Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nuclear Engineer compares Fukushima disaster to Chernobyl

Arne Gundersen says the Fukushima dispersal towers are not functioning which has caused leaking radiation to roll out the sides of the destroyed reactor buildings. As a result, 20-30 miles outwards there is significant contamination. Even at this great distance, the IAEA reports the contamination is 1600 times normal background radiation. Then he compares the environmental damage to Chernobyl.

Now in comparison, and it's not an exact comparison, but it's pretty good, at Chernobyl the IAEA considered a hotspot if the beta contamination exceeded 500,000 disintegrations every second, or 0.5 mega-becequerels per square meter. So this is on the same realm as what a radioactive hotspot was considered at by the IAEA after Chernobyl.

This is the video. He expects the radiation to continue to leak for a number of weeks, during which time he may post updates.

Edit: an anonymous commentator here provides more explanatory detail.

The Becequerel is a measure of radioactivity - that is the rate of nucleus decays per second - so a given mass of a short-lived isotope, like Iodine-131, will have a much higher Becequerel value than the same mass of a long-lived isotope, like Uranium-235, but of course, with Iodine the radioactivity will only last weeks, for Uranium it will last much longer than that.

The conclusion I get is that in terms of radioactive decays this is a speeded-up Chernobyl and as such is no less dangerous in the short-term. As long as uranium and plutonium is not being leaked in significant quantities this won't be a "Chernobyl".

Fortunately for Japan, the Fukushima reactors are lined up along the Pacific coast so the area of contamination is semi-circular rather than circular, and the wind has mostly been blowing away from land. Although the coast and sea will also be contaminated, radiation is more easily dispersed in water.

Since this video it has been reported: Neutron beam observed 13 times. This is thought to be proof that fission has occurred and that the process of meltdown has begun many times in at least one reactor.

Another reports shows, as I suspected, the evacuation zone is not large enough. Radiation Extends Past Zone, New Report Says

But the model showed that areas where cumulative exposure over 12 days reached 100 millisieverts—the government's maximum for infants—extended beyond the evacuation zone. A map based on data from the center showed areas that received a cumulative 100 millisieverts extended as far as about 40 kilometers northeast and south from the plant.

Official sources say, there are currently three power plants at the Fukushima facility which are accident Level 5 (Chernobyl was 7), which makes it (offically) equivalent to three Three Mile Islands occurring at the same time.

For some people though, this is not a disaster enough. The way to show how clever you are is to deny there has been any problems at all at Fukushima and all reports of leaking radiation are exaggerated and hyped in a way that would suggest the radiation is bad for people. Alex Jones has offered to fly one of these people, Ann Coulter, to Japan, First Class, to take a dip in the cooling pools.

However, I'm not a complete nuko-phobe as I recommend this article highlighting that there is a less risky form of nuclear power available, if we want it: Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium.

Edit 2: Here's another video which covers Fukushima. This time of an interview with a nuclear engineer responsible for the clean-up at Chernobyl.

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