Fukushima Open Thread

The situation at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant continues to evolve amidst retracted reports of higher radiation readings near the plant. Many of the basic good stores remain closed in the area. There are also significant manufacturing plant closures throughout Japan. In a heavily interconnected global economic system, there may be domino effects in other countries, such as idling of European auto plants and component delays for semi-conductor/computer equipment.

Please use this as an open thread for links, analysis and news regarding the Japanese nuclear situation - (of particular interest to me are the supply chain implications - if any TODer has knowledge/expertise in that area).

I don't know where some people are getting the idea there isn't enough decay heat left for a further meltdown. Here's Dr. Michio Kaku's latest update.

"Breach of Containment" in Japan? (The Three Most Feared Words in the Lexicon of a Nuclear Scientist)

However, the worst case scenario is quite different. If radiation levels continue to rise, then at some point the workers may have to evacuate. (A secondary earthquake or pipe break may also aggravate the situation). If the workers abandon the ship, it means that cooling water (which is being shot into the reactors by fire hose) will begin to fall, exposing the rods, and eventually creating 3 simultaneous meltdowns. Then perhaps a steam or hydrogen gas explosion will completely rupture the containment. This will create a nightmare beyond Chernobyl.

In the meantime, I have suggested on TV that the leadership of the crisis management be replaced. The utility should be kept on as a consultant, but a top flight international team of nuclear scientists and engineers should take over, aided by access to the Japanese military. The utility is simply overwhelmed by the crisis. Only the mililtary, guided by an international team of top scientists and engineers, can tame this monster.

This guy was interviewed by ABCNews a few nights ago, and he basically said the same thing as that blog did, only with a lot more hysteria and emotion interjected into the words. He came across as an alarmist despite what his profession is.

I saw nothing in that link where he explained just how the cores could be still hot enough to cause a "full meltdown", after two weeks of cooling efforts directed at all three reactors. The cores are all reported to be only partially submerged; why haven't the exposed sections melted if Kaku's scenario is accurate? I found his presentation on ABCNews very suspect based on the way he presented it.

What makes you think that exposed fuel hasn't already melted?

I didn't say it hadn't. I said that the cores have cooled by now to the point where further melting is very unlikely. Partial melting took place earlier in all the operational reactors when the cores were a lot hotter than they are now. After two weeks of no fission taking place, with at least partial cooling on them since then, though? They're certainly still hot, but when the reports indicate about half the core length isn't under water, that tells me the operators no longer believe they are going to melt any further.

And we should take your opinion over Professor Kaku's and other nuclear engineers who have tweeted or blogged similar statements because? You are better qualified perhaps?

Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist. For the impact of theoretical physicists on practical matters, see the Pauli Effect.

In short, don't let him anywhere near Fukushima.


He attended the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley and received a Ph.D. in 1972

I'm sure he knows what he is talking about.

Here's his latest from 3 hours ago:

Another Setback at Reactor Creates Race Against Time

Interesting comment to the article about the retraction of the iodine-134 finding.

Eric Shidler on March 27, 2011, 4:04 PM

The readings being retracted are not due to miscalculation. If you will check the tides for the last 24hrs you will see that the initial VERY HIGH reading was @ high tide. The second re-reading was taken @ low tide. This style reactor uses a single cooling loop and appears to have a leak in the turbine room. The tides coming in puts positive pressure in this loop and radiation collects. When the tide goes out it places a vaccume on the system pulling vast amounts out to sea.
Tepco will publish samples taken @ low tide from now on it seems.

Anyone any comments on this?

That sounds like a good explanation.

What about the weather? On local TV (Austria) it looked like they have periods of heavy snowfall -> colder weather -> more contaminated steam condensing on site and in the buildings?

Very interesting comment made to that article

Eric Shidler on March 27, 2011, 4:04 PM

The readings being retracted are not due to miscalculation. If you will check the tides for the last 24hrs you will see that the initial VERY HIGH reading was @ high tide. The second re-reading was taken @ low tide. This style reactor uses a single cooling loop and appears to have a leak in the turbine room. The tides coming in puts positive pressure in this loop and radiation collects. When the tide goes out it places a vaccume on the system pulling vast amounts out to sea.
Tepco will publish samples taken @ low tide from now on it seems.

According to this website
and this pdf

The first sample was taken at 3/26 at 8:50am which was roughly high tide.
The second sample was taken at 3/27 at 20:40 or roughly low tide.

I think this is something that needs to be watched. What do you bet that all future measurements are taken at low tide?

If there is anything at all to this theory I imagine the engineers will discover it by sampling at both high and low tide, and in between too. They are going to want to know the truth of the situation, not obscure it.

Err, they can know the truth but it doesn't mean to say they have to tell us in a timely manner.

Yeah cause those swiss-cheese radiation readings reveal how competent the engineers are on the job. Anyone not questioning the veracity of each measurement or piece of data is drinking kool-aid flavored water from the Reactor 4 spend fuel pool. That goes for the missing data too. Remember the underestimated oil leak data in the GOM. Industry does not have a strong record for complete truth telling.

Perhaps it would be more illustrative to say, if he doesn't know what he's talking about, who would? Not to defend his every word; analyzing and predicting complex situations based on incomplete and sometimes contradictory information can make a roomfull of very smart people come to radically different conclusions.

Specialization is so sophisticated these days that for any field there are many zones in which schooling has to be augmented with experience and application-specific knowledge. Where I work none of the experts pretend to understand our own systems entirely, let alone other similar systems, as the scope is beyond a single human's comprehension. Any my work is not as technical as this.

That is what makes this topic so interesting. It's a failure to manage complexity at the systems level (including people, processes, emotions, risks, etc.) more than a failure of technology alone (a few tons of shiny metal rods, a pond of water, and 10MW of heat are crux of a world-affecting engineering issue?). No one expert can opine on the problem because his expertise will always be thin in some related yet still important area. If there are a few people who get the "big picture" overall, they are terribly busy trying to coordinate the input and activities of technicians who know what can be done or what is currently broken or under repair and so forth, and a bunch of scientists who are trying to envision what is happening inside the core based on what they see leaking out (both as radiation and as information from questionable sensors and such). If you can get a few such people into a room, it is a given that they will disagree in substantial ways, and even when they agree there is no guarantee they are right.

The oil expert you're describing is Matt Simmons, who was an investment banker with an MBA. He had no formal training in petroleum engineering, to my knowledge.

That said, Merrill's point about trusting theoretical physicists with practical engineering concerns is well put.

He wasn't commenting on a practical engineering concern. He suggested that radiation levels may get so high that workers may be forced to evacuate - given the latest reporting certainly a possibility. Under these conditions he postulated that a hydrogen explosion could rupture the containment vessel.

He is well-qualified to make this assessment. Is there any reason to doubt this possibility?

He is well-qualified to make this assessment. Is there any reason to doubt this possibility?

Not to my knowledge. The post of mine you're replying to was in the context of a heated flame war on the relative penis lengths of engineers vs theoreticians, which has been justifiedly deleted by the moderators. My comments re trusting theoretical physicists were self-deprecating, as I am (sort of) one myself.

Mr Bendal , please take a GOOD look at the next table :


Notice the gap between last week and next year ? And between last week and 2 weeks ago ?
The same amount of decline in heat generation ...

Are you or are you not able to read the following table and admit that there is enough heat for a meltdown left ?

Date/Time Daiichi-1 Decay Heat (MW) Daiichi-2 & 3 Decay Heat (MW)	Percent of Full Reactor Power
3/11/11 2:46 PM	92.0	156.8	6.60%
3/11/11 2:47 PM	44.7	76.2	3.21%
3/11/11 2:48 PM	36.9	62.8	2.64%
3/11/11 2:50 PM	31.4	53.5	2.25%
3/11/11 3:00 PM	24.1	41.0	1.73%
3/11/11 3:30 PM	19.1	32.5	1.37%
3/11/11 8:00 PM	12.8	21.9	0.92%
3/12/11 8:00 AM	10.1	17.3	0.73%
3/12/11 8:00 PM	9.1	15.5	0.65%
3/13/11	8.5	14.5	0.61%
3/14/11	7.8	13.2	0.56%
3/16/11	6.9	11.8	0.50%
3/20/11	6.1	10.5	0.44%
4/1/11	5.2	8.8	0.37%
7/1/11	3.7	6.3	0.26%
10/1/11	3.3	5.6	0.23%
3/11/12	2.9	5.0	0.21%

To put this in perspective ,

that's more than 50 of these military lasers continuously firing within the reactor chamber for a year

On March 18, 2009 Northrop Grumman announced that its engineers in Redondo Beach had successfully built and tested an electric laser capable of producing a 100-kilowatt ray of light, powerful enough to destroy cruise missiles, artillery, rockets and mortar rounds.


See the link below http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7724#comment-783828 to see how this data compares to the decay heat reference curve. Give me a few minutes and I can generate a graphical comparison.

This is the comparison

The MIT post says this:

This data is not produced from measured data on the actual reactors at Fukushima, but from using a well established model that is routinely used to estimate decay heat from shutdown reactors.

Which means it is not actual data but pulled from an analysis. You can tell because the two Fukushima data sets lay on top of each other when normalized.
The analysis also appears to use a power law exponent closer to -0.2 than -0.333 which is the yellow reference curve.

The significant point is the amount of heat still generated after 1 year, compared to how much is generated immediately after the scram shutdown.

Web, they are not actually measuring the system. And these types of people mock PhD's. Is it not industry that is practicing THEORY? This site cracks me up. Everyone has their axe to grind. PhDs are this or that.

Nice that the industrial mafia here are resorting to theories and prayer to get their safe reactor into line. Good luck with that.

Here is a little story. Last year when I was doing research on distributions of half-life times from waste dumps, I sent an email to a professor asking for a electronic reprint of a paper he wrote on his data analysis. Instead of sending me the paper, he asked me to call him up so we could "chat". No way, sounded too suspicious. This information appears as hard to get as oil depletion data. What are we supposed to do but keep on hunting and using what we can?

If you just want the reprint, those of us with access to academic publication databases (such as yours truly) can readily oblige you. If you want his data, he may be obliged to give it to you, albeit after a "chat," in which case someone else may be willing to step forward and "chat."

What's the problem with theories? Theory is the basis for analysis of how things work. Sometimes new theories have issues, and sometimes theory doesn't perfectly match reality, but theory is terribly useful and essential when you can't realistically do empirical measurements for everything.

It's hard to get data from corporations because somebody has to make a judgment call as to whether such records contain sensitive data or not. By the time lawyers worry about legal exposure, execs worry about competitive information, and PR worries about the press impact, it's usually easier to "just say no".

The precise number isn't terribly important, though one would think there is past data from these same reactors after core shutdowns with which to calibrate the curves.

The important point is that the model clearly shows that the heat output remain dangerous for a long time. We're past the steep part of the curve, so the short-lived isotopes are mostly gone, and the continuing heat is enough to cause problems even if it's off by a significant factor.

Note that the usage of "theory" here isn't the nebulous, incompletely proven, and generally misstated "theories" that we're all used to hearing in the press, like evolution, peak oil, and climate change, but everyday nuclear engineering analysis which has been practically leveraged for many decades. Like WHT says, it's a relatively simple analysis.

It's not a question of IF there is enough heat to still melt the rods, but how badly the rods have already been melted, and how they behave when partially covered. I can only assume that the flux of nasty isotopes means than many rods have been heavily damaged already in at least one reactor, but probably not all have completely melted. Therefore, cooling must be maintained, so worse doesn't go to worst.

Funny how there is really only one rule that had to be followed -- cooling must be maintained for every rod -- and yet this was apparently overlooked in so many decisions from the development of the reactor design up until last week.

Engineers build models to answer questions. The right questions were mostly even asked, and answered. It doesn't help if nobody listens closely to what the models try to teach them.

I see the numbers, and then I see the ones listing temperature in each reactor. The temperatures right now are hovering around or just above 100 degrees C in each one. Plus, every one of the reactors reports that half the core is out of the cooling pool of water. Given your experience in these matters, please explain to me how the exposed portions of the core hasn't already melted with that power output? Or perhaps you could tell us how many MW it takes to melt a reactor's fuel rod?

I'm basing my statements on earlier ones by nuclear experts saying two weeks is the amount of time to cool off a reactor. I understand cooling hasn't been typical on any of them, but the temperatures reported inside the reactors indicate they've already cooled a long way from what they were at shutdown. I'm still not impressed with Kaku's hysterics that I saw on ABCNews.


They are reporting the height below where the top of the fuel rods are supposed to be. They are also reporting water levels and temperatures with sensors which may well be damaged (indeed some are known damaged for a fact and some aren't even reporting). Just a couple of days ago an apparently reliable reading of 400C was reported for the top of the containment vessel at one reactor. That was 98C above its maximum design limit. TEPCO seemed to take immediate action to try and reduce that but it was still above 300C last update I saw.

Could you provide links to "nuclear experts" saying that it takes 2 weeks to cool a reactor so that I can judge their apparent knowledge and qualifications for myself.

I have this link that points out another reactor experiencing full shutdown was cooled to 100 degrees C in 16 hours.


That was, of course, with full power and emergency cooling systems in place, none which are present at Fukushima. Still, that's hardly the timeline people keep claiming is possible even in a normal shutdown situation.


That link says even after "weeks and months" the decay heat is still significant, but doesn't say what they mean by that.

And what happens if you remove cooling after 16 hours? Reactors 2 and 3 are still putting out about 10MW each right now according to the MIT data. One year after the incident they will be putting out 5MW each. Approx 17 hours after shutdown they were generating about 17MW each.

I did a very quick back-of-envelope which suggests that if a "mere" 10 MW of heat is being transferred through the concrete walls of the drywell by conduction only, the interior temperature will go up to a couple thousand degrees.

(Assumptions: 1 meter thick concrete walls, shaped into a cylinder 12 meters in diameter x 40 meters high. I can't find detailed measurements.)

You really do need to keep water cooling this thing continuously, or it will eat itself, even if it's shut down.

The current JAIF report says all three cores are either fully or partially exposed:


Given how long the reactors have been shutdown, and at least partial cooling has taken place nearly the entire time, why aren't we hearing about hydrogen formation, pressure increases and further melting fuel rods?

I'm asking that question because I hear people saying "they still could melt if aren't sufficiently cooled", but the JAIF reports have indicated none of the reactors have been submerged for days now, and they've actually reduced the flow of coolant through (I think) Reactor #2 from fear of leaking pipes. Shouldn't we be seeing further core melting and everything that comes with that if they're still too hot?

Also, I'd like to apologize for my earlier comments on this forum. What I know about reactors is based on reading what I can find about them and have been doing that ever since I got out of high school years and years ago. If I came across as a nuclear apologist that wasn't my intent; I'm as concerned as anyone about the dangers of this technology, but I am also a realist, and recognize there's no easy way to replace their contribution to our power demands at this time. I promise to tone down my opinions on this subject in the future as we see what unfolds.

Yes fuel has been exposed "partially or fully" and it is now listed as "damaged". They do not know where the top of the core now is but it isn't where it started. Most of the previously exposed fuel I am guessing is under water. That would not be the case for long if they lose pumping.

Also, I'd like to apologize for my earlier comments on this forum.

I'd like to apologize for my comment, too... I was unreasonably rude. :-S :(
You probably didn't have the chance to read my comment before it got deleted (thanx to Leanan for that, or anyone who did it, I would delete it myself after reading this comment of yours) so maybe you don't know what I'm writing about, but I take this:

What I know about reactors is based on reading what I can find about them and have been doing that ever since I got out of high school years and years ago. If I came across as a nuclear apologist that wasn't my intent; I'm as concerned as anyone about the dangers of this technology, but I am also a realist, and recognize there's no easy way to replace their contribution to our power demands at this time. I promise to tone down my opinions on this subject in the future as we see what unfolds.

as your disclaimer I was looking for. We all have our background, motivations and/or agenda... Heck, I was a rabid pro-nuker 20 years ago and even got quite angry at people, who didn't want the experimental reactor my university was building in the middle of the big city..! :-/ It's soooo safe! Why are they so unreasonable and even writing petitions..? :-/ I'm older now, getting more cautious and concerned. It's like Undertow wrote:

You know I was pretty much pro-nuclear power before this disaster and have said so on TOD. Events in Japan are causing me to re-consider.

and PhilR:

It can be argued that anyone who has studied nuclear power, nuclear safety, risk analysis, statistics, human fallibility, and history, would come to an anti-nuclear power stance.

And.. you are a valuable source of links [that I can put into a good use in my blog posts], so please, keep posting. :)

/rant off O:-)

Temperature is not the same as heat. The heat energy is generated from ongoing low-rate spontaneous decay of the radioactive isotopes, and the resulting heat generated has units of power. It's not a simple case of cooling down a hot pan when you turn the burner off. The burner is still "on low" for decades. That's why you have active high-rate cooling in the reactors after shutdown, continuing cooling in the spent fuel pond for another decade, and even the dry-casks give off heat after that.

Temperature rises until the loss by thermal transfer (conduction, convection, radiance) matches the power generated from decay. Unfortunately, the fuel rods will be slag burning through the reactor base before the rods, shell, and containment dome can possibly reach equilibrium.

To take the stove analogy further, the stove automatically went from "high" to "low" with an auto-SCRAM. The pot, nicely full of hot water, continued to heat and boil but at a slowing rate while the burner cooled to the point that "low" heat generation was matched by the energy released as steam, plus some small amount otherwise lost to the environment.

This was the window of opportunity for workers to rapidly resume cooling without damage or much danger -- adding more water to the pot -- and this opportunity was apparently lost.

As long as the water exists, the pot and burner cannot go above 100C at standard pressure (a shut-down reactor should rapidly cool to this level when working normally). After a while, though, the pot boils dry, and there is nothing to keep the burner at 100C. The temp of the pot then rises, and anything inside along with it.

We are now past the point at which the pot roast is seared at the bottom but still recoverable. We've moved past the point at which dinner is ruined. We're past the point of a smoke-filled kitchen and damaged pot. We're past the point of ruining the stove and the house, and the only question is how many occupants can get out and whether the fire will spread to adjacent properties.

I suspect, but do not know, that the host was worrying about potential damage to their reputation with their dinner guests and loss of fine cookware, while attempting to silence the smoke alarms and keep the caterers in the kitchen working. By the time the 911 call finally went out, there wasn't much time to evacuate the ballroom upstairs or salvage valuables.

The really hard part for the fire dept is that this particular stove can't be turned "off", and in fact sometimes it turns back on "high" by itself, so the pot continues to smoke and sizzle no matter what. And it's an ever-filling pot that can continue to smoke and char for years on end. Oh, and the fire trucks wouldn't start, the water mains are dry, and the wind is fickle. And most of the firemen are busy saving a nearby ablaze city too, and those who are available can only work a few minutes per day per safety regs.

And they can't go in the house, let alone the kitchen. And the kitchen is in the basement, right next to the controls for the whole-house sprinkler system. And the house sits in the midst of an environment easily damaged by smoke and embers. And the storm sewer to catch any runoff from the fire-fight directly feeds the intake of the water supply for orphanages, homes, retirement facilities, and major businesses.

I love a good analogy. Yes, that about covers it. I don't think you've left anything for the nuclear advocates here--there is no defense given this scenario. The host is now completely overwhelmed and worried about taking the blame, a la Mrs. O'Leary and her cow. She'd really like more help, since this has gone way beyond a house fire to a conflagration with international, permanent ramifications, but she's afraid to admit that she has completely lost control--Mrs. O'Leary needs to save face. Nearby cities at risk are hesitant to wade in, as there is no winning in this scenario. Yet the conflagration is still gaining strength. The only way to win would have been to have left the pot roast on the cow in the first place. I would only add that you can't see the microscopic pot roast pieces in the runoff water and the smoke, and the pot roast never breaks down, passing up the food chain and staying in the food chain in perpetuity. And there are 6 (or 7) ovens in the kitchen, with pot roasts in each one. Pot roast remains are beginning to be spread around the world as we speak, and concentrations will only increase from here, especially in the top of the food chain (that would be us).

I guess my biggest question now is whether we can smother this in sand and boron and contain it to prevent further releases, or does that risk another, more massive thermal explosion, perhaps involving multiple fuel pools? Do we have a choice, though? I don't see TEPCO as having the capabilities to do much more, especially given the disaster setting. And TEPCO is clearly losing its ability to have people on site, as contamination increases.

Hi, K.

It amazing how many layers of "that would have been bad, but wait, it's really much worse" you can stack together here. The components were robust, yet the system was frail.

Beats the living daylights out of my "giant poisonous alka-seltzer that just keeps fizzing no matter what" analogy.

I think most people--at least in the US/Canada--are more aware of the consequences of a nuclear bomb exploding than a nuclear plant being destroyed, and in fact think of the two as pretty much the same thing. So most people are of the mindset that if nothing actually blows up (like Chernobyl, which, heck, was built by incompetent communists ya know) then everything must be getting better, and we're right around the corner from getting a handle on this thing, except for some stuff that only lives for 40 minutes anyway (i.e two half-lives) and will soon get spread out in the ocean to dissipate completely. I'm obviously not touting this position, just saying this is how regular people tend to think, and they'll need a little help in order to think differently. I'm not expecting the MSM to step up.

So I hope you will try to share your analogy more widely; it contains images that ordinary people can use to get a sense of what's happening here.

What about CO2? Specifically, super cooled liquid carbon dioxide that hardens when poured. Bring in the best nuke air filtering technology we have. What about cooling it with a sublimating substance? More air radiation?

That, my friend, was one *hell* of an analogy.

Indeed for reactor no. 1 there have been reading of >400C only a few days ago. The temperature at present seems to have 'stabilised' at appr 200C, albeit with increasing pressure.

Collected time series of the available data for pressure and temperature parameters of reactor 1, 2, and 3 from March 14th to present, can be found here:

I was planning on compiling these data for myself ,
but someone beat me to it , Good !


Now try to correlate this with the times of the explosions :

reactor 1 - 15:36 March 12th
reactor 2 - 06:10 March 15th
reactor 3 - 11:01 March 14th

I find that only the explosion of reactor 2 falls within these measurements ,
between the first and second measurement.

You can see a drastic increase in RP to 0.315 , and therafter a sudden drop to 0.099 ,

at which low level it will stay for the continuation of the data up till now.

So the impact of the explosions on the other 2 reactors is not something TEPCO can tell us anything about other than using the current data , but reactor 1 is definitely not in a stable condition ,
seeing the pressure gradually rising to numbers above the level of the reactor 2 explosion

Nice job! For reactor 3, there is actually a little more data re the drywell pressure for the 14th leading right up to the unit 3 explosion:
0.530 MPa at 6:50am, and 0.450 MPa at 09:05am (unfortunately not clear if this is gauge or abs, but my guess is gauge

Also see some other notes at

Thanks ,
did you make these tables ?
If so , you could add another column for the waterlevels ?

from the temperature readings it seems that they started cooling reactor 1 by injecting lots of water ,
thereby generating steam , increasing pressures and decreasing temperatures.
Until the pressure went too far above the design specifications for the RPV ( 4 atm) ,
after which they probably stopped and vented.
Temperature and pressure have been rebounding since then

Re http://www.gyldengrisgaard.dk/fukmon/
>could add another column for the waterlevels?

Certainly. Done!
(I left out the water level data at first instance,
since reactor water levels appears to have been boringly one of the most stable thing on the plant) ..

An updated image with the latest data for reactor 1 ,
(I've left out the waterlevels , they are indeed level)

data at http://www.gyldengrisgaard.dk/fukmon/uni1_monitor.html

the reactors are not at 100 degrees c


143.4 for 1
111.2 for 2
121.6 for 3
no data for 4 no fuel in the reactor
30.3 for 5
29.1 for 6

And you have your personal set of instrument readings -- are you in the control room? LOL. This is some kind of joke right? We are all scientists here. Where is the proof that all the reactors have the control rods and other neutron absorbing materials intact and in place with zero damage in all the heavily damages systems and spent fuel pools???

Two weeks with no fission taking place?

Your credibility is harmed by such a flawed statement. It has been two weeks with the control rods fully inserted. But what is the state of the fuel and control rod assemblies?

Written by Bendal:
I said that the cores have cooled by now to the point where further melting is very unlikely.

What is the current power emitted by the fuel rods in each of the 3 reactors? Have you considered the risk that the sea water injection may have corroded and weakened the reactor and its plumbing? How about damage from the explosions? A large rupture in the plumbing would cause a complete loss of coolant allowing the core temperature to rise again. High radiation levels are preventing repairs. As of March 28, 2011 Japanese time JAIF's reactor status lists the Pressure / Temperature of the Reactor #1 Pressure Vessel as "Slightly decreasing after increase / Decreased after Increase" and for reactors 2 and 3, "unknown." They do not know, you do not know and I do not know. There are still items highlighted in red indicating a problem that is severe and needs immediate attention. My assessment indicates the risk is far greater than "very unlikely."

Written by Bendal:
After two weeks of no fission taking place....

Since the high radiation and presence of isotopes with short half-lives indicates otherwise, what is your source?

There are several reports at this stage that place in doubt whether we are dealing only with decay heat, or if there are small pockets of criticality inside the spent fuel pools or damaged reactor cores: unexplained pressure spikes (as in this example on March 20), neutron beams discovered at a distance of almost 2 km, official status updates on reactor #4 ("renewed nuclear chain reaction feared at spent-fuel storage pool"), a retracted report indicating iodine 134 in coolant water (which has half life of 53 minutes and would indicate renewed criticality), high temperatures despite sea water and now freshwater injection, and most likely other reports I have missed.

As has been said many times with this accident, we are in "uncharted territory," and this not typically a phrase you want to have associated with nuclear power.

This may be a stupid question but if there is no breach in the reactor vessel how can we assume that spraying a bunch of water on the outside of a large steel vessel is really efficiently cooling the only partially submerged contents inside which are constantly producing heat ?... this sounds like a losing battle to me.

If spraying water on it really is having an impact then it would seem that somehow water is getting in to the fuel itself which would imply a big problem.

I maintain my opinion that the water is being sprayed there to put down radioactive particles from the air, or avoiding them from comming from ruptures at the contaiment.

Bendal, your frantic paid-by-the-post commentary becomes tiresome. "After two weeks of cooling efforts" is a blink of the eye in terms of radiation half-lives of 30, 90, or 24,000 years. Are we expected to keep pouring water on this thing in perpetuity, with the effluent draining out and continually contaminating the Pacific? It strikes me that the most effective terrorist weapon in the future may be to damage electrical generation to nuke plants. Stop defending the nuclear industry--Tepco is sending un-dosimetered sub-contractor workers into critically contaminated areas. The idea that The Corporation is going to protect our natural resources is just ludicrous. This needs an international military approach to cement this thing in, and it should have started two weeks ago when it was still safe to move around unprotected at the site.

An early news report suggested that US warships pulled away from the area around Fukushima due in part to concerns about sensitive electronic equipment that radiation would fry. And the fact that the merchant marine fleet is not covered for nuclear accidents or radiation contamination will shut down a large part of marine shipping. Merchant vessels are already being refused from ports, and travelers by air are also becoming problematic. (Perhaps the TSA needs to take those problematic backscatter radiation screening machines at airports and turn them into decontamination showers for evacuees, since they won't work anymore anyway.) Fedex jets are being stabled on the tarmac in Anchorage instead of being in the air. What does accumulated contamination due to modern jet electronics? How do you decontaminate vessels and aircraft, and can it be done effectively? How fast does the Kurohio current move at various levels, how much will the heavy isotopes sink, and how fast will bioaccumulation up the food chain occur? How fast will my salmon accumulate toxic levels within the Alaskan gyre? If this thing reaches recriticality this month or next month sometime, do the summertime wind patterns allow Alaska to dodge the initial brunt of fallout? Can I grow a garden this summer? Will indoor greenhouses become a new vogue, and what does that do to fossil fuel utilization? If the contiguous US gets a substantial dose of radiation, what does that mean for the carpets in some 100m houses? The connections within and ramifications to overly complex, overly populated and under-supplied civilization ripple outwards in every direction. The mistake is in looking at one static problem and not seeing the connected calculus of the problem.

Should the US military be using their fresh water on the nuke plant or should they be resupplying water storage for Tokyo? How long before the Japanese recognize that Corporation Uber Alles will be the death of us all? Inquiring minds want to know.

Additional counterpoint (please don't shoot the messenger):


This guy
This "guy", Michio Kaku, is a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of NY. He is a co-founder of string field theory and is engaged in defining a Theory of Everything - uniting the four fundamental forces of the universe - strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, gravity and electromagnetism. He was a protege of Edward Teller. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and was the first in his class in physics.

His background suggests he may be qualified to weigh in on what may happen if current cooling efforts are hampered by increasing levels of radiation.

Do you have a background that would lend weight to the many your assertions and assumptions that you've made over the last few days of posting?

A very different branch of physics. Almost at the opposite extreme.


An opposite extreme from what?
I always thought that physics teaches you how to think about the way the world works. I gather that the opposite extreme is teaching you how not to think.

Hmmm, like medicine. A specialist brain surgeon may understand the principles behind a major joint replacement but would not have the full skill set and experience to carry out the operation. Physics is supposed to teach you how to think but each thought devolves into its own set of specialities.


Unless you're trying to understand nucear reactions from first priniples I think it is not rocket science. More like a branch of engineering. Doesn't seem like anything deep and hard to understand, just a lot of detailed stuff instead.

Bendal, do you agree that unit 4 building is wrecked and that most likely cause was hydrogen explosion caused by reduction of water vapor by very hot zircaloy, at about 800˚C, in fuel stored in spent fuel pond? The fuel in this case is not spent but partially used, resting in spent fuel pool while maintenance was conducted. Guessing this fuel was out for weeks / months and that units 1 to 3 may respond in this way for a long time to come.

Dr Goto says that fuel in units 1 to 3 has already melted - not clear if he means partial or total.

Yes, I'm aware of that, although the temperature I was working with is 1000 degrees C, not 800 degrees. Did you know that hydrogen can be created by spent fuel rods in the ponds (not reactor fuel rods taken out for maintenance purposes)? There were devices above the ponds to keep it from collecting, but they need power to operate.

TEPCO and the various nuclear agencies agree that there's partial melting that's taken place in all of the reactors. I see no reason to disagree with those claims.

All I need to know about Kaku is wrapped up right here:

"Kaku has publicly stated his concerns over matters including the human cause of global warming, nuclear armament, nuclear power and the general misuse of science.[6] He was critical of the Cassini-Huygens space probe because of the 72 pounds of plutonium contained in the craft for use by its radioisotope thermoelectric generator."

His anti-nuclear power stance came across very clearly when ABCNews interviewed him about Fukushima.

It can be argued that anyone who has studied nuclear power, nuclear safety, risk analysis, statistics, human fallibility, and history, would come to an anti-nuclear power stance.

Kaku is also very highly respected in groups looking from alternative standpoints at universe, consciousness etc, (not the "New Age" people). He was one of the main protagonists (?) in a a fascinating documentary movie "What the bleep do we know". I'd venture that the best analogy tp him is Secretary Chu.

I am quite critical of any supposed 'brilliant theorist' who's theory of everything requires very complex mathematics or computer models, and is untestable. When string theorists make claims like "Well, we could test it, but we'd need an accelerator the size of the known universe", the theory is bunk. I was going to make a comparison to snake oil salesmen, but at least the snake oil had the placebo effect.

In my experience, the only sound scientific theories are those in which I have a reasonable chance of being able to replicate the experiment testing said theory myself.

Complex theories, or complex safety systems (such as said nuclear reactors) have complex failure modes. In the theoretical case, there's often no way to tell when the theory is melting down. With the reactor, we still don't know for sure if it melted down, but the radiation released can and will be measured (even if it may not be reported right now).

Secretary Chu started out as an experimental physicist. Experimental scientists often make very good engineers. A PhD experimentalist may have acquired a lot of expertise in materials, chemistry, vacuum systems, optics, mechanics, electronics, data capture, data processing and analysis, etc., in the course of designing and debugging major experimental setups. This often transfers well to engineering positions that require a broad background and a good ability to separate the important from the unimportant in a complex system.

You know I was pretty much pro-nuclear power before this disaster and have said so on TOD. Events in Japan are causing me to re-consider. Certainly every post I read from you is pushing me further against the continued use of this form of nuclear power at least.

the big problem with nuclear reactors is "the danger of runaway fission reactions".
now, in the rocket-science business the range-officer blows up billion dollar rocket
launches all of the time. (wish i had a nickle for all the rockets that have been
blown up by the range-officer since 1950)
we need to have the same kind of FAIL-SAFE measures for nuclear reactors:
design a set of parameters where whenever there is a nuclear incident,
as soon as it reaches a specific state of "loss of control", the self-destruct
measures are irrevocably implemented:
there will be a small charge of explosive in every "reactor chamber" that,
when activated will explode and break open the reactor chamber and containment
vessel just enough to break apart all of the fuel rods and spread them out
around the floor of the containment building. this will STOP all critical mass
fission reactions immediately.
and, at that point they can either clean up the mess (very difficult) or pump in
concrete to entomb the mess, and the only contaminated area will be the inside of
the containment building. walla

Unfortunately the reactors were already stopped so this would not help. The problem has been one of residual heat as it cools down due to the ongoing activity of the fuel.


How remarkable, a scientist concerned about climate change, nuclear weapons and the general misuse of science! He would be much more credible if he was employed by the DOD, GE or Monsanto.

"Kaku has publicly stated his concerns over matters including the human cause of global warming, nuclear armament, nuclear power and the general misuse of science.[6] He was critical of the Cassini-Huygens space probe because of the 72 pounds of plutonium contained in the craft for use by its radioisotope thermoelectric generator."

Blendal, generally in a discussion, when you are trying to demonstrate a point, it's not a good strategy to post positive evidence for the views of those who are criticizing your views. However, apparently we have another scientist who is motivated at least in part by ethical concerns, who has some thought for the future, and who might in fact be an actually responsible adult human.

But really no surprise, it's clear that the pro nuke industry position has no foundation or merit, which leaves only .... well if you understand the dangers of nuclear energy in its varied forms, and if you have the critical mental capacities to understand global heating and its causes, which of course means, understanding science in general, then these are the views you'd arrive at. Now, if, on the other hand, one is promoting the views of commercial yet tax subsidized industries, for reasons of course never made open or explicit, it's clear enough why a quick, failed, attempt to criticize is the best one can come up with.

Luckily, the world's governments are watching this very closely, and this damage will probably be impossible to undo, since it's quite likely this is the last generation that would have had the surplus funds to contemplate something is ill-conceived as nuclear energy.

There are some reference heat decay curves available to compare against. One thing to keep in mind is that even though the heat level starts dropping down like an inverse power law, the power exponent is much less than 1 so that the integral diverges. This means that the fat-tails still contain an enormous amount of latent heat energy, that if not dissipated will continue to build up.

Here is an example of a decay heat reference curve:

I plotted a reasonable fit to the data which goes as 1/(1+0.3*t^(1/3)) which fits the data better than the dashed line analysis curve.

If one integrates this for the first 12 days versus the second 12 days, you will see the heat generated only drops by 40%. Another 12 days and it only drops by 16% from the second 12 day term.

Time is on our side but due to the fat-tails, the heat evolution is not as fast as one would desire. The graph is deceptive looking because the x-axis is logarithmic.

This is stuff that people have to look at on their own. I used Wolfram Alpha to do the integration BTW.

I apologize in advance. But can someone, anyone - just give the "bottom line" answer for this mess?

The part I know about: Spent fuel leaking out, "hot fuel" leaking and bubbling or exploding contaminated debris causing particle fallout, and of course, already contaminated cooling water and associated nearby contamination of fixtures and infrastructure.

All I want to know is: If they aren't sacrificing human life to accurately ascertain the status of the reactor vessels and or fuel storage at risk for additional debris heating and explosion;

Why aren't they burying the entire site right now? Is there a real risk of a bigger "pop" then just debris and gas heating up?/

Sorry, I'm just getting really confused.

Bottom line IMO: the plant itself is ruined, but not yet absolutely lethal to work in. The environment around the plant is contaminated, but not yet absolutely lethal to live in. Keeping the fuel cool and underwater is the only way to prevent massive environmental contamination, and that requires people to keep working in the plant. If you bury the site, you lose control over it.

Right, and if you bury the site, the only way that the heat will dissipate is through diffusive transfer to the surface. This depends on the thermal conductivity and the gradient established. All the convective (liquid and gas) paths and radiative paths will no longer be available. Who knows what the temperature of the buried mess will equilibrate to.

This is a response curve to a thermal stimulus injected into a borehole:

It takes time for the heat to diffuse away from the source and that time constant plays a critical role in how the temperature profile will evolve.
Its one of those problems that should follow Fourier's Law, with the heat decay curve providing the thermal stimulus.

I took that figure from a post I wrote last year, which gets to the point of how responsive geothermal heat exchangers can be:
Also in The Oil ConunDrum.

It's not clear why people seem so enthusiastic about burying the reactors in sand and concrete, since their thermal conductivity is not so good.

What is needed is to encase each reactor's pressure vessel in a fluid filled metal tank with a lot of fins, so that heat can be convected from the pressure vessel to what is in effect a giant heat sink.

Not only that but when the Russians buried Chernobyl with lead sand a boron the lead melted and the workers breathed in massive amounts of lead vapor. They also needlessly exposed hundreds of solders with little gain.

And they had to dig a tunnel under the reactor hall to drain the water to avoid thermal explosion, drill holes around the site and pour liquid nitrogen in it to cool the heat. The measures taken were in deed highly ad hoc, ingenious in some ways and very extreme.

So the temperature was over 1740 C in the burning graphite, otherwise no vapour from lead. Do you have a source for this claim?

If they had used a lead cooled, pool reactor design there would never have been a Chernobyl. I don't understand the fetish engineers have for moderators and coolants that evapourate (water) or burn (graphite). The worst possible choices for reactor design. That and the whole concept of a fuel cycle that generates unmanageable "waste".

My guess would be that lead doesn't cool neutrons very well. Still, I don't know about the huge amounts of metals we have available.

The downside would be that lead does also evaporate (as also does sodioum, aluminium, iron, bismute... Whatever works). Yet, the temperature seems quite avoidable. That metal could also catch fire, but then it doesn't emmit so many particles into the air, it becomes heavier, and solid again. For most metals the fire is even self limiting.

My guess would be that lead doesn't cool neutrons very well.

Yep. Lead isn't a moderator. You can make a lead-cooled reactor -- they were used in Russian Alfa submarines -- but it'll be a fast neutron reactor, not a thermal neutron reactor.

The trick with lead cooled fast breeders is that they never get to the stage of boiling off the lead even if you yank out all the control rods and blow up the lead circulation pumps. The 1950s reactor designs are financial short cuts that tried to pretend that safety could be assured with some token systems. But really, the Fukushima case exposes this nonsense for what it is. No backup generators, hence partial meltdown and radiation leakage of Iodine and Cesium approaching Chernobyl.

leads melts at 621.43F so whats the problem with it melting before it formed a crust on the top. Lead particles would have been air born.

source for the leads vapors was documentary battle for Chernobyl.

It is physically incorrect to call this evapouration. Melting and boiling are not the same thing. Sounds like they should have dropped slabs of it instead of powder.

leads melts at 621.43F so whats the problem with it melting before it formed a crust on the top.

source for the leads vapors was documentary battle for Chernobyl.

The bottom line answer for this mess is building nuclear power plants.

The second from the bottom is building them on the coast of a tsunami prone earthquake zone.

The third from the bottom, or maybe second, we can debate that, is a typical industrial / government corruption between the plant owner and the Japanese government.

Nuclear power plants on the US west coast suffer from 1 and 3 as well, by the way, it's completely conceivable that the same set of circumstances yield the same result here as well.

They aren't burying the site, see bottom line 1:, because the uranium fuel lasts a lot longer than a concrete sarcophagus, if I understand this right.

Also, you don't know you have failed to bring it under control until either you have a chernobyl literally, or once you have tried for a few weeks and still are failing.

However, the main cause here is the existence of the nuclear power plant itself in the first place, don't be deceived by industry propaganda, once the power plant is in place, you have created a situation that in worst case really cannot be controlled by humans in any meaningful way.

Once humans are faced with a situation they can't control, they have to basically just make stuff up as they go along.

Anyone other than me not very impressed by things like squirting the thing with fire hoses as plan b: or attempting helicopter water drops? Really, this is kind of clear, we cannot deal with the negative outcomes here, have you seen the size of the 'park' that now surrounds Chernobyl? Not inhabitable.

But luckily many other countries are using this as an opportunity to re-examine this flawed policy and idea, except of course here in the US, where that corruption seems to lie deep enough to where nothing has yet been publicly changed or discussed.

One toxic step for mankind, one big mound of waste for our future.

Aren't you really just describing the characteristics of Godzilla?

History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men.

Oh no, there goes Tokyo -- BoC

"Why aren't they burying the entire site right now?"

My understanding is that it was sort of a mistake to bury Chernobyl so quickly.

I remember reading that it would be better to let it cool more.
That a more permanent coolant should be used, like metal.
Perhaps this metal should have a solid crust... but I am confused.
THEN bury it.


"The sarcophagus locked 200 tons of radioactive lava, 30 tons of highly contaminated dust and 16 tons of uranium and plutonium."

These kind of put things in perspective:

Impressive that you fit a line to the data when I never included the data, lol.

Let me know if you want the original Excel sheet for that graph, I'm the one who made it.

I kind of assumed it was fitting real data as the caption said it was an "11 group exponential decay". In my world, an 11 parameter fit will do an awfully good job of fitting any kind of behavior.

The curve I proposed and drew is a 1 parameter fit and an assumption of a power law. This is exactly the same fit I used on the ANS reference curve yesterday:

So by transitivity, the RETRAN is a fit to the ANS reference curve.

fat-tails still contain an enormous amount of latent heat energy, that if not dissipated will continue to build up

Only if they are placed inside of a perfect thermal insulator! The heat goes into several things:
(1) Convective, conductive and radiative loses.
(2) Chemical changes (could also be a source of heat).
(3) Rasing the temperature of the object.
At high temperatures (1) is a large term. Turn down the voltage/current on an incaddescent bulb, and its temperature drops. At several hundred C these loses are substantial. So at some point the system can be left to rely on these processes to keep the temperature within reasonable limits. These terms need to be estimated and played off against the generation terms, not throw away.

And that explains why the water cooling has got be there. Note that I said "if not disssipated" which is a standard disclaimer when trying to explain physics.

Of course, the actual integral can't really diverge. There's still a lot of decay energy left, but it's not infinite.

Obviously, but indicating that a fat-tail distribution will diverge immediately tells you how fat it is. Essentially any power-law weaker than 1/x will diverge.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) vice-president Sakae Muto apologized for Sunday's error, which added to alarm inside and outside Japan over the impact of contamination from the complex which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
Radiation in the water was a still worrying 100,000 times higher than normal, rather than 10 million times higher as originally stated, Muto said.
"I am very sorry...I would like to make sure that such a mistake will not happen again."
-- Reuters

Perhaps the initial reading was denominated in yen?


More obstacles impede crews in Japan nuke crisis

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.

What the heck is the Japanese government playing at? Get people in there to oversee what's going on.

Meanwhile, plans to use regular power to restart the cooling system hit a roadblock when it turned out that cables had to be laid through turbine buildings flooded with the contaminated water.

"The problem is that right now nobody can reach the turbine houses where key electrical work must be done," Nishiyama said. "There is a possibility that we may have to give up on that plan."

Making up your strategy as you go along doesn't instil much confidence, suggests lack of any proper risk analysis and / or crisis response preparation....

...conveniently not reporting that the measured amount still stands at 1 Sv/hr ...

"I am very sorry...I would like to make sure that such a mistake will not happen again."

I'm sure he is, but it almost certainly will. Ask anyone who has ever done lab work if they have ever confused a "Milli" with a "Micro", grabbed the wrong micro-pipette, entered the wrong exponent value into a calculator etc. etc. and that is on a good day, with no stress. How long has is been since the lab tech who is doing this work got a decent nights sleep? etc. etc.

In routine work you normally catch errors like this because you know what range the expected value is going to lie within, get a result orders of magnitude different and you redo the test. But here there is no such baseline to work from, so we can expect error rates to be higher I'd say...

Since 10 million is off by a factor of 100 from 100 thousand, this is not milli versus micro. Since this is Japan and not India, it's not likely to be lakh vs. crore either. Nor is it curies vs. becquerels, which is a far, far larger factor. It's probably rems vs sieverts (or conceivably rads vs. grays.)

Face it, radiation measurement is a mess. Plus, the folks doing the work are probably utterly exhausted. The PR guys and reporters don't have a clue and never did, so they wouldn't know what to accept and what to question when the exhausted folks talk to them. Plus, nobody at all seems to know what's really going on, so a factor of 100, especially with respect to an unstated "normal" (normal for just precisely what?) can't quite be dismissed out of hand.

In six months or a year, we might have a fairly decent idea as to what had happened...

"In the meantime, I have suggested on TV that the leadership of the crisis management be replaced. The utility should be kept on as a consultant, but a top flight international team of nuclear scientists and engineers should take over, aided by access to the Japanese military. The utility is simply overwhelmed by the crisis. Only the mililtary, guided by an international team of top scientists and engineers, can tame this monster."

IMHO, it would be extremely surprising if Japan permitted this sort of international access, and it would indicate an almost inconceivable desperation.

You are entirely correct, but this disaster is so ugly that this kind of intervention is inevitable, imo.
We should make be making it easy for the Japanese to accept help, by begging them if necessary, through the UN or maybe via Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama, in the name of humanity to allow outside support.
Japan has its hands full coping with the aftermath of a M9 earthquake and tsunami. They have 0 experience with large nuclear disasters and TEPCOs performance with smaller ones inspires no confidence.
This will be a $100B cleanup at best and if very lucky, we can save most of the Japanese heartland from centuries of contamination. Even that will require a global effort, because we have close to 1000 tons of nuclear fuel in a huge site full of lethally radioactive debris with no easy access, surrounded by a disaster zone.
The only people who deal in this kind of thing are some Russian operations and outfits like Bechtel. They need to be on site with military support and a carte blanche asap.

And with proper independent oversight. Multiple overseers, responsible to humanity, not any organisation.

Not so. Vehemently disagree.
Overseers diffuse responsibility.
To manage a disaster, you need someone in charge, not a cloud of overseers.
There should be someone tasked with preventing permanent damage to the planet from this disaster (ie a lesion such as at Chernobyl) whose job runs out when the place is clean enough for people and who get paid $1B for his/her pains.

Google translated but


Because of the numerous incoming data of the CTBTO stations in Japan, California, Alaska and Russia, it was the ZAMG possible source strengths of the substances iodine-131 and cesium-137 to assess for the first days of the accident. These estimates are uncertainties, just so only on the order of magnitude. According to our estimates, we are moving on from iodine-131 emissions in the order of 10 17 Bq per day out of, as well as cesium-137 releases between 15 and 5 5 10 10 16 Bq per day. Extrapolated to the duration of the accident are obtained for these fleeting isotopes sums that are comparable to the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl.

The one piece of luck they've had is that most of the radioactive waste has blown out to sea. However there are areas even outside the 20km evacuation zone (to the north-west) where ground contamination exceeds greatly that of areas evacuated around Chernobyl.

"Anyway, one meteorologist has decided to try and work back from the worldwide readings to calculate possible emissions figures from Fukushima. It is these figures that New Scientist tell us are "nearing Chernobyl levels".

Fortunately we can go straight to the source here, and find that in the judgement of Gerhard Wotawa of the Austrian met office (and of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation) emissions of iodine-131 from Fukushima could be approximately 20 per cent of those from Chernobyl.

It should be needless to say there is not a hint of a suggestion that anybody will be giving milk with significant levels of iodine-131 in it to children, as happened to about 18 million youngsters after Chernobyl, causing them a tiny increased chance of later developing thyroid cancer (which, unusually for cancer, is easily cured - though you need supplies of radio-iodine from nuclear reactors to do so).

Sadly it does appear to be necessary to say that.

The "fallout" which is "nearing Chernobyl levels" is presumably the still more harmless radio-caesium, which Wotawa theorises may have been emitted from Fukushima in amounts "20-60" per cent of those seen at Chernobyl.

One should also add that in Wotawa's judgement all these substantial emissions of iodine and caesium have fallen into the sea: there is basically zero chance of verifying that they actually happened. Health consequences - of course - should be zero."


This is painting a happy face on things.
The Austrian site referenced here: http://www.zamg.ac.at/aktuell/index.php?seite=1&artikel=ZAMG_2011-03-26G... explicitly notes emissions are running about 10% of the Chernobyl total daily, about 10**17th bequerels/day of iodine 131, 8 day half life, plus about 10**16th bequerels of cesium 137, 30 year half life. Fortunately the winter winds are mostly offshore, pushing the plume out to sea.
The cesium was the contaminant that forced the dead zone around Chernobyl. Once the winds shift to the summer pattern, we will see the same around Fukushima unless the emissions are capped.
That is a tough job when we do not even know where they originate, dried spent fuel pools or cracked reactors.
This is a disaster, dangerous, increasingly damaging and a nightmare to contain, much less clean up.
TEPCO desperately needs help, as they have no clue how to proceed. They need a face saving way to get the nuclear powers involved, because only these have any experience with this kind of situation.

The French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety provided some pretty interesting simulations on anticipated nuclide concentrations and impacts to Fukushima and surrounding area for first seven days of accident. The one thing they don't look at is topography, and that this is a mountainous region with weather and radiation concentrated in river valleys (as shown in DOE results).

- Atmospheric dispersion analysis and animation.

- Whole body doses (in milliseiverts).

- Iodine-131 dose levels.

- Global dispersion analysis and animation.

Their update for March 22 includes estimates for rare gases, iodine, cesium, and tellurium, and suggests 10% "the releases estimated during the Chernobyl accident." The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Austria provides estimates in 20-50% range of Chernobyl for I-131 and Cs-137 (here and here). Such models, many days later, are already out of date and need to be updated.

Note the ZAMG 20-50% range you quote was an earlier estimate and has been updated to a higher value on the 26th March report I linked above.

Maybe they did, but there was no Facebook, Twitter, or TOD to register the fact :-)


I have this wager that the US Military will eventually be on site... I'm not sure the depth of bench for all of this exists outside of the US, Russia, and ????

I think the international team idea is good for ideas, information, monitoring, reporting, but I'd prefer an extant organization that has a history of
making decisions that are both planned and forced on them from external events in an intense environment, and I don't now of any nuke qualified
NFL or FIFA players.

I believe it was the UK independent reported that the majority of the staff on site after the quake, was permitted to leave to go to their families, and while leaving on
a low elevation road, were killed. And that the team on site for the first days was brought in from another facility. If so this might explain some things, as well
as provide some future protocol input. It would be great if that was confirmed.

Here's the IAEA's log:


For the 27th of March:

Radiation measurements in the containment vessels and suppression chambers of Units 1, 2 and 3 continued to decrease. White “smoke” continued to be emitted from Units 1 to 4.

Pressure in the RPV showed a slight increase at Unit 1 and was stable at Units 2 and 3, possibly indicating that there has been no major breach in the pressure vessels.

My bolding.

Note they said "Possibly" not "Probably". All of the pressure values are considered suspect in any case because of possible equipment damage.

Nah, we can't take anything those guys report as the truth; they're in the nuclear industry! They're obviously not telling us the truth for fear of a widespread panic taking place.

At least you understand their spin. Could not have said it any better.

I know the response teams are going full guns to restore the fresh water and use the prexisting pumps or at least the piping. Then what? Is the cooling tower intact? Does Fukushima use an exchanger with the sea? How does it cool this water once they start pumping? Just dump it into the sea? Is that where it is headed anyhow, regardless of what is tried?

Thanks Nate, been waiting, I will try to use my best manners.

I've never seen a cooling tower at Fukushima; I think their secondary cooling loops run out into the ocean for cooling purposes.

I think merrill answered part of this below so please redirect to that post.
Thanks a million.

Woes deepen over radioactive water at nuke plant, sea contamination

The water also contained such substances as iodine-131 and cesium-137, known as products of nuclear fission, and thus leading to speculation that it may have come through pipes that connect the reactor vessel and turbines, where steam from the reactor is normally directed to for electricity generation.

In normal operation of a BWR, the water ciculates between the pressure vessel, where it is heated by contact with the zircalloy cladding of the fuel rods, and the turbines, where, as steam, it turns the generators before being condensed back to liquid and pumped back into the pressure vessel.

Since the fuel rod cladding has evidently melted, water containing dissolved fission products can circulate between the reactor pressure vessel and the turbine hall, depending on the state of valves. The water in the turbine hall could come from leaks in any of this infrastructure, including feedthroughs and couplings used to attach instruments or maintain the amount and chemistry of the water.

So the water cools from expanding (edit bassackwards) like a steam locomotive engine? So do they have to make electricity to cool the water?

Edit: I am also wondering what the basic load control mechanism is for this plant? The nuclear reaction itself? Is there no other 'clutch' FLOABT in the system to transfer all this unwanted heat energy to without some type of explosion?

See this diagram of the Fermi 2 reactor of the same type.

In normal operation, the control rods in the core which is in the pressure vessel control the rate of fission and therefore heat generation and the production of steam. The steam goes to the turbines, condensor, condensate pump, demineralizer, feed pump, heater, and back to the pressure vessel. Normally, about 1/3 of the energy in the steam turns the turbines. The other 2/3 of the energy goes into the condensor, which in the case of Fukushima would be cooled by sea water pumped being pumped through the condensor and returned to the sea.

The diagram also shows "emergency water supply systems" that also can supply water to the pressure vessel. I'd bet that these are the systems that are being used to pump sea water into the pressure vessel to remove decay heat. Most likely the emergency systems are being used to pump in water that is then returned directly to the sea in order to cool the core.

It is not clear how they would pump in fresh water, since the heated fresh water has to go somewhere to be cooled. Perhaps they are attempting to revive the primary flow through the condensors, but they are finding that the primary path leaks in the turbine hall.

Are you saying 2/3 minus loss of the E in E=mc^2 was being used as a giant fish tank heater? Is this for operational considerations? Why not use a smaller reactor or fewer reactors? Fewer rods? Lost again.

Edit: Grammer (sic) ;)

Its a second law of thermodynamics thing.

The efficiency at which you can turn heat into work is limited by the temperatures available. Nuclear reactors are limited to quite low temperatures compared to other types of heat engine, and consequently have to reject a rather higher fraction of the heat.

As usual, the questions are more important than the answers, and TFHG asks great questions. Nukular fission runs at 5000 degrees C or 9000 degrees F, while the human economy runs at 300 degrees C. Most of the heat gets dumped into the atmosphere. Fission and mankind were never meant to mix, and occupy two different planes. The two are only made compatible through heroic measures and large amounts of water, electricity, technology and risk reduction.

When I came through SeaTac Airport last week, about 5% of the travelers were Japanese speaking foreign nationals. How many more evacuees will there be outside of the country, and how much movement can the southern part of Japan support, especially with diminished import/export capacity? As nodes blink out and more population pressure is applied to the remaining nodes, how much can be absorbed by an already maxed out system?

Me mind on fire -- Me soul on fire -- Feeling hot hot hot.

This is a bit too ethereal for me.
Reactors run at low heat because it is a bear to run a reactor at high heat and not have it leak all over the place.
There were efforts to build high temperature gas cooled reactors using helium in the US. They would have double the efficiency and optimists dreamed of a second generation design that would run so hot the helium could be used to smelt ores directly. Unfortunately, materials science was not up to the job, resulting in excessive downtime for maintenance. Google Ft St Vrain reactor sometime. Thorium fueled in part, high temperature and gas cooled.
Too bad it did not work reliably.
It still is a great idea though.

Unfortnatly, the British Got them to work across the water from us.
But most are due to shut down in the next 5 years or so thankfully.

The Brits used CO2 as the coolant in a graphite core. This worked reasonably well.
Ft St Vrain used helium, non reactive at any temperature and with wonderful heat transfer characteristics. It was a better design, but did not have the resources of a government behind it, just a large utility.
So when troubles with reliability became manifest, it was cheaper for the owner to switch the site to natural gas than to fix the bugs.

I worked at General Atomic back then. I was one of the engineers INSIDE the reactor vessel when it was being loaded with the initial fuel load at the end of 1973. The entire gas cooled reactor program had massive federal support. The US government owned all of the uranium that went into the reactor and, if I remember correctly, we were gifted with something like 80 million dollars a year of tax payer monies for many years under the rubric of "base programs", all spent on technical development of the HTGR. Besides that there were multiple contracts written around that time to sell something like 5 billion dollars worth of reactors and fuel to other utilities. The only one I can remember, because I worked on an 110 MW plant for them, a lot was Philidelphia Electric, for which GA had built an earlier version of the HTGR. That rather small plant was put into operation in 1967 and was shut down in 1974. The larger plant was never built.

So the HTGR technology was well funded by the gov as well as other sources. The failures at Ft. Saint Vrain, sorry to say as an engineer, were engineering failures. My guess would be that there was an excess of ego, too much ambition and not enough practical construction experience. No shortage of loot.

Somebody has added quite a bit of detail to the Wikipedia article on the HTGR at Fort St. Vrain. Does it look accurate to you?

I scanned the article and didn't see anything I could argue with. Some of it was familiar. I left GA in 1979 so there's a lot that happened after that. Come to think of it I didn't know much when I was there. Or now. About anything. ;<)

Thank you for a very helpful post.
It is encouraging that the US government is still involved in pushing technology forward, as it has been since Sec of War Calhoun funded the development of interchangeable parts manufacturing at the Harper's Ferry Arsenal in the 1830s.
Too bad this one did not have a successful outcome. We would not be in this current pickle if it had.

The liquid fluoride thorium reactors should also run hotter. Limited only by the materials in the system.

Anyone who makes such outrageous claims as this:

"Nukular fission runs at 5000 degrees C or 9000 degrees F, while the human economy runs at 300 degrees C."

Doesn't have any credibility at all.


"The cooling water is maintained at about 75 atm (7.6 MPa, 1000–1100 psi) so that it boils in the core at about 285 °C (550 °F)."

The temperatures you mention would turn the core into a molten puddle.

Bendal, Iaato is speaking somewhat allegorically. Not everything people say is literal. Look at for example your motivations. Are they explicitly stated in the words you are typing?

You are also inventing a fictional world that accords with some requirement you have personally and/or professionally, but you mask it in technical jargon, while pretending to not do this.

Basically what Iaato is doing is just playing with that jargon to make a larger point, one that evidently zipped right over your head. You know, sort of the way poetry and other more fundamental modes of human communication work. Oh, no, sorry, you probably don't know, let me take that back.

Obviously so; sarcasm is hard to identify online, especially in what I thought was a thread talking about technical issues, not allegories.

It wasn't hard to understand what he said. Only if you are so set on promoting your own particular ideological view under the guise of some jargon would you miss this.

Also, allegory isn't sarcasm, didn't you take any liberal arts classes in college?

Dante placed those who violate the public trust at the very center of hell, stuck in the ice, right there in the frozen lake at Satan's feet, in the Divine Comedy. There's a reason that they belong there, nothing is more despicable.

Fission and mankind were never meant to mix, and occupy two different planes. The two are only made compatible through heroic measures and large amounts of water, electricity, technology and risk reduction.

This statement, in case you still can't understand it, is a meta statement. It trumps all your micro views, which can all be totally misleading, designed to hide the real meta view you actually are trying to promote, which is either known to you or which is driving you without you being conscious of that fact. Corporate paychecks, corporate advertising, etc, can do that to a man.

As far as I can tell, this is a true statement, and no amount of squirming can get that more fundamental truth to change, especially when the people squirming are set only on generating risk freed profits which would never exist were the actual risk to be properly covered in the first place financially.

Here are some quotes on the issue from someone who did his phd at Yale in 1950 on the biogeochemistry of strontium.

"No one really knows the net yield of nuclear power because at present its use is subsidized by fossil fuels in a thousand ways that cannot be estimated until we try to run a nuclear system without them.

Will nuclear power have a more concentrated value than the wood output of the solar system, or of coal, or of cheap oil from rich deposits? The new power plant seems to be more economical than the competing fossil plants as long as it is running on the accumulated storages of nuclear fuel and fuel prospecting done on fossil-fuel subsidy. Is nuclear power at this level of net power delivery possible in a culture that does not have the accompanying fossil fuels?" (Odum, 1971, p. 135)

Some net energy [from nukes] will eventually result, but the energy cost of getting nuclear energy into usable form is very high. How high is not yet clear. Long-range energy requirements for sustaining nuclear power are very uncertain: the energy for long-range safe storage of radioactive wastes and the energy required to decommission a plant after its useful life is over. . . .

Ensuring safety when dealing with radioactivity is very expensive, and this expense reduces the net energy. If the 122 plants produce well for their expected lifetime of 35 to 40 years, there will be a net yield of about 2.7 to 1, not counting costs of waste disposal, decommissioning, or accidents. . . . The serious accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979 so damaged the core and accumulated radioactivity within the plant that repair costs may be as great as the cost of the plant. Worse accidents can occur if all the cooling waters get cut off, so that everything melts down in a radioactive mass, which could get loose in the environment, making large areas uninhabitable. . . .

An energy analysis helps in comparing different sources for their impact on environments and the risks to people. The results are sometimes surprising. The more of the main economy that is used in the feedback of goods, services, equipment, etc., the more indirect injury there is to environments from industries elsewhere and the more risks from industrial accidents. Because solar technology and nuclear technology have so much feedback from the economy per unit of energy transformed, they have higher impacts and risks than those with higher net energies." (Odum & Odum, 1976, pp. 197, 201)

"Although nuclear reaction energy is enormous and intense, and works well within stars where gravity is large and temperatures normally high, on earth nuclear fission either blows itself apart (atomic bombs) or requires much emergy to contain it, cool it down, and finally use it to operate thermal electric turbines." (Odum, 1996, p. 153)

And that's emergy that Japan doesn't have . . . .

Will nuclear power have a more concentrated value than the wood output of the solar system, or of coal, or of cheap oil from rich deposits? The new power plant seems to be more economical than the competing fossil plants as long as it is running on the accumulated storages of nuclear fuel and fuel prospecting done on fossil-fuel subsidy. Is nuclear power at this level of net power delivery possible in a culture that does not have the accompanying fossil fuels?" (Odum, 1971, p. 135)

That's the point I was trying to make in this sub-thread:


I should have known I was merely regurgitating a well-internalised Howard T. Odum :-)

The serious accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979

(Odum & Odum, 1976, pp. 197, 201)

either you forgot to cite each paragraph separately in your second blockquote grouping or Odum & Odum were quite the seers

Luke, my husband sat on my glasses last week, and I have the second edition, apparently (1981). Nevertheless, Odum was quite the seer. He saw today's scenario 50-60 years ago. Being that far out in front of the crowd makes the discussion sound like scifi.

We husbands can cause problems from time to time ?- )

I had a feeling that paragraph had been added to a later edition. Thanks for the clarification. Hope you get you peepers back soon.

"The cooling water is maintained at about 75 atm (7.6 MPa, 1000–1100 psi) so that it boils in the core at about 285 °C (550 °F)."

The temperatures you mention would turn the core into a molten puddle.

Liberal arts idiot says you missed by 200 miles, sorry. The core is artificially maintained to 285 °C (550 °F). Apparently, the uncontrolled fission process produces enough heat and at a temperature to make Corium. As I recall Corium is the fuel, zirconium casings, rod framework and it even has some cementatious components. I would think that it would be safe to call the highest melting point of the metals present as a good indicator of the lower end of 'uncontrolled' fission temperatures.


There would normally be a distribution of temperatures inside the reactor. The center of the fuel pellets at the upper end of the fuel rods are likely at the highest temperature. The water at the feed injection nozzles is likely at the lowest. Heat flows from the center of the rods out through the cladding. Water flows up along the fuel rods and is heated by conduction, but that is complicated by the formation of steam bubbles due to boiling.

See Fuel Assemblies in Nuclear Reactors for more information.

Liberal arts idiot says he missed by 500 miles, LOL;)

Edit: Finally read the rod assembly specs. The Zirconium cladding is thinner than the thickness of a dime @ 0.83mm. That does not sound very substantial. Operational and basic science considerations again or economic?

Thin for good heat transfer, not intended to be structural would be my guess. it's main function is to hold the string of fuel pellets in place and let the heat out. O.83 mm works out to about a 0.033" wall. a lot of conventional stainless steel tubing comes in a 0.035" wall. according to my Swagelok PDF, 0.035 wall 1/2" OD tubing (type 304 stainless steel) is good to 2600 psi.

The metric table says 0.8 mm wall thickness tubing is only available to 6mm OD, and the pressure rating of that is 310 bar.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rankine_cycle for efficiency.

In some reactors sited near a body of water, the waste heat is used to heat the fish. For example, Oyster Creek heats the Barnegat Bay. The fish usually enjoy it, but there are big fish kills when the reactor shuts down for maintenance and the water gets cold quickly.

When there isn't enough water available to absorb the waste heat, the reactors have those big hyperbolic cylinder cooling towers to heat the big bird cage instead.

For all heat engines there is a maximal conversion efficiency of heat to mechanical power, given by 1-Tc/Th where Tc is the temperature of the colder reservoir and Th is the temperature of the hotter reservoir (google for Carnot cycle or Carnot theorem).

Since nuclear power plants operate with water which is heated to "only" something like 300°C, their limiting carnot efficiency is <~0.5. The real world efficiency is alway lower than that. This is also one reason to switch to Helium as coolant in "very high temperature reactors", which will enable a much power generation higher efficiency.

Wow, I am chastened, but I have to confirm this fact concerning Mark 1 reactors. I thought it could NOT be the case, based on sources that seemed reliable and clear (probably my misunderstanding), that water in direct contact with the nuclear fuel was used to make the steam that runs the turbines.

A second reason for my certainty on this issue, was the large volume of water that has reportedly been injected into the reactors (let alone the containment/drywall) over a period when multiple sources have reported containment venting had been suspended. Say what? The water had to go somewhere. If containment is in place for reactors 1 and 3, the water has to be exiting through a pipe. I had assumed this was part of the plan and TEPCO was intentional running the water into the ocean. Maybe the new TEPCO motto should be, “I believe in magic”.

Wow, I am chastened, but I have to confirm this fact concerning Mark 1 reactors. I thought it could NOT be the case ... that water in direct contact with the nuclear fuel was used to make the steam that runs the turbines.

Yes, this surprised me too, but it's the essential difference between boiling water and pressurized water reactors. My understanding is that so long as the zircalloy cladding on the fuel remains intact, the nasty isotopes stay inside the fuel pellets and the water doesn't get very radioactive.

However, it looks like that cladding *has* failed at least partially.

A second reason for my certainty on this issue, was the large volume of water that has reportedly been injected into the reactors (let alone the containment/drywall) over a period when multiple sources have reported containment venting had been suspended. Say what? The water had to go somewhere.

I believe it's a classic catch-22 situation. If you add water to a leaky reactor with damaged fuel rods, the contaminated water is going to leak out and do bad things. But if you *don't* add water, the fuel rods get even more damaged, which means you're in worse trouble. And if enough water boils off so the fuel catches fire, you're totally f*cked.

Goodmanj, Thanks for confirmation,

To clarify my point, I am not saying they should not have cooled the core. However, the quantity of water being used to cool the core appears to be very large. As I remember it the 500,000 gallon barges were to provide a few days of water (consistent with a rate of 500 to 4500 gallons water/h per reactor - see below). Evaporation? They claim not to be venting.

One could only conclude they were running it to sea, given containment appeared to be functioning at reactor 1. Given the primary steam conduits for power generation (each appear to have two redundant valves that should be closed during shutdown) head straight into the turbine buildings associated with each reactor, it was not unreasonable to believe that TEPCO was using some of the lines, which eventually began to leak. Now I wonder if it was an accident - leaky valves?

Quote: On 23 March it became possible to inject water into the reactor (1) using the feed water system rather than the fire extinguisher line, raising the flow rate from 2 to 18 m3/h. Source: WIKI Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_nuclear_accidents (identified TEPCO as original source).

The arrival by barge of 1,890 cubic metres (500,000 USgal) of fresh water was expected within two days. Source: The Wiki page Plus: http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=59318

They can also use the fire water lines to inject water.

One of their problems is having some place to put the radioactive seawater.they can not just dump it in the ocean.

I predict they will get bladders tanks inside cargo in containers.

They are still using firetrucks to pump the water into the reactors. They do not have electrical power restored to the primary nor the emergency cooling systems.

Given that the decay heat at this time should be something like 1% of the operational capacity of the original plant, I should think that you have plenty of volume to distribute the heat over. And that implies a large area as well. Heat will transfer to the surrounding via conduction convection, and thermal radiation. That might well be sufficient at this time.

It was allready suggested that the entire building might now be functioning like a giant heatsink ,
I guess there's a lot of absorbing capacity , but SURELY they will have enough thermal sensors installed by now to have the complete picture ! ...

Oh yeah, like they designed it to handle historical-level quakes and tsunamis.

There's no SURELY. Humans are involved.

I've known several humans named SHIRLEY who were quite involved ?- )

There is no perfect heat transfer to water in a mess like in the damaged reactor, there must be hotspots (thermal hotspots). Total amount of heat would be managable if the flow through reactor was "normal" - it should be a few hundred gpm at this time in normally shutdown reactor: Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System (RCIC) in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor_safety_systems#Low_Pr...

What if some portion of the fuel is not around neutron absorbing materials and has gone critical again?

Could there be many different forms of the core at this stage, explaining why the cooling curve is not textbook but fat-tailed?

A broken up core would have multiple rate constants, but an intact core would have a single heat decay const.

"Since the fuel rod cladding has evidently melted, water containing dissolved fission products can circulate between the reactor pressure vessel and the turbine hall,:

And forget two weeks stewing in hot brine.The chlorides will dissolve lots of things that would stand up to pure water.

Some chlorides are volatile too. So might well fume off and be carried out in the steam and contributing to the general mayhem. I don't know that this is happening, but I'd have to consider it.

On the subject of decay heat, back in my SSN days we came back to port after a long speed run. We had to bleed steam for about 2 days after docking and shut down due to the decay heat. After that we were adding heat by the usual ways to maintain "hot standby" as we called it. Those reactors were smaller than the ones at Fukushima, so the area to volume ratio was much better for losing heat, but the decay heat drops off rapidly and losses to ambient are pretty significant. Anything that hasn't melted by now isn't going to. Unless they cover it in an insulator like sand or concrete (which gives off heat as it sets, so double bad idea.)

That wonderful soup of periodic table chloride would worry me more.

@Merrill. In a reactor SCRAM, this pathway for steam to the turbine building is shut down to provide isolation of the primary containment vessel. Are you suggesting this was not done at the Fukushima Daiichi power plants?

I guess there should be 4 redundant pairs of fail-closed Main Steam Isolation valves that would disconnect the main steam circuit. One MSIV of each pair is between the Reactor Pressure Vessel and the Primary Containment and one is outside.

It seems more likely that either these leak or that other piping associated with auxiliary systems is leaking than that there is a crack in the RPV itself.

There is now a better description of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor_safety_systems which references:
Boiling Water Reactor
GE BWR/4 Technology
Technology Manual
This describes the various steam and water flows, their valving and their control systems.

Merrill, I am seriously wondering if all the valves and pumps were functional before the tsunami. I am beginning to think that the systems were far from 100% beforehand.


I will ask my question once again. Where is the Iodine 134 coming from. In the absence of fission it should be gone by now (half life 52.5 min). Can anybody help me out here?

They are currently re-testing the sample and are not certain it was iodine-134. Seems they make a lot of mistakes. However they haven't actually retracted that it was 134 even though that is what the media is reporting. Results of re-testing have not yet been released.

Maybe what they had with that radiation spike was an uncontrolled release of the facts...
Saw this video taken Sunday by a JDF helicopter:
Is it me, or is the paint on those reactor buildings blistering off?

I sold coatings and paint once for a PPG store. Had a whole nuke line. It is just good industrial paint, tested to no end per can, with a 200 degree farenheit standard for 'temperature resistance' for exterior concrete walls.

If you're referring to the large white splotches on the buildings, then no. That's the paint design, you can see it on pictures of the buildings on the TEPCO web site.

The reactor buildings had decorative white cloud patterns painted on their sky-blue walls. This could be mistaken for peeling paint, but the scale of the patterns is much larger than that.

Tks for the video, NHK mentioned it, but I couldn't find it.

Yes, it looked like when they zoomed in on number 2 (I think--it is the only one that still has a roof)) the paint was failing, concrete looked a little bulged.

Edit-about half way down from the top. Could be residue from the explosion at number 1.

Interesting vid, thanks....
.... but I miss the "good ol' days" of the Macondo blowout, when we had multiple live video feeds from the ROVs to help us understand the action real-time. How about we start an Internet campaign to get something similar?

All they need to do is get Asimo http://corporate.honda.com/innovation/asimo.aspx, give him Sony's latest hand-held digital video cam, and tell him to go for a wander round the site. Hey presto! - we can see the action, and a great showcase for Japanese technology to boot (and hey, they need some good publicity right now....)

Just kiddding - Regards Chris

Even shut down, there would continue to be some fission, principally by transuranic elements synthesized in the fuel rods during fuel burnup. Depending on how the damaged fuel is now configured in the pressure vessel, there may be additional fission of the uranium.


Perhaps the reading was for another element:
"Tepco said it miscalculated the radioactivity measurement in the unit 2 turbine building because the data for iodine-134, which was announced earlier, was in reality the data of cobalt-56, which has a longer half-life."

"27 March: very high radiation levels in unit 2 were reported and then retracted.[83] Following the retraction however the Associated Press reported that TEPCO acknowledged that airborne radiation in unit 2 did measure 1 Sv/h. [84] Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has confirmed that a fission reaction is underway in unit 2, stating "The level of radiation is greater than 1,000 millisieverts. It is certain that it comes from atomic fission [...] But we are not sure how it came from the reactor."[85]"

The Reactor Pressure Vessel pressure is listed as "unknown".

Nuclear an Industrial Safety Agency (Japan)
Here is today's reactor-by-reactor parameter graphic
It DOES show a negative pressure reading for #2RPV. Broken?

So it is stated that a reaction has started.

I read that the technician took one reading and ran.
Good for him. Would have already been toast?
One sample and ran?
One reading wouldn't be a spectrogram, would it?
Just gross radiation, yes?

Re:negative pressures

Those are Gauge pressure (relative to atmosphere)
They report some opressures as gauge pressures, and some as absolute pressures

Yes, Gauge: A partial vacuum is shown as negative. Broken?
The other site says "Unknown" for the same pressure datum.

But do you honestly think that the reading of below atmospheric pressure is correct?

One could get a negative relative pressure if a steam filled volume is cooled with the result that the steam condenses.

However, the broken gauge/sensor hypothesis seems much more likely.


And then I notice that they quote the pressure in #2 as being "stable".
Stably broken?
Stable... open to the atmosphere? And the small negative value is a sensor channel "zeroing" error?
Stable... with a (possible) digital data acquisition system receiving all 1's in a (possible) two's-complement math environment: I.E. the
value of minus one (-1), or one resolution element down from zero?.

Argh, not the Macondo pressure gauge discussion arising like a zombie again :)


if they have the numbers backwards regarding Co56 vs I134 is 1.6 X 10⁵ mSv/h of I134 a reasonable number? indicating there is no ongoing fisson?

"Where is the Iodine 134 coming from?"

As far as I know, if what they were measuring in those high levels was in fact I-134 and not some other peak in the spectrum there are only 3 possibilities:

- It was directly created as a fission product
- It was created when Te 134 decayed. Te 134 has a half life of 48 minutes. The Te 134 could be a primary fission product, or the daughter of a couple of other suspects with half lives of less than 2 minutes.
- It was a mixture of the first 2 options, most likely.

So, as the t shirt says: "I work in health physics, if you see me running try and keep up"

- It was created when Te 134 decayed. Te 134 has a half life of 48 minutes. The Te 134 could be a primary fission product, or the daughter of a couple of other suspects with half lives of less than 2 minutes.

So if nothing above it has a long halflife, and it doesn't either, it has to mean that there was fission recently (within however many half lifes the amount indicates, many a few to maybe 10 say), i.e. there must have been fission with the past day or less. [I sure hope it was a bogus measurement instead!]

"there must have been fission with the past day or less"
That's the way I read it, certainly quite some time after the 11th when the reactors were first allegedly scrammed. If anyone has a more plausible explanation, assuming it was I 134 please say!

The fat tail in the cooling time course is a bunch of fission reactions splintered off from the main core.

If the core was cooling as a single process, then it would be single exponential.

So weird fission products still appearing would make sense no with the weird cooling profile that does not seem to be cooling very well.

(Of course, I am assuming that the cooling method has not changed over time here. Well maybe the deterioration of the cooling system is causing the fat tail as well. Though that way appear as disruptions in the rate. Say going from one rate to another rate. Like a disruption in the rate of OPEC oil extraction. ;-) )

Either one or both is a pretty nasty predicament. I guess it would be better is fission stopped altogether. Now they have some splaining to do.

> The fat tail in the cooling time course is a bunch of fission reactions splintered off from the main core.

Not true. There's more than one element in the core. If you add up a bunch of exponential decay curves with different half-lives, you'll get a fat-tailed power curve, even if no fission occurs at all.

You are incorrect mathematically speaking but I made an argument here where you would be right. However, you still cannot explain why they latent heat here is lingering longer than expected.

Then why does the real data deviate from the model for cooling. Seems something else is stretching out the time axis. It is not according to theory.

BTW. For kinetic systems, consider rate constants for parallel reactions.

k1, k2, k3, k4 ... kn

Now if then all describe going from State A to State B, which differ only in temperature then.

kobs = k1 + k2 + k3 + k4 + ... + kn


A(t) = Ao exp ( -kobs * t)

which is a single exponential.

But if you are instead talking about fission products making reactants that do fission again and so on. Then you are talking about non-parallel reactions that will behave with a fat tail.

So if there are splintered pieces of core doing additional fissions, then you get the same behavior but stretched out longer.

The key is to look at prior shutdowns and then compare to the present data for this system -- of course.

you still cannot explain why they latent heat here is lingering longer than expected.

What data are you talking about? I have not seen any comparison between actual heat output of the reactor and theoretical predictions -- I'm not sure the former even exists.

As for the math, these are not parallel competitive reactions on a single reagent. They are totally separate reactions with independent inputs and outputs.

For a simple system with two isotopes:
The heat output from decay of isotope 1 is
H1= H01 e^(- k1 t)
The heat output from decay of isotope 2 is
H2= H02 e^(- k2 t)
The total heat output is the sum of these
H = H1 + H2
which is NOT a single exponential. Same's true as you add lots of different isotopes.

If you add up a whole bunch of random exponential curves whose k-values have a lognormal distribution, you get a fat-tailed, power-law-ish distribution that looks a lot like the "ANS reference curve" referred to by WHT. Try it!

The issue you bring up, of reaction daughter products which are themselves radioactive, is a significant one, which makes the problem even more non-exponential.

Well to get heat you need moles of stuff. Are you saying that the side products are higher in concentration that the major fuel. How is that possible. I have trouble believing the composition is so heterogeneous. Certainly a few will dominate the reaction? No.

My math for parallel channels is for the major fuel evolving heat down is various pathways.

I am not a nuclear engineer.

However, splintered fission products and fission daughters also give a fat tail. They create a time lag phase.

My bet is you have all of the above. Although without having data on "normal shutdown" then none of us can say anything with certainty.

Daughter products, multiple isotopes, melted core doing side fission reactions.

A big mess, explaining the fat tail.

The theory plot was all of TOD when Fuku first exploded. http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7675
But that graph was a demo now that I looked back at it.

Well to get heat you need moles of stuff. Are you saying that the side products are higher in concentration that the major fuel?

No, they just have vastly shorter half-lives, so they produce a lot more heat per mole than the major fuel does (after fission is shut down). As you point out, the graph you link to is a theoretical prediction, obtained by, yep, adding the heat contributions from all the various isotopes. Here's a Java program that does that, from the site that produced that graph.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decay_heat (emphasis mine)

When a nuclear reactor has been shut down, and nuclear fission is not occurring at a large scale, the major source of heat production will be due to the beta decay of these fission fragments.

Don't forget that there will be fission going on at this stage even in a normal shutdown but I have no idea how much of these isotopes would be being generated.


Japanese Rules for Nuclear Plants Relied on Old Science


"Japanese government and utility officials have repeatedly said that engineers could never have anticipated the magnitude 9.0 earthquake — by far the largest in Japanese history — that caused the sea bottom to shudder and generated the huge tsunami."

Who was it that said, you don't want the guy in charge of a nuclear plant to receive bonus money based on cost cutting. It reminds me of the idiots that set up the world of financial derivatives based on assumptions of normal distributions of results. "Who coulda know'd" that real estate doesn't always go up. In this case since we haven't seen any tsunamis, why worry and certainly don't incur any cost for something that probably won't happen on my watch. In the meantime I get rich waiting for the low probability mess.

To anticipate you have to imagine first. So maybe the term 'failure of imagination' from the Engineering Disasters series on The History Channel series might apply here?

I wish people would focus less on the earthquake magnitude, it is irrelevant.
M7 nearby is the same as M9, it is just that M9 reaches further away. The Magnitude measures the scale of the area disturbed, not the intensity at any one point.
Afaik, the local magnitude of the quake was in fact about an M7, with the ground motions and acceleration just about at the specification limit for the installation.
It was the tsunami that really launched this disaster, by killing the on site backup power.
It is still a surprise to me that nuclear plants do not have a small TRIGA type local reactor as their APU. These reactors are small and truly idiot proof, designed to be managed by undergraduates. They generate a few megawatts, just enough to run the pumps if needed. They do not need air intakes, so they fit into flood proof containers.

It is still a surprise to me that nuclear plants do not have a small TRIGA type local reactor as their APU. These reactors are small and truly idiot proof, designed to be managed by undergraduates. They generate a few megawatts, just enough to run the pumps if needed. They do not need air intakes, so they fit into flood proof containers.

Nice idea but how do you convert those MW of low temperatur pool water into mechanical motion for pumps or a generator?

Why worry about power and pumping in your main planning? Do what you can. Send your main thrust saving what you can. I once worked as a worst case scenario IT guy. Assuming we lose the plant and the whole smash, is there any long term, expensive hardware that would be of value installed elsewhere? Assuming the game is over, what is worth taking now that will not make a difference anyhow? Shouldn't we start this second before such capital investments become contaminated? Is there time?

Or you could simply have put the generators where the water cant get to them 3 stories up or failing that build a water proof building for them . The Navy have a thing called submarines with snorkels that seem to work quite well.

They'd have failed the tsunami test :-)

Ever since I read that TEPCO had been advised to upgrade their tsunami walls to protect against a higher wave than they designed for, and they put it off while they studied it further, I kept thinking 'why couldn't they at least have put the backup generators on a solid berm higher up'. Even if they lost the fuel storage tanks, getting fuel there would be a lot easier than rebuilding or replacing generators the size of buses, and a lot of what came after the tsunami might never have happened.

Maybe a bottoming cycle setup using ammonia or something similar as a working fluid? I don't know what temperature range would be available.

You want an emergency pump as simple as possible. Maybe even steam. One could also use a salt vault. taking a clue from the solar guys if you reject the heat from the spent fuel into a emergency salt vault that can generate steam for a steam powered pump you would not have to rely on outside resources.

We are witnessing the downside of globalization and just in time delivery when applied to complex products such as autos and high tech. Without the black swan events of this month I doubt there would be many who would speak up against either.

It has been a mantra of economic analysis that interdependence is good and independence is bad and "inefficient".

We have seen it in many posts here at TOD where energy independence and even a feeble attempt at it are mocked. Black and white thinking where a straw man argument that complete energy independence is impossible is used to defeat arguments that more energy independence is a good thing.

The Japanese black swan could just as well be a MENA black swan where Shia/Sunni or Israel/Iran go at it wreaking havoc on oil supply for example. There are now 3 wars going on in the area. That should be warning enough.

While American supplies from nearby exporters would likely continue, the disruption of rapid price escalation will no more be escaped than the disruptions auto makers and high tech are now experiencing. Add in the devastation of cash flowing out of the economy to pay for imported oil and we would be hurting economically nearly as bad Japan is now IMO.

Japan's hurt is spreading around the world at the moment and few countries will escape the downside of globalization, overspecialization and just in time delivery.

We shall see if those mocking more energy independence change their tune in regards to ethanol in the face of the Japan disaster.

I don't have much hope for it.

Mike Ruppert of Collapsenet.com says Japan will never rebuild.

First: There is not the cheap energy to do so.
Second: They already had a 200% debt to GDP before the incident
Third: They will become a Net Importer due to the problems associated with this disaster

In the Best Case Scenario, the nuclear incident gets under control, but the economic devistation from the power loss will ripple through the global economy.

In the Worst Case Scenario, a complete meltdown takes the other reactors with it, and globalization comes to a halt much sooner than later.

China invades?
No, too... messy.
China opens Walmarts, assumes Japan's financial risk?

I've been working off and on an essay on "Infrastructure Triage," i.e., what can we maintain and rebuild and what should we maintain and rebuild? I suspect that it will be more and more likely that countries will not be able to fully rebuild after large natural disasters. In doing research, something that surprised me is that even if (or more accurately when) US oil consumption falls back to our 1949 per capita consumption, the US would still be the largest oil consumer in the world (because US population has more than doubled since 1949).


I'm reading yet another book on economics and finance that extolls how the free market system results in a vast array of goods and services from a vast array of suppliers without the need for central planning or coordination. It is, of course, nonsense.

In the real world the economy supplies millions of types of individual products and services, but each type comes from one or a very few suppliers. Even when designers and purchasing managers are very careful to second source every part, the failure of one source may severely curtail production. Further, if one of the sources fail permanently, you are often stuck with a sole sourced part, since a third source is often not available.

This is a common situation in electronics, in fine chemicals, and in spare parts for industrial equipment. Partly the situation is due to intellectual property considerations, but partly it is due to simple economics. The niche markets are too small and the startup investments are too high for multiple suppliers to get into the market.

A serious example for a transportation collapse is that 80% of Vitamin C is synthized in China, while the remaining 20% comes from Scotland. There is no Vitamin C manufactured in the Western Hemisphere.

Some of this "multiple-supplier" stuff is totally wacky.

Here's one example from the computer industry:

A mainframe computer which could have power supplies from one of two different manufacturers. Which weren't interchangeable!!!! So when replacing a failed power supply only the original manufacturer's replacement could be used, not the second-source. Or vice-versa. Yes, there were two separate chassis designs depending on which PSU was used. What were the designers thinking?

Merrill, I can't recommend George Soros, The Alchemy of Finance highly enough.

He deals with the entire free market nonsense in a few brief paragraphs, either in the intro, or the preface, and dismisses it as intellectual nonsense, worthless as a theoretical model, and gives coherent reasons why this is the case. In my opinion, he gives that view about the exact amount of space it merits, give or take a few lines.

You'll note, by the way, that by dropping this model, he did quite well for himself.

His conclusion, of course, is that the markets must be regulated in order to not enter into violent boom/bust cycles.

One thing that should amaze one if one reads this book carefully is how darned accurate his model is today, and the book was written in the early 80s. Revised I think 1994, make sure to get the latest edition so you can get his latest thoughts and adjustments.

As far as I can tell, there is exactly zero difference between the genesis, growth, and collapse of our recent boom/busts, like Housing, the oil price spike of 2008, the high tech boom, and the boom/busts Soros analyzes. This gives the startled claims of the average econ types, including Greenspan, that such events could not have been predicted, a somewhat damaged hue. They not only could be predicted, they were predicted, in quite accurate detail, decades before they happened.

In other words, don't waste your time reading people who write on something they don't understand, and who don't have the intellectual tools to deal with something as complex as humans trying to understand human behaviors, like economics.

My personal conclusion is that economics and finance in general do not attract very bright or creative people, even the relatively middlebrow Nassim Taleb notes this repeatedly as well about his peers in finance, ie, they just aren't very bright. Sheep, one might say. Soros was motivated by the actual problem of understanding human behavior in our system, Taleb is motivated by the desire to live well, with some status, but to do as little work as humanly possible in the process.

Re the Alchemy, this book is larger than just a finance/econ thing, it's a decent model for our current boom/busts in many larger areas as well, which was what Soros had hoped to achieve when writing it. I would say he succeeded. I read some amazon comments on it, and apparently the average finance book reader isn't much smarter than Taleb thinks....

This book is a fairly heavy read, I'm not sure how accessible it is to readers not trained in relatively serious continental philosophy, but it's well worth it. Judging from the Amazon comments, apparently the book flies over some people's heads, by quite a distance.

His conclusion, of course, is that the markets must be regulated in order to not enter into violent boom/bust cycles.

Even if this is correct, it's futile to know it. See the housing boom for an example. Everyone involved, from the banksters getting gargantuan bonuses, to the "home" "owners" getting free rides on somebody else's money, to the taxing authorities rolling in revenue for pet projects, was happy on the upside. There never was, and never would be, much chance that any regulator would call time on a party like that.

Even if this is correct, it's futile to know it.

The situation is not binary. Regulation may not be able to prevent the boom/bust cycles inherent in market dynamics, but there are many options available to mitigate and reduce the impacts of those cycles. Many of those mitigating regulations and agencies were established after hard lessons (ie., FDIC, SS, unemployment insurance, SEC, etc. in US) and free-market fundamentalists are busy trying to dismantle them all in the US, because of their faith in a Utopian and non-existent all-seeing, all-knowing, perfect invisible hand of the market.

Countries such as Canada and Switzerland with tighter banking regulations managed to almost completely escape the cascading collapse that almost cratered the US financial system. So knowledge about boom/bust cycles was not "futile" but very useful in these cases.

One small irony is that knowledge of market dynamics is indeed "futile" if rigid ideology prevents taking advantage of that knowledge. Which leads to the current self-fulfilling prophecy in the US, conservatives convinced that any government activity is "futile" are doing their best to make that belief reality.

" the report, Alex Pollock of the Center for American Progress asks, “Why is it that the United States suffered through such a painful housing bubble and bust in the last decade, while Canada did not?”

“After all,” he notes, “the two countries enjoy relatively similar home ownership rates, are rich, advanced, stable, have sophisticated financial systems and pioneer histories, and stretch from Atlantic to Pacific.”

The answer writes Mr. Pollack, is quite simply “that Canada did not become enthralled with the laissez faire ideology that dominated US economic policy making in the 2000s, and thus did not allow major gaps in its regulation of housing finance to develop.”

The Canadian mortgage market underwent many structural innovations and changes over the years. Canada integrated the old “four pillars” of the financial system through revised legislation, particularly in 1987 and 1992 and during 2006 after the federal government liberalized mortgage insurance. All those helped Canada weather the current recession and avoid the US mortgage crisis.

As Mr. Pollack concludes in his report: “The most important difference between the US and Canadian mortgage markets [was] their relative exposure to unregulated lending channels and products – and it is this difference that best explains why Canada avoided the credit crisis that plagued the United States.”

In Canada, tight CMHC mortgage regulations and strict lending rules for major banks prevented the use of exotic mortgage instruments."

Well, yeah, there are all sorts of conceivable methodologies. But it remains: who's going to call time on a party offering all those luscious free goodies to every constituency? Really? There wasn't exactly a 'liberal' groundswell in the USA to prick the bubble; in fact some of their core constituents, namely "home" "owners" who never could even conceivably have qualified under sane regulation, were feeling rich, so they favored it every bit as much as, or more than, the most rabid conservative ideologues.

It's also not quite clear yet that Canada has avoided the crisis or is merely still extending and pretending. Certainly the folks over at Automatic Earth have weighed in:

The topic is Canada, and its enormous property bubble. Human beings are notorious for not being able to recognize a bubble when they are in one, and Canadians are no exception...

...and IIRC there have been comments here about astronomical and still rising house prices in Vancouver. So the something-for-nothing party seems to be in full swing in Canada. We might need another year or three to be able to say that they've avoided a bustup, because, as with certain other infamous matters, we can really know only in the rear-view mirror.

There is no Vitamin C manufactured in the Western Hemisphere.

Well, that may be technically true... but there are lot's of these around where I live.

Depending on what post-peak collapse scenario you favor, the fruit and fresh vegetables may not make it out of the south during the winter time. It's not clear whether the northern diet would have enough C to prevent scurvy in the absence of transportation. We don't can and freeze local fruits and vegetables in the volumes that we used to.

I am attempting to raise goji berry trees in central pennsylvania. i started from seeds, so i'll know in 3 more years if i can make
it work. My swedish friends told me that lingonberries became very popular during WW2 for their vitamin C when they were
cut off, i've assumed they are for even colder climates, everytime I've been to Sweden in winter, I have found it very cold.

"It's not clear whether the northern diet would have enough C to prevent scurvy in the absence of transportation"

Got Cranberry sauce? beats the heck out of Spruce inner bark tea!

Rose hips, haw berries, black berries, apples, raspberries, rhubarb. Mind you we didn't have that much scurvy before modern transport and there can still be sailing ships.


Small amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables of almost any kind, or undercooked meat, will provide enough vitamin C to keep you scurvy free. This is a non-issue.

But weren't we talking about nuclear disasters?

Fruit break. We needed some fruit to go with the nuts.


Synthesize it from glucose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascorbic_acid

LOL. Eat chicken kidneys. All forms of life make ascorbic acid!

Or just go and eat some pine needles - they have five times the amount of vitamin C (by weight) as lemons. Chew the needles, swallow the juice, and spit the needles. This is a mountain survival trick, and was done by the northern Indians.

Probably give you nice pine fresh breath too, though some may think you smell like a hospital.


Or just go and eat some pine needles - they have five times the amount of vitamin C (by weight) as lemons.
Go to the store. Buy a lemon. Plant the seeds. Get nasty oranges. Been there, done that.

not to mention horse radish and sprouted wheat.

Germans were called Krauts because the ones that ate sour kraut didn't die from scurvy in the winter months. Russians and Poles use pickles for the same reason.

Cabbage anyone?

Here in Maine, you can get C in Potatoes, in Blueberries, with breakfast, I just had some hot Kim-chi (Korean Saurkraut) made from Maine Cabbage up in Unity Maine.

No oranges, lemons or limes?

We are witnessing the downside of globalization and just in time delivery when applied to complex products such as autos and high tech. Without the black swan events of this month I doubt there would be many who would speak up against either.

It has been a mantra of economic analysis that interdependence is good and independence is bad and "inefficient".

I wonder when mainstream economic theory will come to grips with the trade-off between globalization & economic instability, and even if they do, whether there is any way to shift the balance more towards stability. Its hard to be optimistic when mainstream economic theory continues to ignore the obvious fact that exponential growth cannot continue forever in a system with finite resources.

The biological downside of globalization began more than a century ago and continues to grow, with no way to mitigate these effects. Epidemiologists have been warning for a long time that it is only a matter of time and chance until a global pandemic of unprecedented extent occurs (i.e., greater than the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic or the 1918 influenza pandemic), but there seems little that can be done to prevent it.

Too much gloom and doom.

Stopping global air travel should solve that one. Easy. *tongue firmly in cheek*

The 1918 influenza pandemic happened with global air travel (ok, almost) completely stopped.

Comparative Advantage is part of the foundation religion/ideology of economics (sometimes called a science)


I used to believe in it; however, I came to question it based on experiences in Latin American and Africa specifically in the area
of agriculture where I have zero education but some experience. Watching local food agriculture die due to the ability to substitute
American/European/whoever grains et al so that the local land could be allocated towards an export industrial agriculture (some
kind of oil, flowers, etc) or worse allocating the people to mining leads to a number of very ugly scenarios. They include
loss of knowledge on how to raise food, loss of tool base for raising food, significant environmental impacts due to everything
from water use to inorganic fertilizers to erosion, etc.. What happens many times is the need for an industrial agricultural
product from xyz country is no longer needed due to a) finding a cheaper source, b) consumer market changes that no longer
requires the product, 3) some kind of local depletion, 4) misc. This leads to local, regional catastrophes of culture, finance,
health, etc..

For those with continental experience you will recognize for instance that the French have forever encouraged (the word
is usually "protected') certain industries and companies due to "national interest". There is a term here, I just can't
remember it. And in Japan they have encouraged their agricultural industry. German, Japanese and Chinese
industrial policy are top of the line, and Russia's is Putin's PHD Thesis, a very good read.

In the third world when people have talked
to me about agriculture policy, my response has always been "don't do what the American (government) says, do what they
do", ie protection. [By the way this is the reverse of what Jesus said about the Pharisees to the common people, very

American policy first under the GATT (a very nice campus once upon a time) was to control what went where in the context
of the "Cold War", and was "replaced" by the WTO an evangelistic organization for comparative advantage, which neatly
mapped into the US's desire for cheap consumer goods (aka "bread and the circus" for the proles).

The supply chain issues obviously need to be reconsidered, but they are going to have to fit into a a set of current
expectations (low cost with no value on safety), law, and international agreement (starting with the WTO), and philosophical
thoughts such as: 1) do I want everything in my normal trading block (EU, NAFTA, whatever)? 2) How do I unplug
from some of the poorer places i trade with without killing them? 3) Can I slow consumerism down at all, or am I
simply willing to have high inflation say in "consumer electronics"?

The WTO and the ideology of "free trade" (a concept underpinned with many other "truths" like comparative
advantage) are very difficult to "mess with". But, the WTO is being successfully gamed through internal national financial
interventions/manipulations and exchange rates. I think the next big area for gaming the WTO is "work to rule".

I work in the aerospace industry and have noted that this event in Japan may
have some consequences on Boeing 787 production plans.

Hope this helps Nate. Citi Group put together a market analysis of the impact of the quake/tsunami early on at

Citi Equity Strategy: Impact of the Japan Earthquake or at Google QuickView if the main link is down.

The analysis did not heavly factor in the nuclear issue because it had not taken center stage at the time of the report.

Normally natural disasters stimulate a V shaped bounce as money pours into the affected areas. Fukushima has left the region dangerously radioactive so the rebuilding there will be at a low level, probably not noticable. Many of the refugees will move away permanently into already overcrowded cities further south
(i.e the Katrina exodus).

The Tsunami affected area covers 4% of Japan's farms however the longer the Fukushima radiation event lasts the greater the radioactive fallot the greater the damage. The Tohuku region further north
may eventually be effected.
As with Macondo, the longer the situation lasts, the more areas will be affected.


Japanese companies are already shifting production overseas.
Nissan is probably shifting engine production to the US.


The Japanese economy is shrinking and will become less concentrated and efficient.

Nassim Taleb weighs in on the Japanese Black Swan

From Nassim Taleb http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/notebook.htm


Time to understand a few facts about small probabilities [criminal stupidity of statistical science]

(I've received close to 600 requests for interviews on the "Black Swan" of Japan. Refused all (except for one). I think for a living & write books not interviews. This is what I have to say.)

The Japanese Nuclear Commission had the following goals set in 2003: " The mean value of acute fatality risk by radiation exposure resultant from an accident of a nuclear installation to individuals of the public, who live in the vicinity of the site boundary of the nuclear installation, should not exceed the probability of about 1x10^6 per year (that is , at least 1 per million years)".

That policy was designed only 8 years ago. Their one in a million-year accident almost occurred about 8 year later (I am not even sure if it is at best a near miss). We are clearly in the Fourth Quadrant there.

I spent the last two decades explaining (mostly to finance imbeciles, but also to anyone who would listen to me) why we should not talk about small probabilities in any domain. Science cannot deal with them. It isirresponsible to talk about small probabilities and make people rely on them, except for natural systems that have been standing for 3 billion years (not manmade ones for which the probabilities are derived theoretically, such as the nuclear field for which the effective track record is only 60 years).

I think the biggest Black Swan will be the degree and speed at which the global fiat based compound interest fractional reserve financial system comes crashing down.

Japan just pushed put it into HIGH GEAR.

Estimating the probability of a rare event is indeed problematical, perhaps impossible to do in an unbiased fashion, and even if one could its hard to know what to do with that number. Multiplying the probability of the event by its outcome gives the expected (mean) outcome, but the expected outcome is not the best measure to use when dealing with highly bimodal distributions of outcomes (i.e., disaster scenarios). Even the Kelly criterion, which is based on maximizing the expected logarithm of the outcome falls down when dealing with very low-probability disastrous events because the Kelly formula does not take into account the errors inherent in estimating event probabilities, which become dominant when dealing with very rare events with disastrous outcomes. For that reason, the gamblers that I know generally bet at half the Kelly optimum, but there's no actual theoretical justification for that rule of thumb.

We humans didn't evolve to to make decisions that involve disasters on a global scale.

Taleb said:

It is irresponsible to talk about small probabilities and make people rely on them, except for natural systems that have been standing for 3 billion years (not manmade ones for which the probabilities are derived theoretically, such as the nuclear field for which the effective track record is only 60 years).

We should all listen carefully to what Taleb says here. This is essentially looking at man-made scenarios.

OTOH, natural systems, such as the small probabilities of huge earthquakes, have better track records for prediction. The same goes for oil depletion and the potential for future super-giants. I can imagine why Taleb doesn't like to give interviews as anything he says can get misinterpreted. He would spend all his time explaining what does and doesn't constitute a Black Swan event.

The civilian nuclear industry has been operating for about six decades and there have been three incidents of the size of Three Mile Island or greater. Our current best estimate of annual exceedance probability is 0.05.

These events cannot seriously be called rare.

The important statement in the post is:

I think the biggest Black Swan will be the degree and speed at which the global fiat based compound interest fractional reserve financial system comes crashing down.

The one concept that both Christians and Muslims agree is bad happens to be usury or interest. People of Jewish background were not supposed to charge each other interest on loans, but for others it was ok. The ancient world knew that interest was bad and tried to control it at times. Maybe it is time to put your money in an Islamic bank as they are at least attempting to deal with the runaway system of funny money.

Time to go buy my lottery ticket, to get in on the something for nothing game.

What about the spent pool's fuel rods? Do the rods touch the cooling water, which i've been assuming is draining into the sea, or are they encapsulated and thus not contaminating the waste water.

edit: my bad, this was a reply for the closed thread about the water around the plant only getting contaminated if it touches the reactor core.

Also unclear about site drainage and where it might go...as in being prepared for such a scenario with waste-water storage/processing.

The fuel rods have a metal cladding which keeps the fuel from coming in contact with the cooling water. However, it looks more and more likely that the encapsulation has been damaged in the reactor cores, and possibly in the spent fuel pools too.

As for site drainage, I saw a report that said they intended to use some large tanks in the basement to store contaminated water, but recently discovered that they were completely full. Can't find the source though, sorry.

ok thanks...it would seem that if those pools aren't structurally damaged and with the roofs blown off, it would be/should have been pretty simple to keep them topped off with the fire-hoses...and is that how it's normally cooled? evaporative with the constant addition of fresh water? or are they on a similar conductive/vective system like the reactor's sea-water condensate set-up?

And if that rod cladding in the pools is damaged, any water leaking through structural or cooling plumbing damage would be contaminated? ...or what-else...fire-hose over-filling or helicopter water-drop splashing...?

And will particles being released in the pool attach to evaporate...?

If it is impossible to cool a nuclear reactor enough.
And it starts to melt.
What are the options to resolve this situation?

In Russia, nested into reactor.
In Japan tries to chill with seawater.

What happens if mixing the water as is pumped in with small copper or
lead balls?
And fill the reactor with copper or lead.
When the copper or lead in the reactor melts, it should be like a shield around the fuel rods and prevents radiation from escaping.
Copper and lead conducts heat well. It should dissipate much heat from the fuel rods.

It takes a lot of energy/heat to keep the copper or lead warm. Are this
heat dissipation enough to keep the fuel rods cold enough and
prevent them melting.
what are the pros and cons of this proposal?

Is there any better suggestions for how a nuclear reactor can be emergency chilled?

For absorbing radiation, neutrons, and heat, you can't beat plain old water with a little boron mixed in. Which is what they're using.

Local TV here in Austria also reported that Tepco detected spikes in neutron radiation in the reactor buildings. My thinking was that the changed geometry in the core due to partial meltdown created a situation where the melt is (nearly) critical and (downward) variations in boron concentration in the cooling water creates that (criticality) spikes.

Does that sound reasonable?

There's no way for neutrons created by criticality spikes in the core to get out, though: they're behind 12 inches of steel. The only way to see neutrons outside the core is if neutron emitting isotopes have escaped containment. Which now appears to be the case.

Thanks for the clarification!

It takes no energy to keep the copper warm.

I am seeing a lot of people struggling with this difference between heat and temperature. Heat moves, temperature is a quantity that all matter has. If matter is getting more heat going in than going out, then temperature rises.

If spent nuclear fuel is hermetically sealed, it melts. Nothing else matters, if there is no path out for the heat it melts. And radiative transfer isn't enough when you're encased in a 2 meter thick containment.

Circulating water is a very good way to keep the heat moving out. That is what they're trying to do.

They did use lead in Chernobyl. Some turned to gas, which was not that great.

I was studying up on reactor design and came across this for PWR reactors. I know the BWR's have half the pressure so probably 10 times or more less stress but Fukushima's vessels are '60's OEM right?
The reactor pressure vessel is manufactured from ductile steel but, as the plant is operated, neutron flux from the reactor causes this steel to become less ductile. Eventually the ductility of the steel will reach limits determined by the applicable boiler and pressure vessel standards, and the pressure vessel must be repaired or replaced.

Is this an issue at Fukushima? Would a reduction in ductility of the vessel steel due 'neutron flux' be in play here. Sounds like a dance. Gosh those little rays and particles are moving fast aren't they, I never imagined.


seems to be the data on reactor 2 radionuclides found in pools of water

translate.google.com for english


So these must have been the 'false ' data ,

still much to see ,

( why translate , I don't see any japanese ?)

The first column is the original,mistaken readings, 2nd is reanalysis, 3rd is remeasurement and 4th is resampling

No new radiation reading though


Tokyo Electric was not able to confirm how much the actual amount of radiation was at the No. 2 reactor because the radioactivity level was too high for workers to continue measuring.

The radiation was too high to measure, well then what is the level of radiation that is too high to work in? Please fools report the radiation. DO your JOBS. LMAO.

Am I in an alternate universe here or are we being lied to? They are in serious trouble. They have a Chernobyl-sized radiation problem and they are afraid of taking first place. Report the facts, Japan.

This isn't an alternate universe or a conspiracy, this is just straight up life or death.

The report I've read said that the tech walked up to the puddle, his dosimeter started giving readings of > 1 Sv/hour (the value reported in the PDF linked above), and he ran for his life.

When you're getting more than 1 Sv/hour, you do not stick around to figure out just how *much* more. Not unless you want to spend the next month in the hospital.

So then the reporting needs to say consistently that radiation rate levels are too high for humans to measure and they are in the range of 1 Sv/hr. The vagueness in the reporting. The whole idea that there is possibly a breach in the reactor vessel or that there was partial meltdown is getting tedious. When hard readings can be made they are left out. When a conclusion can be drawn from certain radiation leaks, they put the word possibly in front of "breach". Those are my issues.

Also they should be getting more readings from the surrounding areas. Those have been blank for a while.

The first column is the original erroneous data. The second is re-evaluation. The third is re measurement and the last is resampling. The first three are from the original sampling on 3/26. The last one was the sampling done on 3/27.

Its all for the reactor #2 in the pool of water in the basement.

Where there are no numbers it says below the detection limit.

The left most side is the isotopes and their half lives.

Basically the only isotope in the resampling above the detection limit is I131

Mr. Rethin writes:
"the only isotope in the resampling above the detection limit is I131"

Please ? I see, in addition to I-131, Cs-134, Cs-136,Cs-137,Ba-140,La-140 in the reasampled measurement in the rightmost column


oops. My bad. I was putting so much effort to read the kanji I misses the forest for the trees.

So they have an over-abundance of liquid iodine? Then the likelihood is probably due to my "purple rain" theory. As the steam cooled below the boiling point of iodine, the iodine condensed and has gradually succumbed to the force of gravity and collected in a puddle in the basement.

This is merely an artifact of the reactors cooling off. The boiling point of iodine is 184 C/364 F.

No. There are no macroscopic quantities of any of these short-lived isotopes. The amount of I-131 in the sample linked above, for example, is about 3 parts per billion.

To repeat, and please excuse the repetition, IMHO it is extremely unlikely that Japan will permit an international technological rescue mission as suggested by Dr. Kaku. There are undoubtedly reasons of national pride, proprietary discretion, confidence and sovereignty, but I think there may be other reasons not so easily perceptible.

But if Japan should allow such a mission, nevertheless, it will be a sign of urgent and helpless desperation. I'm afraid this may be a Gordian Knot very much resistant to cutting.

international technological rescue mission

Who would you ask? France? Russia? China?

Toshiba already owns Westinghouse and Hitachi looks to be the senior partner in the GE relationship, so they can already access any active expertise in the US. I don't think there are any other commercial reactor makers in the US. Babcock & Wilcox makes submarine reactors.

Beyond that, I suppose that the US could send some retirees.

Merrill -

Well, with the economy the way it is in the US, I doubt you'd have all that much trouble finding unemployed people willing to work at Fukushima as 'sponges', i.e., unskilled workers whose main function it is to perform menial tasks in high-radiation areas and use up a year's worth of exposure in a few hours of work, thereby saving more important personnel for more critical high-skill activities in those areas.

But when you think about it, is being in the military much different? One is putting one's arse on the line in return for payment, probably a much higher level of payment than one could have otherwise have commanded in the open civilian job market. It's the old risk-reward calculus.

Retirees would make good candidates for sponges, as they are probably going to die before too long anyway. Never let anyone tell you that human life is inherently precious, because life is cheap, particularly if it's someone else's. And it appears to be getting cheaper by the day.

actually the US national laboratories have a huge amount of technical reactor expertize. The Japanese have participated in experiments at the Lab in the past. I can see them getting help from them and still being part of the team.

Elsewhere on the web (Ars Technica forum) they consensus is that there was no "mistake", that the reading was correct and that:

"30 or more half lives later, the level has dropped to a billionth of what it was, from a billion decays a second to basically none. Who'd have thought it. I mean, it's not as if 2^30 was about a billion, is it? Oh, wait...

All this tells us is that whatever process was creating the I-134 has stopped creating it."


What they're saying is that they counted a sample, and 99% of the counts in a very hot sample weren't there. I don't see how you make that mistake.

We've been talking on this thread about high levels of radiation in the turbine building at Reactor #2 for nearly 5 days. How is it that TEPCO took 5 days to try to figure out what the radiation is, and then when they report it get it wrong?

re "I mean, it's not as if 2^30 was about a billion, is it?"

I have to say: 2**30 = (2**10)**3 = 1,000**3 = three commas = a billion :-)

NHK World is now running updates with "the plant may be leaking plutonium". They say TEPCO has sent samples for specialist evaluation but it will be several days before the results are known.

Here is an interesting result of the Earthquake: Ford reports that certain colors are not available for their cars!

The pigments for those paints come from a Japanese supplier.

Rumour has it that there's a nice new glow-in-the-dark paint job in the offing.

It will sell like hot (yellow) cakes :-)

Fiestaware plates had Uranium in the orange glazed pieces.

Old advice from an old book on "Low-Level Counting":
A book on how to do carbon-14 radioactive dating and such...
"Do not use yellow tile in the low-level counting lab."

Or wear grandpas pocketwatch with a radium dial.

Can anybody tell How come all the poor soul's shown in the pictures conecting power lines etc are only wearing Standard disposable Tyvek suits.
At the very least I would have thought the would be made wear full HazMat suits with self contained breathing by the Equivelent of HSE in UK. Would be a pig to work in but no fear of breathing in the S**t which is the most dangerous.
My heart goes out to them all.

You have to post a pic. I saw suits. I didn't stop putting on my MOPP gear in the Desert Storm for two weeks when after all the Scud alert false alarms the two star at division said screw it and left it up to the colonels. We went voluntary with the suit on Scud hits that day. Those suits were freaking hot, even for winter.

Maybe just the outer layer, so as to be disposable? They look like mummies. Inconclusive, IMHO.

I'm not a nuclear engineer, but that looks like pretty good protection to me, given the emergency situation. Enough layers of plastic around you to be resistant to beta radiation, no exposed skin, and a breathing filter to keep particles out of your lungs. It's not bulletproof, but take another look at your second picture, showing the workers climbing cables to make power connections. Do you think you could do that in a full hazmat suit?

In the final grim analysis, these guys are not dressing for survival. They're dressing to be able to get the job done.

scba gear is even hotter. Its takes about 30 sec to fog up. You can get 1000 protection factor in a power air purifying respirator( PAPR) which is most of the time good enough. much cooler to work in.

Here is a more detailed look at the conditions;


than available from JAIF. I was struck by
1)lethal radioactive levels in drywell and suppression chamber (confirming again Mr. Schoff's posting on an earlier thread)
2)reactor 1 is creeping up in temperature and pressure
3)water levels in 2 fell from -1100mm to -1200 mm between the 25th and the 27th, 3 has maintained a very low level, all in spite of water injection on the order of hundred liter/minute.

Steam is observed from reactor 1-4, is it of sufficient volume to account for the volume of water being pumped in ? I have not seen any video lately, perhaps someone who has might care to comment ?


1)lethal radioactive levels in drywell and suppression chamber

What should radiation levels look like in the drywell during normal operation? There's nothing but 12 inches of steel between you and the core: I wouldn't be surprised if it's *supposed* to be lethal in there.

For levels that high, then you'd need primary containment for the primary containment.

Hey sidd, They have claimed in recent days that they are not venting. Evaporation to where - the suppression pools? Not a solution, the water still has to be disposed of.

Mag 6.5 quake off Japan, advisory of possible 50cm tsunami issued

A lot of the helicopter footage of the Tsumani that i've seen says "Live"

Was that Live broadcast available in the USA or on the internet?

NHK-World English language tv service http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/ (streaming video at right of page - make sure you click 512k)

And yes they are showing video of the quake live and very small tsunamis. Nothing serious it seems.

Level 5 shaking at the Fukushima plant. Scary but probably not disastrous - I hope.


I find interesting to read this blog because there appears to very many competent writers here. And I would very much like to get at grip at what is happening as quickly as possibly.

However what I do not understand is the great animosity sometimes displayed, ad hominem argumentation etc. In a site like this I would believe there is a tendency for the majority to be somewhat, shall we say, pessimistic. Therefore it is very valuable to be given also the perspective of those who are more “optimistic”

At any rate I cannot understand that anyone believes that different theories on what is happening inside the reactors right now are going to determine the future of nuclear power. To me there is little doubt that the major influence on the future of nuclear power will be the effect of this accident. That is will there, due to radioactive contamination, be large areas of land that in the future will be inhabitable and/or unable to use for agricultural production. Will contamination affect marine food production/consumption, if so in how large an area. Etc. These are the kind of things that will be the major determinants of the future for nuclear. (Considering also random influences like predominant wind directions etc. )

One might also speculate on the possibility that contamination, in a worst case scenario, will result in significant protective measures from other countries regarding contact with stuff (and people) Japan. Not only foodstuff.

It is not easy to get a grip on the status as to radioactive contamination right now, i.e. where are we in a best case scenario. A best case scenario being no highly significant additional releases of radioactive stuff. It would be very interesting if someone can summarize where we are presently as to radioactive contamination of the surrounding society/biosphere.

By the way on the television I heard about a questionnaire to a sample of Swedish citizens. I wasn’t really listening attentively, but I think it said that 75% had faith in the operators of the Swedish reactors. If I got that wrong maybe someone else could correct me, since I have understood that there are several swedes here.

P.S. I used to be in favor of nuclear power. Now I tend to lean in the other direction. However there will be time to contemplate this.


It is very possible that TheOilDrum gave us an open Fukushima thread
just to get the cat-fight out of their quieter sections
in an effort to restore the "signal to noise" ratio.

Meeooowwww! Sssssssssssssssss!

Didn't the Big Bang get advanced by listening to the noise instead of the signal? I remember conflict is what sells from English writing class.

It is actually a fun story.
They aimed their new microwave horn at the sky
the quiet, empty sky,
to get an idea of the systems noise figure.
Really BAD noise figure... lots of noise... blecchh!
They even climbed into the horn to sweep out the bird droppings.
No better. Same noise.
Then, after some consultation, it dawned on them:
The sky wasn't quiet.
It was filled with the down-shifted rumble of the flash of creation.
But this 12 year-old pip-squeak wants to rock the boat:

Man, +10 LOL! I am having breakfast too. Nice.

Elm (post one above), I too would not complain too much of the technical antagonism here (think shills, amateurs, some engineer who has been inside a reactor 40 years ago) what mix do you expect? It is war. Sorry, but it cant change a lot. One Fukushima thread back we managed to keep technical, but it was a lot of work. And perhaps not better than this.

Morevover, as NOBODY knows what is going on, to talk about the effects is even harder. Making some scenarios now is... is... well, 1) the plants can be in a quite a different situation i 3 hours from now and 2) the weather might change. 3) marine, we just dont have a clue as to flows and concentrations and dilution outside the coast at the moment. But I do not want to be a fish there, shall we say.

I am still pissed off that now (since 2 days) also the information from NISA and JAIF seems more carefully screened. So less information to us, means even more pointless comments and analyzing. And everything goes bananas, and The Powers can say what they want again, noone can make a counter-argument. Sad.

In regards to nuclear reactors I would not even fit into an amateur status category.

But I am willing to listen,learn and weigh the relative merits of expert and lay opinion alike.

At the same time I quite appreciate what Albert Einstein once said: the larger the circle of our knowledge, the greater the circumference of our ignorance.

"Am I not a man? And is not a man stupid? I’m a man. So I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe."
-Zorba the Greek

On the economic angle of this disaster, one interesting article was William Pesek's "Japan's Cataclysm Can Also Be An Opportunity" (Bloomberg) . Major earthquakes seem to be harbingers of major economic change(at least some believe so) in Japan, it seems mystical to say so, but Pesek showed how major earthquakes here in 1855, 1923 and 1995 presaged (respectively) (1) Edo opening up, (2) Japan's change to a military power (3) the end of the postwar boom.

Well, no mystery about how this huge quake will affect everything, since this quake is happening at the same time as the declining affordability of oil! Decentralization, deemphasis of Tokyo as the end-all and be-all; basically Japan is a poster child for Tainter's book The Collapse of Complex Societies: the costs of complexity begin to outweigh the benefits of it.

Until a few weeks ago I worked in a huge complex near Tokyo with lots of humming soulless machines. The point of the whole enterprise (like most enterprises!) was to bring benefits to people, but with all the power that they were using, they were helping to force TEPCO to use old nuclear power plants built in unsafe places. So by using all that electricity (it was very wasteful, extravagant, mostly pointless), the organization that I was working for was actually causing more damage than it was supposed to be preventing (in human health risks, expense) to the overall system. This damage was latent but the quake made it obvious. The damage caused by over industrialization is only starting to be understood.

Because of radiation fears, I decided to quickly leave and go to the countryside way away from Tokyo and find a more downscale, simple job in some sort of smaller organization. (My job search has just begun!) Suddenly smaller looks stronger and more resiliant.

Mother Nature is an exacting overseer who does not tolerate waste and stupidity. Greed, blind obedience to authority, mindless worship of technology, fetishization of machines......I think Nature will call us out on all sorts of weaknesses we developed over the course of the oil age.

I remember physicist Richard Feynman's quote from is dissenting opinion on the investigation of the shuttle Challenger explosion:
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

WOW, is that ever true.
Building something that works is a demonstration of true understanding.
Other mistakes:
Aspirations: A client's help was useless because his thinking was all in terms of what "should be" in his simple, perfect world.
Ego: Client could not be trusted to help with production test because if it wasn't perfect, it reflected poorly on him... so errors would be ignored.
Delusion: Had a client with a spin-state experiment. He would ignore oxidation because it conflicted with his belief system.

pi, I think you are illustrating the biggest advantage that those who understand what is happening ahead of time will have - lack of panic and rapid assimilation and acceptance of reality and new circumstances. Some will waste much time waiting for things to return to normal and moving through the many stages of denial, anger, etc. Good luck.

Any good links for Plutonium toxicity? Googleing you get all sorts of things ranging from "1gr will kill 1M people" to "you can drink it with orange juice and you'll be fine"...sorry for slightly hijacking this thread but you guys are good.

There is an amusing story about Barnard Cohen, Ralph Nader and plutonium.


1gr a meter away from you will not kill you.

One atom in your lungs will kill you.

The probability that the atom of Pu239 will emit an alpha particle is 50% in 24,100 years. For Pu240, the half-life is 6,500 years. So there is an excellent chance that a single Pu atom will do absolutely nothing in a human lifetime.

Even if it emits an alpha particle, this particle will create and ionized path in a relatively few cells. There is a small probability that the ionization will affect the DNA. If it does, then either the cell will repair the DNA, die spontaneously, survive with a benign mutation, or become cancerous. If it becomes cancerous, the cell may either be recognized and killed by your immune system or it will go on to multiply and form a tumor.

So the chance that a single atom of Pu will kill you is very slim indeed.

If ionizing radiation always caused cancer, they wouldn't give cancer patients radiation therapy.

One atom in your lungs will kill you.

It is totally incorrect to say 'will', in fact the chances of it having any sort of effect whatsoever are really very small. I am sure WHT can have a good run at putting a number the probability but it can only cause harm if a a whole series of low probability events all happen to occur in the worst possible way. It is a myth that really needs to be dropped. To start off with the half life is 2.41 × 10^4 years, which is somewhat longer than a typical human lifespan, but half life has little meaning for a single atom.


To give you a sense of how regulated and controlled plutonium is, only two research universities in the US can work on Pu. They are Auburn and Berkeley. Inhaled Plutonium dust will kill you in the 100s of nanogram.

There is no MSDS on Pu since no one is allowed to purchase it. You only get Pu from the government.

Anyone saying it is safe is extremely biased. Offer them a snort of Pu dust and see what they say.

Can you compare or contrast it with Polonium, which killed Alexander Litvinenko, as to toxicity or mechanism?

Plutonium 239 emits alpha particles with a similar energy to Polonium 210, but its radioactivity per gram is 72,000 times lower. Even if it were retained in the body for far longer than polonium, it would be orders of magnitude less lethal.

Radiologically. Chemically it is still a reactive heavy metal.

"Plutonium's radioactivity per gram is lower."
If radioactivity is the inverse of half-life, then the different isotopes of plutonium have different radioactivity.
Is Pu-239 is the most common isotope since it (looks like) U-235 + 4(alpha particle), and having a 24000 year half-life, as opposed to Polonium-210 at 138 days.

Anyone saying it is safe is extremely biased. Offer them a snort of Pu dust and see what they say.

Nobody's saying it's safe as houses, but Robert Wilson's link above describes a definitely biased but well-informed scientist who offered to do just as you're asking.

I bet he would not snort an LD50 of Pu. Just a friendly guess.
His point, bottom line, was that we make a lot more Chlorine gas so we should worry about Cl2 more than Pu. LOL.
I think he is just shrill, but I am not a Pu expert. So let an expert step forward to shred that stuff.

The only data of value is feeding and/or delivering into the lungs a bunch of rats to see how well they do.

Posturing with words is nonsense.

Of course he wouldn't snort a true LD50 of Pu. But he argued -- and was willing to bet his life -- that an LD50 is a whole lot bigger than the public thinks (he claims it's about 1 gram ingested, 0.2 milligrams inhaled.)

His point, bottom line, was that we make a lot more Chlorine gas so we should worry about Cl2 more than Pu. LOL.

In addition to skipping most of the meat of his argument, you're misreading the final table. Try again.

The only data of value is feeding and/or delivering into the lungs a bunch of rats to see how well they do.

Rats? How about humans? The Human Plutonium Injection Experiments. This paper claims the LD50 in dogs and rats has been measured at about 200-600 micrograms per kg (15-45 mg extrapolated to a human), and that doses as high as 95 micrograms have been injected into humans without apparent short-term harm. (The people in question were terminally ill, which made the experiment ethical by the terrifying standards of the 1940s.) From the article:

By the end of 1945, studies with rodents and dogs had shown that the acute radiation effects of plutonium were less “toxic” than highly toxic chemicals (such as curare, strychnine, and botulinus toxin) but far exceeded any known chemical hazard of heavy metals.

None of these studies deal with long-term effects, which are impossible to carry out with short-lived animals and would have been unethical to carry out on humans even by 1945 standards, but several of the supposedly terminally ill patients injected with 5 micrograms of Pu went on to live another 20 years before dying of heart disease.

Plutonium is bad juju, but it's not true that "one atom" or even "100's of nanograms" is certain death.

Be careful talking about animal experiments. How were they done? Were they given a single metal pellet to eat or dissolved powder? Did they eat it or inhale it? Lots to think about in these experiments.

There is much talk about Pu being safe, and their is much talk about it being unsafe.

Why would it be arbitrarily called unsafe? You think it is pure politics?

Why does the government control Pu then if it is safe to play with?

I am skeptical. I cannot personally think of anything called unsafe that actually is perfectly harmless.

Thus I tend to believe the studies showing how dangerous Pu is.

The folks saying they would eat it are just the same sorts of fools that want to swim in a spent fuel pool.

Let them do it to prove their case? Here is a 250 ng dose. Inhale it, and then talk to me about safety ;-)

Wait a second. I am an expert on biological toxins. Bot toxin is one of the most toxic substances known to man.

Pu at 250 ng is nowhere close to Bot or anthrax spores for that matter. I have said that here already, but 250 ng is pretty darn toxic. More so than mercury or other nasty chemical agents.

I also never said "one atom" of Pu is toxic. Please dont throw that at me either. It is kind of a poor way to argue. It reminds me of the way political debates take place.

Prove to me that 250 ng is safe in terms of both cancer risks and mutation rates. Then we can talk further.

Where did the 250 ng number come from then? LOL. A "bad" study.

The argument Pu is safe comes from some people that inhaled an unspecified amount of Pu or people that were secretly given Pu against their own knowledge. I love how the nuclear industry carries out science. Against our will. Great work folks.

But still the burden rest with you guys to show me the animal studies that reveal the rats and all of their progeny are good to go after taking in their dose of Pu.

I also never said "one atom" of Pu is toxic. Please dont throw that at me either.

You didn't, but this poster did. I'm addressing more than one person here.

Speaking of misrepresenting arguments, I never said that plutonium was "safe", in 100 ng or any other amount. It's one of the most toxic substances known to man. But you said

Inhaled Plutonium dust will kill you in the 100s of nanogram.

The paper I linked to includes examples of:
* A person with a total body burden of 300 nanograms of inhaled Pu exposure, who lived a fine life for 13 years with no ill effects until the day a tub of plutonium solution went prompt-critical in his face.
* Four people *injected* with 5000 nanograms of Pu who lived for decades before dying of things other than cancer. (The paper also presents evidence that more Pu stays with you if it's injected than inhaled (compare Table 1 to page 188)).
* Two people dosed with 10,000 nanograms who had no short-term effects, but who died of other causes before they had a chance to contract cancer.

If you were right, these people would all be dead. (Okay, they are all dead, but not by Pu.)

I don't know what more you want: that paper contains the results of all the studies you've asked for, plus human experiments which you'd never dare propose, all of which state that the lethal dose is definitely higher than a few micrograms.

You've been consistently arguing based on what you *think* I'm saying rather than what I'm saying. You've done the same for every reference I've cited. So let me put it in bold:
Plutonium is incredibly toxic, but one atom will not kill you, and it is not 'the most toxic substance known to man' as is frequently claimed. Injected lethal dose is probably higher than 5 micrograms, inhaled may be somewhat higher.

The evidence is anecdotal in flavor. A few people here and there but no controlled studies. Would not pass any FDA test for a pharmaceutical's safety, which means we have no idea. In any case, the genetic data is also lacking as well. The data on children is missing as well. Lots of risks there. No doubt. So lets put an order of magnitude error bar on it and call it day, i.e., somewhere around 1 ug.

Thank you everyone for the intelligent conversation! I would appreciate advice on how to best research the health risks with transpacific flights in the near future: tracking radiation plumes (what happened to that computer model that was posted at the beginning of this mess?), adequate protection while flying (simple dust mask?), figuring out where pilots (and their unions) get their info about this, etc. Thanks!

Dust mask won't stop cosmic rays :)


Regarding health risks of transportation: If you are a typical North American, and you travel in automobiles, there is a 30% chance that some time in your life you will be involved in a car crash nasty enough to send you to hospital, and a 1% chance you will die in a car crash. If you still get into cars knowing this I wonder why air travel worries you? ;->

A sensitive Geiger-counter makes a great altimeter.
As you climb out of the atmosphere, the radiation goes up.

I just thought of something.

Personal anecdote: I grew up in Hawaii, and my island has been hit by serious hurricanes on a couple of occasions. One of these knocked out the island's main power plant. There was some difficulty restarting the plant, because it needed a hefty amount of electricity to energize the generator's coils. The U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor sailed a nuclear submarine out to the power plant's harbor, and offered to run a cable and jump-start the island. But in the end, they went with a simpler solution, flying in some gasoline generators from California.

But this brings up an interesting point. I'm sure the US has a couple of nuclear submarines hanging around Japan: couldn't they have been used to provide emergency power to Fukushima? At this point I guess landline power has been restored and the idea is moot, but I'm surprised nobody thought of this two weeks ago.

Think about that juxtaposition, though.

If you want the average Joe watching at home to remake the connection between the two applications of things nuclear, well, there you go.

Problem is that the plant is in the part of Japan that uses 50 cycle current. Getting compatible power to it was a bear, as the surrounding area was trashed by the tsunami and the US military only have 60 cycle.
Nice idea though. Perhaps we could get PR points by hooking up some of the nuclear fleet to the Tokyo tap to help cut down on the blackouts.

In my military we had it all. Subs ran some weird AC cycle, maybe stealth or cabling requirements. What the US military in Japan runs thousands of different and lossy adapters? From what I understand most large generators can do both.

The grid generators are unfortunately not so flexible,so there are three somewhat limited interchanges to help balance the load in Japan. More will be needed, as the southern area apparently has surplus power while the northern prefectures are suffering. In general, adjusting to a different frequency is harder than adjusting to a different voltage, because the stuff is hard wired.
Did not know subs had unique A/C cycle, they do have their own super quiet electric motors, so perhaps should have guessed.
Have not served in the US military, so no clue as to what power they use, but would be surprised if the norm was not 60 cycle.

"Have not served in the US military, so no clue as to what power they use, but would be surprised if the norm was not 60 cycle."

I have; DC, 60 Hz, 400 Hz.

Ok in theatre or on US hardware perhaps. I seem to recall HQ in Seoul was 50 cycles but it was so long ago. I am sure off base housing was 50 Hz. Also what about what we can generate for others? I am almost sure the plants were somewhat flexible. Since when do privates get AC power? I was a butter bar and got sterno and a flashlight.

Edit: Found a sample. Does both 50/60 out of the box. http://www.combatindex.com/store/tech_man/Sample/Generators/LO_9-6115-64...

I'd have to guess that in the Army, they keep all their power supply info tucked away in their Hz Locker.

running away with my blast suit up...

It depends on the application. I seem to recall we just adjusted engine rpm. Turns of a dynamo type thing. You had a sync gauge to match the cycles and ease in or you could blow up the works.

Easier just to fly some in from the UK.


I think nuke subs use something like 800 cycle. I'll bet they are more like 50 mega watts. not 1000 mega watts.

"couldn't (navy ships in general) have been used to provide emergency power to Fukushima?"

Tsunami debris would plug a condenser really well. After watching the waves come in, the beaches and near-shore environment is going to be a mess for awhile.

any ship nuclear or otherwise could have provided the power they needed if they had the wires to the pumps which they don't.

... and were agreeable to being tethered to the shore in close to a volatile Hot Zone, with a high potential for aftershocks..

The junk in the water close to shore was enough to keep them from pulling in that close.

Clogged cooling water intakes are no joke even for a gas turbine vessel.

... and were agreeable to being tethered to the shore in close to a volatile Hot Zone,

See that's the beauty of my nuclear submarine plan. A nuclear attack sub can be sealed off from the environment, and is radiation-resistant from the get-go.

A question: When I heard that TEPCO was "injecting seawater" several days ago, I took that to mean "turning the primary coolant loop into a one-pass system" like the plutonium plants at the Hanford Site (except the N-Reactor).

Has TEPCO explicitly stated that it is operating the plant that way? Or is TEPCO just "topping up" the cooling system while the extra water either escapes as steam and/or leaks into the drywell/wetwell/turbine hall/ocean (meaning I was completely wrong)?

The only system operating now is the emergency fire suppression system - sprinklers. They do not have circulation back out - other than via breeched containment.

They are using an awful lot of cooling water according to this source:
Quote: On 23 March it became possible to inject water into the reactor (1) using the feed water system rather than the fire extinguisher line, raising the flow rate from 2 to 18 m3/h. Source: WIKI Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_nuclear_accidents (identified TEPCO as original source).
In the broadest sense the water does appear to be leaving by containment breach, athough the water inside the reactor should be under pressure and the pressure could presumably be used to direct flow. In any case PeakVT, where would they store the water. I still find it hard to believe that TEPCO is not directing the cooling flow into the sea.

NISA has it at 120 l/min = 2kg/s rather than 18m3/hr = 5 kg/s

The heat production should be down to about 5MW now.

2 kg/s for 5 MW is 2.5MJ/kg which is pretty close to what it takes to vaporise water.

Its not an awful lot of cooling water, its barely enough to manage with the heat being removed via leaking steam.

According to the MIT provided data elsewhere in this thread the decay heat at 2 and 3 is still about 10MW. It will drop to 5MW about 1 year after the accident.

Those figures were for 1. 2 and 3 have higher reported injection rates. However they also look like water in, steam out, is how the heat is being removed. More water, more heat, same ratio.

The approximately 10MW is for 2 and 3. 1 is projected to be at about 5.5MW right now as it is a lower power reactor. Actually on re-reading I think that may be what you are saying as well. A reminder though that they are not venting. Everything coming out is coming out via uncontrolled paths.

TEPCO just announced that it has reduced flow rates because of the large quantity of highly radioactive water now spewing outside the buildings.


Key word here. I've got a meteorology background, so I know Meteo-France's model is a good one, but if you don't know what the source emissions are, you have no way of knowing whether those scary yellow swirls are actually dangerous. Also, note that the color range covers 8 orders of magnitude.

Final thought for the evening. New evil nuclear industry plan, using hydro as a source for additional backup power and best use of power distribution networks. Could you also use reservoir hydraulic pressure as a cold water source, passive, closed loop backup cooling system? Is there enough water pressure say at the bottom of Hoover Dam's feed towers and enough cold water in Lake Mead to make a difference? I know, terrible idea. I am trying to guess the pro lobbies next idea. I am now con but could flop again. It is such a tug of war.

Hydro runs pretty much 24/7, so classic base load, rather than intermittent for backup. Very similar to nuclear in that regards, although it can be switched on much more easily. Is that what you are thinking of?
Need help to understand what you mean by the second question. The water at the base of Lake Mead is about 600 ft deep if memory serves, so about 20 atmospheres, about 300psi. That would be plenty for a BWR,
but only if sited at the base of the dam. Also, if the system is closed loop, it would not maintain flow, as there needs to be a pressure differential.

So you could not flow water through the system using just water as the heat transfer fluid in the reactor? Then comes all the sodium this and thorium that. Ok, ok I am moving along.

Hydro runs pretty much 24/7, so classic base load, rather than intermittent for backup.

I'm not sure what part of the world you are in where most hydro runs 24/7, but most of it in western Canada, and all of US, and any other countries with lots of coal/nuke baseload, it is generally used for peak load. Places like Manitoba and Quebec in Canada, do use it for baseload, as they have all hydro and don;t need anything else.

Very similar to nuclear in that regards, although it can be switched on much more easily.
Actually, the fact that it can be switched on and off very easily and quickly, without just wasting steam/fuel, is *precisely* what make is it very different to nuclear, and far more flexible. That is why hydro (and NG turbines) are a good match for wind - power up and down in minutes.

Using cold water from the base of a dam for cooling is not a bad idea, that warmed water can then be run through the turbines (where the higher temperature/lower viscosity will improve efficiency!) and released downstream, where it can mimic the natural flow water temperature. A common problem with releases from dams is the cold water, as the rivers in their normal state generally run warmer, at least in the summer. This has been shown to interfere with breeding patterns for many fish and aquatic invertebrates, which have certain temperature triggers for spawning.

A closed loop system could maintain flow without a pump, as the return water is warmer (=less dense) and so, if the heat exchanger is substantially lower than the dam surface, you will create a thermosiphon. Good illustration here (http://thermacoil.com/plumbing.htm) Solar hot water systems with the cylindrical tank at the top of the collectors work on this principle. i would still have three unit/150% backup capability though, as this incident shows anything can happen!

You would need to do one *very* good sell job to convince people there is no chance, ever, of contaminated and/or radiated water getting into the dam/river.

Paul, as a practical matter, can you run hydro/solar together? i.e. collect/use solar during the day/run the turbines at night?

Seems like you could also make a pretty nice set of solar-powered fish elevators over there in BC--the salmon may need some extra help to survive all this if the ocean is compromised....:^(

as a practical matter, can you run hydro/solar together? i.e. collect/use solar during the day/run the turbines at night?

Of course; this happens already. Solar power is water kept in lakes,
so any cyclic power used with Hydro, buys you smaller lakes (or, even better dry weather tolerance, your choice).

In extreme cases you can combine with pumped hydro - that allows even lower water use, but does have an additional cost of power loss.

But you do not always have to have pumped hydro either, the key thing is the water flow (=steady state available energy) relative to the load - if your load is greater, then you need storage, to run bigger turbines, or a supplemental source.

For Erica;s example, consider a self contained grid (could be an off grid ranch, mine, etc) that has a water-limited hydro supply - steady flow can only provide XkW and 24XkWh/day. If the load is sometimes greater than X, and the daily usages is sometimes greater than 24 X, then you could add a solar (or wind, or any other) supplemental system. When the supplemental is supplying power, you reduce/stop your hydro accordingly, and store the water, and run at a higher rate when the supplemental is not working.

This does, of course, complicate the whole system, as now you need a supplemental system, water storage, a hydro turbine(s) that can handle variable flowrates, and a system governor to match the generation sources to the loads. For an off grid house, that sounds like a lot of work, and it may be easier to just stay within the limits of the hydro system. For an off grid mine/town etc, that may not be an option!

To go to pumped storage, is another level of complexity greater. here you actually have a negative energy return (as you have energy losses pumping back uphill), but you can get more power when you need it. better is to spread your loads out, but this is not always possible, and if you are a utility, not really within your control.

It is a good example of increasing complexity for diminishing (energy) returns, but if the economic value of the peak energy demand is there, then the complexity is justified. All the off grid hydro systems I have seen (about a dozen different ones) , and the one I have built, keep their total energy use within the daily capacity of the turbine/generator. They use a governor to shed lower priority loads, like water heating, when others are turned on.

Much easier to stay within the limits, than to add capacity to increase them.

the hydro dam failed in Japan.

NBC nightly news just aired a brief report on potential economic impacts. The only thing they really put any numbers to was a projected 40% - 50% drop in tourism to Hawaii in the next few months.


In Gulf Shores Alabama, we are 20% off average post Macondo. The nice places are full, the middle is suffering.

An odd connection...

Reuters reports:

The risk of radiation contamination from Japan's damaged nuclear power stations has sparked food bans across the globe and more surprisingly, a buying frenzy from South Korean mothers who fear their favorite Japanese-made diapers may suddenly become unavailable.

Cho Myung-jin, who organizes online group-buying for Japanese diapers, saw her website collapse on Tuesday under the weight of traffic as panicked South Koreans chased brands they believe are better quality than locally-made products.


To pump concrete into these reactors is going to be logistic nightmare. Where are Japanese going to find the gravel trucks necessary to move the volume of sand, gravel, and concrete? The trucks will need to run day and night to get the volume necessary to fill the reactors. They are going to need lots of fresh water. Salt water won’t do. After the tsunami, the roads are probably in terrible shape and will not handle the weight of gravel trucks running day and night.
What about ships. I don’t see a dock. The channel is probably not deep enough for a ship. Dredges need to come and dredge. Docks need to be built. Even if there was a dock where is the crane to offload the sand, gravel, and concrete? Where are the pumpers to pump the concrete into the reactor? Where do they find the rebar and who sets the forms? Where do they house all the men? They cannot stay at the site. The Japanese are going to have to think like a Pharaoh.
This is an area devastated by a tsunami. I think the logistics is almost impossible unless the Japanese can get the infrastructure repaired enough to take on such a mammoth project. There are 4 and maybe 5 reactors that need to be entombed.

Totally agree with you.
The site is about 600x2000ft. Entombment would be sort of like putting the Hoover dam on a shoreline. It seems a non starter, especially as it would be useless if there are still volatile radio nucleotides pouring out of the plant.

Didn't the Hoover Dam project require refrigeration and pouring in stages to prevent the heat from the exothermic reaction of the concrete setting destroying the structure? It also would have taken at least a millenium to cool just from that amount of heat, no?

My latest whizbang civil engineering solution

The plant is already sited on an artificial plain, created by digging out a section of a hill. So the back wall is already done for you, if you are content with moving "the back wall" back a little bit.

One of my bridges had to have ice dumped into the cement to help keep the curing heat down after it was poured. It was a single pour of 54 cy to create a monolithic cap for a 250' high column, done in the middle of summer. After the cap was finished, the workers ran cold water over it continuously for the first 12 hours to help keep it cool enough that the heat wouldn't damage the concrete.

Not a particularly big mass 54 yards--but then it is up there pretty high. Did that method keep all the cracking at bay?

I remember a foreman not getting too many laughs at a meeting (during the building of new coal fired power plant with some pretty hefty pours) when he said "Two things I know about concrete, when it gets hard it turns gray and it cracks"

In Macondo people suggested that the well was nuked because of bad concrete.

In Japan people suggest that the reactors are concreted because of bad nukes.



Post of the day!

Yes, with that comment I can go to bed now.

As I've been reading reading all night, eyes all bleary and am actually a bit surprised that nobody has yet suggested dropping a nuke on Fukushima, although there was a suggestion of dropping lead pellets, both into Macando and Fukushima.

We gotta figure out a way to get Craw involved in the action.

Nuclear Power, Centralisation and The State

The state has moved into many new areas as they become significant, such as environmental protection, legislating against racial and sexual discrimination, and promoting nuclear power. This expanding role of the state helps prevent the rise of any significant competing forms of social organisation...

The obvious point is that most social activists look constantly to the state for solutions to social problems. This point bears labouring, because the orientation of most social action groups tends to reinforce state power. This applies to most antiwar action too. Many of the goals and methods of peace movements have been oriented around action by the state, such as appealing to state elites and advocating neutralism and unilateralism. Indeed, peace movements spend a lot of effort debating which demand to make on the state: nuclear freeze, unilateral or multilateral disarmament, nuclear-free zones, or removal of military bases. By appealing to the state, activists indirectly strengthen the roots of many social problems, the problem of war in particular...

Many people's thinking is permeated by state perspectives. One manifestation of this is the unstated identification of states or governments with the people in a country which is embodied in the words 'we' or 'us.' 'We must negotiate sound disarmament treaties.' 'We must renounce first use of nuclear weapons.' Those who make such statements implicitly identify with the state or government in question. It is important to avoid this identification, and to carefully distinguish states from people...

* The state both promotes and is reinforced by forms of high technology which require state control, such as nuclear power, space programmes, supersonic transport aircraft and, not least, military technology such as nuclear weapons. Challenging these forms of high technology also directly challenges the expansion or maintenance of centralised political and economic power which is closely linked with the state. The movement against nuclear power has repeatedly been met with state opposition and repression precisely for this reason. State support for technology which is capital-intensive, dependent on experts, and which requires state ownership or control can be seen as one way in which the state creates conditions of existence favourable to itself. Challenges to nuclear power, supersonic transports and other similar technologies thereby become potent avenues for confronting state power.

Thank you for this link, you may have just extended my awareness of the range of possibilities and the implications of my actions.

Thank you. I'm learning as I go along and research/write this. I also seem to have found a tie-in with the MENA thing.

Can anyone post a link that demonstrates that the grid was out at the plant property line? Such as: towers pushed over or HV lines down? There are 6 circuits connecting the grid and the plant, and I haven't seen anything that says that all 6 were de-energized, or if they were, why or when. I ask since since loss of power to the cooling pumps seems to be a critical factor. And there are a number of posts here on how power could have been ensured: submarines, ....
Here are two circuits, to 5 & 6

Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant is the power source that sends power away from the site along the high voltages power lines. The reactors automatically shut down during the main earthquake. I doubt those high voltage power lines send electricity to Fukushima 1 NPP.

Electric power doesn't flow just one way. If Fukushima can power the country, the country can power Fukushima. The problem is, the lines were destroyed.

Any citation for this? Three towers would need to have fallen, each having two circuits with three lines each. Or in some other way, 18 High voltage lines need to be compromised. They have grid power on at the plant now, but ... from where? What are the details? Since power failure was a critical component of the disaster, I think it makes sense to ask, why did the grid power fail? Or did the grid power fail?

Grid connection was lost with the quake. I think it is likely that TEPCO could still have energised a circuit to the plant at that time. The tsunami however took out critical switching gear at the plant so that even if grid power had been restored at that point they could have done nothing with it.

Down the road at Fukushima Daini they also lost grid power but the tsunami did not take out the local distribution at the plant but did take out most of the diesel generators. TEPCO re-energised the circuit to the Daini plant just in time for them to avoid emergency venting of the reactors there.

That's the best I understand what has been said so far anyway. More details I'm sure will come later.

You don't rule out that there was a live grid at the plant property line.
You say the grid "connection" was lost; that is the connection "to" the grid. And you say that the switch gear was taken out. Probably so, but no citation. But then you say "even if grid power had been restored", but that is a little vague - by doing what? What was the state of the grid at the property line.

Your statement "I think it is likely that TEPCO could still have energised a circuit to the plant at that time" is what I think too. If a circuit breaker flipped to protect the transmission line, they could have reset it pretty easily.

Yea, I hope there will be more info on this. Meantime I will look at Fukushima 2. BTW, the tsunami level was over 10 metres at Daiichi and over 12 metres at Dainii(F2). cite

Yes my thinking was that it was still physically possible to supply power to the site up until the tsunami.I don't think the grid was hot at the plant boundary though but it could maybe have been brought up by TEPCO at the expense of cutting off other customers. It was reported that the tsunami took out key parts of the onsite distribution network which is why they had to run in fresh cables. It is possible that they could have restored power up to the explosions though but are not telling us that.

What do you make of this image back from reactors 1 and 2)?

Re: site
Nice photo! (Where! did you get it?) The Google Maps shows that the building is on a hill. http://goo.gl/maps/OUev The north slope is in shadow but does not cast a shadow. Gives you a pretty precise confirmation of the angle of the north slope: a little steeper than it looks - more than 45 degrees. The site is on a slope but built up and graded to level.
Re: grid connection
From your photo, the final tower is in good shape, and it looks like the wires are connected to what must be a switch yard building. (Do the wires go underground at this point? They would be low/er voltage)
Re: flood damage
The cars in the parking lot are lined up correctly. How much water does it take to float a car? Four feet? There is trash in the parking lot, probably carried there by waves, but the building was the extent of the water's reach. The building wall facing the ocean is seriously damaged. Hard to figure. Maybe the walls are earthquake damage, but if so why only on the tsunami side? The collapsed wall on the southwest corner looks like fencing around equipment: ie, not substantial.
Possibly waves splashed over against the steep (is it?) western embankment?
Note the venting stack in the foreground has only 1 pipe. Compare to the vent stack for the common spent fuel pool, which has 4 pipes.

Nice photo! (Where! did you get it?)

Image cropped from http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalglobe-imagery

Also great photo! And good crop! Looks like the trash in the parking lot is from the unit 1 explosion, which could have caused the building damage as well. I don't see much flood debris in the larger photo at lower levels. In the explosion of Unit 3, note that the (emergency?) stack in your photo is not there, is obscured. You can't see it in the oft-used capture-from-video still, because it is obscured by dust. The point? The explosions went sideways as well. (Maybe that was a given?)

But that makes me think that the switch yard building made it through the tsunami unscathed. I don't see anything that looks like evidence that water got to that building, and therefore even less evidence that the water got to the transformers inside that building. But maybe the site was clean, so there would not be any trash to be spread by water? And so looking at trash is misleading and irrelevant. But still the cars. hmmm

The image shows the 'Extra High Voltage Switching Yard' (275KV Transmisson line) for the electric output from reactor 1 and 2. The damage to the building which can be seen on this image, and the mess in front of it, must have been caused by the explosion at unit 1. On satellite photos taken after the tsunami, but before unit 1 blew up, this building and the parking lot in front of it looks quite tidy.

Story from March 19 in The New York Times:

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, with help from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, police officers and firefighters, continued efforts to cool the damaged reactors on Saturday to try to stave off a full-scale fuel meltdown and contain the fallout. The latest plan involved running a mile-long electrical transmission line to Reactor No. 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to try to restore power to its cooling system.


This was big news back at that time, they had 500 workers running the power line a mile to get power back to the reactors.

I'm stumped. A mile reaches as far as 391, not even to route 6.
If they string a line, it will be on poles. Are they using transmission towers, or telephone poles, or ... what. And what is at the other end that they are connecting to? Are they connecting to a generator (huh?), or to the grid in some fashion - ie was the distribution system down(huh?)? Here is a link to a map of the transmission towers, if the security works. http://goo.gl/maps/Inpr

Some of the photos showed them pulling cables over the towers and connecting them down.


If you could find a link, that would be great.

I don't remember where I found them, but here are cached copies:

Wow. Good. I haven't seen anything like these. Are the pictures numbered by the camera? The numbers are in sequence. The two that have people on the ground look like they were taken on the plant property, not out in civilization. The last one, ....
The insulators are long, so this is the right territory: high-voltage lines.

Nope. All three are on plant property, I think:
jpg:1257761- between units 3&4 is a derick tower (emergency venting?) which is what the workers are on.
It has a starburst pattern of facial supports, and the 4 legs made of poles is unusual.
jpg:1257759- is at the base of a high berm. Most of the plant, including units 3&4, sit on a man-made plain with a terraced face into the hill behind. Also in the low plain is the switch yard for units 3&4, unlike the switch yard for units 1&2, which is up the hill, higher and father away. I think that the 3&4 switch yard building may have gotten blasted whereas the 1&2 switch yard building got off easier.
jpg:1257760- a cement wall. lots of those in that area.

So the work pictured is to bring HV into units 3&4, not the repair of a transmission line.
Hmmm. Still not clear to me.

I would (in retrospect?) think that the plant would have 1 (or 2?) distribution power lines in the plant that would be run any essential equipment, and could be energized by any of the the backup generators, or any of the 6 grid interconnects, or any of the turbines, and that keeping any of these wires safe and conducting electrons, is something that could be done - pretty easily.

Are you saying that the Daini plant generated its own power after losing offsite power sources? I've seen some questions asked whether that was possible or not, and never seen anyone actually say yes or no about it.

I think I heard they got offsite power to the damaged plant by running a line from the Daini plant, btw.

They had one functional generator as I understand which meant they never lost emergency cooling at one of the reactors. The other 3 lost all cooling. TEPCO was able to restore grid power and and thus activate the primary AC cooling systems just in time as plant staff were preparing to vent when AC supply resumed. Someone at TEPCO may have finally realised the seriousness of the situation and gave priority to sending power to Daini.

Remember when multiple reactors and conventional power stations went offline, TEPCO had no choice but to immediately reduce demand by shutting down parts of the distribution network - indeed this probably happened automatically. Manually restoring power to non-generating parts of the grid could be done if the lines were physically intact but only if someone high up in TEPCO took the decision to black-out other parts of Japan to do so.

I don't think they had to rewire all the way back from Daini.

re: Someone at TEPCO may have finally realised the seriousness of the situation and gave priority to sending power to Daini.

Lots of load was shed with the earthquake and tsunami, as was generation. The electrical system was probably a mess pretty quickly. Possibly parts of the network around the plants disconnected in reaction, as happened in the USA in any of the great blackouts. In that case, selectively turning on parts of the network may have been in order, but other than that scenario, the grid should be "up". Power plants are large industrial sites, and do require substantial amounts of electricity, but I wouldn't think that running cooling pumps would require coordination with the grid operators under normal circumstance. They should be able to handle that demand as part of the regular variability. And wasn't the earthquake at 1pm? That is not a peak time.

I saw an interview on NHK a few days ago with an employee of NISA (nuclear safety agency) who happened to be inspecting work at the plant when the quake hit. He says he immediately left the plant (before the tsunami) to go to his office a few miles away. He says all power was off in the area (including his office) and the phones didn't work.

Grid control would assume diesel generating capacity was available at a blacked-out station I would imagine (because the alternative would be literally almost unthinkable).

Re: He says all power was off in the area
Hmmm, that's a good little fact, but actually it only for sure would implicate the local distribution network, which could be tree branches falling on lines and other relatively commonplace and common causes; ie not necessarily an outage of the grid. Of course the grid could also have been taken out as a safety measure, automatically (or even manually). This would be fine and would not require stringing new lines.

Re: "Grid control would assume..." and so on
I do not understand this sentence. I don't know what you intend by the phrase "grid control". I understand "diesel generating capacity", and figure you mean backup power availability, and that power is needed even when the plant is not generating electricity to run, say, the coke machines, and yes the cooling pumps.

What i meant was that the workers on duty in the Japanese national grid control centre(s) would not assume a blackout of a nuclear power plant was an extremely dangerous immediately critical event as they fully expected them to be running on generators. How long did it take the message to get through and sink in with senior TEPCO employees that restoring external AC power to the plants was an absolutely critical priority? And remember that there would have been a number of other high priority requests. They have a nuclear reprocessing site at Rokkasho which lost its grid connection and was said to be running on generators not to mention other nuclear power plants with problems.


After the Tōhoku earthquake in March 2011, the plant ran on emergency power provided by backup diesel generators.[10] These emergency engines are not capable for long-term use.[11] Reportedly there are about 3,000 tons of highly radioactive used nuclear fuel stored in Rokkasho at current, that could overheat and catch fire if the cooling systems fail.

Japanese radio reported on March 13 that 600 liters of water leaked at the Rokkasho spent fuel pool.[12]

According to The New York Times, grid power was restored on March 14, 2011.[13]

Re: And remember that there would have been a number of other high priority requests.

Yea, but that should all be worked out well in advance. Hospitals, airports, nuclear plants, these should all be well known and in some checklist someplace. That seems pretty routine, not needing much in the way of thinking. I can't imagine that a TEPCO committee meeting to identify critical facilities in their service area would be too cavalier about running a nuke on diesel or on batteries.

But in any case, my focus at the moment is on the story of grid failure, and this would be grid failure due to not having any power available, which isn't the fault of the grid, or to be corrected by "pulling a line", meaning out in suburbs, which was the story I thought I was hearing.

If TEPCO got the grid powered-up to Rokkasho on the 14th, what happened at Fukushima? Was power available at the property line on the 14th, or 15th ... or not? I just assume it was, cause I can't believe it wasn't, and I haven't seen different, yet. I assume the problem was on the plant property, which is bad. If it was in TEPCO administration, that is beyond bad. If it was in the transmission network, ... where? And that is not good either.

later edit: The Daini plant ... maybe never lost the grid?! Vaguely possible, or almost.
quote "offsite power is available" posted march 12th.

If TEPCO got the grid powered-up to Rokkasho on the 14th, what happened at Fukushima? Was power available at the property line on the 14th, or 15th ... or not?

Well all three hydrogen explosions had occurred by the 15th so I'm sure the deluged and partially exploded site regularly venting radiation into the 20k evacuation zone was already quite the workplace Nirvana by that date. Unit #2 wasn't powered up by an offsite source until the 20th.

Wouldn't power pushed through the HV lines to Dai-chi have required different gear on the receiving end than would have been in place for transmitting through those same lines? Or not--I've no idea myself.

A critical factor was loss of cooling caused by loss of power
Q:Where was the closest place to get power?
A:The grid had power, and the grid was across the parking lot.
Q:Why didn't they use it?
A:That's the question.
You say:
Unit 2 got power on the 20th. Not the question.
The question is when did power get to the plant boundry.
For comparison - Daini had grid power on the 12th, and was using it
You ask:
Q: Is the connection to the grid two-way?
A: Daini is using power from the grid.
And in general, diesel generation is "black start" capability, to be used when the grid is down. (wikipedia)

Re: I think I heard they got offsite power to the damaged plant by running a line from the Daini plant

Nah. Daini is in cold shutdown, using off site (grid) power, so Daini is irrelevant.

I found a link that may help with question.

Current power to plant is not from TEPCO's grid. It is from Tohoku Electric Power Co.
TEPCO builds power source

Another link I found gave a few more details. A cable ran from grid to a reserve transformer quite some distance from plant. Then cable took a long detour around debris cause by explosions and was connected to a temporary transformer near unit 1. The cable stages were 550 meters and 930 meters.

The article Workers restore power claims the earthquake knocked down electricity pylons used by Tohoku to supply power for TEPCO plant.

Wow, check out photo of electric workers wearing protective clothing while repairing pylon. Channel 4 News

EDIT: Added pylon damage and photo

Oooh! Good info.
1a. re: Current power to plant is from Tohoku Electric Power Co.
Tohoku owns the grid in that area. The "intends to install" may mean running power lines within the plant property. Map
1b.The article says that they are building a new control trailer, with new power lines to new pumps, to "more efficiently" cool the place down.

2nd paragraph ("another link...") interesting in that it talks about what is going on at the plant, but this is a new tier of cooling capability. Does not shed light on: if there was power in the parking lot on the 12th, why did the pumps not have power? (and if there wasn't power in the parking lot on the 12th, what exactly was the problem?)

3rd paragraph ("workers restore power ...") is interesting, and a little puzzling

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said it was preparing to restore outside power lines and connect its damaged transmission system to unaffected lines.

TEPCO was preparing to restore outside power lines from Tohoku Electric Power Co., which serves the region, and connect its damaged electric transmission system with unaffected lines.

The 9.0-magnitude quake, the biggest on record to strike Japan, knocked down electricity pylons which Tohoku had used to supply power to the TEPCO plant.

I think this is all just sloppy use of the word transmission to mean wires on the plant property. If there is a HV tower down, why isn't there a photo of it on the internet? Nice newsy photo.

Whats a pylon? A tower? [yes]. On the plant site, or off-site?

The video didn't have anything of particular relevance that I saw.
Pylon is the word to search for!
Most of the news articles that talk about fallen pylons have almost the exact same sentence, starting with 9.0 earthquake, and don't seem to know "how many" pylons have fallen over. Bizarre.
Here is a photo of a "fallen pylon" at SONY Corp. What is that??

The other thing to remember in this tangled web of power is that there may be damage elsewhere not directly connected to restoring power but with an electrical connection. It is not just hooking up the feed line but ensuring that it can be energised without creating a hazard elsewhere via lines that may be T-ed off it.


The story was that they were "stringing another line". Where is the evidence?

Here is a photo of a "fallen pylon" at SONY Corp. What is that??

Well at 400% and then zoomed it looks to be a downed pylon more or less horizontal across the picture with a few cross arms sticking up or out, maybe a transformer, and a huge tangle of cable. Certainly you wouldn't want to energize this mess when you turn the power on to somewhere else--as NOAM aptly pointed out.

The question is: where is the evidence that the grid was down to Da-ichi. I don't see anything substantial or any such claim in black and white, except one statement someplace that some pylons were down (someplace). How many, which ones, where is the picture? How did they fix it. The pylons coming into the switch yard by units 1/2 look fine. I just don't believe it without some proof with more than one sentence devoted to the topic. Sorry.

On this photo, aren't those wires all over the foreground? Where the heck are the insulators, or anything? If you see a transformer, then this is not part of the transmission system, but of the distribution system. Transmission systems don't have transformers hung off them.

The tangled mess in front of Sony certainly is not what is left of a big tower like the ones in the background of that same shot. I don't know what that more or less oblong sort of octagonal piece with at least three small white cylinders projecting upward at least one of which looks very much to have a cable looping out of it is. The two arms that appear attached to the piece in question look to have insulators at their ends attached (white blobs facing at assorted angles) to 'sleeves' on the cable that are a least three times the diameter of the rest cable.

No doubt a few more pictures would be make it easier to understand the scope of the reconnect job, but if all the problems were in the evacuation zone few if any reporters would be on the ground. There likely would have been photos of initial conditions and progress taken by crew supervisors, they would be part of the company's records--and we may see them someday, or maybe not, I don't know how that stuff works in Japan.

Is there some reason you do not believe they were stringing a line for a couple/few days? That is not necessarily an unreasonable amount of time considering the amount of destruction and debris in area. The two plants are only 10K apart---but they only ran 1K of new cable to get to Daichi. I don't find it hard to believe they could quickly get grid power to one plant and not the other. The conditions on the ground might have been so obvious to whoever was on scene that they never thought any need to explain why they had to run a new 1K cable to get to the plant.

Conditions of pylons in the plant yard don't say anything about the conditions of pylons a kilometer away in situation like this. The plant is on a big rock, when the wave drained the lower areas would have been channels with an immense flow of debris--it doesn't appear the Daichi plant was itself in such drainage channel, but I'd bet you wouldn't have to walk too far from it to find a spot that was in one.

Oh and by the way for an hour or so smoke was spotted coming out the #1 turbine building at Daini yesteday evening Fukushima time.

Last night during my late local news down here in coastal Alabama, for the FIRST time EVER, I saw a generic/unbranded commercial promoting the entire oil and natural gas industry - two of them... interesting timing...

Thanks, Nate. Hi, Iaato,TFHG, et al.

As little as I've come to expect from H. sapiens, when it comes to preparing for, and responding to, perfectly foreseeable and yet somehow "unimaginable" failures in complex systems, the the unfolding Fukushima horror show has, nevertheless, managed to surprise me.

Aside from the breathtaking blundering and confusion by TEPCO/Official Japan (TEPCO really should be relieved w/o further delay), the continuing cluelessness, confusion and scientific illiteracy being displayed by the media is just ridiculous. More than two weeks into this disaster and the reporters covering it still don't know the difference between a sievert and a centipede. Shameful.

I don't know if I'll have much to contribute, but I want to express my gratitude for having TOD here when I need to read what some smart folks (and a few shills) have to say. Hmmm. . . must be my cue for a donation.

Fellow humans, we need a firmware upgrade.

I am already asking if any capital assets or materials should be immediately cannabalized for installation elsewhere. There has to be a Fort Knox worth of valuable metal and power equipment. What can be stripped least risky and quickly decontaminated? If it is a scratch, can something be taken with out too much risk to life and limb? I would leave only what I had to.

If it is a scratch, can something be taken with out too much risk to life and limb?

For sale: "Tsunami alert" warning siren. Excellent condition, only used once. Best offer or will trade for airline tickets to any non-Japanese destination

Ok but if they leave pallets of palladium laying around like C. Ray Nagin let the school buses of New Orleans flood and folks could not evacuate, ITYS.

I can't diagram that sentence.

Best in thread (so far)!

Yeah, but they can't give up on the (not very promising) cooling efforts, because walking away now means Game Over -- and a very costly loss.

Anyway, any equipment in high-radiation areas probably isn't recoverable now. We keep hearing about areas where readings are hitting 1K mSv/hr. At those levels, we're talking radiation sickness in an hour or so and the LD50 is probably 4-6 hours (health physicists?). Hard to justify the health risk to disconnect machinery.

Nevertheless, TFHG, you're probably right. They should probably be taking the useful stuff from wherever it's safe to do so, cuz the contamination is only going to worsen.

Well sure. That plant will never produce again. Maybe something a click or two away. Start there.

at 1 Sv/Hr, the LD50 is 350 mSv. So you only need about 20 minutes to have an 50-50% chance of living.

That's probably the lowest estimate I've seen, but it makes intuitive sense.

Anyway, very little complex work, or heavy lifting, is going to be done in environments where personnel may be exposed to 1 Sv/HR, so, if maintaining "adequate" cooling now means working in such environments. . . not good.

NY Times provides this graphic on consequences of exposure at various levels, sourced from EPA, etc.


I am already asking if any capital assets or materials should be immediately cannabalized for installation elsewhere. There has to be a Fort Knox worth of valuable metal and power equipment. What can be stripped least risky and quickly decontaminated? If it is a scratch, can something be taken with out too much risk to life and limb? I would leave only what I had to.

Yikes, I can just imagine the Nuclear Regulatory approvals on this !

(but if no one knows, perhaps it becomes like export cars ?)

* Brand New ? {err.. only used once, ?}
* Vendor Approvals {yup, err, when it was made anyway..}
* History ? { Hardly anything to speak of; only one Tsunami, one earthquake, and a single digit number of explosions, and undeclared radiation exposure.
What could possibly have deteriorated ?! )
How does 5% off for cash sound ?

The primary focus should be on removing as much of the nuclear fuel from the site as possible, asap.
The ongoing contamination of the site will make that more and more difficult. Eventually, the site will need to be abandoned.
However, there are over 1000 tons of spent fuel in the storage pools of reactors 5 and 6 plus the common pool, that could still be retrieved, maybe.
If left unattended on site, their cooling will soon fail and the disaster will get much worse.

Agreed. Rods out now. What about all the copper? I mean if there is no radioactive isotope, then the copper itself cannot become radioactive right? So we are talking what SPEAKnobs at al.com who works with nuke rods calls 'fleas.' Those can be easily scanned for. A mile away the radiation is down no? They have plenty of folks. Send in the middle age men and strip away. Keep testing and fixing the pumps and lines. I just would call the plant a production dead duck. Start making trying and announcing hard decisions. Like how the anti-nuclear treaty Japan has now include nuke power and maximum WW2 effort on getting rid of the plants. They are done IMHO. Smart too, they will have Mr. Fusion from BTTF ready soon.

Rods out now.

NO! If you take the rods out of the fuel pools now, they'll melt, burst into flames, or both, and instantly kill everyone within a stone's throw.

One of the misconceptions about nuclear fuel is that it gets safer as the uranium burns up. On the contrary, a new nuclear fuel rod is safe enough to carry around by hand. But once it's used in a reactor, short-lived, highly active isotopes are created, which increase its radioactivity a zillionfold.

And it stays that way for several years. That's what the spent fuel pool is *supposed* to be used for: to keep spent fuel from killing anyone for a few years, until its activity declines to the point where it can be safely removed from the plant.

RE: a new nuclear fuel rod is safe enough to carry around by hand

When they load a reactor with new bundles, how to they start the chain reaction? Similar situation as how do you start a camp fire. I hear that in Japan they do a complete change out of fuel, unlike in the USA, where they toss more logs on.

The new fuel rods aren't *completely* inert, they still emit some neutrons. The chain reaction will self-start, if you put a moderator (water) between the fuel rods.

I guess trying to pump some kind of boron saturated cement into these pools is out of the question based on the amount of heat the spent rods are generating?

Is there any way to identify whether the Pu found outside the reactors came from a spent fuel pond (maybe #3 since the big explosion may have damaged it or the fuel rods inside) or one of the nearby reactors themselves? The fuel ponds are open to the sky right now so they might be the more likely candidates, but the reactors are a possibility as well.

A rough guess for fixing this is $100B, +/- maybe a factor of 3.
Any salvage will be very incidental and a Z priority relative to the contain and cleanup jobs.
Also, to get at the more valuable materials one must dig deep into this pile of radiating scrap.
Seems a poor risk/reward.

The primary focus should be on removing as much of the nuclear fuel from the site as possible, asap.
The ongoing contamination of the site will make that more and more difficult. Eventually, the site will need to be abandoned.
However, there are over 1000 tons of spent fuel in the storage pools of reactors 5 and 6 plus the common pool, that could still be retrieved, maybe.
If left unattended on site, their cooling will soon fail and the disaster will get much worse.

However, there are over 1000 tons of spent fuel in the storage pools of reactors 5 and 6 plus the common pool, that could still be retrieved, maybe.
If left unattended on site, their cooling will soon fail and the disaster will get much worse.

I wonder how much of that 1,000 tons (I was going to say "kiloton" but that would be an unfortunate choice of words at this time I guess) has decayed enough to be safe for dry casks, even if it required pushing the design spec a bit?
How many empty dry casks that would fit these fuel rods exist in the world right now? Where and how quickly can more be made and / or transported to the site?

As far as I know current American regulations require pool storage for a minimum of 5 years prior to dry casking. No idea what the law is in Japan.
Yucca mountain appears to be "dead". The Department of Energy filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw the license application in 2010.
The "Official Story" on this as far as I can tell is that studies of the site indicated that there may have been volcanic activity in the area in the last million years, this was seen to make it an unacceptably risky location.
Some might say this is a case of letting the perfect become the enemy of the good...
The U.S. fiscal year 2011 budget request eliminates funding for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.
So as far as I know there is no plan beyond "at reactor" dry cask storage in play in the U.S., or just about anywhere else on the planet now.
There is a long term repository being dug in Finland, I understand it will be more than a decade before it is ready to receive waste. There is what I think is a very interesting documentary about it made in 2010 called "Into Eternity" which you can probably find at your torrent site of choice.

The best is the enemy of the good indeed.
If memory serves, the Japanese were counting on using Yucca mountain as well. The US encouraged the idea of repatriating spent nuclear fuel to minimize the proliferation risk.
So when it became clear that Yucca was on a slow train to nowhere, the Japanese finally decide to build a storage facility and get into reprocessing their fuel, with completion expected after 2013.
Meanwhile, the spent storage pools were filled out to the max with old fuel that had nowhere to go.
Now we have this.

"I think maybe the situation is much more serious than we were led to believe," said one expert, Najmedin Meshkati, of the University of Southern California, adding it may take weeks to stabilise the situation and the United Nations should step in.

"This is far beyond what one nation can handle - it needs to be bumped up to the U.N. Security Council. In my humble opinion, this is more important than the Libya no fly zone."


Pretty song:

A phrase is attributed to Konrad Adenauer, a German politician:

"Politics are too important to leave them to politicians"

I think it applies now to write:

"Nuclear issues are too far important to leave them to nuclear 'experts'"

Yes, keep the engineers and their idiot MBA bosses away from reactor design and construction. Their financial choices are certifiably insane. In the case of Dai-ichi it was to station the backup electrical supply basically at sea level. They have 70 foot higher land right behind the plant (Google Earth confirms this). We have the same sort of insanity in Canada, the Harper regime quashed an effort to have backup power at nuclear power plants. Perhaps all the managers and decision makers in the chain of nuclear power reactor design and construction should be personally liable for their corner cutting. Seems they feel safe that it will be the taxpayers that have to pick up the bill for their messes.

After a little bit of googling:

"Average effective doses to those persons most affected by the accident were assessed to be about 120 mSv for 530,000 recovery operation workers, 30 mSv for 115,000 evacuated persons and 9 mSv during the first two decades after the accident to those who continued to reside in contaminated areas. (For comparison, the typical dose from a single computed tomography scan is 9 mSv)"

Chernobyl blew up at full power and the hot reactor mass was exposed to air for days. Nothing like this accident. You will start getting radiation sickness only above 700-1000 mSv, deaths around 4000-6000 mSv and most of them recover if treated.

Even smoking 1.5 packs/day: 13-60 mSv/year. Background radiation in parts of Iran, India and Europe: 50 mSv/year. New York-Tokyo flights for airline crew: 9 mSv/year.

The highest dose for workers in Fukushima? On average about 150-250 mSv and few unlucky ones maybe up to 1000 mSv? Why do especially Americans especially seem to be talking about this accident like it is some kind of giant Nuclear Armageddon. Without even bothering to check even the most basic facts! Are you that lazy?! School has been "out" for decades in the USA obviously...


These are all external exposure doses not internal. Feel free to volunteer to go to Japan (you could always swim up to the plant) and get exposed to those 6 sieverts you mention and tell us how it goes.


The government on Monday urged residents of the evacuation-designated area within 20 kilometers of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant not to return for the time being, as it stepped up efforts to address the nuclear crisis and remove debris from quake-stricken areas.

''It is very likely that within 20 km from the plant is contaminated and there is a big risk (to human health at the moment,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference, stressing that the residents should not enter that evacuation zone until after the government gives the green light to do so.


I think maybe the situation is much more serious than we were led to believe," said one expert, Najmedin Meshkati, of the University of Southern California, adding it may take weeks to stabilise the situation and the United Nations should step in.

"This is far beyond what one nation can handle - it needs to be bumped up to the U.N. Security Council. In my humble opinion, this is more important than the Libya no fly zone."

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

"Regrettably, we don't have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over)," TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds


Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a press conference that the highly radioactive water found at the basement of the No. 2 reactor's turbine building is ''believed to have temporarily had contact with fuel rods (in the reactor's core) that have partially melted.''


High levels of radiation exceeding 1,000 millisieverts per hour were found in water in a trench outside the No. 2 reactor's turbine building at the troubled nuclear power plant in Fukushima on Sunday afternoon, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday.

I laughed when I had the mental image of some dude snorkeling out in front of these broken crumbling smoking reactors. Humans are so stupid to be playing with this crap. Its like juggling grenades with the pins removed with no clothes on smoking a cigarette and singing the national anthem.

This reminds me of the days when I worked in a refinery. The real men would stick another chaw in their cheek and say “Don’t worry this stuff won’t hurt you.” About 10 years later when I came down with a case of lymphoma, I started to wonder, may be that crap I was breathing and walking in was harmful. If you’re not worried about health, you can bet your sweet behind no one else is worried. These psychopaths don’t give a damn about your health as long they can get you to the dirty work. Years later when you’re fighting for your life, where are those
boozs when you need them.

Too true. On the other hand I still chase young women, where is the bigger risk?

Japanese DRAM makers' woes echo rest of industry after quake

Market researcher IHS iSuppli estimates that damage to these factories could reduce the supply of silicon wafers globally by 25%, which "could have a major effect on worldwide semiconductor production," particularly DRAM chips. Compounding earthquake and tsunami damage, other chip factories are being hurt by rolling blackouts meant to share electricity made scarce because several power plants were knocked offline in the disaster.
At least three major suppliers of silicon wafers, Sumco, Shin-Etsu Chemical and MEMC Electronic Materials, lost some output due to the disaster. Sumco and Shin-Etsu alone account for 72% of all 300mm silicon wafers, according to Credit Suisse, the investment bank.

The nightmare for all semiconductor manufacturers is a sudden loss of power, because the quartz tubes in which the silicon wafers are treated can crack and break if cooled quickly and there is no huge supply base to make replacements.
It is likely that the various plants in Japan have on site backup power, but rolling blackouts suggest a system that is marginal. Summer in Japan can be quite warm, so the risk of something unexpected has to be greater.
Maybe Samsung and TMSC will gain market share from this.

Sometimes, no, - often - I wish more care and accuracy could be taken with the wording in these reports. In this one, it says "amidst conflicting reports of higher radiation readings" - but "conflicting" implies different results from more than one source and that wasn't the case, at least not for this report. It was an incorrect report, corrected by the same source. To say "conflicting" really leads one to try to research where the conflict originated, and that can be a waste of time. I understand that they are often worded to heighten or create more drama and hysteria than exists (and I'm not implying the situation in Japan isn't dramatic) but I believe it's misleading and doesn't serve the readership well.

sorry - i posted this from my Droid at the health club - as an open thread, not a 'report'.
But I'll try to really concentrate on my word choices next time.

Very cool, appreciated - unfortunately, I'm hearing the same wording from multiple news sources.

Whoever did that test and quality checked it must have known the meaning of iodine-134 finding. You would think they would have been damn certain of their finding before releasing it. All seems a bit dubious to me.

Just read this.

Radiation measuring 1,000 millisieverts per hour was detected in water in an overflow tunnel outside the plant’s Reactor No. 2, Japan’s nuclear regulator said at a news conference. The tunnel leads from the reactor’s turbine building, where contaminated water was discovered on Saturday, to an opening just 180 feet from the sea, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The contaminated water level is now about three feet from the exit of the vertical, U-shaped tunnel and rising, Mr. Nishiyama said.

This is a big problem, but also a big opportunity. If you suck radioactive water out of the tunnel exit, you suck it out of the plant, and it's going to be a lot easier to get access to the tunnel exit than to the puddles inside the damaged reactor building.

In principle, you could throw a submersible pump into the tunnel opening, run a hose to shore, park a barge offshore, and pump the water into the barge for disposal. The problem is, this water is radioactive enough that you don't want anyone to stand near it.

Forest fire helicopters with water buckets? Quickly build some polders and fill them on-site? I dunno, but having access to the water inside the plant from a location outside the plant is very useful.

Radiation measuring 1,000 millisieverts per hour was detected in water in an overflow tunnel

( http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/world/asia/29japan.html?_r=1&hp )

The units in this field are somewhat confusing. It does not become less confusing when they are severaly times used out of context. Since Sieverts refer to absorbed dose this kind of statement does not seem meaningful.

"The unit sievert specifically measures absorbed radiation which is absorbed by a person." (From Wikipedia)

OK! So you could assume that the stated dose applies to a person in the vincinity. But then any numbers of factors come into play. How near? Swimming in the water?

Wouldn't a correct unit be Bq/kg??

Which of course lacks the information contained in the weighting factor of the Sievert unit.

Thanks for bringing this up, now I no longer feel I'm the only one being left in the fog. Several factors seem to conspire against clarity here and it does seem at times those releasing the figures are counting on that.

Thirty years of graduates with poor math skills is sure showing up in US reporting. A couple simple cross referenced measurement tables should be a sidebar coupled to all the articles related to this incident.

Now you've got a massive volume of highly toxic radioactive water, too hot to get close to, much less disperse. The Pacific Ocean is going to be viewed in this scenario as an endlessly absorptive sink for this mess, only because it is the only way out. How much can the Pacific Ocean tolerate before we start seeing the effects? Again, which isotopes sink, and what do typhoons do? How fast do the various isotopes move up the food chain?

Part of the problem is that the plant is surrounded by a disaster zone, with close to 200,000 people living away from home in shelters and a trashed infrastructure.
Otherwise, one could envisage soaking up the water in some absorbent, like kitty litter, packing it into drums and shipping it off to the waste repository.
As is, they will eventually just dump it, because there is no place to store it and more will continue to leak as more cooling water gets pumped in.

The Washington Post is reporting that all three reactors' "overflow tunnels" have this kind of water in them.

Can anyone explain what is the purpose of these tunnels. The description of a vertical U-tube calls into mind the trap in your bathroom; is this some kind of radioactive sediment trap in the event something melts/drains into the underside of the plant? Letting it run to an open outlet at the ocean though doesn't sound like a really great idea if there's even a possibility of radioactive water collecting in it.

The cooling efforts have seen around 10,000 tons of water dumped on the site and much higher sea water radioactivity has been reported about a mile downstream of the plant.
There is surely a connection and these overflow pipes seem like a plausible avenue, although there are surely others.
It would be interesting to know if the facility has any substantial waste water treatment capability.
If so, it might be worth trashing it just to filter out the hottest radioactive particles from the water before dumping the water into the Pacific.

Forest fire helicopters with water buckets? Quickly build some polders and fill them on-site?

What about the helicopters placing large submersible pumps...with power cords and discharge as long as need be, fed from the ground upwards as the chopper ascends and done so at a designated fill spot for semi-truck tanker trailers that can then be moved when full to a storage location on the premises.

Now you've got a massive volume of highly toxic radioactive water, too hot to get close to, much less disperse.

If I was terminally ill, chronically ill or in pain or - you get the picture...IF they agreed to some generous compensation for my family, I'd gladly sprint across the parking lot and dive into that flooded tunnel to set a pump, hook up a cable, or guide a dangling bucket...or dart into where needed to slop on some make-shift high tech sealant to a gushing flange joint...

I'd probably do it just to go out on a good note... i'd bet they've already got people calling...

Part of the problem is that the plant is surrounded by a disaster zone

That photo shows cars neatly lined up in the parking lot post Tsunami so i'm assuming there's passable roads...?

fill spot for semi-truck tanker trailers that can then be moved when full to a storage location on the premises.

I thought about that. If any of the 1 Sv/hour they're measuring is gamma or hard beta, this will sicken or kill your truck drivers. We need a solution that doesn't put anybody within 10 meters of the stuff. Except you, since you volunteered ... but you can't drive all those trucks yourself, not once you start puking blood.

We need a solution that doesn't put anybody within 10 meters of the stuff.

What's wrong with the chopper taking off from next to the tanker which could be 100 meters away? (or if they make flat-topped tankers - on top of it)

The chopper ascends slowly WITH the pump on board and the power cable and roll-flat large-diameter discharge tubing already attached and fed upwards from the ground next to the tanker...the chopper then moves slowly over to the tunnel exit while, of course, hovering no higher than the length of the out-feed...then they lower the pump by cable into the contamination...the pump is then energized...and sushi lovers can take a deep breath...

The problem is moving the trucks once they're filled. Gammas will go through the walls of the tanker truck and into the truck driver. Hard betas will create more gammas via bremsstrahlung. If the sheet metal of the tank is thick enough, it *might* be okay, but...

my bad...the physics and the Japanese are making firming up a foundation waaay harder than Macondo...

ok...that Pb they put over you for an X-ray is NOT rigid...a full suit would be bearable for a mostly immobile driver... and what about NASA flight or spacewalk suits...they've got tethered climate control which you could always just duct-tape to the dash if you didn't have time to plumb directly...i'll just guess they're gamma-protective and not look it up to look smart/not look dumb...

Except you, since you volunteered ... but you can't drive all those trucks yourself, not once you start puking blood.

hmmm...i haven't volunteered YET...do you think a retired kamikaze truck driver would EVER feel up to relations with a nubile Japanese virgin...or would i have to hope for the route that some radical Islamist groups use...

For every such volunteer, a company executive should go in as a partner.

Take ownership, fellas!

Must be great to have the Gov't send in all sorts of Firemen and Soldiers to take all the real heat for you.

Hey, I just thought of something. Any classes or companies I can contact about going in? Middle age men in near andropause state are the ideal nuke workers right? With the proper training and equipment, it is no more dangerous than Desert Storm right? In the Storm we had about 200 KIA for 500K in country. What is the murder rate in New Orleans just living? It came out, not good. 52 per 100,000. I know most of the risks, who is hiring?

Hey, I just thought of something. Any classes or companies I can contact about going in?

TEPCO is now recruiting welders certified on pressure vessels in stainless steel, so if you have that ticket there may be a job waiting for you. I sent away for the information packet and they emailed me this introductory video...

I am serious, I am ready to go in and clean up nuke waste. Probably dangerous, been there done that.

Ok so reactors more complex than BWR's have their control rods held up by electromagnets, so if power fails, the rods fall into the rod assemblys and reaction is shut down, With BWR's they are forced up from the bottom. So say your fuel melts in a PWR reactor, then as the fuel melts into a puddle your control rods collapse into the mix as they are unsupported. and so continue to a degree to moderate the reaction. You would assume that the control rods in a BWR have to be held fairly rigidly to enable fuel loading, its not like you can go in and shake the control rods so that you can fit the gaps in the fuel assembly if one isnt ligned up properly. The melting temperature of the control rods is about 800 degrees more than the structure of the fuel rods,

So if it works then like I think, then the more the fuel has melted, then the less moderation will occur, its like the control rods have been pulled back out of the reactor, and all of the  fuel rods have been pressed together.

If so I just don't see how this situation can ever be brought back under control. Is my thinking at all sensible? or has my Nuclear paranoia spiralled out of control?


Plutonium has been detected in soil at five locations at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday.

The operator of the nuclear complex said that the plutonium is believed to have been discharged from nuclear fuel at the plant, which was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

NEWS ADVISORY: Not known which reactor plutonium came from: agency

I could see that admission coming when TEPCO said earlier today that Plutonium (amongst other stuff) was possibly present in samples they had sent off for further analysis. Recently NHK reported that it would take "several days" before the results were available. Someone seems to have speeded that process up.


BREAKING NEWS: Plutonium detection suggests certain damage to fuel rods: agency (00:46)
NEWS ADVISORY: Not known which reactor plutonium came from: agency (00:36)
NEWS ADVISORY: Monitoring to be strengthened after plutonium detected at Fukushima plant: agency (00:34)


BREAKING NEWS: Plutonium detection suggests certain damage to fuel rods: agency

But which rods, the spent fuel or the ones in the reactors? Or both?

The only MOF was in reactor 3, so finding plutonium is a pretty strong indication that reactor 3 has suffered fuel damage.
Reportedly, there were only about 36 MOF assemblies out of about 800 in the reactor. Perhaps finding plutonium will therefore allow a better analysis of the failure pattern.
It is however true that spent fuel also contains about 1% plutonium, so the possibility of the source being a cracked and dry spent fuel pool getting rinsed out thanks to the Tokyo fire department remains open.
An analysis of the mix of elements found in the water would provide the answer.

comparison of isotopes found in units 1-4

Where in the world ins the silver isotope Ag-108 coming from in unit 2?

They are now claiming to see I-134 in unit 2 (the unit 1 measurement of I-134 was probably in error)



The only MOF was in reactor 3, so finding plutonium is a pretty strong indication that reactor 3 has suffered fuel damage.

Nah, you end up creating a fair amount of Pu-239 in any reactor as a result of neutron capture by U-238.

NHK was interviewing a TEPCO official about the Pu yesterday. He said it was found at two locations on the plant grounds, both near the administration building (the big one between Reactors 1-4 and Reactors 5-6. The level of radiation was 0.54 Becquerels at both, which he interpreted to mean it may have been leftover Pu from Soviet aboveground nuclear testing.

Sorry, don't have a link; we were watching the English verion live.

Were there any pre tsunami readings of Plutonium levels to compare?


622 000 000 cubic km vs radioactive water of <0.2 cubic km. Pacific will win.

What's your plan for evenly distributing the radioactive water throughout that 622,000,000 cubic km? A giant blender?

Nothing so complex. Natural processes, such as fish struggling to get away, will provide enhanced mixing action.

Winds and underwater currents ring a bell? This is not a closed in-land lake, this is an open ocean. Ask any nuclear reactor scientist or engineer and he will tell you, it will disappear into background within few months.

About that plutonium found, the levels detected from samples near the plant are similar to the levels detected in Japan when caused by North Korean or Chinese nuclear bomb tests.

But don't let the facts to ruin a good story, right guys?

Who's feeding you this stuff?

Can you tell me what "nuclear reactor scientist" thinks disposing of core fuel rods by melting them inside the reactor and then flushing the remnants out into the environment bit by bit is fine because it will "disappear into background"?

It seems you have just come up with a new cheap way to dispose of nuclear waste. Just flush it into the Pacific. Brilliant.

This is Planet Earth by the way - not The Simpsons.

"Ask any nuclear reactor scientist or engineer and he will tell you, it will disappear into background within few months."

Hmmm... the "nuclear reactor scientists" I know haven't spent much time considering the results of flushing substantial portions of three reactor cores and the contents of (at least) four spent-fuel pools into the Pacific. I rather doubt that many oceanographers or health physicists have done so, either.

I'm afraid that I don't believe that you have "facts" -- or any meaningful data at all -- to support your "don't worry, be happy" analysis of this disaster.

Hmmm... the "nuclear reactor scientists" I know haven't spent much time considering the results of flushing substantial portions of three reactor cores and the contents of (at least) four spent-fuel pools into the Pacific.

I suppose that's exactly why this plant is located where it is...

The main reason that the plant is at the sea shore is to be able to use seawater for cooling and disposal of wast heat.

Another reason is likely that during construction and maintenance heavy equipment, materials, and components can be brought in by barge. This is probably also why the plant is not so high above sea level.

The fact that radioactive waste can be disposed of in an emergency by flushing it into the sea is an added benefit.

Look, Tim, I agree with you that many aspects of this disaster have been seriously overhyped so far, and that the public's blind paranoia over radiation is not helpful.

But a giant cistern full of contaminated water radiating at 1 Sv/hour is seriously bad news, bad enough that the contaminants it contains may cause long-lasting environmental problems even if highly diluted. I'm not a good enough physicist to say exactly what will happen, but neither are you.

622 000 000 cubic km vs radioactive water of <0.2 cubic km. Pacific will win

My case rests. Hazards that we can't see are dumped in Mother Nature's storage tank, one that we view as infinite. At some point, when one is talking about radiologic half-lives, that reasoning fails. The problem is, it takes time for the effects to reveal themselves. Cormac McCarthy never explained his setting for "The Road." It occurs to me that electrical failures post peak oil with multiple nuke meltdowns create a Mad Max scenario much more effectively than atomic bombs. This is what we get for trying to harness stars.

Google News highlights Libya, Iphones, and Britney. Nuclear meltdown 30X Chernobyl is not marketable. Maybe we deserve to leave this place to the cockroaches.

Great bumper sticker from long ago:

"The meek are contesting the will."


I was always under the assumption that it was a post Yellowstone eruption type of situation. Probably been discussed before, but once that puppy pops, the planet will be a lot quieter for some time. I watch "The Knowing" this weekend, so I'm hoping aliens come pick up the children to live on distant earth like planets.

I have a proposal re the eventual burial and hopefully stabilization of the F. Dai-ichi site, subject to finesse issues: wall in the reactor and spent fuel pool facilities with steel a la Chernobyl but instead of sand, cement, or earth, use aluminum.

Yeah, I said aluminum.

I'm presuming that aluminum, starting with shredded scrap, dumped in the right places, will melt...if the process continues and if the heat output from the reactor and spent fuel rods is sufficient, I envision the structures encased in a solid aluminum block with a liquified core that will continue to convect heat away from the rod assemblies to the solid outer crust. The solid aluminum exteriors of the burial sarcophagi would coat themselves with a thin but hard and impermeable skin of aluminum oxide. I can't think of anything else that would form a hard, stable, and nonporous covering around the decaying fuel rods and would still conduct heat away efficiently.

What I don't know is if the aluminum can be dumped in this fashion and if the heat output of the rods is such that what I'm describing is a likely outcome.

And yes, I know I'm talking about a LOT of aluminum.

Nice idea, but how does one get under the wreckage to make it seal up?
Plus there might be enough gases given off in the process of decay to blow bubbles through the aluminum coating.
The good news/ bad news aspect of this situation is that unlike at Chernobyl, the fuel is all still here, it has not been blasted into the atmosphere.
That means we have to somehow find and recover hundreds of tons of very radioactive damaged fuel from a 2000x600x100 ft scrap heap.
Burial is not an option, because the decay products will gradually make a huge patch of Japan uninhabitable, just like Chernobyl, except that there is over 20x as much nuclear material here.
My guess is unmanned tanks and wreckers to take things apart and recover the nuclear fuel. A several year process at best.
If emissions continue at the current rate of about 1 Chernobyl every ten days, a 3 year cleanup would imply a hundred times the Chernobyl emission before the situation was restored. Not promising for the former residents of the evacuation zone.

I figured that molten aluminum seeping under the wreckage would freeze and make its own seal, adapting to whatever was underneath, to include soil.

I hadn't thought much about gases but I would assume they would merely remain free in the liquid Al or dissolve in it, maybe wind up as bubbles frozen in the solid Al...the pressure would build, I guess - the question is, how much, and would occasional pressure fractures generated as a result re-seal, especially if the Al were periodically re-supplied atop or around the sarcophagus as needed?

You bring up dismantlement/recovery...perhaps that is indeed an option to burial, but I have to ask, recovery and THEN WHAT? Does it complicate the situation too much to even attempt to remove/collect fuel? Can a reactor containment vessel be cut through remotely...if at all? And what robots could survive the hot and radioactive environment? Just keeping a CCD camera working would be a challenge.

Anybody know whether uranium will dissolve in liquid aluminum? Because that would be bad.

Zirconium also, and perhaps a lot of other materials, not just uranium. I don't know; it's a fair question. But even so, if I'm right and the liquid Al would be encased by a periphery of solid Al, how much would that matter?

Yeah, I said aluminum.

I'm presuming that aluminum, starting with shredded scrap, dumped in the right places, will melt..

Err, you might want to revise this 'plan', as Aluminium can also burn, once it gets hot enough. Oops.

Many navies have used an aluminium superstructure for their vessels; the 1975 fire aboard USS Belknap that gutted her aluminium superstructure, as well as observation of battle damage to British ships during the Falklands War, led to many navies switching to all steel superstructures.

I remember an old welding teacher, who talked about Aluminium once hot enough catching fire if hit by water, so probably not the best thing to use in the current circumstances

Okay, but *once* it gets hot enough. Would it? I can't say. I figure that in open air, there's a temperature range between which Al melts and it catches fire (although it looks like once it *does* catch fire, game over...very hot, contact with water makes hydrogen) - may be impossible to keep things within that range. Maybe *start* with another, less heat-volatile metal?

I just can't see an earthen/sand/cement burial - permeable, erodes, insulates...the aforementioned comparison to Chernobyl bears repeating...there, the reactor core blew sky-high and what was left of it burned like a furnace; here, the reactor cores and the spent fuel are sitting right there.

My daughter suggested tin and just last night I saw that come up in another comment that echoed what I'd said about self-sealing fissures. I have no idea if there are significant quantities of bulk tin in the world, though...plenty of bulk aluminum...

Finally, an article that has a few details about the contaminated water:

UPDATE: Water With High Radiation Levels Found In Tepco Turbine Buildings

Among detected radioactive substances were 160,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter of cesium-134, 17,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter of cesium-136, and 340 becquerels per cubic centimeter of lanthanum-140, which suggest fuel rods in the reactor core may have been partially melted due to overheating, he said.

"These substances are not in normal reactor water, which means it's highly likely that something extraordinary is happening," he said.

Read the article; it seems coherent and uses correct units, at least...

PT in PA

Link is behind a pay wall. Do a Google search on the headline to get full text.

Zerohedge are reporting reactors 1, 2 & 3 have holes in them:

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted to the possibility in its early March 28 press conference that the steel Reactor Pressure Vessels that hold nuclear fuel rods in the Reactors 1, 2, 3 at Fukushima I Nuclear Plant may have broken. TEPCO explained the situation "Imagine there's a hole." Because of this "hole", contaminated water that's been poured into the Pressure Vessels to cool the fuel rods continues to leak, it is assumed...

...TEPCO also admitted to the possibility of the exposed nuclear fuel rods overheating and damaging the RPVs. According to the nuclear experts, if the fuel rods get damaged and start to melt, it will fall to the bottom of the RPVs and settle. It then becomes harder to cool with water effectively, because the surface area is smaller. It is possible that the melted fuel rods melted the wall of the RPVs with high temperature and created a hole.

Core meltdown in 1,2 & 3?

Also radiation detected in China;

The radioactive material is believed to have drifted from Japan as a result of radiation leaking from the earthquake-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex.

China detected low levels of radioactive iodine-131 in the air over Heilongjiang Province in the northeast for the second day on Sunday, Xinhua said,

Is it possible that the water is coming from, say, a large steam pipe that's broken, rather than the pressure vessel around the reactor? That would create the same situation; inability to keep water in the reactor past a certain amount, leakage of radioactive materials past the containment structures.

If the reactor vessels themselves have become perforated, ISTM that could be determined by measuring various data from inside the concrete containment structure. High temperatures and radioactivity, especially of the type from the rods themselves, would be positive (in a figurative sense, not a good one) indicators of a hole.

Of course, so would a bubbling pile of melted metal eating at the concrete floor.

I will look for this tag

Picture of Stephen Chapman at the AMRA 50th Anniversary Convention

EDIT: picture, no translations needed.

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As usual, it is complicated.
The typical bomb has an A bomb trigger, using a few kilograms of highly enriched uranium.
The hydrogen fusion that is initiated by that bomb is usually augmented by making the outer case of the device out of uranium, which will get enriched and fission from the hydrogen blast.
About half the total yield is usually from that component, as much as several tons of uranium for an air dropped 15 megaton device. Most tests were much smaller.
There were well under 200 nuclear tests in the Pacific, including the French as well as the US, so maybe 500 tons of nuclear material was spread.
Fukushima has about 4300 tons of nuclear fuel on site, according to this AP report : http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/03/18/business-financial-impact-as-j...
Fortunately this material is unlikely to mobilize and blow up, but it could easily remain as lasting hot spots emitting large quantities of decay products for decades.
The level of contamination at the plant is rising and the site is already emitting a massive plume of radioactive cesium and iodine, about 10% of the Chernobyl total each day. Right now that is blown out to sea by the winds, but that usually shifts more landward in the summer.
The fear is that the plant becomes so polluted people have to leave, which opens the door to a larger pollution disaster, as the fuel storage will also become dangerous unless kept cool under water.