Futures Plunge On New 7.4 Magnitude Earthquake, Tsunami Alert

ES just took a big leg lower. It is unclear if this is due to breaking news of a new 7.4 earthquake hitting Tokyo and a subsequent Tsunami alert.

Then again, there may be no reason whatsoever: this is a self-aware SkyNet after all. Follow the latest developments on NHK here.

And location of the Earthquake:

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/07/2011 10:44 -0400

Source: ZeroHedge

Two Large Earthquakes Hit Northern Thailand

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Two large quakes with a magnitude of 7.0 struck near north Thailand’s border with Myanmar and Laos, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Witnesses said the tremors were felt in Bangkok, Myanmar and as far away as the Vietnam capital of Hanoi where people were evacuated from tall buildings.

The quakes struck seconds apart at 1355 GMT and were centered 69 miles north of the Thai town of Chiang Rai.

Read moreTwo Large Earthquakes Hit Northern Thailand

Japan Nuclear Meltdown: It’s Much, Much Worse Than It Looks (Thanks To The Stupidity of Nuclear Engineers!)

Don’t miss:

Israeli Nuclear Expert Accuses Japan Of Downplaying Danger Nuclear Calamity: ‘If there is fallout of plutonium oxide, a most toxic substance that they use in the reactor that exploded, no one will be able to set foot on the site for thousands of years’

Flashback:

Japan’s Deadly Game of Nuclear Roulette (Must-Read!):

However, many of those reactors have been negligently sited on active faults, particularly in the subduction zone along the Pacific coast, where major earthquakes of magnitude 7-8 or more on the Richter scale occur frequently. The periodicity of major earthquakes in Japan is less than 10 years. There is almost no geologic setting in the world more dangerous for nuclear power than Japan — the third-ranked country in the world for nuclear reactors.

“I think the situation right now is very scary,” says Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist and professor at Kobe University. “It’s like a kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode.”

When reading the following article keep this fact in mind …

Gamma radiation measurements – on which all those low health risk statements were based – do NOT take into account radiation from alpha-emitting radionuclides such as uranium and plutonium!!!

… and also remember that the fuel rods may have already burned:

Continuing problems raise fears of greater radiation threat (CNN):

High temperatures inside the building that houses the plant’s No. 4 reactor may have caused fuel rods sitting in a pool to ignite or explode, the plant’s owner said.

CNN has changed the article, but you can still see that this exact phrase has been used in the article here.


Here is why Japan’s nuclear disaster could get (much) worse than Chernobyl


Chernobyl

GE, the company that boasts that it “brings good things to life,” was the designer of the nuclear plants that are blowing up like hot popcorn kernels at the Fukushima Daiichi generating plant north of Tokyo that was hit by the double-whammy of an 9.1 earthquake and a hugh tsunami.

The company may escape tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in liability from this continuing disaster, which could still result in a catastrophic total meltdown of one or more of the reactors (as of this writing three of the reactors are reported to have suffered explosions and partial meltdowns, and all could potentially become more serious total meltdowns with a rupture of the reactor container), thanks to Japanese law, which makes the operator–in this case Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) liable. But if it were found that it was design flaws by GE that caused the problem, presumably TEPCO or the Japanese government could pursue GE for damages.

In fact, the design of these facilities–a design which, it should be noted, was also used in 23 nuclear plants operating in the US in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont–appear to have included serious flaws, from a safety perspective.

The drawings of the plants in question, called Mark I systems, provide no way for venting hydrogen gas from the containment buildings, despite the fact that one of the first things that happens in the event of a cooling failure is the massive production of hydrogen gas by the exposed fuel rods in the core. This is why three of the nuclear generator buildings at Fukushima Daiichi have exploded with tremendous force blasting off the roof and walls of the structures, and damaging control equipment needed to control the reactors.

One would have thought that design engineers at GE would have thought about that possibility, and provided venting systems for any hydrogen gas being vented in an emergency into the building. But no. They didn’t.

There is a worse problem though. Probably in an effort to keep the problem of nuclear waste hidden from the public, these plants feature huge pools of water up in the higher level of the containment building above the reactors, which hold and store the spent fuel rods from the reactor. These rods are still “hot” but besides the uranium fuel pellets, they also contain the highly radioactive and potentially biologically active decay products of the fission process–particularly radioactive Cesium 137, Iodine 131 and Strontium 90. (Some of GE’s plants in the US feature this same design. The two GE Peach Bottom reactors near me, for example, each have two spent fuel tanks sitting above their reactors.)

As Robert Alvarez, a former nuclear energy adviser to President Bill Clinton, has written, if these waste containers, euphemistically called “ponds,” were to be damaged in an explosion and lose their cooling and radiation-shielding water, they could burst into flame from the resulting burning of the highly flammable zirconium cladding of the fuel rods, blasting perhaps three to nine times as much of these materials into the air as was released by the Chernobyl reactor disaster. (And that’s if just one reactor blows!) Each pool, Alvarez says, generally contains five to ten times as much nuclear material as the reactors themselves. Alvarez cites a 1997 Nuclear Regulatory Commission study that predicted that a waste pool fire could render a 188-square-mile area “uninhabitable” and do $59 billion worth of damage (but that was 13 years ago).

Another nuclear scientist agrees with Alvarez, quoted in an article in the Christian Science Monitor:

“There should be much more attention paid to the spent-fuel pools,” says Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear engineer and president of the anti-nuclear power Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. “If there’s a complete loss of containment [and thus the water inside], it can catch fire. There’s a huge amount of radioactivity inside – far more than is inside the reactors. The damaged reactors are less likely to spread the same vast amounts of radiation that Chernobyl did, but a spent-fuel pool fire could very well produce damage similar to or even greater than Chernobyl.”

Adding to that worry, Alvarez says photos of Reactor 3 seem to show white steam rising from the damaged facility, from a location where the spent fuel pond would likely be.

But it gets worse. According to news reports, the Reactor 3 unit was being fueled with MOX, a controversial mixed oxides fuel rod, which includes, in addition to uranium, a significant amount of plutonium–a far more dangerous element both chemically as a toxin, and in terms of its radioactivity.

You have to ask, what kind of numbskull would put the waste “pond” for spend fuel right above the reactor of a nuclear plant, thus insuring that in the event of a meltdown, not only would the core of the reactor blow up into the environment, but also all of the spent fuel from prior years?

Read moreJapan Nuclear Meltdown: It’s Much, Much Worse Than It Looks (Thanks To The Stupidity of Nuclear Engineers!)

Japan’s Deadly Game of Nuclear Roulette (Must-Read!)

Very important flashback!


May 23, 2004 (Japan Times) — Of all the places in all the world where no one in their right mind would build scores of nuclear power plants, Japan would be pretty near the top of the list.

The Japanese archipelago is located on the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, a large active volcanic and tectonic zone ringing North and South America, Asia and island arcs in Southeast Asia. The major earthquakes and active volcanoes occurring there are caused by the westward movement of the Pacific tectonic plate and other plates leading to subduction under Asia.

Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates, at the edge of the subduction zone, and is in one of the most tectonically active regions of the world. It was extreme pressures and temperatures, resulting from the violent plate movements beneath the seafloor, that created the beautiful islands and volcanoes of Japan.

Nonetheless, like many countries around the world — where General Electric and Westinghouse designs are used in 85 percent of all commercial reactors — Japan has turned to nuclear power as a major energy source. In fact the three top nuclear-energy countries are the United States, where the existence of 118 reactors was acknowledged by the Department of Energy in 2000, France with 72 and Japan, where 52 active reactors were cited in a December 2003 Cabinet White Paper.

The 52 reactors in Japan — which generate a little over 30 percent of its electricity — are located in an area the size of California, many within 150 km of each other and almost all built along the coast where seawater is available to cool them.

However, many of those reactors have been negligently sited on active faults, particularly in the subduction zone along the Pacific coast, where major earthquakes of magnitude 7-8 or more on the Richter scale occur frequently.

The periodicity of major earthquakes in Japan is less than 10 years. There is almost no geologic setting in the world more dangerous for nuclear power than Japan — the third-ranked country in the world for nuclear reactors.

“I think the situation right now is very scary,” says Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist and professor at Kobe University. “It’s like a kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode.”

Read moreJapan’s Deadly Game of Nuclear Roulette (Must-Read!)

Japan: Panic Buying, Evacuations In Tokyo, Power Supply Shortages To Continue For Months

Panic Buying Adds To Shortages After Japan Quake (NPR):

Canned goods, batteries, bread and bottled water have vanished from store shelves and long lines of cars circle gas stations, as Japan grapples with a new risk set off by last week’s earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis: panic-buying.

Far outside the disaster zone, stores are running out of necessities, raising government fears that hoarding may hurt the delivery of emergency food aid to those who really need it.

“The situation is hysterical,” said Tomonao Matsuo, spokesman for instant noodle maker Nissin Foods, which donated a million items including its “Cup Noodles” for disaster relief. “People feel safer just by buying Cup Noodles.”

Japan power gap could sap recovery (Reuters):

“We think power supply shortages and rations are likely to continue in TEPCO’s supply area for months rather than weeks,” the analysts wrote in a note to clients.

Radiation fears spark panic buying, evacuations in Tokyo (Reuters):

TOKYO (Reuters) – Panic swept Tokyo on Tuesday after a rise in radioactive levels around an earthquake-hit nuclear power plant north of the city, causing some to leave the capital or stock up on food and supplies.

Embassies advised staff to leave affected areas, tourists cut short vacations and some multinational companies told staff to move from Tokyo out after low levels of radiation were detected in one of the world’s biggest and most densely populated cities.

In one sign of the panic, Don Quixote, a multistory, 24-hour general store in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, was sold out of radios, flashlights, candles, fuel cans and sleeping bags on Tuesday as a Reuters reported visited the shop.

Read moreJapan: Panic Buying, Evacuations In Tokyo, Power Supply Shortages To Continue For Months

Japan PM Naoto Kan to Tokyo Electric Power Company: ‘What the hell’s going on?’ (Kyodo – Reuters)

Japan PM to nuclear power firm: “What the hell’s going on?” -Kyodo (Reuters):

(Reuters) – Japan’s prime minister was furious with the power firm at the centre of the nuclear crisis for taking so long to inform his office about a blast at a stricken reactor plant, demanding “What the hell is going on?”.

Kyodo news agency reported that Naoto Kan also ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co on Tuesday not to pull employees out of the Fukushima plant north of Tokyo, which was badly damaged by last week’s earthquake and has been leaking radiation.

“The TV reported an explosion. But nothing was said to the the premier’s office for about an hour,” a Kyodo reporter quoted Kan telling power company executives.

Japan Aftershock Map – 405 Aftershocks So Far – Aftershocks Will Likely Include At Least One Measuring 8 And 10 Of Magnitude 7, Says JPL Geophysicist Andrea Donnellan

For Japan, it’s nowhere near over, at least if the Pasadena Jet Propulsion Laboratory (creator of such brainiac things as the Mars rovers) is correct.

While Japan has experienced numerous magnitude 5 and 6 aftershocks (405 in total to be precise), the big ones are still to come: “Japan’s largest quake on record, which hurled a 7-meter (23-foot) wave landward after one plate slid beneath another off the coast of Sendai, had an 8.9 magnitude.

The aftershocks will likely include at least one measuring 8 and 10 of magnitude 7, JPL geophysicist Andrea Donnellan said.

All are many times larger than the 6.3-level New Zealand quake in February that leveled the Christchurch business district and killed 160.”

Should we get more 8+ earthquakes, the likelihood of further tsunamis unfortunately jumps exponentially. And while scientists have long been expecting “the Big One” to hit Los Angeles so far without success, unfortunately carrying over that logic to Japan is more than naive.

(Click on image to go to the USGS aftershock map.)

More from BusinessWeek on predicting earthquakes:

Pressure levels changed on the undersea plates extending 500 kilometers to the east and west of the epicenter, likely provoking aftershocks “for a long time,” said Eric Fielding, a principal scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Pasadena, California, research group is using data from Japan to help scientists forecast follow-on shifts in crustal plates.

Read moreJapan Aftershock Map – 405 Aftershocks So Far – Aftershocks Will Likely Include At Least One Measuring 8 And 10 Of Magnitude 7, Says JPL Geophysicist Andrea Donnellan