March 14, 2011

Reasons Why This MIT Scientist is not worried about Japan’s Nuclear Power Plants.

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I learned today from an MIT Scientist the Reasons why he is not worried about the power plant situation.

I am not a scientist. Hey! I am not even that smart. These are points that brought me some peace of mind and got me away from the frenzy of the media panic-attack.  I know that people feel very strongly about nuclear power, but that is not the point of the article.

1.- Are tsunamis and earthquakes taken into consideration when building nuclear plants?

“When designing a nuclear power plant, engineers follow a philosophy called “Defense of Depth”. That means that you first build everything to withstand the worst catastrophe you can imagine, and then design the plant in such a way that it can still handle one system failure, that you thought could never happen, after the other”

Should everything go wrong, power plants have a way to go into “Third Containment”, a very high level, not invoked yet, but that would prevent further problems:

“The third containment is a hermetically (air tight) sealed, very thick bubble of the strongest steel and concrete. The third containment is designed, built and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown”

“The point is that the nuclear fuel has now been cooled down….Also boric acid has been added to the seawater. Boric acid is “liquid control rod”. Whatever decay is still going on, the Boron will capture the neutrons and further speed up the cooling down of the core”

2.-Didn’t Part of that Third Containment Explode?

“A part of the third containment WAS damaged in the explosion BUT… it happened outside the pressure vessel (as opposed to what happened in Chernobyl), which was not intended but a possible scenario and OK because it did not pose a risk for the containment.”

3.- But what about the radiation that already escaped?

Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented….If you were sitting on top of the plant’s chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy”

4.- Will Power Plants emergency plans be revisited after this?

Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)

5.- So, what is the challenge then? Is there something that should worry us?

I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. 11 of Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors were shut down and will have to be inspected directly reducing the nation’s nuclear power generating capacity by 20% with nuclear power accounting for 30% of the national total power generation capacity.

Emergency response has to deal with shelter, drinking water, food and medical care, transportation and communication infrastructure as well as electricity supply.

Yes, the earthquake+tsunami was a catastrophe and there have been deaths. Yes it is bad and prayer and donations are welcome and a good thing to do.

Yes we can accompany, chant mantras, be in spirit with the people of Japan going through the aftermath of the earthquake and Tsunami.  Yet, the nuclear power plant issue is not as bad as the media would have us believe.


My intention here is to reproduce portions of the article that have brought peace to me and share them. If you want to comment or make suggestions that you feel can change the world for the better go directly to the article, thank you.

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