  It looks like the containment unit is breached. Radiation levels up.... yikes.

TruthInSunshine's picture

Official: Containment wall at Fukushima Daiichi has blown out. Residents being urged to cover mouths with wet towels and get to the ground.






TruthInSunshine's picture


Breaking:Explosion at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant heard around 0630 GMT

  Here is video of explosion that has apparently ripped the hull off the nuclear facility!


robertocarlos's picture

From reading here I don't believe a meltdown is possible. The reactor has been shut down and there will be a small release at best. The longer this goes on the smaller the chance of a release.

This reactor is safe.

TruthInSunshine's picture

I am no nuclear scientist, but your explanation seems...hollow.

I'm not trying to insult you, or personalize this, but shutting a facility like this where they have not been able to cool the core rod(s), precipitating a full meltdown, will lead to incredible and massively snowballing releases of energy and disbursement of nuclear material into the atmosphere.

Think of an unintended pressure cooker filled with fissile material, left on for days or weeks.

robertocarlos's picture

I know you aren't insulting me. The explanation of the probable outcome was in another thread. The facts are that the reactor is automatically shut down because of the quake. That happened. But it's like turning the stove off when the pot started boiling over. The residual heat is a problem but with time it all quiets down. Now does this explanation hold true, was the explosion something else besides the pot/containment vessel? I don't know. 

Lapri's picture

Core meltdown may be already happening, says Atomic Safety Agency in Japan:



TruthInSunshine's picture

GW, you need to update title with a red denotation.

TruthInSunshine's picture

URGENT: Concerns of core partially melting at Fukushima nuke plant

TOKYO, March 12, Kyodo

The core at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant's No. 1 reactor may be partially melting, the nuclear safety agency said Saturday.

Radioactive substance cesium was detected around the reactor, it said.


TruthInSunshine's picture
From Japan's most respected daily newspaper:
Nuclear Authorities: Nuclear Reactor May Be Experiencing A Meltdown

TOKYO (Dow Jones)--Japanese nuclear authorities said Saturday afternoon the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear reactor 240 kilometers north of Tokyo may be experiencing a meltdown after Friday's massive earthquake damaged the cooling system.

CPL's picture

takes lonnger than that unless the problem happend before the earthquake.


//rant on//

If looking for a trade wind to killchina, it's a good spot to pick.  Radiation that blows like an aerosol can over the farmlands in china that falls back on the cities. 


Problem is the next earthquake tommmorrow that take out another six nuke banks on top of the three.  Tokyo and the USS Enterprise are sinking this weekend.  Chain reaction of events, co-related, but badddly designed choas models are to blame.  And children that don't get laid and that will never have children.

fuck the rye is going down good tonight.


were not even summert ime yet.

TruthInSunshine's picture


Sounds pretty FUBAR to me:

  • BREAKING NEWS: Radioactive Cesium detected near Fukushima plant: nuke safety commission (14:20)
  • BREAKING NEWS: Fukushima nuke plant might be experiencing nuclear meltdown (14:13)



WTFisThat's picture

Well it looks to me that the webserver of the news station is mealting too...


ThePhysicist's picture

GW is scaremongering again.

The sky is falling... we're all gonna die...

People are afraid of what they don't understand. GW is afraid of everything. That ought to tell you something!

If he wants to write about death and destruction, he should write about the 1.2 million people killed in auto accidents worldwide each year.

geekgrrl's picture

Risk is a topic that many people misunderstand, but I'll tell you who does understand it: insurance companies. And they looked at the nuclear industry and said: hey, you know what: no thanks. So, Congress passed the Price Anderson Act to limit liability to nuclear utilities and self-insured. As far as I know, there are no privately insured nuclear plants in the world.

Your comparison to automobile accidents is poor. The simplest calculation of risk is: risk=probability of an event * expected loss in case of accident. Your provided example is an example of a more probable event, but the expected loss in an auto accident is limited to the participants, most of whom have personally decided to take the risk. In the case of nuclear, the probability of an event is much lower, but the expected loss in the event of an accident is astronomically higher. It's an analog to a black swan event in finance. When it comes to nuclear "accidents," (I use "accidents" because the Japanese situation is what is termed a "normal accident," i.e. an event which is entirely understood and expected to happen) the stakes are so high that we should absolutely have the expectation that governments will lie, flat-out, about the risk. We're seeing that now. "Small release of steam." Yea right. I lived in Philly when TMI went critical, and they lied through their teeth about the risk to the people downwind. It was decades later than they admitted what was really released. I grew up drinking milk from Lancaster, just east of the plant. So I am less than sanguine when I hear some physicist claiming "People are afraid of what they don't understand." Is it possible for you to imagine that it is you who does not understand? I doubt it.

Nuclear energy is complete and utter folly, and practically is a textbook definition of hubris. When half-lives are measured in millions/billions of years, how can you defend nuclear energy when there is no means to store the waste for these kinds of time periods? Can you design a container to last a billion years? I can't.

Lastly, I didn't see any scaremongering from GW. I like his posts, and from what I see, he is always trying to "connect the dots." I like that. I like the fact that not everyone on this planet is merely regurgitating someone else's ideas. He is putting fact A next to fact B, and he is leaving it up to us to determine if there is or is not a connection. Scaremongering: ummm... sorry, just don't see it.

Flakmeister's picture

  I agree that it was very well stated. I have been a long term proponent of nuclear power. This is based on weighing the alternatives; coal is the equivalent of a slow lingering death for a whole slew of reasons. Wind has its limitations. I see nuclear as a necessary step in bridging the gap to solar.

Face it, our civilization is coming to its energy dilemma, and all paths are fraught with peril.

geekgrrl's picture

Flakmeister, I agree entirely that the civilization is coming to its energy dilemma, but I can't agree that the risk of nuclear is justifiable. Nuclear proponents never seem to address that the people who are to benefit from this technology are not at all the same people to pay the consequences. One group gets "cheap energy," another completely different group gets cancer clusters and failed livestock reproduction. There is no argument I can imagine that you could present that would convince me of a container design capable of lasting a billion years.And lacking that, how is this technology safe? And for Goddess' sake, are we not seeing the consequences of your kind of thinking in the Japanese reactor meltdowns?

But my question to you is: why do you assume that massive cuts in energy consumption are impossible and not preferable when compared to the known and suspected consequences of continuing along the high-energy-consumption pathway? Half of all electrical power produced in the US is lost, wasted, dissipated in the form of heat. That seems like very low-hanging fruit to me.

Flakmeister's picture

We must either get a real plan in place or those massive cuts will be imposed whether we like it or not at some point. 

Here is the problem, you tell the people that they can't have what they want, see how far you get in a democracy. That path was tried and rejected, precisely at the time we could have initiated a smooth transistion. If you take another tack, i.e. mandate it through a dictatorship, I can guarentee that you will not like what becomes of it. So we will go down kicking and screaming, unless we can collectively educate ourselves and accept the hard choices. That is one reason why I am here at the Hedge. You may have noticed that I do not tout solutions; it is because that in my opinion nothing has emerged yet that is scalable. My own hope is for CSP to emerge but there is much work to do.

Your comments about shared consequences are undeniable, but nuclear is no different from coal, arguably it is better. Care to estimate how many people have died directly from coal mining in the past 100 years? How many indirectly? Yet another dilemma...

Re: Japan, not making excuses, but it was a magnitude 9 quake and a 10 m Tsunami. I do not know if when the plants were built that the dangers of being along a subduction zone were appreciated. Plate tectonics was in its infancy then. 

The grid in the US is lousy, but a good chunk of the losses is the cost of doing business, simple IR losses. It is hard to beat copper.

So it boils down to keeping our electricity use flat while we replace ~70% with something new, (50% coal, 20% nukes) I am willing to live with the dangers of nuclear because I am convinced that coal is the road to ruin for this planet. Wind is a niche, only once you get a large enough grid can it be relied for baseline. Fusion is a pipe dream, if you think fission is dirty, wait to see what amounts of radioactive material is generated in that process. The long term goal must be solar, in what shape or form, I do not know.

So we will respectfully beg to differ. That is fine, there is no clear answer, and only through reasoned debate can we find the path.

George Washington's picture

Update: It's possible that a meltdown may already have occured at one nuclear power plant.  As AP wrote 4 minutes ago:

An official with Japan's nuclear safety commission says that a meltdown at nuclear power plant affected by the country's massive earthquake is possible.

Ryohei Shiomi said Saturday that officials were checking whether a meltdown had taken place at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, which had lost cooling ability in the aftermath of Friday's powerful earthquake.