Page N1.3 . 23 March 2011                     
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    Chernobyl by the Sea

    continued

    It is now clear this third reactor to break down badly is also permanently crippled. Like Fukushima Daiichi reactors #1 and #3, #2 is now also in an unstable state, with operators trying to get it cooled down enough to reduce the risk of an accelerating core meltdown — a challenging process that is likely to continue for days and weeks, even if the fuel melt situation does not get any worse along the way.

    Reactor #3 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant contains some fuel rods of "MOX" or mixed-oxide fuel (NIRS). This type of nuclear fuel includes plutonium, has a lower fuel-rod melting point, and can be significantly more toxic when released.

    It is not clear if there is MOX fuel, and therefore plutonium, in the spent fuel storage pool at reactor #3, or in any of the five other spent fuel storage pools at the plant.

    Additional releases of radioactive material were detected outside the plant late on Monday, and then measured radiation level oustide the plant spiked on Tuesday morning. Radiations levels near the reactors were high enough on Wednesday and Thursday to prevent direct access for urgent cooling water make-up and fire-fighting.

    At Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant (Fukushima Number Two), where quake-related cooling problems had also been reported for three operating reactors, official reports on Monday were that cooling systems are returning to proper function. (That had also been reported for reactor #2 at Fukushima Daiichi, which went on to completely lose normal operation.)

    Nature, the preeminent international scientific journal, is maintaining a special coverage page on the Japan earthquake and nuclear crisis, and a Nature science blog is posting updates on the nuclear crisis. These tend to be rather more accurate than much of the mainstream media coverage.

    The Nature blog points out that "The television and various news sources are clogged with radiation numbers and experts trying to explain them. Unfortunately the result seems to be a confusing tangle of data that is difficult to understand. "The most fundamental problem seems to be the rampant switching from micro to millisieverts."

    Widespread Shortage of Electric Power

    In addition to the crippled nuclear power plants that are now permanent liabilities, conventional thermal powerplants have been impacted by the earthquake and tsunami and are also offline.

    The utility company Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) called for conservation efforts and announced rolling power blackouts starting Monday morning, with current generating capacity at 31 million kilowatts, compared to typical demand of 41 million kilowatts.

    Planned outages in the TEPCO service area, including Tokyo except its central area, started on Monday evening, March 14, and affected four prefectures. Ongoing rotating outages in areas including the prefectures of Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Tochigi, Saitama, Yamanashi and part of Shizuoka, are currently expected to continue until the end of April. Ongoing announcements are providing changing details as the situation evolves (NHK).

    If you have firsthand information or images of the situation in Sendai, Tokyo, or elsewhere in Japan, or in other areas with earthquake or tsunami damage, please submit a comment or email to "editor@architectureweek.com" to share with the design community.

    Technical Reference Chart for Fukushima Reactors

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Kevin Matthews is Editor in Chief of ArchitectureWeek.   More by Kevin Matthews

     

    AW

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    Satellite overview of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Fukushima I) on March 18, 2011, showing Reactors 1 through 4, with building enclosures of Reactors 1, 3, and 4 damaged.
    Photo: Digital Globe Extra Large Image

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    Satellite overview of Fukushima Daiichi, Reactors 1 through 4, on March 17, 2011, showing building enclosures of Reactors 1, 3, and 4 damaged.
    Photo: Digital Globe Extra Large Image

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    Satellite overview of Fukushima Daiichi, Reactors 1 through 4, on March 16, 2011. A large plume of white smoke is visible over Reactor 3.
    Photo: Digital Globe Extra Large Image

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    Satellite overview of Fukushima Daiichi, Reactors 1 through 4 on March 14, 2011, with building enclosures of Reactors 1 and 3 damaged. White smoke is visible around Reactors 3 and 4.
    Photo: Digital Globe Extra Large Image

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    Satellite overview of Fukushima Daiichi, Reactors 1 through 4, on March 13, 2011, with the building enclosure of Reactor 1 damaged.
    Photo: Digital Globe Extra Large Image

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    Satellite overview of Fukushima Daiichi, Reactors 1 through 4, on March 12, 2011, showing all reactor buildings still intact.
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    Satellite overview of the nearby Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant (Fukushima II) on March 12, 2011, showing Reactors 1 through 4.
    Photo: Digital Globe Extra Large Image

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    Satellite overview of Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima I) on March 16, 2011, with its six reactors labeled.
    Photo: Digital Globe/ ArchitectureWeek Extra Large Image

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    Projections of the Fukushima Daiichi radioactive plume dispersal pattern on March 15, 2011, from the Zentralanstalt fŸr Meteorologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG), Austria's Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics.
    Image: © ZAMG

     

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