Continuing problems with Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors

by David Safier

The news about the continuing efforts to contain the damage at Japan's nuclear reactors hit by the tsunami is troublesome.

One reactor has been filled with seawater since the cooling system failed. At best, that will prevent a meltdown, but it means the reactor will most likely be permanently disabled. Scratch all that power generation. Cue the costs of dismantling, or more probably entombing, the reactor.

It looks like a second reactor will be meeting a similar fate.

Part of the problem is, the power grid failed, and the backup generators — those redundancies built in to assure nothing could go wrong — failed as well. "Irony" is far too light a word to use when a power generating station is in danger or a catastrophic meltdown because it doesn't have the power to operate its safety systems.

Even if this ends with nothing worse than some leaked radiation and three workers who we know are "suffering from full-on radiation sickness," it should be awhile before the Al Melvins of the world will be able to pooh-pooh all those Nervous Nellies like me worried about the safety of nuclear power plants.

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