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Japan: Bad and getting worse

I don’t understand Japanese (hell, I have problem understanding English sometimes, ask my wife). This is bad.

From HuffPo:

The second hydrogen explosion in three days rocked Japan’s stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant Monday, sending a massive column of smoke into the air and wounding 6 workers. The plant’s operator said radiation levels at the reactor were still within legal limits.

The explosion at the plant’s Unit 3, which authorities have been frantically trying to cool following a system failure in the wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami, triggered an order for hundreds of people to stay indoors, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radiation levels at Unit 3 were 10.65 microsieverts, significantly under the 500 microsieverts at which a nuclear operator must file a report to the government.

The blast follows a similar explosion Saturday that took place at the plant’s Unit 1, which injured four workers and caused mass-evacuations.

From Climate Progress:

The estimated death toll from Japan’s disasters climbed past 10,000 Sunday as authorities raced to combat the threat of multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns and hundreds of thousands of people struggled to find food and water. The prime minister said it was the nation’s worst crisis since World War II.

Nuclear plant operators worked frantically to try to keep temperatures down in several reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, wrecking at least two by dumping sea water into them in last-ditch efforts to avoid meltdowns.

The situation in Japan is moving quickly and getting worse.  The above is from the AP story, “10K dead in Japan amid fears of nuclear meltdowns” from 4:05 EDT Sunday.

UPDATE:  The nuclear savvy French “recommended its citizens leave the Tokyo region of Japan on Sunday, citing the risk of further earthquakes and uncertainty about the situation at its damaged nuclear plants.”

UPDATE 2:   The NYT reports at 10:07 EDT, “Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months, Experts Say

By |2011-03-14T05:55:44-04:00March 14th, 2011|Energy, Environment, Foreign Affairs|Comments Off on Japan: Bad and getting worse

Problems with Japan’s Nuclear Reactor

I know a little about nuclear reactors. This isn’t good.

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From NYT:

Japanese officials issued broad evacuation orders on Saturday for people living near two nuclear power plants whose cooling systems broke down as a result of the earthquake. The officials warned that small amounts of radioactive material were likely to leak from the plants.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant before and after a reported explosion that affected a building at the bottom, left on Saturday. More Photos »

Reuters quoted Jiji news agency as saying there had been an explosion at one of the plants — the 40-year-old Daiichi number one reactor — and television footage showed vapor rising from the plant about 150 miles north of Tokyo. The country’s nuclear safety agency did not confirm the reported incident.

The power plants, known as Daiichi and Daini and operated by Tokyo Electric Power, experienced critical failures of the cooling systems after the plants were shut down, as they were during the quake.

Ryohei Shiomi, an official with Japan’s nuclear safety commission, said that a meltdown was possible at one of the two Daiichi reactors, The Associated Press reported. Japanese television reported that the country’s Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency said it had detected cesium near one of those reactors.

An agency official said that a valve had been successfully opened to reduce pressure inside that reactor.

Naoto Sekimura, a professor at Tokyo University, told NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, that “only a small portion of the fuel has been melted. But the plant is shut down already, and being cooled down. Most of the fuel is contained in the plant case, so I would like to ask people to be calm.” (more…)

By |2011-03-12T06:14:37-04:00March 12th, 2011|Foreign Affairs|8 Comments

Let's make a nuclear fusion reactor in the basement

Nuclear fusion is what the sun does. The son takes two hydrogen atoms and pushes them together. The resultant reaction generates a new atom called helium and gives off energy. Gravity plays a huge part in containing the energy. Scientists have talked about nuclear fusion for years. This is the definition of clean energy. Unfortunately, the question that has haunted scientists has been how to contain the reaction. As far as I know, we cannot generate the kind of gravitational forces necessary to contain a fusion reaction here on earth. There have been ideas for developing some sort of electromagnetic bubble to contain the reaction. Well, an entrepreneur has come up with a way to make a small nuclear fusion reaction in his basement (he really did it in a warehouse).

From the BBC:

Many might be alarmed to learn of a homemade nuclear reactor being built next door. But what if this form of extreme DIY could help solve the world’s energy crisis?

By day, Mark Suppes is a web developer for fashion giant Gucci. By night, he cycles to a New York warehouse and tinkers with his own nuclear fusion reactor.

The warehouse is a non-descript building on a tree-lined Brooklyn street, across the road from blocks of apartments, with a grocery store on one corner. But in reality, it is a lab.

In a hired workshop on the third floor, a high-pitched buzz emanates from a corner dotted with metal scraps and ominous-looking machinery, as Mr Suppes fires up his device and searches for the answer to a question that has eluded some of the finest scientific minds on the planet.

The problem is, no-one has found a way of making fusion reactors produce more energy than they consume to run.

In nuclear fusion, atoms are forcibly joined, releasing energy. It is, say scientists, the “holy grail” of energy production – completely clean and cheap.

The problem is, no-one has found a way of making fusion reactors produce more energy than they consume to run.

Mr Suppes, 32, is part of a growing community of “fusioneers” – amateur science junkies who are building homemade fusion reactors, for fun and with an eye to being part of the solution to that problem.

He is the 38th independent amateur physicist in the world to achieve nuclear fusion from a homemade reactor, according to community site Others on the list include a 15-year-old from Michigan and a doctoral student in Ohio. (more…)

By |2010-07-09T06:46:06-04:00July 9th, 2010|Science|Comments Off on Let's make a nuclear fusion reactor in the basement
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