Japan Nuke Crisis "Touch And Go"

Published On: Sep 09 2011 05:19:10 PM PDT   Updated On: Mar 18 2011 10:22:48 AM PDT
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The updates on the condition of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant change every hour, so often its hard to know what is really going on, a situation which Dr. Akira Tokuhiro at the University of Idaho calls very ?touch and go.?

Dr. Tokuhiro is originally from Tokyo and teaches nuclear reactor physics at the University of Idaho. He says the experts in Japan dealing with the nuclear reactor situation directly are faced with two huge tasks; first, dropping the temperature of the reactors and second, containing the radiation that is dispersed into the air.

Watching the situation unfold from afar as helicopters drop sea water to try and cool the reactors, Dr. Tokuhiro said this wasn?t a last ditch effort but part of their contingency plans for a nuclear emergency. He says it is taking so long the reactors to cool off because they are extremely hot.

?A blow dryer, after you turn it off, it?s still pretty hot, right? Can you grab a 100-watt light bulb? No, you can't, it?s too hot, you have to understand how hot things get,? Dr. Tokuhiro said.

It?s unclear what a best scenario or a worse case scenario is at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, Dr. Tokuhiro said. The goal now is to get the reactors cool within a manageable time frame, hopefully within a week, and while they are cooling the reactors, the radiation needs to be contained within the reactor.

?It?s an ongoing situation. We still don't have the situation managed in a sense that we like,? he said.

Dr. Tokuhiro says part of the core on some the units have already partially melted, and the concern the cores will melt completely is secondary to the concern radiation will seep out of the inside of the nuclear reactor.

?You don't want that to get out in the open,? he said.

Dr. Tokuhiro said the radiation is in the steam that seeps out of the nuclear reactors when they are cooling but he says it is possible to contain that radioactive steam similar to keeping the steam inside you car?s radiator.

?If your engine is overheating, you can open the radiator and let the steam go out, but you don't have to do that, you can keep the cap closed,? he said.

It?s important to keep in mind it took a massive earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami to damage the Fukushima nuclear reactors, but Tokuhiro thinks when this disaster is over, it will force the Japanese government to take a closer look at nuclear energy.

While it?s a cheap, abundant source of energy he said the question remains as to whether it?s worth the risk.