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Friday, March 18, 2011

Not much news from Fukushima

There's not a whole lot of news out of the Japanese nuclear disaster zone today. New efforts are being made to bring the situation under control, but they're far from a sure thing. Today the Japanese admitted that the Fukushima meltdowns merit at least a 5 on the international scale of nuclear accident severity. That's what Three Mile Island was, whereas Chernobyl was a 7.

The Fukushima accident has already emitted far more radioactivity than Three Mile Island did, and there is much more to come.

One of the biggest problems at the moment is an apparent leak of water out of the spent fuel storage pool next to reactor no. 4. If the spent fuel rods catch fire, which some experts think is possible, that could be a Chernobyl-level fire, maybe worse -- although there might not be as big an explosion as in Ukraine, which might keep some of the cloud out of the upper atmosphere.

One other revelation of the last day or so is that in addition to the spent fuel pool in each reactor, there is a large common fuel pool behind reactor no. 4, from which waste is moved from most or all of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. More than half the spent fuel at Daiichi is in that common pool. There are more than 11,000 spent fuel assemblies at the site -- nearly 1500 in the stricken pool inside reactor no. 4. A typical assembly holds between 64 and 81 waste fuel rods, each assembly weighing around 380 pounds. The radioactivity in the spent fuel is intense -- enough to kill a human being at close range in minutes.

UPDATE, 4:54 p.m.: BTW, the first of the plumes has reached America. Sacramento wins the prize.

Comments (18)

This is day, what, 8? It's pretty absurd that there are still revelations about what exactly is at this plant. The company that runs the plant has done a shockingly poor job of keeping people informed about what is going on.

And Japan is a highly modernized country.

I shudder to think how these plants are being handled in 3rd world countries...

Earlier today I read in the LA Times on line that the Tepco folks at Fukushima had "temporarily" stored active fuel rods in the spent fuel pool which has no containment vessel, in reactor number 4 in November 2010. Well now that article is gone, but I found the reference again in Bloomberg on line as follows, "fuel in #4 reactor vessel was transferred to the spent fuel pool when the reactor was temporarily shut down for maintenance in November of 2010".
Please...somebody tell me that these clowns at TEPCO did not put live nuke fuel into a cooling pool with no containment vessel.
IF that is the case...how do we stop these people?
I feel sick and I don't think it is from radiation.

The design of these reactors is that the spent fuel is not within the primary containment structure. It is in the secondary containment structure, on an upper floor. For the reactors whose roofs have blown off, that means that the pools are now exposed to the sky above. Apparently, the helicopter crews passing over could look down and see into at least one of the pools, and they were encouraged to see the reflection of at least some water. But apparently they can't get too close because the radiation is too intense.

The larger common pool behind reactor no. 4 is probably not in any serious containment structure, either, although the rods in there are less thermally hot, and at least slightly less radioactive, than freshly withdrawn ones.

There are also reportedly a few hundred Fukushima assemblies in "dry cask" storage, which is what PGE says it now has for all of the decades of spent fuel stored at the old Trojan site, on the banks of the Columbia River in Rainier.

When it comes to these radioactive materials, those who know aren't saying much because it is so bad, and those who do speak don't know what they're talking about. Bureaucrats such as the Surgeon General and our own Gail Shibley know nothing and should be dismissed as such.

The sad score:
-10,000+ deaths from the earthquake and Tsunami.
-Zero from radiation.

-Probably more deaths from the earthquake and tsunami will be tallied. Possibility of cholera has been mentioned.
-Quite possibly some nuclear workers will have health effects but few if any civilians appear to have been exposed to significant radiation.

The worry about radiation seems out of proportion.

If the radiation stopped right now, that might be the outcome.

But it won't.

Moreover, unlike drowning or traumatic injury from falling earthquake debris, cancers caused by exposure to ionizing radiation may take years to surface. Ask the residents of the thyroid cancer zones downwind of Hanford, or downwind of nuclear testing in St. George, Utah, or downwind of uranium mining in Junction City, Colorado.

And there will always be people like you, Don, to tell the dead people's families that they really can't prove what killed their loved ones.

It's kind of crazy that they never bothered to bring in new generators while they waited for the land line to be run. Is there any explanation for why they never brought in backup power of any kind?

I think the roads were bad, for one thing.

Not that I want anyone to test it, but there's a study saying a certain number of chest x rays (with more radiation than Sacramento stands to get from the current nuclear reactor plant event) actually reduces chances of getting breast cancer for women.

And for guys a certain amount of radiation causes a temporary period of sterility. I am not suggesting you guys take advantage of such windows of opportunity. But do have a nice weekend in any event.

I see in the O today that the current level of released radiation will be at most 1/4 of a CAT scan by the time it gets here

The generators used at these plants are massive. Nobody has one sitting around in stock. Even a large truck mount is insufficient

NPR report this afternoon indicates that they have hooked up the power line to #5 and #6, working across towards #4 (it's the most troublesome due to the radiation)

We don't need to be worrying about radiation here until the rods start to burn

Here's how the meeting went:
"Okay, the board wants to hear some ideas. Fenstock you go first."

"Thank you, sir. Look, this is going to be a controversial topic because of the spent fuel and what happened at Chernobyl. Let's do our utmost to make these plants safe. I mean design them to the Nth degree and be the first voice the public hears when we find a leak or do anything wrong. Then if we can't fix something or if it even looks a little bad we shut down a facility no matter how much it costs. We have to win the battle of public opinion by being a noble steward of the public trust - let's be the best run industry in the world even if it hurts us with our bottom line. Thank you, sir."

"First, before I go on, somebody get Fenstock out of here before I throw up. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to milk this for every dollar we can. We're going to lie and cut corners, and if something goes wrong we'll use our political connections to get us past it, and get what we want anyway. If it's a big enough disaster we'll stick it on the taxpayers. Meantime, if you can't get a license extension because a reactor is no longer safe, try and dump these old plants by spinning them into a new corporation and, then just walk away from the clean-up costs. It's not going to be easy but try it at least.

The key is that we'll simply buy our way through with the politicians rather than spend the money to fix any problems ourselves. It'll be a lot less expensive.

And as for the public opinion, there will always be a significant percentage of the population who'll buy into this because they buy all our B.S. Why do you think Rush makes a zillion a year? This group needs to be lied to - it makes them seem like they're on the Big Business Team - they need that feeling even though the poor fools are getting played like 5-dollar crack whores. Then they go out and do free PR for us. It's perfect.

Sure, there will be studies saying we're destroying the environment and creating dead zones. We'll just fund our own studies and hire our own scientists. We'll use grant money and all kinds of manipulation.

For every study the other side comes up with - for every picture of some kid in Fallujah with horrible birth defects from radiation - we'll trot out our team with our rosy stuff. Hell, BP did it and they trashed the Gulf of Mexico. Remember the ads, "I live here too..." Did you see any of the bosses go to jail? They cut corners and workers died. Did any individual corporate boss even get a parking ticket out of that? So don't worry about the criminality. Just the bottom line.

Hell, this system's been working down to the penny for decades. We know exactly how much to spend to move the numbers our way and get the politicians onboard. These people in the general public who support us may not know their own names but they know GE brings good things to life. Got it?

And the next time I call a meeting like this and someone mouths off about integrity, you'll be joining Fenstock in the unemployment line. So get out there and make this corporation some money. Dismissed."

You nailed it Bill! Greed knows no bounds and crosses all boundaries.

Hey, Bill:
What percentage of you income comes from corporations?


You'll have to explain to me, Jim, why the fact that Bill may or may not derive some of his income from corporations is relevant to the points he's making.

Corporations rule, they own media, and in some cases the scientists who get their grant money from them.
Chaos rules creating more mischief.

Good idea to be a skeptic, however, in the scheme of things these days, do any of us really know?

Read once where the key to a good education is to be able to tell when another person is speaking rot.

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