Fukushima Unit 4 Has Shown Signs of Collapsing

GIAPPONE_-_fukushima-nuclear-power-plant-explosionVia ENENews:

Tepco’s video tour of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Sept. 2013 (At 1:00 in) – The power line tower of units 5 & 6 fell over due to a collapse of the embankment. Consequently, the whole site lost its outside power source. 20-minute video here

WERU’s News Report interviews Dean Wilkie, nuclear reactor operations at a U.S. Department of Energy test reactor in Idaho (At 28:50 in) – When the accident happened back in March 2011 there was a power pole, one of these huge power poles, inside of the Daiichi facility, inside the area there, and the ground that it was set on became super-saturated with water and they had a mud slide and that whole tower went down […] At Fukushima now, what we’re seeing, all of this work that they’ve been doing with these walls and then it’s causing the water to back up, it’s starting to saturate soil that’s underneath the buildings and in adjacent areas around the buildings. Couple that with the fact that there are known fractures in that soil — it was very obvious during the earthquake.  Full broadcast here

Nuclear Expert Gordon Edwards interview on the Green Power Wellness Show (At 32:00 in) – The worry with Unit No. 4, even though there was no fuel in the core of the reactor, there’s a spent fuel pool very precariously perched up above 5 floors. If the plant were to collapse — which it’s been showing signs of doing — then that fuel would be all over the place and it would be impossible to cool. And that would be a real… you could get far greater emissions than we did initially. Full interview here

Harvey Wasserman writes at Global Research:

Why is this so serious?

We already know that thousands of tons of heavily contaminated water are pouring through the Fukushima site, carrying a devil’s brew of long-lived poisonous isotopes into the Pacific. Tuna irradiated with fallout traceable to Fukushima have already been caught off the coast of California. We can expect far worse.

Tepco continues to pour more water onto the proximate site of three melted reactor cores it must somehow keep cool. Steam plumes indicate fission may still be going on somewhere underground. But nobody knows exactly where those cores actually are.

Much of that irradiated water now sits in roughly a thousand huge but fragile tanks that have been quickly assembled and strewn around the site. Many are already leaking. All could shatter in the next earthquake, releasing thousands of tons of permanent poisons into the Pacific.

The water flowing through the site is also undermining the remnant structures at Fukushima, including the one supporting the fuel pool at Unit Four.

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

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

Radioactive hot spots continue to be found around Japan. There are indications of heightened rates of thyroid damage among local children.

The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.

Just prior to the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami that shattered the Fukushima site, the core of Unit Four was removed for routine maintenance and refueling. Like some two dozen reactors in the US and too many more around the world, the General Electric-designed pool into which that core now sits is 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air. Long used in flash bulbs for cameras, zirconium burns with an extremely bright hot flame.

Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.

According to Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with forty years in an industry for which he once manufactured fuel rods, the ones in the Unit 4 core are bent, damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling. Cameras have shown troubling quantities of debris in the fuel pool, which itself is damaged.

The engineering and scientific barriers to emptying the Unit Four fuel pool are unique and daunting, says Gundersen. But it must be done to 100% perfection.

Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.

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

Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers.

However (via World Nuclear News):

Within the new structure built over the badly damaged reactor building of unit 4, Tepco has been installing equipment that will allow the transfer of used nuclear fuel for long-term storage elsewhere. Underwater inspections in the pond have shown most of the fuel to be undamaged, but the pond contains a lot of dust and debris which will complicate operations. The cover is fitted with air filters that will prevent any release of radioactivity as the fuel is moved.

Transport containers will be placed in the empty and undamaged reactor vessel and the fuel will be transferred to them underwater using the fuel handling machine. The used fuel will eventually be placed in the site’s shared used fuel pool, which was undamaged by the natural disasters two years ago.

Removal of fuel from unit 4’s storage pool is one of the highest decommissioning priorities at the site. The reactor was off line for maintenance when the earthquake and tsunami struck on 11 March 2011. Its full core load of fuel, plus used fuel from previous operation, was being stored in a fuel pool at the top of the reactor building. Although this meant there was no possibility of a reactor accident at unit 4, there was a risk of the pool overheating. The stability of the pool was then reduced by major structural damage to the building caused by the ignition of hydrogen that leaked through ventilation systems shared with unit 3.

Gaius Publius writes at America Blog:

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, at the rest of the site:

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

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

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

There are a number of people warning of this danger; none are getting much play. For example, this from the Japan Times (quoted here):

In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4 [with] radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. …. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task….

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here.

12 Comments on "Fukushima Unit 4 Has Shown Signs of Collapsing"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Oct 3, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

    Trying to control the future
    is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
    When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,
    chances are that you’ll cut your hand.

    • Rhoid Rager | Oct 3, 2013 at 11:27 pm |

      But in this case, you take the master carpenter’s tools out for a spin in the local market slicing and dicing your way through the crowds, mutilating children and then claiming you were just trying to provide them a better way of life. It’s just that absurd.

      • BuzzCoastin | Oct 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm |

        the hubris of modern science
        is the Nemesis of humanity

        opening Pandora’s Box is the specialty of modern science

        • Rhoid Rager | Oct 4, 2013 at 12:19 am |

          I remembering that they made us read Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society in grad skool. Interesting thesis, because he said that society, itself, has become the on-going experiment of science. That’s the state of modernity. Living in society is a risk unto itself.

  2. Rhoid Rager | Oct 3, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

    Mutation-ridden, cesium 137-laced life goes on here in the Land of the Rising Sun!

  3. kowalityjesus | Oct 4, 2013 at 3:21 am |

    I will continue on my fukushima-nay-sayer line: fuck this CT. I find little evidence that there will be any atmospheric release of the radioactive material at Fukushima (the only problem we would need to worry about). Leaking water is entirely a local problem unless it dissolves in the water or bioaccumulates in marine life. Tuna containing (probably laughably small amounts of) bioaccumulated cesium have been caught off of California, but so the fuck what? that is from the initial explosion in 2011.

    As for the claim that exposed zirconium fuel rods will spontaneously catch fire, I found a video of a newsreport where a guy is blow-torching zirconium and it is not lighting on fire? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x__2yWx9zGY Is this article really that full of shit? Someone tell me how I am wrong. As for the link where the fuel rods will “go BOOM” what? Can anyone tell what he is actually talking about?

    Will there be a nuclear explosion? No. A chemical explosion? I don’t see any evidence for it. As I have shown zirconium clearly does NOT burn as claimed, and UO2 (the spent fuel itself) is already oxidized. The only other radioactive release I can see is leaking water, which will always be a local problem. Am I delirious? Don’t try to rectify my inquiry without thoroughly debasing my hypothesis.

    By the way, sorry if I am out of touch for a few days.

    • kowalityjesus | Oct 5, 2013 at 5:55 am |

      Ha! haters leave their downvotes but have nothing to say! hahaha!! Arnie Gunderson is the ONLY reputable source I have ever heard cited. FOR YEARS. I got in an argument with a guy about this shit over 2 years ago…really. Its still as full of hot air as it was back then. Fuck this CT.

    • Mark White | Oct 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

      The site is called d-i-s-i-n-f-o-r-m-a-t-i-o-n

      • kowalityjesus | Oct 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

        what the fuck is that supposed to mean? are you another fukushima chicken little?

        • Mark White | Oct 18, 2013 at 4:33 am |

          It means this is a fucking website about disinformation and you are raging like a fucking child. Bitch at someone who cares.

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