3 Fukushima reactor cores melted into earth during accident, still missing – 4th could explode

As the world approaches the day when the TEPCO-controlled cleanup of more than 1500 fuel rods at the ruined Fukushima Reactor 4 [typo corrected] is started, we learn even more about the disaster that lays in wait for us. (Read our write-up here; it will get you fully oriented.)

Now there’s an excellent new summary from Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers at Truthout which contains these crucial points, one of which is news to me (my emphasis and reparagraphing):

The Problems of Fukushima

Fukushima Reactor 4 after earthquake and tsunami severely damaged it

Fukushima Reactor 4 after earthquake and tsunami severely damaged it

There are three major problems at Fukushima:

(1) Three reactor cores are missing;

(2) Radiated water has been leaking from the plant in mass quantities for 2.5 years; and

(3) Eleven thousand spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps the most dangerous things ever created by humans, are stored at the plant and need to be removed, 1,533 of those are in a very precarious and dangerous position.

Each of these three could result in dramatic radiation events, unlike any radiation exposure humans have ever experienced.  We’ll discuss them in order, saving the most dangerous for last.

The 1533 fuel rods in item (3) are stored in the severely damaged (and perhaps crumbling) Reactor 4 building, sitting high off the ground in racks that have been distorted. The 11,000 (or so) fuel rods mentioned in the same paragraph are the total number of fuel rods at the site.

Your bottom line — None, some, or all could go up. What does “go up” mean? They could burn (spewing nuclear debris). They could explode (spewing lots of nuclear debris). They could go critical (atom-bomb style).

The rest of this summary article is excellent; a great look at where-we-are-now. Please do click through. Each of the points above is expanded and fully explained.

Your solution — Sign the petition here. It has a bunch of big names behind it. Please.

Should TEPCO be allowed to control the cleanup?

I know it’s the neoliberal way that private enterprise should trump government when government wants to regulate. But can the world afford to coddle neoliberal ideology and allow TEPCO to run this?

Should Japan take control of TEPCO? Or better, can Japan be trusted? After all, it’s because of the relationship with the Japanese government that this happened in the first place. Should the world have a veto in what happens here?

Here’s the authors above on TEPCO and the Japanese government:

 TEPCO “is already Japan’s most distrusted firm” and has been exposed as “dangerously incompetent.”  A poll found that 91 percent of the Japanese public wants the government to intervene at Fukushima.

Tepco’s management of the stricken power plant has been described as a comedy of errors. The constant stream of mistakes has been made worse by constant false denials and efforts to minimize major problems. Indeed the entire Fukushima catastrophe could have been avoided:

“Tepco at first blamed the accident on ‘an unforeseen massive tsunami’ triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Then it admitted it had in fact foreseen just such a scenario but hadn’t done anything about it.”

The reality is Fukushima was plagued by human error from the outset.  An official Japanese government investigation concluded that the Fukushima accident was a “man-made” disaster, caused by “collusion” between government and Tepco and bad reactor design. …

[T]he meltdown itself was denied for months, with TEPCO claiming it had not been confirmed.  Japan Times reports that “in December 2011, the government announced that the plant had reached ‘a state of cold shutdown.’ Normally, that means radiation releases are under control and the temperature of its nuclear fuel is consistently below boiling point.”  Unfortunately, the statement was false – the reactors continue to need water to keep them cool, the fuel rods need to be kept cool – there has been no cold shutdown. …

Of course there’s more. Please do read.

What to do …

The authors have identified a widely approved (by international experts) three-point plan to get us (hopefully) through this crisis intact. These points are:

1. End the media blackout on Fukushima, the risks, and the coddling of TEPCO. Have you heard David Gregory dance on about this? Or anyone? Me neither.

2. Recognize TEPCO’s incompetence and coverups.

3. In the words of the authors, “transfer responsibility for the Fukushima reactor site to a worldwide engineering group overseen by a civil society panel and an international group of nuclear experts independent from TEPCO and the International Atomic Energy Administration , IAEA.

Yes, even the UN is complicit with the coddled nuclear industry.

Remember, this TEPCO-controlled “cleanup” starts in November and will last for years. That’s years of exposure to earthquake, tsunami, accident, arrogance and incompetence. The time to interfere is now.

Your solution — Sign the petition here. It has a bunch of big names behind it. Please.

About those three reactor cores

I mentioned above that one item in the list of three problems (above) was new to me — the melted reactor cores. Apparently the three reactor cores from reactors 1, 2, and 3 have melted through the floor and are somewhere deep in the earth.

Here more on that from the same source:

Since the accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, three reactor cores have gone missing.  There was an unprecedented three reactor ‘melt-down.’ These melted cores, called corium lavas, are thought to have passed through the basements of reactor buildings 1, 2 and 3, and to be somewhere in the ground underneath. …

It is an unprecedented situation to not know where these cores are. TEPCO is pouring water where they think the cores are, but they are not sure. There are occasional steam eruptions coming from the grounds of the reactors, so the cores are thought to still be hot. The concern is that the corium lavas will enter or may have already entered the aquifer below the plant. …

Jeez. Do we have to make the largest metropolitan area in the world a nuclear dump site for the world to wake up? What’s the price for coddling private profit?

Your solution — Sign the petition here. It has a bunch of big names behind it. Please.

And thanks!

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • Stephen Anderle

    PS. Stephen Anderle is my real name,; gay public, gaius publius, unhappy publicans, etc.

  • Stephen Anderle

    How does this blog claim that America needs the truth, when it is printing so many self delusional lies? Whose ‘made up’ ‘truths’ are they wanting?

  • FJ

    sorry about the extra sentence in there I was having problems with my OS

  • FJ

    The Japanese build the best cars in the world and some of the best electronics,their culture is quite disciplineme and stock up on the valiumwork ethic,compare this to the stoned auto workers union in Detroit that the government bailed out then think about the number of nuclear reactors we have in this country! Common sense is going to tell you that it’s only a matter of time,we can’t even graduate pharmacists from our colleges. I really hope I’m wrong but contemplate the big picture and stock up on the valium!! I’ve known that nuclear power was and idiocy from the beginning,to paraphrase Albert Einstein”nuclear fission is a whacked out way to boil water”

  • tom

    I agree..neoliberal?? what a sad, pathetic, lonely old fart.
    more like neo foxnews.
    tom.

  • tom

    don’t forget the nra..they say everything is peachy too !! Such pathetic losers….
    they should be strung up from every tall tree and lamp-pole.

  • tom

    neoliberal? what a stupid joke.
    ease up on the fox news..you’ll live longer.
    More like neoTp’ers.

  • Stephen Anderle

    Nothing that has been tested for has shown the cores outside of the reactor vessels. All the readings and videos show the vessels still in one piece and not melted through. anything that left did so by being dissolved by seawater and leaked out through cracked water pipes.

  • Stephen Anderle

    No not really. For some strange reason everyone is ass–ASSuming that if the used fuel did start to burn then ALL of it would burn , but that is not so. as the fuel melted it would either spread out and cool ,stop burning, or itwould run together into a pile which also would slowly cool off and would expose far less surface area to the air. So. There is not the slightest realistic way at all for anyone to claim that more than at most 2% of the fuel (Might) end up in the atmosphere. This would spread out very thin very quickly.

  • Dar Brooks Helwig
  • j verne

    what happens when three cores melt their way through the crust?

  • tomcat1984

    In the spent fuel pool for reactor 4 is also a complete load(550 if I remember correctly) of new fuel rods for that reactor. This would be where the main danger comes from, if a used rod being removed was to break apart and fall into the new fuel racks, this could start an uncontrolled fission reaction that the pool couldn’t control thus leading to the evaporation of the water faster than it can be replenished. This would lead to a fire and explosion and most of Japan becoming uninhabitable not to mention the northern hemisphere not long after.

  • Dick Weed

    The Bombings were not necessary. Except for the Bankers ready to set up the cold war.

  • ComradeRutherford

    4th could explode!

    Oh boy!

  • Gindy51
  • BottomfedBuddha

    It would have to be in conjunction with pumping wells sending water back to a legitimate water treatment plant.

    They’re actually already construction an impermeable ice wall… so the problem of containing the water will actually be even worse than with a semi-permeable design that would allow some flow and filtration.

  • 220VOLTS

    The lust for nuclear profits is certainly is not confined to Japan. A quick view of Diablo Canyon in California is quite instructive. This nuke plant, built on an almost inaccessible shore point was constructed right on the intersections of several fault lines off the Pacific coast.
    In fact, during construction, it was found that someone had inadvertently reversed the blueprints, and they were building a mirror image of the other half of the facility.
    But, as they say, “Everything is Eventual.”

  • Joe

    Please sign the petition, there is little we can do apart from raise awareness, the pacific has been greatly contaminated and it is affecting a lot of life in there, the saddest thing is that we only sit and watch, one of those rods have the potential to wipe out earth, radiation has already spread to america and canada, this urgently needs the worlds attention

    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/the-world-community-must?source=s.tw&r_by=9386336

  • rossd

    Surely if you created an semi-impermeable slurry to slow the flow of radioactive water then it would rise up and engulf the entire plant? Isn’t a huge part of any remedial work related to the high radioactivity still in and around the plant which restricts the time workers can spend there and even disrupts the use of robots? The lack of transparency by TEPCO and the Japanese Government seems to be conveniently ignored by the mainstream media and government bodies. As usual we won’t get the full picture until years after or until the situation becomes so critical that Tokyo will have to be evacuated!

  • joecooling

    Who’s stupid idea was this shit.

  • Kim b

    Fukushima plant DESIGN

    TOWERS………….3………..1
    REACTORS …..4321……..65

    Read right to left
    11/10/13

    Guess what date has been announced for the unit #4 work?
    November 10, 13

    Every bit of it is planned and coded.

  • Richard Wolfe

    The explosion was caused by hydrogen gas, which can be created when hot nuclear fuel contacts water in an uncontrolled manner. Nuclear reactors can’t blow up like as the result of a chain reaction like an atom bomb because the enrichment of the fuel is FAR below weapons grade. The conditions for an atomic explosion are actually very specific and difficult to create. The real danger at Fukushima is that the fuel bundles will be exposed to air and start to burn. You could still have pockets of hydrogen gas that could blow things apart, but the concern here is a nuclear fire that just releases radioactive particles into the air. It’s like burning toast, one piece of bread smells up the whole house. In this case, it isn’t bread but uranium and some plutonium and it’s the whole world that it could “stink up”. So, no mushroom cloud, but we could have worse.

  • ComradeRutherford

    And let’s not forget that the spent fuel pool above #4 is relatively empty.

    The one at Vermont Yankee, the exact same reactor design as Fukushima #1, is almost completely full! 932 metric tons of ‘spent’ fuel is stashed in that one pool, 7 stories up in the air, directly over top of the reactor. For almost all of it’s over 40 year life, the spent fuel has been placed in that pool. Only in 2008 has some of it started being moved into dry cask storage – on the banks of the Connecticut River.

    America has many such situations, each one a massive man-made disaster, and no one wants to do anything about it because that would be ‘Liberal’ regulation and it would interfere with the profits of the companies that own these plants.

    Entergy has announced that the will close Vermont Yankee and their desired plan is to simply shut the doors and walk away from it. The NRC says they can ignore it for up to 60 years before they have to start ‘decommissioning’ the plant. And I’ll bet that the NRC will keep pushing that date out as the nuclear plant owners complain about the impact on profits that will cause.

  • ComradeRutherford

    But nuclear power is Safe, and Clean, and perfect in every way!!! The NRC says so, it must be true!

  • GaiusPublius

    Typo. Thanks, Max. Corrected. (Note to all: I find these corrections really helpful. Thanks to anyone who finds them.)

    GP

  • Civilex

    Amen. Few people remember what actually happened back in WWII. There was a war going on and Japan was the aggressor at that point in time. (Pearl Harbor.) Unlike what some will have you believe, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were strategically chosen for their role in the Japanese military as crossroads and manufacturing cities. The US did spread flyers with information regarding the bomb, to warn the public ahead of time. Given the situation, it was arguably appropriate force.

    This is as you say something quite different. Neglected maintenance combined with an extraordinary natural disaster.

  • Max_1

    Gaius,

    “As the world approaches the day when the TEPCO-controlled cleanup of more than 1500 fuel rods at the ruined Fukushima Reactor 5 is started…”

    From my understanding, it is Reactor 4… Nov. 10. It will take aprox. 13 months.

    http://fukushima-diary.com/2013/10/fuel-removal-of-reactor4-will-continue-until-december-2014/

  • Nathanael

    Thank goodness that one’s being shut down and decommissioned. I believe the battle to shut down Vermont Yankee was finally won as well. Unfortunately, equally dangerous GE Mark Is still exist in upstate NY and elsewhwere.

  • Nathanael

    Thankfully, no aquifer under Japan connects to anywhere other than Japan. Hate to say it, but this could have been worse if it had been one of the US Mark Is which blew up. As it is, Japan will probably have to be evacuated.

  • Nathanael

    GE Mark Is had essentially nothing for containment under the cores. The cores are in the soil.

    The GE Mark I was a dreadful design. Every one of them is a time bomb.

  • Nathanael

    Japan is a very conformist culture. Despite this, there are some really serious protests going on about the disastrous mismanagement of the Fukushima disaster. The problem is that there is no organized political entity to amplify those protests.

  • Nathanael

    The problem is, a “dirty bomb” where radioactive fallout is spewed all over is actually *worse* than a Hiroshima-type explosion. *The fallout is the problem* with nuclear weapons, not the explosion.

    And there’s more potential fallout from Fukushima than from Hiroshima.

  • Nathanael

    The death toll from this will be higher than from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Easily. It’ll just take a while for Japan to realize that it has to abandon the entire island chain.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Tried it. It just made me sweat a lot.

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    I plan to go out dancing – and (non-Russian) Vodka and Red Bull is the perfect dancing fuel.

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    Yes. They’ve been protesting the presence of, and the behavior of the staff at Okinawa and other U.S. bases for quite some time. We just don’t know that because our media is into 2-minute stories about inconsequential shit that happens in this country (and mostly in the entertainment industry at that). Most Americans don’t watch networks like PBS, BBC, CBC or Al Jezeera America who do actually report things going on in other countries. “2 boring zzz”, and it might actually cause them to think, and make them question Americans’ jingoism.

  • Jay

    If an explosion is impossible from a spent fuel pool, then why did reactor 4 blow up Steve?

  • Greg

    The bombings to end WW2 were justified, I am sorry to say! The bombings of the two Japanese cities and the spilled reactor cores are two different stories that have nothing to do with one another! Japan was just very fortunate that larger cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama were not targeted, these cities were spared destruction to give Japanese leadership a chance to surrender.

    In this new problem all I can say is that either Japan gets its house in order or surrender the problem toan outside source such as the IAEA. The place is a ticking time bomb, were missing 3 coriums, 500 pounds of plutonium and if these reactors are not contained soon this may turn out to be a disaster for the country. God help us all!

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Any decently written wiki article should have in-line sources for statements of fact. So you can pretty easily check the validity, if you are so inclined. If there are no references, then probably not worth trusting.

  • lilyannerose

    It was cheaper to build it there, it maximized profits.

  • lilyannerose

    Who trusts Wiki with their loose rules on altering information?

  • Whitewitch

    There is that my friend….until then we will just wait for the nice advancing glow off the Pacific.

  • Whitewitch

    You know there is that Karmanot…didn’t think of the bright side.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    That Sarah Palin can see Fukushima from her house.

  • RepubAnon

    In order to get an atomic bomb-type explosion, you need to both reach supercriticality and keep the supercritical mass together long enough for that level of explosion to occur. So – an atomic bomb-type experiencem from improperly-stored fuel rods alone is indeed impossible. (Which is why the other three cores didn’t do an atomic-bomb level blast.) The BBC published a helpful picture: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/sci_nat/05/nuclear_fuel/html/uraniumbomb.stm

    What could happen would be a “criticality accident“(Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticality_accident), another meltdown, or some other really terrible scattering of highly radioactive materials into the environment.

    Awful? Yes. Likely to cause many deaths over time? Quite likely. Hiroshima-type explosion? No.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Is doing

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Have to go JD myself.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    rotfl

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Obozo vacations in Martha’s Vineyard. Not to worry. However, the Romney’s may find some radioactive junk in their pool after the next winter storm.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    When a million tons of nuclear trash washes up near Malibu Barbara Streisand and friends will sound the alarm.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Welcome to The CA Diablo reactor built over a fault line.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Wouldn’t bite you. Rabies shots are painful.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “The Japanese as a nation are not into protest or demanding answers.” That’s somewhat of a misstatement Lynchie. The Japanese are very much into protests.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    They are, while culturally reserved about it, very few in Japan ignore the genocidal war crime of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    And there’s always a chance of a phosphorescent Tokyo Olympics.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It’s so comforting that a drive-by with no profile is so concerned about the credibility of this blog.

  • BillFromDover

    You’re being redundant, again, Dave.

  • BillFromDover

    “dispersal of the fuel assemblies, inclusion of a neutron absorber in the storage racks.”

    What storage racks? Please be precise in your answer..

  • BottomfedBuddha

    Monitoring will be the easy part :)

  • Whitewitch

    Don’t despair Just_AC, it is the way it is and sadly we live in a time when we have so much information I think it is overwhelming and difficult for most to sort out what is important and what is not. So many people now are busy watching Cruz laud over the Senate….these are interesting times my friend.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Meaning? Words have no meaning for drive-by trolls. :)

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    National Regulatory Commission rules for spent fuel rods is five years in the cooling pool, but say it is possible to transfer them to dry cask storage in as little as one, but the current regulations are minimum of three years, and only under certain circumstances. So theoretically, I guess many of the old rods could be put into storage from Fukushima, but something tells me that if they had the capacity to do that, they would have already tried to do it. But that still ignores the fact that there is a lot more going on than simply the spent fuel rods, and even the spent rods are quite capable of releasing a large cloud of radioactive steam, or leaking radioactive material into the ground water or ocean. I have a sinking feeling that the long term solution for Fukushima is going to be a Chernobyl-style sarcophagus over the whole site, along with in-ground containment walls, which is going to cost billions to construct and trillions to monitor and maintain into the foreseeable future.

  • lynchie

    Ok, I will.

  • lynchie

    They are in a media blackout same as we are. The Japanese as a nation are not into protest or demanding answers. Of course we have the IOC picking Tokyo for the Olympics so everything must be under control. Right! The IOC wouldn’t chose Japan if there was a problem. Right!

  • UFIA

    Who are you talking to?
    You aren’t calling GP a neoliberal, are you?
    In its 1930s meaning or its 80s to current meaning?

    I think you just bit yourself.

  • Bill_Perdue

    This is the third nuclear disaster for the Japanese. And far from the worst.

    The first two were deliberate mass murders of civilians by the worlds worst terrorist state. The death toll was roughly half a million if you count later deaths due to radiation poisoning.

    Fukushima won’t create anywhere near the death toll of the bombings, but it promises to blight the future of Japan and if the melted cores reach an aquifer or open ocean the possibilities for pan-Pacific nuclear pollution are real.

    Irreparable ecological disasters like this, the BP disaster in the Gulf and runaway climate change will make the current human population figures unsustainable sooner rather than later.

  • BottomfedBuddha

    A few questions:

    “From wiki: “the chances of criticality in a spent fuel pool are very small, usually avoided by the dispersal of the fuel assemblies, inclusion of a neutron absorber in the storage racks and overall by the fact that the spent fuel has a too low enrichment level to self-sustain a fission reaction. They also state that if the water covering the spent fuel evaporates, there is no element to enable a chain reaction by moderating neutrons.[8][9][10]”

    If it were possible for the spent fuel to be in dry cask storage, why wasn’t it already?

    Why do you say it is ‘physically impossible’ and then quote an article which says ” chances of criticality are very small,” and then goes on to detail how those chances are very small… almost none of which apply to Fukushima? Particularly since active fuel rods are also in the assembly?

    Why didn’t you include the next part of the quoted article?

    “According to Dr. Kevin Crowley of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, “successful terrorist attacks on spent fuel pools, though difficult, are possible. If an attack leads to a propagating zirconium cladding fire, it could result in the release of large amounts of radioactive material.”[11]”

    You are aware that Pool 4 contains both active and spent fuel, correct? As such, the assumptions of spent fuel not generating enough heat to melt the cladding are completely wrong.

    “Spent fuel cools off with rapid exponential decay of radioactivity. In fact, after a year in a cooling-pool it is possible to transfer to DRY cask storage (i.e. no circulating water at all). So, it is cool enough that there is no extreme danger. How on earth is it possible for spent fuel that has been cooling since at least since March 2011 to be so hot that it presents a grave danger of melting / fire etc.? Simple logic says what is presented here is BS.”

    From your own quoted article…

    “he maximum temperature of the spent fuel bundles decreases significantly between 2 and 4 years, and less from 4 to 6 years. The fuel pool water is continuously cooled to remove the heat produced by the spent fuel assemblies. Pumps circulate water from the spent fuel pool to heat exchangers, then back to the spent fuel pool. The water temperature in normal operating conditions is held below 50°C (120°F)”

    Where are you getting thsi 1 year number?

    And why don’t you realize that these are active rods, as well as spent ones?

    I find it amusing that the writers would say “Well if there’ sno water, there will be no element to enable a chain reaction.”

    If there’s no water, the fuel heats up, the zirconium cladding fails, the melted fuel will then fission whatever water is left at the bottom of the pool, resulting in a hydrogen explosion fueled by the fissioned oxygen (exactly what happened to the other reactor buildings.)

    If there truly is no water, then the zirconium and fuel rod mess will begin melting through the floor, until it finally does reach water, and then we’re right where we started.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    “Eleven thousand spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps the most dangerous things ever created by humans…”

    Actually, hydrogen bombs would be the most dangerous things.

  • BottomfedBuddha

    Trust me, I’m trying those channels as well!

  • Number Six

    Heck, I can’t even handle fractual reality!

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    Sorry, I do not have the background in nuclear science to know if your plan is workable or not. I suspect that most of the people here would have the same reaction as I did – “It sounds like this guy knows what he’s talking about, but have no way of confirming that he does”.

    I think you need to take your proposed solution to a different audience. It may be sheer genius – but people like than myself, and the typical Americablog reader, have no way of knowing that for sure.

    I think you need to lobby scientists and government officials, not us.

  • Just_AC

    I have talked to over 200 people about this since I found out about it a month or so ago, and only ONE knew anything about it, and that’s cuz he is now in china, a few miles away from Fukushima.
    Blackout or disinterest? I think a little of both. Most Americans don’t know that India had to evacuate a million people a few weeks ago and it went off smoothly. I shake my head and despair

  • Dave of the Jungle

    The aforementioned engineer has passed away and I can’t ask him but it is widely known that some contingencies were considered by the design team so improbable that they could safely be ignored. There was a fad called “reliability engineering” where designers pretended to be able to precisely quantify such estimates and these methods have more recently been discredited. Now they know that they must assume everything possible will occur – not back in the 60s and 70s, unfortunately.

  • Steve

    “Your bottom line — None, some, or all could go up. What does “go up” mean? They could burn (spewing nuclear debris). They could explode (spewing lots of nuclear debris). They could go critical (atom-bomb style).”

    It is physically impossible to go up like a bomb or to go critical since the enrichment level is so low. It is impossible to explode because there is nothing in there to provide the motive force for it to do so (i.e. not under high pressure, no explosive chemical potential).

    From wiki: “the chances of criticality in a spent fuel pool are very small, usually avoided by the dispersal of the fuel assemblies, inclusion of a neutron absorber in the storage racks and overall by the fact that the spent fuel has a too low enrichment level to self-sustain a fission reaction. They also state that if the water covering the spent fuel evaporates, there is no element to enable a chain reaction by moderating neutrons.[8][9][10]”

    Spent fuel cools off with rapid exponential decay of radioactivity. In fact, after a year in a cooling-pool it is possible to transfer to DRY cask storage (i.e. no circulating water at all). So, it is cool enough that there is no extreme danger. How on earth is it possible for spent fuel that has been cooling since at least since March 2011 to be so hot that it presents a grave danger of melting / fire etc.? Simple logic says what is presented here is BS.

    I am afraid you have been taken in by fear-mongering, unscientific nonsense which does very little for the credibility of this blog. Certain well-known anti-nuke myth-makers have been predicting apocalyptic doom that stubbornly refuses to materialize. Why is that? Could it because this is pseudoscientific hyped nonsense to begin with?

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    My father once had a job as a welding and sheet metal worker subcontractor at Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg nuke plant. To hear him tell it, the place was an ongoing clusterf*ck. To do anything took reams of paperwork, but most of the time the decisions made had no sense at all and seemed intended mainly to spend as much money as possible.

    For instance, his crew would be directed to install some ductwork. Then a week later, they’d be told to tear it all out because the electricians needed to install conduits. Then those would have to be pulled because nobody considered there was plumbing nearby. Then it’d be a week of thumb-twiddling as some senior team decided whether or not to put the ductwork back.

    When Three Mile Island melted down, all he said was, “Not surprised.”

    You’re right though, the decision to gamble on whether there’d be a tsunami or not was criminally negligent. And I suspect profit margins are at the center of why that boneheaded decision was made.

  • Jimmy

    Quite honestly, I don’t know how the people of Japan cannot be scared sh!tless about this, let alone the rest of the world.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    It’s a term they use when they can’t handle factual reality.

  • Anthony

    From what I’ve heard and read, nobody knows where the corium(s) rest; We really don’t know if, like Elvis, the cores have “Left the building”, that is, are cores still within final, thick concrete containment level? This article states that we know for certain that cores are in the soil and/or water below.
    Certainly it’s bad news any way you view it, but until we know, don’t sensationalize as in this article.
    The truly sad part of Fukushima is that the area had historic tsunami which were much, much larger, where seawater flowed into the interior valleys of the region, and that there are still carved stone markers in the coastal hills warning to “not settle below this marker”; really sad these were ignored.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    I have a sister-in-law who is married to the son of one of the G.E. engineers who worked on the plant. They’re all silent about this incident.

    Such plants can survive earthquakes but they can’t function without electrical power. Whoever thought that back-up generators didn’t need to be isolated from a possible tsunami – in the land that coined the word tsunami – made an epochal blunder of the highest order.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Please identify what you see as ‘neoliberal rhetoric.’ Otherwise you’re what you’re saying makes no sense whatsoever and isn’t even in the same ballpark as helpful critique.

    And you’re obviously new here, and likely haven’t read a fraction of the stuff Gaius posts.

  • Monoceros Forth

    What the hell does that even mean?

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    That occurred to me, too. I still can’t quite wrap my brain around how anybody thought it was a good idea to build a nuclear power plant on an ocean shore, right next to major tectonic fault lines.

  • Angst in Berwyn

    But you’re a known neurotoxin…

  • Grand1

    You can take your neoliberal rhetoric out of a serious story if you want to be taken seriously. Otherwise, bite me.

  • cole3244

    the sh-t has been hitting the fan for decades but soon people everywhere will wake up but its already too late, mother earth is already planning her revenge on the one species she can do without.

  • Drew2u

    Make a video or infogram (infochart?) that demonstrates the scale of the problem, visually, and get people to tweet/youtube/facebook the shit out of it. Make it a top-trending concern, use those @tags to any and all news programs.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    If one of those cores hits a contiguous aquifer, it may well become the catastrophe of the century.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    We needed a global response to Fukushima. Failing that, at least involvement at the highest level of the Japanese government.

    Instead, it’s been left almost entirely in the hands of the private corporation responsible for continuing operation of a nuclear power plant that was supposed to have been decommissioned years ago.

    I don’t sign internet petitions. They accomplish nothing. I will do as I always do: Write and call directly those powers-that-be whom I can reach. My Congressional Representative. My Senators. And my President.

    Unfortunately, this catastrophe remains unreal and probably unknown to the majority of Americans who have no clue this is ongoing.

  • LanceThruster

    Move along. Nothing to see here.

    [sigh]

  • Dave of the Jungle

    Corium Lavas – coming soon to an aquifer near you.

  • BottomfedBuddha

    If anyone here would care to lend some support, I could use it…

    http://otb.newsvine.com/_news/2013/10/26/21175558-this-is-how-we-fix-fukushima

    Everyone seems so focused throwing out red herrings that to have a real discussion about remedial alternatives becomes impossible.

    Or if you just want to go there and throw more stones at me, that works too :)

  • BottomfedBuddha

    Signing a petition is not a solution. The IAEA seems to be just as confused about the proper way to move forward as anyone.

    This is not longer an Atomic Agency problem… it’s an Environmental Agency problem.

    As a remediation engineer, here’s my proposed solution. To start, we need to mitigate the risks from the source! THEN we can begin mitigating the impacts. This seems to be a fundamental difference between my plan and any others I’ve read. Even Gundie’s 15 point plan doesn’t really address HOW to actually start cleaning up.

    Who can improve it?

    They should also be speciating exactly the types of radionuclides in these waters. A respectable lab should be able to tell us exactly what’s in this water in a matter of days. It’s time to stop the denials, accept the problem for the colossal one that it is, and begin a comprehensive understanding that may lead to comprehensive solutions.

    The first thing that needs to happen is a shielding of the reactors. The most devastating event that could happen is another atmospheric ejection of nuclear material. From my end, the most immediate danger appears to be from the (very much not spent) Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4. If cooling were lost or interaction between those rods was to be allowed, we would see a devastating result including ejection of much of that material into the atmosphere to be spread worldwide. A competent cover that could mitigate the risk of such an explosion is required.

    I propose a zeolite and borax sand matrix packed into he reactor buildings. Interlaced in the sand would be a steam venting system, with requisite scrubbers, as well as a cooling piping system to continue to provide augmented water to the nuclear fuel. All current pumping systems should and would remain in place during the “Packing.” Soils would have to be built up around the exterior of the buildings to maintain equilibrium of pressure on the walls to prevent collapse.

    Once the venting, cooling, and radiation sorption barrier is in place, we cap the site over with the surrounding landscape. Sufficient soil cover will provide a radiation barrier, suppress any potential fission induced explosions due to loss of cooling or mishandling of fuel (thereby eliminating the route of exposure to the atmosphere), provide earthquake protection, provide typhoon protection, provide tsunami protection, and create a workable environment for further remediation efforts. Corium and fuel rod material will ultimately be able to be extracted by drilling through the soil cap in a relatively safe manner, by containerizing the drill cuttings without any outside interaction.

    For the groundwater itself, this ice wall is a ridiculously complicated idea that has very little upside versus more conventional, non-powered, and less experimental methods. Using large diameter bore rigs, a subterranean groundwater curtain down to necessary depth should be drilled and injected with impermeable slurry. Downstream of the plant, I propose a zeolite semi-permeable slurry to slow the water flow from the plant and into the ocean and scrub it as much as passively possible. The surface of the interior of the wall should be capped where ever possible with clays and impermeable soils, and that surface should be provided with positive drainage that exits outside of the slurry wall.

    While all of this is happening, a permanent 2 million gallon per day full scale industrial water treatment plant should be being constructed uphill. Are they already building this? It would strike me as incredibly odd if they weren’t already building this. The hastily assembled french job thrown together in the months after the accident isn’t still the only method of treatment on site is it?

    A series of tightly knit pumping wells will also need to be installed within the slurry walls, and that water will go to the water treatment plant. The tanks should be getting pumped towards the permanent water treatment plant. Injection wells could be placed on the outside of the slurry wall containment area to create a pillow that slows the movement of water through the site.

  • fletcher

    Looks like we’re going to have to rename it The Japan Syndrome.

  • lynchie

    join the Single Malt Society and try one of their bottles.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    The first action item is “End the media blackout.” Is there an actual media blackout? There’s less independence in the media than there should be but more than some people want to admit. Somebody’s writing about this stuff. If it’s not in the major papers, why not? WIthout knowing these answers there’s no way to know how to work to end whatever “blackout” exists.

  • http://www.friv2friv4.com/ friv 2

    As for the petition – I don’t think it will do anything to affect the outcome. I think we have to hope for the best, expect the worse and deal with the consequences of silly humans thinking they could rule Nuclear Energy – just like we rule everything else

  • emjayay

    It’s in Japan. The response has to be seen in the context of Japanese culture from a Japanese viewpoint. Which I’m in no way capable of doing, but someone must be.

  • Monoceros Forth

    I don’t go in for tinfoil, but I will treat myself to a little 12-year-old The Macallan. 18-year-old The Macallan is better, as I found out for myself, but I’ll follow Neil Peart’s example and be satisfied with newer and cheaper.

  • Monoceros Forth

    I remember how in the wake of Chernobyl there was a lot of snark aimed at the corruption and incompetence of the USSR’s nuclear power program: using an outdated and risky design for their reactors, deluding themselves in the hours immediately following the accident into thinking that really it wasn’t so bad, trying to hide the extent of the disaster from its own citizens and the whole world for as long as possible. Good thing Fukushima happened in a modern, capitalist nation, eh?

  • Whitewitch

    Whiskey please….Bushmills if possible…as for the hat…I think I will stick with just a nice unbrella!

  • Whitewitch

    Thank you for the great article – I truly appreciate them…I just have given up hope that anyone beside us cares! Not even the President – who should care – especially when California is affected and it will be affected – guaranteed!

  • GaiusPublius

    Thanks, Whitewitch. I think if the scale of airborne radioactivity from the max potential disaster were painted for the American TV viewer, s/he’d get it. A judgement call, I know, but that’s my thinking. And I do think it’s a choice not to present that looming disaster to viewers.

    After all, even just considering the knee-jerk reactions of viewers, when David Gregory says, “Be very afraid,” people tend to follow along. Thanks for the comment; I appreciate it.

    GP

  • Whitewitch

    Please use the appropriate word…Collateral Damage – might as well use the term which indicates we are simply in the way…so much waste – sad really.

    I truly love your prepping plan…although I will sub out some nice Whiskey for the Scotch…

  • lynchie

    Wear a tinfoil hat and drink scotch. You are right the only way this gets coverage is if one of Kardashian whores was to make a sex flick at the reactor site.

  • Whitewitch

    Normally I really like your articles and points Gaius, however on this one you are missing one important factor – I am not sure that the “media blackout” is just Japan’s doing. Do you actually think people here care about what is going on in Japan. Based on our “head in the sand” approach to climate change, fossil fuel use and the drone bombing of people outside our country do you think they actually care.

    Let me answer for you – Nope – not one wit. Much of the “media blackout” is our news agencies’ disinterest in the problem in Japan, as well as the fact that Japan is of little or no importance to the American Politicians…this is just one huge problem that by their thinking, if they ignore it is will go away. Additionally, what can America really do about it? We can’t even get along enough to figure out our own problems – let alone build a website to provide access to health care. This is a pretty HUGE issue – one that has been going on for 2.5 years WITH no interest whatsoever by the American people (well most of the American people – as I have been following it the best since I live on the coast of California and there will surely be fallout for us here – if/when this meltdown occurs). Do you think we are going to do anything at all, if we have not done something in TWO Years??? Really.

    As for the petition – I don’t think it will do anything to affect the outcome. I think we have to hope for the best, expect the worse and deal with the consequences of silly humans thinking they could rule Nuclear Energy – just like we rule everything else.

    Beside – isn’t God going to take care of all of this

  • Monoceros Forth

    Hell, the timeline for the decommissioning of the old Windscale reactor that caught fire in 1957 isn’t officially scheduled to be completed for another quarter-century at the earliest.

  • jomicur

    Once this gets a good enough public airing, I’m sure we’ll get another speech from Obama telling us how safe nuclear energy is and that we need to build more nuclear power plants. There is, I tell you, no hope for our species. And I’m not at all sure we deserve it.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    Fortunately, there’s only THREE of them.

  • quax

    The missing cores are really bad news.

  • disqus_tu7SEHpgGp

    Thanks for the organized points. Reminds me of the BP “spill” several years ago where we “let” BP do the reporting and clean-up, and now we find out about criminal behavior (burning evidence) etc. and so on. and, to be harassed by all those “ads” (propaganda) about how great their “clean-up” is working.

    Will TEPCO do the same?

  • milli2

    Don’t you know that a malfunctioning website is so much more important than nuclear meltdown??? Don’t you know???????

  • Nihilist

    i hope it gets worse. i am looking forward to watching 7 billion humans, and countless creature die a horrible death. i have seen the enemy, and it is us.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    This story will be reasserting itself for decades.

  • lynchie

    It is all about profit not about human life. Business is profiteering and you and I are just so much detrius and we mostly get in the way of maximizing the almighty dollar. We, in the U.S., are so consumed with the TP and the latest ravings of Palin/Bachmann/Cruz we have no time to cover this disaster. Maybe the Preppers are a lot smarter than the rest of us. I am stocking up on Scotch, kraft dinner and brownie mix. I may light up like a street light at night but I am going to go out happy.

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