Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | October 31, 2013

Fukushima Hiroshima Redux

This week there was another major earthquake right off Fukushima coastin Japan and it caused a mini tsunami as well to remind us how precarious the Nuclear Fuel Removal From Fukushima’s Reactor 4 is because it threatens a Nuclear Explosion with Hiroshima type explosions — only thousands of times worse…

Still this month — November 2013, the failed nuclear operator TEPCO, unassisted by the International Atomic Energy Commission, or any other competent authority — is set to begin the removal of the nuclear fuel rods whose radiation matches the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs, from the exploded building and into new trailing ponds.

This is an operation with potentially “apocalyptic” consequences and is expected to begin in a week from now – “as early as November 8″ – at Fukushima’s damaged and sinking Reactor 4, where plant operator TEPCO will attempt to remove over 1,300 fuel rods holding the radiation equivalent of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs from a spent fuel storage tank perched on the bombed out reactor’s upper floor.

Fukushima Reactor 4 While the Reactor 4 building itself did not suffer a meltdown, it did suffer a hydrogen explosion, is now tipping and sinking and has zero ability to withstand another seismic event. It’s from this uncertain rubble that the fuel rods have to be removed from the top level pool and placed into another cooling pool nearby….

The Japan Times explained:

Fukushima operator TEPCO wants to extract 400 tons worth of spent fuel rods stored in a pool at the plant’s damaged Reactor No. 4. The removal would have to be done manually from the top store of the damaged building in the radiation-contaminated environment.

In the worst-case scenario, a mishandled rod may go critical, resulting in an above-ground meltdown releasing radioactive fallout with no way to stop it, but leaving the things as they are is not an option, because statistical risk of a similarly bad outcome increases every day.

To remove the rods, TEPCO has erected a 273-ton mobile crane above the building that will be operated remotely from a separate room.

[...] spent fuel rods will be pulled from the racks they are stored in and inserted one by one into a heavy steel chamber while the assemblies are still under water. Once the chamber is removed from the pool and lowered to the ground, it will be transported to another pool in an undamaged building on the site for storage.

Under normal circumstances, such an operation would take little more than three months, but TEPCO is hoping to complete the complicated task within fiscal 2014.

A chorus of voices has been sounding alarm over the never-been-done-at-this-scale plan to manually remove the 400 tons of spent fuel by TEPCO, who so far has been responsible for mishap after mishap in the ongoing crisis at the crippled nuclear plant.

First of all is the International Atomic Energy Commission who has declared that they are quite concerned and have asked the Japanese government to take over the delicate operation from incapable TEPCO.

Secondly is the US government and the Chinese government that also have declared their concerns from the expected fallout onto their respective countries and populations, from another serious Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Specifically: Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, warned this summer that “They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods,” and said that “To jump to the conclusion that it is going to work just fine is quite a leap of logic.”  Paul Gunter, MD, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project with Takoma Park, Md.-based Beyond Nuclear, also sounded alarm in a statement saying that:  “Given the uncertainties of the condition and vast array of the hundreds of tons of nuclear  fuel assemblies, it will be a risky round of highly radioactive pickup sticks.”  Gundersen offered this analogy of the challenging process of removing the spent fuel rods: ”If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing. […]

I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.”

The Japan Times adds:

Removing the fuel rods is a task usually assisted by computers that know their exact location down to the nearest millimeter. Working virtually blind in a highly radioactive environment, there is a risk the crane could drop or damage one of the rods — an accident that would heap even more misery onto the Tohoku Fukushima prefecture region.

Spent fuel rods must be kept cool at all times. If exposed to air, their zirconium alloy cladding will ignite, the rods will burn and huge quantities of radiation will be emitted. Should the rods touch each other, or should they crumble into a big enough pile, an explosion is possible and quite probable.”

In the worst-case scenario, the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011

The plan is so risky it requires a global take-over, an urging Gunter also shared, stating that the “dangerous task should not be left to TEPCO but quickly involve the oversight and management of independent international experts.”

The bring-down of the fuel rods from Fukushima Unit 4 may be the most dangerous engineering task ever undertaken.  Every indication is that TEPCO is completely incapable of doing it safely, or of reliably informing the global community as to what’s actually happening.  There is no reason to believe the Japanese government could do much better.  This is a job that should only be undertaken by a dedicated team of the world’s very best scientists and engineers, with access to all the funding that could be needed.

The potential radiation releases in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic.  The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs.  If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail.  Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.

As dire as these warning sounds, it is echoed by fallout researcher Christina Consolo, who says that the worst case scenario could be “a true apocalypse.” Gunter’s warning is unusually dire as well.

“Time is of the essence as we remain concerned that another earthquake could still topple the damaged reactor building and the nuclear waste storage pond up in its attic,” he continued. “This could literally re-ignite the nuclear accident in the open atmosphere and inflame it into hemispheric proportions,” said Gunter.

He says that given the gravity of the situation, the eyes of the world should be upon Fukushima:

This is a question that transcends being anti-nuclear.  The fate of the earth is at stake here and the whole world must be watching every move at that site from now on.  With 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the place, as a ceaseless flow of contaminated water poisoning our oceans, our very survival is on the line.

Yours,

Pano

PS:

Since the nuclear catastrophe began in March 2011, the Environmental Parliament has called attention to the ongoing risks of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi high-level radioactive waste storage pools, because when the cooling water supply is lost to the high-level radioactive waste storage pool in Unit 4, it could be just a matter of hours before the irradiated nuclear fuel is on fire,  A fire in the Unit 4 high-level radioactive waste storage pool could release up to eight times more hazardous cesium-137 than the Chernobyl reactor explosion. That in turn would mean the site would have to be evacuated, risking the potential for all seven high-level radioactive waste storage pools at the site to ignite. If that happened, Fukushima Daiichi would release 85 times the levels of cesium released by Chernobyl, creating a vast nuclear fallout cloud, and polluting water, land and air, forcing a complete evacuation of the Fukushima prefecture, and permanent condemnation, of hundreds of thousands of square miles of this beautiful part of Japan that is also the richest and most productive agricultural area of the country…

Japan Times adds a stark warning… ”Fukushima apocalypse: Years of ‘duct tape fixes’ could result in ‘millions of deaths”

Yet we must also remember that a similar danger persists at the 23 identical Nuclear Plants — of the GE Mark I boiling water reactor design — still operating in the US at an advanced age and well past their service lifetime.

And this is eerily the same type of design family that the new Nuclear plant at the Hinckley Point in Somerset, England has been chosen by the Torry government that has now decided to built the two new reactors with taxpayer money.

Apparently the daft band of Merry Men who couldn’t see straight — in the UK Torry led coalition government — have decided that a healthy dose of radiation is good for the people and for their pockets…. and have chosen to go ahead with new nuclear plants west of London.

Or maybe this is  just an undercover smart plot from David and George to solve an entirely different problem.

In that case, methinks it is pure evil genius, because this might be the very best effort to deflate the bubble of the overheated London property market.

Am afraid in that they will succeed beyond their wildest expectations, by turning England into a Chernobyl wasteland.

Good Luck on that and please do tell me;  How it is working our for You.

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