Wolfe's Blog - learning how to do things yourself, getting off the grid, and back to the land. Survivalist Blog. Libertarian. Ham Radio. Homestead.


Japan 2011


Disasters hit the Earth everyday, the events in Japan are no different then the countless other things that have come to the media's attention in the last few years. I am not trying to down play the pain and suffering the people of Japan, but rather down play the panic as a result.

Because I am an ex-information broker, I have been asked a lot of questions about what the risks are to the people of North America as a result of the Nuclear power plant meltdowns in Fukushima and Daiichi. I will try to answer all those questions now. ...

I am not a nuclear expert, I don't know it all. What I do know is that we need nuclear power, in fact we need it so badly that unless we get our heads out of the sand, a lot more people are going to die then then from all the deaths from radiation since Albert Einstein figured out that energy and mass were inter-chargeable.

We need nuclear power because we are all past peak oil. I'll say that again. We are past peak oil, all of us. Many people know that the USA went past peak oil back in the 1970's, what people don't realize is that even if the Russians turn out to be right about oil being abiotic, we still live with the issue of peak oil. I keep having to say that the definition of peak oil is any source of oil which gives us less energy then the energy we put into getting it in the first place.

Some people believe that preppers like myself would love to see the shoomer hit the fan, that we dream about the day our modern world comes crashing to an end, and we all have to live like primitives in the Boreal forest. That just isn't the case. There is a difference between imagining scenarios, and desire. We desire a world where people are dependent on themselves in as many ways as they possibly can. Rather then being dependent on an electric grid, or a food supply chain, or anything that we can do for ourselves.

But there are limits, we cannot produce insulin, and as much as I love HAM radio the cell phone is better at dialing 911. In fact there are countless things that we enjoy that make life better, and for many, they simply can not live without. For that you need easy to produce energy and lots of it. Without nuclear power, we are done for.

So let me start by dispelling some myths that are the result of some bad reporting.

There is a huge difference between between what happened in Chernobyl, and what is currently at risk in Japan. Chernobyl went critical in it's core. The designs are different to begin with, the event was caused by human error, and it was triggered by a test. The Chernobyl accident was a combination event that tipped over to a crisis when the graphite in the core was ignited, and the plant blew it's top. If you are afraid of the events in Japan leading to an event similar, or on the same level as Chernobyl, relax.

Imagine that you have a house that has a mini-nuclear powered furnace in it's basement, and a pool in the backyard. Your furnace is basically a steam engine, that powers a generator, to heat up your house with electric baseboards. You have water pipes that run to the furnace, and a pump to make sure the water levels in the furnace stay above the fuel rods in the furnace's core. If the water levels drop to low, the rods over heat and the protective coating on them melts, and you have a problem. Every now and then you have to replace the fuel rods in your furnace, they are still heating up a bit, and still will for awhile, but it's not enough heat to turn the mini turbine in the basement to heat your home. So you take the old rods out of the furnace and put them in the pool in the backyard to let them cool down till you can get rid of them in the old county cooper mine.

On day you decide to test the system, but the fuse on the water pump is blows, and the safety switch is broken to tell you the water pump doesn't work. You mini-furnace is over 30 years old, and doesn't have the same back up safety checks as the new models do, the water stays trapped in the core without being replaced, turns to steam, and blows up. With the old style rods exposed, they heat up, melt the outer layer, and you loose your house as a result. That was Chernobyl.

In your Japanese neighbor's house next door, they have a more modern mini-nuclear power generator, with so many back up safety systems that you could walk in and steal the water pump and they still wouldn't have a problem. But they do have a pool, and it's leaking. To make matters worse, the water pump for the pool had the power cut off, so they are trying to fill the pool with a water hose for the garden, till the electrician can come by and hook the electricity back up.

There are 68 nuclear reactors in Japan, two more under construction, and one that is closed. The issue with the aftermath of earthquake is that the water levels are not being maintained in the spent fuel rod pools in six of them. Part of that is because the rods are evaporating the water that is there, and it isn't getting replaced because the power supply to the pumps was damaged in the tsunami. The #4 containment pool is actually leaking, so they have to spend more time filling it to keep the water levels up.

If the water levels drop to much, the zirconium casing around the uranium rods will begin to heat up to about 2000 degrees, which will melt the casing and expose the rods to the air. This would lead to polluting the atmosphere with radiation. With Tokyo nearby, that would not be a desired thing, prolonged exposure to radioactive levels that could result to things that were feared when Three Mile Island went haywire. But it is important to note, not one single death is connected to the radiation escape at Three Mile Island.

Could radiation from Japan reach North America? Yes, in fact even if they got total control today, it still will. What matters is if the levels that reach us is going to be a hazard to our health or not. I don't even have my bug out bag ready by the front door, it will take over six days for any major leakage we would have to worry about to get here, dispersing along the way, and with plenty of warning. To be honest, I am way more concerned that the earth quake activity we saw off the cost of Japan, and it's after math, will repeat itself here in the near future.

Could what happened in Japan happen in one of our plants here? Technically yes. No system is perfect, humans make mistakes, get lazy, and skip safety measures. We've seen a small human error lead to disaster before in the airline industry, so it could happen in the nuclear industry as well, but the odds are against it. So sit back, and have a cup of coffee, and turn off CNN and FOX NEWS.

- Wolfe

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