At this point in the Japanese nuclear emergency it is coming down to the simple proposition of how do you drop enough water on the stricken reactors, and especially the spent fuel ponds, to keep further damage from happening? The Japanese Self-Defense Force is experimenting with helicopter water drops which are, frankly, stupid. The choppers can’t drop enough water to make a difference and they are so slow that they potentially expose their crews to excessive amounts of radiation. Much better to use the Evergreen 747 Supertanker.
The unique Evergreen Supertanker is the largest piece of firefighting gear on earth, capable of dropping more than 20,000 gallons of water or chemicals at a shot (40,000 gallons per hour!), then streaking back for more at over 600 miles-per-hour. The Supertanker, which works all over the world and can easily get to Japan at this time of year when most of the world isn’t on fire, could make a huge contribution to the nuclear effort. And the best part is that the addition of some lead shielding for the crew would make their time on-station virtually infinite while having no impact all on the Supertanker’s performance. What’s a little lead when you already weigh 800,000 pounds?
So why haven’t we seen this behemoth already at work in Japan, dropping boron-laced water?
UPDATE — An enterprising reader (far more enterprising than me) called Evergreen Aviation early this morning and learned that the company has been waiting for just such a call from Japan. But it turns out the Japanese authorities either didn’t know about the Supertanker or had not got around to inquiring. So this same reader contacted General Electric, the manufacturer of some of the reactors involved in this accident. So the wheels may be in motion (we’ll see) to send both the 747 and a smaller DC-10 air tanker to Japan. Both had been parked, just waiting for a call.