Violent Pacific, Due To “Ring Of Fire”

Despite its name, the Pacific has the most violent geography in the world. It is surrounded by the ‘ring of fire’ that generates 9 out of 10 earthquakes in the world.

The Pacific is the largest ocean. Its area (which various measures calculate between 150 and 200 million km.) has an area larger than the sum of all continents. There are 20 to 30 thousand islands, the majority of the ones that exist, and slightly less than the total of the liquid water on Earth.

Its ‘Ring of Fire’ in inverted horseshoe shape encompasses whole west coast of the Americas, Alaska, East Asia, Indonesia and New Zealand. This bow is about 40,000 km long and has 452 volcanoes (3 out of 4 that exist on our planet).

Shocks occurring there are caused by the movement of tectonic plates that make and shape the earth’s surface.

The plates can collide between them (as happens when the Pacific is subsumed under the slabs of Northern Australia, creating elevations, volcanoes and earthquakes of New Zealand and New Guinea and Japan, Alaska and Hawaii, respectively) separated from them by opening cracks (like those that occur between the Pacific Plate and the Nazca and Antarctica) or move in opposite directions (such as creating the fault and the earthquakes in California).

While earthquakes can generate death and destruction, they are also responsible for having developed many of today’s living conditions. The 3 most populated islands in the world (Japan, Philippines and Indonesia in Pacific Asia) are fertile (like New Zealand and the Andes), in part because the product of the lava and movements that trigger these shocks.

The two biggest mountain ranges that exist (the Himalayas and the Andes) were created as a result of the sinking of a plate under which it arose. The Pacific plate has produced the largest mass grave (the Marianas that are 11 kilometers deep, is the lowest point of the earth’s crust) and also the highest mountain (Mauna Kea in Hawaii), which measures 10 kilometers from its base to 6 kilometers under the sea. Compared to both, Everest is less than 9 kilometers above sea level.

The Pacific Ocean also produces the climatic oscillation that regularly causes devastation worldwide: El Niño. This is produced when the temperature of tropical seas is altered which creates droughts or heavy rains at its opposite ends, but can also link together several changes in climates as far away as Europe or Africa.

‘Tsunami’ is the most common Japanese word in several languages. This originated in the Asian Pacific, but people around the ocean have designated it by other names. One of them is ‘tidal wave’ as well being called Callao in 1746, which destroyed the largest port of the American Pacific, killing more than 95% of its inhabitants.



Earthquake, Tsunami Now Nuclear Risk Alerts Japan

Cooling systems have failed at another nuclear reactor on Japan’s devastated coast, hours after an explosion at a nearby unit made leaking radiation, or even outright meltdown, the central threat to the country following a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.

The Japanese government said radiation emanating from the plant appeared to have decreased after Saturday’s blast, which produced a cloud of white smoke that obscured the complex. But the danger was grave enough that officials pumped sea water into the reactor to avoid disaster and moved 170,000 people from the area.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency reported on Sunday an emergency at another reactor unit, the third in the complex to have its cooling systems malfunction.

“All the functions to keep cooling water levels in No. 3 reactor have failed at the Fukushima No. 1 plant,” plant operator Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] said, adding that pressure was rising slightly.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency rated the accident at four on the international scale of zero to seven. The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States was rated five, while the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was a seven.

Japan dealt with the nuclear threat as it struggled to determine the scope of the earthquake, the most powerful in its recorded history, and the tsunami that ravaged its northeast on Friday with breathtaking speed and power.

The official count of the dead was 763, but the government said the figure could far exceed 1,000. Media reports said thousands of people were missing or unaccounted for.


Preventing meltdown

The explosion at the nuclear plant, Fukushima Dai-ichi, 274km northeast of Tokyo, appeared to be a consequence of steps taken to prevent a meltdown after the quake and tsunami knocked out power to the plant, crippling the system used to cool fuel rods there.
Inside that superheated steel vessel, water was being poured over the fuel rods to cool them formed hydrogen. The blast destroyed the building housing the reactor, but not the reactor itself, which is enveloped by stainless steel 15cm thick.
When officials released some of the hydrogen gas to relieve pressure inside the reactor, the hydrogen apparently reacted with oxygen, either in the air or the cooling water, and caused the explosion.

Officials declined to say what the temperature was inside the troubled reactor, Unit 1. At 1,200 degrees Celsius, the zirconium casings of the fuel rods can react with the cooling water and create hydrogen. At 2,200 C, the uranium fuel pellets inside the rods start to melt, the beginning of a meltdown.

Evacuation order

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said radiation around the plant had fallen, not risen, after the blast but did not offer an explanation.

Virtually any increase in dispersed radiation can raise the risk of cancer, and authorities were planning to distribute iodine, which helps protect against thyroid cancer. Authorities ordered 210,000 people out of the area within 20km of the reactor.
Officials have said that radiation levels at Fukushima were elevated before the blast: At one point, the plant was releasing each hour the amount of radiation a person normally absorbs from the environment each year.It was the first time Japan had confronted the threat of a significant spread of radiation since the greatest nightmare in its history, a catastrophe exponentially worse: the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States, which resulted in more than 200,000 deaths from the explosions, fallout and radiation sickness.

The Japanese utility that runs the plant said four workers suffered fractures and bruises and were being treated at a hospital.

Nine residents of a town near the plant who later evacuated the area tested positive for radiation exposure, though officials said they showed no health problems.

Although the government played down fears of radiation leak, Japanese nuclear agency spokesman Shinji Kinjo acknowledged there were still fears of a meltdown, the collapse of a power plant’s systems, rendering it unable regulate temperatures and keep the reactor fuel cool.