Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The State of Things in Early April

The government said last Sunday it will be several months before the radiation stops and permanent cooling systems are restored. Even after that happens, there will be years of work ahead to clean up the area around the complex and figure out what to do with it. I think those numbers are very optimistic.

As it stands today, all six reactors on the site are still experiencing problems, some much more serious than others. Water has to be pumped in to cover and cool the reactor cores and the spent fuel in the pools. Since the building, the pools, and two of the reactor vessels themselves have been ruptured, it’s like pouring water into a cracked, leaking bathtub. "We must keep putting water into the reactors to cool to prevent further fuel damage, even though we know that there is a side effect, which is the leakage," Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear Safety and Industrial Agency, said. That leakage is the water poured in that is now radioactive. “Iodine-131 in the water near the sluice gate of reactor No. 2 hit a high on April 2 of 7.5 million times the legal limit” At unit #2, “experts estimate that about seven tons an hour of radioactive water is escaping the pit…that’s 1650 gal/hr, and it is 10,000x above the allowable radiation limit.” After an unsuccessful attempt to flood the pit with concrete to stop the leak, workers on Sunday turned to trying to plug the apparent source of the water — an underground shaft thought to lead to the damaged reactor building — with more than 120 pounds of sawdust, three garbage bags full of shredded newspaper and about nine pounds of a polymeric powder, used in Depends and Pampers, that officials said absorbs 50 times its volume of water. Now there’s a great high tech solution. The reality…nobody really know anything!

Japan's government has asked the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant to consider wrapping a giant sheet around the facility to contain further radioactive leaks.

The proposal calls for building framed structures around the 45-meter-high reactor buildings and then wrapping them with the sheeting. If all of the four damaged reactors were wrapped in this manner, it would take up to two months and cost about 80bn yen ($950m), the sources said. It is not clear what kind of material would be used for the sheeting. Atomic energy experts are skeptical about the feasibility of the plan that was proposed by a general construction firm. They stress the risk that such sheeting would be torn apart by heat emanating from nuclear reactors, and that it would also hamper restoration work, including the spraying of water onto the reactors.

“I’ve never heard of anything like it at a nuclear power plant,” said Itsuro Kimura, emeritus professor at Kyoto University and director of the Japan-based Institute of Nuclear Technology. The problem is NOBODY has a clue as to what to do; so this will drag on for months, years, ??? Where are all those nuclear power “geniuses?” What are the guys at Oregon State and MIT thinking and saying? They are the ones who sit in their ivory towers, sucking at the DOE funding tit, and exposing that their “new” modular reactors are totally safe, will be less costly, and produce little or no waste. Of course, not one has ever been built, operated, tested, or licensed. The heads of state and industry continue to lie, beg, and steal with the mantra that we have no other choice. Maybe they should all go to Fukushima and put their fingers in the dike. What if this was happening here in the US?

Meanwhile, even the NRC doesn’t have a clue. The experts are silent. “Japan has asked Russia to send a floating radiation treatment plant, used to decommission nuclear submarines, which will solidify contaminated liquid waste from the country's crippled nuclear power plant, Russian media reported.” Does the US have one of those?

In 1976, Gregory C. Minor, Richard B. Hubbard, and Dale G. Bridenbaugh were fired from GE for “whistleblowing” about the reliability of the Mark 1 design that has now failed in Japan. Many other experts have been silenced for years, and the regulatory agencies have been infiltrated by industry people…government business as usual, at our expense. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are still living in shelters, 200,000 households do not have water, and 170,000 do not have electricity. This will go on for years, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, if that’s the only impact we want to quantify.

Right now, we are still “gut-reacting,” and the news flashes are becoming less and less bright. But the significance of this tragedy will be with us for a long long time, and the “lessons” learned will be far reaching across the globe, impacting nuclear development not only in the US but in France, Russia, China, and all those other countries who have wanted to join the “nuclear club.”

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