Interesting read.Excerpted from “Fukushima: Chernobyl Redux?” Posted by EBEN HARRELL, “Ecocentric: A blog about all things green, from conservation to Capitol Hill,” TIME, Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 11:38 am
Shan Nair is a British nuclear safety expert who was part of a panel that advised the European Commission on its response to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. For almost twenty years, he worked within the UK nuclear industry for Britain's national energy supply company analyzing both waste arising from spent nuclear fuel and also the consequences of what are called LOCAs--Loss of Coolant Accidents, which is precisely what officials are battling against at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Northern Japan. I spoke to Nair by phone to learn his thoughts on the incident.
Ecocentric: In the aftermath of Chernobyl, Europe faced a radioactive cloud that drifted over the continent. Is that your concern here?
I do not think that a Chernobyl-style cloud is the biggest concern. My main concern is contamination of the water table. If the entire fuel has melted the odds are it will go straight through the pressure vessel and therefore through the ground until it gets to the water table. Then it will cool down, but the problem is that the water table will start leaching actinides and fission products from the melted glob of fuel into the environment. So you will end up with some radioactive contamination of water supplies and ultimately crops and other products. That's a major problem because radioactive particles are much more dangerous when digested—they cause internal irradiation of organs with resulting increased cancer risks. …