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Old 03-14-2011, 12:38 PM   #38
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Re: 8.9 earthquake leads to Tsunami and fires in Japan

Wikipedia can be your friend for this one.

But here's my base understanding: Nuclear Reactors produce energy through the fission of uranium (usually), which produces a lot of heat energy, radiation and radioactive byproducts. The heat is commonly used to boil water, which turns turbines, which generates power that is pumped to the consuming masses. However, it is so much heat, that if the core is not continually cooled, the whole system will over heat and melt - i.e. a nuclear meltdown. If this is isolated to the reactor core, it'll just wreck it and become a massive lump of radioactive waste. But if it occurs with structural damage, the radiation can escape, irradiating the power plant. Additionally, the heat would create a steam cloud which would carry radioactive material across the land and if things get really bad, as in Chernobyl, radiactive liquids (some molten metals) could seep into the water supply and cause major problems there.

Currently, the Japanese haven't released any information on the structural integrity of the building, noting that the fire/destruction was just of exterior housing structures than to the core, and their efforts of pumping seawater onto the core is to stop a meltdown and save the core so it can be used again. If the internal structure is still solid there is a chance that the worse to happen will be just a burnout of the core with little radiation escape or spread.

Anyone with stronger physics in the crowd? How'd I do?
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Last edited by ACt; 03-14-2011 at 12:40 PM.
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