It looks like we are entering the “post mortem” phase of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The site is now coming under control and we are starting to see new information that is showing what really happened in greater detail. Given that, this seemed like a good time to have a ‘reminder’ posting that the event is ‘ongoing’ (and likely will be for a couple of years…) even if it has left the headlines.
Folks wanting to revisit the older comments can hit these links:
If you would like to review the historic quake maps, or see a current set, they are here: Japan Quake posting complete with some historical pictures of the quake maps as it happened.
The diagram of the GE Mark I reactor as in Japan:
Also, a reminder that it’s always a good idea to “be prepared”. Be it floods, quakes, snow in summer, or just a local nuclear “event”; having some “stuff” and some “food & water” of known history is comforting.
Meanwhile, back at the reactors
In the prior posting, Ruhroh has provided a pointer / reminder to the goings on now:
The old miscalibrated water level gauge schtick again.
What does this say about the other instrumentation?
It had bothered me that they were pumping in a set volume / time based on assumptions about the core status. I’d have likely just pumped in water until the pressure rose in a manner indicating that the chamber was full (rapid rise) and the outlet temp was very cool. They went for “it ought to take this much” and pumped that in. Fine if the “ought to” is valid. Not so fine if you have no instruments or they are lying to you.
At any rate, per the article, it looks like a core melt happened and it is inside the containment to some degree.
Is it “time to panic”?
Nope. Things have more or less “worked as advertized” (modulo some broken pipes and leakage) and things are coming under more control (less risk, and less new damage) each day. BUT, IMHO, it certainly is time to begin asking why this generation of reactors has behaved so badly, why the response was (while valiant) a bit “ersatz”; and what the future is likely to hold. Just where HAS all that spent fuel ended up, and how DO you clean up a mess like this?
From that link:
Investigations at unit 1 at Fukushima Daiichi suggest that most of the fuel in the reactor core melted and dropped to the bottom of the reactor vessel in the early stages of the accident. Work has started on installing a structure to cover the damaged reactor building.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said that following the installation and calibration of two new water level gauges, water level readings suggest that most of the fuel in unit 1 had earlier melted and fallen to the bottom of the reactor vessel, where it has solidified and been kept adequately cooled. The company said that most of this core melt probably occurred within 16 hours after the unit automatically shutdown when the earthquake struck on 11 March.
Looks to me like “flying on instruments” doesn’t work at Mark I plants after a major accident… Maybe they need some new procedures…
And now we have a melted core stuck to the bottom of a broken reactor building. Yuck. This is not a good day in Japan.
The article goes on:
The company said that readings showed the water level in the reactor vessel was “lower than five metres below the top of the active fuel (TAF), which means the water level was lower than the original bottom level of fuel.” Tepco added, “It is estimated that the damaged fuel with control rods moved down to the lower plenum in the reactor and they are being cooled there stably.” As a result of injecting water into the unit, the temperature of the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) has remained between 100 and 120°C.
In a statement Tepco said, “We would like to emphasize that due to the limitation of available data and information, the result of this analysis should be considered as provisional.” It added, “We will continue efforts to have more accurate status of the reactor core through further investigation as well as for the units 2 and 3 through similar analysis
Nothing like “steam cooling” when you thought you had “water cooling”… but it’s cool now. Maybe… and they are sure it’s all OK and just as they have described, unless it isn’t… But everything is fine and they know exactly what has happened, except for the “clueless parts”:
The low water level raises the question of where the water injected to the reactor core over the last eight weeks has gone. Tepco said that it assumes that water is leaking from the RPV, but it does not suspect significant damage to the bottom of the RPV. It suspects that the molten fuel may have created holes in the RPV and damaged the containment vessel, allowing radioactive water to leak into the basement of the reactor building. The company is therefore reconsidering its plan to flood the containment vessel of unit 1, as this could potentially affect the overall plan to stabilise the site.
There has been another death at the plant, though they are claiming it is not radiation related:
The worker had been working on the drainage system of the centralised radioactive waste store when he fell ill. He was taken to the on-site medical centre, where he lost consciousness and stopped breathing. Shortly after being transferred to a nearby hospital, the worker died. Tests showed that the worker had not been contaminated with radiation.
The next couple of links quoted below are from comments made by Ruhroh on the prior thread, I’m putting them in this article as they are the current state of information and many folks may not have read the links from an old article comment.
From the “This Time For Sure!” department:
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been forced to devise a difficult new step to cool a reactor at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after its attempt to flood the pressure vessel and containment vessel with water failed.
TEPCO said on May 14 that 3,000 tons of water found in the basement of the No. 1 reactor building had likely leaked from the containment vessel.
The utility had fed more than 10,000 tons of water into the reactor for cooling, hoping to flood the core vessel and outer containment vessel so that damaged fuel rods will be kept submerged, in a process called “water entombment.” However, some of the water apparently leaked through pipe joints in the containment vessel.
Although it has not measured the radiation level of the water, TEPCO said it is very likely highly contaminated.
With the discovery of the massive volume of contaminated water, the company is being forced to consider using the leaked water to cool the reactor core.
“We want to review our plan to circulate water to cool (the reactor),” said Junichi Matsumoto, a senior official with TEPCO.
The utility was initially seeking to pipe water from the containment vessel back into the pressure vessel after cooling the water.
But installing a system to recirculate the contaminated water for cooling will likely prove a big headache for the utility.
The radioactivity level inside the reactor building is very high, with a reading of up to 2,000 millisieverts per hour, an extreme danger to workers. That reading was taken May 13 at a site near a pipe leading to the pressure vessel at the southeastern part of the ground floor of the No. 1 reactor building.
Once again we are reminded that “Hope is not a strategy. – E.M.Smith” and that “likely” is not data…
And then there are minor other issues, like maybe the whole thing will just fall over…
The roadmap previously called for the construction of a support structure for the used fuel pool of unit 4 as the walls of the building supporting the pool have been damaged. The construction of this is set to begin next week. In addition, Tepco said it is now considering reinforcement work at each of the other units.
In Other Sources
So I found this IAEA page that has some technical update information:
Deposition in 47 Prefectures
The daily monitoring of the deposition of caesium and iodine radionuclides for 47 prefectures is continuing. For the period 5 – 10 May, deposition of I-131 was detected in three prefectures, with values ranging from 1.5 Bq/m2 to 4.5 Bq/m2. Deposition of Cs-137 was detected in eight prefectures in the same period, the values reported ranging from 3 Bq/m2 to 44 Bq/m2. The reported values show that variable but low level deposition of radionuclides was still occurring in some prefectures.
Gamma Dose Rates in 47 Prefectures
Gamma dose rates are measured daily in all 47 prefectures. On 10 May the value of gamma dose rate reported for Fukushima prefecture was 1.7 µSv/h. In all other prefectures, reported gamma dose rates were below 0.1 µSv/h with a general decreasing trend.
Gamma Dose Rates in Areas More Than 30 km from Fukushima Daiichi Plant
Gamma dose rates reported specifically for the monitoring points in the eastern part of Fukushima prefecture, for distances of more than 30 km from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, showed a general decreasing trend, ranging from 0.1 µSv/h to 20.3 µSv/h, as reported for 10 May.
Maps of gamma dose rates, deposition of Cs-134 and deposition of Cs-137 within the 80 km zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant were produced by means of aerial gamma ray monitoring by the Nuclear Safety Technology Centre of MEXT and the United States Department of Energy (DOE). The maps show that the results obtained are consistent with all previous measurements of deposition in soil and of dose rates.
So we’ve got Cs-134 “out there” (though not in large quantity)…. Though stronger near the plant:
Air Concentrations of Radionuclides On-site at Fukushima Daiichi Plant
On-site measurements at the west gate of the Fukushima Daiichi plant indicate the presence of I-131 and Cs-137 in the air in the close vicinity of the plant (within approximately 1 km). The concentrations in air reported for 10 May were 4 Bq/m3 for total I-131 and 16 Bq/m3 for total Cs-137. The values observed in the previous days show daily fluctuations with an overall decreasing tendency.
There is now, of course, a Wiki on it:
Which is jumping on the “nuclear explosion” bandwagon of “prompt criticality” in the spent fuel pool:
Possibility of criticality in the spent fuel pool
TEPCO claimed that there was a small but non-zero probability that the exposed fuel assemblies could reach criticality. The BBC commented that criticality would never mean a nuclear explosion, but could cause a sustained release of radioactive materials. Criticality is usually considered highly unlikely, owing to the low enrichment level used in light water reactors. There was, however, speculation on Russia Today by low-dose radiation researcher and anti-nuclear activist Christopher Busby that the explosion that destroyed the reactor 3 building was a “nuclear explosion” of some kind in the spent fuel pool. Similarly, as noted above, Arnie Gundersen surmised a prompt criticality for the 13 Mar 2011 explosion at the spent fuel pool located on top of the reactor 3 building.
On 11 May, TEPCO released underwater robotic video from the spent fuel pool. The video appears to show large amounts of debris contaminating the pool, but experts opined that the fuel rods, which are not visible in the clip, “were left largely undamaged despite the disaster.”
Personally, I don’t see how it could happen, but maybe there is some “trick” of which I am not aware…
There is a video (in links in the prior thread) claiming to show a glowing spot. No mention of the fact that the solid state sensors used to “film” with these days are sensitive to all sorts of radiation and any “visible” glowing spot might not be glowing from heat at all; but just from a sensor acting out of band. (Some folks take the IR filter out of solid state cameras to make IR cameras out of them, for example. If you don’t control what EM spectrum gets to the sensor, it’s not just operating in the visual band…)
It’s a fairly detailed write up, even if some parts are less than “stellar” in the objectivity… It has many pictures and graphics in it, including one on radiation patterns:
To see this in full detail you will need to start from the wiki page as that image is a cut down size:
JUST the image, without the meta-data:
And last, and probably least, the Straight Poop from the pooper in charge:
Which has a great little map of the site that purports to have detailed radiation measures on it, if only I could read Japanese…
As I read the Wiki map, nothing major is happening to folks outside Japan, and even inside Japan most places are pretty much fine. There will still be a lot of folks who “have issues” from this event, and the event isn’t over yet.
Now begins the “sequelae” the “aftereffect of disease, condition, or injury”.
Now we find out how bad it really will be.
IMHO, the largest damage will come from the freeze this is likely to put on new nuclear power. The damage from that “lack of electricity” will be giant, but largely unseen as a consequence of this event. It will be blamed on a thousand and one other things.
At present, the “greens” are defining as unacceptable: Oil, Coal, Nuclear, Tar sands, and to some degree: natural gas – though with tepid acceptance in limited use. What that leaves is wind and solar as “good” (in their minds). Unfortunately, they can not power the world. Not even close. The infrastructure does not exist and could not be built in time even if we were trying. (You would need massive cross continental scale and transoceanic scale DC transfer cables to avoid the need for duplicate power generation via other means. Facilities that scar the land and would not be allowed unchallenged.)
So the looming electrical shortages will be ascribed to all sorts of other things. Population growth. Immoderation. A “needed sacrifice”. Who knows what all.
At any rate, it looks like “cold” is going to be joined by “dark” unless folks realize that coal and nuclear are needed to keep the lights on.
Personally, I’m not too worried. I lived under Governor Gray “grayout” Davis in California when we had rolling blackouts and general chaos in the power system (all that loverly government “order”…) so I’ve got the equipment needed to do just fine. It may actually motivate me to finish that battery box / inverter installation I was working on when the government stopped “fixing” things and power became stable again ;-)
Home heat is via natural gas. I’ve got a nice 1 kw Honda gasoline generator (but if it gets bad, I’ll likely add a 3 kw ‘multi-fuel’ Honda with a natural gas connection and optional gasoline / propane if desired.) We’ve lived on the system as it stands a dozen times (or more); and though I’ve not used it in a few years now, a bit of cleaning and it will be fine. What folks in New York will do, I don’t know. Not my problem…
The agitation has begun to shut down our older nuclear plants (and just incidentally throw a lot of nuclear decommissioning business at GE? Along with booking up their Gas Turbine and Wind Turbine business?…) in places like Indian Point. This will cause chaos in the electrical grid given the present “alternatives” available.
At any rate, expect new nuclear to be largely a “China Thing” and an “India thing”. France is already “full up”. Germany is rapidly heading to “none” (if it isn’t there already). England is shutting down and tilting at windmills. Spain, Italy, Greece etc. have no money to buy anything with anyway. The USA will be in political stewing mode for the next couple of years as nothing is resolved. Canada and Australia are likely to follow the British lead, though more slowly and after a lot of fretting about it. South America is once again flirting with The Socialism Shiny Thing and Chavez will be looking to addict them to Venezuelan oil as a means to influence. Japan will be “on the rocks” for new nukes for a very long time. The Koreas, well, that’s just a non-starter as they face their next war from a frozen and hungry north looking at a warm and well fed south. Russia is likely to just sit pat as they have a good mix of power as it stands and new nukes are, er, um, ‘a worry’ for them…
So as I see it, aside from Iran who will likely be bombed if they get too far along, only India and China are likely to build a lot of nuclear power in the next decade or two. That also means they will be the global locations with both cheap plentiful labor and cheap plentiful power. It will assure their economic growth for a few decades to come. While month to month investment timing needs to be checked against the present charts (to see what the hedge funds and Whale Traders are doing to them) the very long term prospects for China and India are looking much better vis a vis “The West”…
Welcome to our Brave New World…