Nuclear containment risk at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant


Recent scientific studies from Japan show that 75% of the radiation created by the meltdowns was released more than 5 days after the catastrophe, while only 25% of the radiation was released during the first 4 days. This data, which is posted on the website, shows that the total gaseous and liquid radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown exceed the radiation released during and after the Chernobyl meltdown, while Fukushima Daiichi radioactivity continues to bleed into the Pacific Ocean.


How then can so much radiation possibly penetrate all the radiation barriers engineers designed for nuclear power’s safe operation?


When I received my bachelor and master degree in nuclear engineering, nuclear engineers were taught that there are at least 6 barriers that protected us from massive radiation releases during and following nuclear emergencies.


Lets look at these radiation release barriers:


1. The first barrier designed by the nuclear industry is supposed to be the fuel pellet itself. It is ceramic and is designed to hold radiation inside.


2. The second radiation protection barrier is supposed to be the zirconium alloy fuel cladding that is designed to contain what is anticipated to be a small amount of radiation that would escape from destroyed fuel pellets during a nuclear power disaster.


3. The six to eight inch thick steel reactor vessel itself is supposed to be the third radiation containment system that creates a barrier against disaster-driven radiation releases, along with its associated pipes that are also made of steel.


4. The emergency core cooling systems were designed to serve as the 4th safety barrier by pumping c water into the reactor to cool the nuclear core


5. Barrier number 5 is the thick wall of steel and concrete called the nuclear containment that was supposed to prevent all the radiation from escaping if the other radiation protection barriers failed. It was the final barrier. The containment itself is passive; it just surrounds all the radioactive material.


6. Finally, in case everything does fail, people living or working within a 10-mile radius of a nuclear power plant are supposed to be able to depend upon its emergency plan and evacuation procedures.


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