By Aaron Sheldrick and Antoni Slodkowski
TOKYO | Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:16pm EDT
(Reuters) – The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is preparing to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building, a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.
Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) is already in a losing battle to stop radioactive water overflowing from another part of the facility, and experts question whether it will be able to pull off the removal of all the assemblies successfully.
“They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods,” said Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, who used to build fuel assemblies.
The operation, beginning this November at the plant’s Reactor No. 4, is fraught with danger, including the possibility of a large release of radiation if a fuel assembly breaks, gets stuck or gets too close to an adjacent bundle, said Gundersen and other nuclear experts.
That could lead to a worse disaster than the March 2011 nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant, the world’s most serious since Chernobyl in 1986.
No one knows how bad it can get, but independent consultants Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt said recently in their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013: “Full release from the Unit-4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.”
Tepco has already removed two unused fuel assemblies from the pool in a test operation last year, but these rods are less dangerous than the spent bundles. Extracting spent fuel is a normal part of operations at a nuclear plant, but safely plucking them from a badly damaged reactor is unprecedented.
“To jump to the conclusion that it is going to work just fine for the rest of them is quite a leap of logic,” said Gundersen.
The utility says it recognizes the operation will be difficult but believes it can carry it out safely.
Nonetheless, Tepco inspires little confidence. Sharply criticized for failing to protect the Fukushima plant against natural disasters, its handling of the crisis since then has also been lambasted.
Last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the government to take a more active role in controlling the overflow of radioactive water being flushed over the melted reactors in Units 1, 2 and 3 at the plant.
The fuel assemblies are in the cooling pool of the No. 4 reactor, and Tepco has erected a giant steel frame over the top of the building after removing debris left behind by an explosion that rocked the unit during the 2011 disaster.
The structure will house the cranes that will carry out the delicate task of extracting fuel assemblies that may be damaged by the quake, the explosion or corrosion from salt water that was poured into the pool when fresh supplies ran out during the crisis.
The process will begin in November and Tepco expects to take about a year removing the assemblies, spokesman Yoshikazu Nagai told Reuters by e-mail. It’s just one installment in the decommissioning process for the plant forecast to take about 40 years and cost $11 billion.
Each fuel rod assembly weighs about 300 kilograms (660 pounds) and is 4.5 meters (15 feet) long. There are 1,331 of the spent fuel assemblies and a further 202 unused assemblies are also stored in the pool, Nagai said.
Fukushima Workers Suffer Radiaton Poisoning, TEPCO Worker Confesses update 8/12/13
Published on Aug 12, 2013
Workers at Fukushima plant suffer radiation poisoning
The kicker is: The officials say the mister was spraying water from a dam about 10 kilometers away from the plant. The same water was being used for toilets and other facilities. TEPCO officials say the workers were exposed to radiation at a level of 19 becquerels per square centimeter. That’s 5 times the limit set by the utility.
TEPCO reveals pumping plan of contaminated water
here’s the kicker: It also warned of the approaching typhoon season. Not to Mention that the water is making the land kind of “Muddy” and Squishy… and the molten Cores beneath the earth are heating up with leaning nuclear spent fuel pools directly above them. Don’t forget, if Fukushima Daiichi has yet another “situation” that goes “boom”, nobody can go into any of the area There, OR, most likely Fukushima Daini (the other nuclear plant no longer mentioned) – that is about 10 KM away (as I recall). You would then have a Domino Effect. “the situation is Not Stable at ALL”.
Great interview with a guy who works at Fukushima Daiichi
Ten workers at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant were exposed to radiation from contaminated mist [...] The workers were waiting for a bus when they were sprayed [...] It was unknown how the mist became contaminated [...] They were ordered to receive full body scans, which can detect exposure to their inner organs. [...] The workers’ exposure was detected by a radiation monitor [...] Earlier today, Tepco reported that an alarm sounded at a dust monitor near the building, indicating high concentrations of radioactivity. [...]
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), August 12, 2013: I’m meeting Fujimoto-san after one of his 12 hour shifts, and I want to know how TEPCO is faring at trying to stop the leak of 300 tonnes of radioactive groundwater every day. Fujimoto-san just shakes his head. “Steam came out of the Reactor 3 building the other day,” he tells me. “When it came out, TEPCO didn’t even tell us. I found out about it on the TV news after I got home from work,” he says.
Govt. to review safety of nuclear waste disposal
Yah, Right, Give me a Break!
Propaganda chat with Dale Klein
Families visit graves in radioactive zone to weed graves. Don’t worry, they’ll return (maybe not to weed next time, but to lay down beside the dead person they still visit)
People still looking for victims of the Tsunami Earthquake of 3/11/11
Energy consumption expected to rise as “economy recovers”
Latest Headlines: http://enenews.com/
Radiation Expert: Enormous amount of contamination flowing from Fukushima will probably imperil entire Pacific Ocean — Threatens other countries, food chain — Absolutely can reach U.S. and Canadian shores (VIDEO)
NHK Special Report on Fukushima: “We are still in an emergency… Not much time left… We can’t afford to wait” — Asahi: Fear of contaminated water overflowing from well that’s nearby trench leaking 3 billion Bq/liter into ground (VIDEO)
AP: ‘Time bomb’ in leaking Fukushima trenches — If Tepco removes extremely contaminated water as planned, it will only make more flow in since reactor buildings connect to trenches
Over 15 quadrillion becquerels of radioactive substances suspected in trench that Tepco now admits is leaking into groundwater at Fukushima
Contamination sprayed on men at Fukushima plant — Alarm sounds over radioactivity levels — Worker: They never told us Reactor 3 building was steaming, “I found out about it on TV” (VIDEO)
Tepco: Trench connected to Unit No. 2 is what’s contaminating groundwater at Fukushima — Has extremely high levels of over 3 billion Bq/liter of radioactive substances — Water is flowing in from reactor building (VIDEO)
Fukushima Workers: Another accident is inevitable — There’s always risk of another explosion, I fear that a lot (AUDIO)
Korea Times: Quarter-billion liters of Fukushima contaminated water flowed into Pacific — Japan cover-up could violate international law — Hid global issue of environmental concern?
Report: The people of Japan are responsible for poisoning of world’s food chain due to Fukushima catastrophe — They have to stand up and take action — “The buck has to stop somewhere” (VIDEO)
NBC Nightly News: Urgent situation after frightening discovery at Fukushima — Planned ice wall shows Tepco is grasping at straws and can’t stop plant leaking like a sieve — Now almost 900 straight days of contamination flowing in Pacific (VIDEO)
song at end by Benjamin Orth on dig.ccmixter called worth it then (in part)
Deadly removal work ahead at damaged nuclear plant
Updated at 5:41 am today
The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan is preparing to remove 400 tonnes of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company says it is a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.
More than 1300 used fuel rod assemblies need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse if another large earthquake occurs.
The rods contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times that released by the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
The operation will begin in November at the plant’s No. 4 reactor.
Contaminated mist: Workers at Fukushima ‘sprayed’ with radioactive water
Edited time: August 12, 2013 16:57
Ten workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant were exposed to radiation from contaminated mist, TEPCO says. Workers in the building were prohibited from using tap water, which comes from the same tainted source 10 km from the facility.
Exposure levels detected by radiation monitors worn by workers were found to be as much as 10 becquerels per square centimeter – 2.5 higher than the safe radiation exposure level – said Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s operator responsible for decommissioning.
The affected were ordered to receive full body scans, which can detect radiation exposure to internal organs.
Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant might have come into contact with contaminated mist water from devices used to cool temperatures around the Main Anti-earthquake building while waiting for a bus, TEPCO said.
The employees said that when they were near the device, the alarm indicating an increased level of radiation went off.
The cooling devices were turned off and workers at the building were prohibited from using tap water, which comes from the same source.
Fukushima plant spilling contaminated water into the sea ‘for years’
Workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have told the ABC that contaminated water has most likely been seeping into the sea since the disaster two-and-a-half years ago.
Japan’s nuclear watchdog has described the leaks as a “state of emergency”.
Workers have told ABC’s AM program that they do not have much faith in Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) ability to handle the situation and they claim another accident is inevitable.
Fujimoto-san, a 56-year-old decontamination worker at the Fukushima nuclear plant, says he has to hide his real job from his two young grandsons for fears they would shun him if they knew.
- Workers at the Fukushima plant say contaminated water has most likely been seeping into the Pacific Ocean since the disaster two-and-a-half years ago.
- They say operator the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) knew all along but did nothing.
- The workers accuse the company of underpaying them and say another accident at the plant is inevitable.
- Japan’s nuclear watchdog has described the leaks as a “state of emergency”.
“We work at the most dangerous place in Japan,” Fujimoto-san said.
“Not only that, I work 12-hour shifts and only get paid 11,000 yen.”
The wage equates to $125 per shift, or $10 an hour.
Fujimoto-san says if TEPCO caught him speaking to journalists, there would be serious consequences.
“I’d be fired for sure. Speaking out is an act of suicide,” he said.
TEPCO has been trying to stop the leak of 300 tonnes of radioactive groundwater every day.
Pump and pray: Tepco might have to pour water on Fukushima wreckage forever
Published time: August 07, 2013 20:30
Fukushima is a nightmare disaster area, and no one has the slightest idea what to do. The game is to prevent the crippled nuclear plant from turning into an “open-air super reactor spectacular” which would result in a hazardous, melted catastrophe.
On April 25, 2011 – one month after the explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant and the anniversary of Chernobyl – I was interviewed by RT and asked to compare Chernobyl and Fukushima. The clip, which you can find on YouTube, was entitled, “Can’t seal Fukushima like Chernobyl – it all goes into the sea.” Since then, huge amounts of radioactivity have flowed from the wrecked reactors directly into the Pacific Ocean. Attempts to stop the flow of contaminated water from Fukushima into the sea were always unlikely to succeed. It is like trying to push water uphill. Now they all seem to have woken up to the issue and have begun to panic.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean – roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin – his control
Stops with the shore; — upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor does remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own
George Gordon Byron, from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto II
The problem is this: the fission process in a reactor creates huge amounts of heat. Of course, that is the whole point of the machine – the heat makes steam which runs turbines. Water is pumped through channels between the fuel rods and this cools them and heats the water. If there is no water, or the channels are blocked, the heat actually melts the fuel into a big blob which falls to the bottom of the steel vessel in which all this occurs – the pressure vessel – and then melts its way through the steel, into the ground, and down in the direction of China. Well, not China in this case, but actually Buenos Aires, Argentina (I figured out).
I have been keeping an eye on developments, and it is quite clear that the reactors are no longer containing the molten fuel – some proportion of which is now in the ground underneath them. Both this material and the remaining material in what was the containment are very hot and are fissioning. Tepco is quite aware – and so is everyone else in the know – that the only hope of preventing what could become an open-air super reactor spectacular is to cool the fuel, the lumps of fuel distributed throughout the system, mainly in the holed pressure vessels, and also in the spent fuel tanks and in the ground under the reactors.
That all this is fissioning away merrily (though at a low level) is clear from the occasional reports of short half life nuclides like the radioXenons. The game is to prevent it all turning into the open air super reactor located somewhere under the ground. To do this, they have to pump vast amounts of water into the reactors, the fuel pond and generally all over the area where they think the stuff is or might be. This means seawater since luckily they are near the sea. But they are also unluckily near the sea – since you cannot pump the sea onto the land without it wanting to flow back into the sea.
Now a good proportion of the radioactive elements, the radionuclides, are soluble in water. The Caesiums 137 and 134, Strontiums 89 and 90, Barium 140, Radium 226, Lead 210, Rutheniums and Rhodiums, Silvers and Mercuries, Carbons and Tritiums, Iodines and noble gases Kryptons and Xenons merrily dissolve in the hot seawater. There is also a likelihood that the normally insoluble Uraniums, Plutoniums and Neptuniums will dissolve in seawater to some extent, because of the chloride ions. And if they don’t, the micron and nano-particles of these materials will disperse in the water as colloidal suspensions. So a lot of this stuff gets into the sea. Of course, most of the fuss is being made by the Americans who are on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. How unfair that the USA should suffer from the Japanese affair, they think. And also feel a level of fear, underneath all this. As perhaps they should since it is their crappy reactors that blew up.
We hear that 400 tons of highly radioactive water is now escaping the barriers that Tepco erected and is reaching the sea. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said on August 7 that “stabilizing Fukushima is our challenge.” Tepco said, “This is extremely serious — we are unable to control radioactive water seeping out of the Fukushima plant.” CNN quoted “industry experts” saying that “Tepco has failed to address the problem…[the experts] question Tepco’s ability to safely decommission the plant.”
There are some things I want to say about all this. First is the inevitable discourse manipulation – something that we have seen in the media ever since this disaster occurred. “Decommission the plant” suggests some calm and ordered scientific process akin to shutting down and defueling an old reactor which has reached the end of its design life. It sparks images of a wise nuclear engineer in a lab coat consulting a document, discussing some issue with a worker in brilliant white overalls with a Tepco logo, wearing a white hard-hat. The reality is that this is a nightmare disaster area where no one has the slightest idea what to do and which has always been out of control. All that they can do is continue to pump in the seawater to hope that the various lumps of molten fuel will not increase their rate of fissioning. And pray. The water will then pick up the radionuclides and flow downhill back to the sea. Of course, they can put up a barrier; surround the plant with a wall. But eventually the water will fill up the pond and flow over the wall. All that water will create a soggy marsh and destabilize the foundations of the reactor buildings which will then collapse and prevent further cooling. Then the Spectacular. All this is predictable enough.