Here’s the kind of headline you really really don’t want to wake up to:
Japan on brink of nuclear meltdown
Desperate attempts are being made to cool a Japanese nuclear power plant crippled by the country’s huge earthquake and tsunami – but indications are that one of its uranium reactors has at least partially melted.
And last night, a top Government official warned that a meltdown in the third of the plant’s three reactors was “highly possible”.
You can follow events as they happen on the inevitable Guardian Blog.
On top of the quake and tsunami aftermath, Japan is already dealing with evacuations and the effects of the radiation leaked so far. If the last ditch efforts (using sea water for cooling) fail then:
If the temperature inside the reactor continues to rise and reaches roughly 2200C, the uranium fuel pellets will start to melt. From there, melted fuel will eat through the bottom of the reactor vessel, then the floor of the damaged containment building. At that point, the uranium and radioactive byproducts of the nuclear reactions will start escaping into the environment.
At some point, the walls of the reactor vessel will melt into a lava-like pile, slump into any remaining water on the floor, and could cause an explosion much bigger than the one caused by the hydrogen, enhancing the spread of radioactive contaminants. …
In Auckland, Dr Krofcheck said that if the Fukushima Daiichi accident became a meltdown and released large amounts of radiation, “I’m sure it would not be a major problem for New Zealand. Most of it would be confined to the Northern Hemisphere, and most certainly, Japan itself.”
We’re looking at a second Chernobyl.
This event ends whatever remote possibility that ever existed of NZ heading down the nuclear power path. Coming as it does on the heels of the Christchurch earthquake, it is all too easy to imagine the same scenario playing out here. What price our agricultural exports, tourism industry, and “clean green” image then? NZ would be finished.
So now, even the Nats can stop their “gone by lunchtime” dithering and insincere commitments. New Zealand must remain nuclear free forever. Combined with the coming oil shock, that makes energy conservation and renewable energy sources an overwhelming priority for research, development and deployment. Any party heading in to the next election preaching business as usual deserves to be laughed out of politics. We need a plan for a nuclear free and oil constrained future, and we need it now.
All of my posts for March will finish with this note. While life goes on as usual outside Christchurch, let our thoughts be with those who are coping with the aftermath, with the sorrow of so many who were lost, and with the challenges ahead.