Fukushima Explosion and Aftermath

Fukushima Explosion
Fukushima Explosion

The worst, at least the worst I can imagine, has happened. After some 22 hours of trying to regain control of the overheating Fukushima No 1 nuclear reactor power station in Futuba, there has been an uncontrolled explosion and reports of injuries.

Background on the Japanese earthquake and tsunamis here. After the incidents, the regular electrical grid went down and the backup power at the Fukushima plant failed, resulting in an inability to pump coolant around the heated nuclear material, a function which is absolutely essential to safety. Since then, temperatures have risen at the plant even as intrepid workers have struggled to pump in cooling water via other means. Not long ago, they lost the battle.

There are reports of at least four workers injured; none of the injuries appears life-threatening, according to sources.

From the Guardian earlier today, prior to the expolosion:

Japanese media said officials had detected caesium, one of the elements released when overheating causes core damage, around the reactor at Fukushima No 1 plant in Futuba, 150 miles north of Tokyo.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company said it did not believe a meltdown was underway but Ryohei Shiomi, an official with Japan’s nuclear safety commission, said that it was possible.

Experts and authorities played down the dangers of a Chernobyl-style disaster, saying they believed a partial meltdown was controllable. The government urged people to remain calm.

Officials had earlier evacuated 20,000 residents living within 10km on the plant on the orders of the prime minister, Naoto Kan, who had inspected it via helicopter. Experts told Associated Press that the risk area was 6km….

Earlier in the day a Japanese nuclear safety panel said radiation levels were 1,000 times higher than normal in a control room and eight times normal just outside the plant. Workers were frequently changing shifts.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company has also reported problems with a second reactor at the plant and declared an emergency at the Fukushima No 2 plant.

And now, from the BBC:


Fukushima explosion before and after

Fukushima explosion before and after

Japan’s NHK TV showed before and after pictures of the plant. They appeared to show that the outer structure of one of four buildings at the plant had collapsed after the explosion.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant’s operator, said several workers had been injured.

Cooling systems inside several reactors at both the Fukushima plants stopped working after Friday’s earthquake cut the power supply.

Japan’s nuclear agency said on Saturday that radioactive caesium and iodine had been detected near the number one reactor of the Fukushima 1 plant.

The agency said this may indicate that containers of uranium fuel inside the reactor may have begun melting.

Air has been released from several of the reactors at both plants in an effort to relieve the huge amount of pressure building up inside.

Mr Kan said the amount of radiation released was “tiny”.

Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate the area near the plants. BBC correspondent Nick Ravenscroft said police stopped him 60km from the Fukushima 1 plant.

Analysts say a meltdown would not necessarily lead to a major disaster because light-water reactors would not explode even if they overheated.


UPDATE: here is more scientific background on the nature of the risk, via Dave MacDonald.

Nuclear experts across countries have warned that the situation could become grave if the fault at the Fukushima plant was not fixed soon. Cham Dallas, a professor of disaster management at the University of Georgia, has told CNN that the plants were likely to get “both thermally hot and radioactively hot” since the reactors had to be shut down.

Another nuclear physicist Dr Walt Patterson told The Sun: “It is the sort of thing that nuclear engineers have nightmares about…If the core is uncovered, then those rods at the top may get hot enough to melt themselves.”

Which would be what you call a “worst-case scenario.”

My faint hope is, there’s nothing more to report by tomorrow morning. My somewhat less faint hope is that eventually this becomes a coastal version of the Land of the Wolves.


UPDATE: Bloomberg has the best roundup of information at this point. It was a hydrogen leak, not a steam explosion, which caused the event.

Winds in the area of the Fukushima plant are blowing at less than 18 kilometers per hour mostly in an offshore direction, according to a 4 p.m. update from the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The government earlier today widened the evacuation zone around the reactor to 10 kilometers from 3 kilometers, affecting thousands of people. The evacuation zone will be maintained at 10 kilometers from Dai-Ni plant and will be extended to 20 kilometers from Dai-Ichi plant, said Toshihiro Murakami, spokesman for the Fukushima prefecture government.

“When the pressure starts building up, the emergency procedure is to start venting,” Dave Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project at the Union for Concerned Scientists, said in a telephone interview. “They’ve essentially entered a beat the clock game. As long as there is no fuel damage, there will be radioactivity, but it will be very low.”

The plant’s operators need to connect to the electricity grid, fix emergency diesel generators or bring in more batteries to power a backup system that pumps the water needed to cool the reactor, said Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who has worked at nuclear power plants for 17 years.

Nuclear Meltdown

The air cooling system in the containment building probably failed due to the power loss, allowing pressure to increase inside, Lochbaum said.

Lack of adequate cooling for a reactor may cause a core meltdown, the most dangerous kind of nuclear power accident, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A meltdown could potentially breach a reactor’s containment building, releasing massive amounts of radiation, according to information on the agency’s website. The 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania resulted in a partial meltdown, without a breach in the containment building, according to the commission.


Enhanced by Zemanta

7.9 Earthquake hits Japan UPDATE 8.8 UPDATE 8.9

Japan Earthquake fireball

Japan Earthquake fireball

While official reports only list one five 32 deaths at the moment, as you can see the toll from today’s earthquake and tsunami is bound to be a great deal higher, sadly. Estimates are in the thousands, but with widespread power outages, information is sketchy. Phone and SMS service are intermittent in many areas, and there are blackouts in a wide area.

Japan Earthquake Tokyo Fires

Japan Earthquake Tokyo Fires

I will be updating this post as long as I’m awake, so try refreshing every fifteen minutes or so. I’ll be up another hour I guess. Sorry, done for the night. There are resource links in the post for updates.

Japanese 7.9 Earthquake epicenter

Japanese 7.9 Earthquake epicenter

Twenty minutes ago Japan, still recovering from yesterday’s 7.2 quake, was hit with another: this one a 7.9 UPDATE 8.8 8.9 fully large enough to be called The Big One, on the Richter scale, severe by any measure. There is a warning along the coast for 10-foot metre tsunami waves, but as the epicenter was east of the landmass, the affected regions should be highly localized, unlike the tsunami in Thailand a few years ago. As you can see from the map below, the next landmass to the east is Canada. UPDATE: there are two tsunami waves, and one was measured at 33 feet.

Japanese Earthquake world map

Japanese Earthquake world map

Honshu is Japan’s larges island, directly west of the epicenter: as you can see from the map above, there have been 38 registered quakes in the immediate region in the last 24 hours. The two large red squares are yesterday’s 7.2 and today’s 7.9, and the red line is a fault line. Today’s quake did damage in Tokyo, halfway down the island, while the earthquake was towards the northern tip

Sandra Barron has uploaded a picture of her kitchen after the quake:

Japanese Earthquake kitchen

Japanese Earthquake kitchen

And two more moving updates:


Now THAT is thinking ahead.

And, finally, a report from the somewhat-mainstream media:

Here is footage of a family evacuating their home in Sendai, showing how hard it hit them. What’s most astonishing to me is how incredibly long it lasts, as well as how quickly they get out of the house. But why are they the only ones outside?


From the tweets of Steve Herman, we know that:

  • The tsunami has hit, and it is serious. Buildings in Iwate-ken have been swept out to sea. The Philippines has been put on tsunami alert. Predicted zones of affect: Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Chiba, Ibaraki.
  • Planes have been grounded and trains stopped across Northern Japan.
  • There are fires in Chiba, Tokyo and Yokohama.
  • The epicenter was only 10km off Miyagi
  • There have been landslides which have buried some people in the northern regions.

At times like these, a good reporter with the instincts of a great editor makes all the difference.

Steve Herman

@W7VOA ÜT: 37.562444,126.975594
Voice of America (VOA) Bureau Chief/Correspondent, based in Seoul, mainly covering NE Asia (Korean peninsula & Japan).
Don’t follow this blog for updates. Follow Steve Herman. He is a great reporter.
There are reportedly two tsunami waves, and one was measured at 33 feet. Estimated to be ten feet when it hits Hawaii (see the next post).
Here is video of the oil refinery blowing up. By the way, one of the nuclear power plants is on fire, too.
Japan Earthquake oil refinery fire

Japan Earthquake oil refinery fire

You can see a livestream of the events in Japanese or Al Jazeera also has good coverage. Here is CNN’s Livestream as well.

Japanese Earthquake crack in Tokyo

Japanese Earthquake crack in Tokyo

Here is video of the tsunami and consequent landslides.

and a map showing expected arrival times of the tsunami. Remember, the farther from the epicenter, the less intense the wave is likely to be. Current swells are reported at 3/4 meter, implying a 10 foot wave in Hawaii, although that remains to be seen. Hotel visitors in Waikiki are being told to move to the 5th or higher floor and wait for instructions. The west coast of North America is on tsunami alert, but that doesn’t mean it WILL hit (the last one was three inches!) just that we should be wary.


Japan Earthquake tsunami travel times

Japan Earthquake tsunami travel times

And here is absolutely unbelievable footage of a huge whirlpool that formed in the port of Uzumaki about two hours after the quake. If you look closely, you can see that there is a boat caught in there, absolutely unable to escape. I can only hope there are no people on board.

And if you’ve been Following me on Twitter (and I appreciate it) know that I didn’t go dark voluntarily. Twitter put me in Twitter Jail for tweeting too many times. I may not be able to get back on tonight, and besides, my laptop is literally overheating, I’ve got five livestream tabs open, two youtubes, so much going on. And my brain is just about as fried.

Good night, everyone. Take care of each other.

Eyjafjallajokull Volcano Eruptions, Worldwide Chaos Explained

I tried to tell you. I tried to tell you why:

Just why.

It’s really very, very simple. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here are three thousand words plus a few extra which, together, explain everything:

Godzilla Eyjafjallajokull volcano lightning, bitches. You see Him, don't you?

In this picture you can clearly see that the “volcanic” phenomenon are actually caused by the return of Godzilla. This is consistent with previous Godzilliandamage and destruction to property manifestations: fire breath, atmospheric disturbances, , disrespect of rule of international law, atomic disturbances and worldwide panic. Obviously, last time we buried Him so deep He dug His way out all the way over in Iceland, and His proximity to the surface of this tiny island nation explains the aberrantly swollen economy, its subsequent bust, and the remarkable prevalence of superpowers, in particular indie music stardom, among the population.

You still doubt? Contrast and compare:

Hampstead Heath opens the last seal YAY

Hampstead Heath, yesterday.

The Seventh Seal Party Conga Line

The conga line in the Seventh Seal.


Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Yaizu Sidewalk, pic o’ the day

Yaizu Sidewalk, after the earthquake

You may have heard that yesterday parts of Japan experienced a 6.5 earthquake. This is what it looked like today in Yaizu.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl