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Fukushima’s nuclear reactor No 4 poses an apocalyptic danger

We’re in very apocalyptic territory, with a wide and unknown range of outcomes. Take that for what it’s worth — little could go wrong, or much

Risky repair of Fukushima could spill 15,000x radiation of Hiroshima, create 85 Chernobyls, America Blog 9/23/2013  by  Does the planned November 2013 removal of the spent fuel rods stored at Fukushima’s heavily damaged Reactor 4 need a global intervention, or should TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co., a for-profit company) be allowed to go it alone?

So far, the Japanese government is allowing TEPCO to handle it. Why should you care? Read on………

Reactor No 4 today. Notice that it has no roof. The spent fuel rods (and about 200 “fully loaded” unspent rods — remember that “reactor 4 had been de-fueled” prior to the accident) are stored in a water-containing chamber high off the ground in a crumbling room and building without a roof. Below – Unit 4 today 

fukushima_reactor-4-2013

How will “they” get the damaged fuel rods out of that crumbling room?

This is the problem today. There are about 1300 fuel rods stored in that room, packed together vertically in racks. Think of a pack of cigarettes standing upright with the top of the pack removed. Normally, the movement of fuel rods is done by a computer-driven machine that reaches into the room from above and removes or replaces a fuel rod by drawing it upward or lowering it downward.

The machine knows to the millimeter where each fuel rod is located. Also, the rods are undamaged — perfectly straight.

The problem is that this pack of cigarettes is crumpled, and the process must done manually. Therefore, the likelihood that some of the fuel rods will break is high. If that happens and fuel rods are exposed to the air — BOOM. What does “boom” look like?

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

Meanwhile, at the rest of the site:

More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.

Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.

If the whole site blows, “boom” could mean the release of 85 times as much radioactive cesium into the air as was released at Chernobyl. Into the air. Into a stiff cross-Pacific breeze.

There are a number of people warning of this danger; none are getting much play. For example, this from theJapan Times (quoted here): In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4 [with] radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. …. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task….

The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed,possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.

A lot depends on what blows up, if anything. If only Unit 4 blows up, Japan is at risk, including Tokyo, and the nuclear dust will pass across the Pacific to the U.S. People on the West Coast will be warned to keep their windows closed for a while.

If the whole facility blows up, one scientist is talking about moving her family to the southern hemisphere. From the article quoted above:

Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.

We’re in very apocalyptic territory, with a wide and unknown range of outcomes. Take that for what it’s worth — little could go wrong, or much.http://americablog.com/2013/09/risky-repair-fukushima-spill-15000x-radiation-hiroshima-85x-chernobyl.html

 

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September 25, 2013 - Posted by | Fukushima 2013, Japan, safety

4 Comments »

  1. Horrifying. Thanks for keeping us updated Christina.
    I’m convinced of the seriousness of the situation and would move to the southern hemisphere if I could afford to.
    I think TEPCO have proved themselves to be dangerously inept and that they should should be removed from the area so they can’t do any more damage. They should certainly not be in charge of removing the rods.
    This is interesting http://www.halfpasthuman.com/essays/ruf.html
    Thanks again for the updates

    Comment by PublicAnimal9 | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  2. […] Fukushima’s nuclear reactor No 4 poses an apocalyptic danger (nuclear-news.net) […]

    Pingback by Fukushima update, 9/26/13, future plans | Vernon Radiation Safety | September 26, 2013 | Reply

  3. […] Fukushima’s nuclear reactor No 4 poses an apocalyptic danger (nuclear-news.net) […]

    Pingback by Fukushima Disaster Reaches Epic Proportions | spiritandanimal.wordpress.com | September 27, 2013 | Reply

  4. […] Fukushima’s nuclear reactor No 4 poses an apocalyptic danger (nuclear-news.net) […]

    Pingback by Risks at Fukushima, past and future, 10/01/13 | Vernon Radiation Safety | October 1, 2013 | Reply


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