Saturday, April 2, 2011

More Very Exceptionally Awful Bad Things

Reactor Pit Found Leaking Radioactive Water Into Sea

Future Postcard: Tourists On Eastern Japanese Beach Have 6.8
Minutes Of Fun And Cannot Ever Have X-Ray Or CTI Taken Again

The New York Times online reports that now, "highly radioactive water is leaking directly into the sea from a damaged pit near a crippled reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant".
The leak, found at a maintenance pit near the plant’s No. 2 reactor, is a fresh reminder of the dangerous side effects of the strategy to cool the reactors and spent fuel storage pools by pumping hundreds of tons of water a day into them. While much of that water has evaporated, a significant portion has also turned into runoff... Japanese authorities have said they have little choice at the moment, since the normal cooling systems at the plant are inoperable and more radiation would be released if the reactors were allowed to melt down fully or the rods caught fire.

TEPCO Worker Points To Crack In Wall Between Pool
Collecting Highly Radioactive Water And The Sea
(Photo: TEPCO, Via Agence France-Presse)

Workers are racing to drain the excess water, but they have struggled to figure out how to store it. On Saturday, some contaminated water was transferred into a barge to free up space in other tanks on land. A second barge also arrived.

“The more water they add, the more problems they are generating,” said Satoshi Sato, a consultant to the nuclear energy industry and a former engineer with General Electric. “It’s just a matter of time before the leaks into the ocean grow.”
Also, yesterday U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu reported that "roughly 70 percent of the core of one reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant" [Reactor No. 1] had suffered severe damage (that's "meltdown" to you and me).

Just so it's clear, the graphic that introduces this post is Gallows Humor: I don't consider this situation in the least funny. And, the TEPCO logo (their old one; the new logo looks something like a bizarre Mickey Mouse head) appears because, in one Dog's opinion, at the beginning of this crisis when every moment counted, the reticence and evasion of Tokyo Power Company officials to admit how bad it was and request help guaranteed the situation would become monstrously worse.

And sensitive as I am to the cultural differences between national groups, I don't care if the CEO of TEPCO weeps in public; he should resign, there should be public hearings, fines and jail time. But, Japan isn't America, and we can't expect the same level of punitive reaction and media frenzy. I'm not sure in this case if that's good, or bad.

It's an obvious point -- but for us, on the opposite side of the globe from Japan, our collective attitude towards the nuclear disaster is well, distanced. Unfortunately, the ecology of the planet isn't as compartmentalized as our normal human perceptions of events tends to be.

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