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Possible nuclear meltdowns in Japan

Authorities in Japan are working under the presumption that nuclear meltdowns are occurring at two nuclear reactors, a government official said today (Sunday in Japan, Saturday in California). Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters of the “possibility” of  a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi facility’s No. 1 reactor and that the government is also “assuming the possibility of a meltdown” at the plant’s No. 3 reactor.

Approximately 180,000 people are being evacuated from within 6 to 12 miles (10 to 20 km) of the Daiichi plant, in addition to the 30,000 who lived closer, within the 10 km radius.

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember Three Mile Island and the lies that ensued. Tonight, TV news interviewed a nuclear “expert” who assured us that events like those that have happened in Japan have only a VERY low possibility of happening in California, for example at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Avila Beach. The Diablo Canyon plant has been built to withstand both earthquakes and tsunamis, according to the expert. :-)

Mother Nature has a way of making fools of “experts.” :-)

I am quite certain that the Japanese, who have been building earthquake-resistant architecture longer than those of us in the U.S., and who have pioneered early-warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis (a Japanese word), ALSO built the nuclear reactors at Sendai to withstand both earthquakes and tsunamis.

But somehow, the arrogance of human experts just did not measure up to the realities of Nature…. Those of us who have experienced both human arrogance and the realities of Nature will put money on Nature EVERY TIME.

I wish folks in Japan the very best luck in controlling radiation leaks and minimizing further damage and human misery from this series of catastrophic events.

(Note added March 12, 2010: Just “for kicks,” the 8.9-magnitude quake MOVED the main island of Japan by 8 feet [2.4 m] and shifted the Earth on its axis by almost 4 inches [10 cm]. I am not sure that human “experts” saw THAT coming! 😉 )

(Note added March 13, 2011: Japan’s efforts to cool nuclear reactors and prevent new explosions are detailed HERE. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Congressional Representative Ed Markey (Democrat; Massachusetts), who sits on the House committee overseeing nuclear power, issued a statement saying that, “The tragic events now unfolding in Japan could very easily occur in the United States.” There are 104 non-military nuclear reactors operating at 65 plants in the U.S., plus dozens of reactors, weapons labs, and other defense-related nuclear facilities. The civilian reactors currently supply 20% of the nation’s power, and most are located near major population centers. In the U.S., the two most vulnerable plants are thought to be those in California, on the Pacific and near the San Andreas Fault. These were reportedly designed to withstand a 7.5-magnitude quake, and spokespeople for Pacific Gas & Electric said today that the plants are designed to meet the maximum quake projected for their area, a 6.5-magnitude quake.

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 was an 8.3-magnitude quake.)

(Note added March 13, 2011: There was another explosion, probably from the accumulation of hydrogen gas, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, this time at a building tied to the No. 3 reactor on Monday local time [Sunday, California time].)

-Bill at

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