“Sam E” just reported here,
CNN just reported, disbelievingly, that the 50 last on site workers have been removed. CNN and I both hope that the report is a mistranslation.
I went to CNN and found this, time stamped at 10:46 EDT. Among the uniformly bad news it says:
The number of nuclear workers who remained on site has been slashed from 800 to 50.
But that story could have been composed hours ago. If they’ve also pulled those 50–for now we can assume it’s the makeup water operators–well…I just don’t know. Have they established remote controls for that effort and the reactors?
The worst case is triage. Here’s what I mean. Is the only way to mitigate the onsite situation to dole out life-threatening or outright lethal doses? Say it’s yes. They can no longer cycle workers in and out and do effective work while keeping dose at 50 rem, or even 100.
They can easily pull back far enough to lower exposure to non-threatening levels. Just pulling back to the site fence gets you down to 50 mrem/hour, if I read that earlier summary correctly. And if it’s not gotten much worse, of course. But then you just back up further. Upwind, of course.
But if you relinquish control then you have to assume everything in play goes bone-dry. All reactor and spent fuels turn to smoldering slag. And exposure to the populace goes far beyond any previous estimate.
That will come mostly from the spent fuel inventory, not the reactors. I’d expect the containment buildings to retain most of the inventory even if it fully melts down.
But retreating from radiation isn’t the same as retreating from ever-expanding contamination. The first is easy. The second is essentially impossible. The ferocious decay heat will continually discharge particles into the atmosphere. Fission products are much denser than most day-to-day materials, but they’ll spread. And winds aren’t constant. The line will creep.
So where do you draw the line? How much increased uptake is acceptable? How much of Nippon do you abandon?
Nuclear triage. Do you accept a relatively small number of certain deaths to avoid a presumably much larger number of statistical deaths?
I wouldn’t. If that is the situation and it was my call, I’d do what they’re doing. Pull back. Explore brute engineering options, automations, even if it takes months to implement them.
No human sacrifice that isn’t voluntary and isn’t saving definite lives.
Statistics be damned.