Douglas Triggs (doubt72) wrote,
Douglas Triggs

More on Fukushima Daiichi

Since I've been obsessing over the news (I'm still worried about you guys):

Between the sensationalism in the media (in both directions -- some sources have been full of "this triumph of engineering proves nuclear power is great!"[1], too), the best ongoing source of information I've found for following the disaster so far is the MIT Nuclear and Science Engineering blog here, which seems to have been fairly measured in its analysis of the news, and helpful with explanations of various related issues.

Anyway, the short of it is they seem to be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Time is on their side -- if they can just hold on long enough. It does seem like something worse than Three Mile Island at this point (which, hysteria aside, turned out to be a pretty minor accident -- the plant is actually still operational today), but no chance of it even being within orders of magnitude of Chernobyl, which was a genuine catastrophe of fairly, well, epic proportions.

So, even though it's been touch-and-go, it still doesn't seem like Tokyo is in any real danger, although I'm a bit more worried about Fukushima near the plant. I think a lot of thanks should go to the volunteers that have been risking their lives to keep it from being a lot worse than it's been. And plenty of criticism to engineers who under-prepared for the tsunami.

Anyway. Hope everyone stays safe over there, it sounds like it's going to be a shitty few weeks or months yet at best.

[1] Um, yeah, not so much. How about we store the waste in your back yard, okay?[2] If anything, the rolling blackouts have proved that nuclear power in Japan (or any seismically active area) is not so great, not directly because of safety so much, but indirectly -- compared to other sources of power, it takes a long time to get SCRAMed nuclear power plants inspected and back online even under the best of conditions. Certainly there are reasons Japan has gone nuclear (fossil fuels have their own issues in Japan, both due to pollution and local fuel scarcity), but. And let's just not talk about the incompatible eastern and western power grids which prevent surplus power in one half of the country from being usable by the other.

[2] Not that waste is an insolvable problem, just a really, really expensive one.

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