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Forum Post: Risky Repair of Fukushima Could Spill 15,000 Times the Radiation of Hiroshima, Create 85 Chernobyls

Posted 11 months ago on Sept. 26, 2013, 7:06 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
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Risky Repair of Fukushima Could Spill 15,000 Times the Radiation of Hiroshima, Create 85 Chernobyls

Thursday, 26 September 2013 09:36 By Gaius Publius, America Blog | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/19073-risky-repair-of-fukushima-could-spill-15000-times-the-radiation-of-hiroshima-create-85-chernobyls

UPDATE: I spoke about this issue with Nicole Sandler on the Nicole Sandler Show. That discussion is here. Start the player, then advance to 26:54 to hear our segment. Thanks.

Does the planned November 2013 removal of the spent fuel rods stored at Fukushima’s heavily damaged Reactor 4 need a global intervention, or should TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co., a for-profit company) be allowed to go it alone?

So far, the Japanese government is allowing TEPCO to handle it. Why should you care? Read on.

As you should know by now, the nuclear power plant at Fukushima underwent a great deal of damage in 2011 due to an earthquake and a tsunami. Wikipedia (my emphasis; some reparagraphing):

The plant comprised six separate boiling water reactors originally designed by General Electric (GE) and maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). At the time of the earthquake, reactor 4 had been de-fueled and reactors 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance.

Immediately after the earthquake, the remaining reactors 1–3 shut down the sustained fission reactions automatically, inserting control rods in what is termed the SCRAM, following this, emergency generators came online to power electronics and coolant systems. The tsunami arrived some 50 minutes after the initial earthquake. The 13m tsunami overwhelmed the plant’s seawall, which was only 10m high, quickly flooding the low-lying rooms in which the emergency generators were housed (The tsunami was photographed). The flooded diesel generators failed, cutting power to the critical pumps that must continuously circulate coolant water through a Generation II reactor for several days to keep it from melting down after shut down.

After the secondary emergency pumps (run by back-up batteries) ran out, one day after the tsunami, the pumps stopped and the reactors began to overheat due to the normal high radioactive decay heat produced in the first few days after nuclear reactor shutdown (smaller amounts of this heat normally continue to be released for years, but are not enough to cause fuel melting).

We want to focus on reactor unit 4. Here’s a schematic of what one of these reactor units looks like (skillfully designed by GE, who wants you to know they “bring good things to life”):

Fukushima Mark I-style reactor and fuel storage unit.

What you care about is ” SFP,” where the fuel rods are stored. Here’s the legend provide with this sketch:

Rough sketch of a typical Boiling water reactor (BWR) Mark I Concrete Containment with Steel Torus including downcomers, as used in the BWR/1, BWR/2, BWR/3 and some BWR/4 model reactors.

DW = Drywell

WW = Wetwell

SFP = Spent Fuel Pool

RPV = Reactor Pressure Vessel

SCSW = Secondary Concrete Shield Wall

Notice where the fuel rods are stored — high off the ground and in water, in the area marked SFP.

Here’s what Fukushima unit 4 looks like today:

Notice that it has no roof. The spent fuel rods (and about 200 “fully loaded” unspent rods — remember that “reactor 4 had been de-fueled” prior to the accident) are stored in a water-containing chamber high off the ground in a crumbling room and building without a roof.

How will “they” get the damaged fuel rods out of that crumbling room? This is the problem today. There are about 1300 fuel rods stored in that room, packed together vertically in racks. Think of a pack of cigarettes standing upright with the top of the pack removed. Normally, the movement of fuel rods is done by a computer-driven machine that reaches into the room from above and removes or replaces a fuel rod by drawing it upward or lowering it downward. The machine knows to the millimeter where each fuel rod is located. Also, the rods are undamaged — perfectly straight.

The problem is that this pack of cigarettes is crumpled, and the process must done manually. Therefore, the likelihood that some of the fuel rods will break is high. If that happens and fuel rods are exposed to the air — BOOM. What does “boom” look like?

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own. Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

Meanwhile, at the rest of the site:

More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more. Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.

If the whole site blows, “boom” could mean the release of 85 times as much radioactive cesium into the air as was released at Chernobyl. Into the air. Into a stiff cross-Pacific breeze.

There are a number of people warning of this danger; none are getting much play. For example, this from the Japan Times (quoted here):

In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4 [with] radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. …. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task….

The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.

A lot depends on what blows up, if anything. If only Unit 4 blows up, Japan is at risk, including Tokyo, and the nuclear dust will pass across the Pacific to the U.S. People on the West Coast will be warned to keep their windows closed for a while.

If the whole facility blows up, one scientist is talking about moving her family to the southern hemisphere. From the article quoted above:

Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.

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39 Comments


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[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5854) 11 months ago

We’re in very apocalyptic territory, with a wide and unknown range of outcomes. Take that for what it’s worth — little could go wrong, or much.

Should TEPCO be allowed to attempt this on its own?

Should Japan be allowed to attempt this on its own?

This is the heart of today’s problem. In reality, the events that are about to unfold at Fukushima in the next 60 days will affect much of the world. They could in fact change life in the northern hemisphere, if the worst of the worst occurs.

The Japanese government has ceded control of the next phrase — removing more than 1300 fuel rods from Reactor 4 — to TEPCO. (Seems that Japan has a “corporate capture of government” problem similar to our own.) Reuters (quoted here):

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) is already in a losing battle to stop radioactive water overflowing from another part of the facility, and experts question whether it will be able to pull off the removal of all the assemblies successfully.

“They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods,” said Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, who used to build fuel assemblies.

The operation, beginning this November at the plant’s Reactor No. 4, is fraught with danger, including the possibility of a large release of radiation if a fuel assembly breaks, gets stuck or gets too close to an adjacent bundle, said Gundersen and other nuclear experts. … The utility says it recognizes the operation will be difficult but believes it can carry it out safely.

Nonetheless, Tepco inspires little confidence. Sharply criticized for failing to protect the Fukushima plant against natural disasters, its handling of the crisis since then has also been lambasted.

Who has sovereignty here? Who has control? Better, who should have sovereignty and control?

TEPCO has sovereignty, ceded by the government of Japan. But should Japan itself be allowed sovereignty, or should “the world” take over the problem in its own interest?

Theoretically, it’s an interesting question, since we don’t generally talk about removing sovereignty from other first-world nations — only little guys in places like the Middle East or Latin America who bother us. Yet some writers are in fact worried that the consequences for Japan include bankrupting the economy and … loss of sovereignty. Japan Focus:

This is literally a matter of national security – another mistake by TEPCO could have incredibly costly, even fatal, consequences for Japan.

And according to former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura (quoted here):

The meltdown and unprecedented release of radiation that would ensue is the worst case scenario that then-Prime Minister Kan and other former officials have discussed in the past months. He [Kan] warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that such an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty.

Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable. Hiroshi Tasaka, a nuclear engineer and special adviser to Prime Minister Kan immediately following the crisis, said the crisis “just opened Pandora’s Box.”

That’s then-Prime Minister Kan quoted in the bolded comment. As I said, it’s an interesting theoretical problem. Too bad it’s not just theoretical. This will all happen in November.

Bottom line — Should TEPCO be allowed to manage the removal of the fuel rods in November?

It comes down to this — TEPCO has shown itself to be both incompetent and deceitful. The government of Japan has shown itself willing to allow TEPCO to control the “cleanup” and “decommissioning” of the Fukushima facility.

Who should have control at Fukushima? TEPCO (after all, they “own it”)? The government of Japan (after all, it’s “their” country)? Or others in the world, acting in their own real interest? Harvey Wasserman, writing in Common Dreams (my emphasis and paragraphing):

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis. There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focused on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4. … Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers. …

We have two months or less to act. For now, we are petitioning the United Nations and President Obama to mobilize the global scientific and engineering community to take charge at Fukushima and the job of moving these fuel rods to safety.

If you have a better idea, please follow it. But do something and do it now. The clock is ticking.

I swear, the world is closer and closer to reading like a series of thrillers, isn’t it? I’m not sure what to make of all this; it seems so … thriller-y.

If you want to read more, your key articles (including lots of embedded links) are these:

The Crisis at Fukushima’s Unit 4 Demands a Global Take-Over [Harvey Wasserman at Common Dreams]

The REAL Fukushima Danger [Washingtonblog; lots of links]

The Top Short-Term Threat to Humanity: The Fuel Pools of Fukushima [Washingtonblog; lots of links]

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster [Wikipedia] Guess we’ll find out in November whether this works out or not. In the meantime, I thought you should know that some people are having this discussion, even if it’s not happening on TV, yet. (Know anyone at MSNBC you’d like to alert? Feel free; you don’t need permission to talk to the media.)

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

[-] 4 points by toomanygk (11) 11 months ago

LY, you bring up so many important issues that get so few comments. Please keep it up, there are some folks that appreciate you!

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (28265) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

I wonder what Japan would think of:

viable clean energy alternatives that we should be implementing As Fast As Humanly Possible:

The Liquid Metal Battery http://www.ted.com/speakers/donald_sadoway.html

The Thorium Problem ( not so much a problem as an opportunity ) http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017146059


Think it might be a head-slap DOH moment?

[-] 1 points by Shule (1696) 11 months ago

Does everybody know of the micro reactors they want to put in every building in every city?

I think that idea is still on the table....

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (28265) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

" keep your windows closed for awhile what the fuk does that mean? "

It's a psickological anti-panic thing? Give some of the ignorant an all is well placebo - as long as you don't open your window.

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (28265) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

Ummm to much truth involved? Besides it would more likely be over a year and with regular cleansing rains. Also as the radio-active jet-stream is gonna circle the globe - it is not just a west coast concern.

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (28265) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

lol - just in case - are ya gonna wrap your package in lead 1st?

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[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (28265) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

Ahhhhhh yes experiments in genetic mutation - that is a hard one to pass-up. Especially with all of the mutant super-hero movies coming out.

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[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (28265) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 months ago

You Dog You. {:-])

[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

Considering the active depopulation agenda, I don't expect TPTB to step in and assist any time soon.

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

In the food production by chemical companies, resulting in sterilization of the populace, and huge increases in cancers.

Then there's the recent discovery of nasties "found" in vaccines, but that was quietly swept under the rug.

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

(quote) BALTIMORE, July 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The following release was issued by Classen Immunotherapies, Inc.

A new peer reviewed study was published in the current issue of Open Access, Scientific Reports (Volume 2, Issue 3, 2013) linking the autism epidemic to the epidemic of vaccine induced type 1 diabetes. Growing evidence shows that a large percentage of cases of autism have an inflammatory or autoimmune component. The new data shows autism is strongly linked to type 1 diabetes another epidemic inflammatory disease where the epidemic has been proven to be caused by vaccines. The new paper is authored by immunologist J. Bart Classen, MD.

"We have been publishing for many years that vaccine induced inflammation is causing an epidemic of type 1 diabetes and other diseases. Our new data, as well as the extensive data from others regarding the role of inflammation in the development autism, leaves little doubt vaccines play a significant role in the autism epidemic," says Dr. J. Bart Classen, MD. (unquote)

http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130712-904463.html

And there's enough evidence of the damage from the ongoing human experiment in America for plenty of class actions. Pity the biotechs have infiltrated the govt, right up to the SCOTUS and POTUS.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/09/15/genetic-roulette-gmo-documentary.aspx

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

An immunoligist MD researching the prevalance of vaccine-induced (his words) type 1 diabetes called it an epidemic.

I'm sure we could agree that one in a million does not equate to an epidemic.

Sorry to derail the thread, but back on track now, when you follow the money trail of climate science denial of climate change, the same big players keep emerging from the shadows. In fact, often not even bothering to hide themselves behind others, and just like the biotechs, more than willing to buy their own science, and even take over University faculties.

Makes is all a little harder to get to the truth of any matter.

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[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

Yes, I've been trying to follow the case closely over the last month or so.

What is dominating the "news" today? Fiscal cliffs, Osama evidence destroyed, Russian influence on American politics, and Miley Cyrus has a long tongue.

One would question the intel of storing so much spent fuel in such a precarious location. There's talk of the operation being beyond the financial means of the Japanese govt, and seeing as how we are ruled by crony capitalists, there's simply no profit in assisting TEPCO in any way.

There may be money to be made if a meltdown occurs.

Bottled water from the Nubian aquifer being the obvious one.

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

[-] 1 points by ZenDog (18947) from South Burlington, VT 0 minutes ago

from the article:

Last week, a sharp increase in radioactive cesium was detected in groundwater 25m (82ft) from the sea.

In June, radioactive water was also found to be leaking from a storage tank.

suggests that the hole, if there is one, is not getting appreciably deeper.

Correlation is not causation. Using seawater pumped into a disaster area to cool a reactor that TEPCO admits has been in meltdown for two years, lends credence to the supposition that no control over the nuclear reaction is currently occurring, aside from attempting to keep the temperature from reaching an hypercritical stage.

A "sharp increase in caesium detected in groundwater" indicates only one certainty to me, and that is the fact that TEPCO is finally admitting they have zero control over what is occurring in one, or all three, of the damaged reactors that have been in meltdown for two years, approximately.

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

Then let's work from what we know to be true, shall we?

Three reactors were damaged so badly, during a tsunami, that they escaped control, melted down, and now require constant inflow from ocean water to prevent catastrophe.

Despite having access to robotic recovery devices, TEPCO admits that they are not aware of the exact location of these reactor cores.

Groundwater, mixed with contaminated seawater, is now leaching into the Pacific ocean, at a rather disturbing constant (though disputed) rate of flow.

Independent tests on migratory fish species confirms contamination of a type consistent with that said to be escaping containment attempts at TEPCO's damaged Fukushima nuclear power facility.

Is any of that in doubt?

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

It's the quantities of water involved.

A reactor functioning normally requires cooling on a reticulated supply. Temperatures are regulated for optimal power production.

These three reactors are no longer under control, and neither is the cooling system.

If you want to hear talk of steam rising, it's no stretch to take a look.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23353049

Steam has been seen rising from a reactor building at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator says.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said there was no emergency situation and there were no signs of increased radiation in the area.

It says it is investigating what is causing the steam at the damaged No 3 reactor building.

The plant, crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, has seen a series of water leaks and power failures.

The tsunami knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, three of which melted down.

Water is being pumped into the reactors to cool them, but that has left Tepco with the problem of storing the contaminated waste water.

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

Several articles I've read on the subject, the reactors that are being cooled down with seawater are in an "unknown" location, meaning they are already at meltdown temperatures, and quite possible heading for earth's core. Conjecture only, of course.

The foundations supporting the building housing these dangerous spent rods are turning to mush. Should there be any kind of accident in the removal process (said to span decades, if not more time) the southern hemisphere may indeed be the place to go, although Australia's detection station in our Northern Territory recorded some fallout from the initial catastrophe, post tsunami.

It's curious that people don't wonder at the lack of media coverage of this severe problem. Social networking sites are all over covering it up as well.

Are people genuinely NOT concerned for their future?

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

[-] 1 points by ZenDog (18942) from South Burlington, VT 6 minutes ago

they cannot be that far away, for if they were, we would have a hole into which we could pour all the water we want, and all that would come back would be radioactive steam . . .

That is what the case is at present, ZD.

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[-] 1 points by Builder (4202) 11 months ago

Can post a dozen links stating this same detail.

We have three 100-ton melted fuel blobs underground, but where exactly they are located, no one knows. Whatever ‘barriers’ TEPCO has put in place so far have failed. Efforts to decontaminate radioactive water have failed. Robots have failed. Camera equipment and temperature gauges…failed. Decontamination of surrounding cities has failed. We have endless releases into the Pacific Ocean that will be ongoing for not only our lifetimes, but our children’s’ lifetimes. We have 40 million people living in the Tokyo area nearby.

http://enenews.com/wsj-unknown-where-fukushimas-nuclear-fuel-went-even-if-found-they-dont-know-how-to-get-it-out-rt-no-one-knows-where-the-three-100-ton-blobs-are

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