There have been many 'reports' about the nuclear power plant problems in Japan as a result of the MAJOR earthquake/tsunami double whammy Japan has suffered. However, I must give kudus to Colin on this article for his clarity in explaining the failures. It is hard to get some details out of the mainstream press.
While one can always bemoan the fact that the failures occurred, as well as the reasons for them, in general nuclear power has worked well in Japan for nearly 40 years.
These radioactive isotopes are really heavy compared to water or air, shouldn't they settle to ground very quickly? The greater danger would be they would seep into groundwater and become part of the food cycle.
Brilliant article on a terrible subject. Let's hope that the prevailing winds continue to blow radioactive fumes to sea. Before reading your article, Colin, I had thought that Tokyo was "safe" from contamination. Now I am not so sure. Time will tell. Let's hope that it plays in Japan's favor this time.
@jarg: Agreed. Thorium seems to be a potential winner. The Indians have a working Th reactor. It has been suggested that "Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium," and could put "an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium#Thorium_as_a_nuclear_fuel
David Stonier-Gibson http://splatco.com
What I have not seen anyone attempt to explain is why it takes such an incredibly long time to get the reactor cooled down even though supposedly the reaction was halted immediately. Even when the circulation system is working normally it sounds like it takes a very long time? And this article said used fuel rods are placed in a pool for "10-20 years" just to cool down? It can't possibly take that long but must be primarily a safe storage area until they get around to shipping the used rods to safe storage.
Unfortunately, there is no "safe" storage for spent nuclear fuels, which remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. The earth is still mostly a ball of molten rock and metal, despite the cooled crust on which we live. On a geological time frame, there simply is no part of the earth's crust stable enough to store the spent fuel.
40 years doesn't seem like much of a track record, considering the enormous risks. Plutonium is the most lethal substance known -- just one pound is sufficient to kill every person on earth. Studies have shown that abundant power is available, with current technology, from Solar and Wind. The only real barrier is that it would take about 20 years, even if we started today, to replace our fossil fuel infrastructure. But think of jobs 20 years of Solar and Wind construction could create!!