A hope turns to nightmare: a nuclear meltdown in Japan
Posted on Mar 14 2011 at 11:28:03 AM in Newspaper
On a televised news conference Prime Minister Naoto Kan described the ongoing crisis in his country as “the toughest Japan has ever encountered in 65 years since World War II”. Recovery of the nation from the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is being hampered by a series of nuclear events. On Saturday people were stunned by a blast from unit 1 of Fukishima Daichi nuclear power plant. Apparently, it was a hydrogen explosion that resulted from the effort to reduce pressure from the said reactor vessel. There were also reports of failure of the cooling system of reactors of unit 2 and 3 also. Yesterday news came out of increased radioactivity within the Onagawa nuclear facility, located northeast of Fukushima.
“There is a possibility of a meltdown”, said Toshihiro Bannai, director of the International Affairs Office of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety, in a telephone interview with CNN.
Meltdown is a very serious nuclear accident that happens when a reactor lose its coolant. As a result the core overheats and liquefies. The melted material could potentially leak into the environment, releasing radioactive substances. Classic examples of meltdown are the Three Mile Island accident, referred as partial core melt and Chernobyl disaster.
Japan is financially endowed, yet deprived of natural resources. The nation had no option but to rely on imports. 80 percent of energy supply comes from overseas. But to secure economic stability Japan needed to diversify its sources. Nuclear power seemed an attractive solution. Why? Operational cost of a nuclear plant is less compared to conventional types.1-million kilowatt of the former requires 30 tons of fuel per year versus 1.4 million tons of oil needed to fuel the latter. Aside from that, in contrast to coal, natural gas and crude oil, nuclear plants produce no harmful emissions, such as nitrous oxide, sulfur oxides and carbon dioxide. Therefore, in the 1960’s Japan began formulating a nuclear program. Tokai nuclear plant was the first, built in 1966. Presently 55 nuclear facilities are scattered all over its territory.
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