Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Links On Japan, Reactors, and Radiation

Everything you need to know about potassium iodide. Actually, everything you need to know is that if you're in the United States, you don't need it. President Obama:
We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or American territories in the Pacific.
More from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It looks like a power line is almost installed to Fukushima. This is extremely important, because it will allow the cooling-water pumps to operate. It was losing this power that caused the crisis.

Video of the damaged buildings from a helicopter.

How likely is a fire in the spent fuel pools? Experts seem to disagree.

I'm not sure what the situation is in Japan, but spent fuel rods are stored at reactors in the United States because they have nowhere to go. At one time, they were to be stored in Yucca Mountain, and that facility is close to being ready to open. But politics have put that off the table. Another possibility is that they might be reprocessed (or recycled, as the industry is now putting it). After Fukushima, there will be questions about the wisdom of storing spent fuel at reactors. Update: According to the New York Times, Japan has been doing what the US has been doing: storing most of their spent fuel in these pools at reactors. (Some of the rest of that article seems not quite reliable.)


Tina said...

Cheryl, do you think Yucca Mountain is safe?

troutsky said...

I saw a great documentary about the massive caves they are digging in Finland to store spent fuel. Ethicists were trying to come up with signs that might warn future generations (others?) not to explore our tombs.

Cheryl Rofer said...

Yes, Tina, I think Yucca Mountain is safe. It's deep underground, and the pathways to release of anything harmful are pretty improbable.

I've been worried for some time about storing the spent fuel at the power plants, for reasons like what we're seeing at Fukushima right now.

In Yucca Mountain, besides the geological cover, the fuel elements would be stored in sealed casks.

Another alternative, as I mentioned, is reprocessing to retrieve the usable uranium and plutonium, perhaps along with isotopes that are used in medicine. It would greatly lessen the volume of waste that would have to be buried somewhere like Yucca Mountain. It needs more development.

The bottom line is that if the world keeps needing more power, and that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon, and if we want to stop pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, nuclear power will be part of the mix. So we need to figure out how to make it work right.