WBEZ | japan nuclear reactors http://www.wbez.org/tags/japan-nuclear-reactors Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Meltdown feared as water runs out at Japanese nuclear plant http://www.wbez.org/story/earthquake/meltdown-feared-water-runs-out-japanese-nuclear-plant <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-16/Japan rescue nuke_Getty.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says all the water is gone from one of the spent fuel pools at Japan's most troubled nuclear plant. This means there's nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down. The outer shell of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.</p><p>Gregory Jaczko did not say Wednesday how the information was obtained, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Energy both have experts on site at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex of six reactors. He says officials believe radiation levels are extremely high, and that could affect workers' ability to stop temperatures from escalating.</p><p><strong>New power line could solve the crisis</strong></p><p>Meanwhile, the operator of Japan's tsunami-crippled nuclear plant says it has almost completed a new power line that could restore electricity to the complex and solve the crisis that has threatened a meltdown. Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said early Thursday the power line to Fukushima Dai-ichi is almost complete. Officials plan to try it &quot;as soon as possible&quot; but he could not say when.</p><p>The new line would revive electric-powered pumps, allowing the company to maintain a steady water supply to troubled reactors and spent fuel storage ponds, keeping them cool.</p><p>The nuclear crisis has triggered international alarm and partly overshadowed the human tragedy caused by Friday's earthquake and tsunami that pulverized Japan's northeastern coastline.</p><p><strong>U.S. parts with Japan on safety zone recommendations</strong></p><p>The White House is now recommending that U.S. citizens stay 50 miles away from a stricken nuclear plant, not the 20-mile radius recommended by the Japanese. The order comes after President Barack Obama met Wednesday with top advisers and the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.</p><p>As late as Tuesday, the U.S. had not issued its own recommendations, advising citizens instead to follow the recommendations of the Japanese. White House spokesman Jay Carney says the move does not signal a lack of confidence in Japan. He says the NRC is using its own data and making its recommendation on how it would handle the incident if it happened in the U.S.</p><p>Carney says the White House consulted with the Japanese government before making the recommendation.</p><p><strong>U.S. EPA adds more radiation meters along the West Coast</strong></p><p>Federal environmental regulators say they are adding more radiation monitors in the western United States and Pacific territories as concerns rise over exposure from damaged nuclear plants in Japan. The Environmental Protection Agency already monitors radiation throughout the area as part of its RadNet system, which measures levels in air, drinking water, milk and rain.</p><p>But the additional monitors are in response to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, where emergency workers are attempting to cool overheated reactors damaged by last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami.&nbsp; The EPA says data from the monitors are available on its website for coastal states, Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa.</p><p>Officials with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission say they do not expect harmful radiation levels to reach the U.S. from Japan.</p><p><strong>Worsening nuclear crisis rattles financial markets</strong></p><p>Fears that a nuclear reactor in Japan may be in the midst of a partial meltdown shook U.S. financial markets on Wednesday.</p><p>Stock indexes lost 2 percent and gave up nearly all of their gains for the year.&nbsp; All 10 company groups that make up the Standard &amp; Poor's 500 index fell.</p><p>The Dow Jones industrial average fell 242 points, or 2 percent, to 11,613. It was the biggest drop for the index since August 11.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 16 Mar 2011 21:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/earthquake/meltdown-feared-water-runs-out-japanese-nuclear-plant Map: Chicago-area nuclear power plants at a glance http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-03-16/map-chicago-area-nuclear-power-plants-glance-83819 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-16/Nuke Plant in Byron IL_Getty_Scott Olson.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A series of nuclear reactor fires and explosions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Fukushima, Japan has put nuclear power back in the spotlight around the globe.</p><p>And few states are as central to the discussion of nuclear power in the United States as Illinois.&nbsp; Illinois is home to seven nuclear power plants, six of which are still in active operation.&nbsp; Add in Wisconsin, and Southwest Michigan and there are 10 nuclear power facilities located within the greater region, both current and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/business/23nuke.html">decommissioned</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Many of the plants contain more than one nuclear reactor, making Illinois home to more nuclear reactors than any other state in the nation.</p><p>All of the plants in this region went into operation between 1971 and 1988, and use a variety of reactor types.</p><p>As Shawn Allee noted in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/scitech/energy/how-closely-related-are-reactors-illinois-and-japan">a recent story on wbez.org</a>, four of the reactors at two different plants - Quad Cities and Dresden - are GE Mark I, the same reactor type in use at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.</p><p>The map below provides a look at the facilities, their locations, and their operating details.&nbsp;</p> <object height="300" width="500" id="umapper_embed" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,0,0" classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000"><param value="kmlPath=http://umapper.s3.amazonaws.com/maps/kml/93823.kml" name="FlashVars" /><param value="always" name="allowScriptAccess" /><param value="true" name="allowFullScreen" /><param value="http://umapper.s3.amazonaws.com/templates/swf/embed.swf" name="movie" /><param value="high" name="quality" /><embed height="300" width="500" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" name="umapper_embed" quality="high" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" flashvars="kmlPath=http://umapper.s3.amazonaws.com/maps/kml/93823.kml" src="http://umapper.s3.amazonaws.com/templates/swf/embed.swf"></embed></object></p> Wed, 16 Mar 2011 20:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-03-16/map-chicago-area-nuclear-power-plants-glance-83819 President Obama defends use and safety of nuclear power http://www.wbez.org/story/scitech/energy/president-obama-defends-use-and-safety-nuclear-power <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-March/2011-03-15/Obama_Getty_Alex Wong.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama is defending nuclear power as an important source of energy in the U.S., even as new questions are raised about its safety following radiation leaks from an earthquake and tsunami-damaged nuclear plant in Japan.&nbsp;</p><p>In an interview with Pittsburgh television station KDKA, Obama says nuclear facilities in the U.S. are closely monitored and are designed to withstand certain levels of earthquakes.&nbsp;</p><p>However, Obama says all energy sources have downsides and none are foolproof. He says the U.S. learned that last summer during the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.&nbsp;</p><p>Obama says he has been assured that Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast will not be affected by radiation released from the damaged plant in Japan.<br /><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 15 Mar 2011 21:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/scitech/energy/president-obama-defends-use-and-safety-nuclear-power Japan nuclear disaster called 'world's second worst' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-14/japan-nuclear-disaster-called-worlds-second-worst-83682 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-March/2011-03-14/German Anti Nuke Protestor_Getty_Christof Koepsel.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In the aftermath of Friday&rsquo;s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the incidences at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima Prefecture are being called the second worst nuclear disaster seen yet. That's according to Stephen I. Schwartz, editor of <a href="http://cns.miis.edu/npr/"><i>The Nonproliferation Review</i></a>, who categorized the Japanese disaster worse than or at least equal to the Three Mile Island accident of 1979, and ranked it behind only Chernobyl.</p><p>A drop in water levels left uranium rods completely exposed Monday, and although the water was restored, the rods are again exposed after a second episode. That increases both the risk that radiation will spread - and the risk of a meltdown. Japanese officials said the fuel rods in all three of the most troubled reactors at the site appeared to be melting, though they are most concerned with the problems at a different reactor, Unit 2. The other two, they say, are somewhat stabilized.</p><p>The reactors at the site were made by General Electric, and were actually supposed to have been shut down a month prior to the tragedy; they were just recently given a 10 year extension.&nbsp; Addtionally, a study done by the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico indicated that there is a 42% chance of containment failure if the core of these reactors melts.</p><p>In an interview with <em>Worldview</em>'s Jerome McDonnell, Schwartz&nbsp;explained that the damage to the reactors hits closer to home than many Americans might realize. Not 60 miles from Chicago, the Dresden 2 and 3 reactors in Morris, IL are of the exact same design as the Japanese reactors and also were recently given a lifetime extension.</p> <p>At the Daiichi reactors, the tsunami wiped out the first backup system, and the second backup system was only capable of operating for eight hours. Currently, the Tokyo Electric Power Company is attempting to cool the rods with sea water pumped in through fire engines, a far cry from the distilled and impurity-free water usually employed for this activity. Additionally, there is no reliable energy source because of the outages, and the long-term ramifications of not having resting fuel (which takes a significant amount of time before it can be converted into energy) have not even begun to be broached. While Schwartz praised Japan's typical preparedness to natural disasters, he qualified that &ldquo;Nothing will ever be truly risk free.&quot; He said, &quot;[The Japanese] did plan for multiple contingencies, they just didn't plan for all of these at the same time.&quot;</p><p>What's the worst case scenario? Schwartz outlined a complete core meltdown: the nuclear fuel will totally liquefy and melt through the steel reactor vessel, reaching the ground (which is already saturated because of the tsunami), causing a massive steam explosion, destroying the rest of the reactor, and pushing the radiation up into the atmosphere.To prevent this possibility, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that the Japanese government has asked for experts to help with an imperiled nuclear plant.</p><p>&quot;The situation would probably be much much more dire if the workers at these plants were not performing these duties heroically,&quot; said Schwartz, comparing their efforts to those of the firefighters who perished during Chernobyl.</p></p> Mon, 14 Mar 2011 17:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-14/japan-nuclear-disaster-called-worlds-second-worst-83682