Typhoon Roke Hits Japan, Moving Towards Fukushima And Tokyo

Typhoon Roke has just hit Japan! The first few news reports and photos are just coming out.  Typhoon Roke made landfall at Hamamatsu, just south east of the industrial city of Aichi, and this is its current location. It is on course for Fukushima, the city housing the troubled Daichi nuclear power plant. Tokyo might be hit too. Roke is expected to reach Fukushima in another two days time. The wind speed is 100 mph.  

We had warned about the approach of this storm in a previous post here.

Landfall and destruction

Unlike Irene, which fizzled out as it made landfall, Roke did not die. It has caused heavy rains on the coastal region. High speed winds have caused enough destruction on their own. All operations at sea have been discontinued for the coming days.

Sea surge caused due to Typhoon Roke (Courtesy: The Telegraph, Associated Press)

Initial reports indicate that at least 4 people have died in this initial spell of rain. This number, no doubt, will rise as more is known of the storm’s devastation. Aichi has been largely evacuated. The overflowing of the river that flows over Aichi has caused widespread flooding in the city.

Photos from the first few hours:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/8778887/Typhoon-Roke-hits-Japan.html
The current position of the eye of Typhoon Roke, just south of the main island of Honshu. (Courtesy: The Weather Channel)

Fukushima and the Nuclear Worry

The biggest worry is Fukushima and the damaged nuclear power plant. Radioactive material will over flow into the sea and the surrounding areas due to the heavy downpour. Officials had begun preparations for the approach of the storm a few days back and are continuing to reinforce the defences of the nuclear power plant. Cables have been tied down and maximum effort is being put to ensure that no radioactive water leaks onto the habitable areas.

Dai’chi Plant Was Dumping Radioactive Waste Into Sea:  http://techie-buzz.com/science/japan-nuclear-radioactive-fears.html
Measuring Radiation: How Much Radiation is Too Much? :  http://techie-buzz.com/science/radiation-risks.html

The Japanese Meteorological Department has advised the highest level of caution to be used due to heavy rains, strong winds and high waves. Very heavy rains are expected in the coming days with as much as 5 cm in one hour!

These are just initial reports. We’ll continue tracking the storm, as it makes its way towards Fukushima with no expected loss in intensity.

We wish our beloved Japan the very best. It has been through worse in history, and it could fight back every single time. We know that this will be no exception.

Link to a previous post:  http://techie-buzz.com/science/typhoon-roke-japan.html

Typhoon Roke To Hit Japan; Millions To Be Evacuated, Fukushima To Be Hit

Panic grips already-ravaged Japan as Typhoon Roke nears. The city of Aichi, one of the largest cities of Japan, has ordered an immediate evacuation of 1.1 million. The city of Nagoya was also issued notices to evacuate the city as soon as possible. Heavy rains have already started in the city. The eye of Typhoon Roke is at about 200 km (or 125 miles) southeast of southern Japan, on Tuesday, 20th September. It is moving northwards, on a collision course with the island nation. Fukushima is also on its path.

UPDATE: Typhoon Roke Strikes Japan:  http://techie-buzz.com/science/typhoon-roke-japan-current.html
The location of Roke. (Screenshot courtesy: The Weather Channel)

Typhoon Roke

Roke is moving northwards at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour and the wind speed is 200 kilometers per hour.

For Japan, which is still reeling from the devastating tsunami earlier this year, this is more bad news. A few days back, tropical storm Talas left about 100 people dead or missing. Roke is much bigger.

The worst fear is that of Fukushima. The typhoon is almost certain to hit Fukushima in another 48 hours. Restoration work is being carried out at the Dai-chi plant and, at the very least, this will delay and hinder that process. The more realistic fear is that the radioactive water will overflow into the surrounding areas and into the sea.

The storm will make landfall on September 23rd.

We will bring more updates on this tragedy and will be closely tracking the fate of Fukushima.

Japan’s Nuclear Problem Update: How Radiation From Fukushima Affects America’s West Coast

The reach of atmospheric winds is long. The latest demonstration of this comes from the ruined Japanese power plant Fukushima. Sea water around Fukushima, rich in neutrons from the nuclear matter, was causing a spike in the amount of atmospheric sulfur over the Californian coast. Sulfur is a toxic element in itself and forms oxides which are just as toxic. It is also a major contributor of acid rain.

Fukushima after the disaster

What happened?

This is what was happening at Fukushima. On 13th March, 2011, two days after the deadly tsunami wrecked Fukushima, engineers began pumping seawater into the power plant, so as to keep the nuclear core cool, since the cooling system was not functioning due to loss of power. Lightly radioactive seawater was drained out of the power plant. Neutrons streamed out of the water, knocking against chlorine atoms, converting them into a radioactive isotope of sulfur. The sulfur combined with oxygen in seawater, especially since the warm water provided enough thermal energy for the chemical reaction. A part of this sulfur dioxide bubbled through the water and entered the atmosphere as a gas and another part dissolved in the sea water. Further, when the water hit the hot core, it instantly vaporized, again releasing large amounts of hot elemental sulfur into the atmosphere. Both air currents and ocean currents carried the sulfur rich air or water to the western shores of America.

The observed data and extrapolation

The sulphur peak in the atmosphere was noticed on March 28, 2011, 15 days after the pumping started. According to a study conducted by chemists at the University of California, San Diego, – the first quantitative study of the disaster – about 400 billion neutrons were released per square meter of the cooling pools of liquid in the power plant. This rate stayed constant from 13th March to 20th March. The mechanism of producing radioactive sulphur is well understood from cosmic ray studies, but this is the first time such a process is being noticed near the surface. The study measured 1501 atoms of radioactive sulfur in sulfate particles per cubic meter of air, much much higher than normal levels.

For the levels of sulphur noticed at California to be correctly correlated with sulphur levels over Fukushima, the team calculated that the levels of sulfur ought to be 365 times that over California.

As always, even disasters provide opportunity for science to study different processes. Thiemens, the Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at UC San Diego, says

We’ve really used the injection of a radioactive element to an environment to be a tracer of a very important process in nature for which there are some big gaps in understanding.

Maybe in this case, it’s just too inhumane to say that every cloud has a silver lining.

News via UCSanDiego

Strong Earthquake Strikes North-East Japan; Tsunami Alert Sounded

Japan’s earthquake woes continue. A relatively large earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the Richter Scale, hit north-eastern Japan, yesterday night at 10:06 PM EST, triggering fears of a minor rerun of the gigantic quake, which struck Japan earlier in March. A tsunami alert has been sounded. This is the same region affected by the massive March quake.

The earthquake struck 6 miles off the east coast of Honshu and the epicenter was located underneath the ocean floor at a depth of 34.9 km or 21.7 miles. The strength on the Richter Scale was 7.1 and can, thus, be called a large quake.

The location of the Earthquake - 6 miles offshore (Credit: US Geological Survey)

Initial reports suggest that no significant damages have been incurred due to this recent earthquake. Locals have been evacuated and workers at the Fukushima Plant, which is currently undergoing repairs, have been moved to higher ground. After March’s devastating earthquake, which left Fukushima crippled, Tokyo Electric Power has confirmed that no further damage has been inflicted.

The Fukushima Power Plant

Tsunami alerts have been sounded, but so far, there have been no reports of any tsunami. The earliest alerts sounded warned of a 50 cm to a meter high tidal wave. Though puny by the March tsunami standards, authorities are taking no risks.

This earthquake appears to be an aftershock of the massive 9.1 March quake, but scientists are yet to confirm that. While the March quake shifted geological features and changed the tectonic map of the nearby region, yesterday’s quake is not expected to do anything of that ilk.

Fukushima Update:

The cooling system is in place and fully functional at the Fukushima Power Plant. Even though the plant is far from operational, it looks good on its path to recovery. Probably, Fukushima will be closed down forever, but it needs to be restored to some steady state before the close-down, so that it doesn’t pose any risks to the environment or to the people around it.