Japan Nuclear Disaster Worsens

Photo Credit Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Photo Credit Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of Japan as the death toll soars. They face incredible hardships ahead and are in dire need of aid. As the world closely watches the unfolding, horrific developments in Japan resulting from the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake, tsunami and many aftershocks, the significant damage to the country’s nuclear power infrastructure has become more apparent though events occurring on-the-ground in real time are difficult to follow.

Since our blog post on Friday evening, Japan is facing a nuclear crisis of epic proportions. As reported in the New York Times today: two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant 170 miles north of Tokyo appear to have suffered partial meltdowns and three reactors at the nearby Fukushima Daini plant are dealing with failures in the cooling system. Releases of volatile radioactive elements have occurred, though the exact amounts are not yet known. Reports have stated that radiation levels have exceeded permissible limits and over 200,000 people living around the two nuclear power plants have been evacuated. There are reports that several plant workers have experienced significant radiation exposure, a confirmation that at least one worker has died and more than 160 people outside of the plant are also contaminated with radioactivity. Radioactive cesium has been measured, a sure sign that the nuclear fuel has been damaged. Potassium iodide is being distributed as a measure to protect the thyroids of nearby citizens from highly radioactive iodine in an effort to prevent development of thyroid cancer.

Further complicating matters, we have learned that in 2010, the reactor in Unit 3 at Daiichi was loaded with mixed oxide fuel, known as “MOX” or plutonium fuel. A BBC report confirms this and stated that it is possible that some of the plutonium fuel may have been exposed. This type of fuel is currently not used at nuclear power reactors in the United States though efforts are ongoing to try and produce the fuel at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Nuclear Site in South Carolina. We, along with many other concerned organizations, have opposed the multi-billion dollar dangerous and controversial program. Plutonium-based fuel has different properties than traditional uranium-based fuel. Though it is very serious if either type of nuclear reactor fuel is damaged, the ramifications from a meltdown of plutonium-based fuel are more dire in terms of the negative health impacts to surrounding populations.

There are numerous resources tracking the developments of the nuclear disaster still-unfolding in Japan, including:

  • The BBC has a detailed analysis of the situation at the Daiichi nuclear power plant;
  • Union of Concerned Scientist’s website including a blog updated by Dr. Ed Lyman and nuclear engineer, Dave Lochbaum;
  • Beyond Nuclear has extensive information, including recent interviews, maps, reactor schematics, etc.;
  • Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) is also tracking;
  • Green Action in Japan is issuing updates in English;
  • Citizens Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) in Japan held a media briefing on Sunday, March 13;
  • Click here for the audio recording of a media briefing held one Saturday afternoon with U.S. nuclear experts analyzing the Japanese nuclear disaster;
  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has information available on U.S. efforts to assist Japan and possible concerns with reactors in the U.S.

The ultimate consequences of this nuclear disaster are far from known and will take time to analyze. Additionally, the worldwide ramifications of this tragedy are also not yet known. Here in the U.S., a shift in future energy policy has already begun as nuclear proponent U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman stated this morning on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” that the United States should “put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what’s happening in Japan.” As one looks at the telling picture from Reuters featured in this blog of young children being monitored for radiation exposure near the Daini nuclear power plant, we must ask ourselves, is this what we want for future generations? Does this image represent a clean, safe energy future? Here at Southern Alliance for Clean Energy we clearly state say “no.”

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An excellent summary – thanks for being rational.

Comment by G. Allen on March 13, 2011 8:27 pm

Thanks, Sara. Yes, we’ve been consumed with news reports on email and some on TV. Elizabeth Baldwin is now awake in Japan. Her professional skills to read and write and speak Japanese fluently allows her to share stunning insights. I’ll encourage her to blog on this sight.
Annie Laura Stephens and the residents of Shell Bluff near nuclear Plant Vogtle were frightened to see the explosion at Fukushima. She and Glenn Carroll and Emma Ogley-Oliver are going on WRFG 89.3-FM tomorrow night at 6pm to talk about Japan and the upcoming visit from Natalia Miranova and Chernobyl liquidator Natalia Manzurova.
I implore everyone go to http://www.whitehouse.gov to send President Obama an impassioned one or two line appeal to withdraw federal subsidies to companies like Southern Nuclear that choose to engage in high risk energy options – like new nuclear power.

Comment by Bobbie Paul on March 13, 2011 9:33 pm

At 11am Japan time on Monday March 14th (10pm EST on Sunday March 13) there have been reports of an explosion and grey smoke at the #3 reactor at the Fukushima plant


Comment by Jennifer Rennicks on March 13, 2011 10:41 pm

What’s more important is the direction in which they lie. Today Japan is full of power plants and fuel reservoirs that have been killing people. All the plants had been burning, and all the reservoirs contained, much more expensive fuels than the Fukushima plants, and the Japanese government is a major beneficiary of that expense.
If it must lie, won’t it lie in the direction of favoring its fossil fuel income?

Comment by Atlanta Roofing on March 13, 2011 11:57 pm

If the reactor had been using thorium, the meltdowns probably wouldn’t have occurred (as Th is much safer than U as a fuel). India has already switched to thorium.

Comment by stonemason89 on March 14, 2011 12:06 am

2nd explosion, updates with videos of explosions. http://arklite.blogspot.com/2011/03/nuclear-plant-explodes.html

Very bothersome that government officials and the nuclear industry is being deceitful concerning this catastrophic event.

This type of GE reactor stores its used, highly radioactive, fuel above the containment vessel. If you look closely at the closeup of the first video, the cooling pool is seen lifting into the air, crashing back into the containment facility. To classify this event as a level 4 event is ridiculous and displays the extent of deceit of government and industry officials concerning portray this nuclear disaster.

Comment by Garry Morgan on March 14, 2011 9:30 am

It makes one wonder how peninsular Florida would handle an evacuation of 6 million people with a similar accident (from Hurricane or other natural disaster) to the Turkey Point nuclear projects operating on a barrier island …. and they want to build two more.

Comment by kevin on March 14, 2011 1:34 pm

Thorium is not actually a “fuel,” as it is not a fissile product and requires uranium to start the reaction process. The Physician’s for Social Responsibility and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research put together this fact sheet: http://www.ieer.org/fctsheet/thorium2009factsheet.pdf

They say this about India: “India is sometimes cited as the country that has successfully 
developed thorium fuel.  In fact, India has been trying to develop a 
thorium breeder fuel cycle for decades but has not yet done so 

Thorium does not solve any of the problems of nuclear power, as it still presents a major waste issue and is also just as problematic when considering proliferation issues. Additionally, it seems that thorium creates its own slew of radioactive waste products that would have also needed to be stored on site (in this hypothetical situation), and would still pose serious risks to the people and the environment.   

Comment by Mandy Hancock on March 14, 2011 2:44 pm


By E. E. Escultura, Research Professor, Mathematician and Physicist, GVP – Prof. V. Lakshmikantham Institute for Advanced Studies, GVP College of Engineering, JNT University, Visakhapatnam, AP, India  There is an elliptical clockwise Northern Pacific Wind Cycle that includes the Trade Winds starting off the Ecuadoran Coast going westward to the Western Pacific Beyond the Marianas. Then it curves North, Northwest over Japan and joins the jet stream going East south of Siberia, crosses the Bearing Sea and Alaska and veers down through Canada and the Tornado Belt in the US, curves westward across Mexico and off to the Ecuadorean Coast to join the Trade Winds and complete the elliptical cycle. Airborne radioactive materials from Japan ride on this Cycle and hits Alaska and Canada first but by that time most of the radioactive materials would have dissipated, the heavier ones falling to the sea and the light ones dissipating into the upper atmosphere. By the time they reach the Philippines, if any, the amount of radioactive materials and level of radiation would be minimal.

Design Flaw. Electrical power should not turn off automatically during earthquake for it will shut off the water pump that cools the reactor. Moreover, control of the reactor will be lost. Rather, the tremor should automatically drop the neutron absorbers (e.g., cadmium rods) into the uranium core to slow down or stop nuclear fission and prevent more generation of heat that could lead to meltdown.     

Comment by E. E. Escultura on March 19, 2011 11:42 pm

Yes, I agree with E. E. Escultura and V. Lakshmikantham . There are serious
design flaws in the cooling system of these reactors. They should keep the turbines running as long as possible to ensure power supply to the cooling system. I am working on another idea of using stirling engines for emergency power to the cooling system in case external power supples fail. Another
serious flaw is the use of water when the temp gets very high. Water at these
high temperatures only produces high pressure steam and hydrogen, which is
very explosive. There should be a backup cooling system using helium for cooling. When a reactor, for some reason, gets overheated it is actually quite dangerous to use water to cool it.
Charles de Matas, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad&Tobago

Comment by Charles de Matas on March 21, 2011 12:30 pm

Alternatives to Nuclear or Fossil Fuel

By E. E. Escultura

1. On the nuclear crisis in Japan

Several countries along the Northwestern Pacific Rim have expressed concern over the possibility of contamination by airborne radioactive materials coming from the partial meltdown of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan. I offer some insights based on references [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6] below.

There is an elliptical wind cycle called the Northern Pacific Wind Cycle [5], [6], [7] that starts with the Trade Winds originating off the Coast of Ecuador [1], [2], [7] and going west along the Equatorial edge of the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Seaboard of the Philippines. It sweeps across the Philippines and curves North then Northeastward and grates Vietnam and the South and Southeast Coastal Regions of China and Korea. It crosses Japan and becomes the jet stream south of the Siberian Coast that crosses the Bearing Sea. Then it crosses the Alaskan Coast, curves southward and crosses Canada and the Tornado Belt of the US that extends from the Midwest to Texas. Then it and to complete the Northern Pacific Wind Cycle. (For full explanation of this phenomenon see [1], [2], [5])

Airborne radioactive materials ride in and follow the course of this cycle. By the time they reach the Northern American Continent considerable amount of it would have dissipated downwards into the Sea and upwards into the upper atmosphere rendering the radiation considerably weakened there. By the time the radioactive materials reach the Philippines, if any, radiation will be minimal and harmless.

2. More serious problems

However, nuclear meltdown is not the only problem posed by nuclear reactors that include the thorium reactors to be built in India under a US-Indian bilateral agreement. Thorium 232 is a radioactive material three times more abundant than the uranium isotope presently used in nuclear reactors and has a longer half-life than uranium. Though rarely discussed, the most serious problem posed by nuclear reactors in the long term is waste disposal because these nuclear fuels have half-life of at least 1800 years. Presently, nuclear wastes are dump into the ocean. Their containers are bound to erode and leak radiation sooner than their half life. There are known dump sites off the Eastern Coast of Africa that have already caught the attention of environmental groups, particularly, the Green Parties.

The nuclear disaster in Japan is bound to ruin the fishing industry that depends on fisting off the Eastern Coast of Japan. Since some fish species travel across oceans contaminated fish in this region are bound to contaminate the nearby coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean and China Sea. In fact, contaminated fish has been reported caught in Hong Kong just a couple of weeks after the disaster. This is of serious concern for the Philippines and I would recommend that Philippine authorities begin to monitor fish caught in the region.

3. Averting nuclear meltdown

Can a meltdown be avoided? Yes, but it will require rectification of present defective design of nuclear reactors. There should be no power shut off for a reactor to keep the water cooling system running and prevent overheating and meltdown. Installation of appropriate UPS (uninterrupted power service) will insure it. Moreover, there should be an automatic nuclear reaction shut off to suppress further heat generation and prevent meltdown in case the UPS fails. This can be accomplished by installing neutron absorbers (neutron of sufficiently low energy – 0.25 calories – split the uranium core nuclei causing nuclear fission that releases nuclear energy) such as cadmium or graphite rods that can be inserted suitably into the uranium core to choke off nuclear fission. (For the underlying physical explanation, see [3], [5])

Note on the PNRI research reactor in the Philippines

It should be noted that the nuclear disaster in Japan was caused not by the tsunami triggered by the earthquake that occurred there but by that earthquake itself. Therefore, the same disaster could occur at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute research reactor in Diliman, Q.C., especially, since it is close to a branch of the Marikina Faults that passes under the University of the Philippines Library. I don’t know the power of the research reactor (it should be considerably less than that of a power reactor) but it should be an issue to worry about. I am recommending not a shutdown of the reactor but an automatic “choke” mechanism that would turn off the reactor in the event of an earthquake. Then it can be restarted again.

4. Safe alternatives

There are, of course, safe alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuels for generating energy. Under traditional power generation, we mention the following:

(1) Geothermal power plant with suitable design that recycles the geothermal steam and avoids release of sulfur that causes acid rain as well as damage to the topography of the ground due to distortion of ground surface.
(2) The use of ethanol for internal combustion engine. Ethanol comes from common crops such as cassava and sugar cane. More than 50% of idle land in the Philippines is suitable for growing cassava.
However, this would eat up land that can be allotted to food production.

(3) A new emerging technology uses the cold underground water for air conditioning and refrigeration. This is, of course, more environment friendly than conventional air conditioning and refrigeration. I have a friend in India who is venturing into this new technology. However, its usefulness as energy source is quite limited.

We now have a new category, GUT technology, that uses the free, clean, inexhaustible dark matter comprising over 95% of and abundant everywhere in the cosmos [3], [4], [5], [6]. GUT means grand unified theory [3], the basis of the design and construction of such technology [5], [6]. This technology uses the natural engine of the vortex flux of superstrings provided by the magnet. Among the existing GUT technology are the following [5]:
(a) The magnetic train. It uses two magnetic vortex fluxes of opposite spins that push each other and the train, one fixed magnet on the track and the other underneath the train. Such vortex fluxes are natural engines in dark matter.

(b) Another GUT technology which is at the design and prototyping phase is the electromagnetic car which I introduced in India in collaboration with colleagues there. It also uses similar natural engines.

(c) The present electric power plant is only partial GUT technology for it uses other source of energy side by side with the natural dark engine (magnetic vortex flux) such as gasoline, geothermal steam, tidal energy, river current and water falls.

There is a potential for building an electromagnetic power plant using magnets alone. I have received an invitation from an industrialist in India interested in its research and development.

Another electromagnetic engine based on GUT, specifically, the principles that account for magnetic levitation, can provide power to space vehicle that travels through the gravitational field of the Earth that extends far beyond the Moon or any cosmological body such as the Sun and any galaxy. This can revolutionize travel around Earth. Research and development for travel around Earth can be started now but for general space travel that is still way into the future.


[1] Escultura, E. E. Turbulence: theory, verification and applications, J. Nonlinear Analysis, A-Series: Theory, Methods and Applications, 2001, 47, 8, pp. 5955 – 5966.
[2] Escultura, E. E. The Pillars of the new physics and some updates, J. Nonlinear Studies, 2007, 14, 3, pp. 241 – 260.
[3] Escultura, E. E. The grand unified theory, contribution to the Felicitation Volume on the occasion of the 85th birth anniversary of Prof. V. Lakshmikantham, J. Nonlinear Analysis, A-Series: Theory: Method and Applications, 2008, 69, 3, pp. 823 – 831.
[4] Escultura, E. E. The mathematics of the grand unified theory, Proc. 5th World Congress of Nonlinear Analysts, J. Nonlinear Analysis, A-Series: Theory: Method and Applications, 2009, 71, pp. e420 – e431.
[5] Scientific natural Philosophy, an ebook in Press, Bentham Science Publishers.
[6] Lakshmikantham, V.; Escultura, E. E.; Leela, S. The Hybrid Grand Unified Theory, Atlantis (World Scientific): Paris, March 2009.
[7] (a) The Earth Atlas; (b) The Oceans Atlas, Dorling Kindersley: London, 1994.

Comment by E. E. Escultura on October 28, 2011 8:09 am

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