Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Game Changer

We awoke early to NPR.... there had been a big earthquake in Japan. I heard the number... 8.9... "Jesus!" I said. I got up and turned on CNN, which we never do. There we saw the first helicopter shots of the tsunami coming across the land of N.E Japan.

It was engaging to say the least. On one of the shots, I began to focus on a large truck that was trying to outrun the giant wave. Yes, there were people in those shots. This particular guy drove his 18 wheeler across open fields for an eighth of a mile or so before the giant wave overtook him. Then, like a model truck, it was turned around and around until it was submerged in the dark dark waters of destruction that was racing across the land.

Thousands of folks would be washed away.

Whole towns were destroyed like they were made of tinker toys.

And yet, I became focused on the nuclear reactors. Like a vulture waiting for its prey, I saw the possibilities of the coming trouble. I called a local activist and said "turn on your TV... this may be a game changing moment."

And indeed it is.

We have learned so much about nuclear power plants in the last few weeks.

We have learned that even if they shut down when earthquakes occur, they still need lots of power to keep the nuclear cores from overheating. We have learned that the spent rods that are stored in the attic above the reactor must also be cooled, or they too will overheat. We have learned that in the face of overwhelming unanticipated disaster, that nuclear reactors become very large liabilities that, if not managed successfully, become legacies that no corporation can afford. Hence, we socialize these risk with the Price Anderson Act or some Japanese equivalent of it.

True, true, nothing is an immediate threat to our health, and don't worry about the water, the soil, the human tissue, or the air. The half life of the iodine is only a week. The plutonium can be blocked with a sheet of paper. Our fear of radiation is irrational says NPR last week.

The best site early in the story was NHK. They still are reporting the story. But the best source is the International Atomic Energy Commission. There, daily reports actually give you inlet and outlet temperatures, as well as the temperatures of the spent cooling ponds.

But seriously now, if you look at the Fukushima plant with fresh eyes, you see a power plant that looks like it was bombed in WWII. There is crap everywhere. When you add the damage from the giant wave to the 3 explosions, (not to mention the numerous fires) you see a landscape that is littered with shrapnel and pieces of the plant. And we are going to turn on the electricity?

This plant has been bombed out.

And as hard as the corporate media attempts to make money sensationalizing the story while simultaneously throwing cold water on it, most folks get it. If the lights go out, these dang nuclear plants need to be managed. They need to have their reactor cores cooled and they need to keep cooling the spent fuel in the ponds above the reactor.

Yes, I know that storing spent fuel rods in the attic of your nuclear reactor is a lot like storing your gun powder above your wood stove, but somehow that is what they decided to do.

And many of us have awakened to that reality.

We what?

We store the radioactive spent fuel rods next to the nuclear reactor.


Seems dangerous.

Well, it is.

You see the covering of those rods is made of something called Zirconium. Zirconium is special because it is used to hold nuclear fuel pellets while at the same time allowing the radioactivity to pass through it. Zirconium in very tiny amounts is also used as the element that creates the bright flash in flash bulbs. It burns quickly.

Its a little like putting fireworks in a munitions factory.

Its a bad idea
... especially if you live on earth and you want to keep the bad stuff in.

Fukushima is not 3 mile island.

It is not Chernobyl.

It is something altogether different.

It is a game changer.

And we all know it.

And it is not a game

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