Tag: nuclear reactor

Fukushima and Chernobyl: Same Level on Disaster Scale; Very Different Disasters

By Valerie Ross | April 14, 2011 9:01 am

What’s the News: Japan raised its assessment of the severely damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to Level 7, “Major Accident,” the highest ranking on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. The explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 is the only other nuclear accident to be ranked at Level 7. Both accidents were extremely severe, the two largest nuclear power accidents ever—but there are some big, important differences between them.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Physics & Math, Top Posts

Study: Nuclear Fission Reactions May Have Continued After Fukushima's Alleged Shutdown

By Valerie Ross | April 4, 2011 4:50 pm

Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #3
Reactor 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, on March 24

What’s the News: A non-peer-reviewed study (pdf) publicized last week by radioactivity-detection expert Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress suggests that nuclear fission reactions continued at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station well after the plant’s operators had allegedly shut down the reactors there. The paper says there may be what are called “localized criticalities” have occurred in the plutonium and uranium left in the reactors—little pockets of fuel that have gone critical, propagating the nuclear chain reaction and generating potentially harmful radiation. The existence of criticalities is controversial: some researchers say there are certainly none; Dalnoki-Veress himself says it’s only a possibility.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Physics & Math

Today's Best Science: Mercury Orbiting, Toxin-Sucking Bananas, Language Colors Perception

By Patrick Morgan | March 16, 2011 10:28 pm
  • Orbit time! Launched in 2004, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will this Friday become the first probe to orbit Mercury—potentially uncovering polar ice or explaining why the planet is oddly dense.
  • Older AND wiser: When scientists played recordings of lion roars for elephants, they discovered that the oldest female elephants were the most sensitive, and even discerned the calls of lions from lionesses.
  • Health experts say that this year’s cholera epidemic in Haiti could affect double the UN’s prediction of 400,000 people. The UN’s “crude” predictions assumed only a certain percentage of the population would be affected, whereas the new estimate takes water supplies and immunity into consideration.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: News Roundup

News Roundup: Japan Nuclear Fears, Sperm-Whale Names, Internet on Steroids

By Patrick Morgan | March 14, 2011 9:21 pm
  • Japan update: Authorities have been having trouble keeping enough water around Fukushima Daiichi’s  nuclear fuel rods, leading Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano to respond, when asked whether they were melting: “Although we cannot directly check it, it’s highly likely happening.” Still, radiation levels remain at “tolerable levels.”
  • Call me Ishmael: Slight variations in sperm-whale calls may act as “whale names,” or personal identifiers that allow these social creatures to tell individuals apart.
  • Star wars turns to trash: NASA is looking to create a cheap, ground-based laser that would be capable of blasting (ok, slightly nudging, slowing down, and de-orbiting) Earth-orbiting space junk in danger of crashing.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, News Roundup
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