Sustainable You

Sustainability and the Built Environment

Wk 10: Japan Nuclear Reactors

Response due at the beginning of class on 3/24.

What better way to start thinking about our energy lectures in the context of real life.  Remember, we talked first about our 3 Non-Renewable Energy Sources (Fossil fuels are petrol, natural gas, coal), then we looked at Renewable Energy Sources (Wind, Solar, Biomass, Geothermal, Hydropower), and then there is the wildcard energy option that is sort of a non-renewable, sort of a renewable energy, and it  is called NUCLEAR ENERGY.

As you’ve probably gathered over the Spring Break Japan experienced a major earthquake that caused a tsunami. In the process of all the major destruction, there are also 4 nuclear reactor sites in Japan are on fire.   There are two ways I want you to examine this issue this week:  (1) What is the problem exactly and (2) What does this mean for U.S. Nuclear energy.

Questions 1. Clearly explain what is happening with the reactors in Japan?

Question 2. What are the concerns about radiation in the U.S.A? Are these concerns legitimate?

Question 3. What does this mean for the discussions surrounding energy options in the U.S.A.?

Question 4. Do you think energy will be a platform during the 2012 presidential election? Explain your answer.

Some sources are the websites and news sources you like to read, I tend to read Politico and Huff Post, but there are many sources for news. You can then just search for nuclear, nuclear power, nuclear energy to find recent news stories.

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Filed under: Sustainable Design

28 Responses

  1. Kelsey Queen says:

    1. Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant began overheating and leaking radiation into the atmosphere days after the earthquake that happened on March 11th. T he subsequent tsunami flooded the generators which caused them to fail. This caused the reactors to heat up. A small radiation leak occurs and could cause melting to occur. On March 12th, an explosion occurs at reactor No. 3 that blows the roof off. On March 14th, another explosion occurs. This explosion occurs at the No. 3 reactor and damages the cooling system at the No. 2 reactor. A wall of the plant collapse. At this point, a mixture of sea water and boron are pumped into No. 2 to cool the fuel rods. On Tuesday, another explosion happens with the No. 2 reactor and damages the suppression pool. The same day a fire breaks out in a cooling pond at the No. 4 reactor. Wednesday, another fire breaks out in the building of the No. 4 reactor. As of writing this on Saturday, officials are trying to restore power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. They are hoping to have power fully restored by the end of Saturday to Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 6 reactors and getting the power running Sunday for Nos. 3 and 4 reactors

    2. Driven by winds over the Pacific Ocean, a radioactive plume released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi reached Southern California on Friday, heightening concerns that Japan’s nuclear disaster was assuming international proportions. As of today, there has not been a big increase in the levels of radiation on the west coast.
    3. Obama has asked nuclear regulators for a comprehensive review of the safety of U.S. plants due to what has happened in Japan. Obama has said that nuclear energy is an important part of our energy future. The NCR is reviewing all the reactors in the US. One concern is that 23 of our reactors are the same types that were in Japan. Also there has not been a new reactor built since 1978. But the reactors are being constantly upgraded and are upgraded to be safer.

    4. I think that this event will have an impact on the 2012 election. If something else happens that increases the level of radiation in Japan and also if it reaches the US, I could see some people being against nuclear power in case something like this happens in the US. But I would urge people to look at the probability of something like this happening again. I agree that we should have a review of our plants to make sure that there is nothing wrong with our reactors. Also, if President Obama starts to mishandle the situation, it would be come up in the election. So far, the radiation has not reached the US but the real test would be if radiation does reach the West Coast.

  2. Colin Couch says:

    1) Recently, Japan suffered a major earthquake which resulted in a tsunami. There are four nuclear reactor sites in Japan which are on fire. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant closed three of its six reactors for inspection before the earthquake/tsunami hit. And, the three operating reactors shut off moments after the earthquake occurred. Cold water is necessary to keep the reactor fuel from potentially melting. After the earthquake, the water pumps stopped working; the emergency battery power only lasted eight hours leaving workers with no way to cool the reactors. Japanese officials suspect the explosions of the three reactors were caused by a buildup of hydrogen gas, which is highly flammable. Also, Japanese officials claim fire was discovered in a storage pond located in reactor number 4 and then found a second fire in the northeastern part of the same reactor building. News affiliates warn that the fires could spread radiation into the environment. Helicopters dumped large amounts of water on Fukushima Daiichi’s number 3 reactor in order to cool its fuel pool. The steam rising from the pool may be discharging radiation into the atmosphere.

    2) Residents of the United States are concerned that radioactive particles will arrive in the United States and have adverse health effects. Though these concerns are legitimate, I do not believe there is a need to panic. The President and health officials have assured that while radiation from Japan may be found in the United States, there will not be health consequences.

    3) It is said that after wind power, nuclear power is the next safest energy source. Also, nuclear power has low greenhouse gas emissions. If there is radiation related health consequences in the United States, citizens may protest nuclear power. However, “The past 150 years of indiscriminate consumption of fossil fuels has brought unalterable changes to our planet. Melting polar ice and variant climate patterns may have more threats in store for humanity than could result from dozens of nuclear meltdowns (Chesser, 2011).” Therefore, we should not be so quick to banish nuclear power.

    4) I believe energy will be a platform during the 2012 presidential election. If President Obama handles this disaster properly, he could potentially use this catastrophe as a spring board to reelection. In contrast, if he does not make wise decisions regarding this matter, the other candidates will use this against him. In conclusion, energy will be a major platform of the 2012 election.

  3. Cameron Coxworth says:

    1. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan was utilizing three of six boiling water reactors when the earthquake and tsunami devastated the country. These boiling water reactors, designed by General Electric, incorporate the cooling capabilities of water as a means to offset the heat produced in nuclear reactor cores. Without any complications, the boiling water reactors require energy to provide a cooling effect, energy that was cut off in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. With all of the destruction, the backup generators were also knocked offline causing the cooling requirement for safe nuclear reactor processes to cease. This directly leads to the nuclear reactors capabilities of turning the existing water in the boiling water reactors to steam. A serious issue arises when there is excess steam mixed with the radiation of the core- the steam must be vented to the outdoors and has the potential of harming thousands of people in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant to prevent an explosion.

    As of today, four of the nuclear units at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have experienced a partial meltdown or fire. To slow the meltdown rate, Tokyo Electric Power Company has been utilizing a solution of sea water and boric acid to cool the nuclear cores.
    http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/03/japans-nuclear-emergency

    2. The United States is concerned with the potential for radiation content in imported food from Japan. Milk and spinach have been found to have radiation content as far as 30km away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The United States only imports 4% of food from Japan, though. This small amount can easily be replaced by food from other countries if a radiation threat continues. In response to the food radiation concerns, the FDA has stepped up screening processes to test imported food for unhealthy radiation content.
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f75df24a-5324-11e0-86e6-00144feab49a.html#axzz1HBohJDkb
    Another radiation concern is expressed by Professor John Meriwether of the University of Louisiana. He expresses the fact that Americans are exposed to low levels of radiation daily. The levels being released in Japan do not pose a serious risk to the American people, unless Americans are stationed or located near the actual nuclear power plant in Japan. Gregory Jaczko, head of the NRC, seconded the opinion that the radiation levels will not severely impact Americans. Even people in Hawaii, the closest state to Japan, have a low probability of impact. Meriwether also reveals that chemical explosions are occurring in the reactors not nuclear explosions. The nuclear reaction equipment in Japan is some of the most sophisticated and encompasses numerous controls to prevent disaster. The boiling water reactors are having issues, not the nuclear cores.
    http://www.theadvertiser.com/article/20110316/NEWS01/103160319/Japanese-radiation-unlikely-affect-U-S-

    3. With the media overload regarding nuclear power issues and concerns due to the earthquake and tsunami, Americans are forced to consider the pros and cons of nuclear energy production. USA Today and the Gallup Pole surveyed 1004 adults regarding their current concerns with nuclear energy. An overwhelming 70% stated that they are now more concerned with nuclear disasters occurring in the United States. Of the same people surveyed, 47% now refuse to support US construction of homeland nuclear power plants versus 44% who still favor homeland construction. Prior to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, a survey reported 57% of those people surveyed agreed with the construction of US nuclear power plants. Energy Secretary Steven Chu was reported to believe that the US must learn from disasters like those occurring in Japan to prevent future turmoil on US soil. There are numerous opposition parties to nuclear power production as well as those who believe without nuclear power, the US will consume fossil fuels at an elevated rate only strengthening US dependence. The interesting fact now is how will media attention sway public opinion on nuclear power. The longer negative issues are in the news, the stronger the negative mindset of the American public towards nuclear power. If the Japanese government and nuclear power plants can solve the water boiling issues, people may be more willing to continue implementing nuclear energy.
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20045161-54.html

    4. Energy alternatives have been major Presidential issues for many years. With this in mind, I have no doubt that the upcoming Presidential Candidates will provide varying options for the future of US energy production. Obama has been blunt with his speeches regarding the quickly depleting fossil fuel supply as well as the US dependence on fossil fuels. He pushes for alternative solutions to energy consumption based on the fact that one day soon Americans will no longer have the fuel to run what we consider now a “normal” life. Of course there will be platforms that mention the pros and cons of nuclear energy while victimizing the tragedy in Japan as a primary example, with this I also have no doubt. One day soon, Americans are going to have to move past the lengthy traditions fossil fuels have instilled as part of the American Dream. With a heavy emphasis on energy alternatives in the next election, hopefully, Americans will get a strong dose of what options are available and successful in other parts of the world. Energy is too intertwined with the comforts of American life to casually toss the issue aside for a future rainy day.

  4. 1. A few seconds into the earthquake all the nuclear reactors in Japan automatically shut down. Even still, the radioactive materials’ natural decay produces heat. Usually nuclear reactors use cooling pumps to remove the heat but the backup power supply to the pumps was knocked out. Seawater with boric acid is currently being pumped into the reactor cores in attempts to further stop the reactions. Even with the reactions at a standstill, the reactor cores still contain enough heat that can melt the uranium fuel’s surrounding sheaths which in turn could react chemically with the surrounding water that would then produce explosive hydrogen gas. This is being named the key contributor to the explosions at the Fukushima plant. The gas contains small amounts of radioactive particles and has contributed to some local radiation as engineers attempted to vent the hydrogen into the atmosphere.

    2. There is concern for the spreading of radioactive foods for produce originating in Japan. The FDA is flagging all shipments of FDA-regulated products from Japan and many restaurants are removing Japanese fresh food from their menus. The caution seems wise. Also, whenever particles get into the atmosphere, it eventually makes its way all around the world. We will no doubt detect a small level of radiation in the U.S. but it will be such a small trace that will pose no consequence to human health.

    3. As one of the proclaimed safest energy sources (second to wind power) it will be interesting to see how the events in Japan will affect the U.S.’s plan for building nuclear power plants. If this continues to be the government’s number one choice for our country’s future energy source the public (with Japan on their minds) will most likely be even more interested and perhaps skeptical of the option. Learning from the issues Japan is experiencing now with the reactors and improving our systems will be key in the acceptance and approval of this energy source. Overall, I think there is a lot more fear in the American people that will make them more resistant to this option.

    4. Absolutely. We’ve seen energy be an issue in past elections and over time the awareness of our depleting fossil fuels is spreading. I hope that this election will be sustainably meaty and open the doors for some great alternative energy options and further education to the public on the need to transform the way we view and consume energy. Undoubtedly, the effects of Japan earthquakes will be a topic of discussion. The personal reactions from Americans about the disaster will be an easy gripper/hook for Presidential candidates.

  5. Mary Clare Kent says:

    1. When Japan was hit with an 8.9 earthquake on March 11th, the Nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant lost power and the cooling systems were disabled. There were 3 reactors that were operating at the time of the earthquake and 3 were shut off due to routine checks. The main problem now is that the reactors need to be cooled down and the spent fuel ponds need to be cooled down as well. When the quake hit, the power was lost and the generators needed to come on immediately to help cool the systems as they shut off. While these reactors were cooling,, there were explosions on March 12th ,14th, 15th that have damaged several of the reactors. These explosions could have caused radiation to leak from the reactors. The main struggles with the reactors are cooling them down to prevent explosions and the consequences of explosions that have already occurred and the need to monitor the reactors to avoid radiation leakage and the need to deal with the radiation that has already been leaked.
    2. Currently, the concern in the United States is to prevent radiation from making its way to our soil. This means inspecting all products that are being imported from Japan into the United States. Specifically, Japan has halted the flagged the production of spinach and milk in the area near the reactors and has told citizens not to drink the tap water within the area close to the nuclear power plant. The other concern for radiation is felt worldwide, because radiation can seep into the air and be passed around the world that would open up many different areas to radiation that can be harmful. This concern is not to set the world into a panic thinking they are going to be harmed by radiation because in reality the biggest threat for radiation damages is to those working in the power plants being exposed to the radiation and to the people near the Fukushima power plant.
    3. For the United States, this affects the future of our nuclear power because it forces our power plants to prepare for natural disasters like those happening in Japan. We must focus on making sure our reactors are able to handle disasters and will not harm massive amounts of people in the event of a disaster. I definitely think that the future of Nuclear power is at risk with these events. The complexities involved in dealing with the meltdowns at the reactors and the harm they could potentially cause those in the surrounding areas forces every country with nuclear power to contemplate the benefits of using this power source. While nuclear power is less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels, it can cause major damage to the environment when it does not function properly. Honestly, I think this event hurts the view of nuclear power as far as energy options go in the United States
    4. I think that energy will inevitably be a platform for the 2012 election. The growing concern over fossil fuels and the need to seek alternative sources of energy are both reasons alone for energy to be of great importance for the election. Energy is huge, not only because of the situation in Japan and the need for security and safety with nuclear power, but also because it’s a leading concern among a variety of people and professions in today’s time. I think a serious focus on searching for clean, green and alternative power is an essential platform that a presidential candidate must take a stand on for the upcoming election.

  6. Kaitlin Gwock says:

    1. March 11th Japan’s massive earthquake forced 11 nuclear reactors to shut down immediately. The earthquake caused a tsunami, which knocked out the power to the backup cooling systems to one of the reactors in Fukushima. Throughout the course of the days following the earthquake there was partial meltdowns within the reactors, loss of cooling systems, fires, and explosions by pressure buildup exposing humans to a dangerous amount of radiation. This caused evacuation of nearby residents and employees. Currently engineers are working to restore the power supplies to the cooling systems and 3 of the 6 reactors are stable.

    2. U.S. Officials are concerned that the U.S. reactors do not have enough backup power to ensure a safe shutdown during an emergency. If reactors could lose both off-site power and backup generators it could lead to a core meltdown in a short period of time. The U.S. regulators have made it clear that our reactors are built to withstand any large earthquake but scientists feel extra measures should be taken to assure we don’t have the issues Japan is now dealing with. There are multiple safety systems at a nuclear plant in the U.S. that are used to shut the reactor and prevent the release of a radiation if we were to have an incident like Japan did.

    3. The future of nuclear power is at risk in the U.S. watching what Japan is going through now. It is very complicated to deal with the prevention of meltdowns and explosions when a natural disaster strikes. Nuclear power will have to take extra precautions for natural disasters. Though it is less harmful to our environment than the fossil fuels, if something goes wrong with a reactor during a natural disaster the consequences can be of greater harm to our environment and us than fossil fuels ever were. This will ultimately probably negatively affect Americans outlook on nuclear energy after reviewing Japan, causing fossil fuels to become the more reasonable option in many peoples’ minds.

    4. I definitely think energy will be a platform in the 2012 presidential election and I thought it would be even before Japan’s devastating natural disaster. As we have been learning, people can no longer ignore that fossil fuels are not an endless supply and they are beginning to damage our environment and our consumption rate is at an all time high. Energy alternatives can be a popular platform for candidates. A portion of America will probably remain skeptical toward nuclear energy as an alternative but many candidates will most likely use their platform to help us better understand how these alternative forms of energy will help our country in the long run.

  7. Katie Moorhouse says:

    1.On March 11, Japan was hit with an 8.9 earthquake which resulted in a tsunami. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station closed three out of six total boiling water reactors for maintenance prior to the earthquake. The three remaining reactors were shut off immediately after the earthquake hit. These boiling water reactors produce cool water which is used to keep the reactor’s core fuel from overheating. The tsunami following the earthquake flooded the nuclear plant, which knocked out the emergency generators necessary to cool the reactors. Because the earthquake and flooding provided so much damage to the surrounding area, assistance was unable to be brought in from elsewhere. Subsequently, on March 12th, 14th, and 15th there have been explosions that has caused radiation to leak from the reactors. As of today, all six reactors have been shutdown, but Japan is still dealing with high numbers of casualties and increasing amounts of radioactive materials being released into the air.

    2.President Obama, the CDC, and public health experts all agree that Americans should not expect harmful levels of radiation to hit the US, but should stay informed about the current situation if anything were to change. With that being said, although radiation is not expected to travel the thousands of miles to our coastline, there is a concern with the radiation content in the food imported from Japan. The US imports less than 5% of its food from Japan, and has been looking to other sources to import these goods from. As of now, I do not believe we have a legitimate reason to be concerned about radiation levels affecting the US. I believe our government is watching this problem closely, and the public will be informed if there is any immediate danger.

    3.Following Japan’s nuclear crisis, Obama has requested for a comprehensive review from all nuclear regulators regarding the safety of their plants. While it has been Obama’s plan for awhile now to help finance the Energy Department with $36 billion, Americans have recently been forced to weigh the good and bad that comes with producing nuclear energy. While nuclear energy, along with wind power, still remain the safest energy sources available, I think how the media decides to portray it will greatly affect people’s opinions in the upcoming months.

    4.I absolutely believe energy will be a platform the 2012 election. While energy has been an issue in past elections, I think now, more than ever, alternative sources of energy will be a leading issue. Now that the devastation that nuclear power can potentially cause is coming into public knowledge, Americans will look to their future president to provide safe energy sources ,as well as, ways to handle it if crisis presents itself. I believe the way President Obama handles this situation will directly affect his reelection. Regardless of the candidates, energy, and especially nuclear energy, will be a strong platform in the upcoming election.

  8. Cory Byerly says:

    1. On March 11, 2011 an 8-9 earthquake shook Japan and as a chain reaction caused a tsunami. Along with the horrifying effects for the residents and visitors there, the natural disaster also caused larger scaled issues. With Japan housing several nuclear reactor plants in Fukushima and Onagawa found their reactors’ cooling units failing along with leaking radiation slowly occurring. Eleven other reactors automatically shut down after electronically sensing the earths’ vibrations of the quake. The explosions, fires, and leaks caused panic for the workers of the plants as well as the people in Japan and even concerned citizens in the US. If the nuclear reactors were not cooled in time, the overheating could’ve led to more leaking and a core meltdown in the system. As of today, cooling pools of water are slowly decreasing the reactor temperatures and officials of the plants are stating that the situation is gradually stabilizing.
    2. The United States government and people have been very involved with trying to understand and prepare for this kind of problem happening in the US. Since Japan’s leaking radiation isn’t a concern reaching America, administrators here are focusing on making Americans aware that the fears of the reactor plants here experiencing problems is a slim chance. Although the US has 3 subduction zones like the one that caused Japan’s quake, the nuclear reactors are located far enough away to not be affected.
    3. After this disaster, the discussions around energy options in the US as of now are revolving around safety measures. It is known that nuclear power is growing in popularity and the Obama Administration is taking extra precaution in emergency preparedness of our nuclear plants here. With all of the recent commotion and scares, I think advancement of nuclear power will be put on the back burner. American’s are frightened right now and expect the worst. Government decisions could easily lean away from nuclear power and start focusing on less hazardous energy options. Americans will refuse to have new plants built near them if there’s any possibility of Japan’s incident happening. Maybe in several years if new nuclear methods are created that deem safer, then nuclear power will be on the rise again.
    4. Since the US has been so involved and willing to take the time to worry about what happened in Japan as well as relate it to solving problems over here, it is a very good possibility that energy concerns will be a significant part in the 2012 platform. I think energy options used to sort of be a new opinionated topic, but over the years everyone is starting to realize the importance of the topic and the importance of making solid decisions about the energy we use.

  9. Molly R. says:

    1-Nuclear power is one of the most powerful sources of energy known to man, but it also creates one of the most dangerous waste products, radioactivity. A nuclear reaction creates a tremendous amount of heat which is used create steam to power electric generators. Because of the danger of radiation, this process must take place in a very strong and sealed containment vessel to prevent it from ever escaping into the atmosphere. This extreme heat has the ability to melt and destroy the containment vessel; therefore it must be cooled with a constant supply of water to keep the temperature down. During the earthquake and resulting tsunami, power to the pumps that supply the cooling water was lost. The backup system also failed and the pumps themselves could very well be damaged. This resulting heat buildup and created several explosions and damaged the containment vessels and has leaked radiation into the atmosphere and surrounding area. The Japanese and other atomic engineers are frantically trying to restore the operation of the cooling pumps to further stop the damage to the containment vessels.

    2-Radiation which remains active for thousand of years is known to cause cancer and even immediate death in large dosages. There is concern in the United States that radioactive particles could rise up in the atmosphere and travel across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of the United States. Also, there is concern that food and other products imported from Japan could be radioactive. At the present time, provided the situation is brought under control and there is no meltdown in the reactor, we need just to be aware of the situation and not in a panic mode. Experts are saying should radioactive particles travel across the Pacific, they would be so dissipated and diluted that they would cause no harm. The country needs to screen all imports from Japan for radiation. Should the situation deteriorate and a meltdown occurs, then our concerns would be much more legitimate.

    3-Discussions about energy options will now center on the safety of nuclear energy. Nuclear is one of the cleanest forms of energy production. Our future leaders will have to make decisions on the tradeoff of the danger of nuclear versus the pollution of other forms of energy such as coal. New designs of atomic energy plants must contain the most modern safety designs. There will always be special interest groups opposed to atomic energy at all costs. I feel that we need to strike a balance between nuclear and conventional energy generation. We need to incorporate the latest safety measures in our designs while developing alternative and renewable forms of energy for the future.

    4-I think energy will be a platform during the 2012 elections because the price of oil has risen to near record levels and it really affects the economy of the United States. Should the situation in Japan deteriorate, the safety of nuclear energy will be much more of an issue. We seem to have enough energy to power our homes and businesses. Most of the discussion will be centered, once again, on our dependence on foreign oil. The government can only stimulate the development of alternative sources of energy, but ultimately they must be created by free enterprise and capitalism.

  10. jessie phelps says:

    Questions 1. Clearly explain what is happening with the reactors in Japan?

    An earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear reactors to fail. The spent-fuel reactors may have been damaged by overheating and using up all of the water exposing redioactive material which could cause a reaction. As explained on the following link:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0323/Japan-nuclear-crisis-What-s-in-the-smoke-emerging-from-Fukushima-I

    Question 2. What are the concerns about radiation in the U.S.A? Are these concerns legitimate?

    The concerns would be if this could happen to our nuclear plants and if this will cause our citizens to consume radiation.
    This will not be a problem for our food or any thing we consume from Japan. We do not receive much food from Japan, so these are not legitimate concerns because we can scan the products and test for radiation. As read in the following : http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/national_world/stories/2011/03/23/experts-say-food-from-japan-still-safe-to-consume.html?sid=101

    Question 3. What does this mean for the discussions surrounding energy options in the U.S.A.?
    Most Americans polled recently are weary of continuing nuclear support as well as being in favor of waiting on developing more as long as we increase our use of renewable resources. The following page has more information on the polls:
    http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1779451/WAMC.New.England.News/Nuclear.Concerns.Don%27t.Mean.More.Business.For.Renewables..Yet

    Question 4. Do you think energy will be a platform during the 2012 presidential election? Explain your answer.
    I definately think that energy will be a platform for the next election. This topic has continually been pushed to the side and is now a more hot topic than ever before. With all of the news and attention on the topic and recent problems, I believe there will be a definitely need for a platform.

  11. Sara Valles says:

    1.
    After the tsunami triggered the earthquake in Japan, the 6 of the country’s nuclear reactor units and their cooling systems were disrupted and began overheating. The earthquake knocked out backup cooling which caused a build- up of heat and pressure. In a normal running of a reactor, high- energy neutrons from the uranium fuel bash and break atoms into pieces in a chain reaction which creates heat, new radioactive elements such as strontium and caesium, and new neutrons which continue the process. The chain reaction was stopped because of the earthquake and when the reactors shut down control rods made of boron were inserted into the fuel, absorbing neutrons. The natural decay of radioactive materials in the reactor core continues to produce heat, this heat would normally be removed by coolant pumps whose back-up power supply was knocked out by the earthquake. Now they are cooling the reactors because even though the chain reactions have stopped, there is still enough heat to melt the sheaths surrounding the uranium fuel and if these are hot enough they react chemically with the surrounding water, producing an explosive gas hydrogen. If the inner layer of the reactor vessel is damaged that would raise radiation levels. The concern now is that the core will melt, making it difficult/ impossible to remove the fuel and the site might have to be sealed permanently.
    http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/factbox-what-is-happening-inside-japans-nuclear-reactors/
    2.
    The US may be concerned about radiation due the fact that it may linger in the air or the seawater. However it has been said that the distance between the nuclear reactors and the US is enough to protect the US from the radiation that Japan is facing. According to Radiologist-in- Chief, Dr. James Thrall, we will undoubtedly measure a very small amount of the radioactivity in the US but this radiation will be so miniscule that it will cause no effect on the human bodies of the US.
    http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/radiation-risk-us-japan-nuclear-reactors-low-expert/19888137/
    http://amfix.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/16/are-concerns-over-radiation-in-the-u-s-valid/
    3.
    After the crisis that Japan is experiencing due to their nuclear reactors, I think that US is going to rule out the option for nuclear energy. I did read an article about the weather the US would continue to consider the idea of a nuclear power plant however in the article it predicted that the cost of the nuclear plants and plants production cost would increase making natural gas cheaper to build, easier to site and produce less expensive electricity far into the future. Of course after what is going on with Japan’s reactors it has only risen the concerns the American’s have for building nuclear power plants in the US.
    4.
    I definitely think that energy will be a platform during the 2012 presidential election. Energy has been a concern for a while now and it is only becoming more apparent that the citizens of the United States need to improve our sources of energy and try to consume lesser amounts of energy. Because of the rising gas prices and the nuclear crisis that has just recently occurred, I do believe this only stimulated the concern for energy.

  12. Suzanne Snow says:

    Questions 1. After the devastating earthquake hit Japan on March 11th, Fukushima Dai-ichi, the nuclear power plant, lost all power to their cooling systems. The nuclear reactors produce cool water that keeps the boiling core from overheating. Without the cooling effect, the reactors were overheating causing much concern. The aftermath of the earthquake caused a large tsunami that destroyed the backup generators that were also used to cool down the reactors. The many explosions on March 12th, 14th, and 15th, caused damage to the reactors which then caused dangerous radiation to leak. All six reactors have been shut down but they continue to release hazardous toxins into the air.

    Question 2. The biggest concern for the US is to keep the leaked radiation from making its way into our water and soil. The toxins have also leaked into the air in Japan causing much concern. These hazardous gases could potentially make its way over to the US. Another concern is the potential of imported goods from Japan containing or being tainted by the radiation. This means keeping a strict eye on all goods being shipped in from Japan. I think there is a definite reason to be concerned but not overreact. I feel its important to stay informed but there is really nothing my worrying can do to change the situation.

    Question 3. The US now must prepare its nuclear power plants for disasters like this one. An earthquake such as this one could have just as easily hit California or any other state in the US. My prediction would be a large loss in support for nuclear power in the US. I know I am personally more hesitant when I even hear the words “power plant” no matter what kind it may be. I feel as if many other forms of energy production, such as wind power, will become wildly more popular.

    Question 4. Do you think energy will be a platform during the 2012 presidential election? Explain your answer. Yes, I absolutely think energy will be a very important platform in the 2012 presidential election. The American people are going to be looking for a candidate that, in a way, will not “allow” a disaster of this measure to effect the US. Not only will nuclear power be a concern, but the growing prices of gas will definitely be a topic for discussion. “Cleaner” or “greener” energy solutions will most likely also be a very important topic.

  13. Emily Worthington says:

    1. Inside the nuclear reactor is uranium, a radioactive element. If uranium splits it creates energy. If uranium is reacting alone, it creates an atomic bomb, but nuclear reactors allow us to control this activity so that the uranium can split at a tolerable and controllable rate. Water is pumped through the reactor as a cooling agent, creating steam, which in turn creates energy. The reactor is controlled by control rods which contain boron. When the earthquake hit Japan last week, the control rods submerged into the reactors, causing the nuclear reactors to cease reacting. When the reactions stopped, the atoms have begun to decay and give off energy on their own because they are radioactive in themselves. This is what is causing extreme heat. The heated uranium can react with the water surrounding, potentially causing an explosion of hydrogen gas. Because of this severe state of emergency, Japan has began using seawater to cool the reactor, however this is not the preferred water for cooling. The chloride from the salt water, attacks metal components, cracking the metal and making it dangerous to use in the future. The gas that is released contains a small amount of radioactive chemicals., causing health problems that have been known to last for years and years. Efforts are being made to contain the problem in anyway and avoid releasing these toxins into the environment.

    2. There is a fear that if there is a meltdown in Japan, there will be radioactive particles in the United States. This is because the wind and jet stream sweeps from Japan to the west coast. Given the speeds, it is estimated that radioactive particles would arrive to the US within 36 hours. As of today the EPA in the west coast has recorded minimal traces of radioactive chemicals, but they are said to be millions of times below levels of concern. Though these are legitimate concerns, there is no known threat at this point.
    http://modernsurvivalblog.com/nuclear/west-coast-usa-danger-if-japan-nuclear-reactor-meltdown/

    3. With the disasters occurring in Japan it is going to be difficult to get Americans onboard for further pursuing nuclear energy. Like Megan said in class the word “nuclear” is scary for many because the average American doesn’t know much about it. It has been proven that nuclear energy is very effective and will play a large role in the future of American energy. In order to gain the support of many Americans, however, serious action will have to be made to prove that this can be a safe energy source.

    4. I believe that there is no question that energy will be a hot topic in the upcoming 2012 election. We can’t continue to ignore the fact that we are running out of fossil fuels and it is time that serious action is taken to make some sort of change. Though nuclear energy is still seen as a good alternative, there will be many skeptical Americans after seeing the toll it has taken on Japan. How Obama handles the current situation of radioactivity will have a great effect on his race towards the next Presidential term.

  14. Evan Durrence says:

    1. When the tsunami hit japan it caused the nuclear reactors to shut down, which caused extreme overheating. These nuclear reactors contain a element called uranium, which is broken down to create energy. The uranium is now acting alone without the control of reactor causing extreme overheating. Overheating is causing the leak of hydrogen gas radiation into the atmosphere, which exposes people who live in that particular region. Even though sea water is being used to cool down the reactors, its still releasing radioactive chemicals. Radiation is the main cause of cancer, extreme sickness and death. This is why the atom bomb took such a toll on japan in World War II.
    2. The main concerns to the United states are some of the same concerns going on japan. We have a lot of nuclear plants up along the east coast which could be a huge concern. Any earthquake or terrorist attack could lead to a disaster. The leak of radiation from any of these reactors along the coast could expose millions of americans. Another concern is the chemicals sweeping across the ocean from the wind and jet stream reaching the ocean lines of the U.S; even though, these chemicals particles reaching the coast are no concern at all from a medical standpoint.
    3. This throws up flags on a safety standpoint, but I think this will definitely slow the progress from anymore nuclear plants being built in the U.S. Also, this will increase regulation standards on the plants functioning today. Anything nuclear is a scary concern and worries most people; but maybe this is a wake up call for us. Thus we need to take more precautions so that we are prepared for certain situations. Also, we need to prove to people that this kind of technology is safe.
    4. I believe that alternative source of energy will be a huge topic for discussion in the next presidential election. Its a fact that we are running out of fossil fuels and there needs to be some form of change in the U.S. Since the japan incident, I don’t know how the nuclear topic will hold up. It will skeptical to see how each potential candidate and the president debate on the subject. With regards to nuclear debate, I think this we a huge factor in gaining or losing votes for the president.

  15. Alexis Haut says:

    1) Thankfully, CNN has a page strictly dedicated to explaining Japan’s nuclear crisis. For those of us with little knowledge of nuclear power, Some of the news stories about the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant might as well could have been written in Greek. This is my watered down understanding of what happened is happening with Japan’s reactor: On March 11th a 9.0 struck an area 230 miles from Tokyo. The quake caused a tsunami that produced water walls up to 30 feet high that hit the Japanese Coast. The quake caused serious damage at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Three of the plant’s six reactors, which came into service between 1970 and 1979, were already shut down for inspection at the time the disaster struck. Those still in operation are designed to also shut down in the event of a quake, with diesel generators pumping water around the reactors to keep them cool. But when the tsunami hit, flood water swamps the generators, causing them to fail. The reactors begin to heat up because the cooling system is not working, and radiation levels begin to rise. The radiation is now leaching into the soil, tap water, crops, and commercial foods.

    2)What does this mean for the U.S.? It is possible that some of these radioactive particles as part of an airborne plume will find their way to the Western part of America. Some states have already reported that trace particles have already drifted as far inland as Colorado. The fear is that these radioactive particles will continue to drift overseas as they continued to be released in Japan, which would pose serious risks to American citizens. Most American health officials and the EPA have failed to confirm the legitimacy of the fears that these radioactive particles will seriously threaten Americans health. Since particles are dispersed int eh air, the are less potent the further away they are. Americans typically get exposure to radiation from natural sources such as the sun, bricks and rocks that are about 100,000 times higher than what has been detected since the tsunami.

    3)This disaster will definitely chill the public’s favor for using nuclear energy as a primary energy source in America. This disaster will likely demonize nuclear energy as an unstable and uncertain option that should not be dealt with. I think that the news from Japan brings nuclear energy even further away from becoming a viable option for American energy. Special attention will likely be paid to the nuclear reactors that already exist in America. We must not forget that nuclear energy is not the only potentially dangerous energy source out there.

    4) I think energy would have been a platform in the 2012 elections even if this disaster had never happened. Politicians are always seeking a solution to America’s energy woes. The situation in Japan will most definitely be used as a tool for those who oppose nuclear energy.

  16. Anna Auman says:

    1. Following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant began experiencing problems. The earthquake cut off external power to Fukushima, also triggering a shutdown of the reactors. Shortly thereafter, the tsunami flooded the plant’s electrical system. Due to these failures, the plants have been operating without a cooling system and the reactor cores have continued to heat. Reactor No. 1 is severely damaged following the March 12 hydrogen explosion. Reactor No. 2 is slightly damaged following a hydrogen explosion on March 15. Reactor No. 3 experienced a hydrogen explosion on March 14. Smoke and radiation release were noted on March 16, and smoke was seen emerging on March 21 and 23. Reactor No. 4 experienced a hydrogen explosion on March 15, which led to a fire. Reactors No. 5 and 6 are currently not damaged and temperatures are stable. Seawater is currently being added to the reactors in order to aid in cooling. Unfortunately due to the great danger of exposure to radiation, humans cannot spend much time near the site, limiting our knowledge of what is happening inside the reactors.
    2. Several western states have reported traced of radioactive particles that have drifted from Japan. The EPA claims that the levels are far below levels that should raise concern. According to the EPA, Americans are exposed to radiation from natural sources (i.e. sun, rocks, bricks) that are almost 100,000 times higher than what has been found due to the events in Japan. Government officials do not appear to see need for concern among Americans. The radioactive particles are said to have dispersed enough during the 5,000 mile travel, that they will not be in quantities large enough to affect the health of Americans. We should however be conscious of any food products coming from Japan. The FDA is currently watching this situation. Looks like we better trust the government regulations (EPA and FDA) on this one!
    3. Following the situation in Japan, the discussion regarding energy options in the US will intensify. We can learn many valuable lessons from the events in Japan and use these events to navigate the future of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is said to be one of the safest forms of energy, but natural disasters can be rather unpredictable. Thankfully, an earthquake of this intensity followed by a tsunami is pretty unlikely in many parts of the US. Obama has called for in-depth inspection of our nuclear plants, and considering the age of our nuclear plants, revisions will likely need to be made to the plant designs and/or the emergency crisis procedures. The US has no plans to halt use of nuclear energy policy at this time.
    4. I definitely believe that energy, specifically nuclear energy, will be a hot topic in the 2012 presidential election. Energy has already been put up for discussion/debate, but following such an extreme natural disaster and the dangers posed by the events in Japan in combination with rising oil prices and the crisis in the middle east, the US definitely has some challenges ahead. I think that the events of 2010 and 2011 are causing many Americans to think for themselves about how these issues and platforms will affect them personally. We already feel the direct effects of rising energy costs, and many Americans are starting to see the link between energy sources and health and wellness following the events in Japan. With tension rising between many countries, the US must devise a plan to produce our own energy sources and be able to provide for our own. In order to remain a top power, the US must remain on the forefront of technology, innovation, and design regarding energy. Obama is under criticism for a variety of policies, but energy is definitely going to be a tough one to overcome in the wake of numerous current events.

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/japan-nuclear-crisis/
    http://www.npr.org/series/134592647/explainers-inside-japans-nuclear-crisis
    http://edition.cnn.com/2011/US/03/23/colorado.oregon.radiation/

  17. Alonso Guerrero says:

    1. The earthquake of Japan put all the nuclear reactors into lockdown. This is where they automatically shutdown to prevent catastrophic incidences. This doesn’t mean that all problems were prevented. Although explosive behaviors were minimized, the radioactive materials create heat as they decay. Ocean water is being pumped into the cooling systems that lost power in attempts to cool the reactors. The heat is melting the metal and the mixing with water is causing a slightly radioactive yet very explosive gas. This is the reason for the explosions at one of their nuclear plants. The gas is beginning to cause small radiation outbreaks to surrounding areas.

    2. One of the main concerns for the radiation reaching the U.S. is from food product coming from Japan. This is being closely monitored to ensure that we don’t get the radiated products. The radiation that gets into the atmosphere however is of such small amounts that we aren’t expected to see any large environmental changes.

    3. With the event that happened in Japan we must wonder how possible it is for the same event to happen to us. We must then ask if the benefits outweigh the risks or if we should look to a new source of energy to invest in. All of the reactors in the US. are under review to verify that they are incapable of meltdowns like the the current ones in Japan. Are our nuclear plants outdated and if so how quickly can the be upgraded for preventative measures?

    4. The topic of energy will definitely be on the 2012 election. It has been an increasingly larger issue throughout the years and is not a topic that is going away for quite some time if ever. It is a major concern for many people and that will be used by the next president if not to act, then to gain more votes. Awareness is spreading like wild fire among us concerned citizens and I for one sincerely hope that action is actually seen through, instead of spoken of to buy votes.

  18. Katie Shirah says:

    1. Because of the earthquake in Japan, the reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were cause to automatically shut down to try and prevent catastrophic events such a huge explosions. The generators were flooded because of the tsunami, so the fuel rods could not be cooled. Because the reactors contain radioactive materials, the reactors began to heat up which causes melting and the radioactive material to seep out into the open. Ocean water and boron are being pumped into them in order to cool them down. As of now they are currently trying to restore power to all of them in hopes of being able to test all of the equipment and repair any damage that has been done. According to the article I read, there is likely no chance of saving the plant. There are several areas in it that no human can go for a long period of time. However, if the rules and instructions given by the government are followed, the people in Japan should be fine.

    2. This nuclear power plant problem in Japan has a small effect on us here in the U.S. The FDA is being strict on testing the food that is imported from Japan in order to make sure that no large amounts of radiation are found that could harm our citizens. It has been said that the amounts of radiation that reaches our soil should not be harmful enough to hurt any of our citizens. Also, another point has been made that we as humans are already exposed to some amounts of radiation in our daily lives through natural things in our outside world.

    3. I definitely think Japan’s natural disaster forces the U.S. to think about our energy options and where to go from here. Although there is much negativity in the media putting a bad taste out nuclear energy in our mouths, if the Japanese can recover from this disaster and keep their people safe, not necessarily save the plant, then I believe that we will look further into nuclear energy. I believe this will encourage us to think about all the possibilities of what can naturally happen and try and construct our plants to have the ability to withstand the repercussions.

    4. I certainly think that alternative energy sources, especially nuclear energy will be a huge point in the 2012 presidential platforms. With oil prices rising and our nonrenewable energy sources slowly depleting, I do believe that it is time to start thinking of other ways to capture energy. I also think it is important for us as Americans to come up with a way to sustain ourselves and not have to rely on other countries to provide us energy because we never know what is going to happen such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

  19. Keri Hasslinger says:

    1. As a result of the major earthquake and tsunami that followed in Japan, multiple nuclear power plants experienced dangerous effects. The Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima could not withstand the magnitude of the earthquake and as a result, three of six of their boiling water reactors have the potential of having meltdowns. The reactors did have backup generators for emergency cases however these were knocked out by the natural disasters. In the plants, the nuclear core uses water to create electricity and when there is not enough water to cool these cores, fuel rods may be exposed and overheating and meltdowns can occur. In addition, there have also been numerous explosions which emit radiation into the air causing radiation levels to rise and which is harmful to the surrounding population.

    2. Because of the events in Japan, there has been a recent scare in the US about the rise of radiation levels may affect us. I have heard that there have been sales of pills and masks and other things to decrease your intake of radiation in the US. While these are good precautions to take, the EPA which has been monitoring the radiation levels in the US, has said that our radiation level is not expected to cause harm.

    3. Nuclear power is a growing and developing source of power and because what has happened in Japan, more precautions and research may need to be taken or done to prevent another meltdown scare. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a two step review of nuclear power plants in the US as a precaution which should be done by the end of this year with updates every 30 and 60 days. With the depleting energy resources in our world today, nuclear energy is an important resource for our future. And even though this unfortunate event has occurred, steps to correct and better prevent this issue in the future are being taken.

    4. I definitely think that energy will be a platform in the 2012 presidential election; especially because of recent events, but also because of the scare of running out of important energy resources. After taking this class, I now realize how important it is that we, especially Americans, change our ways of using energy and fossil fuels. I didn’t realize that they were running out so fast. And if the US population isn’t as well informed as I am about this issue, then they certainly need to be so we can correct this issue. If a 2012 presidential candidate is smart, he or she will include energy in his or her platform because it is an extremely important issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

  20. Kristen A. says:

    Questions 1. Clearly explain what is happening with the reactors in Japan?
    There are six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and CNN.com has reported a “reactor-by-reactor” report to explain what is happening to each of them.
    Reactor No.1: There is a vapor rising but it’s considered natural and not a concern. The temperature is going down and light has been resorted so workers can get in and try to restore the electricity so the control panels/cooling systems will be able to function. Seawater is being pumped into the reactor and it is still considered “severely damaged.” The pressure is currently rising in the reactor.
    Reactor No.2: This unit is considered to be “stable” but there are high radiation readings around the reactor. Seawater is being pumped to cool the reactor and the core of the reactor is damaged. Because the reactor’s fuel rods are somewhat exposed, it is possible for radioactive materials to be emitted into the air.
    Reactor No.3: Recently, the black smoke that has been coming out of the reactor has stopped. They still are not sure what the black smoke is coming from but they think it could be burning oil. Workers have been exposed to large amounts of radiation and have been hospitalized. Seawater is being pumped to cool the reactor and if the fuel rods are not cooled, then the overheating could cause radioactive vapors to be released into the air.
    Reactor No. 4: This reactor is considered to be stable and that the fuel pool has been cooled.
    Reactor No. 5: This reactor is considered to be safe and work is being down to repair the cooling system in hopes that the temperatures will not rise again. There are no major issues with the reactors core and the fuel pool appears to be working as normal (except for the temperature being too high).
    Reactor No. 6: Temperatures of this reactor are considered low. The reactor was offline when the tsunami hit so it was relatively safe. The only issue is making sure that the cooling system can be restored so that the fuel rods won’t emit any radioactive materials.
    Question 2. What are the concerns about radiation in the U.S.A? Are these concerns legitimate?
    There are concerns that the radiation from Japan may affect California. It does not appear that there is enough radiation to leak from the plants in Japan will affect the USA.
    Question 3. What does this mean for the discussions surrounding energy options in the U.S.A.?
    Now that a natural disaster has wrecked the nuclear reactors in Japan, the risks and benefits of nuclear power in the U.S.A. are having to be weighed to see if nuclear power is a realistic option. Building reactors that can survive natural disasters is also something that has to be worked out so that this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen. I think that a lot of citizens will be worried about using nuclear energy and that it will get somewhat of a bad name because of what happened in Japan. It will be harder to convince people that nuclear energy’s benefits outweigh the risks.
    Question 4. Do you think energy will be a platform during the 2012 presidential election? Explain your answer.
    Because the economy is so terrible, I don’t think that energy will get much attention in the 2012 election. I think that more people are worried about the unemployment rate and the national debt than they are about alternative energy sources. As we saw earlier in the semester, funding is already being cut for energy programs and I feel like the economy will be the major focus of the election.

  21. Mallory Hatcher says:

    1. In explanation of what is taking place…There are these big metal rods that are made out of nuclear material (uranium, plutonium etc), and they are the fuel that powers the power plant. The fuel rods are the fuel for these incredibly powerful chain reactions that release a lot of energy. When you have a lot of energy released, there is a lot of heat. For instance, think about like a fire, which is a combination of fuel (such as wood) plus something to cause a chain reaction to keep it going. In a nuclear plant, the nuclear fuel rods are the fuel, and a chain reaction started with them creates a ton of heat, which is then used to boil water, and the steam spins turbines to generate power that is converted into electricity. However, because the nuclear chain reaction,”nuclear reactors”, is so strong, they put of a lot of heat and need a lot of cooling. They run water through them constantly to cool them off. The nuclear reaction also produces a lot of radiation, and the fuel rods, once they are used up, remain radioactive for a thousands of years. So because of this radiation, it is dangerous if it’s not sealed off properly (“contained”) and can cause major health problems such as cancer.

    There are a couple of different issues they’ve had at these. Mainly, if the fuel overheats, there can be an explosion or the fuel rods can get so hot they will melt, a “meltdown”, which means the chain reaction gets out of control and it will usually end up leaking out, which exposes everyone to radiation. These plants are an older design that they don’t use any more, and the used up fuel rods are stored basically in a place that’s closer to the working reactor than they really should be, so if there’s an explosion it’s more likely to spread radiation to everyone in the area. So with the earthquake and tsunami, the cooling system failed, there were explosions, and they were worried that radiation would leak out; some did, but there wasn’t a catastrophic meltdown. So they’ve been pumping the seawater in and spraying water on them to try to keep them as cool as possible.

    2. People are worried that the same thing could happen in the U.S…. basically that one of the many plants in the U.S. could fail if some major natural disaster type of event like the earthquake where to hit and the plant was damaged.

    3. We’re struggling between coal and other fuels that are relatively cheap and easy and that we are set up to do vs. newer, cleaner technologies. Nuclear can produce a lot of energy a lot cleaner than fossil fuels, but there’s that risk of radiation and the fact that the fuel is radioactive for a very long time. There is a scale that the international nuclear regulatory agency uses to rate nuclear incidents, with 1 being the lowest and 9 being the worst. Two of the biggest incidents in history were Chernobyl and a place called 3 Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Chernobyl was a full meltdown and is the worst nuclear power plant incident in history. It was a 9 on the rating scale, and the area around it was rendered uninhabitable for decades. 3 Mile Island wasn’t as bad rating at 7, and it didn’t create any massive problems but made people worried that there could be a massive Chernobyl-like accident in the U.S. So because of these previous disasters, people are worried about nuclear power plants. The incident in Japan was rated at an 8, so it falls somewhere between. Basically, this will make people worried again that nuclear plants in the U.S. will have problems and leak radiation out that will hurt people. So it gives people who want to use the easier-but-dirtier technologies such as coal the argument that nuclear is not safe. Nuclear is one of the few technologies that can produce a lot of clean energy (solar, wind etc are cleaner but don’t give you as much “bang for your buck”), so it’s a setback in that regard.

    4. I do think energy will be a platform in the 2012 elections, if not, it should be. With the recent effects of the Japan nuclear issues as well as the growing demand and need for alternative energy sources, it would be wise of the candidates to use energy as a platform. However, with this there are many pros and cons to each source as we have seen through the current issue in Japan. No matter what source of energy is promoted or demoted, there needs to be a rise awareness in the growing issue of the diminishing sources of natural resources as well as ways to safely produce alternatives sources of energy.

  22. Crystal Dalton says:

    1. After being jolted by an earthquake registering a magnitude of 8.9 three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power station were automatically shut down. These reactors are Boiling Water Reactors so heat from the nuclear reaction is produced in a core and causes water to boil and produce steam for energy. The steam is used and then cooled and pumped back into the reactor. However, even after this process is stopped, and the reactor is shut down there is still massive amounts of heat that need somewhere to go and much be cooled immediately. What caused the crisis in Japan was the nuclear reactors being switched off after the quake and then the power outages and fail of the back-up generator not getting the cooling systems available and into place to cool the system. Not being able to cool the system has caused a buildup of steam that has been mixed with the core’s radiation. Releasing this into the outside air can harm to people in the surrounding areas. Also the buildup has caused inside the plant a number of the nuclear units to meltdown or experience fires. These fires and explosions could potentially be causing leaks and emit more radiation into the environment. The struggle now is to try to continue controlling the cooling process and preventing explosions and seal up leaks that have already occurred to minimize damage.
    Source: BBC: Japan Earthquake triggers nuclear shutdown

    2. The concerns in the U.S. due to the Japanese nuclear energy crisis is that radiation will spread to the U.S. soil. The first fear is that it will spread by wind to the U.S. west coast. This has sent people into a frantic panic and frenzy to buy iodide. However, officials in Japan are saying the they only expect the radiation zone to affect a 12 mile radius. They don’t even expect dangerous radiation levels to hit Tokyo which is only a hundred miles away, so they are assured that the U.S. will be fine. It says that Chernobyl was a far worse disaster and England wasn’t affected and it was located 1,000 miles from that site, so the U.S. west cost should be fine with its 5,000 mile distance from Japan. If there are any radioactive particles that do reach the coast they will be too dispersed to pose a health risk. However, the article says that it would be a good idea though to be cautious about testing food for radiation. Especially in milk and vegetables exported from Japan. Hong Kong authorities have found radiation levels above safety limits in spinach and other vegetables imported from Japan.
    Source: The daily Beast: Japan Nuclear Crisis: Will the Radiation Spread? The advertiser.com: Japanese radiation unlikely to affect U.S.

    3. I think that this means that the U.S. really needs to take a look at the long term affects and possibilities that may occur with any type of energy source they choose to harness. The U.S. has a majority of its nuclear plants modeled after the ones in Japan that were affected by the earthquake, so the government has formed a committee to examine short term and long term affects of the Japanese nuclear reactors and see what lessons they can apply to our reactors in the U.S. They also need to really examine if the facilities are able to withstand forces like earthquakes that aren’t anticipated and if they fail what it could mean for U.S. citizens. One of the articles that I was reading stated that the government in the U.S. while they are forming committees to look at the issues, they are not looking at the current issue of the lack of permanent storage for spent fuel rods. This is a huge safety concern. Most of the storage for waste at this point has way exceeded their capacity, and what is more concerning is that 3/4ths of the U.S. waste is stored in pools like those in Japan whose structure and safety were compromised in the wake of the earthquake. Its storage on the site is good as long as nothing happens, but if the U.S. has similar methods for dealing with nuclear waste and radioactive substances will we have our own crisis if something unexpected happens? President Obama last year also had announced he would financially back loans to build the first nuclear power plant in decades; however Americans are now hesitant as to whether this is still a good idea. Many are skeptical as to whether nuclear power is a good idea or not.
    Source: The Free Press: Our View: Lessons fro U.S. in Japan Nuclear Crisis
    HuffPost: Support For More Nuclear power Slips in US Poll

    4. Yes, I think that with now being able to physically see the impact of fossil fuels running out with soaring gas prices, energy will be a big issue to the presidential president platform. I feel that candidates will have to really look for alternatives and present them. One of the alternatives brought up will most likely be nuclear power. However, in the event of what is going on in Japan if things continue to spiral out of control and there is a lot of radiation spreading in the country and around the world some people might be against nuclear energy in the U.S. even if it is viewed as an important part of our energy future. The matter will be a very hot topic. It will probably be even more of a discussion point depending on how Obama chooses to handle the situation. If he handles it well it could boost support for him, but if he handles it poorly, other candidates can use it to attack him and tear apart his platform. So already, even though election season hasn’t officially started I feel that this issue is being watched carefully and will surely be brought up in election discussions.

  23. 1. Japan suffered a 8.9 scale earthquake two weeks ago on March 11th subsequently resulting in a Tsunami. The results of these coinciding natural disasters have been devastating and when it comes to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors extremely dangerous. There is potential for this chain of natural disasters has the potential to end in nuclear disaster as well. Nuclear reactors are built with several backup methods to protect in the case of breakdown one of these methods is offsite coolant power generators which were cut off by the earthquake. The on-site back-up generators then kicked in however, the tsunami resulted in the breakdown of this back-up option as well. It has quickly become a perfect storm situation as each back-up option gets up and running only to be shot down by the next chain of events. Because the third back-up system of battery power quickly ran out, the system has since been running without a coolant. The main uranium operations have been cut off due to this lack of coolant operation however, the secondary decay reactions will continue to heat the nuclear vessels with no coolant outlet. This could cause a devastating situation in which pressure will rise within the vessel causing it to burst into the secondary containment chamber which with still no coolant, would have the potential to melt the entire vessel exposing the entire chamber to the air. To prevent these destructive worst care scenarios, plant operators have taken action to try and get the situation safely under control. One method has been the use of sea water as a coolant. This is not ideal as sea water is extremely corrosive and will therefore essentially ruin the core reactors, however this is definitely a “desperate times call for desperate measures” situation. Secondly, operators used a pressure release method under the theory that letting some of the potentially dangerous steam release will be better than allowing the entire container to explode. However, like when you try to slowly open a bottle of soda, knowing that it is fizzing and may explode, the reactor exploded due to hydrogen gas buildup. This explosion indicated that the fuel rods have likely melted to some extent. Even more unfortunate, one of the inactive reactors recently suffered an explosion and subsequent fire with is also requiring the attention and stress of the plant operators who are battling the fire with more sea water by helicopter. Much of this situation is still up in the air and only time will tell if the plant operators and aid will be able to get this situation under control.
    2. And 3.
    Japan’s nuclear crisis following the earthquake and tsunami is likely to have adverse effects on the US in several ways. For one, this crisis will definitely impact opinions and attitudes of US citizens about nuclear power at least in the short term. Questions are likely to arise about the safety of nuclear power is such cases and people are more likely to be wary about supporting more research into this type of resource, similar to the negative reactions Three Mile Island’s disaster elicited in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Because 20% of US electricity is nuclear power, there is some question whether there will be demand for this percentage to decrease and possibly increase funding for other alternative methods that US citizens may perceive to be safer and more reliable. There is also concern about the home prices for areas located around the US’s 104 nuclear plants. It is likely that in the coming months and possibly years people will be very wary of buying homes in such locations. Furthermore there is concern about radiation spreading to the US through all sorts of outlets including ocean air and imports. Strict FDA inspections have already been put into place for Japanese imports. I believe these concerns are legitimate but should be handled in a orderly and proactive action. There is no need for panic as we are not really certain about the possibility of these concerns occurring or the degree of danger these threats could pose. Because we are so unsure about these concerns I also think it is important to keep them in mind and do what we can to both help Japan safely reconstruct after this devastation and protect our own shores and people.
    3. I absolutely think that energy will be a platform for the 2012 presidential race. As we have talked about in class, we know for a fact, regardless of political party affiliation, that our energy resources are running out. I think now is the critical crunch time to really start focusing on what we are going to do and what other alternative resources are viable options which need heavy research and implementation. I think this disaster will definitely impact this debate in terms of both a possible anti-nuclear power backlash as well as President Obama’s choices on how to handle this situation. This is really his chance to shine and gain popularity for re-election or have a possible Bush Katrina type situation which may sink his chance at re-election.

  24. Tyler Baker says:

    1. The developing nuclear crisis in Japan is a result of a tsunami caused by a large earthquake off the Japanese coast on March 11. The disaster disabled the cooling systems of the Tokyo Electric Power Plant in Fukushima. Luckily, the reactors shut down after the earthquake as planned, but with the cooling system offline, it has been a struggle to keep the reactor fuel cool ever since. Over the past several weeks, radioactive steam has been released from the plant in an effort to reduce pressure that is building inside. Efforts to contain the problem have taken steps backwards after several explosions occurred within the plant last week, and contamination has prevented emergency workers from entering the site. Of the malfunctioning reactors, reactor number 3 is of particular concern because of its use of a highly potent fuel called MOX. In fact just today, two workers were rushed to the hospital after radioactive water penetrated their safety suits. So far over two dozen workers have been injured by radioactivity while working to contain the reactors. The steam that is being released from these reactors is causing contamination of the country’s water and food, raising fears that their exports could be compromised.

    2. Radiation concerns here in the United States are mostly negligible as there is no indication of a potent radiation cloud. Recent fears in Japan regarding food and drinking water radioactivity has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to halt food imports from Japan. This is contrary to what Japanese officials have been saying for over a week as citizens within a twelve mile radius of the plan were the only ones with a potential to be affected. The Obama administration took a different stance, asking American citizens within 50 miles of the plant to evacuate, and would begin providing flights out of the country.

    3. This continuing disaster will certainly effect our discussion of nuclear energy for a long time. Nuclear energy has a very large liability attached to it in regards to safety concerns and the potential for a disaster like Fukushima. I personally am still in favor of nuclear energy, but in light of Japan I believe that it is time to reiterate the need for safe applications of this technology. Hopefully this event will lead to a greater application of renewable energy sources besides nuclear. I however am skeptical if that is the road our nation will take turning more to natural gas, a cleaner burning fossil fuel. Our nation has directed its attention to the Indian Point nuclear power plant, located just outside New York City. If a disaster similar to that at Fukushima were to occur at Indian Point, the devastation could be apocalyptic. Not only will safety play a huge role in our discussions, but with increased tensions in the Middle East, I would like to raise concerns of the potential for a terrorist attack if not on our nuclear plants, but on those of France. France, who derives some 75% of its power from nuclear, and is also the leader of the current war in Libya must address the possibility of an attack on its power sources. In conclusion, there are many legitimate concerns that nuclear power brings, but it is also a huge source of carbon-free energy.

    4. I am very certain that nuclear energy will be hotly debated in the 2012 presidential elections. As Americans begin to question the safety of our own plants, primarily located on the eastern seaboard near population centers. So far in Obama’s administration he has approved two new plants to be built here in Georgia, something that most Americans are unaware of. Germany’s chancellor has just declared a policy shift away from nuclear energy, and has set a deadline of 2020. Our nation with a similar nuclear energy mix could do the same, that is however with massive investments in renewable energy that our current grid cannot support. Another glaring issue that will surely arise in the election process is a storage plan for our nation’s nuclear waste. Plans to build a nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been delayed and all but abandoned as of recent. Even if the project were to begin today, its acceptance of waste would still be over a decade away. In the meantime our reactors have been forced to stockpile their waste in pools susceptible to the same problems that Japan is now facing. Our governments solution so far has been to double the amount of waste allowed in each pool. I for one do not believe that is necessarily a step in the right direction as far as safety is concerned. Hopefully the campaign will bring new ideas to the table to handle our looming energy crisis and the safety concerns of nuclear power.

  25. Robert D. says:

    1.) The recent earthquake off the coast of Japan and the deadly tsunamis that followed has caused a tremendous amount of destruction and massive loss of life. The destructive force of the massive quake has caused many other problems than just damaged infrastructure around the country; it has caused severe damage to some of Japans nuclear power plants as well. TheFukushima Dai-Ichi plant or FDI for short has been one of the most severely damaged plants in the country. This plant has four reactors and all have sustained some form of damage from the quake; some have been on fire and leaking radiation. The main cause of many of the overheating of reactors and leaking radiation is due to the fact that the quake was so powerful is damaged the plant’s and reactor’s cooling systems and knocked out power. Here are some of the problems as of an article posted today. The article states that the nuclear crisis is far from over after recent events from yesterday. It stated that radiation spiked in reactor No. 2 to the highest levels since March 11th when the quake hit. The spike was likely caused by the reactors damaged containment vessel, the suppression chamber, or the spent fuel rod pool; all of which were damaged by an explosion of hydrogen gas caused by the overheating of fuel rods due to lack of coolant or water. There are also problems with other reactors at the plant; the article stated that reactor No. 1 is still not running at sustainable temperatures. The reactor should operate at about 575 degrees F but the newly fixed gages show the reactors temperatures at about 740 degrees F. There was also concern brought up about reactor No. 3 which uses a different type of fuel made of spent fuel mixed with plutonium. As of yesterday black smoke was coming from reactor No. 3 and steam now coming from reactors 1,2,3,and,4. Besides just the particular problems with just the reactors there are many problems with the leaking radiation; which is now being found at levels 1,600 higher than normal at 12 miles from the plant.
    2.) There are many concerns about high levels of radiation reaching the U.S. from the Japan nuclear crisis from leaking radiation into the atmosphere and sea. From an article I read, I saw where the EPA was monitoring radiation levels here in the U.S. and has detected traces of radioactive substances in a few states. However the levels were stated to be far below levels of concern. The EPA stated the levels recorded in California and Washington state were very minuscule and not much greater in Hawaii. Just because high levels of radiation have not been detected as of now I still feel there should be some concern and we should keep monitoring the situation.
    3.) I think that this disaster in Japan has caught the eye of many Americans in regard to nuclear energy. I think this goes to show how safe we thought nuclear power could be but how an unpredictable act of Mother Nature can damage the plants and make them very harmful. I feel that this will influence many Americans to focus on different more safe and sustainable energy solutions. I saw a poll the other day where a majority of Americans are now worried about nuclear energy and it potential problems. I think this disaster will not only raise concerns around the United States but around the world.
    4.) I think that energy will certainly be on candidates platforms for the 2012 presidential election. The recent events in the mid-east and rising fuel prices are a huge issue to the average American at the pump and in their budget. And also the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan has raised concerns about nuclear energy. These events go to show that we as a country need to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to concentrate on different types of energy and I think this will be evident in candidate’s platforms. It seems that every election year the talk of energy has been increasingly important.

  26. Nami Kisaalita says:

    Questions 1.
    When the earthquake hit Japan it cut off the external power to the plant. It triggered a shutdown of the reactors which removed the power source to the pumps. At that point the backup power system was turned on. When the tsunami hit it flooded parts of the plant’s electrical system in the process. As a result, the plants have been operating without a cooling system. Even though the primary reaction was shut down, the reactor cores have continued to heat up. If they are not cooled down the pressure inside will build up and it will fail. The steps taken to prevent this have been pumping sea water into the reactor to help cool it and by releasing some of the pressure from the reactor vessel. It was this release of pressure that lead to the first leaking of radioactivity and unfortunately it also blew the roof off the reactor building. Larger increases in radioactivity levels have indicated possible damage to the containment vessel during the explosion. These levels indicate that coolant levels within the reactor have dropped significantly and that some fuel rods have melted, but a full-on meltdown has not occurred.

    Question 2.
    One concern is about radiation plumes hitting the US. Thankfully, we don’t have to really have to worry about dangerous plumes hating the west coast. By the time the wind carries the radiation over from Japan it will be to dilute to cause any health risk. Another concern is about the effect of radiation on the crops produced in Japan that are shipped overseas. Japan has found radiation-tainted spinach and raw milk near the nuclear plant, but there is little chance of this reaching the US. The radioactivity detected in Japans milk and vegetables is quite low. Plus, Japanese authorities have banned the sale of these items from the surrounding area. We too have set up a safety net through the FDA. The FDA’s import tracking system has been set to automatically flag shipments of Japanese consumables. Even if these safety nets fail you would have to eat a pounds worth of spinach to get the same radiation level as a head Ct scan.

    Question 3.
    In the short-run I think that this will hinder people from considering nuclear energy. Although the chances of a natural disaster causing a nuclear meltdown are really slim this event has reminded people that there are dangers to nuclear energy. It has rekindled people’s awareness and interest in radiation and our own countries energy sources, making us reexamine the trade-offs of nuclear energy. In the long-run I hope that this will promote higher safety standards and more detailed emergency plans. We can use this as tragic event as an example and try to build our own plants to combat the issue that Japan is facing.

    Question 4.
    I think that renewable energy options will be a huge talking point during the next election. It’s an issue that a lot of people are concerned about and have strong opinions about. I think that whoever sides with nuclear energy might face some backlash because of this event. A year from now I’m sure we will hear people using Japan as an example against nuclear energy. People’s fears over a meltdown could overshadow the issue and the different trade-offs of nuclear energy. We should learn from this, but we shouldn’t let it completely cloud our judgment.

  27. Claire hartnett says:

    1.       The earthquake caused 11 of Japan’s nuclear reactors to shut down automatically and also cut off power to the grid, forcing operators to switch to emergency diesel generators in order to continue cooling the reactor core, which after the tsunami hit, failed. Shortly after, as a result of hydrogen from the superheated fuel rods interacting with oxygen as plant operators tried to vent increasing pressure inside the reactor.

    2.       I remember hearing in the news shortly after the explosion that people on the west coast were concerned about the radiation blowing across the ocean and effecting Americans. Many people bought the medication to prevent the absorption  of radiation. I do not think this was a legitimate concern and that the media was encouraging some of the pandemonium. 

    3.       I think this will be an opportunity for skeptical people to continuously discourage the use of nuclear energy however, I do think the discussion will continue to move forward. Also, I think this will encourage improved technology for nuclear energy over time. 

    4. Yes, I think energy will be a platform in the upcoming election. It is an area that effects all Americans and many people are concerned with the availability of fossil fuels and the safety of them in the environment. I think that alternative energy will be a big discussion because it is cleaner and safer for the environment. 

  28. Gwen Beckham says:

    1. The current state of Japan truly is heartbreaking. If the impact of the earthquake and tsunami wasn’t devastating enough, the combination of them caused all of Japan’s nuclear reactors to shut down. The nuclear reactors are essential for cooling procedures, so this ultimately caused issues of overheating. After the normally used ones shut down, the reactors reserved for emergencies were also shut down, as the tsunami wiped them out entirely. A few days later, explosions continued happening, causing radiation to leak through the reactors. Personally, the most devastating aspect to me is the fact that there’s so much damage in Japan that it’s hard for any surrounding countries to be of assistance. Despite the continuance of casualties and destruction of the city, it’s extremely hard to help with all of the damage still embedded in the city.
    2. Obama has clearly stated that the distance between the nuclear reactors and US soil is far enough that there shouldn’t be any immediate effects on Americans. It’s still extremely important to consider however, as we don’t want it coming through seawater or even through products made in Japan. I think this situation is definitely legitimate enough for the US to be concerned.
    3. The silver lining in this entire Japan fiasco, if there even is one at all, is for the US to become extra cautious and aware with everything in our own nuclear reactors. We also need to use this as the catalyst to us searching for alternative ways to get energy, particularly with our country using the ridiculous amount of it that we do. Also, “nuclear” obviously is an intimidating word, regardless of what context it’s used in, so I do believe that nuclear energy will become even more controversial of a topic than it already is.
    4. Absolutely. With the increase of awareness already, coupled with this disaster in Japan, it’s only going to make energy more of a platform with the upcoming elections. I think it should be too. Energy is a topic that Americans should continuously educate themselves about.

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