The Non-Battle of Fukushima …




 

Figure 1: A generalized conception of what is taking place beneath the Fukushima reactors, cores at very high temperatures burning their way into the ground.

Large problems are looming larger in Fukushima as reports of short-lived radioactive fission products detected by TEPCO in reactor number 2:

– There have been far too many self-serving assumptions made by operator about the conditions within the four reactors. The assumption is the cores are all sub-critical as designed and installed by the utility. The detection of short-lived fission daughters indicates the assumptions are wrong and that core(s) are critical.

– If the cores material is spread out over a wide area or inside the reactor buildings the cores would likely be sub-critical and unable to produce fission products.

– That fission products are being detected indicates the core beneath reactor 2 is in a concentrated mass. What matters is whether the cores can or will become super-critical causing an explosion.

– Cold shutdown is an abstract (advertising) concept unrelated to conditions in the destroyed reactors at Fukushima.

– This is typical of the ‘modern’ approach that insists that problems of physics are subject to public relations.

– Unlike the Soviets at Chernobyl shortly after the explosions and meltdown, the Japanese have not bothered to send nuclear scientists into the reactors to determine the condition and location of the three reactor cores. Consequently, nobody knows anything about the cores.

 

 

Figure 2: Schematic of a boiling-water reactor similar to the kinds used at Fukushima Dai-ichi. This is the Mark 1 containment as in reactor unit 1 (Click on image for big.)

When the fuel core melted through the pressure vessel it wound up in the in-pedestal area under the pressure vessel. Where to next?

Inside the reactor, a lot of energy is concentrated in a very small space. This density of components is essential to all reactors otherwise they will not work.

– Because the reactors are very small relative to the amounts of energy they release, there is no margin for error in dealing with malfunctions. All reactors operate at the bleeding edge of (1960′s) design and materials technology. It is possible that none of the four Fukushima reactors could have been saved after the earthquake due to damage and inherent fragility of the reactor equipment relative to the operating loads with greater shaking loads imposed upon them.

It is unknown whether the water being poured into the reactor buildings is effecting the cores, however the injections along with ordinary ground water means soils in the area of the plant that are saturated. Because the water has absorbed radio-nuclides, it is intensely radioactive. The consequence is that human workers are unable to tunnel into the ground beneath the reactors to determine the location or condition of the cores because of the dangerous radioactivity.

Determining the condition of the cores should have been a priority for the TEPCO operators and the Japanese government but so far no attempt has been made. This is during a period of eight months!

 

 

The Battle Of Chernobyl (2008)

 

For the next seven months … five-hundred thousand men will wage hand-to-hand combat with an invisible enemy. For this battle, that has gone unsung which claimed thousands of unnamed and now almost forgotten heros.

Yet, it is thanks to these men that the worst was avoided … a second explosion, ten-times more powerful than Hiroshima, that would have wiped out half of Europe … @ 3.04

 

This ‘second explosion problem’ is what the Japanese are (not) facing up to now. In order to gain understanding some idea of how a reactor works is necessary:

 

 

Figure 3: (General Electric) This schematic identifies the core components in a BWR. The core occupies the space about the size of a bus. This confined space contains about 150 tons of low-enriched nuclear fuel. Notice the lattice of core elements arrayed so that water can flow between the fuel elements and carry away the heat. The water also acts as a moderator, slowing neutrons so that they are absorbed by Uranium-235 atoms in the fuel pellets, so that they might later split and release energy.

The split atomic fragments decay. This beta (minus) decay emits delayed neutrons.

The ordinary power reactor operates at a barely-critical state with limited emission of prompt neutrons, this is controlled by the enrichment level of the fuel and the design of the fuel elements. What emerges into the core are the ‘delayed’ neutrons. The flux of delayed neutrons can be managed by neutron absorbing control rods or other ‘poisons’ such as boric acid added to the cooling water. By adjusting the flux of delayed neutrons, the operator can adjust the power output of the core.

In order for the moderated reactor design to work, all of the fissile components and the moderator(s) must have a strict physical- or grid relationship to each other. This is very important to keep in mind: when a reactor ceases to be a thermal reactor due to a malfunction and a ‘reconfiguration’ of the core, it becomes an accidental fast nuclear reactor.

 

“We were afraid, because it could have caused another explosion. it was terrifying. Scientists came and took readings. They were very worried. They were afraid the critical temperature would be reached and it would set off a second explosion that would have been a terrible tragedy,” Gen. Nikolai Antochkin USSR Air Force.

The cement slab below the reactor core is heating up and in danger of cracking. The magma is threatening to seep through. The water the firemen poured during the first hours of the disaster has pooled below the slab. If the radioactive magma makes contact with the water it could set off a second explosion even more devastating than the first.

The country’s top experts are called into action. Vassili Nesterenko was one of them, At the time, he was working on improving the Soviet Union’s intercontinental nuclear missiles.

“If the heat managed to crack the cement slab only fourteen hundred kilograms of uranium and graphite mixture would have needed to hit the water to set off a new explosion.”

The ensuing chain-reaction would set off an explosion comparable to a gigantic atomic bomb.

“Our experts studied the possibility and concluded that the explosion would have had the force from three- to five megatons …” said Nesterenko.

The Battle of Chernobyl @ 32’35

 

Since March 11, there have been no nuclear scientists on the Fukushima site, the efforts are ongoing to enforce media silence and cover up what has been taking place or not.

 

 

Figure 4: After melting through the bottoms of the reactor buildings the cores would consolidate into amorphous 150 ton blobs of metallic uranium, thorium and plutonium isotopes.

Taking place within the cores is heating that results from radioactive decay. Radioactive decay is not to be confused with fission which requires the splitting of atoms.

There are many different kinds of nuclide decay processes taking place within the three cores.

– This decay does not produce fission products such as xenon-135 or iodine-131.

– Because the isotopes in question have very short half-lives it is clear that fission is taking place right now within at least one of the cores.

– Heating of the core(s) would be the result of fast fission. Because cores emitting fission products cannot be sub-critical, the low detection levels of these gases is instead likely because the cores are underground.

– In order for fission to take place there must be a neutron flux. Because of the absence of any moderator, neutrons would be ‘fast’ or have a very high energy level. These high energy neutrons are not a part of ordinary nuclear reactor operation. Any moderation would be the result of impurities within the fuel mass or by neutron reflection. Both of these would add heat. Absorption of fast neutrons would depend on the neutron cross-section of target elements within the mass which is largely U-238.

– Unlike the commercial reactor which relies on the absorption of moderated neutrons by U-235, a fast reactor relies on the absorption of high-energy neutrons by U-238. This fission takes place at higher energy levels than exist within the commercial reactor.

– Fissions taking place now are ‘prompt’, that is the neutrons are produced by the fission of fuel nuclei rather than by decay nuclei.

– A chain reaction due to prompt neutrons can self-propagate with extreme rapidity under the right conditions.

– Additional small amounts of neutron emission from the core are the result of spontaneous splitting of fissile atoms such as Pu-240.

Because the cores are sub-critical (k< 1) by virtue of their level of enrichment, the core material under 'normal' conditions of pressure and temperature will not sustain a chain reaction. Amplifying the effective neutron flux would bring the nuclear fuel to increased criticality (k>1). Compression will do this. so does placing the fuel material adjacent to a neutron reflector. This is what Arnie Gunderson suggests took place on March 14 in the reactor 3 spent fuel pool: a compression of sub-critical nuclear fuel by a shock wave resulting from a hydrogen explosion above the fuel. This compression — according to Gunderson — amplified the flux of prompt neutrons that propagated and intensified a chain reaction in some of the spent fuel causing it to reconfigure explosively.

– Vassili Nestorenko was concerned about along with the others at Chernobyl about a second prompt criticality involving the fuel that had melted out of the reactor.

– This is the issue now, is it possible for events to bring the fuel cores to supercriticality.

As nuclear material fissions, a product is Xenon-135. This isotope is a powerful neutron poison. As the fuel material fissions, the resulting Xe-135 absorbs neutrons stifling the chain reaction until the Xenon ‘burns off’ by absorption of neutrons at which time the fission intensifies creating more Xenon. Because the fuel mass is borderline critical, Xenon-135 creation occurs at the same rate as the fission process to keep the reactions from becoming destructively super-critical.

Being near the ocean, the ground under the reactors is mostly silica sand. As the sand melts the core sinks through it. Above and surrounding the core material is a glassy substance that also includes the non-fissile material that once made up the core structures: the boron-carbide control blades, zirconium fuel cladding, stainless steel fuel racks, flow nozzles, steam dryers, rod drives along with concrete. This material forms a slag. The fuel doesn’t ‘burn away’ the soil in its path but simply sinks through it leaving behind a ‘plug’ made up of slag and the other debris.

This plug prevents water from reaching the core material to cool it. Any cooling at the heated core creates more layers of slag.

The plug, slag and other debris are intensely radioactive, being either the remains of the core or having come in contact with it.

Water poured into the reactors soaks into the ground. The rest fills the reactor buildings from where it eventually flows into the ocean.

While the sand absorbs neutrons and is a poor reflector, the bedrock some meters beneath the reactors is likely to be a good one. Any hard, dense material can be a good reflector (as is water). What the reflector does is bounce neutrons back into the fissile material to increase the neutron flux while moderating the neutrons at the same time. In this way, fissile U-235 atoms can also absorb neutrons and split.

More fission would amplify the flux increasing the energy release while compressing the fuel. The weight of the fuel along with the plug of slag would push fissile material onto the reflector causing a prompt criticality:

 

 

Figure 5: Super-criticality is an issue of time: as nuclei split energetically, the tendency is for the atoms to fly away from each other. The material separates and the reactions cease. The problem emerges when there is no place for the atoms to go. Chain reactions can then propagate for generation after generation with an accompanying energy buildup until the bonds of mass and inertia represented by the ground … are overcome.

– There have been numerous criticality incidents since the beginning of the nuclear era and many share the characteristics of fuel configured inadvertently or the presence of neutron reflectors.

– A low energy reaction would cause a fuel geyser that would blow core material and the plug through the roof of the reactor building, much like the explosion in reactor 3. This would require only a few generations of chain reactions in the super-critical core.

– A high energy reaction of many generations would cause a substantial nuclear explosion. Critical components would be: material of sufficient mass, this material confined by incompressible material (sandy soil), weight of the core and the plug above it pressing the core against the neutron reflector. More than fifty generations of chain reactions would cause a multi-kiloton explosion beneath the reactor.

– A powerful explosion would propagate a shock wave that would travel through the ground and compress other cores that might have burnt their way into the ground. This compression would cause even more powerful nuclear explosions. This was how a modest amount of fuel under Chernobyl would cause a shock wave capable of bringing the rest of the nuclear material into a super-critical state.

Remember, there were three other reactors at Chernobyl with each containing 195 tons of highly-energized nuclear fuel!

– The low enrichment ratio of fissile material within the cores is compensated by the cores’ mass. The fission of even a tiny percentage of a core would represent an immense amount of energy release.

– The relative lack of explosive energy is compensated by the amount of radioactive material at the site. Anything other than the most modest excursion would be exceptionally destructive due to radioactive fallout.

– The approximate largest fission nuclear test was @ 500 kilotons (Operation Ivy King, 1952). A Fukushima explosion would certainly be less powerful. The Ivy King ‘gadget’ was dangerously massive and inherently super-critical (k = 2) while the Fukushima fuel is inherently sub-critical.

– There are over a thousand tons of nuclear material in the reactors and spent fuel pools. A multi-kiloton detonation would destroy the reactors leaving an ocean-filled crater in place of the plant.

– nuclear reactors along with the cores and spent fuel would become part of the fallout cloud.

– The shut-down Reactors Five and Six at the Dai-ichi complex would be destroyed, their cores would melt into the ground setting a repeat of the super-criticality process a few month’s afterward.

– A reason for a modest explosion during a worst case scenarios would be the lack of x-ray emissions and ultra-high temperatures. Any fusion component is unlikely although tritium is no-doubt contained within reactor fuel.

– The radiation emitted and its extent is hard to estimate but certainly equal to the dirtiest above-ground weapons tests. The amount of fallout from Fukushima would be greater due to the fuel tonnage but the extent more limited because of the absence of explosive force. Weapons tests injected material high into the stratosphere spreading fallout over large areas. the Castle Bravo thermonuclear test took place in February, 1954:

 

The Bravo test created the worst radiological disaster in US history. Due to failures in forecasting and analyzing weather patterns, failure to postpone the test following unfavorable changes in the weather, and combined with the unexpectedly high yield and the failure to conduct pre-test evacuations as a precaution, the Marshallese Islanders on Rongelap, Ailinginae, and Utirik atolls were blanketed with the fallout plume, as were U.S. servicemen stationed on Rongerik.

Within 15 minutes after the test radiation levels began climbing on Eneu Island, site of the test control bunker, which was supposed to be upwind from the test and thus immune to fallout. An hour after the shot the level had reached 40 R/hr, and personnel had to retreat from the control room to the most heavily shielded room of the bunker until they could be rescued 11 hours later.

An hour after the shot Navy ships 30 miles south of Bikini found themselves being dusted with fallout with deck radiation levels rising to 5 R/hr. navy personnel were forced to retreat below decks and the ships retreated farther from the atoll.

As the fallout drifted east U.S. evacuation efforts lagged behind the plume. At Rongerik, 133 nm from ground zero, 28 U.S. personnel manning a weather station were evacuated on 2 March but not before receiving significant exposures. Evacuations of the 154 Marshallese Islanders only 100 nm from the shot did not begin until the morning of 3 March. Radiation safety personnel computed that the islanders received a whole-body radiation doses of 175 rad on Rongelap, 69 rad on Ailinginae, and 14 rad on Utirik.

The Japanese fishing vessel Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Fifth Lucky Dragon) was also heavily contaminated, with the 23 crewmen receiving exposures of 300 R, one of whom later died – apparently from complications. This incident created an international uproar, and a diplomatic crisis with Japan.

The entire Bikini Atoll was contaminated to varying degrees and plans for conducting test operations from the islands, including use of the firing bunker, had to be abandoned. All further Castle tests were controlled by radio link from the USS Estes.

After this test the exclusion zone around the Castle tests was increased to 570,000 square miles, a circle 850 miles across (for comparison this is equal to about 1% of the entire Earth’s land area).

 

An 850 mile circle covers most of Japan.

The need is for nuclear scientists to be engaged. Right now the emphasis is toward public relations. The detection of gaseous fission products indicates the time remaining to take action at Fukushima is running out.

What can be done:

– The Japanese government must seize the day and eliminate Tepco’s role in the reclamation process.

– Expand the exclusion zone to 50 miles from the plant until the cores are located then stabilized.

– Find the cores NOW by any means necessary: drilling, robots, pipeline cameras. If this exposes workers to radiation, so be it. If the cores are dispersed or within the reactor buildings there is less urgency and steps can be taken to treat the core material as spent fuel rather than incipient bombs.

– Horizontal drilling equipment MUST be used to drill under reactors. Bore holes can then be filled with boron. Liquid nitrogen can also be flooded under the cores, to freeze the ground beneath the cores and provide neutron absorption.

– Spent fuel in all the reactors, on the site and cores at Dai-ichi plants 5 and 6 must be removed off site by any means necessary and at whatever cost as rapidly as possible.

– If cores are located under the reactors and can be held in place by way of boron or ground freezing, the site can be surrounded by a cofferdam made of steel sheet piling. This cofferdam should have been built already. Wells can be drilled within the cofferdam and ground water removed and then treated to remove radioactive material. Water is a neutron reflector, the less water the better.

– If the cores are below the buildings it is likely adding water or boric acid into the buildings is counterproductive.

– Get a group of international nuclear experts onto the site and have them determine what is actually taking place so the appropriate steps can be taken.

96 thoughts on “The Non-Battle of Fukushima …

  1. TheBowRiver

    I have looked further into finding the location of the mass of molten corium. It may be possible to use ground penetrating radar or seismic acoustic profiling. Another possibility is using the fact that there should be high radionuclide Gamma emissions of daughter products from the molten core. From the article, with the surrounding ground sand being saturated by radioactive water (how convenient), it would be difficult to locate the gamma emissions from the molten core. There are ground melting lasers that can bore a hole into the area under the reactor building. Once this is complete, a Gamma detector can be inserted as well as a temperature probe. This could be done at several depths in the soil. It may be easier to use the laser drilling or mechanical boring of a hole vertically down to the aquifer or bedrock. At that point, inserting both a Gamma detector as well as a temperature probe should give a clear indication as the corium effects increase with increased depth. I suppose that, if we agree with the article, once the corium mass is receiving reflected neutrons from the bedrock, and transforming itself, through E=mc2, into a nuclear bomb, Tepco will not have to worry about any more public relation spins.

  2. Whoopie

    That’s a very good question CaptD. Why couldn’t they do something underground? The news just gets worse and worse…within the last 2 hours:
    NHK: No “active” fuel was inside Reactor No. 4 when quake hit
    WSJ: Tepco to suspend all nuclear operations
    NHK: Fear that “partial meltdown” might have occurred in Spent Fuel Pool No. 4 last March
    http://enenews.com/

  3. CaptD

    I’m surprised that they cannot use ground penetrating radar and or some other technique to “map’ the ground below the reactor complex and or locate the massive corium(s)…

    Doing nothing is a sure sign of future problems!

  4. TheBowRiver

    Locating the corium would first require Tepco or the government to acknowledge that it is in the ground. Once they do that, there may be several ways to pinpoint the core mass. I would like to know specifically the cross-section details in the ground surrounding the reactors in question.

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  11. KANES

    Please find translation as close as possible to the original French version of the message I have received on November 22nd :

    THOUSAND MISCHIEFS JAPAN

    THOUSAND OTHER DISASTERS THOUSAND SOON WILL COME in JAPAN
    THOUSAND SUFFERINGS THOUSAND SOON WILL AFFECT JAPAN
    THOUSAND WARNINGS HAVE BEEN OF NO USE
    THOUSAND LIES by JAPANESE GOVERNMENT
    THOUSAND LIES by TEPCO
    THOUSAND SICK AND DEAD PEOPLE THOUSAND SOON
    THOUSAND SOON WORLD THOUSAND SICK
    THOUSAND NOVEL DISEASES WILL COME THOUSAND QUICKLY
    THOUSAND NOVEL CANCERS NOW THOUSAND UNAVOIDABLE
    THOUSAND SOON HOUSES THOUSAND AFFECTED by THOUSAND IRRADIATION

    THOUSAND PROBLEMS THOUSAND SOON TO GO ABROAD
    THOUSAND PEOPLE THOUSAND SOON WILL LEAVE JAPAN TO SEEK REFUGE in THOUSAND OTHER COUNTRIES
    BUT THOUSAND PROBLEMS NOW TO FIND a NEW HOME
    THOUSAND OTHER COUNTRIES THOUSAND ANNOYED
    THOUSAND NOVEL REGULATIONS FOR PERMISSION of ENTRY of THOUSAND IRRADIATED REFUGEES
    THOUSAND NOVEL LAWS WILL NO LONGER ALLOW TO EMIGRATE

    THOUSAND SOON WORLD WILL GET IRRADIATED THOUSAND MORE TIMES
    WORLD WILL NO LONGER BE SAME AS BEFORE
    (message from JESUS OF NAZARETH dictated by radionics on November 22, 2011)

    I have been suspended from TWITTER as I tried (being a novice ! on Twitter) to get the messgage through to the Japanese people to urgently leave Japan. Please take up the torch and pass on the link to ATTENTION DANGER FUKUSHIMA where I publish predictions, warnings and advice given by the Other World in order to protect and help. Blessings to participate in the difficult task to spread this life-saving message.
    If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me via my blog, I’ll readily answer you questions within my capacities. Thanking you so much helping to save people’s lives !

  12. rob

    A mostly lateral movement of Fuku’s corium seems to require the mudrock, its cavities and cracks of varying size, length, and continuity, and that are contiguous to the building base, to quickly fill or saturate with corium while at the same time effectively blocking any significant downward flow. If this mudrock is as porous as it seems, should it not be conducive to a downward flow?

    1. Misitu

      Interesting: that part of the corium that may still be in liquid form: could it pass through the pores between the grains of sand in the [compacted and partially cemented] sandy mudstone?

    2. Element

      I would not be concerned about downward ‘flow’, as staying where it is presents an even more serious danger.

      First off, I don’t assume the ‘core’ material is not still within the base area of the foundations of these reactors. If material wholly exits a foundation it will probably be the MOX at #3.

      I don’t believe it’s presently outside the buildings, as it would be too dangerous to approach or work near, especially if it was making and venting steam. Workers would die within hours to days in that case, and the site would have to be permanently evacuated.

      That is not happening. So I’m satisfied the core metals are still sitting in the foundations, staying hot and self-reactive, not really cooling at all, and heating the foundation and lower walls (these are buried underground and thus insulated by rock).

      It is possible the heated walls and base will heat water outside the foundation, and this will rise to the surface outside the building. But this does not mean any steam came directly from the reaction zone, or water moving over it.

      If “ground-steam” (for I don’t know what else to call it) were coming indirectly from the corium, then again the entire site would have to be evacuated.

      That also is apparently not happening.

      I suspect the foundation will however be thermally cracking and degrading fast, and water will be moving into it. The cracks will fill with salt crystals from the sea water, and this will oxidise steel REO bars if there’s oxygen present, thus weakening the foundation toward eventual structural failure. Crystal growth is also good for forcing open cracks and cavities, so that they enlarge and allow more water to intrude. It’s a vicious circle.

      (perhaps another reason to use positive-pressure nitrogen injections to reduce oxygen in the air and water)

      To me the real issue is that if the corium remains reactive and very hot, it will eventually heat all the foundations and lower walls, and weaken them, and will also heat the ground immediately near to it. Heat it – not melt it. The water in that porous rock and in the slab will transport and radiate/propagate heat far more efficiently than thermal conduction itself can. Also, when concrete hardens a great deal of water is trapped inside it via the concrete setting reaction. So a limited hydrothermal metal solute transport system may result even from corium still sitting in the centre of the degrading foundation.

      If/when corium does exit the foundation, if it does, it will not be ambiguous, it will be (radioactively) very obvious and patently undeniable that the dynamics and activity have permanently changed on-site.

      Thus the building’s base will get hotter and structurally weaker, over time, and REO will degrade rapidly, if the concrete is being severely thermally cracked and chemically eroded. And with all that heat, salt and water about, I would be very surprised if the steel is not just plain dissolving. We are after all talking about conditions suitable for hot brine metallic solutes to form, a hot liquid that can dissolve reactive metal, and steel is one of the most reactive and soluble of these.

      See those rust stains on the walls near your garden hose? That is from an iron solute within ordinary ‘cold’ tap water. Iron can just dissolve, and the hotter and saltier and further away for pH=7, the dissolution of it will escalate exponentially.

      As this proceeds, at some point structural walls will begin to fracture and spall off, and walls will slump and begin a slow collapse from their weakened base. Also, cracks and holes may open up at that point, allowing the corium to vent gasses into the air.

      Get the spent fuel out now – RIGHT NOW.

      I don’t know if they can and that’s by far the most disturbing aspect of this. Only one of these cores has to get out of a foundation for the entire site to become unapproachable, within days or weeks. If that occurs the scale of the mobile radioactive metals releases will increase by orders of magnitude.

      It’s like watching the various debt clocks, everyone knows it all portends economic disaster, and no one does anything EFFECTIVE until it’s too late. Indeed, uncontrolled and unmitigated seems to be the way both are developing. Nothing EFFECTIVE in the longer-term is being done.

      It’s all a bandaid and kiss it better routines, and that will leave us with an assured catastrophe.

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  14. Element

    Fear not a war Steve, I specifically referred to this in the quote I extracted above, though you probably didn’t realise this, i.e.

    “… Quaternary alluvial deposits composed of clay and sand which are friable or semi-hard …”

    The word “fri‧a‧ble” has a specific technical sedimentary geological definition, that rougly means a layered rock thats easily broken into very many small pieces, or even breaks down into a powder. meaning it’s basically a poorly “consolidated” rock, which is another sedimentary term which basically means it’s not well cemented together, via secondary mineralization in between its grains, so it isa rock, but it tends to break apart fairly easily, as far as rocks go, that is.

    What this means is it is potentially extremely porous, breaks easily under stress, and WEATHERS INTO SUSPENDED DUST particles very easily.

    In the prevailing context it’s safe to say this is NOT the qualities of an idea rock substrate for any sort of containment of anything these reactors spit out.

    This is why the ground water is quite mobile below these reactors. The rock offers a very poor barrier to propagation of fluids and gasses along a pressure or thermal gradient.

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  16. steve from virginia Post author

    We are going to have the ‘Battle of Geologists’ here, everyone looking for support for one or another specific argument:

    “Today, if one or more coriums have sunk into the ground …”

    That is from the Geology of Fukushima report. Plus, the actual ground structure under specific buildings is impossible to tell from drawings that are 25mm high. Under much of the Northern Virginia area where I am now there can be found the same sandy-clay. Some of it is soft and bits 10m away are hard.

    The thing for everyone to do is keep the eye on the ball: what is Tepco covering up? There is a lot of info they aren’t releasing any more, like maps of the plant site surface radiation.

    There are two famous runaway criticality incidents from the dawn of the nuclear era, both took place at Los Alamos in 1946. One involved Harry Daghlian and the other Louis Slotin. Both physicists failed to understand the consequences of runaway supercriticality. Both both were cavalier about the material they were custodians of, both died horribly as a consequence. Tepco is playing the same sort of game with material it apparently has not bothered to fully understand.

    It’s one thing for commenters on a blog to make assumptions but Tepco and Japanese government have the responsibility to do otherwise. One way to ‘get the attention’ is to boycott Japanese goods. A few letters to Toyota and Sony to that effect might get someone’s attention …

    1. Misitu

      Far from a battle, I think that Element and myself are in broad agreement, or in fact detailed agreement, that the melted fuel is near the surface and is actively causing hydrothermal contamination of the subsoil.

      While I am in disagreement with Element over the strength of feeling exposed in his comments, which I feel unnecessarily combative, I would say that I feel challenged enough to have done a bit more thinking as a consequence.

      I still believe that the chances of the corium burning its way downward are pretty much nil, or less. But this does not lessen the actual damage it is doing near the surface, and the contamination it is creating in soil, water, and air, nor does it reduce any potential for a more violent event, however remote that may seem.

      But I agree with Steve’s original, and ultimate, points that the threat to the biosphere / humanity posed by the Fuku calamity is not over and will not be for a long time.

      I do not believe that any existing solutions have stood the test of either peer or public review.

      For the case of investigative drilling, as suggested in this blog, there are some detail issues. For one, drilling is not cheap, and it needs to be aimed at a known target. To triangulate the (probably confused and partly individuated corium masses) by drilling would be enough of a task, but there are three dimensions involved. I don’t say it can’t be done, but don’t underestimate the difficulties in aiming the drills, the cost, and the time to get a result. And what happens when the drill reaches corium – will it heat up and fail at that point? What happens in the drill bore when the equipment is retrieved to obtain samples, if it has hit live corium? Factors like these need consideration. They are not show stoppers, but they need careful risk analysis and planning.

      I do however believe that there are possibilities of a very bold approach to the problem being successful. This could involve ground clearance to the extent of a three, or more, kilometre ring around the plant. The outer and inner 1 Km rings would be radiation “firebreaks”. The middle ring, from 1 to 2Km. out, is where the demolished and excavated material should be stored pending a decision, taken by many international bodies as a whole, as to its eventual disposal.

      The plant buildings at Fukushima Dai-ichi should be carefully demolished and the rubble stored in the middle cleared zone mentioned above.

      After that, the ground should be excavated, from the outside in, until the live corium has been detected. Much of the radioactive material should be removed to the disposal area; the smaller fragments should be moved first.

      Look at this as surgery, just as a surgeon be they hospital, dental, or veterinary, would approach the removal of a foreign object from a live person or animal, or the drilling out of tooth decay.

      The only difference here is that nobody has a Medical School Diploma.

      The important items are:
      - to have a plan;
      - to clear the decks before battle;
      - to have in place strategies and tactics to meet the expected and less expected developments during execution of the plan;
      - to operate with intelligence, discipline, and clarity of vision;
      - to mitigate further ill effects on the neighbourhood and on the environment at large.

      No, I am not volunteering to do it, but it is a plan, and I think in these desperate times it might be worth a look – before things get worse.

      Good Luck

      Thanks Steve and Element for the stimulation.

  17. Pingback: Le combat de Fukushima… « L'Info Autrement cftc hus

    1. Element

      ” … In order to build the plant – originally only Unit 1 – the upper sedimentary layers were excavated. These are Quaternary alluvial deposits composed of clay and sand which are friable or semi-hard (green and brown in the cross-section). Thus the plant was built on “mudrock” type sedimentary rock (yellow in the cross-section), which is a muddy rock composed of clay and silt (very fine sand). But the term “muddy” does not mean that the rock is soft. It simply means that it is a rock whose matrix is clay; it is also called “argillite”. …”

      Thank you.

      Dai-ici was built on excavated almost flat-laying sedimentry rock.

      There is no soil or even a weathered in situ regolith under the reactors.

      It’s fresh consolidated porous and uplifted shallow-marine sedimentary rocks with some tuff and pumice. ‘Tuff’ is a siliceous high-energy volcanic explosion detritus full of fine glass shards, and pumice is a low-density vesicular gas-filled ‘quenched’ glassy rock that floats ashore from all over the pacific, from thousands of distant submerged volcanos.

      The site has been systematically drilled and logged and its properties logged and mapped – as you would expect.

      A structural analysis has been done, and given the ages, and continuous flat-laying nature, with a minor dip eastwards, it’s a stable, though vertically mobile terrane.

      Massive engineering and excavation occurred before the reactors were built.

      It’s thus not a slap-dash construction, nor was it done on the cheap (as far as I can see).

      I would not assume everything was done right, but a lot clearly was.

      Pity about the geological location though. It screams out extreme hubris and over-confidence, and a worrying expression of pro-technological … well, madness. I can hardly believe a competent geologist, or panel would or could recommend or somehow approve of its construction, at this location.

      It is very obviously the worst possible geological location for a nuclear reactor, let alone dozens of them in similar parlous settings.

      I can’t (at short notice) even think of a more dangerous and inappropriate location on Earth to build a BWR fission reactor (not to mention the adaptation to MOX fuel).

      I’d like the people who approved these reactor sites to explain themselves. I think they should be compelled to do that, as this is clearly unacceptable, unprofessional and profoundly negligent if not downright treacherous.

  18. Pingback: New vidéo d’Arnie Gundersen: l’accumulation de l’hydrogène à Fukushima | leblogdejeudi

  19. Pingback: ALERTE corium de Fukushima : Si les atomes peuvent se séparer les réactions cesseront ou sinon celui continuera de s'enfoncer pendant des décennies !!! | Environnement et Energies Autrement | Scoop.it

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  21. Pingback: Fukushima : Principe du réacteur à eau bouillante utilisé à Fukushima Dai-ichi | Environnement et Energies Autrement | Scoop.it

  22. Pingback: Le combat de Fukushima... | Environnement et Energies Autrement | Scoop.it

  23. Pingback: Economic Undertow - (Eng trad) - La non bataille de Fukushima ... | FUKUSHIMA INFORMATIONS | Scoop.it

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      Right now the people from the area around the reactors are moving to other parts of Japan. The current problem is that Tepco refuses to pay more than minuscule amounts for resettlement so many are trapped within radioactive towns, sending their radioactive kids to radioactive schools to eat radioactive lunch meat, presumably.

      Another problem is Tepco’s inaction means a steady increase in radiation spreading from the plants. A noticeable trend is increased readings all over Japan, all around the world. Iodine-131 has been detected in Europe, the authorities demur but the only place with three meltdowns and ongoing criticality is Fukushima.

  24. gezza

    Hullo everyone, been following this site and enenews etc ever since march.

    Just read someone saying basicly Mr Gunderson doesnt know what he is talking about, or words to that effect, complete rubbish, he has been right all along and any fool can see it. Had to say that. With the years comes wisdom and hindsight. He is truly an intelligent man, who has the capability to speak rationaly and clearly to any given audiense. To say otherwise, would be what other sites call a “shill”.

    I have been extremely worried about reactors 5+6 and now it looks as though they may well have melted down as well. The situation is now very very grave.
    The sheer amount of fuel within the one site is horrifying, and the ability of the situation to worsen considerably, grows now by the DAY.

    Unbelievable amounts of radiation is literally pouring out by the second, minute, and day. The worldwide complete media coverup is shocking, and goes to show just how stupid and dangerous mankind has become.

    We are truly looking at “quite possibly” and end life extinction event. I make no bones about that point. Such is the gravety of the situation. It is truly frightening.

    The continued reports of nosebleed, and general symtoms of radiation poisoning, leads me to think quite assuredly , that the contamination is vast and heavy. The FACT that these symtoms were showing so soon, and that plants, animals, and humans alike are ALL showing the symtoms so soon, means that in as little as six months the death rates are going to soar. I am sure that governments world wide are in the “know” as to the sheer scope of this “manmade/nature caused disaster.
    And are basicly keeping it all on the “lowdown”, especially in light of the precarious finacial state of the world, stock markets, price of oil, etc etc etc.

    And with 5+6 now looking very bad, well, what next?

    I really dont think we have actually seen the worst of this yet. Yes I know that sounds a bit defeatest, but the “uncharted waters” we are sailing in, well we still have a way to go. The russians arent totally stupid, and their concerns regarding Chernobyl, were very very real at the time, and still are.Chernobyl is still a powder keg, even today.

    And speaking of today, I read about the reporters going in by bus etc, and say were reporting 1000 milleserviants, inside the bus, near reactor 2. Im not real sure but isnt that like 1 servient? What about the workers then, if thats the outside reading?

    Inside must be horrendous.

    There wont be any kind of “cold shutdown” for millions of years. Period.

    The worst is yet to come.

    So keep up the good work, guys and gals, keep on spreading this information, it is vital for our very future. I just wish we all listened to all those “long haired hippies” marching against nuclear power 40-50 years ago, they were right, we were wrong,

    hell of a way to find out….

    1. KANES

      You are so RIGHT !
      Since 11/3, I receive predictions, warnings and advice for the Japanese people and Man worldwide, messages I have forwarded to the Japanese Government since the beginning and published since the end of March on my blog ATTENTIONDANGER
      http://attentiondanger.over-blog.com
      in order to warn everyone of the extremely dangerous situation (it’s not a CRISIS ! there is FAR MORE TO COME !) and to forward the precious advice given.
      I’m working on a comparative study to show the truth of the information I’ve received compared to events. Please find Part 3 of my Comparative Study on
      http://attentiondanger.over-blog.com/article-predictions-on-fukushima-all-true-part-3-88852037.html
      You’ll see predictions, warnings and advice were and are right !
      This disaster is so immense, that people don’t realize the dimensions worldwide or they don’t want to know ; and Governments all over the world don’t want people to know the truth given the fact that Governments don’t have any solution. And TEPCO is lying since the beginning (see messages).
      The only thing to do for the Japanese right now, is to get out of Japan as quickly as possible simply to save their lives and that of the unborn.
      Please help me to get the messages through to the Japanese people in order to warn and help them.
      Blessings to you !
      P.S. don’t hesitate to ask any questions after having read the messages sent to Man by the Other World in order to protect LIFE on Earth.

  25. Gaianne

    Steve-from-Virginia,

    Thank you very much for this post. Also, thank you for your other Fukushima posts.

    I don’t have a lot to add, as my knowledge of nuclear physics is sketchy. Those of us who have only casually studied bomb design will be wrong-footed thinking about a core meltdown, as the scale goes from kilograms or tens of kilograms of nuclear material to tens or hundreds of tons of nuclear material. This is a factor of a thousand or ten thousand–what we call three or four orders of magnitude–and results in scenerios that are really different and less favorable.

    I hope I am not being redundant in stating the obvious: Nuclear cores when they melt become an amalgam of very, very heavy metals (such as uranium and plutonium) and will easily sink through molten rock. So how fast is the still-fissioning core melting the rock beneath it? That will determine the rate of sinking.

    The masses of nuclear material in a reactor core are so great that even a fizzle yield would be a very, very, big explosion. Presumably that is why the scientists were worrying over Chernobyl and making estimates of 4 megatons, and why we should be worrying about Fukushima now. But as you say: Only TEPCO and the Japanese government are in a position to act directly, and seemingly they are determined to do nothing useful whatever. I assume that whether the reactors explode or not, we should start expecting levels of ambient radiation in the Northern Hemisphere to start rising significantly.

    Which in turn raises the question of What to do? Should we perhaps be building solar stills for water purification? While we may have many problems (and will need ways of coping with them) clean water, especially for children, seems an obvious priority.

    (We will need solar water stills when the electric grid finally goes down, anyway.)

    –Gaianne

    1. Element

      You realise that in ALL magmatic and hot and pressurised hydrothermal systems, the volatile (melt-able and soluble constituents) and the heavy metals propagate NET upwards, towards the surface over time?

      It’s how we get led and primary gold deposits, in hydrothermal veins (real heavy stuff … much heavier than the rock, melted or otherwise, in fact, get this, it rises within superheated salty water from such melts), which metals are precipitated from hot solutions … of brine. You know, the same stufe they have been ‘cooling’ these cores with (i.e. making super toxic metal laden brine solutions … and the metal when it precipitates as crystals is ultra-radioactive … this stuff is far more deadly that any previous version of ‘fallout’ human beings have encountered)

      The higher the heat and salinity of the water, the higher the metal solubility (the ability to dissolve more metals and metallic slag in it) and the more that this will be precipitated near to, or actually at the surface, for many years to come.

      This is what actually happens to heavy metals in a large hot insulated melt (they RISE and precipitate and deposit ABOVE the solidifying melt), as the melt cools down, and gradually settles into differentiated components, geochemically, (into layers of different chemistry and mineralogy, and thus solidifies as a crystalline silicate mass … with metalliferous hydrothermal veins emanating from the upper half of the solidified melt.

      The longer it takes to cool, the more the heavy metal crystals have time top propagate upwards.

      That is observed fact, not fantasies.

      If this thing does what my experience tells me it will, then you are going to get a LOT of this stuff right at the surface, open to the elements, and it constitute be the worst pollution event in industrial history, by several orders of mag.

      1. Element

        Oh, by the way, I should mention that uranium is deposited in such hydrothermal systems, via the exact same process.

        Hot brine plus a pressure and thermal gradient = uranium transport NET-UPWARDS and its deposition as pressure and temp and salinity and pH change.

        BTW, calcified marine sediments (containing seashells and reefs etc) are excellent for changing pH and forcing metal precipitation, as solubility decreases and solutes become supersaturated in metals it can no longer hold in suspension.

        And than is what is coming, and I see no way of stopping it, and it will go on for years

      2. JP

        Are you making the assumption that the core or nearly all of the core dissolved in the hot brine solution?
        If that is the case at what point did the core effectively dissolve.

        1. Inside the RPV (if that had been the case it shouldn’t have breached? or breached at a weaker point in cooling system)
        2. Inside the drywell (if that is the case why is the ground steaming)
        3. In the bedrock

        My problem with this is that as soon as it reaches the concrete its going to start melting it and that means that the proportion of metals and metal oxides is going to go down whereas the proportion of sillicon dioxide is going to go up. The sillicon dioxide when it hits cold water is going to form a crust somewhat resistant to chemical attack. The water in the bedrock I assume is going to be less saline than sea water so the rate at which the metals in the corum dissolve will go down and you’ll have exactly the same dynamic with the formation of a crust. What you are saying I think is right, its just once it gets into the rock the rate at which metals dissolve out is going to go right down. A process measured in years? And if not dissolved then its a large mass with a high density which will go down, and assuming liquid, sideways until its density equalises with the surrounding rock. I assume liquid as opposed to an amalgam because its a liquid when it leaves the rpv and the insulating properties of the surrounding materials will be higher in the bedrock.

        The sideways movement of corum could change the load bearing properties of the ground under the reactor buildings, increasing the stresses on the already compromised structure. This could have implications for the spent fuel pools.

      3. Element

        Are you making the assumption that the core or nearly all of the core dissolved in the hot brine solution?

        Of course not. Hydrothermal systems transport parts per billion or parts per million at any moment.

        1. It accrues.

        2. It goes on for years.

        I above emphasised the role and importance of time and scale with regard to what happens next, did I not?

      4. ThomasJefferson

        Thanks Element and others for a fascinating thread.

        All the fuel disappeared from the PCV at Unit 4 in Chernobyl according to portions of a documentary I pulled up on Google.
        I know that Chernobyl was a graphite reactor where the fuel blob melted through concrete and combined with sand in the walls of the reactor building resulting in a “lava” flow down through the underlying structure of the building. So it might not match exactly the situation in FukU. However, since we can’t get Tepco to release any data or imaging which they surely must have by now, even if it’s just thermal, I thought I would show readers here pictures of what fuel looks like when it hits sand and turns to glass.

        Apparently, at Chernobyl, they were worried it would burn through the bottom, so, as I recall they dispatched the Red Army to tunnel underneath and pour an emergency containment slab. Of course now, many years later, some of the cement is the consistency of sponge, I’ve read. Good shots also of fuel on fire at the very end:

        http://www.thelivingmoon.com/45jack_files/03files/Endangered_Earth_Chernobyl_Meltdown.html

        Gives us some idea of what MAY have happened at all three Fukushima Units.

        TJ

  26. CaptD

    What will determine the total cost of this “Trillion Dollar” Eco-Disast­er?

    Please feel free to add your comments and or estimates to this list:
     Decommissi­oning costs
     Loss to all other radioactiv­e decontamin­ation caused by this Disaster.
     Loss of revenues by Tepco
     Loss to TEPCO’s share holders caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss of Japanese personal income caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss to Japanese businesses caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss of all Japanese health costs related to radioactiv­ity
     Loss due to unusable Japanese Land related to radioactiv­ity
     Loss due to Japanese housing caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss of Japanese Property Values caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss of fishing grounds caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss of manufactur­ing caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss to the value of the Yen caused by radioactiv­ity
     Loss to other Utilities caused by Fukushima’­s radioactiv­ity
     Loss to Japans credit rating caused by Fukushima’­s radioactiv­ity
     Loss to the Japanese peoples Lives because of radiation

  27. CaptD

    and then there is this:

    Lets Review what we all know about this from:

    1. An Engineering point of view, one can see that TEPCO is
    … with holding vital info that is delaying any containment
    … (no pun intended) and now their Gov’t. is helping them!

    2. A Scientific point of view, TEPCO is in total denial about
    … the seriousness of this nuclear debacle and its effect on
    … on the Japanese people and their economy! They are
    … treating this more like a big “RECALL” instead of a CRISIS!

    3. A Global point of view, Japan is not only NOW the World’s
    … Greatest Polluter, but they have lost their good quality
    … reputation and they are allowing the pollution to continue!

    4. A Humanitarian point of view, their treatment of their own
    … children’s health, their workers health and their refusal to
    … make public, radiation readings from 3/11 is inexcusable!

    5. A MSM (Main Stream Media) point of view, the way that our
    … Countries have hidden this from the Public is just criminal
    … and should be a wake up call to all to of us that we are losing
    … our freedom of the Press along with our Freedom of Speech.

    6. A International Safety point of view, nuclear reactors have
    … become the AK-47 of the 21 Century and they can be used
    … against mankind by terrorists or any Rogue Gov’t.’s
    … to poison US and or the Earth!

  28. CaptD

    I posted this on HuffingtonPost a long time ago but it is still relevant:

    Plan of Action:
    1. Move all children and mothers that are pregnant to S. Japan.
    2. Double the size of the restricted zone.
    3. Establish monitoring 24/7 throughout region
    … maintained by International Org.
    4. Allow Greenpeace and others access to the waters
    … off the reactor complex to monitor air and ocean
    … pollution that is ONGOING!
    5. Immediately remove as much radioactive water to another
    … location for processing not dumping into the Pacific Ocean.
    6. Re-enforce #4 complex so that it does not collapse.
    7. Fill-in the seawall jetty and then drain it of contaminated water.
    8. Build a coffer dam and drill under the reactor containments
    … and start pumping in “stuff” to solidify the corium and or seal
    … additional leakage.
    9. Post camera 24/7 with night lens so folks World wide can see
    … what is being done to end this Reactor Debacle.
    10. Daily news updates on progress and radioactive readings
    … by a “pool” of embedded reporters from around the World.

    1. Element

      ” … 4. Allow Greenpeace and others access to the waters
      … off the reactor complex to monitor air and ocean
      … pollution that is ONGOING! …”

      Ok, you completely blew it right there.

      If you think GreenPeace are the people to be doing this then you are plainly out of your cotton-pickin mind, else, you work for them.

      In which case, it would be both.

      1. Misitu

        Dear Mr or Mrs Element

        Why hostile to Greenpeace? Again, this statement lacks supporting material and a logical sequence. It is personal opinion and has that numerical value. It would be better either to come up with a case that explains your thinking or else to say nothing and leave the bandwith to others.

  29. steve from virginia Post author

    Does anyone really want to find out whether I am right or not?

    I wanna be wrong, baby wrong. Keep in mind it’s one thing for people in the outside world to speculate about what is going on inside Tepco’s property, it’s another for Tepco to promote ITS assumptions as fact. Tepco is in the game, it cannot be the Monday Morning Quarterback.

    Tepco turns risk management on its head. The issue of whether I’m right about the reactors cannot outweigh Tepco’s passing its nonchalance as a form of risk management! I’m not pulling this out of my ass, a bunch of atomic scientists working for a nuclear super-power were concerned about a very similar situation not 25 years ago.

    Nobody will know for sure what exactly is going on in Fukushima until the company corrals its cores or they blow up. Then we will know. This should never be the set of risk management options for any responsible agency.

    A commenter says that the conditions aren’t conducive to an explosion. Coincidently, this is what Tepco says. Only Tepco can prove the issue one way or another. So far Tepco has been wrong about every aspect of their reactors. Now, they are right? Let them prove it and put the matter to rest.

    All the responsibilities lie with Tepco because they have the resources at hand to put fatal consequences out of reach. I don’t. The damage resulting from Tepco’s failure is far greater than that from my being wrong.

    Tepco has done nothing to fix other than to pimp its Big Cold Shutdown Lie. Every day Tepco does nothing the hazards mount.

    Not that long ago I had another Internet discussion with some fellow and he remarked that, “Malthusians have been proven wrong over and over for years. Why should anyone listen to these people any more?” You can substitute Peak Oil, climate change, anti-nuclear and any number of other groups for ‘Malthusians’.

    Malthus only has to be right once.

  30. Les Corrice

    Your understanding of nuclear properties is severely lacking. There is a zero probability of a nuclear detonation with low enrichment nuclear fuel, no matter what it’s physical condidition might be. It needs to be at least 90 times greater U-235 concentration for any possibility of a nuclear explosion. Plus, you are basing you Chernobyl ideas on wild speculation. No nuclear scientist has visually inspected Chernobyl’s fuel cell. To say the USSR had such an inspection is naive to the extreme. I know your above essay took a lot of time, but unfortunately it was wasted time. The value of the essay is nil. Sorry.

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      Arnie Gunderson — who is a bona fide nuclear expert with years of hand’s on experience in plant operation — has made a strong argument for a prompt criticality or runaway chain reaction at Fukushima within the number 3 reactor spent fuel pool, this caused the massive explosion March 14: http://fairewinds.com/node/155.

      Gunderson’s supposition is that nuclear fuel in fuel assemblies — that is, within fuel rods — with the assemblies contained within neutron absorbers in the spent fuel pool(s) were able to be brought to a chain reaction as a consequence of a fairly modest hydrogen shock wave.

      The Soviets did indeed send nuclear scientists into the reactor building hunting for the core — not homeless or alcoholics as is the case w/ TEPCO — right after the Chernobyl explosion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GSzgA0CxWk&feature=related

      It is not possible to make a lightweight, deliverable bomb or missile warhead with less than 90% enrichment however critical incidents in non-enriched nuclear fuel have taken place repeatedly.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticality_accident

      What would be a disappointing yield to a weapons designer would be devastating to the rest of us. Contrary to your assertions, the Soviets were indeed extremely concerned about a secondary nuclear explosion.

      A big problem is a lack of understanding of what takes place after a meltdown and the changes in the fuel over time.

      1. Les Corrice

        Gunderson has literaly no hands-on nuclear experience, and his resume is bloated with companies who considered him as a consultant, but never used him. His nuclear education level is literally vacuuous. He’s a self-appointed “expert” who’s suppositions are based on naive fantasy and agenda-fulfilling confabulation. He says he was once pro-nuclear, but the record proves otherwise. He’s a glorified street corner prophet of doom, and nothing more.

      2. steve from virginia Post author

        Don’t beat on Gunderson, at this point Joe Paterno has more credibility than Tepco.

      3. ThomasJefferson

        Les,

        Gundersen a nuclear CEO, if I recall, was part of the clean up effort at Three Mile Island and testified before congress on it. Previously he was a lead nuclear engineer for a company that made fuel rod racks, IIRC. Your post seems to disqualify him because you infer he’s a fake former pro-nuclear supporter. Apparently, your camp doesn’t allow defections. Far from being a prophet of doom, Arnie refuses to speculate on the state of the cores without hard engineering data, which Tepco and the Japanese government have been loath to make public. He does comment on the reports made by other companies and agencies which shed light on the independent analysis of the Fukushima disaster.

        He is a engineering consultant who renders opinions based on published data that he sources. Nothing published on his Fairewinds.com site has been proven wrong so far that I know of. The industry hired a marching band to follow him around so that he couldn’t make his presentations some years ago. Nice Industry.

        TJ

      4. Element

        ” …Arnie Gunderson — who is a bona fide nuclear expert with years of hand’s on experience in plant operation — has made a strong argument for a prompt criticality or runaway chain reaction at Fukushima within the number 3 reactor spent fuel pool, this caused the massive explosion March 14: http://fairewinds.com/node/155.

        Gunderson’s supposition is that nuclear fuel in fuel assemblies — that is, within fuel rods — with the assemblies contained within neutron absorbers in the spent fuel pool(s) were able to be brought to a chain reaction as a consequence of a fairly modest hydrogen shock wave. …”

        Steve I completely disagree with this assessment, if that actually occurred and a no BS shockwave resulted, No.3 would have no floor to its sfp anymore.

        It is a simple case of equal but opposite forces, the force that blew the roof off, if originating in the base of the SFP, would have demolished that SFP.

        The SFP still retains water.

        Thus Gunderson’s interesting explanation is not correct.

        QED

        You agree, right?

      5. Misitu

        To Element, reference “Steve I completely disagree with this assessment, if that actually occurred and a no BS shockwave resulted, No.3 would have no floor to its sfp anymore. It is a simple case of equal but opposite forces, the force that blew the roof off, if originating in the base of the SFP, would have demolished that SFP.”

        It seems your argument might have overlooked something, namely the configuration, material, and structural strength of the walls pillars slabs etc. Dependent on these, an explosion that blew out a weak wall panel may not have been able to affect a much stronger floor or roof slab. Likewise, a roof slab could have been more vulnerable than a floor slab, comparing simple atmospheric pressure above against a carefully designed load-bearing structure below.

        Newton’s Laws relate to energy and mass: action causing a large displacement to a small mass
        will, necessarily, cause a lesser displacement to a larger mass.

        It bothers me a little that arguments invoking mathematics for support should skip the detail in order to demonstrate a dubious conclusion. Why bother with the maths at all? No point, surely?

        Over the last months I have seen many arguments of this sort, purely qualitative but invoking phantom maths, in statements aiming to downplay the potential effect of the Fukushima accidents on the public’s view of the safety record of the nuclear industry.

        These arguments which dumb down the maths for the sake of sound bite effect are specious, disingenuous, and diversionary.

        We should take every precaution in evaluating statements of this character.

  31. Pingback: Two New Technical Reports On Fukushima | SimplyInfo

  32. KANES

    Message I’ve got once again on 8/11/2011 :

    another nuclear disaster soon
    millions of people will die
    nuclear will demolish reactors
    better leave japan to survive

    other message I’ve got a little earlier :

    Japan completely irradiated by nuclear disaster Fukushima
    thousand novel diseases will appear
    up to government to listen to thousand advice
    given by messages from St Jesus
    population very poorly informed
    thousand children will be born disabled
    thousand children will be affected by thousand other diseases
    given irradiation thousand times too high
    love (means) now thousand suffering
    given poor information by Japanese government
    thousand suffering awaiting Japanese

    Find out more on http://attentiondanger.over-blog.com
    why people must leave Japan immediately !
    and FORWARD WARNING !
    All messages I’ve got since 11/3 were right ; see comparative study of predictions, warnings, advice given to the Japanese people and the facts on
    http://attentiondanger.over-blog.com/article-predictions-on-fukushima-all-true-part-1-88441394.html
    and
    http://attentiondanger.over-blog.com/article-comparative-study-on-fukushima-part-2-etude-comparative-sur-fukushima-partie-2-88522672.html

  33. Element

    Not questioning that. I have said many of these same things in previous months of posting elsewhere, all I’m saying is this is built on rock, and this rock WAS drilled prior to this site being developed.

    This rock is a very common porous rock facies found in uplifted marine sediments in all active margins beside subduction zones.

    What matters is it’s permeability, and rates of flow/migration (we already know water is moving fairly fast through it).

    The other point is, you’re basically wasting your effort if you assume this material is going to sink down into solid rock.

    See if you can find even a single qualified igneous petrology specialist who thinks that the corium will sink lower and lower into bedrock via melting down through it and you’ll also find > 1 thousand others who say it won’t sink much, if at all.

    Rock is an excellent insulator, because its an extremely poor (slow) thermal conductor, and requires a lot of energy to melt, and a substantial pressure gradient to displace it.

    That’s the primary point to consider, not if it’ll hit something such as water, or even graphite (which is actually very common to most slip-fault surfaces) that may enhance neutron reflection.

    If this thing was going to go critical and blow (with several tonnes of TNT of energy release equivalent) it would have already done so within the confined liquid state within the PV. So I do not fear that possibility. Steam and other gasses (and dust and incandescent metals) remain a threat of explosion.

    I would not bother elaborating on the fanciful China-Syndrome myth, as I think it will be more informative of what to expect of this thing. I’m quite confident the Japanese are at the very start of something much worse than has ever been seriously contemplated. It may take 5 years before this becomes completely clear, if not undeniable.

    I’m not really interested in TEPCO or the Govt’s criminality, just where this is now going.

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      I’m saying is this is built on rock, and this rock WAS drilled prior to this site being developed.

      Sorry, I don’t believe it. This is something I would have to see with my own eyes.

      The other point is, you’re basically wasting your effort if you assume this material is going to sink down into solid rock.

      I’ve never suggested sinking through solid rock (although solid concrete is reasonable and established part of the literature, BTW). Burning through rock is little diff than burning through concrete.

      That’s the primary point to consider, not if it’ll hit something such as water, or even graphite (which is actually very common to most slip-fault surfaces) that may enhance neutron reflection.

      I won’t disagree, reactor 3 might have blown up when the core hit the floor. I don’t know what is in Tepco paint, either.

      If this thing was going to go critical and blow (with several tonnes of TNT of energy release equivalent) it would have already done so within the confined liquid state within the PV.

      You are on shakier ground all the time. Too many neutron poisons in the PV.

      Time will tell when Tepco finally gets around to sticking cameras into the pressure vessels and we can all see what’s in there. All the goodies might still be in there and something less to worry about.

      I would not bother elaborating on the fanciful China-Syndrome myth, as I think it will be more informative of what to expect of this thing.

      Gimme a break, you’re making assumptions. Who wants to find out whether something about reactors is a myth or not? Are you really That arrogant?

      I’m not really interested in TEPCO or the Govt’s criminality, just where this is now going.

      Sorry dude, this is a big-time law and order piece of the Internet. As far as it goes, what matters is Tepco’s and Japgov’s culpability.

      1. Element

        The China Syndrome scenario is, technically speaking, a JOKE.

        I say that based on what I have learned and observed.

        That whole notion is THE ASSUMPTION Steve, and you’re making that one – not me.

        All I’m asking is why are you so willing to assume that? Is it because that’s all you cognitive tools allow for? If so, you need to question that.

        The corium a Chernobyl moved NET downwards only via man-made piping.

        It did NOT melt its way NET downward, it SLUMPED and FELL downward.

        That’s the only real example we have.

        I don’t remember saying anywhere that I don’t think culpability and legality matters. I really don’t know why you’d virtually accuse me of that! Give me a break.

        All I said was that I’m only interested in what the damn stuff does now.

        Why is that not a reasonable and understandable thing to say, if you bring all that up as indirect side-issues that have nothing to do with what’s happening to the stuff, or the comment I made?

        I don’t care about that because that’s not my area of primary concern.

        If you make it your area of primary concern, that’s up to you.

        But what does that stuff have to do with I’m saying above?

        Nothing, is what.

    2. Misitu

      Steve’s covered most of this, but just a weeny teensy point here, re,

      “Rock is an excellent insulator, because its an extremely poor (slow) thermal conductor, and requires a lot of energy to melt, and a substantial pressure gradient to displace it”

      Well!

      Rock is being melted all the time, at the bottom of subduction zones, in the roots of active mountain ranges.

      If you take what is underneath Dai-ichi and put it into an active mountain building zone you will, eventually, get something like granite.

      I would further comment that some of your technical geological terms look suspiciously like name-dropping, attempts to recruit and subvert a body of knowledge for personal political ends.

      Agreeing with you that this is an extremely calamitous situation, but Steve is right to demand accountability and I am grateful to him for his efforts in assembling an explanation. Even if some of the details are less probable, and this is understandable given the paucity of real current data, at least he has bothered to come up with some illustrations, well done Steve.

      I hope I have been able to help you see the positive side of what is being presented here.

      1. Element

        “Rock is being melted all the time, at the bottom of subduction zones, in the roots of active mountain ranges.”

        You realise plate motions in subduction zones occur at a rate at which your fingernails grow?

        That’s the rate of the PARTIAL melting of the VOLATILE FRACTION … of the subducting plate (its typically less than 1% and takes MILLIONS of years to heat it in order to melt that much of it via thermal conduction).

        Sorry to spoil your political thesis but I am in fact a geologist.

        As I said, solid rock heats EXTREMELY slowly (and deforms extremely slowly), due to low thermal conduction. That isn’t some theory that’s up for the toss.

        If you intend to discuss this you better consider time, and scale – they matter.

        As for sinking into concrete, yes, it will form a lens of material in the foundation.

        THAT, Steve, is what the literature generally speaks of.

        It may eventually melt most of it, if the insulation is sufficient, and the self-interaction is sufficient.

        Otherwise, forget it, it won’t go NET downwards, it will go NET horizontally, if anywhere.

        The China Syndrome scenario is, technically speaking, a pitiful JOKE.

        > IT THE ME < who's getting political.

      2. Misitu

        Dear Element

        I too am a geologist – or at least qualified as one, many years ago, with a couple of degrees. Not very good degrees, but from an institution regarded internationally as excellent.

        Out of respect for the institution, I am keeping my comments conservative and my language moderate.

        “You realise plate motions in subduction zones occur at a rate at which your fingernails grow?
        “That’s the rate of the PARTIAL melting of the VOLATILE FRACTION … of the subducting plate (its typically less than 1% and takes MILLIONS of years to heat it in order to melt that much of it via thermal conduction).
        ”Sorry to spoil your political thesis but I am in fact a geologist.
        ”As I said, solid rock heats EXTREMELY slowly (and deforms extremely slowly), due to low thermal conduction. That isn’t some theory that’s up for the toss.”

        That is clear. I have no dispute with that. My intended point was to attempt to consider the relationship between melted nuclear fuel and the surface strata.

        What we have below the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant is a few hundred feet of siltstones, mudstones, sandy mudstones, muddy siltstones, and relatives, and some other stuff (but much deeper) like ash.

        Here are some numbers and processes [as I have a life to get on with I will leave the reader to mentally organise them - just a list of facts I have grabbed quickly in order to execute a challenge of sorts]:

        1. Name: Uranium. Melting Point: 1132.0 °C
        2. The minimum temperature needed to produce partial melting in metasedimentary rocks is about 650°C. Under these conditions, water saturated metapelites reach their solidus and produce a melt of granite composition. The “standard” geotherm at the Moho is in the 500-600°C range which would not be optimally hot enough for anatectic melting.
        3. Pure quartz melts at 1650°C.
        4.When pottery is placed into the kiln, it is almost always bone dry. However, there is still water trapped within the spaces between the clay particles. As the clay is slowly heated, this water evaporates out from the clay. If the clay is heated too quickly, the water will turn to steam right inside the clay body, expanding with explosive effect on the pot. By the time the boiling point of water (212⁰F and 100⁰C at sea level) is reached, the atmospheric water should have all evaporated out of the clay body. This will result in the clay compacting and some minimal shrinkage.
        5.The temperature of corium depends on its internal heat generation dynamics – the amount of decay heat producing isotopes, the dilution by other molten materials – and its heat losses – the physical configuration and the heat losses to the environment. A compact mass will lose less heat than a thinly spread layer. Corium of high enough temperature can melt concrete. A solidified mass of corium can remelt itself if its heat losses drop, for instance if it becomes covered by heat-insulating debris or if the water cooling it evaporates.
        6.During a meltdown, the temperature of the fuel rods increases and they begin deforming, in case of Zircaloy above 700–900 °C. … At 1800 °C, the cladding oxides start melting and flowing. At 2700–2800 °C the uranium oxide itself melts and the core geometry collapses.
        7.The temperature of corium can be as high as 2400 °C in the first hours after the meltdown and can reach over 2800 °C.
        8.The fast erosion phase of the concrete basemat lasts for about an hour and progresses into about one meter depth, then slows to several centimeters per hour, and stops completely when the melt cools below the decomposition temperature of concrete (about 1100 °C). Complete melt-through can occur in several days even through several meters of concrete; the corium then penetrates several meters into the underlying soil, spreads around, cools and solidifies.
        9.It is also imperative to note that different clays mature at different temperatures, depending on their composition. A red earthenware contains a large amount of iron which acts as a flux. An earthenware clay body can fire to maturity at about 1000°C and can melt at 1250°C. On the other hand, a porcelain body made of pure kaolin might not mature until about 1390°C and not melt until over 1800°C.There is another event that clay goes through, this time as it cools. That is the sudden shrinkage of cristobalite, a crystalline form of silica, as it cools past 220°C. Cristobalite is found in all clay bodies, so care must be taken to cool the kiln slowly as it moves through this critical temperature. Otherwise, pots will develop cracks.

        The first thing we can agree on is that the corium CAN melt through containment and burrow into the “bedrock” [a geological term for the non superficial deposits like alluvium, sand, without implication as to the structural quality of the material - London Clay, Bagshot Sands, are just as much bedrock as Dartmoor Granite].

        The second thing we can agree on is that corium temperatures can melt quartz and can fire clay minerals.
        The zone of “sandy mudstones” underneath the Fukushima 1 NPP will be heated by the melted nuclear fuel mess, the quartz components can melt and flow as a glass-like substance and the clay minerals will bake into a sort of pottery. The clay will dry out, as it does this, and crack. The cracks will allow atmospheric contact between the corium mass on one hand, and on the other air and groundwater, The quartz glass will provide insulation. From this it can be worked out that there will be zones where heat – and vapourised nuclear decay products – can make contact with groundwater and air, and boundary zones where the glassy melts mitigate/prevent heat conduction. From this it can also be figured simply that instability and unpredictability are the order of the day.

        ”If you intend to discuss this you better consider time, and scale – they matter.
        “As for sinking into concrete, yes, it will form a lens of material in the foundation.
        “It may eventually melt most of it, if the insulation is sufficient, and the self-interaction is sufficient.
        “Otherwise, forget it, it won’t go NET downwards, it will go NET horizontally, if anywhere.”

        What it can do after that DOES depend on the structural quality of the material. Check some of the numbered facts above and, maybe, my simple heuristics.

        I have no problem with people discussing the china syndrome because it might help the less informed follow their curiosity to find out the real details. I personally cannot imagine how a few hundred tons of corium could burrow down more than a few dozen feet of bedrock, but there are a lot of things I cannot imagine. HOWEVER: what can happen underneath Fukushima 1 is bad enough.

        I actually don’t find myself in disagreement with what you said, but I do find your vehemence difficult, unpleasant, and unconducive. That is why I have replied at length. I also find that, in discussing the events of 3 March 2011 et seq. that vehemence and aggression generally indicate a hidden agenda, sometimes associated with those paid to misinform on behalf of governments, the nuclear industry, and security services. I would like to feel that your comments do not imply this motivation.

      3. CaptD

        Misitu Thank you for the lengthy post, like you (and others) I also have “some” formal training in both nuclear and geology. One area where I would urge you to think about is the ground water reacting with the corium(s) and the potential effect of earth quakes and or the ever changing levels of the ground water.

        I posted this many months ago and still believe my think is “spot on”:
        The truth is that TEPCO is playing a delay or wait and see game that the Japanese People cannot afford! In the very least a steam event or a massive hydrovolca­nic explosion will make the entire complex a N☢ GO Zone, then what happens to all the spent fuel rods that are left in ALL 6 reactors?

        If I was in charge, I would start N☢W and:

        1. Move every remaining fuel rod (spent or otherwise) in the complex to off site locations far away from Fukushima ASAP. This will reduce the potential problems of radioactiv­e pollution!

        2. Start drilling core holes uphill from the holed reactors in an effort to reach the groundwate­r and then pump it out before it reaches the corium(s), in effect creating a “dry” buffer around the corium(s).

        3. Immediatel­y fill-in th breakwater and start constructi­on on a “coffer dam” that would then allow them to pump seawater away from the holed reactors that would prevent seawater from contacting the corium(s) in effect creating another “dry” buffer around the corium(s).

        4. Open the site to Internatio­nal experts to make better additional assessment­s!

        —> Waiting will only save TEPCO money, but not save Japan (or the World) from the risk of Global radioactiv­e pollution!

  34. Element

    No chance at all that is sitting on clay or soil Steve, and the foundation slab will have deeper footings, so that it does not move, but if it is on solid rock it does not need piles for stability, as footings are sufficient to ensure it stays where they poured the concrete.

    So far I don’t accept there’s been subsidence at reactor 4, what I see is a shattered structure that has warped and distorted, but has NOT rotated, as a contiguous unit.

    Excavation of bedrock to considerable dept, and the removal of whole headlands and hill is routine in Japanese reactor construction, as you would expect.

    A clearer example:
    http://tokyoremix.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/monju1.jpg?w=640&h=480

    There were images of the wave intruding up the bedrock cuttings beside 5 and 6 at Dai-ici … they ARE sitting on bed rock.

    that sub-surface structure would have been drilled, logged and the mechanical properties of the rocks and structures investigated, tested and mapped in detail long before anything was built there. There’s no need to do that again, as they will already have that info, as a standard part of engineering design of the site. Have a close look at hi-res images of the site and you will see the scale of blasting and rock excavation that was done at Dai-ici.

    It was built on rock mate.

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      There is a difference of opinion, best to hope someone comes out with an engineering study.

      Tepco has not earned any trust or respect.

      Every aspect of Tepco’s plant siting so far has proven to have been improper: too close to an earthquake fault, too close to sea level. too many reactors too close together, no backup grid power, backup generators and switchgear in basements, too small a sea wall, poorly/cheaply constructed buildings, plus no operating manual on site, no manual with station blackout directive, no generator lights, emergency pumps that were too weak, etc. Why would anyone trust Tepco to do anything right?

      The matter is too important to stand on assumptions. If assumptions are to be made then it is policy to assume the worst. Tepco presses ‘rosy scenarios’ on its customers and everyone else because it has no liability for its own mistakes in judgment.

      Everyone else carries the liability when Tepco’s self-service turns out to be defective.

      It is far-fetched to ‘assume’ there is any sort of effort-free ‘happy ending’. There are other ways for the multiple meltdowns to crack the world and irradiate half of Asia.

      Tepco has too many plates spinning in the air …

      If Tepco is lucky and there is nothing underground to cause a ‘problem’ their making preparations is relatively inexpensive compared to Tepco being unlucky and there is a second explosion. The costs would be unbearable. It is the weight of cost that matters.

    2. Misitu

      Dear “Element”,

      “It was build on rock mate”

      Geologists have a definition of rock that includes sands, clays, shales, slates, mudstones and siltstones, tillite (geological boulder clay), lava flows and pipes, batholiths of granite and its friends, in fact just about everything beneath your feet except floodplain alluvium, seafloor sediment, and recently erupted volcanic ash. But rocks, as you may imagine from that sentence, vary considerably in their structural properties. Your confidence is not well founded: like, it would seem the Dai-ichi Plant.

      As to “that sub-surface structure would have been drilled, logged and the mechanical properties of the rocks and structures investigated, tested and mapped in detail long before anything was built there”, I sense similar optimism founded, similarly, on the unreliable and cheapskate track record of the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

      The illustration you show is of Monju, the ill fated Fast Breeder project which has never turned a proverbial turbine wheel in service and, in contrast, has had some very nasty moments. That is NOT a good reference!

      Having watched this soapdrama since day 1 I have become familiar with the signatures of “Don’t Worry”, or should that be “What Me Worry!” posts and to be honest this seems to my prejudiced eye to be another attempt to stifle honest debate. Your geology is unsound and your example facile.

      Sorry if this looks personal. It isn’t. It is just an honest response.

      1. Element

        It may not be personal, but it is nonsense.

        The Image I posted showed EXACTLY what I said it showed.

        You’re spinning and distracting from that fact, towards something else.

        How would you know if my geology were ‘unsound’.

        BTW, I’m fully aware of the raging and endless debate about the origins and mechanisms of emplacement of granites and of the origins and movement of melts, and a wide and varied range of geodynamic factors involved.

        You’re telling me nothing sound.

  35. steve from virginia Post author

    First of all, thanks to everyone for the interesting feedback.

    Second: there are a wide range of opinions about conditions inside the three Fukushima reactors (generally the fuel bundles in reactor 4 are considered to be ‘under control’ and in their more or less original condition).

    – Fairewinds indicates the bulk of the fuel assemblies are relatively intact with some material leaked out of the pressure vessels by way of gaskets at the bottom of the PVs @ control rod drives. This spillage and the PV fuel is cooled by TEPCO’s water.

    – Fairewinds does not see the isotopes or energy spectrum that would accompany fast reactions. (I don’t either but TEPCO didn’t see anything at all until last week).

    – TEPCO indicates (from a recent release) that the fuel MIGHT be in granular (pellet) form at the bottoms of pressure vessels but being cooled by TEPCO’s water.

    – Independent experts suggest a ‘melt-through’ with liquefied fuel having escaped the PV entirely.

    – Others suggest fuel spread out in the basement under the drywell.

    – Still others suggest fuel is under the reactor.

    If the fuel is in the reactor buildings and under water, it is basically spent fuel in a disorganized state but incapable of fission. Could there be fragments of fuel inside the building(s) having chain reactions? It is indeed possible. There could be fragments of fuel within main steam/feedwater lines which are large enough to hold a critical mass of fuel but not large enough to cause a runaway criticality. The general ‘consensus’ of TEPCO heat gauges is of lowering temperatures in the drywell. Reactivity means heat. Where is the heat?

    – Where does the hydrogen come from? TEPCO measured H in the same pipe as heavier gases. Howcum? Hydrogen is lighter than air, Xenon and Krypton are not. How did I-131 get into the atmosphere above the Czech Republic? There is a lot of energy somewhere within the Fukushima Daiichi complex that nobody in charge is talking about.

    The conditions in the ground are impossible to know with certainty. However:

    – TEPCO is cheap and would choose a site for plants that was relatively flat and would not require blasting. They wanted a space of a few hundred acres far enough from Tokyo for ‘safety’ that had room for 12 or 15 reactors. They needed a site that would require little site preparation work surrounded by people easily bought off with a handful of ugly buildings in the middle of their town(s).

    – Reactors are disposable crack-shacks, designed to last 30 years or so then abandoned. Japan was to have hundreds of reactors, with the current models rendered ‘obsolete’ by an array of MOX-burning 3d Gen high-tech versions. Two lost decades put an end to that fantasy and the old privvies are patched together and kicked down the road … until the inevitable blow up.

    The reason they aren’t made of vinyl and particle board like American houses is that each core releases while operating 3 gW/hr or more of heat which has to be carried away ‘usefully’. That means a lot of concrete, which is heavy which in turn means little in the way of foundations. The weight does the work: I expected that TEPCO would at least employ pile drivers to create foundations but the term ‘Slab’ comes up in TEPCO reports about what is under the reactors. I suspect they are built right on the soil, on leveled sandy clay, what is found on the sea-shore. Nuttin’ wrong with sand, the Brooklyn Bridge was built on sand and has been carrying people since 1883, 128 years and counting.

    – It appears some settling (liquefaction) has taken place under reactor unit 4.

    – Something heavy would tend to go straight down through something that is not specifically intended to contain or direct it. Newer reactor designs include ‘core catchers’ which spread out the material. When the Fuku reactors were designed the idea of a meltdown was ill formed.

    – – If the core burns straight through the bottom of the drywell (concrete) and the reactor it is likely to continue to burn straight down until it can burn straight down no more. Since the material that it passes through would not be vaporized or carted away (the core doesn’t have a shovel) it would boil around then pile up on top of the core, insulating it from TEPCO’s deluge.

    – It doesn’t absolutely have to burn straight down but that would be the tendency. Chernobyl core cooled before it had a chance to burn straight down, probably b/c the Soviets dumped thousands of tons of lead onto it.

    – What is under the reactors? I don’t know but if I was ‘in charge’ there would be a crew there yesterday doing a series of pounding tests! I would find this crew in the Japanese Yellow Pages! I would have a geologist looking at cores to find out what minerals were in different layers and formations that might act as neutron reflectors. Why not? It wouldn’t cost that much and would be prudent.

    – I would also put Boots and Coots to work drilling under those reactors as prep to end a worst-case scenario from taking place. ‘Bad shit’ has already happened so the likelihood of more ‘bad shit’ is already past 100%.

    MORE prudence, in case I am wrong by underestimating the problem.

    There are always a million good excuses for not doing something, usually it “costs money”. Fukushima without an explosion will bankrupt Japan. Fukushima with an explosion will bankrupt the West even as it in the process of bankrupting itself. In this context, stabilizing the bottom is a minuscule expense …

    1. Misitu

      Thanks Steve for your patient responses and explanations. I believe that you are on the right track although some details must, owing to the current configurations, remain elusive.

      In connection with your paragraph , “That means a lot of concrete, which is heavy which in turn means little in the way of foundations. The weight does the work: I expected that TEPCO would at least employ pile drivers to create foundations but the term ‘Slab’ comes up in TEPCO reports about what is under the reactors. I suspect they are built right on the soil, on leveled sandy clay, what is found on the sea-shore. Nuttin’ wrong with sand, the Brooklyn Bridge was built on sand and has been carrying people since 1883, 128 years and counting. ”

      If Dai-ichi was built on slabs and not piled there would have been an additional risk to any interconnecting systems (pipework for example): personal communication from a practising Structural Engineer,

      “With regard to building on re-claimed land I am afraid I can proffer opinion only, having had no direct experience. I know there are some big jobs where it has been done and, unsurprisingly, differential settlement between paving and piled foundations has been a problem.…”

      This agrees with damage to the reactor /systems/ being sustained directly after the quake, all the tsunami/diesel/battery stuff being Murphy’s Law icing on the cake of the major Moving and Shaking incident.

      The mudstone layers are several hundred feet thick if I recall correctly.

      Mudstone /could/ /just/ be baked into something denser by heat. It does experience this in mountain building episodes, which is why we have rocks like quartzite, slate, micaschist and gneiss; and also granite and its cousins. I have no information as to whether the heat from a corium mass could achieve the same metamorphism. The temperatures, IIRC, are around the right zone, but other factors are required. So the question of solid rock a few feet below the reactor foundations is, on the balance of probability and in my out of date knowledge, slimmer.

      Notwithstanding: there is no excuse for experts and their equipment to be kept away from the site.

      The San Jose Mine comes to mind. But then, maybe the people there have different priorities …

      1. Element

        “I have no information as to whether the heat from a corium mass could achieve the same metamorphism. The temperatures, IIRC, are around the right zone, but other factors are required. ”

        err … no, it won’t ‘bake’ into something else … like I said time and scale matter (and you should bloody well know that!) and thermal conduction, and pressure gradients, and porosity, and permeability and presence of water and solutes…

        Metamorphism is a function of a sequence (usually several) of elevated temperatures AND elevated pressures … otherwise you just get a hot rock that cools with little alteration … or else … a partial-melt (a couple of percent … of the easier to melt minerals and hydrated mineral ‘volatiles’) from the hot rocks.

        No genuine metamorphism to the facies to mention though … though a rather nasty water mobilized metallic skarn aureole is possible.

        And I think this is the greater danger Japan faces if that happens at the surface, and natural weathering and mobilisation in sea and air, of these micro-xtals of the ultra-radioactive solute precipitates … creates an endless supply of hot-particles that you can’t easily stop … you can only move away from the source … and you can slow their spread down … except they WILL keep spreading and their density will keep growing over time.

        That’s not a problem that has been faced before, but here we have multiple candidates for this to occur. I think that in time this process will start at one of the reactors, not at some water table, but right at the surface. Probably at #3, because its MOX fuel is the most self-interacting so has the greatest chance of creating an almost endless reaction, and residual decay heating – for a much longer period. This building will get VERY hot, and it will stay very hot.

        Then it will rain regularly, the concrete will thermally crack, and the steel will rot, and the foundation will loose integrity … and the SFP’s will fail.

        The only cause for any hope would be to get the fuel out of the SFPs NOW — and I mean right now, what ever it takes, get it out … before it’s too late to EVER move it again.

  36. Element

    Very nicely done Steve, but you are making a basic error in thinking in verticle terms. There’s little to no reason to do so.

    The heat released will go UPWARD and especially LATERALLY, and so will the melt, and the toxicity … the static and dynamic thermal effects and transients will strongly dominate, and fairly easily overcome the density effect of the metal and its mass (if it were actually that concentrated into a column as you depicted).

    There is MORE THAN enough excess material there to self-interact strongly, even in a lens configuration.

    I suggest a diagram that reflects a horizontal lens of layered and also convecting material, exolving gasses and steam, not a sunken column, like that, as that column will not reflect the behaviour of a very fluid wet salty metal melt.

    And you do NOT put a building like that (let alone a reactor!) on thick soils, as you have depicted. This was well understood by engineers, from liquefaction events that caused whole building rotations, well before these reactors were designed and built.

    It is actually sitting on consolidated marine sediments for that very reason – i.e. a porous sedimentry ROCK.

    They excavated the site and overburden rock prior to building it, so there’s no actual soil under there — at all.

    Also see this for other extenuating issues:
    http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/fukushima-%E2%80%9Cfar-any-stable-shutdown%E2%80%9D#comment-1844241

  37. Ellen Anderson

    Thanks for working on this, Steve. I will send links to a lot of people.

    Just unbelievable that there isn’t more concern. I wonder whether people in Hawaii are measuring the radioactive fallout and, if so, what they are finding? Do you know?

    1. Florian Zschage

      Hi Ellen,

      I read in a comment (not confirmed by me) on fukushima-diary.com, that “the US [= US officials?] stopped measuring on Strontium.”

      Here’s the link to that quote (see the comment at the end).

      Whether it’s true or not, the US-officials did for sure not stop measuring on Strontium,… it just became a thing of the military now. Therefore the US government (and the Canadian too) will act soon, because it seizes to be a “neglectable” issue, when Strontium comes into play. Strontium-90 is a nasty and mean isotope, that can bring along serious health problems very fast. Therefore they won’t wait for too long anymore now, before taking things from the hands of TEPCO and the japanese government and bring it into their own resp. international hands. And the Japanese won’t say no. I wouldn’t, if I were japanese… They got nothing to lose, but all to win.

      Greetings,
      Flo

    2. Mauibrad

      First, excellent post by Steve. Also, excellent follow-up links by Florian.

      To answer your question Ellen, EPA was measuring and reporting isotope data in Hawaii through early April. They did measure and report isotopes like Cesium, Strontium, Uranium and Plutonium in trace amounts at sites in Hawaii. Since mid-April only private citizens have been attempting to measure and report radioactivity in Hawaii with rudimentary Geiger counters. They have gotten counts in the 100′s CPM particularly in the rain and places where rain settles. The CPM readings, though, aren’t any more than in may places on the U.S. Mainland that are directly in the path of the Jetstream. Hawaii usually is a thousand or more miles south of the Jetstream. Nevertheless, there does also appear to be some sort of military operation in the skies of Hawaii to try to mitigate the fallout from Fukushima. Otherwise, people in Hawaii either don’t know what is going on or prefer not to talk about it so as not to disrupt the tourism industry.

      1. Ellen Anderson

        Thanks to both of you for responding. I hope that the US will stand up to the Japanese but, given our stated intent to ramp up our own nuclear energy program, I wonder whether we will. General Electric has a lot to lose here and they have a pretty good grip on the MSM and, probably, TPTB.

      2. Mauibrad

        I hadn’t thought about GE’s liability, but it could be significant, seeing as this has the potential to be a big enough event to bankrupt more than just TEPCO.

  38. Florian Zschage

    Hi Steve,

    thanks for your very straightforward and precise thoughts. I linked you to enenews.com in Japan and the reactions were very positive. In a big german newspaper forum there are ongoing discussions about the same questions, that you arised. Did you read about the Kr-85-Peak which is a hundred times larger than the Xe-Peak? This would also match with an already deeply sunken core beneath reactor #2 due to the signifikantly longer half-life of 85Kr.

    Here’s a french study – google-translated, this is the original – for further studies on the underground schematics at Fukushima. (So it’s “mudrock”, not solid bedrock directly beneath the buildings.) Also take a note on the links section at the end of the study.

    Regards and keep up the good work,
    Florian from Germany

    1. Misitu

      Thanks for that reference, Florian.

      I am glad to be corrected in my false assumption that the recent geological surveys by Tepco might not have taken place.

      The article gives a very good explanation of the geology and rounds out what I had already discovered through more superficial searches. I recommend it to others who might be curious about what lies below.

  39. steve from virginia Post author

    The point I’m trying to make is the comparison between the observed Fukushima physical conditions and management approaches compared to those @ Chernobyl.

    I thought for a long time that the claims of follow-on criticality and ‘super-powerful explosion’ in meltdown situation was far-fetched. Energy in destroyed power reactor cores is decay heat. Both ground and concrete absorb neutrons and core material is diluted. How can Nesterenko possibly be right?

    The set of conditions I have described here would be sufficient to create @ Fukushima the runaway scenario that Nesterenko described including — in a general sense — the destructive yield, which for Chernobyl reactor complex as a whole would have been /equivalent/ to 3-5 megatons.

    What to watch for is more heat/steam at the plant and announced increases in these fission products.

    The condition of the cores is unknown but the isotopes cannot be wished away. If the fuel is ‘spread out’ either in the ground or inside the reactor basements it would not form critical masses particularly with the thousands of tons of water being dumped onto it continually.

    For the same reason, if there was solid rock directly under the reactor with the fuel diluted into it there wouldn’t be critical masses or fission products. The fact of the isotopes instead suggests the fuel is in a mass sufficient to release energy. However, there is no increase in heat high up in the reactors and the amount of isotopes detected is small. It could be that the critical masses are small or within the pressure vessels with the rest of the fuel spread out and under the flow of TEPCO’s water.

    However, this cannot explain the hydrogen gas found in containments of reactors 1 and 2. It takes a lot of energy to turn water into H and O. Since the pressure vessels — and the containments — are ‘cold’ (per TEPCO) where is that energy release taking place? In the basements of the reactors?

    Nobody knows because nobody has bothered to locate the cores.

    1. JP

      The point I’m trying to make is the comparison between the observed Fukushima physical conditions and management approaches compared to those @ Chernobyl.

      I agree that the Soviet response when compared to TEPCOs performance is beginning to look very good. Bearing in mind that the Soviets were completely blind to the problem until the Swedes told them they had had a major accident and had no plans due to the belief that accidents like this could not happen in the USSR (so there was no need for planning); TEPCOs response is really poor.

      But the point I was making, is how the accident is being managed is dependent on a large number of things outside the site financial, political geographical and philosophical.

      Japan is dependent on imports of fuel, raw materials and food the USSR was not. In order to do this it needs a viable economy in a way the USSR just didn’t. Viable economy and writing off capital when your up to your eyes in debt do not go together.
      Japan has a political system where power is diffuse the USSR’s was concentrated. Very difficult for a USSR leader to pass the buck. By contrast who is actually in charge in Japan Tepco a bankrupt co., the nuclear regulator, the pm, someone else?
      Japan has very little land, the USSR was largest country on the planet. Therefore the USSR could easily resettle people in the affected area and write off the land, the Japanese can do neither.
      The USSR was centrally planned if there was a problem someone would be sent to resolve it*, Japan is free market those in charge have a belief that the invisible hand will do things all you have to do is incentivise.

      *(yes I am aware that USSR central planning had very little feedback/oversight hence the Swedes, but once problems were identified people would be dispatched)

  40. Pingback: The Non-Battle of Fukushima … » Australian Cannonball Nuclear News

  41. JP

    I have a few points which make me believe the situation is not as critical as you have explained. But first an irrelevant point I believe that Grapple 2/Orange Herald at 720kT was larger than Ivy King.

    Firstly we know that fission has been going on for months we know this because there has been a scientific paper which tracks radioactive sulphur on the western coast of the US. The sulphur was produced from chlorine in the sea water used to cool the reactors which means fission restarted within the first few weeks/days of the accident, also radioactive iodine keeps on being detected which also indicates that fission is still ongoing. TEPCOs detection of Xe135 is therefore nothing new but merely a confirmation of what we already knew. (It is of course reflective of how this accident has been handled that it has taken 8 months to check something which should have been checked within the first few days).
    There have also been statements of the ground steaming which would seem to agree with the core having left the building. However, it has been stated that Fukushima was built on the bedrock so there is no sandy layer for the core to pass through and therefore the core should not be about to run into some rock stratum which has massively different neutron reflecting properties.
    In addition my science tells me that hot things rise (convection) and disorder increases (entropy) which means that in order for the corum to keep heading down you have to explain how these fundamental forces are being overcome. I’m not saying that your wrong after all there is clearly nuclear fuel in close enough proximity to cause fission its just as time passes I see it diluting itself with melted rock and daughter products and a tendency to rise and spread out. In short I would expect with time it to be less likely to explode not more.

    Now as to your solutions.

    – The Japanese government must seize the day and eliminate Tepco’s role in the reclamation process.

    They wont. Rule of politics if anything goes wrong have someone else to blame (deniability/Nothing to do with me gov.) If they get rid of TEPCO everything which goes wrong will be their fault and things will go wrong. Also working through a private company means that you can be much more opaque with information.

    – Expand the exclusion zone to 50 miles from the plant until the cores are located then stabilized.

    In a capitalist society the most important thing is CAPITAL The government must and will do everything in its power to protect it; by increasing the exclusion zone you increase the amount of capital which has been destroyed the exact opposite of what the Govt. must do.

    – Find the cores NOW by any means necessary: drilling, robots, pipeline cameras. If this exposes workers to radiation, so be it. If the cores are dispersed or within the reactor buildings there is less urgency and steps can be taken to treat the core material as spent fuel rather than incipient bombs.

    Agreed but as above they may already know a lot more about what is going on than they are admitting see above point on opacity. Measuring neutron flux would seem to be the easy and safe way of doing this.

    – Horizontal drilling equipment MUST be used to drill under reactors. Bore holes can then be filled with boron. Liquid nitrogen can also be flooded under the cores, to freeze the ground beneath the cores and provide neutron absorption.

    umm have to do above first to see if its worth the effort.

    – Spent fuel in all the reactors, on the site and cores at Dai-ichi plants 5 and 6 must be removed off site by any means necessary and at whatever cost as rapidly as possible.

    Agreed however I think SFP 3&4 maybe too radioactive and smashed up to get anywhere near. They should already have emptied the rest of them or had plans well advanced. Of course that requires dealing with reality and if they start down that path they will have to write off capital which could lead to all sorts of financial and political ramifications.

    – If cores are located under the reactors and can be held in place by way of boron or ground freezing, the site can be surrounded by a cofferdam made of steel sheet piling. This cofferdam should have been built already. Wells can be drilled within the cofferdam and ground water removed and then treated to remove radioactive material. Water is a neutron reflector, the less water the better.

    I do not know enough about site or cofferdams to comment.

    – If the cores are below the buildings it is likely adding water or boric acid into the buildings is counter productive.

    If cores are not in rod form or permeable adding boric acid is probably pointless.

    – Get a group of international nuclear experts onto the site and have them determine what is actually taking place so the appropriate steps can be taken.

    Probably already there in an unofficial capacity got to love the opacity or maybe not; The more they know about this the more likely they have to write off capital three monkeys and all that.

    1. Fourier2020

      Per Tepco’s website:
      “The site of the station covers about 3.5 million square meters (865 acres) and the plants are built on solid bedrock.”
      http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/challenge/energy/nuclear/plants-e.html

      Even with that being the case, isn’t Uranium very heavy? I don’t see how you stop a dense, super-heated blob from boring its way down. The other possibility is fractures forming in the rock itself due to heat expansion. Drilling or mining under the plants might actually do more harm if it created more vertical space for the nuclear fuel to seep into. This is one tough problem.

      At Chernobyl, the “freezer” space that the miners dug under the reactor was never used because the nuclear fuel burned itself out. I doubt that there is much chance of that happening in Japan, because the containment building (which the Russians didn’t have) probably kept most of the fuel inside.

      1. Misitu

        In connection with

        ‘Fourier2020 says:
        November 9, 2011 at 12:31 am

        Per Tepco’s website:
        “The site of the station covers about 3.5 million square meters (865 acres) and the plants are built on solid bedrock.”’

        The plants are built on light fill over a thick formation of intercalated lenses of sandy material within mudstones, which are lightly consolidated clays.

        Tepco’s use of the term “solid bedrock” is disingenuous in my personal opinion but I have checked out some maps and other documentation.

      2. Fourier2020

        Ummmmmm … so when does this clay/sand stuff end and the “hard rock” begin? Does anybody know? Even Tepco?

        Maybe Fukushima will blow, Iran will attack/be attacked, and the PIIGS will default all at the same time. Maybe throw in another North Korea nuclear test (on South Korea). Whatever, right … as long as American Idol isn’t cancelled.

      3. JP

        Yes I would think that the core would bore is way down while it was denser than the surrounding rock however it is corum not uranium that we are dealing with, we do not know the density of the corum but I think the more rock it melts the less proportion of uranium that is in it and at a certain point it will either become less dense than the surrounding rock or the concentration of radioactive elements will drop below that required to keep it in its liquid state at which point it will become a solid lump of radioactive rock or head upwards.

        Another thought occurred to me; if the plume of melted rock were to rise, it could change the load bearing properties of the ground under the reactor buildings, increasing the stresses on the already compromised structure. This could have implications for the spent fuel pools.

    2. MarkU

      JP. re: “my science tells me that hot things rise (convection)”

      You are not by any chance an economist are you?

    3. Misitu

      I am not sure about the plant having been built on “bedrock”, that is, relatively solid dense foundation material, metamorphic or igneous rock or metamorphosed shales and sandstones such as schists and gneisses. Rather it seems that the foundation material is a very thick layer of intercalated mudstones and sandy mudstones (compacted clays and silts) and above is what the Japanese Geol Survey map shows as “Holocene Reclaimed Land” (Holocene = post Ice Age), in this case some sort of screed of light landfill covering the cut made when the hill was excavated to give a nice level platform just some 10m above sea level (reason: cost savings on cooling water pumping).

      There may be a layer of unconsolidated stuff over the slightly consolidated mudstones but it would not be that thick.

      Tepco have documented to my knowledge two separate geological surveys in recent years but these are shown only as plans not results. The company’s reputation suggests that the surveys were planned but never carried out.

      The mudstones below the surface may or may not contain water or, rather, are likely to be formed of lenses of more sandy and more muddy materials some of which may hold more water, and this configuration may indeed act somewhat as suggested in Steve’s treatment, depending on the luck of the draw.

      I welcome some more definite information on the above but I did do quite a bit of searching earlier this year and there is not much more definite that you can say about the site’s geology; though what you CAN deduce is concerning enough. I would agree that Steve’s suggestions should be treated as a serious risk to be analysed and dealt with.

  42. Mr. Roboto

    The sort of worst-case scenario you outline here would certainly push the on-the-brink world economy right over the edge, so you would have *two* civilization-leveling disasters taking place at the same time, wouldn’t you? *Homo* *Sapiens* are really just chimpanzees who got just smart enough to outsmart themselves….

  43. Thank You

    It’s great to hear some hard Science with some definite mitigation steps and necessary preventive measures available. Having grown up with a number of top scientists and engineers, I know that they must get the job done, often with no precedent, no matter the physics or mathematical challenge, and they NEVER accept a “no way out” perspective. At the same time, they always take action and make calculations with decisive, lightning-speed. It’s an amazing privilege to watch top engineers and scientists address a “no way out” situation successfully. There is always a way back, around, through, over, or out with much work AND ingenuity.

  44. Ross

    Steve, you said from the beginning that this would ultimately occur if nothing is done. Can you estimate a time frame for a new explosion to occur? Which reactor core is most vulnerable? Will all six “go” if only one core explodes up and out against bedrock?

    If the cores that are sinking explode against bedrock will that force Japanese, Chinese, American, Europeans to stay inside for weeks to months?

  45. iguanaisland

    Thank you, Steve, for writing this. I think there is a lot of denial all over the world about Fukushima because of the implications of this accident for nuclear power all over the world. In Japan, where I unfortunately reside, there is massive denial. People just cannot believe that things could get worse. People have tried to be so optimistic and hopeful here, it is a cultural trope to offer a smile and encouraging words. But it is clear that massive problems loom and no one is ready to face them. I live near Fukuoka, maybe not quite far enough away, but if things start to get very much worse, hopefully we can leave the country. The awful thing is that the radiation would blow all around the world: where would be safe? The US mainland has been getting a lot of radioactive fallout from Fukushima.

    Mankind has certainly gotten him/herself into more trouble than he/she ever thought possible.

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