- Two workers came in contact with radioactive water directly in reactor number 3 and had to be hospitalized. Their legs were exposed to 2 to 6 sieverts of radiation (remember world-wide yearly average dosage for humans range from 2,000 to 4,000 microsieverts, i.e., 2 to 4 millisieverts). Apparently, these workers show radiation burns on their legs. Experts blame TEPCO authorities for lax safety measures.
- Then there was a report that radiation in water in the turbine building of reactor number 2 spiked to give a reading of 10 million times normal. The culprit was I-134 (and not the usual I-131). Authorities soon recanted, the level was not 10 million times higher, but still 100,000 times higher, and the radioactive isotope was not I-134. The presence of I-134 would have meant that the reactor was undergoing fission as I-134 has a half-life of only 53 minutes. Such false measurements can happen in times of panic.
- There is now about a million gallons of radioactive water in these reactors. This has to be stored and decontaminated!
- The sea water adjacent to the plant shows radioactivity levels of close to 2,000 times the normal. It is expected that the vast ocean will disperse this radiation, but the radioactive water is migrating along the coast.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Dipen, Fukushima, Glenn and Esther, and Bangladesh
This short posting links four seemingly unrelated things for me.
Dipen Bhattacharya has been a good friend of mine for 20 years. It was his parents with whom I stayed while I was in Dhaka during the crisis that I have been describing in Dhaka: Diary of Conflict. He has lived for much of those 20 years in Los Angeles, and is an astrophysicist at the University of California, Riverside; a science fiction novelist, philosopher and literary critic. As is obvious, his scientific knowledge goes much beyond even the vast field of space research in which he is an expert. His knowledge of nuclear physics is considerable.
Linking these two things with the fact that my nephew Glenn and his wife live in Tokyo, what he has to say relates to their lives now, as well as to the future of Bangladesh, my fourth corner of this apparently strange rectangle.
Here is what he wrote very recently as the Japanese nuclear crisis deepens.
Eventually, the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant will be contained. But this nuclear drama has implications for Bangladesh.
Who needs radioactivity?
Nuclear electric power or not, we need radioactivity just to keep us warm. The radioactive breakdown of unstable nuclei within earth’s mantle and core is what keeps this planet warm and make tectonic movements possible.
But harnessing its energy is trickier than we thought. The workers in Fukushima Daiichi plant have been trying to get the plant under control for more than two weeks and the end is nowhere in sight.
I would cite four recent developments that are definitely worth mentioning:
Lessons for Bangladesh
The radiation pollution has a way to move across space using wind and water. The recent contamination of ocean water near Fukushima nuclear plant and its subsequent movement along the coast should be a lesson to countries which are about to build their nuclear plants along river banks.
Imagine you have plant built on river Padma. A disaster that brings contaminated radioactive water through this lifeline will have an effect on the entire country. Radiation in sea quickly dissipates, but that is not the case for an inland river.
We may not have too many options regarding energy generation, but nuclear power is not a panacea for all countries. A nuclear plant built on a seismically active flood plain that is subjected to river erosion needs extensive and comprehensive risk analysis study.