Some scary stuff from a couple of nuclear reactors in Japan. Story Following the earthquake a couple of things happened. “The earthquake triggered a fire in an electrical transformer,” and the earthquake “caused a leak of radioactive water . . . .” Specifically, 315 gallons of water from a tank found its way into the ocean.
I’m very pro nuclear power because it produces no greenhouse gasses, it produces a miniscule amount of waste that must quarantined from the environment, and it has the capacity to power modern civilization.
That said, this story is why we have to be super cautuous with nuclear power.
For the purpose of general education, the water is almost certainly not a big deal. I don’t know what tank the water came from, but I would guess it is drainage waiting to be purified and returned to the reactor. Even if it came right from cooling the fuel, the water (coolant) is not very radioactive unless there is a problem with the fuel. The uranium fuel is encased in steel and doesn’t fail unless it is uncovered, or there are dramatic power spikes or something to that effect. (Which happened in Cherynobyl.)
Which leads to the electrical fire. That is by far and away the most scary of the two reported problems. That is because losing electric power can result in preventing the plant from safely shutting down. Thus, you have a chance of keeping power too high with too little coolant flow.
“All the reactors were either already shut down or automatically switched off by the quake.” This is good, and BTW didn’t really happen at Chernobyl where operators used overrides to prevent automatic shutdowns. Three Mile Island also involved operators preventing automatic actions. Even after the reactor is shutdown cooling is required and that is why the electric power is so important.
It sounds to me like nothing terrible happened with this. I hope that is the case. I know that reactors regulated by the NRC have many redundant systems to ensure there is sufficient electric power available for a safe shutdown. But these things are really scary for multiple reasons.