- Tanay Gahlot
The Japanese Fallout:Is Nuclear Power Dead?
The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan has brought Nuclear Safety to the forefront again. In the Fukushima Daiichi plant, three explosions occurred, which have caused alarm that the reactors may release radioactive emissions into the atmosphere.
The danger now is of a complete meltdown and a breach of the containment vessels. The Japanese government has admitted this is a possibility and evacuations around the plants are on.
• The plant shut down as expected, on recognizing the quake. Diesel generators came on to run the cooling system.
• The tsunami carried away the DG fuel oil tanks.
• The valve control equipment and switchgear was damaged by the tsunami.
• Now there was no power, no back up (diesel fuel tanks were gone) and no control system to feed emergency water or coolant.
• That built up pressure inside the reactor — which should usually be let out. But, to avoid releasing the radioactive vapours for as long as possible, the pressure built up to twice what the structure was designed for
The future of nuclear power seems to ride on what happens now in Japan. If there is success is curtailing further damage, all of this will be forgotten in a year. If things get worse, and it turns out the plants have had the highest safety procedures, forget about nuclear technology for the next decade. (But that's a small side-effect — the biggest concern is for the millions of people living nearby.) I expect the debate to get stronger.