Armageddon is not here.

Jose is likely wrong. Even if the worst possible contamination happens, all life on earth will not cease next year, much less in the near future. Insects, bacteria, and some other life-forms are incredibly more resistant to the effects of ionizing radiation than are the higher life forms. That being said, studies of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed a surprisingly and unexpected low incidence of birth defects and sterilization. The greatest risk seems to be an elevated incidence of cancers, primarily among the survivors (who did not continue to be contaminated after a relatively short period of time) and a lesser increase in cancers than the norm among their offspring. Therefore, total meltdowns with long-term, wide spread, impossible to clean-up contamination will cause a very real threat to the continuation of our life expectancy (and that of higher life-forms) for a very long time into the future, but probably not eradicate any species.
The total amount of extremely radioactive, uncontrolled, very hot, spent reactor fuel in the 4 badly damaged pools in the reactor buildings plus the 3 badly damaged reactor cores is huge. Each spent fuel pool is probably holding the equivalent of at least 4 fully loaded reactor cores and that spent irradiated fuel is much more radioactive and dangerous if released than the fuel inside each of the 3 damaged cores.
The power plant is essentially on a beach. A full fuel melt down through the bottom of the plant of any of these 7 collections of out of control fuel rods will put multi-thousand degree molten, incredibly radioactive material in direct contact with the pacific ocean once the fuel burns through the sand (the temperature is high enough to fully and easily liquefy sand). The resulting steam explosion is likely to disperse far more radioactivity than multiple Chernobyls.
The big problem is not I-131. The half-life of that isotope is only 8 days, and uptake can be blocked by appropriate use of potassium iodide until environmental levels return to a safe level. A much larger problem is Cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, is water soluble and therefore taken up by all the plants and animals in our environment.
Also released will be Strontium-90, which behaves like calcium and is taken up into the bones and teeth and has a half-life of almost 29 years.
Plutonium isotopes are released, which decay into several much more dangerous isotopes of Americium, one of which has a half life of 7,370 years. This stuff is an alpha particle emitter, which is almost harmless when outside the body but is highly carcinogenic from the inside.
If this incredibly radioactive brew comes into direct contact with the Pacific Ocean, it will be easily and relatively rapidly spread throughout the world. Although the dilution factor will be tremendous, the total amount of very long-lived radioactive matter will also be tremendous. There is no way to predict how many of the 7 at-risk collections may go to full melt-down, but if even a few do, the world-wide consequences could be huge for tens of thousands of years.
It will not be Armageddon, but will probably be the worst disaster the planet has endured since the great meteor crash approx. 65 million years ago.
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I thought I saw Armageddon knock over and dig through my garbage can last night. No wait, that was a raccoon.
never mind.
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On 3/18/2011 2:05 PM, Iowna Uass wrote:

Armageddon sure is a funny name for a raccoon. Hey, that's a good name for a hyper puppy dog. ^_^
TDD
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On Fri, 18 Mar 2011 09:33:39 -0700, Smitty Two

You might know something, or just be a know it all who knows nothing. But what the governments are saying is hogwash too. They are already experiencing a nuclear winter near the power plants. See: http://www.thejackonline.org/mobile/news/the-sun-sets-on-ni-pon-1.2516579
And for those who dont know what this means, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter
It appears that this nuclear winter will continue for decades to come. The question is how far will it spread across the planet. Maybe the entire earth will see it. With winter occuring 12 months out of the year for many years to come, the earth will soon run out of food since no crops can be grown, fuel supplies such as wood will run out because trees can not grow, people and animals will freeze if not starve. Without plants, the oxygen levels in the atmosphere will drop and that alone will kill many if not all mammals. If it gets bad enough and lasts long enough, everything will die, both plant and animal. The earth will become like the other barren planets, where nothing can live.
It may already be too late, we may all face death in a few months or a year.
If we do survive, how long will it be before the next nuclear disaster occurs? Especially when we have politicians who insist on building more nuclear devices. How many decades have people been fighting to stop ALL nuclear use, yet no one listens. It sure looks like this may be the grand finale to life as we know it.
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I guess that sequencde would include the reactor figuring out how to enrich the U-235 from a few percent up to the 90+% required for a nuclear explosion. Witnessing the difficulty entire nations like Iran and North Korea appear to be having doing that, I think it unlikely that a melting blob in the bottom of the reactor vessel is going to achieve that.
 In other words, not

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Peter wrote:

In an atom bomb you have to make the materials supercritical *very* rapidly. You can't do that in a reactor. Every source I have ever read is that you can have a heat explosion but that a nuclear explosion is impossible. For instance heat causes materials vaporize with rapid gas expansion (explosion). The material is blown apart faster than it came together. Such a heat explosion would scatter very radioactive material and be a major disaster.
--
bud--

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wrote:

No you can't. In an atom bomb, they surround the nuclear material with a sphere of conventional explosive, and when that detonates, it compresses the smaller sphere inside. There is nothing remotely like that in a power plant, where all there is is some hot material used to heat water to run the turbines that make electricity. No other explosives.

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On 3/19/2011 11:13 AM, bud-- wrote:

The risk of supercriticality depends upon the level of U-235 enrichment, the overall mass of the enriched uranium, the presence of mutated isotopes in the rods, the specific geometry, and the concentration of Pu if you are using MOX (Fukashima's reactor #3). I agree completely that at the 3-5% U-235 that Japan claims it uses, and that is used in most nuclear reactors, a supercriticality seems impossible. However, I suspect that no one has ever "done the experiment" with a large melted core containing MOX instead of just uranium. I too would not have given the claim I mentioned ANY credence if it had not come from a Japanese nuclear engineer. I figure maybe they know something that has not been made available to the public at large.
The need to use high explosives to rapidly implode the fissile material is somewhat related to the total mass of fissile material that you are trying to get to go supercritical. The most "efficient" weapons will use relatively small amounts of highly enriched fissile material to enable feasible shielding and transport of the weapon. However, when you are talking about tons of fissile mass, as in a core meltdown, rather than pounds, you are dealing with a different scenario. We all hope that the assumptions behind the predictions are based upon accurate theory and calculations and that a supercriticality in the event of any type of power plant core meltdown is an absolute impossibility.
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