Radiation from Japan not likely to harm North America

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:53 PM GMT on March 14, 2011

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Radiation from Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been detected 100 miles to the northeast, over the Pacific Ocean, by the U.S. military. Westerly to southwesterly winds have predominated over Japan the past few days, carrying most of the radiation eastwards out to sea. The latest forecast for Sendai, Japan, located about 40 miles north of the Fukushima nuclear plant, calls for winds with a westerly component to dominate for the remainder of the week, with the exception of a 6-hour period on Tuesday. Thus, any radiation released by the nuclear plant will primarily affect Japan or blow out to sea. A good tool to predict the radiation cloud's path is NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model. The model uses the GFS model's winds to track the movement of a hypothetical release of a substance into the atmosphere. One can specify the altitude of the release as well as the location, and follow the trajectory for up to two weeks. However, given the highly chaotic nature of the atmosphere's winds, trajectories beyond about 3 days have huge uncertainties.One can get only a general idea of where a plume is headed beyond 3 days. I've been performing a number of runs of HYSPLIT over past few days, and so far great majority of these runs have taken plumes of radioactivity emitted from Japan's east coast eastwards over the Pacific, with the plumes staying over water for at least 5 days. Some of the plumes move over eastern Siberia, Alaska, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in 5 - 7 days. Such a long time spent over water will mean that the vast majority of the radioactive particles will settle out of the atmosphere or get caught up in precipitation and rained out. It is highly unlikely that any radiation capable of causing harm to people will be left in atmosphere after seven days and 2000+ miles of travel distance. Even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which had a far more serious release of radioactivity, was unable to spread significant contamination more than about 1000 miles.


Figure 1. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Saturday, March 12, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 2. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Sunday, March 13, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Monday, March 14, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

I'll have an update Tuesday morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting SquallyWx:
This song almost seems appropriate.



This shows my compete lack of skills when it comes to imbedding a video from the youtubes. I tried.
Member Since: January 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 63
I just got this from the side notes of the BBC Live news a few minutes ago:-

0052: Details are now emerging about radiation levels after the blast at Fukushima's reactor 2 at 0610 local time (2110 GMT Monday). Tokyo Electric officials say that one hour of exposure at the nuclear plant would be equivalent to eight times at what a person might experience naturally during the year.

Here's their link to copy and paste.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12307 698

Although we cant rely 100% on these links they probably hold some truth and the US forces in the area will be monitoring the events as well of course.
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NHK press conference stated the are leaks outside of the containment vessel. I assume this means a failure has occured in the vessel around the reactor ?
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457. beell
Probably the worst news we have heard-possible damage to the suppression pool located at the base of the reactor. Primary function of this component is to condense steam back to water. If I understand it correctly, the steam in the reactor vessel is vented into the space between the reactor and the containment vessel, down into the suppression pool where it condenses and is piped back up to the reactor. It also serves as a resevoir for coolant water.

If the suppression pool is leaking, the ability to recover coolant (from steam) would be compromised. Some news bits already floating around that TEPCO's ability to pump seawater has been a problem.

I was hoping that the explosion would signal another planned release of hydrogen which would lower the pressure inside the reactor and allow them a chance to slowly edge towards a net gain in coolant (seawater). A loss of coolant/steam through the suppression pool might make this a little harder to do.

A little more complicated this evening.

Comments, additions, corrections welcome. I don't know a whole lot about operating nuclear reactors

A couple of images below. The suppression system is the large diameter pipe at the reactor base.

It is labeled "Torus" in the second diagram.






A brief excerpt with mention of the function of the suppression pool and a link to the source.

Photobucket
Nuclear Reactor Engineering - S Glasstone, A Sesonske


A simplified schematic of the coolant recovery systems in a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). A link to the source included.

Photobucket
Photobucket

A Guidebook to Nuclear Reactors - A Vero
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This song almost seems appropriate.

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455. flsky
Quoting Neapolitan:
In the meantime, here's a full 15-minute video shot from a helicopter as the tsunami rolled into coastal Sendai. The graphic overlays are annoying, and there's a 20-second cutaway to a news conference just after the 7-minute mark, but it's very heartbreaking nonetheless. Best viewed at full-screen:


Breaks my heart to see people running from their cars when they can drive no further. Terrible.
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453. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Mauritius Meteorological Services
Tropical Disturbance Advisory #4
PERTURBATION TROPICALE 07-20102011
4:00 AM RET March 15 2011
==========================================

At 0:00 AM UTC, Tropical Disturbance 7 (1002 hPa) located at 12.3S 85.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts of 40 knots. The disturbance is reported as moving west southwest at 7 knots.

Near Gale Force Winds
======================
50 NM from the center in northern semi-circle

Dvorak Intensity: T2.0/2.0/D1.0/24 HRS

Forecast and Intensity
======================
12 HRS: 12.7S 83.5E - 25 knots (Perturbation Tropicale)
24 HRS: 13.1S 81.5E - 30 knots (Depression Tropicale)
48 HRS: 13.5S 77.9E - 35 knots (Temp├¬te Tropicale Modere├ę)
72 HRS: 14.0S 74.6E - 45 knots (Temp├¬te Tropicale Modere├ę)

Additional Information
=====================

Current fix is based on extrapolation from 2008z AQUA imagery and latest unclear infrared fix.. so fix confidence is lower than usual. Pattern on microwave imagery has changed little with an ill-defined low level circulation center removed to the east of main convection due to easterly shear. As usual with the daily cycle, convection is stronger now but intensity is unchanged compared to 6 hours ago.

Available numerical weather prediction models remains in a rather good agreement for a west southwestward track within the next few days. Tuesday night and Wednesday, all models show a weakness in the subtropical ridge south of the system. This pattern should allow a slow down of the motion. Tuesday and Friday, the highs rebuild to the southeast of the system that should allow a faster west southwestward track. At the end of forecast period, a southward turn is likely as the system should move on the western edge of the subtropical ridge towards a strong mid level weakness in the highs. degree of recurvature and associated timing will depend strongly on intensity. GFS that show the strongest cyclone at the end of the week, has an early recurvature. on the other side ECMWF, UKMO, and NOGAPS show modest intensification have a more westward track compared to the previous run.

Easterly wind shear remains the limiting factor for intensification. Wednesday and specially Wednesday night, it is expected to decrease and so.. some gradual intensification is expected. Uncertainty is still great for the end of the forecast (northeasterly wind shear but good poleward outflow on the edge of an upper level ridge and sea surface temperature cooler towards the south).

The next tropical cyclone advisory from Mauritius Meteorological Service will be issued at 0:30 AM UTC..
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@O'Connor - no, not likely impact on USA; Even a big incident would be well dispersed by the time it reached USA. Think of it like smoke dispersing. Over 8,000 miles, it will be much diluted and dispersed.
comment by Dr. Ikatato at 9:41 PM
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451. emcf30
1:02 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
NHK press conference stated the are leaks outside of the containment vessle. I am ammusing this means a failure has occured in the vessal around the reactor ?
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1933
450. Neapolitan
1:01 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
BULLETIN: Container damaged, radioactive materials feared to leak at Fukushima plant
TOKYO, March 15, Kyodo

Radiation is feared to have leaked after the container vessel was damaged at the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima nuke plant Tuesday morning, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

-----

URGENT: Meltdown possible at Fukushima reactors: Tokyo Electric
TOKYO, March 15, Kyodo

A critical situation called ''meltdown'' in which fuel rods melt and are destroyed is possible at the troubled nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Tuesday.

The cores of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant's three reactors are believed to have partially melted following Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit northeastern and eastern Japan.
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449. Orcasystems
12:58 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
#2 may be breached.
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448. caneswatch
12:57 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting Grothar:


Did you finish your homework? I hope they get it quickly, too. Temperatures are very cold there. Was watching the lines they have to stand in to get food and water. The roads right on the coast are mostly impassable. Not going to be easy feeding and sheltering all those people.


Scary sights. Some of us have been lucky this year on the other side of the Pacific, except for the floods on both coasts and the snowstorms.
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446. Patrap
12:50 AM GMT on March 15, 2011



IAEA Update on Japan Earthquake

Staff Report


Japan Earthquake Update (15 March 2011, 00:03 CET)

After the IAEA offered its Good Offices to Japan - i.e. making available the Agency┬┤s direct support and coordination of international assistance - the Japanese government yesterday asked the IAEA to provide expert missions to the country. Discussions have begun to prepare the details of those missions.

At a briefing for representatives of IAEA Member States held yesterday in Vienna, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano outlined some of the areas in which IAEA support could be provided to Japan.

"The IAEA can offer support in technical areas such as radiation surveys and environmental sampling, medical support, the recovery of missing or misplaced radioactive sources or advice on emergency response," he said.

In addition, the IAEA is coordinating assistance from Member States through the Response and Assistance Network (RANET). The network consists of nations that can offer specialized assistance after a radiation incident or emergency. Coordination by the IAEA takes place within the framework of the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.

The IAEA continues to liaise with the Japanese authorities and is monitoring the situation as it evolves.
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445. sunlinepr
12:47 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
">
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444. Neapolitan
12:47 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Kyodo: Fukushima's unit #2 containment vessel damaged; radiation feared escaping.
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443. PcolaDan
12:46 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting Orcasystems:


That picture is not to much out of the ordinary... I have met a lot of military Pilots


bada bump - crasssshhhhhh ;)
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
442. WatchingThisOne
12:46 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting Xyrus2000:


First, there would have to be a significant amount of radiation, which there isn't at the moment. Then it would have to survive the trek, which good chunk of it might not.

Unlike Chernobyl, there isn't a towering inferno vaporizing materials and throwing it high into the air.


Did Chernobyl let loose any Pu-239? Reactor no. 3 may well do so.
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441. Neapolitan
12:45 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
This image of three of the Fukushima reactors shows their size (note the Lilliputian workers and trucks in the foreground). And, yes, this image is older, taken before the units were reclad for aesthetic purposes. Those towers are a good 200 feet tall...

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
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440. Orcasystems
12:45 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting SquallyWx:
Where do I get on the tweeter to find updates? I heard there were some of the best updates being posted there.


Link from Neo
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439. Xyrus2000
12:44 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting alfabob:
The only thing that could possibly make Chernobyl worse than this is the fact that the fire created favorable atmospheric conditions for the core materials to travel vertically. It's not just one reactor anymore, all three put together double the energy output of Chernobyl; and the weakest explosion was from the weakest and less toxic reactor. Those explosions were powerful enough to propel the materials high enough to travel far distances, but the rest is solely left up to the weather; just as it was for Chernobyl.


No significant amount of radioactive materials have been ejected. You would have seen it if it did, especially at night. It would be quite visible. Even during the day, the smoke from Chernobyl "sparkled" with radioactivity.

Chernobyl wouldn't have been nearly as bad if it hadn't had graphite control rods. The Japanese reactors have no such materials. If there is an actual melt down the material will end up melting through whatever is underneath and keep melting until it cools or spreads out enough as to reduce the rate of reaction. Compared to Chernobyl, very little radioactive material will make it into the air. The larger concerns would be ground and water contamination. Best case scenario is that the reactors sit on top of solid rock, and the corium slag will melt itself into a natural containment vessel, minimizing contamination.
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438. WatchingThisOne
12:44 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting sunlinepr:
We are not being told the truth. There are spent fuel rods at Fukushima in the suppression pool. All we hear about are the reactors and the possible meltdown of these. The spent fuel is far worse. And there is MOX in reactor 3. Why are we not being told of the consequences?
comment by insider at 7:54 PM


Because the potential consequences are severe. No sense ringing the alarm quite yet.
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437. PcolaDan
12:43 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting flsky:


Any explanation with this?


Just a picture from BBC news

(View picture info from BBC using Firefox - "Tsunami damage in Higashimatsushima, 14 March")
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436. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
12:42 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


[Citation needed]
CTV.ca News Staff

Date: Mon. Mar. 14 2011 3:05 AM ET

While relief efforts continued Monday for survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's northeast, the country's meteorological agency warned of the possibility of a 7.0 or higher magnitude temblor in the coming days.

According to the agency, there is a 70 per cent chance of another quake in the next three days and a 50 per cent chance of another hitting three days after that because of high tectonic activity.

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434. SquallyWx
12:40 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Where do I get on the tweeter to find updates? I heard there were some of the best updates being posted there.
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433. Orcasystems
12:36 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting PcolaDan:


That picture is not to much out of the ordinary... I have met a lot of military Pilots
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432. Neapolitan
12:36 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
From Kyodo: TEPCO admits possibility of meltdown at Fukushima.

Ya' think?
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431. sunlinepr
12:35 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
The Sakhalin Island - north of Japan should be receiving any emissions.

Link
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430. Xyrus2000
12:35 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting TomTaylor:

Seriously. Tepco won't tell us sh** anyway and measuring radiation in the environment can't be that hard to do.



It isn't that hard when you have roads and surfaces that aren't a debris field covered in mud and noxious materials.

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429. AstroHurricane001
12:32 AM GMT on March 15, 2011


This is one scary-looking infrared picture.
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427. GeoffreyWPB
12:31 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
MSNBC: Explosian at Reactor Two may be worst yet.
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426. Xyrus2000
12:30 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting sunlinepr:
We are not being told the truth. There are spent fuel rods at Fukushima in the suppression pool. All we hear about are the reactors and the possible meltdown of these. The spent fuel is far worse. And there is MOX in reactor 3. Why are we not being told of the consequences?
comment by insider at 7:54 PM


Spent fuel rods are not worse and they certainly wouldn't be storing spent fuel rods in the suppression pool of a boiling water reactor. Nor is there any way for fuel rods to get into the suppression pool without them melting into it.

There's also nothing special about MOX. MOX is a mixture using depleted uranium and small amounts of plutonium oxides, and is usually made FROM nuclear waste material. It is less polluting (since it consumes waste) and less costly than enriched uranium to manufacture, and it yields more energy.

Plutonium is less deadly and far less prevalent than other products from nuclear fission. Cesium, Strontium, and Iodine are by far the most prevalent with cesium and Iodine being the biggest danger as they can rapidly displace non-radioactive equivalents in the body and stay there for a long time.
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425. SquallyWx
12:29 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:
In the meantime, here's a full 15-minute video shot from a helicopter as the tsunami rolled into coastal Sendai. The graphic overlays are annoying, and there's a 20-second cutaway to a news conference just after the 7-minute mark, but it's very heartbreaking nonetheless. Best viewed at full-screen:



If you watch that you just watched scores of people die. It's heartbreaking. I don't understand because some people practically drove into the tsunami. It's like they didn't realize it was there.
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424. scott39
12:29 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
We are no match-- compared to the power of nature!
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423. sunlinepr
12:26 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Hope this water vapor is clean....

Link

Link



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421. flsky
12:23 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting PcolaDan:


Any explanation with this?
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420. Neapolitan
12:17 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting TomTaylor:

Seriously. Tepco won't tell us sh** anyway and measuring radiation in the environment can't be that hard to do.


Oh, you're wrong; that's the only thing TEPCO has been telling us.

Meanwhile, this: TEPCO measured radiation at 8,217 micro sieverts per hour, or 8 times the annual limit.

Eight times the annual limit--in just one hour.
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417. PcolaDan
12:09 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
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416. TomTaylor
12:09 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting sunlinepr:
Fox News is on scene, CNN is on scene, Reuters is on scene, as are scores of other News Agencies; surely they brought along portable radiation monitoring devices. Hold them up on air and show us the readings, guys!
comment by Denise at 7:58 PM

Seriously. Tepco won't tell us sh** anyway and measuring radiation in the environment can't be that hard to do.

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415. AstroHurricane001
12:09 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
not yet but when another aftershock 7.5 or greater occurs there will be and mom's going to pour the sea water on em for them i dont mean to be bleak here but there is a 70 percent chance of a 7.0 or greater shock for the next 25 days or so


[Citation needed]
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413. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
12:03 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
Quoting Xyrus2000:


First, there would have to be a significant amount of radiation, which there isn't at the moment. Then it would have to survive the trek, which good chunk of it might not.

Unlike Chernobyl, there isn't a towering inferno vaporizing materials and throwing it high into the air.
not yet but when another aftershock 7.5 or greater occurs there will be and mom's going to pour the sea water on em for them i dont mean to be bleak here but there is a 70 percent chance of a 7.0 or greater shock for the next 25 days or so
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412. sunlinepr
12:00 AM GMT on March 15, 2011
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411. Grothar
11:59 PM GMT on March 14, 2011
I know you have all see this but,

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.