Fukushima Dai-ichi status and slow burning issues

With no buildings blowing up at Fukushima for a couple of weeks now, global media attention has shifted back to Libya where there is lots of violence to watch. Does this mean that trouble at the 4 wrecked reactors on the East coast of Japan is over?

With the restoration of mains power to the site, there is talk in the media that the situation is now under control. The rate of deterioration has certainly slowed, but there are five slow-burning issues, one working in favor of the authorities and four working against, that will determine the eventual outcome:

1) Radioactive decay of fission products is steadily declining as they burn up, though the rate of decline is slowing as we burn through the short half lives into the intermediate and longer half life inventories of isotopes.

2) Heat accumulation will rise for so long as circulation cooling is absent until a steady state is reached between the reactors and spent fuel and the surrounding buildings.

3) Corrosion of the stainless steel reactor vessel, pipes and pumps in a salt water environment they are not designed to withstand.

4) Salt accumulation in the reactor cores.

5) Radioactive material spread and accumulation in the surrounding environment.

Status of Fukushima Dai-ichi from Japan Atomic Industrial Forum on 24th march. Significance: Red = Severe (need immediate action); Yellow = High; Green = low. Click to enlarge.

The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum is publishing daily updates on the status at Fukushima Dai-ichi (Fukushima from now on). These have not changed materially for several days, now suggesting that the situation has stabilised for the time being. But just reading the report (table up top) shows how serious the situation is and there are a number of slow burning issues which could lead to a rapid deterioration at any point. The authorities need to rescue all 4 reactors and their fuel ponds.


Summary of headline data:

Core and fuel integrity - damaged in units 1, 2 and 3.

Core cooling - not functioning in units 1, 2 and 3, not required in 4 that is de-fueled.

Building integrity - severely damaged units 1, 3 and 4.

Water level of the reactor pressure vessel - fuel exposed partially or fully in units 1, 2 and 3.

Fuel integrity in spent fuel pools - unknown in units 1 and 2, possibly damaged in units 3 and 4*.

Cooling of spent fuel - water level low in units 3 and 4, but continue to hose in water.

* Given that reactor building 4 was destroyed by a couple of large hydrogen gas explosions that must have come from reduction of water and oxidation of zircalloy fuel cladding, it seems quite certain that the fuel in ponds of unit 4 is damaged.

Slow burning issues

Radioactive decay

As discussed in this earlier post and illustrated by this chart (borrowed from energyfromthorium blog), the amount of heat being produced in reactor cores and spent fuel ponds is declining all the time as the fission products decay away. However, two weeks on from the incident, most of the short half life fission products are gone. And so, while the rate of heat production has declined significantly from the start, from now on the rate of decline in heat production is slow and that heat still being produced needs to be disposed of some how.

Heat accumulation

The normal way to dispose of heat is to pump it away in circulating cooling water (see the massive flows of water either side of the seawall in the picture below). With the cooling pumps out of action due to loss of power, the only way to remove heat is by conduction through water. With the reactors shut down, the rate of heat production will now be much less than 1% of that produced by fission power, but the heat still needs to be removed. The following statement from this report is revealing:

A similar operation is planned for later today at unit 4 and the surface temperatures of the buildings appear to be below 100ºC.

This suggests that the reactor buildings are essentially the heat sinks being used to absorb much of the heat being produced. For fuel rods cooled by water emersion at atmospheric pressure, the maximum temperature the coolant can reach is 100˚C (or it will boil) and since heat is always transferred from higher to lower temperatures, the maximum temperature the buildings can reach is 100˚C by conduction through water at atmospheric pressure. When they reach this temperature there is no where for the radiation heat produced to go and the source temperatures may continue to rise. I'm not sure what the exact outcome might be, but fuel rods catching fire or melting are two possible outcomes.

The following statement from this report gives further cause for concern:

Tepco noted that the temperature of the containment vessel of unit 1 had built to some 400ºC, compared to a design value of only 138ºC. However, the strength of the component is such that it can withstand the stresses this imposes, said Tepco, and its structural integrity is expected to be maintained. "There is no substantial problem regarding the containment vessel's structural soundness under conditions of pressure 300 kPa and temperature 400ºC."

If the reactor steel pressure vessel and the concrete containment are still pressurised then it is possible to raise the temperature of water above 100˚C, but a temperature of 400˚C still signals a serious heat dissipation issue at Unit 1. If either the pressure vessel or containment system are at atmospheric pressure then it suggests that the reactor pressure vessel is ruptured and nuclear fuel is in contact with the concrete containment system.

It is quite clear that Tepco is aware of this problem hence the race to restore mains AC power to see if the pumping system works which will allow heat to be pumped away using the reactor's and cooling pond's water cooling systems. How much of this is going to work?

The six reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi in happier days. The 4 buildings in trouble are those to the left numbered 1 through 4 from right to left. Note the torrents of cooling water discharge either side of the sea wall, designed to withstand waves of 5.7 meters but reportedly swamped by a 10 meter high wave.


Seawater has been pumped into the reactor pressure vessels and the void between the pressure vessel and concrete containment for a couple of weeks now (see cutaway diagram). In this earlier post I quoted TOD commenter donshan who spoke authoritatively on corrosion issues:

I do question the use of seawater cooling. I hope the Japanese have considered the danger they have created by introducing oxygenated seawater into this stainless steel piping and pressure vessel at boiling temperatures. These stainless steels are extremely susceptible to chloride stress corrosion cracking.

Since residual weld stresses and tensile stress in piping, valves, control tubing, etc. are always present, Standard Operating Reactor water quality standards require keeping chlorides at parts per billion levels. Seawater has about 3.5% or 35 grams per liter of salinity!!! (i.e. 35,000,000 parts per billion).

I have no way of knowing how many days they have before a stainless steel component suddenly cracks, but if it were me, I would be advocating an emergency program to get pure deionzied cooling water back into this stainless steel system ASAP. In laboratory tests in boiling chlorides, cracking of stainless in tensile stress can occur within days - they have at most a few months if they keep boiling sea water in this system and yet another disaster occurs.

It is impossible to know the physical state of the stainless steel reactor vessels, pipe work, and valves, but if donshan is correct then eventually we may see catastrophic failure of a vital component that leads to loss of pressure, loss of an active source, or mixing of some part that is very hot with water.

An initial response to corrosion does not have to be catastrophic but cumulative corrosion may be eating away at the fabric of these reactors making recovery more difficult.

Cutaway diagram of a boiling water reactor of similar design to the 4 wrecked units at Fukushima. Given the scale of the damage to the reactor buildings I find it astonishing that there has not been much wider dispersal of radioactive materials around the site, especially spent fuel rods that are not contained by enclosed, armored concrete structures.

Salt accumulation

Pumping seawater into the reactor core to help conduct heat away from the fuel causes the water to boil leading to a build up of salt in the steel pressure vessel. TOD Editor JoulesBurn circulated this report to the TOD group:

Richard T. Lahey Jr., who was General Electric’s chief of safety research for boiling-water reactors when the company installed them at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said that as seawater was pumped into the reactors and boiled away, it left more and more salt behind.

He estimates that 57,000 pounds of salt have accumulated in Reactor No. 1 and 99,000 pounds apiece in Reactors No. 2 and 3, which are larger.

The big question is how much of that salt is still mixed with water and how much now forms a crust on the uranium fuel rods.

Crusts insulate the rods from the water and allow them to heat up. If the crusts are thick enough, they can block water from circulating between the fuel rods. As the rods heat up, their zirconium cladding can rupture, which releases gaseous radioactive iodine inside, and may even cause the uranium to melt and release much more radioactive material.

Some of the salt might be settling to the bottom of the reactor vessel rather than sticking to the fuel rods. But just as a heating element repeatedly used to warm tea in a mug tends to become encrusted, in cities where the tap water is rich with minerals, boiling seawater is likely to leave salt, mainly, on the fuel rods.

The Japanese have reported that some of the seawater used for cooling has returned to the ocean, suggesting that some of the salt may have flowed out again. But clearly a significant amount remains.

A Japanese nuclear safety regulator said on Wednesday that plans were under way to fix a piece of equipment that would allow freshwater instead of seawater to be pumped in.

He said that an informal international group of experts on boiling-water reactors was increasingly worried about salt accumulation and was inclined to recommend that the Japanese try to flood each reactor vessel’s containment building with cold water in an effort to prevent the uranium from melting down. That approach might make it harder to release steam from the reactors as part of the “feed-and-bleed” process that was being used to cool them, but that was a risk worth taking, he said.

Notably the procedure of venting steam seems to have been abandoned. Either it has been decided this is no longer necessary or it has been recognised that the process of allowing seawater to boil away and for salt to accumulate can no longer be sustained. This is a balancing act between allowing pressure to build and venting steam and hydrogen and radiation and allowing salt to accumulate.


Understanding the scale of release of radioactive material and accumulation in the environment is difficult to decipher from the information that is being released. Official data released from the reactor site show radiation levels within tolerable limits.

Radiation levels above the reactors were too high a week ago to allow helicopters to hover to dump water. This could be due to air convection systems around the heating reactor buildings carrying radioactive gasses and particles upwards and / or direct exposure to fuel rods in cooling ponds that had boiled partially dry?

There are now many reports of 'high' levels of radiation from radioactive materials in seawater, food and urban water supplies suggesting that radioactive material contamination around the site is growing. Workers trying to reconnect power supplies to pumps are being exposed to very high doses working within the bowels of the reactor buildings.

This report suggests that daily emission levels from Fukushima may be around one twentyth of Chernobyl which is very serious indeed.

The commission found that the amount of iodine being released every hour stood at some 30-thousand to 110-thousand terra-becquerels. The estimated figure is relatively lower than the one-point-eight million terra-becquerels of iodine that was released hourly during the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in 1986.

My interpretation of this is that the site readings may provide deceptive comfort while environmental contamination is being spread via air born systems going upwards and outwards and via water draining into the sea.

Summing up

Fukushima is like a cancer eating away at the habitat of the east coast of Japan. Whilst the situation appears to be stable, a number of slow burning processes must inevitably be eating away at the heart of these reactors. The solution to a number of these problems is to restore fresh water circulation to each of the cores and the spent fuel ponds. Whether or not the pumping systems work remains to be seen. Disposing of the salty radioactive sludge from inside the reactor vessels presents another major challenge.

It seems possible that the current meta stable condition may persist for many more weeks, and all the while the release and accumulation of radioactive isotopes in the environment will continue. And there is still risk of a catastrophic failure due to heat or corrosion that would result in the status degrading rapidly. It is too early to call this crisis over.

Breach in reactor suspected at Japanese nuke plant


It should be evident to anybody following the situation closely that the official story is full of holes or painted very optimistically.

At least one core and/or spent fuel pool is hosed so that it is leaking very high radioactive material either via the burning process and/or via the water leakage pathways.

Reasons to support this reasoning:

- workers who got beta burns were in the Turbine hall next to reactor 3 hall, not even the reactor 3 hall itself

- if you get beta burns, that means that primary fuel has escaped the fuel rods

- there is zirconium alloy in the seawater according to the Japanese media. Again a sign that the zircalloy fuel rod cladding has broken down somewhere (core or pool)

- the water into which the beta burn victims stepped, supposedly had 10 000 times the amount of radiation as the water inside the reactor normally has. This means two things: 1) fuel rods are badly damaged. 2) the material from fuel either via water pumping or burning, has escaped/is escaping the core. The alternative is the spent fuel pool. Just by reasoning from temps and thermal content in each, I'd put my bet on the reactor. The Japanese officials have now finally admitted to the possibility of this, because they can't deny it anymore

- Situation in 1,2 is still not stable, as shown by the evacuation, high radiation readings, slowness of doing anything inside those reactor buildings and the fluctuation in temp/pressure data.

- The idea that the workers didn't believe their dosimeters and kept working because they thought they were all wrong is, imho, laughable. If you look at the interviews of the firemen breaking down crying and apologizing for the families of the men who had to go inside and the coverage of the beta burn victims you pretty much get an idea of how dire the situation is down there. And that's just the turbine hall. It's a level up from there once you try and enter the the actual reactor hall 3.

This will be upgraded to INES 6 soon and they will try and keep the victims out of the spotlight and gag everybody, but more cracks will show.

Even though the thermal power drops in log fashion, if there's no cooling, there's still plenty of thermal power to do more damage.

Of course there's very little they can do about things already done and happened, but I would have thought that they would have learned form the Chernobyl accident two things: 1) don't cover up the bad stuff, even if you want to avoid panic. 2) don't do hieararchical slow top-down-command and wait for things to settle down.

To me, judging from outside and giving a lot of credit to the efforts people in Fukushima have done to contain this, I think they may have also repeated the both mistakes of Chernobyl.

And no, I'm not comparing the Fukushima incident to Chernobyl in other ways.

I just thought that by now, after TMI, Cherno and others, we would have learned the lessons about how to do these things.

Apparently not.

EDIT: I'm not anti-nuclear. But I am anti-cover-up and anti-lying.

When you see the explosion and the damage done it is not surprising. I'm guessing that the material is most likely from spent fuel ponds. I don't see a pressure vessel and concrete containment giving way until things get very hot.

Euan -

I was making that same point the other day in one of the drumbeats - looking at that explosion how anyone can think that those spent fuel ponds are just sitting there all nice and cozy is beyond me...

Regardless of where they were located within that building they took one hell of a hit and my guess is they are scattered all about (if they are even still intact at all).

That photo is very bad press - it would be ominous looking in any industry. The fact that it is associated with a nuclear reactor is downright terrifying.


I find it odd that after that explosion the spin was that that was a run-of-the-mill typical H2 explosion and the reactors are too tough. Seems in retrospect that that explosion caused lots of destruction in the critical systems and infrastructure around the cooling systems and spent fuel pools. So much for spin. Reality is a whole other thing. We are not going to ever know the extent of the damage. We are only going to get readings of airborne radiowaste and perhaps a few ocean samples outside of Japanese waters. I am sure Japan would not allow research vessels in the area. So much for nuclear. If you cannot speak the truth, then no nuke plant is safe. Too unsafe to to tell the truth. Very sad industry point of view.

Policy issues aside.The salt water is going to kill them. This nuclear disaster site contains more nuclear materials in harm's way than Chernobyl. Best of luck to those trying to stop it.

We are only going to get readings of airborne radiowaste

US DOE is stalling providing plume analysis according to journalists who have asked. The reply is: "We are still working on it." There was a suggestion at the Union of Concerned Scientists' press conference that the delay was due to findings that were "confounding". Whatever that means.

Noticed this graph yet:


It appears that large chucks of data are missing. In science we call that fraud. Selective display of data. Very troubling.

I know the industry tag line will be that they were so busy they could not service the broken sensors.

IMHO they allowed the censors to help monitor the situation.

Here are the numbers from about 8 hours ago for units 1-3 from documents provided to me

Area Rad Monitors

1 "D/W: 4780 rem/hr S/C: 349 rem/hr"
2 "D/W: 5490 Rem/hr S/C: 193 Rem/hr"
3 "D/W: 6000 Rem/hr S/C: 158 Rem/hr"

The S/C stands for secondary containment. And those are huge numbers, that Dr. Mearns could explain.

D/W is the drywell.

Well in the D/W you'd feel like this after a few days -- after an hour of exposure:
Death within 30 to 50 hours
Prognosis = death 100% probability

In the S/C you'd feel this way after an hour of exposure:
Become severely ill during 3rd and 4th week, susceptible to infection
LD50 is ~350 REM

Good luck with that.

at 6000 rem/hour, in 10 minutes you are dead. you would be incapacitated in 1-2 hours after that exposure I believe.

Apparently your muscles give way at that dose in the mid 1000s of REM. But I think you actually die later like you said. The dose to kill you with 100% prob. is far less than an hour's dose at 6000 REM. Like you estimate here 1000 REM should be lethal with high 90s % prob. All these does are quite lethal. No one could do anything around those reactors.

I'm afraid I can't explain but hope someone else can. A quick Google search came up with this:


Getting into complex plant engineering that requires an expert explanation.

That link contains the phrase "rector pressure vessel"; it doesn't seem to be too carefully written.  The invention appears to be aimed at handling LOCA's due to pipe ruptures, not the sustained loss-of-power which is the problem at Daiichi.

For those not familiar with radiation dosage measurements and dangers associated with them a little research reveals the following;

REM = roentgen-equivalent man
100 REM - 1 sievert

LD50 = 4.5 Sieverts or 450 REM

And so roughly speaking, a man could stay in the secondary containment for between 1 to 2 hours to receive lethal dose. About 5 minutes in the dry well to receive lethal dose. The dry well is the area between the steel reactor vessel and the concrete containment dome structure. These figures tend to confirm that the reactor vessels in each reactor 1, 2 and 3 are breached.



Here's an excellent talk (dated yesterday) by Dr. Masashi Goto, Former Toshiba Nuclear Power Plant Designer to the Foreign Correspondent Club of Japan yesterday. Lots of details on pressure vessel and containment and failure modes at Fukushima.


I watched Dr Goto's piece twice and made some notes. A lot of this is difficult to follow. Meanwhile events have taken another turn for the worse:


I'm trying to write another post and would appreciate some well informed guidance:

How many loads of fuel are in play in units 1 to 4? My estimate is 3 loads of hot fuel in containment in units 1 to 3, 1 load of hot fuel outside of containment in unit 4, and 4 loads of spent fuel in pools in units 1 to 4. 8 loads of fuel all together excluding units 5 and 6 and the dry storage area.

How is the highly radioactive, short half life iodine formed? Does this form as part of the radioactive decay of fission products or does it require active fission?

At 20 mins into Dr Goto's presentation he shows a picture of the Primary Containment Vessel with a big flange bolted on top. This looks like steel to me, not concrete. It looks kind of like this one:


Does Dr Goto say that P is changing in lock step between Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) and Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) - suggesting communication between the two. He does provide plausible, non-catastrophic explanations for how this could come about.

Does Dr Goto say that the fuel in units 1 to 3 has already melted?

My feeling at present is that RPV is leaking into PCV and that PCV are leaking to atmosphere, Not necessarily ruptures but exploitation of weaknesses and this is why they are no longer having to attempt wet well or dry well venting. This is not necessarily a bad thing since it may prevent a catastrophic failure based on over pressure build up.


Your comment

"How many loads of fuel are in play in units 1 to 4? My estimate is 3 loads of hot fuel in containment in units 1 to 3, 1 load of hot fuel outside of containment in unit 4, and 4 loads of spent fuel in pools in units 1 to 4. 8 loads of fuel all together excluding units 5 and 6 and the dry storage area."

is answered below by a link provided by DisDaniel. It sates that there are 1100 tons of fuel rods on site. Just wanted to let you know as it is easy to miss stuff with so many comments.


EDIT: oops 2500 tons

"How is the highly radioactive, short half life iodine formed?"

Here is the fission products decay chain with half life times:
134 Sn (Tin), 135 Sn, 136 Sn: All have half lives less than 1.5 seconds ->
134 Sb (Antimony), 135 Sb: Half life less than 2 seconds ->
134 Te (Tellurium) 41.8 minutes ->
***134 I (Iodine) 52.5 minutes -> ***
134 Xe (Xenon) Viewed as stable, double beta decay predicted but has not been observed

The link Iodine Isotope explains formation of Iodine-134.

Interestingly, the link also states the mistakenly measured Iodine-134 was Cobalt-56. Cobalt-56 has a half-life of 79 days.

I don't believe the reactor vessels have breached. Had they done so, operators would have seen two things; a big drop in pressure inside the vessel and a rapid increase in temperature outside of it, within the concrete containment structure. Every report I've seen says the pressure and containment levels are stable at all but Reactor 2, where they suspect the torus is damaged. If Reactor 2's pressure vessel has breached, the radiation levels outside the containment structure would be very high.

I think what's more likely is they vented steam into the drywall to try and equalize the pressure inside the pressure vessel, and that area is now very radioactive due to those efforts. The drywall links to the torus to help reduce coolant and steam temperatures/pressure, and they would have tried anything to get those pressures down.

"If Reactor 2's pressure vessel has breached, the radiation levels outside the containment structure would be very high."

I suppose we may have a different definition of "very high", but I'd say that radiation levels are indeed very high in and around Fukushima.

Not nearly as high as unshielded reactor core material, though. Has anyone seen a report detailing what isotopes are being found around the buildings themselves? I've only seen estimates that it was iodine and cesium, both which probably came from vented steam.

On multiple occasions over the past week the radiation levels have spiked so high the workers have had to withdraw--I consider that evidence that radiation levels have been "very high" repeatedly.

As its clear you discovered in the comments below:


I don't pretend to know what it all means, except that it is not normal to find it all in one puddle. Also they have detected sigificant amounts of the iodine and cesium, in the air, on the land and in the sea. And all of our data is well short of current and complete.

I continue to hope that the Japanese will be able to regain control of the situation and minimize the harm done, but I fear a great deal of harm has already been done.

If Reactor 2's pressure vessel has breached, the radiation levels outside the containment structure would be very high.

I think what's more likely is they vented steam into the drywall to try and equalize the pressure inside the pressure vessel, and that area is now very radioactive due to those efforts.

There are many types of breach, they do not all have to mean a substantial portion of cover removed.
You claim the radiation levels are too low for a full breach, but also want us to believe the high levels that burnt the workers, after all the spraying, was from earlier steam release ?
The simple maths of relative volumes makes that unlikely.

So that leaves some middle ground, where part of the core has slumped, and we have a oozing sludge, or similar, that starts very hot, and reactive, and as the molten volume increases (or simply moves down with gravity and relative density), it dilutes.

So they get the illusion of control, they are seeing now ?
No very big bang, but ship loads of radiation.

ie to me it is more a molten thermal density problem, than a nuclear critical mass one.

"You claim the radiation levels are too low for a full breach, but also want us to believe the high levels that burnt the workers, after all the spraying, was from earlier steam release ?"

No those are two completely separate issues. The water in the turbine buildings is still relatively contained, in the buildings themselves. I was talking about the radiation found around the exterior of the reactor buildings, on the ground. All I've heard of those isotopes is the airborne types, iodine and cesium. The radiation levels outside were not as high as the ones found within the buildings, but still high enough to limit worker time in the area. I think it's obvious there's a break in the pipes for these reactors, but a "breach" in the steel pressure vessel is still not indicated IMO.

The Washington Post is now reporting water in Reactor 2's turbine building is 10 MILLION times higher than normal, so it's safe to assume all three reactors have leaks in their piping systems somewhere. Is there anything that can be done with these reactors to seal them up by pumping some kind of slurry into the system? Or is that impossible until the latent heat decays in the fuel rods to the point there won't be any dangerous heat generated? This is turning into an incredibly complicated and dangerous Gordian knot that the Japanese are facing trying to stabilize and clean up this mess.

The Washington Post is now reporting water in Reactor 2's turbine building is 10 MILLION times higher than normal

apparently the story changed later in the day

On Sunday, TEPCO officials said radiation in leaking water in the Unit 2 reactor was 10 million times above normal -- an apparent spike that sent employees fleeing the unit. The day ended with officials saying the huge figure had been miscalculated and offering apologies.

The number is not credible," TEPCO spokesman Takashi Kurita said late Sunday. "We are very sorry."

A few hours later, TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said a new test had found radiation levels 100,000 times above normal -- far better than the first results, though still very high.

But he ruled out having an independent monitor oversee the various checks despite the errors.

from MSNBC

Well I wouldn't want to be sent in there to do the monitoring but an independent set of eyes would seem mandatory, not something only allowed at TEPCO's discretion.

Mr. Schoff, iaea confirms your numbers


"The dose rate in the reactor containment vessel and suppression chamber continued to decrease to 36.1 sieverts per hour and 1.4 sieverts per hour, respectively, as of 13:00 UTC 26 March."

thanx for the early heads up


"Scientists' press conference that the delay was due to findings that were "confounding". Whatever that means."

It's not consistent with the model. Or any model. We've never boiled a core in salt water before, much less for a week. They need a new model.

"This nuclear disaster site contains more nuclear materials in harm's way than Chernobyl."

You know, I keep hearing people say that, as if TEPCO piled all the nuclear material in one big stack and right now they're heating it up to full ignition.

Nothing could be further from the truth. First, each reactor has its own spent fuel pond. That's six different ponds, two which are stable (5,6), two are having water pumped into them (3,4) and two now have their pumps turned back on (1,2). There's also a common dry storage building where the older spent fuel rods are stored, and they've verified it was not damaged by the tsunami or earthquake.

Then there's the six reactors. Reactor 4 was empty and all the fuel rods are in the spent fuel pond, but Reactors 1, 2 and 3 were operational and 5 and 6 were shut down for maintenance. The latter two are not a concern, and every indication is that Reactors 1 and 2 are considered stable.

That leaves Reactor 3's fuel, plus possibly the spent fuel in ponds 3 and 4, as needing to be concerned about. Now, is that more than what was in Chernobyl? I honestly don't know, but I do know the chance we'll see it spread all over the place as what happened at Chernobyl is minutely small, if it exists at all. It's disinformation and fearmongering to lump all the nuclear material at Fukushima together in a comment comparing it to Chernobyl, and you ought to know better.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I can think of many things further from the truth.
Why not just say it's "misleading", or "false", or "far from the truth" and leave the metric vague.

You know, I keep hearing people say that, as if TEPCO piled all the nuclear material in one big stack and right now they're heating it up to full ignition.

I don't join you in the understanding that those people mean that all the nuclear material is close together, except in the sense that it is all kinda close together: in the same ballpark. I think there is cause for concern, and for scoping out the potential.
You are on the way there in your post below: 3 level 6's + problems with spent fuel pools.

"It's disinformation...and you ought to know better."

And that sums up Bendal's post...in a nutshell.

In what way? Chernobyl had all the nuclear material in one big melted pile, with an intense fire surrounding it and pumping radioactive isotopes up into the atmosphere.

At Fukushima we've got 12 different storage locations, all separate from each other, and each with its own safety features. Some aren't working and some may be indeed releasing material into the environment, but to compare the two locations as was done in the first post is just completely inaccurate and smacks of fearmongering.

Somehow knowing that there are twelve piles of potentially or actively melting down material instead of just one just isn't terribly comforting to me. And of course they did put the whole thing in harms way by locating the plant where it was likely to be subject to both earthquake and tsunami threats. That's not even touching on the mismanagement and corruption issues.

It goes without saying that the two sites are different. Whether and how much worse Fukushima will be will become grimly evident as this continues to unfold.

Again more misinformation; there aren't "twelve pipes of potentially or actively melting down material" anywhere at Fukushima. Why do people keep throwing the hysterical buzzwords into their comments if for no other reason than to get people to stop thinking?

Once again; due to the amount of time since core shutdowns, it is very, very unlikely that any of the 3 active reactor cores are going to "meltdown". Some partial melting has definitely taken place in all three reactors, just as what happened at TMI. They aren't going to keep on melting now, though; they've been cooled almost continually at some level for two weeks now, and there's no evidence that the steel pressure vessels have released any core material. The spent fuel ponds and their material aren't going to "melt" either, and again, they are being monitored and water kept in them. And no, there aren't "twelve 'piles'" in danger there, unless you automatically assume every spent fuel pond and reactor there is in danger, and that's just hysterical thinking.

Is there reason for serious concern? Absolutely. Can things get worse? Definitely, especially if the spent fuel ponds lose their water, which aren't going to cool off any time soon. I believe the plant site itself is completely trashed and some form of containment is becoming more and more likely for the four reactor complex (reactors 5 and 6 may somehow remain operable), but while tremendously damaging, I still don't see this in the same scale as the uncontrolled direct release of nuclear core material into the atmosphere that was Chernobyl.

Here is a link to a discussion about fuel assemblies in reactors and holding pools:


As I understand it, at Fukushima there are multiples of the amount of fuel that was present in the Chernobyl incident. Even if you just limit the discussion to the 3 reactors and 4 storage pools that are of concern.

"and every indication is that Reactors 1 and 2 are considered stable."

Every indication is that TEPCO doesn't have a clue (and hasn't since the fiasco started) what is really going on in any of the reactors. If you consider the barely controlled release of radioactive material to air, sea, and land that we've witnessed for two weeks now to demonstrate stability in reactors 1 & 2 then you and I do not share a common language.

Your link (to allthingsnuclear.org) has numbers showing that Fukushima-1 has 2500 tons of fuel on site, which is 13 times Chernobyl-4's 180 tons. 1100 tons (6 Chernobyls) are in the shared pool storage, a 13th location, about which there has been no real mention, and 400 tons (2 Chernobyls) in dry cask, a 14th location. The total in the 6 reactors is about 3 Chernobyls, and the amount in each unit's spent fuel pool is about another 3 Chernobyls.

So each Fukushima unit has ballpark the same amount of fuel as Chernobyl's reactor, but split between the reactor and the spent fuel pool. The common spent fuel pool, which so far has not been involved, has half of all the fuel on site.

That leaves Reactor 3's fuel, plus possibly the spent fuel in ponds 3 and 4, as needing to be concerned about. Now, is that more than what was in Chernobyl?

63 or 64 fuel rods per assembly (some have 81 smaller rods), each assembly is about 200kg of uranium. In the case of Unit 3, the 32 MOX assemblies, "altogether weighing 8.3 tons and containing 210 kg of plutonium." So, again 235kg per assembly with 4% Plutonium in the MOX assemblies and maybe 0.5% or so in the spent fuel assemblies.

Unit 3 = 548 assemblies = 110 tons of fuel
Unit 3 pool = 514 assemblies = 100 tons of fuel
Unit 4 pool = 1331 assemblies = 266 tons of fuel

As for Chernobyl, I have read 180 tons commonly cited.

[EDIT] Sciencemag.org is probably closer with 90 tons in Unit 3 reactor and 135 tons in Unit 4 pool, but I don't know where their numbers come from.. http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/03/how-much-fuel-is-at-ri...

It is well known (see for example [1]) that at the moment of the accident there were approximately 214,600 kg of nuclear fuel in the fourth unit of ChNPP. The basic amount (190.2 ton) of this fuel was loaded into the reactor core, the part of the spent fuel was placed in the south cooling pond (14.8 ton), at the stand in the central hall (CH) there were the assemblies of fresh fuel (5.5 ton) prepared to loading to the core, and, at last, there was 4.1 ton of fresh nuclear fuel in a room of fresh fuel preparation. [PAVLOVYCH]

About 71% of the fuel in the core (135 metric tons) remained uncovered in the reactor shaft after the explosion

Now back to your comments...

I honestly don't know, but I do know the chance we'll see it spread all over the place as what happened at Chernobyl is minutely small, if it exists at all. It's disinformation and fearmongering to lump all the nuclear material at Fukushima together in a comment comparing it to Chernobyl, and you ought to know better.

What is disinformation is when you are saying that this isn't close to Chernobyl. And that fission products are NOT spreading all over the place. Every measurement and bit of science contradicts such a silly notion. There is tons of radioactive dust from those fires, explosions and probably from burning fuel rods exposed to the air. It is not fear mongering as most estimates place the amount of radioactive Iodine and Cesium on the same magnitude as Chernobyl. (1/5 to 1/2)

Also this thing is still burning and salt will likely cause more leaks as they have only pumped a few tons of water into the storage pools (are the cracked or leaking) and done very little to help the reactors.

Did I mention they will pump the radioactive water from the reactors into the ocean. (which may be the least dangerous thing going on to date).

Theres a pdf of a presentation produced by TEPCO last year about a new dry storage facility, http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/accidents/6-1_powerpoint.pdf

it says theyve increased the capacity of the spent fuel pools by "reracking" and have also installed a common spent fuel pool

as of march 2010 there were 1,760 tons of spent fuel on site

it details storage at one plant and it's Fukashimi-daiichi it says that in total there are 3,450 fuel assemblies in the reactor storage pools, and 6,291 in the common pool (plus 408 in dry cask storage)for a total of 10,149) the plant has a capacity of 15,558 which is described as 450%of the total core capacity of 6 reactors. it also says that 700 fuel assemblies are generated every year. the common storage pool is marked as 90% full, so it is safe to say that some of the 700 to be produced last year hve ended up in thereactor storage pools, as there is less space left in the common pool than would have been marked as spent this year. the only other option is that some has been moved offsite. but seeing as the offsite store isnt starting construction till 2012 I think its unlikely

The common pool is the building immediately behind reactor 4 which isnt the best place.

"What is disinformation is when you are saying that this isn't close to Chernobyl."

Every nuclear expert says the chance that Fukushima is going to become "another Chernobyl" is near zero. The nuclear material isn't in one large pile, there are containment and safety systems around all the reactors, none of the active plants are going into full meltdown, and the spent fuel ponds are all reported as having water in them now. So, where's the evidence that this event is comparable to Chernobyl?

"And that fission products are NOT spreading all over the place."

Define "spreading all over the place". The highest radiation levels have been found at or in the plants themselves. Yes, cesium has been found outside the plant perimeter, as has iodine isotopes. That's still nowhere near the impact that Chernobyl had on the surrounding land, or even adjacent countries.

"There is tons of radioactive dust from those fires, explosions and probably from burning fuel rods exposed to the air."

More hysteria. Show me a reputable article making such claims. There's no "fire" sending "tons of radioactive dust" anywhere, there's no "burning fuel rods". In fact, there's no definitive proof that the fuel rods can 'burn' in the first place; the French conducted a test of dry spent fuel rods to see what would happen to them; the cladding deformed and burst open, but did not burn. There was one anti-nuclear scientist who got zirconium alloy to burn by carving it up into shavings, but I can do that with aluminum or iron as well.

"Also this thing is still burning..."

What is burning? The last "burning" I saw was when they reported black smoke coming from Reactor 3 a day or so ago, and it went out shortly after the report came out. Stop making wild hysterical claims.

"...and salt will likely cause more leaks as they have only pumped a few tons of water into the storage pools (are the cracked or leaking) and done very little to help the reactors."

You know all this for a fact? You appear to have your facts confused. They're pumping fresh water into the reactor vessels (none which are known to have ruptured), but AFAIK the spent fuel ponds are still getting sprayed with seawater from fire fighting trucks. If the salt water does "cause leaks", they will take place in the piping (the weak link in the containment defenses) and the leaks should be contained to the power plant property.

"Did I mention they will pump the radioactive water from the reactors into the ocean."

Not what I heard; NKH was reporting TEPCO had some water storage vessels ready to pump the water into, but they didn't know what to do with the water after that. No mention of just dumping it into the ocean though.

"Meanwhile, calculations of soil contamination by experts have already produced results that are at the same level as for Chernobyl.

Cesium-137 levels of 163,000 becquerels per kilogram of soil was detected in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, about 40 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima plant, on March 20. That was the highest figure in the prefecture.

According to Tetsuji Imanaka, an associate professor of nuclear engineering at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, if the Iitate figure was converted to one square meter, the figure would be 3.26 million becquerels.

After the Chernobyl accident, residents who lived in regions with cesium levels of 550,000 becquerels ore more per square meter were forcibly moved elsewhere.

"Iitate has reached a contamination level in which evacuation is necessary," Imanaka said. "Radiation is still being released from the Fukushima plant. The areas of high contamination can be considered to be on par with Chernobyl."

Link: http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201103250204.html

something is missing in the conversion because areas (square meter) need a depth measurement to come up with a mass that can be weighed out to a kilogram. In other words this does not compute. A thin enough layer of soil could be quite a bit broader than one square meter and weigh kilogram, and of course a deep enough layer could have quite bit smaller surface area and weigh the same. Sloppy reporting or calculating or both, no way of knowing.

two [spent fuel ponds] are having water pumped into them (3,4) and two now have their pumps turned back on (1,2)... every indication is that Reactors 1 and 2 are considered stable.

From whence this information, please?

The Wikipedia link to the Fukushima reactor events are showing the NISA graph with the various conditions for each one. Reactors 1 and 2 continue to be described as being in a stable condition.

Maybe we will be told truths in five or twenty years.

Spagnoli is a blogger.
The article he references makes no mention.
The crack is described as VISIBLE.
Another blogger makes similar, visible crack claims.

One picture is worth a thousand words.

From your ,dohboi, link
"Using those figures to make a simple calculation of the amount of discharge between 6 a.m. March 12 and midnight Wednesday results in figures between 30,000 and 110,000 terabecquerels. Tera is a prefix meaning 1 trillion.

The INES defines a level 7 major accident such as Chernobyl as one in which radiation of more than several tens of thousands of terabecquerels is released.

The Fukushima accident is already at a level 6, which is defined as having a radiation discharge of several thousands to several tens of thousands of terabecquerels.

The discharge of radioactive iodine at the Chernobyl accident was said to be about 1.8 million terabecquerels. "

This is very very not good, yes.

The article from the NYT says nothing about a large crack in the vessel. It does say this:

"Michael Friedlander, a former nuclear power plant operator in the United States, said that the presence of radioactive cobalt and molybdenum in water samples taken from the basement of the turbine building raised the possibility of corrosion as a cause.

Both materials typically occur not because of fission, but because of routine corrosion in a reactor and its associated piping over the course of many years of use, he said."

ISTM that's the most likely source of both the high radiation levels and the water in the turbine buildings, not some mysterious crack in a pressure vessel.

Now go back and read what they say about Reactor 2 today.


That was the reactor Steve Chu said was the one to watch, a few days ago. I suggest they have known this was on the way all week.

@AlertNet has just tweeted:

"Japan nuclear plant operator: Very high radioactivity in No. 2 reactor may be wrong"

The tweet gives no source ,
and Alertnet says nothing about this :


AP has picked up that announcement too. The paranoid will now all be shouting "cover up", of course.

Too late; the world media has already seized on the "million times more radioactivity" report and are reporting on it. Now even if it is lower, few will believe it.

If it is true that radiation that high is found in the water in Turbine 2's basement, where is it coming from? There really shouldn't be any iodine isotopes in the water coming from the reactor now, or at least very low levels of it due to the short halflife. Iodine and cesium are the same isotopes we've seen from steam releases; that tells me this is a steam leak from a pipe running directly from the reactor into the turbine building.

The other side of the coin is that this once again confirms TEPCO's incompetence.


They haven't backed down on the 1 sievert per hour reading nor have the said the i-134 measurement was definitely wrong. They have said they are re-sampling to see if they made a mistake. "As of now it is not certain it is iodine-134" - that direct quote from latest TEPCO press conference.

"Japan nuclear plant operator: Very high radioactivity in No. 2 reactor may be wrong"

TEPCO and Japanese government are completely inept and have ZERO credibility.

Nuclear shills and other greedy idiots on this forum need to volunteer for clean-up duty at Fukushima now.

Here's the latest:

Japanese Officials: Huge Radiation Spike A Mistake

I particularly like this bit:

On Sunday night, though, plant operators said that while the water was contaminated with radiation, the extremely high reading was a mistake.

"The number is not credible," said Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita. "We are very sorry."

He said officials were taking another sample to get accurate levels, but did not know when the results would be announced.

The whole flipping accident was "not credible" in TEPCO's eyes, but it happened.

As you say, TEPCO are not credible, alas.

More here, from NHK:

TEPCO retracts radioactivity test result

The company said on Sunday evening that the data for iodine-134 announced earlier in the day was actually for another substance that has a longer half-life.

The plant operator said earlier on Sunday that 2.9 billion becquerels per cubic centimeter had been detected in the leaked water.

It said although the initial figure was wrong, the water still has a high level of radioactivity of 1,000 millisieverts per hour.

Still extremely high.

And these are the "experts"? How can they be making these constant mistakes?

Worth repeating. Despite the press reports that it was definitely something else, the actual words TEPCO used (NHK translated) were "As of now it is not certain it is iodine-134".

I was suspicious that this reading might be wrong when it came out last night: if it really had been that high, whoever collected and measured that sample would have been killed or seriously injured.

And these are the "experts"? How can they be making these constant mistakes?

Remember, these samples are collected and probably analyzed by workers on site. So the answer to your question is: non-stop frantic work without sleep in a situation where the fate of an entire nation is riding on your shoulders, and where there's a good chance that you're going to die a painful grisly death in a few weeks. Performing delicate measurements in the shattered wreckage of a building that's been destroyed three times over, with little light and power.

People inevitably make mistakes in emergencies. The trick is to set up procedures beforehand to ensure those mistakes aren't fatal.

It's also apparent that TEPCO doesn't have a very good handle on how information is being released to the public. They should have never gone public with the "ten million times normal" announcement until it had been verified and confirmed. There's been just way too much information coming from them that ended up being corrected later on, and it seems to me the TEPCO officials are still functioning from a business mode rather than a crisis management mode. They need a PR official who briefs the media on what's going on, and is experienced with what's happening at the plant that he can provide explanation for the inevitable follow up questions. Right now it looks like they don't have that at all.

It makes it look like maybe they were finally giving in to some strong-arming for more forthcoming information BUT either someone misunderstood company directive OR the strong-armers didn't mean absolutely forthcoming...i dunno...

They have not retracted the greater than 1 sievert per hour reading for the water. In fact they now say that radiation levels are so high that the workers couldn't measure it.

So they stick to the measured amount of Becquerel (absolute rate of decay) and Sievert ( 1Sv/hour) ?

Why is that any more comforting ?

If its not Iodine 134 , but another isotope with a longer halflife ,

you effectively must have MORE of this isotope than I-134 to generate the same amount of radiation.

This is a spin bordering towards the criminal ...

or at best very thoughtless when the entire MSM can now say that it's not too serious afterall , when its just as serious and even more so

Forget a relative comparison like 10000000x more than usual ,

it should not be there in the first place.

I'd say its aleph0 x more radioactive than usual , duh !

Greenpeace has sent out a team. I wonder what they will report.

The cover up will have some very nasty side-effects. Trust is gone and my guess is any other nuclear incident might just cause mass panic. I doubt any power plant will ever find the manpower to deal with something like this again.

Greenpeace radiation team pinpoints need to extend Fukushima evacuation zone

Fukushima, March 27, 2011: Greenpeace radiation experts have confirmed radiation levels of up to ten micro Sieverts per hour (1) in Iitate village, 40km northwest of the crisis-stricken Fukushima/Daiichi nuclear plant, and 20km (2) beyond the official evacuation zone. These levels are high enough to require evacuation.

Greenpeace has sent out a team. I wonder what they will report.

Whatever suits their cause.


You know, if there was a plant leaking in your backyard, they would be there reading the levels, too, and working and lobbying so your family wasn't going to be sick from it.

THAT's what suits their cause.. but if it gives you a little manly oomph to smack them around for it, because they're willing to annoy powerful lobbies and be made into easy targets, maybe that's just YOUR cause.

Unfortunately they do not let truth get in the way of their message. To take your example of the leaking plant I would not wish to be evacuated because they had exaggerated the danger to promote their cause, I would not be able to trust their readings. They could do a lot more effective work and raise awareness without their stunts. I believe they do more damage by setting themselves up to ridicule than they gain. Do not confuse my opinion on what they do with my opinion on some of the causes.


While I agree that the pressure vessel would have withstood the Reactor 3 explosion (it was between the outer building shell and concrete containment structure), it's not clear if the concrete containment structure was undamaged. TEPCO seems to be waffling between saying it may be damaged and that it's intact. I don't know if that's the fault of the translators or they really don't know.

However, even if both containment structures remained intact, the explosion could have still fractured a pipe or two, allowing water to drain out and into the turbine building basement. Reactor 3 has had trouble in maintaining a stable pressure or consistent water levels inside the pressure vessel. The operators first thought it was due to lack of data but then wondered if water was converting to steam faster than they could pump it in, then they began thinking perhaps the torus was damaged.

A ruptured pipe in the turbine building would also cause all of those things to happen. The BWR's run steam directly from the reactor to the turbine, where after turning it the steam is condensed, cooled and returned to the reactor. If there's a break in one of those pipes, they'd not be able to maintain a certain pressure level and the water would tend to lower as it vented out the break. I also read that the presence of cobalt and other isotopes in that basement water indicates the water has to be coming from the reactor, and not the spent fuel pond.

The good news is the rupture is probably inside the turbine building, and somewhat contained inside that structure. The bad news is the rupture is probably inside the turbine building, right where the workers need to reconnect power and operate the cooling systems. The last I heard TEPCO was going to pump the water out and into storage vessels, but if there's a leaking pipe they'll never get it all cleaned up.

I do agree we're looking at a Level 6 event though. TEPCO has three TMI's on their hands, plus the hazards of the spent fuel ponds to deal with.

Here's a data point, on what this all started with, the maximum measured (at unit 3) ground acceleration was .511 g's.
The design values for unit 3 were .45-.458 g's. Add thermal stress and then the explosion into the thinking here.

Were those values the design limits or with the factor of safety added in? If they were the design limits, then hopefully the safety factors were enough to keep everything stable. If that was what the values were with the factor of safety included, then there should have been a lot more damage to all the plants, not just Reactor 3. I do recall a US nuclear plant expert saying our plants were designed for more lateral ground acceleration than the Fukushima plants were, though.

I'm not saying that the combination of earthquake, tsunami and explosions didn't damage something. I'd be amazed if nothing was damaged after all of this. But, given what these reactors and adjoining systems have been through, they've remained remarkably intact and functional.

Because structures weaken after 40 years, any safty factor may have been degraded.

Written by Bendal:
... given what these reactors and adjoining systems have been through, they've remained remarkably intact and functional.

Despite three partial core meltdowns established by loss of coolant & the presence of short lived radioisotopes, 4 explosions at 4 nuclear power reactor buildings and radioactive elements spewing into the environment, you assert they are "remarkably intact and functional." Fukushima 1, reactors 1 through 4 will never generate electrical power again making them radioactive piles of junk (not functional). They are not intact because radiation and radioactive elements are spewing into the environment. With this level of nonsense, it is time for you to become a nuclear ninja of Fukushima as a testament to your great faith in honest government, infallible humans and benign nuclear power.

This blast is quite clearly vertically directed with tremendous force. Judging from the diagrams of the buildings, I suspect it was a steam explosion that took blew the top out of the concrete containment dome. The containment dome may acted like the barrel of a big cannon - directing the blast out the opening on top of the containment dome. This top must be removable to get at the fuel rods in the reactor - don't know how they secure it - bolts?. Seems possible that the hotter running MOX fuel melted down and out of the reactor and hit the large pool of water in the bottom of the dome or torus. VERY difficult to believe the reactor is intact after this blast which could have released a lot of plutonium if meltdown occurred. Wish the Gov would release the high-res photos and video from the drone flyovers. Personally - I don't believe anything TEPCO is saying. And the US Gov is hardly any better at getting the info out - but they KNOW something is very dangerous when they move the carriers away and keep our troops 50 MILES away. Wouldn't want to spook the "Crock" markets ya know!


In this thread is a photo of the top of the reactor. notice it is also covered in water. The gantry crane the guys are walking on are over the fuel storage tank. Notice the number of large bolts on the reactor head. It is much easier to believe that the venting of steam inside the secondary containment building caused the hydrogen explosions then the reactor blowing the head off of the reactor vessel.

Chernobyl was a totally different accident. We shall see what is really out there. Instead of guessing.

People always say "We shall see..." but it may be that the full truth will never be known about this. All sorts of very powerful interests have huge stakes in people NOT knowing all sorts of things about this for all sorts of short and long term reasons. Add to that that nuclear energy is the most secretive industry since the invention of secrecy, and you have a recipe for permanent intentiaonal obfuscation, misdirection, propaganda and lying (much of which you are already seeing right here on this site).

That's a great resource.
Thank you!
Here is the "lessons learned" thread:
World-nuclear.org Fukushima portal:
Tepco's analysis of the water workers stepped in:

Those bolts are fabulous, within their rated temp and pressures. With an incomplete shutdown and/or a coolant shutdown, how long would these bits of steel have been softening up for..? if they were reduced to slag, does the lid have a form of positive locking, or is it just gravity at that point?

If the tops had blown off any of the containments the pressure would no longer be able to rise within them. In the chart Eaun posted pressure is rising in #1, in #3 it rose until March 20 (if I understand the chart) and is now decreasing-there has not been an explosion since March 19 has there?. #2 is said to have stable pressure and building around it wasn't blown to high hell.

I'm not going to track it down but either in a earlier post or a linked page I believe I read that way back when some test or procedure showed the lids on the reactor vessel (I think) would lift slightly if pressure was brought above what was generally tested for and the seal below the lid would then leak. Because of the this bolts were torqued down harder.

That sort of seal leak (possibly resulting from even higher pressure and temperatures) could account for hydrogen building up in the containment, and of course venting of the containment would let it build up in the buildings, where the free hydrogen could find the free oxygen and the ingnition source it needed for its signature violent reaction. Inside the reactor vessel itself there would be no free oxygen as the reaction that releases the free hydrogen binds the oxygen to the zirconium, and as I first mentioned pressure can't go up in a containment if the top has been blown off.

>#2 is said to have stable pressure

Yes, that is what the data indicates. However, note that reactor #2 has stably *less than atmospheric pressure* in the RPV, and has appr atmospheric pressure in the CV.
(Atmospheric pressure = 0.101 MPa abs)


Thanks for the link,
The pressure differential would seem indicate both the RPV and CV had intact seals at the current temperatures wouldn't it? I can see how a cooled RPV could have lower than atmospheric pressure--temperature increasing within would again raise the pressure. How else would that be explained?

The higher than atmospheric pressure in the CV would seem to indicate what...that the gas within was still hot enough (due to the heat in the concrete and metal surrounding it?) to keep the pressure up...that water was being pumped in at above atmospheric pressure???

I did a quick time and motion on that explosion. Big debris rose about 300 metres or more, so initial velocity of the roof slab was about 400 kilometres per hour. The over-pressure required to achieve that acceleration must have been huge, and the impact on any but the biggest lumps of machinery inside major.

And my understanding is that the spent fuel pools are in the upper third of the building - so I find it laughable when there are all these reports about how the spent fuel pools are still holding water and the "spent" rods are still sitting in there nice and tidy after the wallop they must have taken from that explosion.

Any video of the explosion looks to have been shot from quite a distance - yet the force is still all too evident and impressive... the guts of that building are likely in shambles.

If I had to go out on a limb I'd say the spent fuel rods in that reactor are, at best, scattered all about the general vicinity.

If I had to go out on a limb I'd say the spent fuel rods in that reactor are, at best, scattered all about the general vicinity.

I'm willing to believe that TEPCO is downplaying and spinning and underestimating their little hearts out, but not that they're engaging in an outright lie of this magnitude. There are too many people watching, listening, and measuring, and some of them are skeptical Americans with really good equipment.

If that were true then finding heavy isotopes normally found in spent fuel rods should be easy to detect around the reactors. The gas explosions were vented out of the buildings, not inward, so I don't see how a pool of water or the concrete container it's in would be affected. I am concerned that debris fell into the pools, especially on Reactor 3, and damaged the rods, but I see no reason to disbelieve TEPCO when they say water is still in both 3 and 4's spent fuel ponds.

"Salt accumulation in the reactor cores."

That is not the way to build a molten salt reactor.

"The idea that the workers didn't believe their dosimeters and kept working because they thought they were all wrong is, imho, laughable" Actually, no. people not believing their indications is a common problem in many process industries. Well, that can't be right, is a very common response.

Also, if they are using the little charge the moving wire dosimeter I used to use, one good tap can move the indicator. They were not that accurate. And salt water would short them out, and shorted = full scale. The rule was come out if they hit the scale or your max allowable reading, but see "Well, that can't be right," above.

Hopefully the leaking water is coming from a flange on a drain, or an instrument port, or some other other piping connection. That would be very consistent with a seawater corrosion, or chloride stress cracking of stainless steel. The pressure vessel is probably stainless cladding on a chrome-steel vessel. Less expensive, and actually better in this case.

Boiling seawater has probably made a soup out of the internals; High temperature steam corrosion of zirconium in brine? yech.

I have an alternate idea. What if it is condensing iodine? They seem to have cooled the reactor to a point below the boiling point of iodine, so any iodine gas in the air would start to "rain" out and collect in puddles, radioactive puddles.

I've even got a theme song for the occasion!


Bruce, iodine (I2) is only purple in chloroform or hydrocarbon solvent, LOL. enjoyed the tunes.

It would be Yellow-ish-Brownish Rain in water, but Prince was not going to make as much money that way ;-)

It only condenses if the temperature is below that needed to maintain the partial pressure of that component. Boiling is when the equilibrium vapor pressure equals atmospheric temperature. Water doesn't condense out of the air at 99centigrade, unless the air is 100% steam. Even a small vapor pressure of radioactive Iodine would represent a very large amount of dangerous material.

The idea that the workers didn't believe their dosimeters and kept working because they thought they were all wrong is, imho, laughable

No I think it is quite reasonable if the meters show something you know are wrong you dismiss as a malfunction.

I'm not anti-nuclear. But I am anti-cover-up and anti-lying.

My sentiments entirely. One of the sorriest aspects of this whole affair is officials' attempts to treat the public like little children who mustn't be frightened. Obviously one wants to avoid panic, but this is best done by giving the facts and a sober assessment of the dangers. When dealing with things they don't understand, people need to hear from a reputable expert they can trust.

Some nuclear apologists who try to laugh Fukushima off as a minor incident that won't cause any great harm are hugely damaging to the industry.

One lesson I take from this is the need to have terms for nuclear power plant elements and radiation emissions which are unambiguous, easily translatable between different languages, and graspable by citizens with a high school education.

For instance, "vessel" and "containment" are near-synonyms, and probably get mixed up in live translating. Milli- and micro-Sievert are so easily confused they shouldn't be used for the general public. The Banana Equivalent Dose is a far better term.

Radiation intensity and radiation cumulative exposure are other concepts difficult to separate. It's like megawatts and megawatt-hours. Engineers understand, but not the public.

Well there are half a billion bananas per hour near to those reactors.

Ingesting half a billion bananas per hour will surely kill you.


Unless JAIF changes it's status of the containment vessel integrity for Reactor #3 back to "Damage Suspected," I think we can pretty much write off this source as unreliable. Nearly every press account, and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) of Japan have all indicated concerns with the Reactor #3 containment vessel integrity following exposure of workers to very highly contaminated water in the turbine building of this reactor.

The presence of radioactive water in the turbine room of Reactor 3 isn't proof that the containment structure or pressure vessel is breached, though. It's far more likely that a pipe running from the reactor to the turbine is leaking; I don't see how water leaking from the reactor's pressure vessel could find its way over to the turbine building basement unless TEPCO's building designs were very, very bad.

In a reactor SCRAM, these steam pathways are isolated, and there shouldn't be water or steam flowing to the turbine building. It's more likely a pipe break in the cooling system (within the primary containment vessel), or a small crack in the pressure vessel itself.

This isn't just a little bit of water (a "puddle" as described in some Japanese accounts), it's about 3.2 feet of water in a trench leading from reactor building to turbine building, and it's giving off 1 sievert of radiation (enough to give you radiation sickness after 30 minutes of exposure, and kill you after 4 hours of exposure). There is no way for workers to get close to this water without exceeding radiation limits for emergency workers at the site. Most reports now are coming to terms with the new information, and are suggesting a reactor breach or cooling pipe failure inside the primary containment vessel has taken place.

It may be worth noting that initial sampling of this water (which the Japanese have subsequently retracted as inaccurate), found readings for radioactive iodine 134 (which has a half life of 53 minutes. While this isn't an immediate radiological concern, it would indicate that fission is still taking place inside the pressure vessel of at least one of these reactors. Since the Japanese have retracted this report, we have to assume it's still a hazardous situation dealing mainly with a great deal of fuel damage and decay heat.

The solution to a number of these problems is to restore fresh water circulation to each of the cores and the spent fuel ponds.

Never happen. It's time to use brute force.

Alan, with your prescribed remedy, please explain how you would resolve the radioactive material melting through the bottom of the reactor vessel into the surrounding water table(which is directly on the coastline at sea level). I would love to hear the technicals of your proposal, as would the readers of Seeking Alpha and ZeroHedge.

Well, that's a more creative idea than just entombing everything in concrete, I'll give the one who suggested it that. The reactor buildings are over 50' high though; to build a berm around them the usual rule of thumb is double the width for the desired height. A berm like that would need to be at least 100' wide, meaning the turbine buildings would need to be demolished. The turbine buildings have direct links to the reactors anyway via pipes and ducts, and since radioactivity is present in them as well something has to be done with them too.

Bendal, After Alans repeatedly failed prognostications during the Macondo spill, he had announced to everyone here that he would not post on this site again (his words, not mine). I would suggest that anyone wishing to debate him or his "ideas" review his comment history first. People can feel free to review what Alan is suggesting on the other sites mentioned above and the information that he is attributing to this site as well. I feel that he is trying to become a repeat of the "DougR" incident.

Turning to the future of US nuclear plants for a second:

POSSIBLE (LIKELY?) FUTURE SCENARIO: Some years/decades into future, the electricity/diesel to cool US nuke plants becomes unreliable, risking melting & vaporization of fuel rods in no-longer-functional nuke plants. Military/government officials, desperate to avoid Japan-type contamination, 'ditch' fuel rods of ALL reactors in US into deep oceanic trenches.

QUESTION: What happens then? I know it initiates a complex sequence of biogeochemical processes with many variables, but does anybody with expertise know what the most likely outcomes would be for the spread of radiation in the ocean/atmosphere/land? Time scales? Amounts?

I don't think this is an irrelevant concern.

The amount of residual heat that is given off keeps declining as time goes by - usually after a year or two the waste is cool enough that dry cask storage can be used, and that reduces a lot of the ongoing maintenance.

There is a big difference between "can be used" and "will be used". This article seems to indicate that a little over three quarters of the US's spent fuel (from the past 40+ years) is still in spent fuel pools. It is not clear that anyone will get around to taking them out, before we run into issues with maintaining electricity and diesel. See my post on this subject.

Take them out and put them where?

So many people are scared incoherent by the N word that any plan to do anyhting different than exactly what is being presently done can never get approved even if the change will definitely result in improved safety.

Take them out and place them into dry cask storage on site. Its already being done.

Actually, we should repeal that silly law prohibiting reprocessing of US spent fuel, and begin doing that to the thousands of spent fuel rods we've got all over the nation. Reprocessing the fuel rods provides more fuel for the reactors, and reduces the waste from the rods to a much more manageable amount. Every other nation with reactors does this, we should be doing it as well. In addition, I've got a personal interest in this, since the largest storage of spent fuel rods in the US is about 25 miles away from me right this minute, at Shearon Harris nuclear plant south of Raleigh NC.

Actually, we should repeal that silly law prohibiting reprocessing of US spent fuel, and begin doing that to the thousands of spent fuel rods we've got all over the nation

You think!! I can't fathom the reasoning behind our currnent policy regardless how many ways I scratch my head.

...a little over three quarters of the US's spent fuel (from the past 40+ years) is still in spent fuel pools. It is not clear that anyone will get around to taking them out, before we run into issues with maintaining electricity and diesel.

To me, this is the scary part: it's one of the big dangers of the default assumption of BAU. We are culturally used to being able to do stuff better in the future, when it ain't necessarily so. Inasmuch as it may never be politically expedient for authorities to announce a permanent decline in energy, materials, and complexity availability, I think there's a large chance that the spent fuel pools will mostly wind up decaying in place. There will never be a point at which it makes immediate sense to deal with it, and ultimately they are likely to be abandoned.

Correct: "spent fuel pools will mostly wind up decaying in place." This is why in the future nuclear energy will be considered the most irresponsible technology ever produced by man. The DNA of a lot of people and species will be bombarded for years to come, but in time, it will disappear into the earth.

That material will be very hazardous to life for longer than our civilization has existed, and longer than any others existed. Longer by far than the containers will remain intact. When you look at the oldest ruins of ancient civilizations, if they had held this stuff it would still be hazardous. It cannot be contained long enough, and it cannot be made safe. Wherever it is located, that region WILL eventually become uninhabitable.

The only possible option is to pick a stable remote spot with low odds of having it migrate out, write that place off and move the stuff there while we have still have the ability to handle it reasonably well. The alternative is to ensure that it will destroy populated regions - the places that have historically been the best suited for sustaining human life.

Three words: Nevada Test Site.

The other option is to take that spent fuel and burn the fission products/fuel/actinides in a molten salt reactor. You do not have to worry about plutonium if its transmuted into something else.

that technology does not exist. I assume that's some variety of the generation 4 people point to as maybe coming sometime in the next 20 years. Sort of like fusion, except 30 years closer from the receding horizon.

Magical thinking is cool when applied to some areas, but not when it's dealing with toxins that will be around for about 10,000 years. Or more.

The technology does exist its the engineering and regulations that remains besides you are talking about 10,000 years not next week.

Remember they ran one in the 1970's.

Since this information is readily available in wikipedia, I'll have to assume you aren't actually serious, re molten salt, they dropped them, I assume for very good reason.

Now, apparently, there is a new generation, that they say will be ready in 2030. However, that date has no real meaning, it's the same as when I was told by someone whose brother works in the Fusion research project in Europe that they won't have a working reactor for 50 years.

The point is that this is presently vaporware, ie, it doesn't exist, and thus no plans can be made re disposal that require technology that does not exist.

So pretending the question is 20 years vs 10k is that same typical nonsense spread by people who for whatever their personal reasons have adopted nukes as the way to not have to change and move forward in terms of getting off non-renewable energy sources, stopping the growth of non-renewable fueled grid baseloads, etc, which then form the 'argument' for not getting rid of nukes.

One thing I've been re-reminded of over the last 2 weeks is how totally weak and transparent the pro nuke position is, how it has now for some 40 or 50 years consistently side-stepped the waste, both long term AND short term, issues.

reprocessing, remember, does nothing to handle all the other radioctive toxics, but you know, what I've learned here is that the pro nuke people frankly do not care about such issues. Not to mention that nukes are just absurdly expensive and do not pay their way, especially when waste issues are considered, and melt-down situations, or near meltdowns.

There's a reason they aren't decommissioning these old plants, there's nothing to do with them, they just sit there, toxic memorials to the arrogance of 20th and early 21st century humanity. Leaving their own toxic legacy, just like our coal and oil burning.

Burning of non-renewables (including the radically more lethal 'burn' of reactions) is the problem, not the solution. One day, when only the costs remain, we will be cursed by our children's children, cursed so loudly it will disturb our rest I would hope. The gift of plutonium is indeed a fine gift to give our future, the gift that keeps on giving indeed...

Luckily I listened to Dr. Helen Caldicott, who did a recent interview, reminding us that these issues are all old, unfixed, and have always been the case with nuclear energy and power plants. Waste, etc, all the same. Corruption, bad decision making, a given, we are human. And she's not really even considering the serious question of if we will even be able to maintain such systems in 20 years, if our culture will be in the same state, though she is well aware of the fact that had Europe had its nukes in WWII, Europe would now be uninhabitable due to the bombed out reactors.

Another convenient issue ignored by apologists, societies are not static, they change, reduce from high complexity states to lower ones as resources become constrained, like oil. And coal, etc.

I'm going to read her latest book because I'm so sick of people using these threads to spread untruth and lies, either due to non-critical acceptance of industry PR, or because they have a direct material interest in doing so.

What thrills me however today is that Fukushima is a game changer, and it will not matter what the apologists say, the damage is too severe, the lies were constant, and the case is proving worse by the day.

Thank god this type of discourse found here among the shills and die hard nuclear cool-aid apologists isn't my real world, that's all I have to say.

When I said "Three Words: Nevada Test Site" above, I meant we should start burying the spent rods there as a start at dismantling all the nukes, now. Start with the spent fuel, then close the power reactors, starting with the public energy companies. Make it an international repository, as has already been suggested for the NTS. I'm guessing the last to decomission will be the military-research reactors. They should go too, while we have time and energy, and before any large-scale international hostilties break out over declining resources. It may be too late, even if everyone agreed to stop the nuclear madness.

Like Dirty Harry Calahan used to say, "A man has to know his own limitations".

There are some genuine non troll people here who want more nuclear power to get more people and culture thru the post peak oil era, I am one.

Magnus, I realize the Japan reactors were hit by a series of natural disasters, although as a geologist working in the area of large tsunamis, these were foreseeable events not adequately planned for. But the bigger point is: can you imagine a more severe catastrophe affecting these plants? All this world-wide concern about nuclear terrorism, and I doubt any terrorists could have done a better job. These plants appear to self-destruct once a series of back-up systems fail. Placing the highly radioactive spent fuel rods on site, in "swimming pools" in harm's way of any explosions or fires, when hydrogen generation in a confined space is a given in a water reactor once the fuel rod cladding heats up? Why are they there, at all nuclear facilities all over the globe, waiting in the wings nearby to make a bad situation even worse once any mishap occurs? Politics, NIMBY. Facts are the rods should have been reprocessed and/or buried long ago. Nope, I'm afraid this version of H. sapiens lacks the intelligence and political will to handle this form of energy production, and by the way, what on Earth are we pretending to have deployable nuclear weapons around for? Are we really trying to impress some aliens, should they exist and happen upon our remains, that yes, we really WERE that stupid?

It is indeed politics and NIMBY. These pools next to the reactor core were originally meant for maintainance, when you swap fuel elements with the reactor vessel or empties it completely.

They are also used for waiting out the lowering of the heat decay energy to make movable containers easier to handle.

Filling them to the limit with old fuel as happens in some countries is part politics and NIMBY since there are people protesting wildly against reprocessing, building storage facilities or even moving the waste around. But it is also an economical problem, these pools next to the reactor vessel are all paid for and the running cost is almost identical when 25% or 100% full, it is tempting for a modern economist to fill them to 100% and try to figure out if it is possible to fit more fuel. Only a few countries are moving forward with actual long term storage of used fuel and spend money on it instead of paying lots of people for manging on paper.

I like the ESBWR handling of this, a transfer tube to a ground level used fuel storage pool.
The storage pools obviously needs more water in them and a lid to protect from outside physical damage, this should not be especially expensive if built form the beginning. One major problem is that we have been slow with replacing old plants with new ones.

H. sapiens has an extraoridnary capability to plan for the future and care about other organisms. But we are also to out nature competitive and like other living things we like to live and it takes a lot of rescources to build our elaborate nests or die lonely and depressed.

I hate to state the blinding obvious, but someone has to.

These issues should have been sorted out BEFORE the reactors were even built. Period.

As should procedures and facilities for long term waste disposal.

That applies across the planet to the whole nuclear power industry.


This demonstrates to me the ultimate cornucopian view, we know that some technology/development will come along to save us from the damn stupid thing we're going to do, so full speed ahead! You couldn't be any more right, the solution for dealing with the spent fuel should have been absolutely in place first.

Also harmless sounding molten salt turns out to be Beryllium Flouride. So 100 tonnes of BeF gets hit by a tsunami or just leaks - what then? You wont hose that sucker down will you? Berillium oxide is almost as nasty as Plutonium, and Hydroflouric acid - you really don't want that in your wellies [dissolves glass, eats stainless steel for dessert].

You are right Beryllium is nasty and should have been treated like plutonium. But it is not a gas and outside the reactor will be a solid.

a molten salt reactor is built inside a hot cell(a large concrete room) without oxygen. Who said anything about dumping water on anything. The salt is drained into passive cooling tanks when the frozen salt plug in the bottom of the reactor melts. inside the cooling tanks the salt is diluted with frozen salt.

remember these reactors survived the tsunami. It is the loss of power that is killing them.

As an engineer I like the frozen plug "solution", very clever.

Now what happens if the plug doesn't melt (right away)? or some unlikely series of events leads to the drain clogging or drainpipe kinking? Basically, what is the backup?

The idea is to stop the reaction. If the frozen plug does not melt. This is like saying if I had a bath tub full of hot water and a frozen plug of normal ice kept frozen by refrigeration. what would stop it from melting upon loss of ac power? Not much. If the drain got plugged for some other reason. You also would have regular control rods to drop into the salt. One could also engineer a cascading fusible device. That when it fuses open, opens spring(weighted) loaded larger drain. perhaps multiple plugs. you could also have electro-fusible links.
The thing is you do not have any water/steam,pressure to explode crap all over the place.

You just have to calculate that you have enough cooling to walk away.

Post 9-11 requirements that new reactors with stand an airplane crash. these will also with stand a tsunami.

"The idea is to stop the reaction."

At least we have the same goal in mind.

"what would stop it from melting upon loss of ac power?"

A different source of cooling (and I would assume the possibility of malicious intent, although mere incompetence clearly can't be ruled out).

"You just have to calculate that you have enough cooling to walk away."

So...there is no backup plan? Doesn't surprise me.

Well, if you have enough cooling to keep the plugs solid, you won't even need to stop the reaction. If you ever need a backup, that would be more plugs.

My problems with the molten salt reactors are the resistance of the colling containers, and how big they'd be. I don't know those things, I imagine they'd be big, what makes it much harder to make them resistant to things like earthquakes. But I can easily be wrong about that.

Greenish - in that sense nuclear energy and debt based monetary systems have much in parallel. Both require status quo/perpetual growth to properly continue and both become non-linear in decline phase. (ie. they break not bend)

I share your worry that in a social decline phase that adequate precautions will be taken for extant nukes.

I think the general pickle is that due to the nature of evolution, problem-solving systems don't initially evolve (or maintain) a tolerance for hiatus, whether we speak of debt-based money systems, rainforests, or the intersection of delusionality with the real world. The reason for this is the high cost (in both absolute and competitive terms) of such resilience. (I think I recall from your past writings that the !Kung! require a 10:1 EROEI to support their population. Why? Presumably because it incorporates buffers against experienced real-world variability). (And lotsa luck to them in the future on a heated planet).

I think "hiatus" will become a big deal in coming decades. (I should probably also expect Heinberg to come out with a book called "Hiatus" soon; he has a tendency to publish full books corresponding to my rough drafts... my fault for letting them age 20 years). In thinking about hiatus in these terms, I explicitly mean to include any sort of rough discontinuity - what you might call an X-sigma event. Temperature rise, rainfall shortage, UV radiation increase, electricity blackouts, etc. A rupture in the underpinning of the fitness landscape. A hiatus in context.

Our overall failure to appreciate the consequences of hiatus in human and nonhuman systems is one of the biggest "black swans" to the multitudes in the consensus trance.

As far as nuke power (and other human stuff) goes, it's safe if you can just walk away from it permanently and have nothing bad happen in the future. To misquote Gandhi out of context: "Yes, in the end, you will just walk away." We don't consider the future to be real; and that peculiarity is salient to what we have any business messing with.


You've got to have electricity to keep nukes functional, and you've also got to have fresh water. Euan's photo of the water pouring from the cooling pumps in the post above is telling. Which one is the resource in least supply at this point--electricity or water? Fresh water to flush the nukes, long term fresh water sources (now brackish how many miles inland? Clean fresh water for the city of Tokyo, bottled water for infants and children (and nobody has mentioned pregnant and breastfeeding women, where the isotopes would concentrate), long term water problems to a city of 38 million, much less the entire island of ~128 million. Which one causes mass evacuations first? Electricity, isotopes, or tainted or non-existent water? Because of the overshoot, it doesn't bend, it breaks fairly suddenly, like Nate says. Complexity doesn't unravel slowly in overshoot, it stops.

Well put.

Yes this was a great post. Hope you don't mind that I have copied it ( with proper citation) elsewhere.

I suspect only because it was never a priority in making sure the waste was migrated into dry casks. Perhaps one outcome of this incident is that people will realize that there are risks with having overfilled storage pools.

There is a big difference between "can be used" and "will be used".

Well I'll tell you that when I visited a nuke plant last year (Seabrook, NH) they were actively removing their oldest fuel rods from the spent fuel pool and putting them into dry cask storage in concrete silos on the plant grounds.

They weren't doing this for safety's sake, they were doing it because they'd run out of room in their spent fuel pool. So cask storage *is* being used, but not in a way which reduces the danger posed by spent fuel pools.

Just a WAG broad brush comment.

For years, decades, not much happens. The fuel rods (presumably sealed in concrete or lead casks or similar) quietly corrode and eventually start releasing their isotopes and plutonium into the sea water, which is slowly dispersed to very low levels by deep sea currents over vast ranges.

Over a period of decades and centuries, some of the biologically active isotopes are incorporated at low levels into the food chain, and as generations pass, the levels build up and up in the top level predators until they occur at harmful concentrations.

Assuming that by this time we humans have not already fished all the higher predators to extinction, one of two things happen.

Either we start catching these fish, and build up levels in our bodies until we start suffering, or (if we have stopped fishing) they stay in the predators, and eventually reach the levels where they become sufficiently sick to lose out to competing species and become extinct.

This continues for many thousands of years, until the levels in the sea water fall due to radioactive decay, or the contamination is trapped in deep sea sediments.

Most isotopes will only build up to their relative abundance. There won't be the "biomagnification" that is seen with organics like DDT or PCBs.

Not quite sure why you say that. Isotopes like Strontium 90, for example, mimic calcium and become part of organic molecules just like any other common element. Why these atoms should be immune from bio-accumulation is beyond me. But perhaps I am missing something?

Is Strontium 90 a fission product of U235, or of Pu-239? I remember it was an issue with weapons testing, but most N weapons are Plutonium weapons, although high yeild weapons are usually fision/fusion/fission, where the first fission is a Pu core (called a pit) and the heat/radiation from that ignites the fusion. Then to make a bad day much worse, the bomb casing is depleted uranium, that can fission upon absorbing the high energy neutrons from the fusion. So the question that naturally arises, is do we expect much Strontium 90 to be present?

Not quite sure why you say that

Because bioaccumulation will only occur for chemicals which are not removed from the organism as waste. Mercury, PCBs, etc. go into an organism, but they don't come out.

*Because* strontium mimics calcium, it won't bioaccumulate. Your average predator must have a way to get rid of excess calcium, because it eats many times its body weight in calcium-rich bones over its lifetime. Same goes for cesium, which mimics potassium, which is actively regulated by organisms.

Can't speak for other elements, though.

Oh, no question that some of these elements will end up permanently in the organism. But I'm talking about food-chain bioaccumulation, in which toxin concentrations increase geometrically as they go up the food chain, so that trace concentrations in the environment become toxic in a top-level predator.

Because bioaccumulation will only occur for chemicals which are not removed from the organism as waste.

Biological half-life of ceasium = 110 days
Biological half-life of iodine ~ 50-110 days
Biological half-life of noble gases < 4 seconds

Other then that, I can't see any other harm.

Plutonium and strontium are metals. Altought strontium can be dilued, it's still a metal, it won't spread all over Japan unless the reactor vessel blow up.

N.B. Just though about the ecological half-life of ceasium = 10 years. Levels at chernobyl are going down faster then anticipated, the reason is that ceasium is getting buried underground progressively.

I still think 10 microSievert/hour is too few to abandon my home, hell, having +1% chance of dying cancer is nothing. Who knows, maybe in the future they'll find cancer treatment.

DON'T HAVE A COW MAN!!!!!!!!!!!! Read the latest report instead.

We'll have to do that "gentle correcting cough" for you too.

High-level radiation suspected to be leaking from No. 3 reactor's core

But no data, such as on the pressure level, have suggested the reactor vessel has been cracked or damaged, agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama emphasized at an afternoon press conference, backing down from his previous remark that there is a good chance that the reactor has been damaged. It remains uncertain how the leakage happened, he added.

Despite the partial halt of restoration work due to the technicians' radiation exposure, TEPCO on Friday began injecting freshwater into the No. 1 reactor core, as it prepares to inject freshwater into all the troubled three reactor cores and four spent fuel pools, instead of seawater currently used.


Anyone know how they maintain the boric acid concentration whilst flushing the cores with fresh water?

That's the easy part. since they do not care if the reactor ever runs again they do not care if they put too much in.

Fresh coolant injected, high-radiation water leaks in nuke crisis

Pools of water that may have seeped from either the reactor cores or spent fuel pools were also found in the turbine buildings of the No. 2 and No. 4 reactors, measuring up to 1 meter and 80 centimeters deep, respectively, while those near the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors were up to 40 cm and 1.5 meters deep.

In normal operation, boiling water in the pressure vessels creates steam that is piped to the steam turbines, thence to condensers cooled by sea water, and the cooled water is piped back to the pressure vessel. It would be logical that radioactive water in the turbine halls was coming from leaks in the piping, pumps, turbines, condensers, etc, rather than directly through a breach in the pressure vessel itself. It is doubtful that valves to isolate the pressure vessel from the rest of the piping would be closed, since this piping and pump system is also part of the means for pumping cooling water into the pressure vessel to remove decay heat.

I think you must be right. Hard to imagine several inches of steel cracking, but there must be multiple pipes going through the presure vessel, in order to take fluids in and out. I would thing these would be the likely sources for fluid leaks. And external piping would have been vulnerable to getting hit with debris in the hydrogen explosions.

The piping itself would not have walls that are several inches thick. For the pressures that I've heard about, like 300 kPa, they could be a lot thinner. Plus, the piping from the reactor pressure vessel to the turbines and back would be subject to wall thinning by the flowing steam and water. The piping must be tens of meters long and it would have been subject to shaking during the earthquake.

Since the "containment" of a boiling water reactor includes both the reactor vessel, piping, pumps, turbines, and condenser, it would seem to be a lot more vulnerable to leaking water that had been in contact with the fuel rods than a pressurized water reactor.

I agree; a system like this is only as strong as its weakest link, and that would be the pipes running between the BWR and the turbines, and then back again. The reactor vessel itself is 8" of very rugged steel; the pipes aren't anywhere that thick. A very strong earthquake, followed by a tsunami twice the design size, and then a hydrogen explosion that destroys Reactor 3's outer shell, plus seawater corrosion inside the pipes themselves, is more than enough to cause one or more pipe joints to start leaking.

You could just as easily have an instrument line broken or leaking. A 1/4 inch stainless steel tubing going to some pressure transducer. if they ever get the power up they can tell which sensors are offline.

First there was the earthquake and we have seen the video of seiches and considered the possibility of this occurring in the pools causing water loss. Then we have had explosions that may have caused waves in the pools (let us ignore damage for this purpose). Lastly, large quantities of water have been sprayed into the buildings that may have displaced water from the pools. I would not be at all surprised if there was radioactive water around the plant, leak or not.


Bruce, in my opinion you're out of your depth here. Like you I thought they'd pretty much get the Macondo situation under control as soon as they tried the obvious (attach something that didn't have a hole in it).

This is way different and they are just hanging on and no more. They could completely lose this at any time. The worst possible outcomes are still very real but almost unthinkable in scope for Japan and the world. Latest quote from the Japanese prime-minister is that he is not optimistic but that they are trying everything they can.

Shouting at us with multiple exclamation marks doesn't make it all right.

It seems you are unfamiliar with Kabuki theater. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabuki

A jōruri play may sacrifice the details of sets, puppets, or action in favor of the chanter, while kabuki is known to sacrifice drama and even the plot to highlight an actor's talents. It was not uncommon in kabuki to insert or remove individual scenes from a day's schedule in order to cater to the talents or desires of an individual actor—scenes he was famed for, or that featured him, would be inserted into a program without regard to plot continuity

What once took one American water cannon, then took 6 of Tokyo's ace fire fighting teams now takes 19 fire trucks! The Fukushima 50 has grown to the Fukushima 500 on its way to become the Fukushima 5000 (Hey it will one day be a great way to get laid! "I faced the radiation but had to be withdrawn due to extreme radiation levels.")

You are being played.

Edit Want proof? Watch the video of the two workers with radiation burned feet walk out before the cameras behind a blue tarp. Boy do they have tough coaches in Japan, "Just walk it off!"

In regard to hosting this image:


Clearly, it did not originate on TOD, and it was from a nuclear blogger, who did not get credit. I made a decay heat image and put it on Wikipedia with PD license specifically because of this issue, specifically with this image. It's rather unprofessional to use an image in a way that you're violating the terms of use from the source, and you are clearly doing that as no permission for use was granted. I might not normally have an issue with your behavior regarding this, but legal alternatives were available, showing that the issue was really about apathy of the writers to shop around and consider all the issues with reproducing images for a post.

It happens. Writers here are unpaid and try to get best info out in timely fashion. Its possible the source of that image was unavailable at the time of posting. If you email the editors inbox with appropriate reference/credentials, Ill see they are added to the image. Thx.

Someone will likely get useful information from this data and if they can use it to a greater good you needn't worry about copyright infringement.

I think the graph is showing a thermal diffusion controlled decay from a wide range of half-life times. It looks like it goes as 1/(1+a*t^k) where k=1/3 due to the random walk of thermal diffusion. (I would think it goes as k=1/2 but the reference data fits better for 1/3)

This is a problem because the heat initially comes down very fast but then starts to really slow down as the slower decay rates take over.

edit:: it is likely that the distribution of radioactive energies goes as 1/E^(2/3) which would match the fat-tailed fall-off. A very wide dispersion in emitting energies leads to fatter tails. Thermal diffusion is less important here,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decay_heat has decay as t^(-0.2) which is as funny exponent as you can get, so it must mix both/some processes.

From the "It's a small world" department... I added that formula and related citation to that page.

Any idea why such a strange exponent?

No easy theory to explain it, I think: the fast-decaying isotopes produce a lot of power at the start but die out quickly; the slow isotopes produce less power but die out more slowly. The total power is the sum of a couple hundred different exponential decay curves with different half-lives.

It's just a fit. At large t any exponent of t less than one will give very similar fat-tail, shifted up down by the first term.

One of the significant generic issues that keeps on popping up whenever we talk about contamination to the environment is that of fat-tails.

CO2 has this persistence that goes as 1/t^(1/2) over time which is a huge fat tail and this is the prime reason for the concerns over climate change. We just can't eliminate the excess CO2 fast enough while nature just wants to takes its time before sequestering it.

The same thing with radioactive materials. Although the individual decay profiles drop down with exponentially damped half-life's, there is enough variety with the range in half-life times that the overall effect is this dang fat-tail. This dispersion is even worse than CO2 and is the reason that we can't do much about it except to try to bury the problem. We have all this stuff in temporary storage because it is still too hot to move.

Just like CO2, if we keep on producing more and more spent nuclear fuel, we create this huge backlog in temporary storage of decay heat. Could this be the reason that we just can't build that many reactors? We just don't know how to sequester the heat fast enough, just like we can't sequester CO2 fast enough?

Again, it is a case of nature wanting to patiently take its time. Mankind tries to force the issue by rapidly adding CO2 or radioactive end-products, and the response is one of a slow process that we lack real creative solutions for.

WHT. I don't think there are enough fission isotopes to allow a dispersive model to do much more than give a gros idea of what to expect. there are probably only a handful or two of isotopes with enough of a concentration to really matter. And using the actual data on relative amounts and halflifes would be the corect approach. Also any chains, where one isotop decays into another, which itself decays also complicates matters a bit (although that just messies up the algebra by a bit).

Obviously someone tried to fit the heat decay curve to a heuristic function. I don't have the original derivation handy so you may be right that it is just an appropriate fit to a bunch of piecewise curves. Yet it is interesting to see how far you can make sense out if it using some reasonable ideas. This is the typical statistical physics approach.

There is enough data in Wikipedia to make summation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fission_product_yield), and it would not be that cumbersome, but why reinvent the wheel if people already made those fits...

why such a strange exponent?

See the paper it came from (the beauty of hyperlinks).

I thought about some physical reason, like WHT's dispersion of decay rates. If the byproducts of the decay were radioactive themselves, this would fatten the tail even more. Are they? RE: graph below. I think that at these scales of the graph, pretty much any reasonably sized exponent will give decent visual match.

Good point. Lots of those isotopes I imagine are created spontaneously and that's why the spectrum of half-life times could turn out so broad. There really is no average energy that you can pin a Maximum Entropy estimator on, and the reaction state is so far from equilibrium that it looks like a continuously evolving state.

I think we also blindly assume that each decay reaction (curve) has same amount of energy released per decay, and it is obviously not true. So what will you get if you disperse the rates AND disperse energies? Rates might be decaying exponentials, but distribution of particle energies might have a two-tailed distribution. and...it all turns into an academic problem. After a few months it's a binary situation: needs cooling (pool storage) or does not (dry storage).

I am making the assumption that rates correspond to energies, so yes, we could separate the two, but this turns into the academic problem of having one too many variables to fit. I guess I am willing to go as far as I can to get some insight, after that it is time to start hitting the books.

Many of the daughter nuclides are themselves radioactive (e.g. I-137 to Xe-137 to Cs-137 and ultimately to Ba-137) and the decay energies and half-lives are whatever physics dictates.  You can model this directly, but curve-fitting over specific periods yields simpler formulae.

I don't believe the exponent is 0.2. This is a fit to the "ANS reference" curve.

The small dots are my fit using 0.33 which overlaps ANS pretty well.

I infer that the heat generated corresponds to the decay curves that go like exp(-kE*time). The value E corresponds to the energy of the radiating species so that fast decays are shorter half-life times. So the initial decay is the relatively fast fall-off from the most energetic and the fat-tails are from the weaker ones.

Now, the spread in E has to be described by some probability distribution p(E), which I believe you can infer from the inverse Laplace transform of the heat decay curve. If the heat decay is -1/3, then the inverse Laplace would give it as -2/3.

This is a strange number I agree. If the number was -1, then it would mean that we would see equal energy per decade of time constants. This is equivalent to a "1/f" frequency spectrum seen with noise spectrum. Researchers think 1/f comes from residual noise of the universe (big bang, etc) and indicates equal partitioning between all time scales. I call this a maximum of maximum entropy classification of problems. The nuclear reactions taking place mimic the ultimate chaos of this level of disorder.

The fact that it is slightly different than -1, at -2/3, means that it has greater weighting toward longer time constants. If I can find some significance to this number, it sure would sate my curiosity. BTW, if the number is -0.2, then it is getting closer to -1 on the 1/f scale.

BTW, I have sections on 1/f noise and of disorder of decay time constants in The Oil ConunDrum.

Here is the same fit as from the graph above but this time using the heat decay graph from the Wikipedia page

The function is pretty simple but lays on the data precisely and matches better than the -0.2 power (Todreas) heuristic. What's nice about this is that you can plug the numbers into your calculator and get a very quick estimate what the heat decay is.

If you write a paper on your curve-fitting efforts, I will be more than happy to go back to the Wikipedia page and change the formula and the citation.  ;-)

Wikipedia is brain dead when it comes to these matters.

I agree with dohsnan’s analysis. The only thing I want to know is how long will it take for brittle fracture to occur.

Also, zerohedge had an article which claimed the low temperature of the reactor was 500 deg C ( 932 deg F). The stress values for carbon steel plate A516 Gr. 70 from an old B31.3 are:

Deg F psi
100 23300
200 23100
300 22500
400 21700
500 20500
600 18700
650 18400
700 18300
750 14800
800 12000
850 9300
900 6500
950 4500
1000 2500

Stainless follows the basic same path. So the metal is getting weaker and weaker at these higher temperatures. So as the chlorides work their way into the metal still less and less metal is available to carry the dead and live loads.

I not faniliar with nukes. I guess the piping is stainles and the structural carbon?

There's a lot of out of spec stuff going on. Thermal shock, expansion/contraction, unplanned for chemical reactions; all of this on top of a 9.0 and explosions. Vulnerable areas would be welds (notorious for pre-existing anomalies and faults), flange seals, etc. The manifold/tubing interfaces in the condensers are fairly complex and vulnerable. There's plenty that could have gone wrong at this point. Once these faults present themselves they generally get worse over time, eventually failing catastrophically. Dumping cold water onto/into overheated reactor components is about the worse thing they could do. Seems they've had no choice.

"I guess the piping is stainles and the structural carbon?"

Yes on stainless piping, I suspect a HSLA steel instead of SA-516-70. That would be cutting it too tight. 2.25-cr 1Mo steel is rated to 1200 F, so you'd have a decent margin to work without making the vessel ridiculously thick, which makes other problems.

if they were using 304 stainless piping, and then soaked them in boiling seawater; it's just plain bad.

Chlorides; check
Oxygen, came with the seawater, check
Austenitic stainless steel; check (304, 316, 321,347, 309, 310, it doesn't matter.)
Stress, preferably tensile; after an earthquake and various explosions, yeah, check;
Temperature; oh yeah baby; check.

Yup, they are screwed. Chloride stress corrosion cracking.

Don't know about the pipes, but it is my understanding that the pressure vessel is made from 316 stainless

I see from the status report for March 26 in this link, that they now have "fresh water" being injected into Units 1 and 3 (Three cheers!):


However, the Richard T. Lahey Jr. report of 57,000 to 99,000 pounds of salt previously deposited by boiling seawater means, that in the near term the chloride concentrations in the boiling water are going to be near sodium chloride saturation (391 grams /liter at 100C)- more than a ten fold chloride increase above just seawater(35 grams/liter). This is even more corrosive than just sea water . In addition to stress corrosion cracking, pitting corrosion also occurs which can punch small holes in the piping leading to local leaks.

The temperature and pressures for unit 3 suggests the system is boiling near sodium chloride saturation. The boiling point of saturated brine at atmospheric pressure is 226F= 107.7C. The NISA link above reports the feedwater nozzle temperature is 107C and bottom head of RPV (reactor pressure vessel) = 100C. about right for saturated brine boiling point.

Unit 1 is hotter at 195.3C and that temperature is not consistent with a pressure of 0.477MPa. The vapor pressure of water at 200C is 1.55 MPa. Thus to maintain a water phase at 195C, the pressure has to be higher than 0.477 MPa. I am speculating, but either the system is not at equilibrium, the measurements are wrong, there is no liquid water in Unit 1, or a piping break is releasing steam pressure. Perhaps others could look at this too. Here is the link I used for water vapor pressures, but my steam calculations are rusty from disuse. Others are free to comment!


The prediction of the time to failure from chloride stress corrosion cracking is notoriously variable since it depends on metallurgical structure as well as tensile stress and environmental conditions. This quote from a NRC report NUREG-1061 Volume 3 indicates that piping leaks are more likely than large breaks::


From :Report of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Piping Review Committee

Evaluation of Potential for Pipe Breaks

BWRs pose a different problem because of intergranular stress corrosion cracking (IGSCC). The incidence of IGSCC is far higher than all other failure mechanisms in large piping; however, the toughness of the austenite alloy leads to an anticipation of leak-before-break controlling rather than large break.

After additional review,it is realized that in certain systems and for certain materials, thermal fatigue and stress corrosion cracking cannot be absolutely excluded from piping operation, nor can steam or water hammer. It may also never be possible to specify precise "acceptable levels" of thermal fatigue and stress corrosion cracking, nor to assure analytically that these levels would not be exceeded. However, if these unanticipated severe conditions were to occur, the break would most likely be located at the terminal ends, at the connections to components, and at other locations which introduce higher stress concentration or that exceed the stated threshold limits in SRP 3.6.2.

Mr. Donshan

I have been reading the periodic reports at

They have water level readings there. My recollection (but please check the timeline) is as follows

Reactor 1 has been holding pressure, water levels have been recently rising.

Reactor 2 pressure and CV pressures have been roughly at atmosphere for a while, water levels rising.

Reactor 3 had a pressure excursion, and has now returned to atmospheric, water levels very low, cannot seem to be raised.

From the history it is clear they cannot raise the level in reactor 3. I suspect there is a big hole in it.
From your argument i would suspect there is a hole in the plumbing in reactor 1, but they are able to raise the level.

As to radiation:

Reactor 3 radioactives in water pools:



Reactor 1:


Cl38 has a half life of 37 minutes, not a decay product. Maybe from neutron irradiation of salt ? Something is still fizzing in reactor 1. No Na isotopes are seen, perhaps immobilized in comparison to the chlorine.

It seems that all the reactors have pools of radioactive water around them. I have not seen an analysis yet of pools around reactors 2) and 4), it may be that the plumbing is leaking in those as well.

There are also these readings:


I find it troubling that I-132, Ru-105, Te-129 are detected. These have very short half lives, and must have been recently created. Daini is seeing I-132 as well.


Japan Quietly Evacuating a Wider Radius From Reactors

Japanese officials began quietly encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday, a sign that they hold little hope that the crippled facility will soon be brought under control.

The authorities said they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 12 to 19 miles outside the crippled plant and said they were now encouraging “voluntary evacuation” from the area. Those people had been advised March 15 to remain indoors, while those within a 12-mile radius of the plant had been ordered to evacuate.

The United States has recommended that its citizens stay at least 50 miles away from the plant

I hope they are allowed to bring all their stuff. It could be a couple years before some of them can return home...and by that time I doubt they will really want whatever they left behind.

Generally, the point of evacuating a contaminated area is to put distance between the people and the contamination. Bringing (potentially contaminated) stuff with them would defeat the purpose.

Since some of these isotopes have long half-lives, I think they will be going away from their homes for a couple of decades. All depends on level of radiation and type of isotope.

I suspect that the point is to get the people out before they get contaminated.

A lot of the evacuated areas will have people going back into them soon unless things get a lot worse. This might even include the originally evacuated area.

It's going to take months to do a proper survey, so I wouldn't want the contents of the fridge...

The areas they are concentrating first on encouraging people to leave are the areas outside the 20km exclusion zone but already contaminated above levels where people were evacuated at Chernobyl (and have still not returned). That's how I understood it from NHK earlier.

You guys, it all depends on whether there is significant quantities of cesium in there or not. Very likely it's mostly the more mobile iodine and some radioactive noble gases, and then it's soon gone. If it's a lot of cesium, however, the area is screwed for a few hundred years.

I'm sure they know by now. It is getting on for two half lives of iodine-131 since the reactors were last critical (that we're told anyway).

If it's a lot of cesium, however, the area is screwed for a few hundred years.

With a half life of thirty years only about a tenth will be left after a hundred years. And we also have rain flushing the stuff off the land into the sea. I don't think it will be that long. But long enough that they will have to build new housing outside the zone, is long enough!

Yup... In the whole scheme of things it isn't long, but for humans its going to feel like an eternity.

Anybody got a picture of Fukushima 100 years ago?

Must have been another world back then.

It certainly WAS another world. 1911? I've been reading Japanese stories and novels from that time period. There are pictures online from that era (that would be Meiji era), but many more from the capital than from the provinces. Actually there are a fair bit from Miyagi prefecture, because it has a famous seacoast area with islands that is considered very picturesque (Matsushima).

Japan at that point was fairly well developed in the major cities (Tokyo was much like a western city, with electric streetcars, trains, etc.) but outside of that much less developed. Kimono were still the everyday wear for most people in most places. The population, needless to say, was much lower. Train service reached out widely across the country. Education was very good for children of both sexes, but the older generation was more spotty and the type of education many had recieved may have been more traditional - e.g. learning koto and traditional poetry. Rural areas were still very rural, and some were really another world compared to Tokyo.

In another 100 years, we can hardly even imagine what will happen. Perhaps it's this death of imagination that makes us so reckless. The only ones doing it are science fiction authors. I find it interesting that I have a quite a few manga series that assume a collapse, and at least a couple that assume higher sea levels. One assumes a long lasting population crash and return to nature with sparse human settlement, while the other assumes a crisis followed a thousand years down the line with a renaissance (with species having adapted to left over pollutants). I guess you could say the artists are more "peak aware" than the world at large.

By 1911, Japan had defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 and the Russo-Japanese War with Russia in 1904–1905. In the latter conflict, the Japanese Navy had destroyed the Russian Pacific Fleet. As a result of these wars, Japan acquired Korea, Taiwan, and much of Manchuria. The northern parts of Korea and the new possessions in Manchuria were important sources of minerals and coal to supply the resource-poor home islands, enabling Japan's further rise as a major world power. Japan subsequently entered WW I on the side of the Allied Powers, winning former German possessions in China and the Pacific Island areas and reclaiming Sakhalin Island in opposition to the Russian Revolution.

Doesn't look like their coming back.

Collective relocation of Fukushima residents

Municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture are relocating residents and administrative functions to remote areas. ...On March 19th, Futaba Town moved its functions and the entire community to Saitama City in Saitama Prefecture.

Two other municipalities have also decided on collective relocation of administration and residents.

"Japan acquired Korea, Taiwan, and much of Manchuria. The northern parts of Korea and the new possessions in Manchuria were important sources of minerals and coal to supply the resource-poor home islands, enabling Japan's further rise as a major world power."

They were also sources of a far more traditional resource: wood. My mother was born in what is now North Korea and grew up climbing mountains in the area. Here in the US she marries a SD boy who brought her to the Black Hills. She was often frustrated that after a laborious climb up a big peak, there would be too many trees to get a good view of the surroundings. Eventually she realized that the reason that she was used to being able to have such a wonderful panorama after climbing a peak in Korea was that the Japanese had essentially denuded the entire peninsula of all tall trees. They did have the reverence at that time to leave intact the tall trees around some holy Buddhist temples (some of which I had the great good fortune to visit.)

Also fromy your linked NY Times article

Concerns about Reactor No. 3 have surfaced before. Japanese officials said nine days ago that the reactor vessel may have been damaged.

A senior nuclear executive who insisted on anonymity but has broad contacts in Japan said that there was a long vertical crack running down the side of the reactor vessel itself. The crack runs down below the water level in the reactor and has been leaking fluids and gases, he said.

A crack in pressure vessel is one thing, but this also suggests a leak in the concrete containment and a flow route somehow into neighboring building. I get the feeling from reading this and ultra pessimistic comments from Prime Minister that they have already lost this battle.

Thinking a bit more about the fresh water injection which is today's big good news story, I suspect they are simply replacing salt water injection with fresh water. It will halt the build up of salt, but still leave everything bathed in concentrated brine.

Not sure what the worst case outcome of all this is. Whether things just decay to a smoldering cancerous wreck, or weather there is enough energy here to start metal fires or cause explosions that would be a whole lot worse.

Breeched containment now seemed to be suspected at Reactors 1 and 2 at last press conf. They had earlier said they also suspected 3 containment was breeched as well but later back-tracked and said 3 might still be intact but water was contaminated by broken fuel rods in the reactor core and had seeped out through piping. They are understandably desperate not to have (or say they have) a major breech of containment at 3 especially.

My understanding is there is easily enough decay heat left for the worst case scenario

Edit: New update from Kyodo News.


Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday it has begun injecting freshwater into the No. 1 and No. 3 reactor cores at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to enhance cooling efficiency, although highly radioactive water was found leaking possibly from both reactors as well as the No. 2 reactor.

...Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a press conference Friday evening that the situation at the plant involving leaks of radioactive materials and other serious problems ''still does not warrant optimism.''

He failed to address what the Japanese people and the international community most want to know -- whether the ongoing crisis will be brought under control soon -- only saying that the government is putting all its efforts into preventing a worsening of the situation.

Injuries point to fuel rod damage in No. 3

Puddles of contaminated water were also seen in the turbine buildings of reactors 1 and 2.

There are now indications that the government will raise the crisis level for the event, now at 5, to level 6, putting it above the Three Mile Island incident. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster tops the international scale at level 7.

I remember hearing here, in response to some saying that this was worse that we were being told, "This is less serious than TMI! This proves that Nuclear Power is safe, everything worked. Everything has been contained." Hmmm...

From Japan Times:

"The three workers were setting up cables in the basement of the No. 3 reactor's turbine building Thursday when they stepped into about 15 cm of contaminated water."

Guess "puddles" are bigger in Japan. TEPCo is better at scrubbing news reports than it is at decontaminating its employees.

Nobody who's paying attention to this event could seriously say this is a smaller event than TMI. When your CONTAINMENT BUILDING BLOWS UP, you know you've moved from the bronze medal to the silver.

Well, there *is* that...

nobody from the beginning has been saying this was smaller then TMI. They were saying smaller then Chernobyl.

By the way its the secondary containment not the containment building that exploded. there are lots of problems to feed on here no reason to hype up what has not happen. a crack in the containment or a leaking pipe is not an explosion.

Yes they were. I saw many people say it. Go back and Ctrl+F the Fukushima threads for "TMI"

nobody from the beginning has been saying this was smaller then TMI. They were saying smaller then Chernobyl.

The official alert number (don't remember the term for it) but TMI=5, Chernobyl=7, was left at four for way longer than it should have obviously been a six. So if you take that number as the officially admitted seriousness, they have infact been lying.
We are probably now at 6.5 going on 7.

I think Japan is going for the Gold now. They have more nuclear fuel in the fire. Stakes are high.

I find that hard to believe given the data we've seen. If there is a "long vertical crack" in the pressure vessel, then the operators would have noticed a sudden drop in pressure within the structure, coupled with a rapid increase in temperature and radiation in the void between the reactor vessel and concrete containment structure. Reactor 3's explosion happened nearly two weeks ago; since then they have claimed to stabilized Reactor 3's water level, pressure and core temperature; I don't see how any of that could be achieved if the main containment is that damaged.

The part in italics is clearly the editor's opinion and not anything the officials may have said. Had they done so it would have been quoted. The explanation I heard, that asking people to stay indefinitely in their homes is unrealistic, is much more plausible.


I think you might be missing one very big X-factor:

It's just possible that there's been some intermittent re-criticalizing going on all along.


Let's remember that TEPCO made a point of telling us last week that "the probability of a re-criticalization is not zero."

That might help explain a few things.
--Exactly what happened that made the TEPCO crew suddenly freak out and abandon the plant early last week, before PM Kan screamed at that them that they HAD to go back, and he "didn't care if it was a suicide mission."
--Why we keep seeing so much I-131, after most of it should be decayed already.

I know it seems unlikely, but I think it needs to be considered. (And, of course, if it *was* true, it would greatly exacerbate everything you're talking about.)

Just a thought.

It's come up here before and TEPCO were instructed to prevent re-criticality in fuel pool 4 at one point. No instruction has appeared in print regarding re-criticality at other locations but I'm surprised they published anything at all.

At the latest TEPCO press conference it was stated that the concentrations of iodine-131 and caesium-140/141 (can't be sure which and have not seen a repeat but he didn't say 137) suggested the water contamination could only have come from the reactor. These caesium isotopes have half lives of roughly 60 and 30 secs.

anybody looking for a easy to use summary of isotopes might like:

It's all on wikipedia and elsewhere, but these tables are easy to trace decay paths with...

and caesium-140/141(can't be sure which and have not seen a repeat but he didn't say 137)

Apparently he said cerium-144 according to NHK


The level of radioactive cerium-144 was 2.2 million becquerels. Also, 1.2 million becquerels of iodine-131 was measured. These substances are generated during nuclear fission inside a reactor.

One aspect that I can't find any information about is the salt accumulation and what, if any, its impact would be on a scenario like this. I realize that it was not likely ever considered when these plant designs were first conceived, so likely no published studies, but I wonder. Aside from the corrosion, and reducing cooling efficiency, what else can the salt do? Does it act as a better moderator than water? Can it hinder or promote a reaction? I'm having a hard time finding any discussion of this.

I understand that they are mixing in boron as well, to absorb neutrons; this makes me wonder about corrosion of the reactor vessel - will the seawater plus boron be worse than water alone. If I'm not mistaken, boric acid was a primary cause of the corrosion issue on the reactor head at Davis-Besse.

Salt is poor moderator. From the nuclear point of view it's inert.

From the metal corrosion point of view it's a disaster. Hot HCl dissolves practically everything. Boiling chloride solutions take longer but will corrode it in the end. Note. Gold is considered immune to corrosion, but most gold deposits are formed by hot brines circulating over time.

Boron is a neutron absorber. It's not a moderator. The problem is that cold water is a better moderator than hot water. So when they pump cold sea water into this vampire it might spike up again. If the control rods haven't already put a stake through it's heart.

I saw a presentation by at the Idaho National Laboratory. A room full of world class experts and risk analysis writers. The is no model for what the saltwater will do. They said its a very expensive saltwater experiment. The sooner they get back to fresh water the better. Another point Is they do not have any better information then you guys do.

Some ships avoid Tokyo Bay ports on radiation fear

German shipping companies are avoiding Tokyo Bay area ports due to radiation fears and Japan could face severe supply chain bottlenecks as vessels get diverted, ship industry officials said on Thursday.

Any logistical setbacks could mean major delays and seaborne congestion at Japan's terminals including Tokyo, hindering recovery efforts in the wake of the March 11 earthquake.

...Offen said in addition to any threat to a crew's health, radioactive contamination of a container ship and its load were not covered by insurance.

...Offen said in addition to any threat to a crew's health, radioactive contamination of a container ship and its load were not covered by insurance.

I am still waiting for a credible offer to insure 68 acres of Iowa farmland against a crop loss due to radiological contamination. I have heard nothing.

Until insurance underwriters (or governments) will underwrite policies for shipping and farming losses, Nuclear energy is absolutely, conclusively, and positively dead. I will further argue that anyone seriously advocating nuclear energy while failing to indemnify farming & shipping is committing crimes against humanity. I would advise anyone in the nuclear industry to consider potential civil and criminal liability that will arise in the next few years as what is currently being hidden is disclosed.

Get insurance now, or get the hell out of the industry.

Why don't you lead by example by paying all external costs related to the cultivation of that 68 acres?

Not a good argument. The bill at Fukushima is gonna be a lot higher than any 68 acre farm on this planet. Which costs are you talking about anyway: phosphate run-off?

Just a thought I had, but with a lot of farming under plastic (high tunnel/greenhouse) and using soil less mixes (perlite/coir) or water (not radioactive!) with nutrients (hydroponics), they could just gravel/concrete/mulch the heck out of large areas of this contaminated land and still use it to grow food. I'd be checking everything for Cs/Sr/etc, but I bet you could still get usable crops. They may have to wait until this thing stops smoking/exploding/etc...

I'd hold off on this idea for a few growing seasons :)

I was going to put a little plastic over my tomatoes this year to ripen them up better. I never thought that it would be to keep the fallout off of them too. 3M dual-use plastic film -- I can see the commercials on tv already.

They could graze sheep on it. Take the wool to insulate the new houses if it passes testing. Anything that bio-accumulates in the sheep will collect in its bones which you segregate. Plant lots of spinach right now. the leaves are large bio filters.

They could graze sheep on it. Take the wool to insulate the new houses if it passes testing. Anything that bio-accumulates in the sheep will collect in its bones which you segregate.

Tell that to the Welsh hill farmers.


The worth of the world's 2500 TWh per year nuclear electric power is probably a tad more useful and valuable than any 68 acre farm too.

I'm talking about everything. Phosphate run-off, CO2 emissions, diesel particulates, tractor fuel contaminants that end up in the finished food, decreased biodiversity, the mining and energy needed for tools and machines and so on.

You target nuclear with demands for cost internalization and more strict free-market regimens. I'm all for it, as long as we deregulate electricity and internalize the worst offenders too, which is fossil fuels and biomass.

This is a good example of the economic losses spreading from this accident. When calculating the cost per kilowatt from nuclear power, surely we must consider all of these costs as well. In that case, the cost of nuclear is a lot higher than the few cents typically claimed.

Here is advice Steamship Mutual (A Cargo/Ship Insurance Co.) is giving it's clients.

Risk Alert: Japan – The Effects of the Tsunami and Nuclear Incidents

Is there any possibility that washing away the buildup of salt will allow a radiation release? When I have to clean up old junk, I often joke that "the dirt is the only thing holding it together." Could the same be true of the salt?

Everything I have is held together with tape and glue these days.

I agree they likely have no idea what the true state of the equipment is. They are leaking cooling water everywhere it seems.

I bet no one knows what happens with stainless steel under a nuclear heat load with salt water. This would be what we call n = 1 science. Trial and error, perhaps, is the more colloquial expression.

If anyone wants to see apologism, you can always try reading the last few pages of this thread. Feel free to go over and debate, or even point out here the problems (if any) with the posts.

Hi all, this is not looking good, is it?

Here in the UK there has been a concerted 'brown-out' of coverage in the MSM ; originally there was practically hysteria in all the papers, but very suddenly last Thursday pm it all was greatly 'toned down'. Now even serious problems are only very lightly referred to.

I have found a good source of updated and precise info is Kyodo News, in Japan.


But they are not facing up to the reality in Japan either. Here's a quote from today that will make you weep with dispair:

"the nuclear regulatory agency ordered the utility known as TEPCO to improve radiation management at the power station"

left me speechless, really.

"the nuclear regulatory agency ordered the utility known as TEPCO to improve radiation management at the power station"

This is just another indication that they have no competence in dealing with this situation. The nuclear industry and regulatory authorities have for too long been allowed to spend a peaceful complacent existence. Accidents have been rare and small in scale. There is no experience - or even anticipation for anything like this. I'm sure their meetings for safety planning have run through all kinds of scenarios - but the most radical ones have been deemed too impossible to warrant any deeper thinking or wasting time and money on.

I can Imagine what their 'Safety Procedure Manual' on page 'Plant Emergency Scenario no. 999 says': "In the event that you loose all power for a week in all reactors, three of the reactor buildings blow to pieces, taking with them containment, cooling and control and monitoring systems". Followed by a blank page.

Japan is not the USA. they do not have a NRC type of agency but more like the department of commerce.

Say what you will about the NRC and price Andersen but that combination allows the government to get real tough with operators if they acted like this operator has done in the past.

As they say in the comedy biz "timing is everything".

Tangently related to MSM brown outs. Maybe it's just me but... these sensors took a very interesting time to 'malfunction'.

Glitches hamper radiation warning system in California

The federal government's radiation alert network in California is not fully functional, leaving the stretch of coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco without the crucial real-time warning system in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Six of the Environmental Protection Agency's 12 California sensors — including the three closest to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo — are sending data with "anomalies" to the agency's laboratory in Montgomery, Ala., said Mike Bandrowski, manager of the EPA's radiation program.

Kinda reminds me of the funny tricks the stock exchange numbers did during Sept-Oct of 2008. Nah. Probably nothing.

(Cntrl)(Esc) They keep hitting those buttons hoping the thing blows over.

Again ITS NOT RADIATION that we should be talking about but CONTAMINATION: grams (g), curie (Ci) or becquerel (Bq) of radioisotopes released and their distribution!

This would then, taking in consideration the half-life and bioaccumulation factors, allow to us to begin to estimate a dose (in Sievert) that one could receive by eating plants or animals or drinking the water around various zones of Japan - perhaps for years to come.

According to a report by HNK the Japanese officials have sampled "extremely high levels" of caesium-137 in the soil of Iitate village, some 40km from the Fukushima plant.

The measurements indicated levels of 160 000 Bq (Bq = becquerel = decays per second) per kg of soil of equivalent caesium-137 radioisotope. Compare this to levels around Chernobyl after the accident (1 Curie (Ci) = 3.7E10 decays per second) 0.16MBq/kg = 4.4uCi/kg. Normal levels should be less then 100 Bq/kg.

Caesium-137 isotope has a half-life of some 30 years and bioaccumulates chemically similarly to potassium (ie. enters the body readily, but also exists readily).

So the question obviously is - what is a dangerous level of soil contamination?

And the more practical question is - what equivalent dose would eating plants grown on top of 1kg of this dirt give you?

As I don't have the time or access to all the literature needed to find a definitive answer, I tried to ball-park something indirectly (forgive me oh spirits of TOD).

Figures for intensive radiotherapy using iodine-131 for malignant thyroid cancer allow for 100-200 mCi of I-131 to be given to the patient. This causes a therapeutic radiation dose of some 3000 rads to the tumor and about 300 rads to other tissue of the body. The therapy causes an effect similar to acute radiation poisoning - and does significantly (but relatively speaking very slightly) raise the chance of cancer - however it is better then the 100% chance of dying of the malignant thyroid outright.

A 10mCi dose is equivalent to 370MBq which would mean you would need to eat about 2 tons of this dirt from this village (digesting and accumulating all the Cs-137 contained within) to receive a similar dose. (Obviously I'm comparing apples and pears here: I'm assuming the dose rate and longevity in the body is equivalent for I-131 and Cs-137 - which it is not).

However comparing this contamination to the area immediately around Chernobyl - where the soil contamination ranges from below one to over 40 Curie per square kilometer - scooping up the soil to the depth of 5cm from an area of 1 sq km gives you about 23G kg of soil. If the same soil was contaminated to the level of 44uCi/kg it would give a figure of over 100,000 Ci per kg - which can't be correct? Trouble is obviously comparing figures for Ci/kg and Ci/sq km ... would need to know sample mass and depth which obviously I just drew from my hat.

This is just 10 min with Google and Windows calculator so I've most likely made some mistakes and misinterpretation ... but that should be enough to encourage or provoke someone to do a better job at this... ;)

- Ransu

ITS NOT RADIATION that we should be talking about but CONTAMINATION

Very few reporters have made that distinction, alas.

Dr Helen Caldicott discusses that issue with Alex Smith in the latest Radio Ecoshock Podcast:


Excellent and informative podcast (includes a full transcript).

Notable comments from Dr. Helen Caldicott:

"Fancy building six rather faulty General Electric reactors upon an earthquake fault. The disaster is not finished. It's ongoing. In fact nobody can predict how long it will go. I mean, I don't know - it could go for years. If there is a very large release of radiation or a meltdown, and the wind is blowing over Japan, it's only a tiny country - that could be it."

"But if you inhale or ingest these radioactive particles of Strontium 90, Cesium 137, radioactive Iodine, etc., you won't get Leukemia for five years. So there is no immediate danger 'per se'. Immediate danger means those poor fellows in the reactor vessels trying to do something, and they're dead men walking."

"Everyone else is in long-term danger of getting cancer, or Leukemia, or having their genes mutated in their testicles or ovaries to affect future generations." "..you need one millionth of a gram of plutonium inhaled into your lung, to give you cancer. They are measuring the external gamma radiation, running around with Geiger counters. But that doesn't give you any indication at all of the kind of isotopes which make up the radiation that they are measuring. They don't know what they are talking about."

But the most important thing for everyone to understand is you inhale Plutonium, or Americium, or Curium, or radioactive Iodine, if the elements become bio-concentrated at each step of the food chain - algae, crustaceans, little fish, big fish, humans - or in the plants, the lettuce, the spinach, into the milk from the grass and the cows - then you are getting inside your body these elements that locate, for instance, on bones Strontium 90, where just a very, very tiny amount can mutate a single regulatory gene in a single cell to give you Leukemia five years later, or cancer fifteen years later." "So people do not understand the difference between vaguely measuring some external dose, from internal emitters. And that's what you all have to understand: internal emitters."

"Cesium 137, it's half life is 30 years. It lasts for 600 years. The same with Strontium 90, and I could go on and on down the Periodic Table of the list of all the elements." "..if a man's genes mutated in his testicles by plutonium, which has a particular predilection for testicles, then the genes, the damaged genes transmit it generation to generation, while the plutonium lives on." "..that's the legacy we leave: random compulsory genetic engineering for the rest of time."

"Every year they remove one third of the fuel rods from the reactors because they are so, so thermally hot and radioactively hot. And they are inefficient for the reaction anymore, and they are called 'spent' fuel. They are put in cooling pools which euphemistically the industry calls 'swimming pools'. And you see, thirty tons are removed every year, and so they've got six reactors there a few of them are forty years old, and a few of them are about thirty five years old." ".. the long-lived ones, the very dangerous ones, Cesium, Strontium, Uranium, Plutonium, Americium, Curium, Neptunium, I mean really dangerous ones, the long-lived ones - that's what the fuel pools hold." "the spent fuel ponds in the United States pose the same risks as at Fukushima." "..most of the cooling pumps for these pools are not even connected to diesel backup generators, and none of them have battery backup power."

"To decommission a reactor you have to wait until it cools, radioactively cools down. For about 40 years, until anyone can get near it." "It actually has to be taken apart by robots, by remote control, it's so radioactive." "A very big large nuclear reactor has never been decommissioned."

"Look, nuclear power makes war obsolete. Europe is covered with nuclear reactors. If the Second World War was fought today, Europe would be uninhabitable for the rest of time. And that holds true for the rest of time, because even if the reactors were shut down, you've got all these huge, huge pools full of thousands, hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste which lasts forever. Forever."

"It's the end of the nuclear industry. As soon as I heard about this accident, that's what I thought, it's the end. It's the end of uranium mining. Thank God."

Let us prey it is so.

There was also a link to Union of Concerned Scientist's presstalk about latest update on the accident here.

They mentioned that there was DOE map of a "plume" which indicated a contaminated area that would "certainly need remediation". Could anyone find such maps for us?

From U.S. Department of Energy Releases Radiation Monitoring Data from Fukushima Area

This presentation is from March 22,2011. They have not released one since then. Download the Slides for the 'plume' map from the drone overflight.

OK, wow! just wow. Completely pointless panic averting exercise. They are again measuring just the 'radiation' - no breakdown of isotopes - and more importantly - they are making a big 'case' about how low the equivalent dose is - which is for EXTERNAL radiation - which by comparison are of course low for such exposure. But people this is not external radiation! Its real particle you can breath in or consume!

Whole slideshow has no mention INTERNAL dose! You just go and stand in that plume, the red part, one hour and take some deep breaths. Sure enough a chance particle settles in your lungs - and that's it - all it takes.

Again people - there is no 'radiation' flying in the air! only radioactive particles. And as long as they keep talking about radiation levels and equivalent doses and comparing them to chest X-rays - is an indication you are being told bullshit!

I roughly converted the DOE figures (12 milli rads per hour) to Curie and decays per second and I get 4mCi or 1.5MBq equivalent decaying radioisotopes flying past your body during one hour. That could be for example from about 50 micrograms of caesium-137 - with a biological half-life of some 70 days that is about 1/100 of lethal dose if you manage to breath all that in. Close enough for nice cancer though...

EDIT: PS: and now I started calculating the potential fallout - now I know what they meant by 'serious need for remediation' - the land under that plume is seriously 'salted' for hundreds of years ... 50 micrograms ... 4mCi ... landing everywhere - each hour ... the accumulation ... Chernobyl 'forbidden zone' had 'only' between 1 and 40 Ci per sq km ...

I was shocked by the downsizing of the issues as well.

Its like :

"See ? , there was no use afterall in reading our report ... So don't bother and stop reading reports ..."

In Kawamata on 3/21/11 milk samples showed 22,000 dps, on 3/16/11 it was 1190 dps. japanese limit is 300 dps

(Kawamata is 50km nw)

But there may well be atomic sized pieces of fallout in the air that will flutter 1000s of miles from the site. They should diffuse N2 and O2 more or less, no?

Wall Street will carefully weigh these numbers on Monday, and the markets will rally on news that Japan lost a large chunk of farmland. They will be excited that food commodities will be going up. A great business opportunity in Japan.

"Wall Street will carefully weigh these numbers on Monday, and the markets will rally on news that Japan lost a large chunk of farmland. They will be excited that food commodities will be going up."

This is why we are doomed.

But with lots of factories shut down for lack of spare parts---even newspapers will run out of ink in a month----can Japan make and sell anything anymore to buy that food???

I wonder.

I have a friend in Japan who lives far away from Fukushima. She said maybe this summer there will not be the resources to let people use air conditioning in the whole of Japan.

I think this earthquake has truly wrecked the fossil fuel-based economy here in Japan permanently. With lack of inexpensive oil I don't see any possibility of a recovery. I see lots and lots of people just getting hungry and leaving the city to be slightly less hungry in the countryside. The process has just begun and lots of people have yet to find out, but I am guessing.

It is a snowballing effect, based on the fact that the world is in such a weak place economically that there is no assistance coming, really.

It was bound to happen but this speeded it up by, well, magnitudes.

Tonight the number 2 reactor has radiation 10 million times normal (in water leaking and collecting from the leaks), so they are fearing something horrendous.

So much of the nuclear energy was just used to watch mindless TV shows and make silly cell phone calls----when will we ever learn what is really important??? When we are starving in the streets? Is that what it will take? I suppose so....

Whole slideshow has no mention INTERNAL dose!

I fail to see what is different in this particular case. Here we only got ceasium, and iodine. They are both gamma emitters, (I think iodine is also a weak beta emitter).

Ceasium is a evenly distributed emmiter. You can compare it with airliner crew, they receive a few times the natural background radiation, in all types of radiations (protons/beta/gamma/neutrons). They are however not dying from radiation sickness or severes cancers.

Check up your lethal doses, and be sure if the addition is linear. Most LD50 aren't: salt is LD50 210g for an adult (3g/kg for rats), yet we don't die of table salt.

This woman is a nutjob that obviously does not understand what she is talking about:

- Most geiger counters detect at least gamma and beta radiation. Beta decay is responsible for the radioactivity of most of the volatile fission products. So yes, geiger counters are useful for measuring contamination in this accident.
- A "very big" nuclear reactor has never been decomissioned? Trojan nuclear power plant is now decomissioned. There are probably more, that is just the one (ex) nuclear plant nearest to me.
- She repeatedly claims that single particles are enough to give you cancer some long time out. Yes, ingesting radioactive particles is not good, but her characterization is highly overblown. Life has evolved despite the presence of radon in the atmosphere. Like everything else, the context matters.
- Rattling off all the scary fission products without regard for its likliehood of actually being released or dispersed. Even at Chernobyl with a continued nuclear reaction and very hot fires directly within the nuclear fuel, the danger comes from the volatile fission products. Pieces of the core were literally blown into the air, and yet there was/is no real danger of ingesting uranium or plutonium.

Look, I can understand arguments for or against nuclear power. But if you have blatant factual errors in your rantings, credibility goes out the window.

The UCS link you posted is much more accurate and sane.

What a load a 'factual errors' you found. Indeed having worked all her life with the medical issues of nuclear weapons and power she must be a nut job.

- Geiger counters are generally considered poor devices for measuring contamination, all but indirectly. They do not give you an indication of the breakdown of isotopes which are 'doing the radiating'. You need to take a sample to the lab and run it through a gamma-spectrum analyzer and see the energy bands to identify it and classify it as hazardous according to its half-life/activity and bioavailability and accumulation factors.

- Don't know if Trojan is a 'big' plant these days - how many reactors - and has it been decommissioned?: defueled and taken apart and waste buried in end of life storage - oh, yeah, such storage facilities do not exist yet in this world. Perhaps this is what she meant. Its hard to speculate on the specifics of what people mean by one choice of words or another - especially when you are being interviewed live for soundbites. How about some benefit of the doubt rather than jumping to wild conclusions and harsh judgments.

- Radiation fallout indeed is an epidemiological challenge - and you need data for that - in order to determine the overall risk from release -> dispersion -> fallout -> settling -> bio availability -> bio accumulation -> dietary and population intake. This is what we are about to find out - either by measuring or calculating now - or later perhaps by thousands of people getting sick. That is why I tried to estimate the amount of contamination already measured from the plumes observed.

Further more I wouldn't consider unreasonable or 'nutty' to suggest that several large nuclear reactors and waste pools boiling, partially melting, perhaps even burning a bit - for a week or more - could release significant and harmful amounts of contamination in the surrounding highly populated environment. From the overlay one can see how small the island of Japan really is.

Instead I would consider your characterization of the Chernobyl fallout as "was/is no real danger of ingesting [radioisotopes]" as completely nutty. I don't know why - just intuition.

-Ransu, Physics Standards Lab

I agree that she is a nut job. Assclown summed it up pretty well, but also this caught my eye: "or radioactive Iodine, if the elements become bio-concentrated at each step of the food chain". If?

Also, about the plutonium scare, let me cite a few sentences from wikipedia: only 0.04% of plutonium oxide is absorbed after ingestion. U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk for inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 microns wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average. Several populations of people who have been exposed to plutonium dust [...] have been carefully followed and analyzed. These studies generally do not show especially high plutonium toxicity or plutonium-induced cancer results.

Particulate Pu inhalation is the pathway of extreme toxicity. It will be with you forever in your lung. You do not poop out of your lungs.

And how is plutonium particulate going to get into the air for someone to inhale?

Look at the UCS press interview link in the same post. It explains in detail what the danger is of plutonium.

If you read my text more carefully, you'll notice that I mentioned inhalation. It's not a big problem.

The attempt to paint her as a nutjob is just another part of laying the groundwork for minimizing the "fallout" (non-nuclear variety) from this disaster.

As we've already seen there will be quite the effort by the pollyannas to downplay the immediate scope of the disaster and the longer term impacts to the population / agriculture etc. If the scope of the problem becomes 100x worse than what was estimated in the early days, the naysayers will attempt to latch on to those who said there was a potential for it to be 1000x worse and label them as hysterical and nutjobs... all while conveniently ignoring that the situation is still 100x worse. "Early estimates were that 10 sq.mi. would be impacted and you crazies were saying it was going to be 1000 sq.mi. - what a bunch of loons... Yeah but it is now up to 500 sq.mi. that are known to be impacted... Well, that's alot better than the 1000 you nutjobs were predicting." Except that it's really not - because it's still 500 sq. mi.

It's all about moving goalposts, scoring points and labeling tree-huggers, anti-nuclear groups as over-reactive and hysterical, with the measure by which this is evaluated a completely arbitrary figure(and set by those who get to decide exactly what is the "hysteria threshold"). So nevermind ransu that a region which was completely inhabitable a few weeks ago will in all likelihood now be an exclusion zone for decades (at least) - any discussion of really serious and prolonged impacts is just crazy talk.

Catskill, these people are obvious: the methods are the same as those used by the Neo-cons, the global heating denialists, and any other PR where the core requirement is not discussing the issues.

This one is particularly clear: paint strong consistent opponents, working from principled positions, like Caldicott, as 'nutjobs'. Same thing the neo-cons do re people in favor of not destroying our ecosystem.

So that's more revealing than anything else these people are saying here.

I'm going to read her recent book, Nuclear Power is not the answer to global warming just to get a breath of reasonably sane fresh air.

The lies and attempts to minimize the damage are constant in these threads, now, today, we see drinking water being unsafe in Tokyo, about 500sq miles (known) to have soil contamination 5" down that will make it unsafe for 30 years.

And the reactor isn't even under control yet.

Basically, I'm going to now assume in fact all reactors really are not 'under control', at all. We simply suffer from a short term illusion that this is the case, and thus calm ourselves and say: no worries, we have it under control. The levels of materials that are not under control are staggering.

I have also been vastly impressed by the ability of the nuclear industry to sidestep in the public eye all near failures, which further prove how not under control these systems are, then to point to only the biggest failures, those they could not keep out of the public eye, because the radiation and radioactive materials are there for all to see.

The practices of the Russians re dumping their waste is a real-world case study of what happens to this stuff when the society either grows so corrupt, like by the way is happening here in the USA increasingly, on deep levels, or becomes simply unable to maintain the waste materials, or dispose of them.

We do not know, given the massive instabilities currently rocking the global financial system, the volatilities guaranteed to arrive with global declines in oil production, and rising commodity prices, what our societies will look like, yet continue to foolishly engage in practices that assume always best case outcomes for political and social realities, when such an assumption is not only unwise, it's a very bad bet.

This stuff is all only for short term gain, so we can continue in our profligate ways, irresponsible, like children unwilling to admit that they are making a mess, and point always somewhere else to avoid the blame.

This is certainly not one of humanity's finer moments, the irresponsibility being exhibited in such cases is staggering. Likewise the willingness to say things will be ok when the person who says this has no way to make them so should the go wrong, now, or in the future, as they will.

It is my current view, reinforced massively by reading these threads, that the nuclear industry is a corrupt, rotten, enterprise, that could not work without government subsidies. And which also cannot get insured for the true risks, and which has as far as I know, to date not stored the wastes it generates, at least not in any real amounts that would make the matter at least something to discuss.

I would again suggest that all plants and waste storage be put on hold, at least, until the industry finds a viable way to engage in 10,000 year lasting ways to dispose of all currently stored, and future generated, wastes. This includes political realities, etc., like nobody wanting the waste. We live in a democratic system, allegedly, if nobody wants the waste, then that's it, I'd say.

Also keep in mind the incredible arrogance re 10,000 year storage. Mankind has never made a structure that remained intact for that type of time span. Pretending we can do this needs to be demonstrated, though I have seen a method that might handle the direct toxics, deep burial, in bedrock, packed in minerals, encased in copper/cement things.

But that is just for the primary spent fuel material, I don't know the realities about the rest of the stuff.

And as always, these discussions avoid all discussions of uranium ore tailings. I understand why, that one has no solution, so that has to simply be ignored.

The correct, honest way, to view risk and make decisions, is to ask: is what I am proposing safe for future generations? Is it safe for 100 years, 200 years in the future? Oppose that method with the one used by apologists: oh, we can get away with it, we're special, we are the exception to all human history, the accidents didn't happen, or if they did, they weren't too bad.

An accident like this is a qualitatively different event than an accident involving other, differently toxic, industries. I note a consistent attempt to whitewash this fact, and to try to minimize by comparing to others, equally bad in their own qualitatively different way.

Keep in mind some facts these threads have exposed: Japan is ALREADY the world's number one coal importer. We are already way over what we can really safely generate with non-renewables, and have been I would argue ever since nukes were introduced. I currently give the pro nuclear position zero credibility, not even really worthy of serious discussion. It's simply too easy to invalidate or prove wrong, or misleading, all their claims. Typical industry spin garbage, same junk the coal industry spews forth in its attempt to profit a few more years at our, and our future's, expense. Greed is a disgusting thing when it destroys large scale systems for short term gain. Extra disgusting, I should say, it's never a nice thing to see in people. Greed to profit, greed to consume, greed to have more than we really can have.

Just to add some fuel to your fire, h2 (or should I say just to pump a few more neutrons into your reactor), what is your stand on genetic engineering of the germ line, given that the average species lasts for some ten million years?

Also keep in mind the incredible arrogance re 10,000 year storage. Mankind has never made a structure that remained intact for that type of time span

Nitpick: the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge, the wall of Jericho, and a few other structures are in that ballpark.

All of which have suffered some damage.

We also seem to have lost their instruction manuals.

Maine Yankee was decommissioned. That was a plant near me. It was large, about 1000 MWe. The reactor pressure vessel was removed, much of the fuel is now in dry cask storage. The decommissioning went essentially as planned & was paid for with funds set aside during the plant's operation.

And now they have worthless property and a security detail that watches the site, forever, and they paid for that too. I bet not.

Are you making this up as you go, and believe no-one will call you on it? They don't need to watch the site, as far as I can see. They are done. The plant produced 119 billion kWh and they decommissioned it for $500 million.

See my links below: the dry cask site has some serious fencing and security lighting around it, and the parking lot visible in Google Maps has half a dozen cars parked outside. Someone's definitely being paid to keep an eye on the place.

Ok. You Americans seems to have the same lack of cohesion as always. In Sweden, all waste, from all four plants (one of them is decommissioned) is shipped to a central facility awaiting deposition in a deep repository.

It's not lack of cohesion (though we're guilty of that), it's "Not In My Back Yard". Nobody wants trucks full of nuclear waste rolling through their town on the way to a central facility, and nobody wants that central facility in their town. Keeping the fuel on the grounds of the plant where it came from is the path of least political resistance.

We have nimby too, but the towns that the nuclear plants lie in fight for the investments of deep repositories and so on. Not surprisingly, I might add - they realize the worth and have been somewhat desensitized by the proximity to the nukes. I guess you should have some of this too, altough transits may be a problem. We have a custom built ship for transports, which works for us since all our plants are located at the coast.

Rancho Seco is also being decommissioned.

The headings for dry cask and pool storage by state in the following article are jumbled on my browser, but it looks to me as if the second column would be for pool storage. If so it would show Maine as having 597 tons of atomic reactor spent fuel in pool storage and 0 in dry cask storage. Or is it the other way around?


Other way around. Here's what Maine Yankee looks like now:



Grass, trees, and a row after scary row of dry casks surrounded by some serious security.

Presumably this stuff otherwise would still be valuable for drive-by collection by would be terrorist?

Hell yes. Though "drunk teenagers with a concrete saw" is also a failure mode worth thinking about.

My old friends at the Chewonki foundation have been leaders in the local efforts to both see the end of Maine Nuclear Power, and to help see to the useful restoration of the lands where Maine Yankee was located. (about 1 Mile from the Chewonki Neck (Peninsula), where my Father, Sister and I all worked over a number of Summers at their outstanding Summer Boys Camp.

They have taken great leadership roles in both Environmental Education and Policy Advocacy in support of Maine's Natural Health..

They worked tirelessly to see that the dismantling of the site and handling of spent fuel left this spot as pristine as possible to make it available for future use. Lest that be seen as a great sign of success for the Nuclear Industry, it only happened with a great deal of citizen initiative and twisting of arms. I am grateful the Maine Yankee, Inc was helpful and cooperative, but I am not convinced that this would have been accomplished without the selfless devotion of countless hours by individuals who had 'only' the healthy future of the Maine Coastline and it's people and wildlife as their reward for their vigor.

Chewonki wants to go distance with new coastal trail ; The first section is open and developers hope it one day will connect Chewonki with Wiscasset village.

"In 1996, the year before Maine Yankee nuclear power plant was shut down, Hudson became director of the Land for Maine's Future Program. When asked for his opinion about ultimate disposition of the Maine Yankee property, Hudson suggested it be conserved for public enjoyment. He conceived the Back River Trail as a way to link Wiscasset Village to Chewonki Neck, a trail that will extend 15 miles and be Maine's longest coastal hiking trail outside Acadia National Park.

- I agree that geiger counters do not tell you which isotopes are present. But that is not what she said. She said that people responding to this disaster were only measuring gamma radiation which will not tell you if most of the fission product contamination is present at all. And used that point to say that nobody knows what they are doing. Geiger counters will tell you if something is contaminated or not. Just look at all the reports of people detecting contamination right now (ship in China for example). Do you think this is being done with mass spectrometers?

- She said reactor, not plant, and Trojan was > 1000 MWe, pretty standard 'big' reactor. A big plant is just several reactors together, and by regulation (in the US at least), plant operators are required to set aside funds for decomissioning all the reactors, not just one of them. Decomissioning more than 1 reactor at a site is not somehow exponentially more difficult.

I did not say there was no danger of ingesting radio-isotopes at all. What I said is that there is little danger of ingesting some of the isotopes that are not volatile and do not disperse into the environment easily. Don't take my word for it, just look at the UCS press interview link in the same post, which explains this in detail.

There is too much of this nonsense about how a single atom will cause cancer. The first mistake is that half life can apply to a single atom. The second is that it will actually hit something if it does break down. Third, it actually has to hit something that does matter. Fourth, it must not destroy what it has hit. Fifth, it has to cause a mutation that can be transferred. Sixth, that mutation needs to cause cancer.

Even when people talk about background radiation they do not specify where. There is a huge variation.

I really wish people would present their arguments properly.


This woman is a nutjob that obviously does not understand what she is talking about...

Who do I believe?! Someone anonymous, with the nickname of assclown, who's apparently only been on TOD for a suspicious 2 weeks, and whose first sentence is an ad-hominem attack; or someone with ostensibly solid credentials to her full name?
Someone help me out here!

IMO, this is a long-dead issue, and we should be talking immediate comprehensive decommissioning and anti-nuke action/civil disobedience, etc., if, when and where appropriate.
Enough of this jerking around with the likes of assclown. That they represent and/or argue for the industry, seems yet another good reason to urgently terminate it.

"Look, nuclear power makes war obsolete. Europe is covered with nuclear reactors. If the Second World War was fought today, Europe would be uninhabitable for the rest of time. And that holds true for the rest of time, because even if the reactors were shut down, you've got all these huge, huge pools full of thousands, hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste which lasts forever. Forever."

That is mind-bending

Yes, and the next time someone tells you that it's no problem keeping that waste secure, for thousands of years, remember this. Because it'll never happen.

There are going to be wars fought over scarce resources (oil, water, etc.) in the future, that's one of the things talked about here, and they will be in countries that have nuclear power plants. Wars bring grid outages without the luxury of bringing in generators, diesel fuel, fire trucks to pump water, workers to fix leaks, you name it. Can you assure me there will never be a war near a nuke plant?

Very bad things happen in wars. Nuclear meltdowns is far from the worst of them.

Please explain as to what exactly is worse than making a large swath of land uninhabitable for hundreds to thousands of years. Moving past the emotional impacts of even a million deaths, do you believe that instant genocide is worse than irradiating land and ongoing genocide for many years?

Oh yes, I most definitely do. If you sum up the "ongoing genocide", it won't be much to write home about.

That's awfully glib to say that now. Wait till we've seen a couple good examples first, then tell us how it's ok because 'war is hell'..


Very bad things happen in wars. Nuclear meltdowns is far from the worst of them.

jeppen, what in your opinion would be worse? Off hand I find it difficult to conceive of a more desperate situation.

It is obviously hard enough to deal with this "accident" under present conditions...the odd helicopter gunship would make things really interesting.

Google "Srebrenica genocide". That's worse than Chernobyl to me, and the massacre is not even that big if you compare to WWII or Rwanda or the Great Leap or ...

You forget that it's not "OR". You get the immediate violent genocide of the war AND you get the ongoing, long lasting nuclear genocide following. You think that during a war, both parties are going to go out of their ways to avoid hitting the nuke plant? That both parties are going to make sure that the grid stays up to enable cooling of the plant? I bet someone goes out of their way to make sure that those things ARE hit. Look at Israel vs Iran.

Yes, I get "and", but as the nuclear suffering is dwarfed by the general suffering of war, I don't worry much. Also, the presence of nuclear plants should lower the risk for war - high productivity and wealth tend to do that. While the abstention and lack of resources, likely increase the risk of wars. And yes, I do think that most warring parties would be a bit careful with the others' nuclear plants, since most warring parties are neighbours and would risk exposure to fallout and/or a very bothersome occupation. And finally, I think wars where democracies fight wars on their own land, is not very likely.

For anyone not familiar with Radio Ecoshock with Alex Smith, it is a superb weekly one-hour program covering climate change and related energy, economic, and environmental topics. The show originates from Vancouver, Canada and is carried by about 25 college and community radio stations. There is also a free podcast and archive at http://ecoshock.org/index.shtml.

Alex interviews a lot of very sharp folks, many of them familiar names to Oil Drum readers. I try to not miss a single show. Highly recommended.

You have pointed out the key issue in the long run, and the most underrated currently. Contamination is the key to the long term effects of this disaster.

I have a few questions that seem not to be addressed well yet:
1. How large an area has been contaminated to the point that it is going to be an "involuntary park"? What shape?
2. What ultimately can be done with the reactors? The sarcophagus option seems more and more likely. Disassembly?
3. What will be done about the massive amounts of melted down fuel, both in the reactors and in the ponds? Leave it there? (this one is decently discussed in this thread, actually)
4. What about the other nuclear sites in Japan, and the future of Japanese power production? Fukushima II (dai-ni) is within the danger area, so should it be taken offline as well, or like with Chernobyl will it continue to be used by workers that commute in and out of the danger zone?

All of these are very serious issues. If a 50 mile zone was to be evacuated, that would cover some pretty heavily populated areas - literally hundreds of thousands of people. If a 30 km zone is settled on it will be much less severe. Still, that means many towns and much land left to return to wilderness, and it will mean routing around the area, so the coastal highways and such would no longer be useable (or rather, would remain in the whatever ruined state they may be in due to the earthquake and tsunami). If containment long term is decided to occur on-site, that means they will either have to build a new containment building nearby, go the sarcophagus route, or both (sarcophogus for reactors themselves, and new containment for spent fuel and other fuel?). If not, where will they put it?

As for nuclear as a whole in Japan, I can't imagine what is being built to be finished. If new nuclear is not put in, then on top of the already lost capacity you have to deal with what to do in the future. Wind, hydro (already built up very heavily in Japan), and geothermal, perhaps? Can Japan transition? What about the massive amounts of existing nuclear? Decommission or extend and hope this doesn't happen twice? It appears that people are learning to do without electric advertising and with less heat in the Tokyo area, how much conservation is practical? If Tokyo gets to the point of not having rolling blackouts but still has to live with conservation measures, can it still be a megacity capital of world commerce?

This whole thing is very complex.

I agree those are the important questions. I don't think anyone will know the answers until (2) and (3) have been answered and implemented.
I suspect the contaimination is not going to be a simple function of distance, but that there will be local hot and cool spots. I would imagine different sorts
of exclusions, roughly from least to most restrictive:
(1) OK, for residential usage, but gardening, except using trucked in soil is
strongly discouraged.
(2) OK. for commute-in commute out usage. Insides of treated structures should be pretty safe.
(3) Ok, for occasional need based usage.
(4) Only very shortterm monitered visits, likely to consist of research scientists, and those charged with maintenence of the sarcophogous.
I suspect highways and trains would probably be OK in zones 2 and 3.

No one will ever dump concrete on it like Chernobyl. That place is still having problems with the concrete cracking. They will do the same thing that they did at TMI. Wait till it cools and remove the fuel. The fuel/debris will have to be placed in special sealed containers. Perhaps engineered cooled containers. or send it to their fuel reprocessing plant.

By the way the fuel from TMI is in Idaho.http://www.deq.idaho.gov/inl_oversight/waste/tmi.cfm

Given the numbers I posted earlier, no one is getting into the drywell for the next 2-3 years. As for the fuel itself,
according to the people onsite, the real information is as follows: unit #2 best case scenario is 80% fuel damage,
the other units are worse, that will make extraction very expensive. I would guess that the MOX fueled situation
might even be a different cost/benefit analysis.

Lastly, the reason there was so much "spent" (meaning financially spent, not radiologically spent) fuel on site, is that
they did not have a place to move it to. I believe this was to start to be built in 2012. As this will be a little less "tidy"
one wonders where in Japan it would go.

Besides, a good layer of concrete would prevent any forensic examination and bury any records quite well. Now who would want that?


As we can now start to suspect that the fallout from Fukushima could be as bad as from Chernobyl - I took the liberty of recreating a smaller version of the map that appeared some days ago in TOD: overlayed is a map of Chernobyl Cs-137 fallout from 1996. (Source: CIA Handbook)

The dark red areas are the Closed Zone (more then 40Ci of Cs-137 per sq km).
The purple is the Permanent Control Zone (15-40Ci)
Pink is Periodic Control Zone (5-15Ci)
The rest are the Unnamed Zone (1-5Ci)

These are areas with very high population density in Japan - as well as important agricultural areas. Also remember that this is only one possible scenario - just reorient the map around the yellow star and you can easily swivel the red hot zones over Tokyo - an area populated by tens of millions of people!

As I have written earlier, from a human perspective this could be deep tragedy for the Japanese. The culture of Japan is very spiritual even as they have no mainstream religions as such. The spiritual culture considers Japanese soil and nature as holy, pure and clean. And the Japanese home even more so. You put on slippers when walking inside. You wash your hands before entering a temple or a holy place.

In the old days they used to have a caste system - a people called Burukamin were the ones who dealt with butchering meat and burying the dead - they were the unclean people - shunned away into shanty towns around the pure villages where clean people lived. It was exactly how the victims of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were treated: no one would help them, accommodate them, marry them. Such beliefs are deeply ingrained into the Japanese psyche - and this disaster could create hundreds of thousands, even millions of nuclear refugees with the same fate.

Japanese food is considered especially clean and holy - and although Japan is in no way food independent - a lot of the food is imported - essential items such as rice are considered too holy or special in quality to be replaced by foreign imports. Already the Japanese rice farmer is rare and precious to the Japanese - if you contaminate him and the rice with radiation people will have a hard time deciding between foreign rice and domestic rice.

Another feature of this disaster is the cultural bond we have - at the time with the Chernobyl disaster it was the evil Soviet Union and its Soviet people - only later did we learn there were also such people as Ukrainian people - the lack of common culture and 24 hour media - we had a hard time finding ways to relate to them.

With Japan its different. This was supposed to the ultra modern example of the pinnacle of our cultural and technological civilization. In a way Japan is part of the west much more so than any other country in Asia - they have the fashion and the technology we try to keep up. We have probably visited the place, have friends working there. That is why it is so shocking to watch these event unfold on tv - and to imagine that could be the Bay Area ... or South of England ... or Central Europe - under that same plume!

But isn't the world ready for a sea change, and why not start somewhere?

All over the place people are opening their eyes to the costs of modern so-called civilization. The debt crises, the pollution, global warming...now the nuclear issues.

Before people can change they have to be thoroughly disheartened and demoralized by what they have done to the beautiful land they once had.

So it is a process that also includes the BP disaster, and now this.

Thank you for this moving comment. Though discussing scary stuff, your words convey the sacred. The sacred which is under threat. In Japan. And elsewhere.

My seminarian education would lead me to say that where there is no sacred, then men focus on themselves, and immediacy, where there is the sacred
there is the POTENTIAL for contemplation of the other and the future.

And never say of anything, 'I shall do such and such thing tomorrow. Except (with the saying): 'If God wills!'

Nuclear power values the future the least imho because of the radioactive waste and potential for widespread and basically generational contamination.

My grandparents were sold down the river that the friendly atom would be good for their grandkids and their children. They were lied to it seems, and they swallowed it.

Looks to me that every generation 15-20 years will get a Chernobyl-sized event because of this false ideology of safe nuclear. I guess we all hope it is not in our backyard.

My wife was also a seminarian BTW.

I agree on the potential, as I live in Pennsylvania I also get "realized" generational contamination from coal (call it 4 so far). Can we do without those two concentrated power sources say in the next 20 years? I burn
concentrated environmental carbon for heat (wood), solar for water heat, and PV for electricity, and increasingly grow my own food (I actually grow enough food for my whole family, but most of
it is organic wheat which i sell), but few families could walk down that path at the moment. [i am aware of the amount of energy imbedded in the creation of all of those devices BTW].

So, where do we go? I'd certainly like to see some national objectives on conservation or replacement that were focused. I'm thankful that the O'bama administration and the States seemed to have
turn the corner on the alternative methods, but they are very "shot gun" or in the case in my state (Pennsylvania) up until lately were counter-intuitive (no incentive for solar space heat). I'd love to
see a priority to remove 90% of fuel-oil-heat for residences, converting to solar, NG, or bio-mass (wood pellets), to me that is low hanging fruit. Imagine a 100% reimbursement for solar, and less
for the others. One could take this approach for domestic hot water (I owned a 15 year old circa '82 DHW system that had no maintenance and had no failure in the Adirondacks). We need some large
low hanging fruit solutions, which build scale and confidence.

The incompetence is staggering: here's a new one, remember the poor electricians who got irradiated when they stood in the radiactive water for 50 minutes, and it soaked into their shoes and trousers?

Electrical engineering firm Kandenko Co., which employs the two, said its workers were not required to wear rubber boots as its safety manuals did not assume a scenario in which its employees would carry out work standing in water at a nuclear power plant.

With this level of sophisticated disaster-management in place, the only limit to how bad things can get seem to be the basic laws of physics.

Normally I'm an optimist. Not a doomer in any way. But I now think anything that plausibly could go wrong there, will.

Gomennasai if I insult any Japanese who read this - but this is because you are such sticklers for rules and regulations - any will do - not able to function without.

Forget original thinking - the drive towards conformity is staggering. Even they themselves admit to this - they have a saying: "the nail that sticks out should be hammered down". So you get few innovators who drive the technology industry - but most worker drones and officials have been brought up by a system that allows absolutely no independent thinking or deviation from the norm. Enter unusual circumstances and this is the result.

I love Japan and am looking forward going to visit friends late summer. Hope there is something left to visit...

Considering the fact that we "just learned" that blow-out preventors are designed to fail (in some cases) if there is a surge of gas/pressure like one might expect to see in a blow-out...well I think what you are pointing to is has nothing to do with nationality.

I'm not talking about some stereotypical endemic incompetence in the business world or today's inflexibility and hostile environment to innovation at the workplace. I'm talking about a very real cultural (not a national) aspect of the Japanese people. If you visit Japan a bit more then a few times you will be struck by this contrast - with the rest of the world. There is no comparison I can make because I haven't found a country or a culture so 'programmed' into this mode. There are books written on the subject and its the one of the favourite discussion topics of various 'Gaijin'-blogs.

What I've observed is that a Japanese engineer who considers himself to be my junior will have a hard time contradicting me, arguing with me, or telling me "no". One who considers himself to be a peer will discuss issues in a more normal fashion, although a flat contradiction is unlikely and I have to be careful to verify that "yes" means "I agree" instead of "I understand". A Japanese engineer who considers himself to be my senior will argue issues quite normally, although possibly a bit annoyed at my impertinence.

I can envision that during the construction of Daiichi 1, the General Electric engineers were considered quite senior, even when they were actually not. The Japanese would have had a hard time pointing out flaws in the GE design.

Some of this is not exclusive to Japanese. A friend who was teaching EE students in China would insert simple math errors into his lecture - omit a factor of 2 here or a factor of pi there. At first the students would just look at him with puzzled expressions on their faces. He had to inquire strongly as to what they might have seen that was wrong. Eventually he got them to interrupt and object to his errors, and also to point out errors that he had not deliberately introduced. Whether they ever would dispute their Chinese professors, I do not know. But my friend regarded their new assertiveness as a minor success.

Korean Airlines in late 90s, had the same culture problem, up to the point of president declaring it national issue because of frequency of accidents. The extreme example was when the co-pilot said "Weather radar seems to be useful today", when the captain was flying into a thunderstorm.

American crew solved the problem in less than a year, by addressing exactly these cultural issues.

I'm talking about a very real cultural (not a national) aspect of the Japanese people.

In past decades I did some outreach/PR/confrontation etc within Japan and at odds with Japan's PR machine internationally. It is a unique culture; in some ways delightful and in some ways exasperating to a would-be activist.

It may not still be the case, but back in the '80's-'90's if you watched a TV news show, there would typically be two people on camera, a male anchor and a female assistant. For 90% of the broadcast, he would state the news, and after each statement, she would say "hai" and nothing else. That is, everything stated was presented as a tentative consensus.

You actually see a lot more of that sort of thing, though less formalized, in US media now, but it was striking to me at the time.

Getting things done in Japan is an utterly different dynamic from getting things done in the USA.

In light of the fact that they have been bombarding the nuclear plant with water for the past 2 weeks (minus a day or so of posterior scratching) "Who could have predicted there would be radioactive water in the basement?"

TEPCO said it started icnjecting freshwater into the pressure vessels of Unit 1 and 3 reactors and expected to start injecting freshwater into Unit 2 soon.

The United States has offered to help with two barges with 525,000 gallons of freshwater.



Can these cracked/breached reactors be fixed on site? Is there some duct tape or something?

I was very pro nuclear 2+ weeks ago. I'm now 100% opposed.

Short answer, no. There's no onsite repair that can be made to a breached reactor vessel. The vessels are made of 8" thick special steel, any welding of a breach would have to be made from the outside under incredibly high radiation levels. I doubt if anyone would recertify a damaged reactor vessel that was somehow made whole by any means short of total reconstruction.

Duck tape

Finally someone posted the most likely explanation for radioactive water puddled in low lying buildings. Water cannons and aerial water drops dousing the reactor buildings are more likely than leaks from the containment vessels and plumbing. The explosions of the reactor buildings probably blew out windows and punctured walls and roofs allowing the water to enter.

Water cannons and aerial water drops dousing the reactor buildings are more likely than leaks from the containment vessels and plumbing.

The issue in question is where did the high levels of fission products in said puddles come from? They had to have ultimately come from the inside of the fuel rods. Either in the reactor vessels, or in the spent fuel pool. Analysis of the isotopic compostion can probably answer that question, as the any short lived isotopes should have become very scarce in the spent fuel pools. Unless there has been re-criticality, i.e. post shutdown fission!

TEPCO update quoted from http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/3809/tepco-info-update-325#more...

"(2)High radiation water may come from the unit 3 reactor, not spent fuel pool

As for the leakage of radioactive materials at Unit 3 turbine building, we assume the water came from the reactor. We collected sample of the contaminated water in the turbine building of Unit 3 and conducted the gamma-emitting nuclide analysis. We confirmed the following nuclides with short half-life.

Nuclides half-life (days) density (bq/cubic centimeter)
Iodine 131 08.06 1.2 x 10E6
Cesium 136 13.16 2.3 x 10E4
Balium 140 12.75 5.2 x 10E4
There are 148 fuel rods with less than one year of cooling period in the spent fuel pool at Unit 3. Those fuel rods were transferred to the spent fuel pool between Jun 23 and 28, 2010 having had more than 200 days of cooling period. Nuclides with short half-life had sufficient time for decay in the spent fuel pool, so it seems possible that the contaminated water in the turbine building is from the reactor."

Which all sounds like a recipie for "Toad's Brew" to me...

The Mark 1 reactor vessel can not handle high pressure because the access port on the top will leak gas. The hydrogen gas and radioactive fission products could have leaked out from around the seal and into the containment building. Some of the radioactive isotopes would have settled in the building and been washed away by the spraying and dumping of water. It is another possible path for leakage beside cracks in the reactor vessel and leaks in the piping in the turbine building.

It seems reasonably likely that at some point the exposed fuel rods got pretty hot. (Not that we would know for sure.)

We know for sure. see above. 80% or better damage for each "core".

Just not publicly announced.

If they weren't publicly announced, how can you be so sure for your claim of "80% or better"?

I've seen official estimates of 77% core damage on Reactor 1 and 33% damage on Reactor 2, but there's been no official estimate for Reactor 3 yet.

"Unless there has been re-criticality, i.e. post shutdown fission!" Which apparently there has been, as beams of neutron have been detected numerous times on the site (not widely reported)

I don't see how your scenario would work. The turbine buildings don't have "windows", they're designed to contain radiation like the reactor buildings are since the turbines in a BWR system have reactor steam running through them. I don't know the distance between the buildings but it's not a small distance, and water splashing off the reactor building wouldn't amount to the volumes described in the turbine buildings.

It's far more likely that a pipe or pipes have cracked and are leaking radiated water into the basements.

They do have windows, but on the side facing the ocean away from the reactor buildings. Suggesting windows blown out was a bad example. I am not certain the building labeled in the photo is the turbine building, but if it is, it has holes in the roof that would allow water to enter.

Edit: If you look at goodmanj's post March 26, 2011, 10:47pm, down below, the radiation and isotope concentrations measured in the water in the basement of the turbine building for reactor 2 is more likely the result of a leak from reactor 2.

2.9 GBq of iodine-134

From Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 74th ed. page 11-77:
half life: 52.6 minutes
decay mode & energy: β- / 4.1 MeV

half life: 3.7 minutes
decay mode & energy: I.T / 98 MeV / .316 MeV or β- / 2 MeV

I.T. means isomeric transition from upper to lower isomeric state.
β- means a beta particle, also known as a high speed electron.

The reactions to the crisis have been much slower and more measured than I would have expected. I can't fathom not getting emergency generator sets and fuel in there within 12 hours. Hard to believe they are sending in fresh water barges only now. I can get generators, pumps, water cannons, portable piping, etc. on-site anywhere in the state in a day, and that's without government help. Sure, things were terribly disrupted by the quake and tsunami, but you would have thought the Japanese government would have gotten them any resources they needed at the site if they had asked.

I wonder if Tepco's hierarchy in particular slowed down the implementation of emergency measures?

I've been wondering this since day one and how far it led to the compounding of the problem. Would a team led by people with the mentality of RMG and Rockman have fared better.


Could you really get that equipment quickly after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake wipes out the transportation and communications infrastructure? There were reports that generators brought in could not be used because the power sockets did not match and connectors were under water. You can not just turn the power back on after your equipment has been flooded by seawater without checking for damage, such as short circuits.

The power socket explanation doesn't make full sense to me - power sockets aren't necessary.

I had read that the portable generators did not produce the right phase of electricity for the plant to use; Japan has two phase types of electricity in the country and the generators came from a US military base, which used the wrong one.

I've seen it said that in general the Japanese do not function well as a group when "the plan" doesn't work. Give them a plan and trained to execute it, and they will do very well. Screw 'the plan' up, and they don't do well at all. I'm not saying the Japanese can't innovate or be creative, but their society values compliance and following the rules, not taking risks.

Fukushima went off "the plan" a few hours after the diesel generators went offline, IMO. The batteries were only able to keep controls and sensors running, and when the portable generators didn't work there wasn't anything left in 'the plan' to try. Nothing in their crisis scenarios expected to be dealing with a loss of offsite power and disabling of the diesel generators simultaneously. I read early on during this crisis that US nuclear experts were making suggestions to them on what to do next and no one on the Japanese side was willing to take responsibility, because it wasn't in "the plan".

I disagree. I worked many years in Japan. Japanese people tend to work very well as teams and when things go off script they are very adaptive and dynamic. More so than I've observed in American teams. This is because the individual is subservient to the team. You work on getting the problem solved, not showing off.

Its the on script scenarios that stifle innovation.

It’s already been almost two weeks and they seem to have no idea of what is going on in some of the buildings according to all the conflicting news we get.
Given the size of the mess and the small amount of human work being done due to the adverse working conditions it’s hard to see when they will stop radiations leaking from every hole.
No wonder at Chernobyl they had to use 600.000 workers to secure what whose left. And in Soviet Russia there were no noisy media and public pressure to care for the workers health. Most of them were military conscripts which were ordered to run inside and do even the most minute task. Many of them died of cancer later on but they saved the population.
In modern Japan and while the whole world is watching, worker’s safety seems a big concern as they send in the fewest people possible for the least amount of time to preserve them. But their repair seems to move so slow that it might get worst contamination wise as day are passing .
Even tough it’s seems they care a lot, the fact that Tepco sent it’s subcontractors ninja team not even wearing boots seems to indicate that behind the scene it’s not so rosy.

On the doomer side Fukushima is really a bad news. What use would be any kind of heirloom stash when the final grid die-off disconnects nuclear power plants ending in hundreds of similar scenarios ….
I’ve heard few years ago about a book talking of what would happen to earth if mankind suddenly disappeared. It was discussing all kinds of outcomes like cockroaches migrating out the sewers, plants growing in skyscrapers and it said that nuclear power plants would safely go in cool shutdown and decay slowly eaten by nature.
Like the book author I also assumed that in the case of a peak oil collapse the control rod would be inserted and when the workers had left it would just seat there as a testimony of our ancient and mighty nuclear god to the “cavemen” generations that follows ….
But Fukushima seems to indicate that even with the rods inserted, without active cooling , hundreds of reactors will go bust in a few days ….
And as the plant was not conceived to resist such a tsunami I guess that no plant on earth was designed to withstand the probability of a civilization collapse....
So even if we don’t actively nuke each other in wars when everything will go wild, we still get our fair dose of radiation in the end .

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
He does describe spent fuel storage pools boiling dry and catching fire. Chapter 15 "Hot Legacy", part 4 "Too Cheap to Meter".

PS - The cockroaches will be fine.

Well, that would settle the 'smarter than yeast' question.

"Most of them were military conscripts which were ordered to run inside and do even the most minute task. Many of them died of cancer later on but they saved the population."

That's an interesting point. Do you expose a small number of people to certainly lethal doses, or spread out the exposure over a large number of people, only some of whom will die over the next few decades? Which method has the lowest cost in person-years of life?

Who is ghoulish enough to study that sort of situation? And yet it's critical to know for real emergencies.

The military decides which people to kill all the time.

For example, a tactical situation may call for moving a battalion into a position where they will blunt an enemy attack while being wiped out in order to allow a division to move into position for a successful counterattack.

Yes, without immediate and effective action to deal with the radioactive waste already in existence, this WILL be our default future-or rather, lack of future. Every other kind of planning or preparation is ultimately irrelevant.

something is very very (radioactively) hot near that pool at reactor 1

Cl 38 half life 37 minutes
Cs 136 19 seconds


This is reactor one: earlier from reactor 3

the shortest lived isotope reported in

La 140 at 40.3 hrs

I should point out that Cs 136 has two states, spin 8 has half life of 19s and spin 5 of 13 days. But the Cl 38 is still troubling

Ok the implications of that list of isotopes scares me. In order for those short lived isotopes to still be present in the water, a nuclear chain reaction is still taking place inside Reactor 1's core. I thought that was impossible, what with the control rods inserted, boron flooding the core, and damage to the fuel rod geometry.

Is it possible that the operators only thought the control rods had been fully inserted, and the boron hasn't been as effective for whatever reason? Plus, if there's a chain reaction still taking place in #1, what's going on in #2 and 3?

In order for those short lived isotopes to still be present in the water, a nuclear chain reaction is still taking place inside Reactor 1's core. I thought that was impossible

I think these short-lived isotopes could be the result of decay of more long-lived fission products, no?

You mean transmuting of another element into the isotopes listed? I thought that only took place with neutron energy, and the control rods/boron injection should have taken care of that no matter where the neutrons are coming from.

You mean transmuting of another element into the isotopes listed? I thought that only took place with neutron energy,

No, alpha and beta decay change the number of protons in a nucleus, and thus the element.

A quick glance at my isotope table doesn't show any long-lived isotopes which naturally decay into the most active things in that water sample (137Cs, 38Cl). So, no.

TEPCO by way of NISA released measurements taken in standing water in Unit 1 turbine building :

Yow. By my calculations it won't kill you to stand near the stuff, but you definitely do not want to take a bath in it.

You want the unit #3 report, the mox fueled plant.

I think they ought to try and fire up reactor 5 or 6 to check for it's integrity and to provide on-site power. It successful, then they ought to fire up the other good reactor ASAP.

It's not a matter of turning the key and letting 'er rip. All the fuel rods have been removed. Refueling a plant like this is a labor-intensive, multi-week process, and one you really don't want to do when hell's own furnace is pumping out gamma rays a few hundred yards down the road.

They have on-site power. The grid. Why start 5 or 6??

"They have on-site power. The grid. Why start 5 or 6??"
Radioactive Iodine and Cesium have been found in the drainage from both #5 & 6, they probably have core damage.

Got a link to an article or report saying this? I've seen reports that Reactors 1, 2 and 3 have water in the basements of their turbine buildings, but not heard anything about #5 and 6. Since neither reactor 5 or 6 were operable at the time of the earthquake, finding radioactive iodine isotopes in water at either one would be highly unlikely.

"[Tokyo Electric]it found both iodine-131 and cesium-137 in a sample taken from near the drain outlets of the plant's No. 5 and No. 6 reactors that stabilized Sunday in so-called ''cold shutdown.''"


That link sent me to a google page of different stories, the first one saying "Reactor 5 and 6 out of danger". Didn't see anything claiming 5 and 6 had radiated water in their basements or anywhere else.

A question: is the water (either fresh or salt) that is currently being sprayed into the plant irradiated by now? (Either irradiated seawater that's being "recycled" or water from sources that were contaminated by initial fallout?

Sorry if this is a dumb question, I'm no scientist; but it might explain why certain readings are showing up in places one might not expect them.

Just to clear up a common misconception: exposure to radiation generally doesn't cause water to become radioactive. Radiation isn't "contagious". The water must be contaminated with radioactive elements, which can only happen in a big way if the water has been in contact with the reactor's fuel rods.

This is exactly what I'm asking--has the water been sprayed onto the reactor's fuel rods (or into the spent fuel pools), picked up some radiation, made its way back to the ocean, and been sucked up to be sprayed again?

Similarly, if radioactive particles fell onto the surface of the fresh water in an open reservoir after the initial accident, and the contaminated water was then sprayed onto/into the plant, the radiation measurement of the water at the plant would be "previous radioactivity plus radioactivity acquired from the spraying."

The radioactivity of water outside the plant is negligible compared to the radioactivity of the puddles inside the plant. For instance, Cs-137 levels are about 26 becquerel/liter in the ocean, compared to 130,000,000,000 becquerels/liter in the puddles inside.

One of the problems with the way radiation data -- actually, data of all kinds -- is reported to the public is that they never put numbers in context like this.


Unit 5

The reactor remains in cold shutdown. Off-site power has been restored. The reactor water temperature increased to 43.8 degrees Celsius.
The temperature in the spent fuel pool increased to 42.8 degrees Celsius as of 02:00 UTC 26 March.

Unit 6

The reactor remains in cold shutdown. Off-site power has been restored. The reactor pressure vessel water temperature decreased to 21.3 degrees Celsius.
The spent fuel pool water temperature has slightly increased to 30.0 degrees Celsius.

This is just getting past stupid.

Before departing from the hospital in the city of Fukushima, the two went through a decontamination process, which involved repeatedly wiping their feet with warm towels.

Great. Lets just ship a few million towels to Tokyo and stop worrying.

Anyone who believes that decontamination has to involve million-dollar gadgetry has been watching too many movies. Never underestimate the power of a plain old bucket of soapy water, rubber gloves, and a sponge.


I agree with you. No need for high tech for decontamination. You mistake my point.

The problem is they don't mention using any soapy water, any rubber gloves or a sponge.

They say they just used wet towels.

Personally, at least a shower seems to have been in order. Maybe even as you say, some soap?

Perhaps, getting super-fancy, a final rinse with some EDTA (try contact lens cleaner for an easy source) or other chelating agent to bind & remove any metal ions stuck to the skin? Hmm? Oh, no just a wet towel - that'll be dandy.

Remember , this is the organisation that didn't give them boots to stand in water that had just drained out of the reactor, on the grounds that their safety manual didn't cover such situations.

No you are the one that is stupid.

These workers are injured. How else do you decontaminate anything? You wipe it down. Although they should have been wiped down at the plant. On the good side their feet can take more radiation then their organs.

an example:


Extremities---50 rem/year

These workers got 17-18 rem on their extremities.

I have had a grim fascination with all things nuclear going back to my work in the (US) electric power industry during the 1970’s. My perception has long been that nuclear power technology is stunningly beautiful, irresistibly seductive, and, at its core, lethal beyond any historical human frame of reference.

Consider the plants in question. What were you doing on March 10? As of this posting, that was barely two weeks ago. On that day each one of these units stood as a gleaming monument to our advanced industrial civilization. Each control room floor clean enough to eat off of. The flow of electrons in thousands of wires precisely orchestrated as a host of sensors continuously supplied detailed information to the human/computer brain, while a corresponding reverse flow of electrical commands meticulously controlled valves, pumps, rod positioning motors, and all manner of devices and mechanisms. All of this to manage one of the largest, most sophisticated, and most powerful machines ever constructed; a paragon of achievement in metallurgy, chemistry, and every other modern science. At the top of it all, highly educated and trained operators monitored and guided the process, facilitating with occasional keystrokes the ebb and flow of huge amounts of clean, emission free power to the most highly developed cities in the world, with their vast array of production facilities pouring forth state of the art automobiles, cameras, electronics, everything.

Now look at them. Smoldering ruined hulks too radioactive to even enter, relentlessly spewing contamination across land and sea. Complete disarray, destruction, confusion, and danger. Little hope of regaining any control, as the situation continues to deteriorate. The cognitive dissonance is understandably overwhelming. This is why we desperately want to believe that it can gradually get back to normal; that all they have to do is reconnect power to the control rooms, get some lights on, read some meters, pull some levers, and begin the slow process of setting these ships aright again. Given the unfathomable extent of the damage, this is delusional.

After the first few days of tracking this emergency and trying to thought-experiment how to deal with it, it came to me that the only thing to do is to get everyone as far away as possible and form an international consortium to plan and execute whatever remediation is possible. This is the world's problem now. Moving the number of people affected the distances that would seem prudent is almost impossible, but we have been granted a space of time to do whatever can be done.

The situation is equivalent to a war, with the nuclear complex in the role of aggressor. The Japanese people are fighting for their land, and the ones who cannot leave are fighting for their lives. But the enemy has established its presence, is continuing its attack, and is successfully resisting all efforts to dislodge or neutralize it. How did this enemy get there? Is nuclear power a Trojan Horse of our own making?

To answer your question it got there by being both the low bidder and an American design.

Considering the efficiency of our own biological metabolism ,
it is beyond wonder why that same efficiency would rely on the reduction of heavy elements ?
Especially when our input is fully provided for by an equally ingenious fotosynthetic metabolism.

I'd say it's a tragedy of over-abundance.

And follies.

And perhaps with a tiny amount of creative destruction

Or universal creation

"In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself"
- Commander Hunter, in Crimson Tide

I'd say, "In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the true enemy is nuclear technology itself"

To me, this is like Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Birthmark', where we have sought to find an energy source so ideal and free of blemish, that we have have applied mortal poisons in our frenzied rush to realize this immortal ideal.. and it's supporters are still puzzled by both the failures and the unbelievers.

As a friend once said to me about something else.. "It would be perfect, but there are humans involved."

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

I don't agree with your assessment "clean" and "emission free" about nuclear power!!

The plants take millions of tons of cement to build and that takes cement trucks, bulldozers, the engineers and their cars, the whole oil complex in other words, has to be in place first. Lots of emissions in other words....

The oil complex was but one link in the poisonous chain you describe...

Oil spoiled people and made them used to luxuries and ways of life they had never imagined before.
Oil is somewhat like "magic"---its power is not deeply understood, but it sure can bring heavy huge things far and that is all we need for a massive monumental something, something that will turn into goddawful garbage later.

Oil getting expensive drives desperate people to find alternatives that are even worse.

The second law of thermodynamics is still not widely understood either but I think people are starting to pick up on it. The piles of garbage we generated with all our oil will surely be with us for many many generations to come. Some of the garbage will be highly radioactive.

The three laws of thermodynamics, expressed in a language acceptable for everyman:

1: you can't win;

2: you can't break even;

3: you can't get out of the game.

It's not a good idea, it is in fact The Law. Not gonna change.

Now, what do we do to mitigate the infractions? Bribing *this* judge is gonna be a right bitch...

Uranium mining is very energy intensive, 3000 gigajoules of oil or equivalent energy are required to produce 1 tonne of uranium from low grade ore. The separation of the isotopes by ultra centrifugation is also incredibly energy intensive. The overall ERoEI is about 6:1.


the absurdity of the discussion is that these facts are mostly omitted by pro nuclear activists ,
while at the same time claiming that the sceptics' alternatives are deceptively utopian

Decentralisation of energy production is unavoidable

Reminds me of those that claimed Android would be a gimmick at launch , it would never stick ,
who is interested in their opinions now ? Lost voices of the past

Yes, 3,000 GJ per tonne to extract uranium. It's nice, then, that energy density of uranium is about 700,000 GJ/tonne (3.5 million GJ after enrichment). That part has an EROEI of 700:3 i.e. 233:1.

No, enrichment is NOT "incredibly energy intensive". It requires one fiftieth of the energy of gaseous diffusion, which obviously also worked with a good net EROEI.

That overall EROEI would be 6:1 is complete hogwash.

So's your response, alas.

Take the energy output from the uranium, convert into electricity (at 40% or less efficiency), use that electricity to mine iron ore, turn it into steel, manufacture mining equipment, then fuel it, and so on right through the cycle.

Can the whole nuclear cycle fuel itself? No. Even if it could, the EROEI would be far lower than you suggest.

Never forget the hidden fossil fuel subsidy for everything we do.

I give you some hard numbers, and you give me some more handwaving. Sorry, but you obviously don't know what you are talking about.

I told you why your numbers were wrong and irrelevant. You haven't dealt with the fossil fuel subsidy problem. Redo your sums taking fossil fuels out of the whole process, and then see what nuclear power's real EROEI would be.

No, you did not tell me, you just waved your hands a bit. Why would I take fossils out of the process? The point of ERoEI is that you invest energy, such as fossils, and get a return in energy, such as nuclear. I demonstrated that both the supposedly energy intensive processes, i.e. mining low-grade ore and uranium enrichment, is peanuts in the relation to the great energy return.

Pi - I certainly don't disagree with any of your points. The purpose of my description was to provide a snapshot image of the process underway during one day - March 10, 2011; not to get into the EROEI of nuclear power in general. On that day the emissions required to build and activate the plants had already been emitted, and the emissions required to decommission them had yet to be emitted. This is the image that the pro-nuclear crowd tends to focus on exclusively. Certainly a lot of fossil fuel is burned to extract, refine, process, transport, fabricate, and assemble everything that goes into a nuclear power plant. And then even more is burned to properly decommission it and dispose of the contents, the amount required depending upon how "properly" this is done. And that is without any accidents to deal with. Purists may also note that even normally operating plants occasionally emit "small" radioactive releases into the atmosphere and/or cooling water, but for the purpose of this discussion I am considering those to be negligible.

And could we do all that without fossil fuels? Can we scale up electric arc furnaces (etc) to make the steel required, for starters?

as does also wind and solar power. rare earths don't comes out of the ground by themselves. Solar panels also have their pollution streams.

Wind and solar are worse because they have so much of the time when all the concrete and steel is just sitting there.

'Just sitting there' sounds kind of nice at this point, no?

I bet there are both broken and working solar panels around Eastern Japan right now that are just sitting there, and you could eat your lunch on one as a handy, improvised table, or you could ignore it completely, and it wouldn't hurt you. Ever.

There are SERIOUS toxic components involved in PV manufacture, and I hear that some mfrs in China have been typically cavalier about their handling, but ultimately it is a regulatory problem on an entirely different scale of feasibility than that of Nuclear Waste and Uranium Mine Tailings management.

The plants take millions of tons of cement to build

Worth noting that there is a new cement process coming on line that absorbs more CO2 than it generates.

The piles of garbage we generated with all our oil will surely be with us for many many generations to come. Some of the garbage will be highly radioactive.

Plus the residue from coal. Plus the residue for other industries. Plus a lot of concrete is used for hydro. Plus concrete is used in wind farms. The list goes on and on. There's no such thing as a free lunch.


"...technology is stunningly beautiful, irresistibly seductive..."
Your words remind me very strongly of high-end weapons work.
This stuff is breathtaking in concept and beautifully made.
But it's deployed by the amoral to rob resources from the poor.
Security, nonexistent.
... The lesson was the same: The weakness of systems of humans.


This problem is clearly well beyond the capabilities of not only TEPCO, but also of the Japanese government.
There needs to be a concerted effort to provide help, before this thing becomes entirely unmanageable.
We face the prospect of 1800 tons of nuclear fuel gradually decaying and daily emitting radioactive byproducts equal to 10% of the Chernobyl total from somewhere in a heap of scrap a half mile long. Not good for anyone, not just the Japanese.

Looks like Reuters is pulling reporters off the fukushima story.


Although the story from Japan is far from over, we're putting the live blog on hold from 4pm ET to free staff up for other news. We'll open it up again if the situation deteriorates significantly, but in the meantime you can keep with Reuters coverage on Japan via our page here www.reuters.com and our Japan Twitter feed here www.twitter.com . I'd like to thank all our readers who have contributed to the live blog over the past two weeks. You've been amazing. Richard Baum, Reuters.com

After all, there are important stories out there. I heard Linsay Lohan is drunk again.

And so it goes

Misinformation Clouds Much Japan Coverage

...“I went to the BBC and I started watching the coverage there, and as it progressed I was shocked because I always thought the BBC was a fairly straightforward news organization—but it was starting to not match what I could see was going on,” said Woolner, a thirty-five-year-old theatre artist born in Canada. He moved to Japan close to eight years ago.

...That was two weeks ago. As time passed, Woolner said the gap between the reality he and others in Japan were experiencing and what international media was reporting seem to widen. He’s not alone in that assessment.

If nuclear is safe and good, then why aren't we hearing all the great stories of how the site is secure and safe and plain clothed people can skip rocks in the puddles and farmers can grown veggies a mile or two away from the plant. Coast is clear right?

My bet is the newspapers are worried about this destabilizing the markets. It may be very complex why the media is ignoring this.

Linsay Lohan!
And that baseball guy with the possible shrunken testicles!
Elizabeth Taylor... which takes us right to Michael Jackson!
They should just offer Mel Gibson big money
to do something really stupid
right about now.
Google has their "Nuclear Power" heading back up, not "Accident"
or "Disaster".

What exactly are "Neutron Beams"? I've read that these were detected at Fukushima least 13 times in the past few weeks. There hasn't been much discussion in the media and elsewhere. Apparently this is a sign of some fission process occurring, as well as a potential breach in a reactor containment.

Neutron Beams
These are generated when Hopium decays into Despairium.

It is not know where the Hopium comes from in nuclear accidents, but its appearance is correlated with the release of Official Statements and is thought to involve changes in the spin state of Disasterium.

Some political scientist believe that if you do not observe the Disasterium, or spin it intensely enough, then its state cannot be known with certainty, and the ultimate generation of Desparium will be avoided.

The problem is that Hopium is very unstable, with a half-life of just a few weeks, regardless of the energy put into the spin-field.

The number 13 is also very significant here.
Its a part of the magic quirk

neutrons can be generated by radioisotopes as well , besides fission ,
the report speaks of a beam which would imply intensity and a direction , preferably over a large distance.
That would suggest a byproduct of fission or the decay of a large amount of radioactive material.
The reactor core however should still be fairly surrounded by a moderating amount of steel , water/steam and concrete to be able to release these neutrons into the open.( But that's a guess)
This would imply multiple massive radioactive releases .

ROFL, as the younger folks text. Or in my case, IJSBOMN (I just snorted beer out my nose).

"IJSBOMN (I just snorted beer out my nose)"

I'm going to have to use that one--hope you don't mind?

There are a lot of spin states surrounding the distaster. You'd think the media would be dizzy at this point. But they keep it coming.

It's interesting, in a sorry and possibly preverse (sic) sort of way, to consider the different motives that BP and the Japanese government had/have regarding spin. BP, I presume, gave their highest priority to reducing the economic cost of the Macondo spill to their company. The Japanese government probably doesn't need to worry about being sued for billions of $$ like BP; they have political costs to consider*.

One of the downsides of representative government is that it selects for politicians who place far more value on personal political cost than societal cost. ROCKMAN likes to quote the line about the enemy being us, but I also wonder whether the democratic process can be improved. Thomas Jefferson & James Madison wrote on this topic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_No._10). I suppose that the people are ultimately responsible because they comprise the social structure in which they live. Or do they?

Anyway, it's hard to be optimistic about the ability of democracies to make optimal decisions during the coming energy decline given the rules under which they currently operate.

*political cost (PC) is determined by passing societal cost (SC) through the Spin filter (SF): PC = SC * SF. The government's goal is to find SF that minimizes PC given SC. Or am I being too cynical?

Even assuming the best motives, i.e. Japanese officials want to do what is best for the longterm welfare of their countrymen, one can make a case for spin. (1) To avoid a potential panic which may be more damaging than the radioactive material itself. Or (2) the countries image abroad will affect its exports. I bet significant numbers of people will shun Japanese products, because they might be "radioactive". So Japanese=radioactive could become an unthinking meme in a lot of people around the world. And the loss of market share could do great harm to the people of the country.

Argument (2) is rather shortsighted because it fails as soon as importers detect radiation on Japanese products. Two weeks after the earthquake some Japanese products are already being banned.

I keep thinking of a young couple with a baby - looking for a new car...

With a radiation detector!

That's very cute, except for one small problem.
The statement didn't come from some wacko blogger, it came from TEPCO.
There might be a translation issue there, to be sure --I don't know for sure if they really meant to say a 'beam,' but I really doubt they mis-translated 'neutron.'

And I really doubt they would make it up, either. (In case you hadn't noticed, they've been working pretty hard to make things look *less* bad than they are, not worse.)



What exactly are "Neutron Beams"?

These are generated when Hopium decays into Despairium.

Sarcastic jokes are generally more than welcome, but I wish you'd avoid them in response to a serious technical question. It kind of distracts.

@Lee: As best I can tell, this is just an awkward translation. I think it means that energetic neutrons have been detected. This may mean that uranium or plutonium has escaped.

sorry @goodmanj, I was trying to lighten a depressing thread.

This being the TOD, I assumed at least 3 other people would immediately weigh in with a long technical explanation of neutron emission.

Original poster: The 'neutron beam' report from TEPCO shows that criticality has been achieved on and off at times. In which case, at least some fuel has probably melted and is pooling together. But we had all guessed that by now.

Thanks very much.

My guess is "Neutron Beams" = "Neutron Flux."

Yea, beam = flux. I have seen "high pressure" to mean "high voltage".

Tedium contamination blamed for reduced press coverage

Initially there was a high quantity of Dramagen released from the damaged reactors. Unlike most elements in irradiated stories, the disastereomer form of Dramagen is believed to provide health benefits to those news organisations exposed to it. However, once aired, Dramagen has a fairly short half-life and rapidly decays into the much more dangerous Tedium.

According to a well placed source, levels of Tedium near the Fukushima story had accumulated to levels that were causing significant damage to the health of viewing figures. "Modern figures are extremely sensitive to Tedium. If we hadn't had a war available to provide an immediate Dramagen boost, they might have suffered permanent damage."

The problem is that Hopium is very unstable, with a half-life of just a few weeks

A metastable state which lasts until the up quarks spontaneously decay into down quarks while the charmed quarks migrate elsewhere.

Intense neutron emission and the presence of radioisotopes with short half lives indicate fission is occurring or has recently occurred. A free neutron has a half life of 14 minutes and 46 seconds.

that's got to be as translation error.you would have neutron hot spots. unless you have a hot neutron source and some kind of culminator.

The most important article to appear today: "U.S. Experts Blame Fukushima 1 Explosions and Radiation on Failed Venting System."


I raised this issue in a previous thread concerning Mr. Tanaka's assessment of the accident appearing at a panel event in Japan on March 18 (with simultaneous translation). The release of hydrogen and subsequent explosions (at every power plant experiencing problems) remains the largest unanswered question concerning this accident. Mr. Tananka, identified as a whisleblower in a Bloomberg press story, suggests a servicing cap at the top of the primary containment structure failed and vented gas into the operating floor (upper floor) of the reactor building. This cap is rated to 4 atmospheres (and the rubber gasket surrounding it to 200 degrees celsius), and 8 atmospheres of pressure were experienced in the containment structure at the time of the accident (twice the anticipated design tolerance).

The E&E Publishing story (appearing in the Times) presents this theory, but also an alternative account: failure of the venting system. Steam in the primary pressure vessel can be vented into the torus for management and cooling, but what led to pressures to rise in the primary containment structure in the first place (steam control safety systems are all part of closed loop systems). The speculation is pipe breaks from over heating, corrosion, design weaknesses, or the earthquake. Operators dealt with the issue by venting gas to "outside the reactor building." This venting system works by moving steam and radioactive gas from the primary containment vessel through the reactor building, and to the large 100 meter emissions stacks located outside the power plants (which can filter and diffuse the gas to minimize it's environmental impact). But as it turns out, these stacks require fans to work properly, and thus electrical power. The speculation is that "most, if not all, of this dangerous mix of hydrogen gas seeped into the reactor building in Units 1 and 3. The hydrogen, being lighter than air, mixed with air in the upper large refueling floor area" (and subsequently exploded).

Whether it's zirconium oxidation, coolant piping specifications, seismic and flooding planning, extended station blackout back-up preparedness, spent fuel storage (and waste management) issues, or venting, this is going to be a vital issue in the subsequent dissection of this accident, and attention to venting and hydrogen control issues should give rise to an "industry re-think" (I would hope).

The biggest surprise for me is that these japanese reactors dont seem to have had overpreassure vents for the containment. Is that oversight correct?

The Swedish ones were built with overpreassure vents from day one and about 20 years ago were they complemeted with overpreassure vents that would open at a lower preassure and vent thru a filter, for the now closed Barsebäck plant a giant silo filed with gravel and each of the other reactors has a water tank to bubble the gasses thru followed by a moisture separator. As far as I know it is a passive non electrified system with a parallell valve to the bursting diaphragm for manual venting.

I don't know how much the profit motive (cost cutting) may have ruled in Japan, but in the US such plants are owned by per-profit utilities, so the incentives are wrong. Are your Sweedish reactors owned by the government=people, or are they run for the profits of inestors? If it is the former, you should have good control over the safety aspect. The currently prevailing US ideology, makes such a system unthinkable. The management chain is probably moreimportant than the technological details.

There has been short sighted cost cutting like sparse spare part stocks that has resulted in lower powerplant avilability. The ownership structure and market pricing model has cushioned the economical impact of this by giving higher prices and rediculous profit margins on the hydro power. The critizism has mostly been about customes being squeezed by high prices by too manny nuclear powerplants being offline.

The main reason for nuclear powerplants being offline has been and still are the extensive maintainance and upgraders being done and some of the longer then planned ottages can propably be traced to planning made by economists who prioritzed badly.

Its not all good but I find no indications that thay have skipped on safety.

The equivalent utilities in Finland are doing a better job and having lots of spare parts has little impact on the production cost. Sometimes I wonder if modern economics and logistics is more about providig jobs for managers then producing an actual service, some of it is good but there seems to be a lot of bullshit.

You start with the clear and wise statement: "There has been short sighted cost cutting" then come up with "I find no indications that thay have skipped on safety"

And you want us to take you seriously?

I would have been worried if I had heard about low spare parts stocks in combination with high reactor avialiability. Not being able to run a reactor due to lack of parts is only economical stupidity, the real problems begins if its run with compromised safety.

I try to understand the world as it is, both good and bad. It is probably not the most efficient way to encourage people to do stuff but it feels morally ok and as a bonus I dont have to remember lies.

Of course that's a safety issue, not just an economic one.

As ever Failure Modes.. It's not just the price of the necessary replacement parts, or the cost of rush-shipping them.. it's "What's going to happen if you can't get that part when you REALLY need it?" What if that supplier was the only one who makes them, and is not around now, and noone else seems willing to make 'it' for any price?

They do have these vents. One automatic pressure release valve shunts residual heat and steam to the torus (where the steam is cooled by circulated water and thus lowers the pressure). The second is a hard vent that sends the built-up radioactive gas and steam through pipes in the reactor building (and a filter?), and outside to the 100m emissions stacks located next to each of the power plants.

The suppression pool cooling system, so far as I know, was added to the original design primarily to "make up" for (or compliment) the small size of the primary containment vessel (which had lower costs because of it's small size). The hard event to the outside was added later (as a retrofit) to make up for what many regard as inherent design weaknesses of this Mark I model.

In both of these cases, each of the safety systems relied on power to the plant to operate effectively: AC to recirculate the water in the torus, and AC to run fans in the hard vent to the emissions stacks outside of the power plant.

So loss of power was a critical failure? Shouldn't it be relatively easy to protect wires, compared to other things, and even provide redundant wires? The scram of the reactor and even halting the turbines should not cause loss of power - the always plant needs power, even during an outage (viz Units 4,5,6), and the grid was live the whole time - I assume. And again I assume that the diesel is needed only if the grid is lost; for so called "black start"...

Offsite power failed to all the reactors when the earthquake hit. The backup diesel generators worked as expected until the tsunami drowned them. The tertiary power system was a battery backup array, but they only generated enough power to operate the controls and gauges. The critical failure was a loss of both primary and backup power systems; there was no adequate tertiary system, but I doubt many reactors in the world have a 3rd power system to keep the pumps running.

IOW...things worked until they didn't.

The story of the entire nuke industry.


If you take the battery out of your car, do you blame the car manufacturer for building a defective product? If power fails in your house, do you blame the A/C company for not cooling it any more?

Sounds like you would.

Bit of a bogus argument there, unless you're talking about nuclear powered cars which absolutely rely on their batteries for safety.

If I take the battery out of my car, it doesn't make it more dangerous, capable of making my neighbor's houses un-liveable. It actually makes my car safer as it can't burn any gasoline and therefore can't pollute the air or run over a pedestrian. Very different from the present situation with Nuke Plants. False argument!

Offsite power failed to all the reactors when the earthquake hit.

You mean that the grid failed? The 6 HV circuits into the plant were all down? I assume that there was power at the property line to the plant. No?

You mean that the grid failed? The 6 HV circuits into the plant were all down?

Yes, that's exactly what happened. TEPCO had to have a special team working for several days to run a power line back to the plant to get power.

@Bendal. Off site power failed to other nuclear reactors in the area too? How come these are not experiencing the same level of trauma and malfunction to the site as Daiichi? This is clearly a design based accident and not a natural one. Initial siting and subsequent upgrades were inadequate to the earthquake and tsunami risk. Mark I containment design was inadequate to maintain pressure, cooling, and venting of gas to areas where it would not explode. TEPCO delayed use of sea water for cooling in the initial 24 hour period of the accident (which was so crucial to subsequent events). There was very little back-up plan to get equipment, generators, parts, and personnel to the site after a station blackout and to control the situation before the reactor status could significantly deteriorate. There's no adequate source of freshwater at the site to restore cooling (hence all the issues with salt damage that is making cooling and restarting pumps so problematical). High levels of cobalt and molybdenum in cooling water indicate long standing corrosion problems at this plant. And on and on. The more we learn about this accident, the more we hear about all of the many ways it could have been prevented (and failing to adequately assess the tsunami risk at initial design phases and subsequent periods stands at the top of the list).

I would add to that list the design choice to not locate the reactor complex on higher ground. This questionable decision was mentioned in previous threads, but I have not seen any estimate of the cost of vs. altitude trade-offs.

Is the energy cost of pumping sea water uphill the main factor?

I would add to that list the design choice to not locate the reactor complex on higher ground

The fact that it is a multi-reactor complex and not a single reactor compounds the problem too, something critics of Weinberg's "nuclear farm" proposals were well aware of a mere 40 years ago.


Which leads to another question. Is it safer to build one big reactor or two reactors half the size next to each other? Is there a practical limit to the Watts that a single nuclear reaction vessel can safely produce?

Is the energy cost of pumping sea water uphill the main factor?

A quick back-of-the-envelope:

If a reactor is producing 1 GW of electricity at 33% efficiency, it must dump 3 GW of thermal energy into its cooling water. In the U.S. plants I've visited, they try to keep the cooling water outflow no more than 10°C above ambient. Using the heat capacity law, then, the cooling water flow rate must be about 75 tons per second.

If we wish to site the reactor 20 m above sea level so it will be tsunami immune, we must pump 75 tons/sec up a 20 m hill, which requires 15 MW of power.

This puts a noticeable dent in the reactor's overall efficiency, but it's a viable design option.

Add backup diesel generators that output 15 MW and batteries that could run the pumps for 8 hours and it might be cheaper to build a 20 m high sea wall.

In hindsight, a higher seawall would have been a good investment. All around the site.

.. but is it enough?

With the quake, the reactors would still scram or whatever their shutdown entailed.. then you'd have quake damage potentials around the facility, and the grid outage.

Is it really rock-solid that it wasn't the blackout or pipe/concrete quake damage, or shaken rods upsetting the reinsertion of control rods possibly, that were as much culprits as the flooding and wave damage?

It's a brittle chain of events that runs these systems. Just-in-time can trip over 'not-quite-in-time'.. this is the bed we've made.

The backup diesel generators were all online after the offsite power went down, and all cooling systems were operational until the diesels were knocked out by the tsunami.

Everyone keeps saying the nuclear plant experienced a 9.0 earthquake; that's inaccurate. It was estimated to be in the 7 range at the site, based on distance from the epicenter.

And that is supposed to give us great comfort? Clearly, quakes of 9 and greater magnitude are possible in the region, and yet money mad corporations chose to build an enormously toxic nuke plant right there.

And I'm in 100% agreement with you on this issue. Building the reactors at sea level with inadequate tsunami protection borders on a criminal decision; TEPCO knew the area had been subjected to higher tsunamis than they designed to stop, yet never started any efforts to upgrade the walls. While the earthquake cut the offsite power source from the reactor, that happens to every plant and that's why there are backup generators on site. Once the tsunami knocked those out, though, the plant was screwed.

In the nuclear safety debate of the seventies, one of the buzz-phrases was "Maximum Credible Accident". I believe different terminology's used these days, but the erroneous logic still lurks behind the analysis.

We need to design in a way which minimises the maximum accident, whether it be "credible" or not.

Which would be what? A military strike using concrete penetrating missiles? A meteor strike on the plant itself? A level 10 earthquake? A deliberate deactivation of every safety feature while the reactor is operating? A 50' high tsunami? A level 5 tornado? How about a supersonic jet loaded with explosives?

Every last one of those is possible, and several have actually taken place in the past, just not at a nuclear power plant. Before you start designing, the parameters you want to design to must be decided on first.

Design a plant that can withstand ALL of those simultaneously (or in rapid succession) and then we can begin discussing unanticipated failure modes you should also consider...

If we held nuclear reactors to that design standard, they'd be impossible to build. Which I'm sure is your goal. But with that standard, *nothing* could be built: every technological artifact has a lethal failure mode if you're creative enough with your "what if" scenarios. A child's teddy bear can emit toxic smoke if burned, can become a lethal projectile in a tornado, or become dangerously explosive if doused with nitric acid.

It is impossible to eliminate risk entirely. The only conversation worth having is whether the risk is small enough to be worthwhile, and whether the risk of a given option is less than that of the alternatives. That's definitely a good question in the case of nuclear power, but nothing can ever be absolutely safe.

Plot two graphs. One of the costs (human, ecological, and economic) over time, the other of the benefits over time.

Notice how one generation reaps the benefits whilst their descendants pay the costs (true of coal, oil, and nuclear power).

Then consider the ethics of such a skew.

Totally immoral, if you ask me.

The guys deciding on nukes are typically in their 50-ies. They take the costs. They are in their 60-ies when the plant is done, and they are possibly dead when the plant has recovered costs. A functioning nuke, due to the dominating capital costs, is one the greatest gift possible to the coming two to three generations. And the generations after those benefit due to continued growth from the economic base made possible by the nukes, as well as the benefit due to avoided environmental costs of fossils.

It is totally immoral to NOT build nuclear plants.

Comparing a technology's benignness in comparison to its alternatives is a first step in the right direction.

And not forgetting that two wrongs don't make a right.

Absolutely, and that sort of comparison is what I'm after. But disdaniel is demanding that technology be *absolutely* benign, which can only mean no technology at all. But doing without technology carries its own costs...

I think what seems to bother others and also me is that people who are pushing the hardest for nuclear only talk about how small a chance there is of something happening. If there's a 1 in a million year chance of a pencil rolling off the table and hitting the floor, that is not the same as a 1 in a million year chance of the nuke plant contaminating 10,000 square miles. The pencil, who cares. The 10,000 square mile contamination, you bet I care. Also, that doesn't mean that it won't happen for 1 million years. You have to consider the seriousness of what it is you're talking about happening.

I don't think the pyramids would be a good idea of something that has lasted a long time, grave robbers have been in them a long time ago and many times.

Many of the arguments here conflate risk and hazard.

This situation is so catastrophic not because of the risk but because of hazard (which also compounds on other factors in this case).

risk x consequences of failure = hazard

Nuclear power plant failure is a small risk (per plant operating hour or power generated) but the hazard is immense.

There is no other tech that I'm aware of that can leave so much land uninhabitable and unproductive for so long. We don't have that much earth that is useful and productive to spare!

At least these zones may be good for biodiversity but any comparison of the hazard of nuclear power that does not indicate an understanding of relative consequences is bogus.

Many of the arguments here conflate risk and hazard.

This looks like it's in reply to me, though the forum has gotten so multithreaded it's hard to tell.

I'm aware of the distinction you're raising, though "risk" is often defined as the product of consequence and probability -- what you term "hazard".

In your terminology, I'm responding to an argument that says that nuclear power cannot be used unless the risk is zero. This implicitly assumes that the consequences of failure are infinite. I argue that while the consequences of failure are large, they're not infinite. This means that nuclear power must be held to a high standard of risk, but need not be absolutely infallible.

No, it's not based on an infinite. It's based on the duration of toxicity from EACH failure, and the ACCUMULATION of toxics sweeping through our air and water from the collection of them. Even if the odds of catastrophic failures are 'pretty high', they have been happening, and their residues are adding up, along with the residues of those minor accidents, a leaking pool here and there, all feeding into the biome, the air, soil and water that feeds us.

It's also that these plants are showing their vulnerabilities to Electricity and Water shortages, right as we head into peak oil and climate change. Their survival odds are going to be worse, and we'll have our hands full of enough other problems to not need to deal with the odd, outsized Fukishima scale challenge in the middle of everything else.

Nuclear NEEDS the OLD BAU to survive, and She is taking her curtain call.

Right, it's based on the consequences being persistent and extreme.

The consequences are less persistent than chemical hazards, and less extreme as well, and yet Nuclear is held to a higher standard than chemical processing.

I'm not saying it shouldn't be held to a high standard, but saying that it is too dangerous to be an acceptable pursuit is making assumptions about the consequences that just aren't supported by the facts.

Even if the odds of catastrophic failures are 'pretty high', they have been happening, and their residues are adding up, along with the residues of those minor accidents

The background radiation has peaked a few times, but has then fallen back every time. First in 1963 after nuclear weapons testing (peak at 7% added to the natural background radiation, now 0.2%). Then after Chernobyl. Now we'll experience a new small peak after Fukishima.

Nuclear power plant failure is a small risk (per plant operating hour or power generated) but the hazard is immense.

Actually, it is not. The small risk times the immense consequence, in the case of nuclear, results in a lower product (hazard) than other modes of electricity generation. And the hazards of not generating electricity at all is even larger.

AP IMPACT: Nuclear plant downplayed tsunami risk

One man's "credible" is another's "incredible".

Se what I'm driving at?

yet money mad corporations chose

I have a problem with the persistent leftist slant of the arguments presented. What the hell do you guys know of Japanese motivation and culture? And btw, every single one of TOD regulars should be "money mad" in a sense, since economics is about handling scarce resources, and resource scarcity is at the core of what this site is all about. You of all people would appreciate the idea of not overdoing stuff, and the saying that perfect is the enemy of good. The absolutist view is irrational - for there to be life, there has to be risks. We have to fall, learn and adapt. (And no, a nuclear accident isn't too severe to come back from!)

I have a problem with another slant - the persistent welcoming, even yearning for societal collapse. I suspect that's why some of you oppose nuclear - doom isn't as likely with nuclear power around, as that's actually a resource that we know can power humanity virtually into eternity. Related, some obviously want the collapse to return humanity to a "clean" state, with less humans (they are like "yeast" and most must die anyway, right, so good riddance?), less complexity and plenty opportunities for handy, self-reliant, prepared people as themselves to get some appreciation and status. But radiation may compromise those opportunities, neh?

I get sick of it. I likely won't be back for a while.

The sea wall at Fukushima was designed mainly to protect against hurricanes (tropical cyclones or typhoons as they are called in Japan). It's the 13 m bluff at the front of the plant that "was supposed" to protect against tsunami waves (and the location of diesel back-up generators higher up on the site, and the raising of storage tanks above the ground).

Making the emergency generators able to withstand flooding would be a better idea.


That's not really the case. You can use the waste water as counterweight. Of course, a cooling system doing that won't be all cheap.

Due to syphoning, you hould get some of the loss back. Right? Friction head is the only loss I see and it shouldn't be that much of the total pumping cost.

Siphon is a cute idea, but one can foresee reliability issues, including susceptibility to earthquake damage. Besides, the maximum siphon height is 10 meters.

If I were to engage in fantasy, I would prefer the idea building the reactor below sea level surrounded by a high seawall, allowing the whole thing to be flooded under the present circumstance.

I am assuming here that releasing all of the radioactive materials contained in the reactors and spent fuel pools into the sea would have no important consequence outside of the immediate vicinity.

So, with siphoning, the true lift would still only be 10m + losses.

Flooding bad idea. You can't work on it and certainly can't connect the power lines.


Thanks for pointing out the siphon issue. I thought about it while doing my back-of-the-envelope, but didn't want to distract from the main argument.

@NAOM, yes, you could use a siphon to reduce the power needed, but you don't want to rely on it. If an earthquake puts a crack in your plumbing and lets air in, breaking your siphon, you're screwed.

Also, using a siphon means the cooling water inside the plant will be under partial vacuum. This means you have to think hard about boiling and cavitation problems inside your heat exchangers and pumps.

All things considered, you'd be better off just building a serious seawall.

I was thinking more that as you pump up one pipe and drain down the other you will get a siphon boost for the first 10m. Damage is a problem any which way but for cool down cooling you only need to start with about 20% working which gives you some resiliance.


In the Indonesian earthquake a few years ago, the tsunami it generated swamped an Indian nuclear power plant site, but the plant was not damaged due to it being located well above sea level. The only damage was to the pumping inlet structure, which was by necessity located at sea level. TEPCO had been told by Japan's nuclear oversite agency that the tsunami defenses needed to be increased at Fukushima, based on past historical tsunami heights, but they argued the need to study the situation more rather than do any immediate improvements.

Gee, that argument sounds very much like the one that was given years ago about Climate Change, "We need to study this more before we do anything." Look how both of these situations turned out. And now the deniers are denying there's a problem in either situation. History repeats.

Good analysis. B is clearly a pro-nuke shill, either working for the industry on a paid basis, or so in thrall to its mystique that he is willing to say all sorts of morally and intellectually dubious things.

Stop with ad hominem attacks. I'm not apologizing for TEPCO in any way; they've helped create this disaster through an inadequate design and then their reaction to the situation. You've apparently decided to attack every one of my comments no matter what I say. Makes me wonder what anti-nuke group you represent, in fact. Two can play this game, you see.

A tsunami swamped a nuclear reactor site from a quake over 1000km away, yet the whole nuclear industry took no action to try and protect the reactors on the east coast of Japan that were highly likely to have a large tsunami.

Your own words are precisely why there should be an end to these potential mass killers. We, as in humans, just do not treat the power with the respect it deserves. We cut corners, perform studies and decide that what costs us more for no net result (safety), can be delayed or cancelled, or washed away as not a real danger.

"A quick back-of-the-envelope:

If a reactor is producing 1 GW of electricity at 33% efficiency, it must dump 3 GW of thermal energy into its cooling water. In the U.S. plants I've visited, they try to keep the cooling water outflow no more than 10°C above ambient. Using the heat capacity law, then, the cooling water flow rate must be about 75 tons per second.

If we wish to site the reactor 20 m above sea level so it will be tsunami immune, we must pump 75 tons/sec up a 20 m hill, which requires 15 MW of power.

This puts a noticeable dent in the reactor's overall efficiency, but it's a viable design option."

Excellent point, except that tsunamis can be, and this one might have been, much higher than 20 m.

If a reactor is producing 1 GW of electricity at 33% efficiency, it must dump 3 GW of thermal energy...

You mean 2 GW of waste heat, of 3 GW total.

Any one seen a link / Video of Unit 4 blowing up? Unit 1 & 3 explosions were so different.
Did I just miss it or was it in the middle of the night or censored?

ISTR it was at night but I may be wrong.


I also have been looking for a video of the explosion at Fukushima 1, reactor 4, without success.

From this, http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110325-5-1.pdf p. 7 - 8, I would think it occurred between 0408 and 0614, and at that hour I would doubt a video exists. They don't say "sound of explosion" as they do for the other units, I would think that is because they don't have any audio or visual confirmation, just the damage that was observed at 0614.

Edit: TEPCO said it was at 0600 : http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11031504-e.html

The only available visual confirmation of the fire/explosion at unit 4 appears to be the tepco webcam images. They show that unit 4 cracked during the morning of March 15th -- at, or shortly before 7 am. I have cached the webcam images from that day here:

After thinking about the hydrogen explosions some more, reactor building 4 also exploded even though it had no fuel in the containment vessel. Maybe the hydrogen for each of the explosions came from the spent fuel rod ponds instead of the reactor vessels. There might not be a hydrogen recombiners at the pools.

This venting system works by moving steam and radioactive gas from the primary containment vessel through the reactor building, and to the large 100 meter emissions stacks located outside the power plants (which can filter and diffuse the gas to minimize it's environmental impact).

Wow - so that is what those read and white derricks are for. They sure did not work out as planned. Just a question: Units 1&2 have a tower between them. Units 3&4 have a tower between them. And there is another tower just south of Unit 4, and it has four pipes going up it, whereas the other two towers seem to have just one pipe. Make anything of that?

Nope ... but the units are of different sizes (unit 1 is the smallest). So maybe it doesn't need it's own stack!

I am still not clear about the venting pathway inside the reactor buildings. You will read in many press accounts that the operators vented gas from primary containment to secondary containment. This can't be done (and it is wrong to describe it this way). Basically, I'm uncertain if the hard vent installed as a retrofit on these containment designs goes directly outside the building (or goes through a Standby Gas Treatment System first ... which requires fans and electricity to operate). I've been told both is the case (so clearly there is some confusion). It would be great if someone could dig up a reactor schematic for the Mark I BWR design, and show how the various safety venting systems for cooling, steam, and primary containment pressure works (acknowledging that the engineering of these safety systems can be different in each plant)?

There was a good schematic linked in one of the TOD threads but I have no idea where. Take a look on Wikipedia, there should is an article on BWR cooling. Try looking for a link on the page for BWRs.


Radionuclides of Concern in (TBq) and (Ci ) from the NRC

Radionuclide (TBq)(Ci )
Am-241 0.6 16
Am-241/Be 0.6 16
Cf-252 0.2 5.4
Cm-244 0.5 14
Co-60 0.3 8.1
Cs-137 1 27
Gd-153 10 270
Ir-192 0.8 22
Pm-147 400 11,000
Pu-238 0.6 16
Pu-239/Be 0.6 16
Se-75 2 54
Sr-90 (Y-90) 10 270
Tm-170 200 5,400
Yb-169 3 81

Radionuclide (TBq) (Ci )
Am-241 0.6 16
Am-241/Be 0.6 16
Cf-252 0.2 5.4
Cm-244 0.5 14
Co-60 0.3 8.1
Cs-137 1 27
Gd-153 10 270
Ir-192 0.8 22
Pm-147 400 11,000
Pu-238 0.6 16
Pu-239/Be 0.6 16
Se-75 2 54
Sr-90 (Y-90) 10 270
Tm-170 200 5,400
Yb-169 3 81



Thank You

I havn't mastered html yet

Easiest is to use

< pre >
.. .. ..
.. .. ..
.. .. ..
< /pre >

tags (remove spaces) for simple tables.

First format the information in a plain text file (e.g. by using Notepad), then post.

Radionuclide 	(TBq) 	(Ci )
Am-241 	        0.6 	16
Am-241/Be 	0.6 	16
Cf-252 		0.2 	5.4
Cm-244 		0.5 	14
Co-60 		0.3 	8.1
Cs-137 		1 	27
Gd-153 		10 	270
Ir-192 		0.8 	22
Pm-147 		400 	11,000
Pu-238 		0.6 	16
Pu-239/Be 	0.6 	16
Se-75 		2 	54
Sr-90 (Y-90) 	10 	270
Tm-170 		200 	5,400
Yb-169 		3 	81

Radiation Effects Research Foundation
A cooperative U.S.-japan research organization
"Innocent Saturday" Movie about Chernobll March 2011
Banned in Belaruse
A turbine accident, not even nuclear... moral of story?
Humans can't be trusted with much of anything.
"Sayano Shushenskaya Dam"

Other potentially interesting hardcopy bibliography:

The Legacy of Chernobyl, Zhores Medvedev, Norton 1990, ISBN 0-393-30814-6

Chernobyl, Confessions of a Reporter, Igor Kostin, Umbrage 2006, ISBN 978-1-884167-57-7

Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana Alexievitch, Picador/St. Martin's 2005, ISBN 0-312-42584-8

And for those who'd like to bring it a little bit closer to home:

American Ground Zero, Carole Gallagher, MIT Press 1993, ISBN 0-679-75432-6

The Effects of Nuclear Weapons, Samuel Glasstone. US Dept of Defense 1957/April 1962, predates the ISBN system

And the best for last: On the Home Front, Michele Stenehjem Gerber, University of Nebraska 1992, ISBN 978-0-8032-5995-9.

Yup. No links. I simply offer up these items from my bookshelf, typed in the hard way, for the interested student. There are undoubtedly others of greater interest...

I'm surprised (maybe that should be "not surprised", considering the media's poor reporting of the disaster) that there's been no follow up on this report from China:

In China, two Japanese travellers with severed radiation levels have been admitted to hospital, says the Chinese General Administration of Quality Surveillance, Inspection and Quarantine in a statement today. Doctors feel that the radiation dose in question poses no danger to the wider public.

The two travellers arrived on board a commercial plane in the eastern city of Wuxi on Wednesday. Abnormal radiation levels were also detected onboard a Japanese merchant ship that the Xiamen port in China’s eastern Fujian province earlier today.

Evacuating people from an ever widening danger zone is bad enough, but the possibility of quarantining a nation if things go really bad? To my knowledge "quarantine" hasn't been thought of, never mind been mentioned so it would be a "Black Swan". Yet, I don't think we've fully awoken to the possible (with the emphasis on "possible") scale that this disaster could escalate to and corresponding knock on effects across the globe.

The first step would be passenger and cargo screening at airports, etc. Indicating the disaster was moving up to a new level of global seriousness. Just a thought.

There were reports at the time that these two had both come from different areas of the country from well outside the evacuation area, I had wondered what had happened to them.

I heard a report on CBS radio about radioactive birds.
The birds were getting their feet into the contaminated water.
This made me really sad. They didn't know what had been done.
I can not quickly find anything on Google.
Birds as a vector:

It's really beyond even Hollywood disaster scenarios.

Yes and there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is widespread contamination far beyond what is being admitted.


Tests showed a sharp spike in levels of radioactive iodine in seawater just offshore of the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are more than 1,250 times higher than normal, Japan’s nuclear and industrial safety agency said Saturday.
In samples taken Friday morning from a monitoring station 330 meters off the coast, the levels were 50 becquerels of radioactive iodine per cubic centimeters of water. This compares to 4 becquerels — which is 104 times above normal — in samples taken from the same spot the previous morning, CNN International reports.

Assuming a linear dilution within half a cylinder going 10 meters deep from a source at the coast ,
the 50 Bq per cc translates to around 85E+12 Bq or 2311 Curie within these 330 meters , and double that within 1000 meters from the coast

Converting this to Iodine 131 with a halflife of 8.02 Days ,
this would be roughly 38 grams of I-131 within a 330 meter radius inserted since yesterday ,
or 76 grams within 1 km.

What do they do with those tons of seawater they inject into the pressurevessels ?
Do they flush it out into the sea ? And how ?

(from wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iodine-131)

131I is a fission product with a yield of 2.878% from uranium-235,[5] and can be released in nuclear weapons tests and nuclear accidents. However, the short half-life means it is not present in significant quantities in cooled spent nuclear fuel, unlike iodine-129 whose halflife is nearly a billion times that of I-131.

A yield of 2.878% would amount to a related fission of 1.31 Kg of uranium 235

The article does not state which Iodine isotope has been measured :

If it is I-129 , it would need 26 tons of I-129 injection from the spent fuel pool to produce 50 Bq

Indeed, their reactors are all breached and they are washing the rad waste into the ocean for the rest of us to eat. So much for seafood in the region. I though Asia was dependent on it. Those tertiary predator species may get a break. Although I can here the media now, saying do not worry the tuna is good. It is like eating 100 bananas.

Those dolphins were nothing but trouble anyway...

Yeah I meant to say that they could get a break from human consumption. Not so much of a break from radiation though :-(

The coastal dolphins are already toxic to eat due to heavy metals contamination, particularly mercury - so they are often simply mis-labeled as whale meat. Whale meat, in turn, is promoted as being especially "pure" since it is supposedly from unpolluted areas.

Watch for the demand for southern-hemisphere whalemeat to drastically increase now; watch radioactivity be used as a rationale for expanding whaling. And the meat will continue to be mixed with the toxic local small cetacean meat because the distribution chains are impenetrable, and at dockside largely controlled by organized crime; though there seems no useful hard distinction between crime, industry, and government in Japan. There is appearance, there is deniability, and there is reality which is not spoken of.

Here is a IAEA presentation from Mar 26/2011 Fukushima - Potential Marine Environment Impacts

Gives some modeling of marine plume on Slide 5,6

Wow. What a terrifying 'two-degrees of separation' bit. Whales already brought to the brink by our original thirst for oil, and Japanese traditions keep this industry running, until Nuclear possibly creates the means for the Coup-de-grace..

I guess Greenpeace is going to be getting ready for extra shifts on both fronts now. I hope more than a few of us here are willing to have their backs.

Like Kermit said, "I could make millions of people happy?!" (The Muppet Movie)

Actually, Japanese tradition was the "spin" put on things when MacArthur built Japan's far-seas whaling fleets as the cheapest way to supply meat for the postwar nation. Whales had been opportunistically eaten coastally, but there was no widespread tradition of whale-eating in general in Japan. The generation which grew up after WWII remembers whale fondly since it was often the only meat available, and that did turn into a tradition of sorts. The real purge of whales happened between the 60's & '70's when a bilateral corrupt enterprise between Japan and the USSR destroyed most known populations of whales (with an observer exchange program) while falsifying data to the IWC. Still-extant megacorporations in Japan greatly profited thereby.

Whether Greenpeace will be the pony to bet on is up in the air; it often has problems trying multiple things at once; too many constituencies to please and somewhat dissonant internal narratives. ("rainbows have nothing to hide" sometimes works better for muppets than NGO's).

Still, always good to recall that there are self-aware species experiencing the world who aren't part of the problem... they're the victims, we're the perps.

And my 7 yr old just chose 'Whalerider' for us to have as our family movie night tonight.

"All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born."
- W. B. Yeats, Easter, 1916

Actually, this article from the NY Times suggests that the few towns left in Japan that do whaling were so badly hit by the tsunami that they may just give up rather than try to rebuild the industry.


The coastal towns generally go after beaked whales, which have low populations and have never been subject to kill limits under IWC rules. They also tend to have high concentrations of heavy metals; hair samples of villagers who eat much of it show a lot of mercury in their bodies. The absolute numbers of whales killed by these villages have been fairly low historically compared to pelagic whaling, but the total whale population sizes are low as well.

This is a somewhat separate issue from the far-seas whaling fleets, and I fear that those may wind up being expanded.

Still, perhaps the beaked whales deserve a break about now. They are much more susceptible to death from military sonar than other whales, and toxin loads due to their trophic level. We know little about them that can't be learned from dissection. Their brains are larger than ours. Go figger.

Taking your calculation a little farther.

A yield of 2.878% would amount to a related fission of 1.31 Kg of uranium 235

If fuel rods are enriched apprx 3% U235. Then 1.31 Kg U235 becomes apprx 43 Kg of fuel pellets (or apprx 100 lb)

Assume shore current is conservatively 2 mi/hr then the isotopic product of the fuel pellets passing the collection point would have to be replaced 10 times per hour.

This would mean that the fission products of half a ton of fuel pellets/hr (1000 lb/hr) are being swept past that collection point.

That translates into the product of 12 tons of fuel pellets/day flushing into the sea.

*Please excuse the rounding errors - I didn't use a conversion table