Nuclear power plant explosion following earthquake tsunami in Japan

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had an explosion today after the nuclear core could not cool down due to lack of cooling system, which went down due to the earthquake damage. Though the plant crew tried to bring the reactor’s temperature down during the last 24 hours, the manual effort was not enough compared to the coolant requirements for the nuclear reactor. And the explosion of the reactor building is an indication that manual cooling was not successful, and now radiation leakage is on. Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant plan to flood the reactor containment structure with sea water to bring the reactor’s temperature down to safe levels, which may take two days. Radiation levels are said to have fallen since the explosion but authorities have expanded the evacuation to include a radius of 20 km.

This accident is the worst case scenario in nuclear power plant design, because two natural disasters have struck in quick succession: massive 8.9 richter scale earthquake, and then a tsunami. Even the back up systems failed. There will be many important lessons from this accident on improving design of nuclear power plants. The reporter from Russia Today asks a valid question: how safe is it to have a nuclear power plant in an earthquake prone area? Each country will make its own decisions based on their energy requirements, still its worth discussing this aspect in the near future.

It is being estimated that about $15 billion loss is covered by insurance in the current earthquake plus tsunami in Japan. But that does not consider any damage from nuclear radiation consequence, which in healthcare costs could be 5-10x more spread over many years. So as long as nuclear radiation is contained in this case, all other losses can be recouped in a short time, except the loss of people.

Wishing rapid recovery to the people of Japan.

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