Fukushima Daiichi Crisis Gets Worse: Level 5 Nuclear Emergency
Fukushima Daiichi Crisis Worse Than Three Mile Island
The ongoing crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has been upgraded to a Level 5 emergency, bringing it to the same level as the meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979. "Level 5" means "accident with wider consequences". Chernobyl was a Level 7 emergency, which means "major accident".
Actually, the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is far worse than at Three Mile Island, whose own meltdown was not as harmful as was perceived by a panicked public.
TEPCO managing director Akio Komiri admitted that the cores may need to be buried in concrete, as was done at Chernobyl.
Send In The Robot
Parts of Fukushima Daiichi are now too dangerous for humans, and the Japanese have deployed a robot called Monirobo to assist in the efforts to avoid a total meltdown. Sending in a robot seems like a no-brainer, but it was a matter of finding a robot that would fit into the areas in which it would be needed, and that had the right sort of tools and impliments. Fukushima Daiichi was not built with robots in mind.
Monirobo weighs 1320 lbs, and has a top speed of 2.4 mph. A second robot is meant to be deployed soon.
Japan Radiation Reaches California
Trace amounts of radiation from Fukushima Daiichi have reached California, but are nowhere near harmful levels. Radiation from the fallout would measure at around 1 microseivert, which is like 1/100 of a chest x-ray.
The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi has caused other countries to re-examine their own nuclear infrastructure: the Union of Concerned Scientists points out 14 "near-misses" at US nuclear power facilities from 2009/2010 alone:
"The chances of a disaster at a nuclear plant are low, but when the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] tolerates unresolved safety problems – as it did last year at Peach Bottom, Indian Point, and Vermont Yankee – this lax oversight allows that risk to rise. The more owners sweep safety problems under the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher the risk climbs." UCSUSA Report (pdf).