Scientist Speaks About Nuclear Woes, Chernobyl Disaster

WESTMINSTER, MD -- Vadym Buyalsky remembers the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, the radiation released into the atmosphere and the more than 300,000 people forced to relocate.

Dr. Vadym Buyalsky, who worked on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster as a fire protection engineer in Ukraine, and now works as a senior scientist at CTRL Systems, a technology firm in Westminster, discusses different types of nuclear reactor designs and the risks associated with the damaged reactors in Japan.

He said he doesn't expect the fallout from a damaged Japanese nuclear plant to mirror the devastation at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986.

Buyalsky served as a fire safety expert following the Chernobyl disaster, caused by a series of explosions and a fire that made radiation flow into the atmosphere of surrounding areas.

He currently works as a senior scientist at Westminster-based CTRL, which specializes in ultrasound technology that can detect problems with industrial machinery.

Buyalsky said Chernobyl lacked containment structures for nuclear fuel. He said the Fukushima plant, battered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake Friday, features containment walls that should limit radiation emissions from the structure.

Experts said Tuesday much of the leaking radiation was apparently in steam from boiling water, according to the Associated Press.

Buyalsky discussed the delicate situation in Japan and the concerns about nuclear energy Tuesday.

Leaking radiation

What happened: Radiation levels in areas around the Japan nuclear plant rose Tuesday afternoon and subsided by the evening.

Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation seeped from four of the plant's six reactors, according to the Associated Press.

The Japanese government ordered 140,000 people living within 20 miles of the plant to seal themselves indoors to avoid exposure and banned commercial traffic in the area, the Associated Press said.

Buyalsky's take: He said there is no way to tell for sure where, and how much, radiation may spread. He said Hawaii should be on alert, even though the Associated Press reported Tuesday that elevated radiation levels had not been detected there yet. The U.S. mainland should be OK, he said.

"There is no big danger to the United States of America because of the Japanese disaster regarding the nuclear power plant," he said.

Concerns about the nuclear plants worldwide

What happened: European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German ARD television that Europe must ask if it can secure energy needs without nuclear power plants.

Energy ministers meeting in Brussels said the European Union's 143 nuclear reactors must be checked to see if they can withstand earthquakes and other emergencies.

Buyalsky's take: He said precautionary measures make nuclear power plants safe, and reliable, electricity providers. He said the risk is always there, but that plant operators and governments take great care to take every precaution possible.

Buyalsky toured two United States nuclear power plants 15 years ago. He said while the power plants in this country are aging, the chances of danger are low.

"The nuclear power plants are protected enough with present-day measures with the [United States] Nuclear Regulatory Commission," he said.

Source: AP