Friday, December 11, 2015

We (Maybe) Ain't Seen Nuthin' Yet


The Japanese tsunami of 2012 is a vague memory these days - now that we don't have to worry about the flotsam and jetsam of that sad occasion washing up on our beaches - or at least we don't have to worry about reading about it. It's all 'old news' now.

                                                               Debris flow 2012

And then perhaps it's not.  One of the notable sideshows of the tsunami was the flooding of the Fukushima nuclear plant and the ensuing 'Chernobyl' incident.  That incident, too, was played-down. It may have cost the head of the Japanese Nuclear agency his job and, perhaps, the President of Japan another term, but the plant itself remains even more dangerous than the little irradiated playground in northeastern Ukraine.  For while some work has been done on the site, an awful lot more has to be done and it's looking like it could get a lot worse before it gets better.

                                             One of 17 explosions - Reactor 2 goes up

Murphy's Law:  it just so happened that, on the day of the disaster, some very sensitive work as being done to convert one of the reactors to use a different kind of fuel. A protective shroud had been removed in preparation for removing the fuel rod bundles and the replacement rods - containing a fuel that combines uranium and plutonium (MOX) fuel were stored for ready insertion.  It appears the work crews has little time to secure their work area before they were evacuated.  It also appears not that the fuel cooling pools were overstocked with used bundles and at least one had fresh fuel rods stored with the used ones. It is also certain that at least one of the pools suffered damage with resulted in exposed fuel which overheated, caught fire and caused a 'minor' nuclear explosion before melting the reactor and dissipating into the earth. It  is estimated to-day that significant percentages of fuel in 4 reactors dissipated into the atmosphere, including all the fuel in one of them.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that 3 years after the event  very little works has actually been done either to satabilize or ameliorate the situation at Fukushima. The great fear is that something will happen to compromise more fuel rods and cause another 'reaction event'. And even greater fear is that the plutonium in the new fuel rods may also be involved,  discharging enough radiation to trigger sympatethetic reactions at other nearby by reactors (Fukushima 2 is 10 KM from the affected site). Should this happen, the results for Japan, at the very least,  could be catastrophic.

The danger is that parts of the reactor hardware are unstable. Any attempts to stabilize them could cause injury to the stored fuel. That fuel will, at some point, have to be removed and relocated to storage. The removal could cause materials, already affected by heat and shock, to rupture and allow the fuel to mix.  Kabloooie!

And then there is all the contaminated soil and water just waiting to be taken, or washed, away.


For the sake of comparison Chernobyl contained 130 tonnes of radioactive materials and only a small part of that was affected.  Fukushima, as it sits to-day, contains over 1700 tonnes of fissionable material - possibly more - as it seems the records of what is supposed to be there compared to what has been observed aren't accurate.

Somebody - in this case the Japanese Nuclear Industry - nwas playing more than fast and loose with nuclear safety  - for profit.  It's ironic that the same nation that experienced the first nuclear bombing may also be the first to undergo a 'real' nuclear tragedy. For the ones we've had already - Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, are 'squibs' compared to what sits on Japan's Pacific coast.
                                                  One of the reactors, afterward

Ironic as well that Japan has recently abrogated its status and a 'neutral' country and wants to develop military teeth. And that the same folk  who supervised Fukushima, were also in the van to see Iran sanctioned over a nuclear program they denied and no one has been able to prove they had.  Maybe if there were economic and political sanctions for having nuclear accidents they'd have looked after their own house first?

Fukushima to-day

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