Recent nuclear reactor explosions in Japan, overreactions?

Alot of hype is surrounding the recent nuclear power plant problems in Japan. Now I’m no scientist, so rather than trying to explain this to you I’ll just link you to some articles showing both sides of the story. One side fears the radiation from this event will spread all the way to North America. Other sources say it’s physically impossible. The video is a little looney so feel free to stop it halfway through and go ahead and read the articles. I encourage you to click on links and explore the subject further if you start to develop an opinion on it.

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Article 1: Phil Plait’s thoughts on the subject

“Far worse, in my opinion, is the person who created a map claiming to show the spread of a radiation cloud from fallout. This map is a fraud: totally fabricated and complete garbage. Snopes has the details. A nuclear reactor like this cannot release such a cloud of radioactivity; it’s physically impossible. People remember Chernobyl, of course, but the Japanese reactor is a very different design, and cannot explode the way the Ukranian reactor did in 1986.”

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/03/14/the-japanese-nuclear-reactor-overreaction/

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Article 2: Slate (William Saletan)

“Less than a year ago, a drilling rig exploded off the coast of the United States, killing 11 workers and pouring 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. No natural disaster caused this tragedy. It was entirely man-made. President Obama halted deep-water drilling but lifted the moratorium less than six months later. On Friday, while fielding questions about Japan’s nuclear reactors, he proudly noted that his administration, under new, stricter rules, had “approved more than 35 new offshore drilling permits.”

That’s how we deal with tragedies in the oil business. Accidents happen. People die. Pollution spreads. We don’t abandon oil. We study what went wrong, try to fix it, and move on.
Contrast this with the panic over Japan’s reactors. For 40 years, they’ve quietly done their work. Three days ago, they were hit almost simultaneously by Japan’s worst earthquake and one of its worst tsunamis. Not one reactor container has failed. The only employee who has died at a Japanese nuclear facility since the quake was killed by a crane. Despite this, voices are rising in Europe and the United States to abandon nuclear power. Industry analysts predict that the Japan scare, like Chernobyl, will freeze plant construction.”

“Two reactor buildings exploded, but these were explosions of excess hydrogen, not nuclear fuel, and neither of them ruptured the inner containers that encase the reactor cores.”

“In advanced countries like Japan and the United States, nuclear plants are built to standards no drilling rig can touch. If a sensor, cable, or power source fails, another sensor, cable, or power source is available. Containers of steel or concrete envelop the reactors to prevent massive radiation leaks. Chernobyl didn’t have such a container. Three Mile Island did. That’s why Three Mile Island produced no uncontrolled leakage or injuries.”

http://www.slate.com/id/2288212/

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Article 3: Internatinal Atomic Energy Agency Update

Japan Earthquake Update (15 March 2011, 15:30 UTC)

“An earthquake of 6.1 magnitude was reported today at 13:31 UTC in Eastern Honshu, Japan. The Hamaoka nuclear power plant is sited an estimated 100 kilometres from the epicentre.

IEC confirmed with Japan that the plant continues to operate safely.

Units 1 and 2 are decommissioned, Unit 3 is under inspection and not operational, and Units 4 and 5 remain in safe operational status after the earthquake.”

http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

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