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View Diary: MotherShip 10: Japan Nuclear Disaster (34 comments)

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  •  It will never be "the same" as Chernobyl (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evilpenguin, pvmuse, HoundDog, Joieau
    Lyman said reported radiation releases falling 20-50% below that of Chernobyl may perhaps undermine the severity of the accident so far.

    But I suspect this incident will do far more damage to Japan and the Japanese than Chernobyl ever did to the Ukrainians and Russians. There isn't a lot of land in Japan to just bury and forget about, and the population density is far higher.
    But we shall see.

    "I almost died for the international monetary system; what the hell is that?" ~ The In-laws

    by Andhakari on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 12:24:34 AM PDT

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    •  Important point (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andhakari, erush1345, raines, jfromga

      I think you hit on the most important point. This type of plant cannot have an accident "as bad" as Chernobyl because this type of plant (a boiling water reactor) uses water as a moderator not solid graphite. This type of reactor is not designed to produce plutonium. A graphite reactor is designed to do so (the US has at least some reactors of such types for producing weapons grade plutonium -- I don't know anything about that really, except that they must exist to produce the weapons).

      Graphite in those reactors is very hot, both thermally and radioactively. When the containment building was blown off (and it was blown off, ZERO containment, reactor core exposed directly to the environment) the graphite immediately caught fire, lofting all those nasty nuclides into the air, and dispersing them over a very wide area. Such a reactor is much "dirtier" than any water moderated reactor.

      But Andhakari rightly points out that the population density of Japan is much higher than the are around Chernobyl. So the "human cost" of this accident may still be higher.

      But everyone who was on the grounds of the Chernobyl plant, every rescuer, firefighter, plant worker, you name it. Every single one was dosed incredibly. Hundreds of people died there from acute radiation poisoning. This accident isn't likely to get quite that bad.

      But a dry spent fuel pond is as close as such a plant can get. And even if aerosol dispersion is less from this accident, groundwater contamination is a very serious problem, as is bioaccumulation.

      There is nothing about this incident that is good, except perhaps what may be learned from it.

      •  Maybe you can help me with something. (0+ / 0-)

        I haven't heard if the source and composition of the black smoke rising from #3 has been discovered (trying to elect a Pope maybe), but if it's the stored spent fuel burning doesn't the nature of "black" smoke imply that this isn't simply aerosol dispersion, but rather nuclides carried on particulates?
        I don't want to get into pop-science project proposals, but if anyone wanted to know what the black smoke is, couldn't you just fly a radio controlled plane with a feather duster attached through the cloud and perform an analysis?

        "I almost died for the international monetary system; what the hell is that?" ~ The In-laws

        by Andhakari on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 03:40:14 AM PDT

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        •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          raines, Ender, OtherDoug

          The most likely source of the smoke is due to electrical power starting fires while testing equipment.  The electricity starts a fire initially and ignites various combustibles that are common in power plants (such as insulation and plastics).  Due to the various problems that the plants have had in the recent past (such as the earthquake, H2 explosions, other fires), I would think that upon restoring power and during motor/equipment testing that some fires would be expected.  And those fires will be stirring up some of the contamination that had not previously left the containment (but does not necessarily mean any new fuel issues).  

          Without someone directly viewing and sampling the smoke, we most likely would not be able to say for certain what exactly caught on fire.

          At this point I would not be too concerned.  If the fires continued unmitigated after power was turned off on things not working properly for a longer period of time, then I would start to be concerned somewhat.

          If there was a new problem with the spent fuel, I think the effects would be noticable even without a large amount of equipment in service yet.  Temperatures via heat guns/thermal imagers would be significantly higher, radiation levels would spike much more significantly higher, and I believe the actual smoke from a fuel fire is not blackish in color (that last one is not for certain to me).

          "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." - Ronald Reagan

          by erush1345 on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 05:16:33 AM PDT

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      •  Please do not confuse the assumption (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, Drama Queen, Ignacio Magaloni

        the reactor type, or anything to do with the nuclear reactor core, with the accident potential of the site which has seven  spend fuel ponds, each of which is capable of producing an accident worse than Chernobyl.

        I think you hit on the most important point. This type of plant cannot have an accident "as bad" as Chernobyl because this type of plant (a boiling water reactor) uses water as a moderator not solid graphite.

        As I have posted here about 20 times since the March 13, 2011 Robert Alvarez article, Alvarez asserts that a typical spent fuel pond typically contain 20 to 50 million curies of Cesium 137, compared to the 6 million curies of Cesium 137 released at Chernobyl.  This accounted to 40% of the core.

        If the spent fuel assemblies are exposed to air for more than 3 to 4 hours, they develop a risk of fire in the zirconium cladding.   This also develops the risk of re-criticallity because the cooling water also acts as a neutron barrier.  

        Also, remember that in the US, we have no approved site of permenent store, as Yucca Mountain in Nevada is mired in politics.  So we have 104 cooling ponds.  

        But, you risk creating enormous confusion in our readership when you make blanket statements like the above.  Each spent fuel cooling pond represents a threat, potentially several times the Chernobyl accident.  (With the caveat, is that I do not beleive we know from the media what the exact number of spent fuel rod are.  At least, I do not remember them without notes.)  

        But, since the cooling ponds typically accumulate all spent fuel rods since the start of plant  (or in this case) unit operations, their total threat is much greater than a reactor core meltdown, even though the reactor core rods are at a much higher level of radioactivity - (due to the amount of radioactive decay in the spent rods.)

        And please note that in the Fukashima site six of these spent fuel ponds are not only at the plant, but actually inside the reactor units, but outside the reactor containment wall.   The seventh is a shared storage site.

        Incredibly, they put the six unit cooling ponds on top, and to the side of the reactor cores for the convenience of the crane operators.

        The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

        by HoundDog on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 04:09:41 AM PDT

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