Saturday, March 12

Nuclear containment failure in Japan?

Friday may prove to have been the worst day in recent human history, when it comes to natural disasters (Earth quake, Tsunami etc). I am writing this when news has hit the screen showing a massive explosion at Japan's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear energy plant.
On BBC news a 'nuclear energy expert' was making it seem that it wasn't so bad and glossing over the fact that the whole building had exploded. Naive BBC reporters on the 24 hour news, were referring to the buildings as a cylinders, despite be rectangular in shape!

Lets make things clearer. The fact that the whole building that contained the nuclear reactor exploded, implies that containment has been lost, or at least it is extremely likely. Modern nuclear reactors are supposed to have containment buildings that are 'designed' to contain an event if the reactor itself fails. In boiling water reactors (such as the one at Fukushima), explosions are caused by an uncontrolled build up of heat in the reactor which can result in hydrogen being produced, which is of course is explosive.

So given that the outer building has been blown apart, it isn't that difficult to assume the worse and that is the reactor blew up and the containment building failed to contain that explosion. This is a massive failure that isn't suppose to happen, at least if you are to believe the nuclear engineers!

Lets hope it hasn't happened, but it doesn't take much imagination to put two and two together.

ADDED: It thankfully looks like the explosion was external to the containment vessel, caused by vented steam and hydrogen gas. This did actually occur to me later, since only the outer skin of the building had been blown away. This didn't tie in with an explosion ripping apart the containment vessel, if that had happened, I don't think the steel framework of the building would have remained standing.
We'll have to see how this plays out. It now appears No. 3 reactor also has a failure of the emergency cooling system.

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