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Explosion at Japanese Nuclear Plant - radiation could affect United States west coast

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    The news this morning is potentially even more devastating for Japan...and maybe the USA  The Huffington Post headline reads: Japan Earthquake 2011: Explosion At Nuclear Plant Tears Down Walls Of Building

    "An explosion at a nuclear power station tore down the walls of one building Saturday as smoke poured out and Japanese officials said they feared the reactor could melt down following the failure of its cooling system in a powerful earthquake and tsunami. Footage on Japanese TV showed that the walls of one building had crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame standing. Puffs of smoke were spewing out of the plant."

    They don't know the immediate cause of the explosion but they are evacuating residents from a six mile radius around the plant.  I read other reports yesterday that that plant is located on the shore, and most of the prevailing winds are pointing offshore to the northeast.  A Three Mile Island type of radiation leak has been suggested, but this sounds even worse. Radiation escaping from that plant and others potentially at risk would eventually find its way to the west coast of the United States.

    This is something that needs to be monitored closely....
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    A CNN report this morning says that the explosion was caused by hydrogen build-up in the outer wall of the plant so there is minimal danger of radiation from that explosion.  The situation at that plant and others is still precarious as its a race against time to get these reactors under control.

    However, latest Reuters report says the roof blew off: Radiation leaking from Japan's quake hit nuclear.

    The Reuters link includes a video of the explosion.

    PS. The Daily Kos also has a schematic of the nuclear plant and further discussion of the explosion.
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    Latest report from CNN:

    "The agency said there was a strong possibility that the radioactive cesium monitors detected was from the melting of a fuel rod at the plant, adding that engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods by pumping water around them.

    "Cesium is a byproduct of the nuclear fission process that occurs in nuclear plants."

    Officials keep downplaying the potential risk, but "cesium" escaping is a potentially serious indicator that should not be taken lightly.  Oh and this:

    "Authorities were nevertheless expanding the evacuation to include a radius of 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) around the plant. The evacuation previously reached out to 10 kilometers."

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    Latest report from the Washington Post. Saturday, March 12th: 11:14 pm. Japanese nuclear plants' operator scrambles to avert meltdowns

    The situation doesn't look good. Maybe I'm more worried about this than most people, and that's why I keep posting.  Here's an extract from the above article:

    "In an effort to relieve pressure at the failing reactor, Fukushima Daiichi's unit 3, the utility said it released "air containing radioactive materials." Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said radiation at the reactor exceeded legal limits and that it was "highly possible" a partial meltdown was underway....Because it's inside the reactor, we cannot directly check it, but we are taking measures on the assumption of the possible partial meltdown,"

    "The explosion was yet another indicator of dire problems inside Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1, problems that might be plaguing other units as well. The explosion was caused by hydrogen, which nuclear experts said could only have been produced from inside the reactor vessel by the exposure of zirconium cladding that surrounds the fuel rods. Those rods are supposed to be covered by water, but at very high temperatures, steam reacts with the zirconium and produces hydrogen. When pressure rose in the reactor vessel, it vented the gas into the containment structure and then into the outer building. Experts believe devices designed to ignite the hydrogen before it reached dangerous levels were not working because of power failures."

    Hey, this is very serious....could be catastrophic...






     

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    With a second explosion at a Japanese nuclear plant and reports of more radiation leakage, Accu Weather has put together an analysis of the possible paths and length of time it would take the radiation to reach the west coast of the USA below.  However, the more likely scenario is that the winds might shift towrds land and this would be catastrophic for the Japanese.

    Calculated time for radioactive particles to cross the Pacific from the power plants in Japan to big West Coast cities if the particles take a direct path and move at a speed of 20 mph:

    Cities Approx. Distance (miles) Approx. Time to Cross Pacific (days)
    Anchorage 3,457 7
    Honolulu 3,847 8
    Seattle 4,792 10
    Los Angeles 5,477 11
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    ModernSurvivalblog.com has an analysis of how radiation could reach the USA in the event of a core meltdown...which is still a possibility considering how the nuclear reactor workers are still struggling to avoid a major disaster. They include complete weather maps and forecasts of the jet stream. Quoting ModernSurvival:

    "One must use common sense when considering this possibility. It’s all really quite straight forward. Any particles would flow with the wind. Period. All one needs to do is know the wind pattern from the day of release, namely, the Jet stream. Currently the Jet Stream is moving over Japan and streaming across the ocean towards the U.S. (as it pretty much always does). The average speed of the jet is about 100 – 120 knots, or about 110 – 140 mph. Simple math, 4,500 miles divided by 120 mph equals about 37 hours (plus or minus). A day and a half. End of story."

    "Also note, “IF” and whatever amount of radioactive Fallout is released, will disperse rapidly from the site. It’s not like there will be millions of glowing people on the west coast U.S. 36 hours later, but there would certainly be some amount of exposure given the current jet. Not qualified to surmise how much that would be… Those in the immediate vicinity of Fukushima would obviously be tragically affected."

    My concern is not the release of radiation from a single large event, but rather the sustained release of smaller quantities over several days, weeks or months...even longer in the worst case scenario.