The plan is - and things always go according to plan, don't they folks - to use a scaled down nuclear reactor and then set off a controlled meltdown... so they can see how to learn how to better handle things should a real meltdown ever happen (again).
It sounds fool-hardy because surely nuclear scientists already know how a meltdown can occur and what will occur having seen it in operation a few times back in 2011 at the Dai-ichi nuclear power generating facility in Fukushima-ken...
This is what the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has in mind and is actually planning at a research facility in Ibaraki-ken, which is north of Tokyo.
"We want to study exactly how meltdowns happen and apply what we will learn to help improve ways to deal with severe accidents in the future," said a spokesman for the government-backed agency.
Talk about too little too late, eh? That's like me chipping the melting ice away from the back of my house yesterday after the melting ice - thanks to 8C weather four days after it was -41C with the wind chill - had already flowed down into the basement. Thank goodness we have raised floors where I keep my 35,000-piece comic book collection.
The spokesman for the agency says that this is the first time the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has attempted such an experiment, but does note that both France and the U.S. have previously performed such tests.
Which makes me question why the Agency doesn't simply ask if those two countries could perhaps share their findings, because... you know... once bitten, twice-shy...
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency says that the experiment will begin in April of 2014 using a small fuel rod (because they are creating a small nuclear reactor) that will help create a very fast nuclear fission.
All I can say about that is - plan your vacation now for someplace out in the western part of Japan... like in Vancouver, Canada.
Now... I'm sure that we won't see a repeat of a nuclear disaster... well, at least as sure as one can be... and how sure can one be when it comes to splitting atoms in a research lab that will lack the same fail-safes that Japan's modern nuclear reactors should have had in place prior to March 11, 2011... yes... I'm being cynical. I simply don't trust that all will go 'according to Hoyle'...
The spokesman for the Agency did note that this experiment is NOT being done to see HOW the Fukushima accident(s) happened, but rather it is being done to watch the entire mini meltdown process and to come up with better ways to control a nuclear meltdown should it happen in a big nuclear reactor at some unlucky point in time.
Hey... nuclear safety procedures being created by creating a nuclear meltdown. Sure... what could possibly go wrong? TEPCO is not involved, so there is that going for Japan.
TEPCO is the Tokyo Electric Power COmpany, the privately-owned Japanese power generation company that owns many nuclear power plants and other power generating facilities from wind, thermal and more. You can read more about what the company actually does HERE... something I put together a couple of months ago.
Still, for all of the experience and wisdom that TEPCO had accumulated over the decades involved in power generation, they were still inadequate in their handling of the Dai-ichi facility in Fukushima-ken when the facility experienced major problems after a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake caused a huge tsunami that crashed over and into the facility essentially taking out power to its nuclear power cooling system...
... which caused three near nuclear meltdowns, explosions and dispersal of nuclear-radiated water, gases and materials into the water, air and ground over the area, causing a 30-kilometer radius do-not-enter zone, and the evacuation of entire towns and villages to ensure no one died of radiation poisoning.
People did die trying to control the meltdown and during the clean-up... and many people became sick from too much exposure to radiation... both workers and locals... and Japan's economy took a kick in the nuts as no one wanted goods from Japan for fear of them being irradiated... and now... nearly three years later, people are still displaced form their homes and jobs... and it is thought that some parts of the area may not be fit for human occupation for decades.
1) Don't we know what happens in a nuclear meltdown already? How do you create an entire industry (nuclear power) and not know a) what could happen in a meltdown; b) and what safety protocols should have been in place for the past six decades that you have had such technology;
2) Didn't you take notes about what was going on during the meltdowns at the Dai-ichi facility - or is all of that data hush-hush because it belongs to the privately-owned TEPCO and they won't share? Did you ask?
3) Why don't you get the data from France and/or the U.S. who have already performed similar experiments? Won't they share? Did you ask?
Those are important questions... and ones I hope Japanese journalists are asking... just like the populace of Japan should be asking.
4) I would also ask what precautions are being undertaken by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the miniature nuclear meltdown poses no risk to the research facility, its staff, and to nearby residents in Ibaraki-ken.
Hopefully more data will be more forthcoming in the near future. I'm sure no one is lighting a match in a room full of gunpowder... but it would be nice to know what precautions are being undertaken. Stupid media... ask questions before providing half a story!
Of course... I am getting my information from an English-language source... perhaps the Japanese media is better informed.
On a lighter note, nuclear zucchini's taste better with Heinz ketchup.