Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nuclear power and geological hazards

There is considerable excitement over the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.

The explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant looks bad at the surface. What's behind it?

As soon as the earthquake occurred, the power plants shut down automatically. The control rods enter the core to stop the nuclear reaction. There is a great deal of residual heat, which is handled by the plant's normal cooling system. But the earthquake damage was severe enough to knock out power to the plants, so the cooling system had to be run off backup diesel generators.

The backups have failed because diesel generators don't run well underwater.

So the Japanese have to run around on their destroyed infrastructure and bring power to these plants.

Notably, the power plants were designed to withstand a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, so they have done well to be still there after the 8.9.

However, the sequence of events since Friday does not appear to have been anticipated by the engineers.

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