CNN: This is no Chernobyl; Update: Volcano erupts in Japan

posted at 12:00 pm on March 13, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

If we haven’t had a meltdown in Japan by now, the perfectly-named Malcolm Grimston tells CNN, we’re not likely to see one at all. Unlike in Chernobyl, the Japanese shut down their reactors and started cooling them down. At the Fukushima Daiichi plant where fears were highest of a catastrophe, authorities gave up on saving the reactor for later use at all and began pumping seawater into the cooling system to avert a meltdown. The danger has not yet passed, but we’re almost certainly beyond the point of a catastrophic breach and are instead looking at the best path to a quick and reasonably safe shutdown:

That does not mean that the danger has passed:

Workers continued efforts to cool down fuel rods inside two nuclear reactors Sunday as a Japanese government official warned that a second explosion could occur at the plant.

And the plant might have yet another explosion of built-up hydrogen gas that the rapid attempts to shut down the reactor and the failure of cooling systems has produced:

“There is a possibility that the third reactor may have hydrogen gas that is accumulating in the reactor (that) may potentially cause an explosion,” he said.

An explosion caused by hydrogen buildup Saturday blew the roof off a concrete building housing the plant’s No. 1 reactor, but the reactor and its containment system were not damaged in the explosion.

Edano said the No. 3 reactor would also likely withstand a similar blast, noting that workers had already released gas from the building to try to prevent an explosion.

As one expert warned, the Japanese are not out of the woods yet. No one can get close enough to the cores to precisely determine their conditions. But shutting down the reactors and scrapping at least one of them has put them closer to a safe landing in this crisis.

Update: As if the beleaguered Japanese didn’t have enough problems:

A volcano in southwestern Japan erupted Sunday after nearly two weeks of relative silence, sending ash and rocks up to four kilometres (two and a half miles) into the air, a local official says. …

The 1,421-metre (4,689-feet) Shinmoedake volcano in the Kirishima range saw its first major eruption for 52 years in January. There had not been any major activity at the site since March 1.

The volcano erupted in January after 52 years of silence. Authorities had already restricted access to the area, but now Japan has to worry whether the ash might interfere with air travel, which would impact international rescue and recovery assistance.

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Godzilla

Hening on March 13, 2011 at 2:34 PM

I’m going to put my tinfoil hat on for a minute and ask….

………What are they not telling us?

Knucklehead on March 13, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Godzilla

Hening on March 13, 2011 at 2:34 PM

You beat me to it. But let’s not forget Mothra as well.

Goldenavatar on March 13, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Read more: Japanese Government Confirms Meltdown | STRATFOR

Y-not on March 13, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Try not to hyperventilate so much…

Dial down the snark. There was no hyperventilation in that post (the Read more: is inserted by that site when you cut and paste from their articles). Merely linking to STRATFOR’s report.

Y-not on March 13, 2011 at 2:43 PM

George Bush Barrack Obama hates black Japanese people.

angryed on March 13, 2011 at 2:56 PM

Westboro is busy protesting at the funerals of those 7 kids who burned to death in their house. Aren’t they special?

hboulware on March 13, 2011 at 1:57 PM

I can’t even get ticked-off at those people anymore. They’re just so…special.

So I simply include the Phelps clan in my nightly prayers, that God has mercy on their souls.

JetBoy on March 13, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Godzilla

Hening on March 13, 2011 at 2:34 PM
You beat me to it. But let’s not forget Mothra as well.

Goldenavatar on March 13, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Just remember that Gamera is a friend to all children. :)

itsspideyman on March 13, 2011 at 3:04 PM

I can’t even get ticked-off at those people anymore. They’re just so…special.

So I simply include the Phelps clan in my nightly prayers, that God has mercy on their souls.
JetBoy on March 13, 2011 at 2:58 PM

And that God brings them home to deliver the message in person.

Gwillie on March 13, 2011 at 3:36 PM

I have visited Kagoshima several times while I was stationed in Japan with the navy. The volcano was very picturesque, sitting in the middle of the harbor, with a small plume of smoke constantly raising from the crater. When ships would visit Kagoshima, we were required to wear dress uniforms while on liberty, and during the summer the ash from the volcano would mix with rain and and stain our uniforms.

The people of Kagoshima always were genuinely friendly to us and it was an awesome place to visit, I hope they get through this unharmed. I have wonderful memories of Kagoshima.

Rode Werk on March 13, 2011 at 3:42 PM

I do not understand what they are doing. Apparently some hot gases including hydrogen got vented inside the building with the expected result that the building blew up from a low pressure dispersed explosion.
Would someone explain why would they vent inside?

burt on March 13, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Merely linking to STRATFOR’s report.

Y-not on March 13, 2011 at 2:43 PM

“Meltdown” is a term that has no definition by either IAEA or USNRC standards. Right now, the worst that’s happened is an IAEA Level 5 incident. Of all the incidents in the nuclear age, there’s only been one level 7 — and that was Chernobyl.

gryphon202 on March 13, 2011 at 4:28 PM

“Meltdown” is a term that has no definition by either IAEA or USNRC standards.

Take it up with STRATFOR. It was their article title, not mine.

Y-not on March 13, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Burt, what is happening is that the fuel rods are clad with zirconium, which when the water level drops enough to expose the zirconium, it gets hot enough in that spot (because it isn’t being cooled by water surrounding it) that it begins to react with the steam in the air and generates hydrogen and oxygen gas. they vented the reactor vessel to vent this hydrogen to prevent an explosion INSIDE the reactor. the vent is into the secondary containment building which can only withstand about 60 psi overpressure. the secondary containment building has ventilation doors in the roof which should have allowed the gasses to vent, but possibly due to the power outage may not have opened or only opened part way. this trapped hydrogen in the secondary containment building and something triggered an explosion.

Rorschach on March 13, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Y-not on March 13, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Can you believe these people? WTF?

That’s what you get for trying to share information.

TheBigOldDog on March 13, 2011 at 5:26 PM

TheBigOldDog on March 13, 2011 at 5:26 PM

No good deed goes unpunished, especially at HA.

a capella on March 13, 2011 at 5:49 PM

Ok, now God’s just being a dick.

holdfast on March 13, 2011 at 5:56 PM

Would someone explain why would they vent inside?

burt on March 13, 2011 at 3:45 PM

To keep radiation from going OUTSIDE.

HondaV65 on March 13, 2011 at 7:20 PM

And that God brings them home to deliver the message in person.

Gwillie on March 13, 2011 at 3:36 PM

If he’s bringing them “home” then I don’t anticipate God being there to deliver the message. But yeah, I can’t even get angry at them anymore. They’re pests, insects at best.

Esthier on March 13, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Rorschach on March 13, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Just one minor correction… The oxygen binds with the zirconium, leaving the hydrogen in the steam mixture. Since there’s no oxygen mixed in, there’s no normally inherent risk of explosion… its when the steam is vented to lower the steam pressure, which built-up when the cooling system was disabled.

dominigan on March 13, 2011 at 8:06 PM

Rorschach on March 13, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Thank you for the clear explaination.

I am not very happy with the design. If they didn’t want to always vent directly into the atmosphere, by way of a chimney, they should have provided a burst diaphragm at the bottom of the chimney to fail at 30 psi. What do you think?

burt on March 13, 2011 at 8:13 PM

Dial down the snark. There was no hyperventilation in that post (the Read more: is inserted by that site when you cut and paste from their articles). Merely linking to STRATFOR’s report.

Y-not on March 13, 2011 at 2:43 PM

And yet it is absolutely false. Nowhere in the article does it provide a single fact that indicates a meltdown has occurred, or is even close to occurring. Fukujima #1 is filled with seawater and therefore it will nearly be impossible for it to meltdown now. Fukujima #3 is being filled also and the level indicators are broken. But you don’t need that to ensure refilling is occurring. You just keep venting slowly and filling with seawater till you can get a pump running, and a meltdown will be prevented.

It does no good to throw in opinions from folks who don’t understand what is going on unless you also read the other opinions, even those on this website, that have far more factual information. This nuclear meltdown hype is not helpful, and is leading to grossly untrue statements and impressions of what is important and what is going on……

Subsunk

Subsunk on March 13, 2011 at 8:44 PM

Unfortunately, there is no member of HotAir with any technical expertise outside of playing with computers.
Kermit on March 13, 2011 at 12:19 PM

You must be talking about the Ed Morrissey and Allapundit types.I would not expect those people to have experience in reactor operation.

However, if you are talking about the posters (members?), if you check other threads on this subject, you will find several reactor operators, nuclear engineers, radiation physicists, and licensed radiation safety officers making comments and explaining things. Either you wrote too soon, assumed too much, or don’t think these qualified engineers and physicists would lower themselves to post at Hot Air.

Old Country Boy on March 13, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Ok, now God’s just being a dick.

holdfast on March 13, 2011 at 5:56 PM

Why? Because of Japan, or the Australia/US floods, or New Zealand earthquake,…? We’ve been warned from the beginning that when His wrath was unleashed it would be pretty much Hell on earth. Do you expect Him to be mocked forever? I have to say, I really think we may be seeing the beginning of the birth pangs, and it is only going to get worse. I pray I’m wrong, but those who mock Him might want to rethink their positions really soon. God have mercy.

pannw on March 13, 2011 at 9:06 PM

“Meltdown” is a term that has no definition by either IAEA or USNRC standards.

Take it up with STRATFOR. It was their article title, not mine.

Y-not

I think to spare the more genteel, timid Don Knotts-type souls we should hereafter refer to nuclear plant meltdown as “an ice cream cone with pretty sprinkles on it”.

whatcat on March 13, 2011 at 10:54 PM

A former lead investigator in several government nuclear plant fraud and racketeering investigations gives you more to think about when it comes to our crony capitalistic energy sector:

rickyricardo on March 14, 2011 at 1:21 PM

Would someone explain why would they vent inside?
burt on March 13, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Yesterday, Socratease posted a link to an excellent article detailing how these reactors function. Because that site, The Energy Collective, was a bit slow, here is the original site where the information, written by a relative of the site owner, was posted. The comments about the article reveal how the issue has become politicized. The web is full of misinformation in the war for and aginst nuclear power.

the article makes clear there is an attempt to contain the somewhat radioactive gases, and venting to atmosphere is last resort as well as politically unpopular. What exploded was outer shell, and not reactor itself, unlike chernobyl

The Guardian has a list of accidents. Chalk River, Canada and Three Mile Island rate level 5, while Fuskushima is a 4

Meanwhile, Anbex, the main manufacturer of iodide tablets (made in USA) sells direct at reasonable prices compared to other sellers, and has some good info at their site

An American involved in the design of Fukushima has worthwhile comments. Such plants were designed to last about 40 years and many have already been shut down

entagor on March 14, 2011 at 1:43 PM

The LSM is doing everything it can to hype this up. One reason is to get ratings. The other is push their hatred of nuclear power.

Hard Right on March 14, 2011 at 2:46 PM

The hyperactive mainstream media needs to settle down and wait for credible, verified information before they blast garbage all over their front pages. This \”crisis\” has been going up and down like a yo-yo form good to bad to good and back again. Cool your jets people and stop this confusing nonsense.

rplat on March 14, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Earth is angry at us destroying the environment. So it cracked open 3 nuclear reactors to show us just how angry it is at us for destroying the environment.

That would be liberal logic.

hawksruleva on March 14, 2011 at 4:41 PM

The Guardian has a list of accidents. Chalk River, Canada and Three Mile Island rate level 5, while Fuskushima is a 4

Whew! Now if we can only get a copy of the Guardian into the hands of all the Japanese. That, along with Ed & AP’s issuance of the official HotAir “all’s clear”, will set the island nation aright again! Move along, Japanese people, nothing to see here.

whatcat on March 14, 2011 at 9:23 PM

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