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Bloomberg is reporting that in the IAEA's opinion, "melted fuel in the No. 1 reactor building may be causing isolated, uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions." This conclusion comes as a result of research conducted after it was admitted that TEPCO workers observed neutron beams at the site at least 13 times.

The Bloomberg article also goes on to say that Japan may now be seriously considering entombing the plant in concrete, as opposed to dismantling it which could take up to thirty years. The possibility of exposure to further neutron beams adds another danger to workers at the site.

This is just a quick update. I am not a scientist, engineer or any kind of nuclear expert, whatsoever. But I try to only source my information from "credible" sources.

UPDATE
The article has this to say about neutron beams the "uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions":

Nuclear experts call these reactions "localized criticality," which will increase radiation and hamper the ability to shut down the plant. The reactions consist of a burst of heat, radiation and sometimes an "ethereal blue flash," according to the U.S. Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory web site. Twenty-one workers have been killed by "criticality accidents" in the past, the site said.

Originally posted to lonesomerobot on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by Nuclear Free DK and Japan Nuclear Incident Liveblogs.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This sounds very bad (15+ / 0-)

    If there are uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions it doesn't seem possible for them to remain "isolated" for long.

    •  This is very bad (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Drama Queen

      Itprobablywontget much worse,  fungus heat up three X

      Increase radiation yields

      George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

      by nathguy on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:02:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  NOT NEWS -- and radiation levels are falling. (10+ / 0-)

      The report of "13 neutron beams" was a week ago. That for separate very brief events.

      SPEEDI Japanese radiation monitoring says it's falling off.

      5 REM/year is the recommended limit for lab workers. This matches to 35,000,000 nanoGrays (or nanoSieverts) per year. 5 REM/year also matches to 5,700 nanoGrays/hour.

      The closest, highest heaviest radiation monitor shows a bit less than 10% of the 5 REM/year limit. And that's for 24/7/365 exposure..

      Ibaraki Prefecture has consistently had the highest radiation readings anywhere in Japan. SPEEDI readings to the north are running in the 20 nanoGrays/hour. To the west we're talking 36 to 41 nanoGrays/hour. That's normal or near normal depending on what's going through the ports.

      These are the readings at Hitachinaka City in Ibaraki Prefecture went from 639 nanoGrays/hour up to 2040 nanoGrays/hour in one 12 hour interval. This is due south from Fukushima Daiishi NPP. The helicopter water drops caused that rise.

      Since then airborne radiation measurements have declined steadily. Units are nanoGrays/hour:

      -- 556 nanoGy/h - 9:40 AM local time on the 31st

      -- 575 nGY/h - 11:00 PM local time on the 30th

      -- 597 nGy/h - 4:40 AM local time on the 29th

      -- 646 nGy/h - 6:50 PM local time on the 28th

      -- 684 nGy/h - 10:20 PM local time on the 27th

      -- 786 nGy/h - 11.00 PM local time on the 25th

      -- 866 nGy/h - 8:20 PM local time on the 24th

      -- 957 nGy/h - 7:30 PM local time on the 23rd

      -- 1012 nGy/h - 1:10 AM local time on the 23rd

      -- 1221 nGy/h - 7:20 PM local time on the 22nd

      -- 1178 nGy/h - 9:20 PM local time on the 21st

      -- 1145 nGy/h - 6:10 PM local time on the 21st

      -- 1160 nGy/h - 4:30 PM local time on the 21st

      -- 2040 nGy/h - 5:50 AM local time on the 21st (water drops)

      -- 1635 nGy/h - 4:20 AM local time on the 21st (water drops)

      -- 639 nGy/h - 5:40 PM local time on the 20th

      -- 749 nGy/h - 1:00 AM local time on the 19th

      http://gebweb.net/...

      Down at Kanagawa there's a sensor at 111 nanoGrays/hour. That's the max anywhere near Tokyo.

      These are direct measurements. There is no indication, whatsoever, that there is a containment meltdown at Fukushima or "uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions."

      Also, minimal steam has been observed.

      Heat + Water = Steam.

      If a containment structure has been melted out, it would cause enormous plumes of steam. These would carry radioisotopes into the atmosphere by the many Curies.

      SPEEDI says it ain't happnin'.

      BTW: I'm looking at electric cars. To hell with importing oil when we can build nukes and save a part of the planet.

      Save $400-billion a year in foreign exchange by swapping out 1/2 the passenger cars. No guts, no glory.

      Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

      by vets74 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:28:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Scary stuff. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ExStr8, John DE, mahakali overdrive

    I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth. ~Alphonse de Lamartine, "Marseillaise of Peace," 1841

    by notdarkyet on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:53:49 PM PDT

  •  What the hell is a "neutron beam?" (8+ / 0-)

    Just the name sounds...not good.

    My barometer says we're at Hell and dropping.

    by weatherdude on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:53:57 PM PDT

    •  It's a stream of neutrons (12+ / 0-)

      Neutron beams are a stream of neutrons.  However, I think the news report is confused in some way.  A reaction might cause a burst of neutrons but it'd be in all directions rather than being a directional beam of neutrons.  To get that, you'd have to have shielding or some type of lens to focus and collimate the neutrons and create a beam. Also, detecting the beam 1.5km away seems a bit unusual. The air should absorb or block the beam that far away.

      •  Thanks. (3+ / 0-)

        Even stupider question...are they visible to the naked eye, or do you need special equipment to measure them? The "beam" part is what makes me ask this.

        My barometer says we're at Hell and dropping.

        by weatherdude on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:35:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  sometimes you see an "ethereal blue flash" (4+ / 0-)

          the article says they're also called "localized criticality"
          I added this to an update.

          •  There are multiple issues here (7+ / 0-)

            Your diary misstated the contents of the article.  There is nothing in the article about neutron beams.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the article stating that "ethereal blue flashes" have been observed at Fukushima.  This much is stated:

            The IAEA acknowledged "they don’t have clear signs that show such a phenomenon is happening," Edano said.

            The blue flash described is a sign of a nuclear chain reaction, not a neutron beam.  It happens when charged particles move at speeds faster than the speed of light for that medium.  Neutrons could not cause this phenomenon because they carry no charge.

            There is also nothing in the data or sequence of events to suggest that there is melted fuel in the unit 1 reactor building other than what is in the vessel itself.  

            So, local criticality does not equal neutron beams.  No local criticality has been observed at Fukushima.  No neutron beams have been observed at Fukushima either - they would not have nor would they be using any type of apparatus which could actually detect the presence of a neutron beam.  That is dedicated research equipment, not radiation monitoring gear.  There may have been locations where neutron radiation was detected, but not neutron beams.

            Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

            by kbman on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:14:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  thanks (0+ / 0-)

              However, there are 2 articles, one from Bloomberg and one from Kyodo News. The latter is the report of the neutron beams and the text links to that. I felt it was pretty clear, although perhaps I should also have added the part about the Cl-38.

              Also the Bloomberg article refers to the Dalnoki-Veress paper which notes the observed "neutron beams".

              •  The problem was your update (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                OtherDoug

                which claimed that the following blockquoted text was about neutron beams when that was not the case at all.

                I also wanted to point out that the neutron beam story had been determined long ago to be a mistranslation.

                Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

                by kbman on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:05:24 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  update fixed now (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  A Voice

                  but I have to say, you're splitting hairs because both the article and the Dalnoki-Veress paper refer to the observation of some sort of event, whether mistranslated as neutron beams or other evidence of localized criticality.

                  I've noticed those with particular knowledge in this area are either showing some level of pro-nuclear bias in their analysis, or they are not. Having read many of your diaries and comments, I get the feeling of some bias, almost like you're doing damage control.

                  I'm not interested in getting into some kind of battle like you have going with this other guy Jake, but that's just my opinion.

            •  The Diary Is Accurate (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mahakali overdrive

              kbman, as in other cases, you have gotten ahead of the facts. To cite a third article:

              From Time magazine:

              The IAEA has said that the Fukushima nuclear power plant may have achieved re-criticality.  “There is no final assessment,” IAEA nuclear safety director Denis Flory said at a press conference on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News. “This may happen locally and possibly increase the releases.”

              It is simply not accurate at this point for you to say, "No local criticality has been observed at Fukushima." The truth is that the picture remains ambiguous, much as it is with respect to whether or not there are cracks in any of the reactor vessels.

              The blue flash described is a sign of a nuclear chain reaction, not a neutron beam.  It happens when charged particles move at speeds faster than the speed of light for that medium.  Neutrons could not cause this phenomenon because they carry no charge.

              You are playing semantic games. The issue isn't whether neutron beams produce blue flashes. The issue "re-criticality." And on that issue, the bottom line is that we don't know yet. I don't know, and neither do you.

              Your diary misstated the contents of the article.  There is nothing in the article about neutron beams.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the article stating that "ethereal blue flashes" have been observed at Fukushima.

              The diarist cited two articles. One mentions neutron beams and the other mentions "ethereal blue flashes." I am afraid that the "misstatements" are yours. Please try to be more careful in the future.

              •  More bullshit from Jake the troll (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Beetwasher, nancat357, Into The Woods

                Have there been ANY reports of local criticality OBSERVED at Fukushima?  Have there?  NO.

                Do neutron beams have a single fucking thing to do with local criticality?  NO.

                The diarist also directly tied the neutron beams to the local criticality.  

                In short Jake, you are 0 for 3 in your attempts to discredit what I wrote.  Nice try ferret guy.

                Free: The Authoritarians - all about those who follow strong leaders.

                by kbman on Fri Apr 01, 2011 at 12:45:05 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  No, not visible (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          weatherdude, A Voice

          Neutrons aren't normally visible to the naked eye unless they interact with something.   You wouldn't see or feel them unless it's intense enough that you've probably just received a lethal dose.

    •  This inquiring mind wants to know too! n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weatherdude, cotterperson, mattman

      That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

      by concernedamerican on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:13:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  But the "neutron beams" report (10+ / 0-)

    is a week old!

    Where is the news here?

    I'm as hysterical about this as anybody, but since I read the daily diaries on this every day, I don't think this counts as news.

    It is a calling...to do things about injustice.... It helps to have a goal. I've always tried to have one.--Ted Kennedy, True Compass

    by Timaeus on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:56:46 PM PDT

    •  That's criticality (6+ / 0-)

      If they are detecting nuclear reaction and the word uncontrolled makes my ass want a coca cola.

      Every moment in life contains an off ramp. Never be afraid to use it.

      by Adept2u on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:59:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If this wasn't bullshit (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        erush1345

        the plant workers, today, would have been carried out in bags.

        Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

        by vets74 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:33:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Neither the article nor paper say it is happening (4+ / 0-)

          right now.  

          If you were not so quick to deny and dismiss everything out of hand, people might take you more seriously.

          We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

          by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:25:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Discussion over at Arms Control Wonk (8+ / 0-)

          Both the paper and much of this discussion takes place in the deep end of the pool where I am not able to go with my waterwings, but this comment over there from JamesL seemed to convey some particularly important themes:

          1) The neutron beams are cited as suggestive that plutonium and unanium have escaped from the primary containment vessel, implying that the neutron beams were observable because the reaction occurred outside the PCV. Whether or not such a reaction within the PVC could be observed is a question that deserves clarification because it means such episodes could be ongoing.

          2) Fuel mass concentrations of melted nuclear rod portions, and concentrations of precipitated or dissolved salt are probably not homogenous. But that does not mean that concentration densities and heterogeneity of concentrations are static, particularly in immediate proximity to a melted fuel mass. Dynamic change in these variables supports a prediction of future episodic events. Given the amorphous and dynamic nature of amounts and concentrations, prediction of possibilities unfortunately lies more in the area of theory than in calculation. In the absence of more extensive calculations pursuant to those offered by Danoki-Veress, our grasp of present and future events is more likely to come initially from closely reasoned and subsequently critiqued theory.

          3) The point of criticality is only a single point. Dalnoki-Veress’s theory involves an episode of a localized mass moving from sub-critical to critical, and then back again due to decay. But it begs the question of why the mass stopped precisely at, or very near, the point of criticality, where (supposedly) natural decay was a sufficient brake to what had been an increase of activity–sub-critical moving to critical. If localized criticality is in fact occurring, or has occurred, the immediate next question would be to what degree and in how many ways might localized change occur that would negate the apparent self-limitation and permit the mass to move to super-criticality.
          ..

          http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/...

          Well said.  I assume.  

          We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

          by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:34:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And "Spruce's" critique at ACW (6+ / 0-)
            First, the lack of other short-lived fission product nuclides. ...

            Second, the lack of any further observations of Cl-38. ...

            Thirdly, the lack of reports of unexpected heat production. ...

            Fourth, the lack of credible scenario where a reactor which has been huge concentration of boric acid could reach criticality. ...

            Fifth, the lack of controlling effects if there had been criticality. ... Or, said other way: if conditions allowed criticality, what stopped it going supercritical?

            http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/...

            We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

            by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:41:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Corium composition can vary (7+ / 0-)

              quite dramatically from the same melting core. At TMI-2 there were 2 distinct compositions, at Chernobyl there were 3 (and a couple of admixture flows). With varying uranium/plutonium and oxide inclusions, its tendencies to go critical will differ, as will its viscosity.

              Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

              by Joieau on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:47:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've never seen a model of molten fuel CFD (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joieau, OtherDoug

                I would think the light elements (Tc, Cl, K, and of course H and He!) would rise to the top leaving the heavy (and fissionables) at the bottom.  But then you throw different isotopes into the mix, like Pu240, and stuff might "fiss" early instead of permitting supercriticality.

                Dunno.  Above my paygrade.

                Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
                I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
                -Spike Milligan

                by polecat on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:28:35 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  I think the more alarming (11+ / 0-)

      issue is the assessment that the nuclear reaction is uncontrolled -- at that looks like sort of breaking news.

      " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

      by gchaucer2 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:01:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  the article says... (8+ / 0-)

      Bloomberg

      Nuclear experts call these reactions "localized criticality," which will increase radiation and hamper the ability to shut down the plant. The reactions consist of a burst of heat, radiation and sometimes an "ethereal blue flash," according to the U.S. Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory web site. Twenty-one workers have been killed by "criticality accidents" in the past, the site said.
    •  1. Many Poohhoo'd N-Beam. 2. Scientific Paper (6+ / 0-)

      investigating same and concluding that evidence available to us right now excludes other alternate explanations for some of the readings and suggests without providing proof that uncontrolled nuclear reactions were firing up in #1.  

      See link to paper and excerpt below.

      We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

      by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:23:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Precisely. This is Scientific corroboration (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Into The Woods, A Voice

        of something many of us have been puzzling over for weeks, and have worried was indicative of what it's presently being stated as indicative of.

        In other words, it most certainly is news.

        •  Not 'corroboration' -Ferenc carefully qualifed (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mahakali overdrive, polecat

          And some of the significant information he refers to would need to start with a duration of exposure to seawater changed from 2 days to 13 days.  

          That might, or might not make a differnce in his formula.   I honestly don't know. *

          Barring significant information that we do not possess, neither spontaneous fission and seawater option explains the observed radioactivity.
          ...

          Assuming that the TEPCO measurements are correct, the results of this analysis seem to indicate that we cannot discount the possibility that there was another strong neutron source during the time that the workers were sending seawater into the core of reactor #1. However, since we don’t know the details of the configuration of the core and how the seawater came in contact with the fuel it is difficult to be certain.
          ...
          This analysis is not a definitive proof but it does mean that we cannot rule localized criticality out and the workers should take the necessary precautions.

          http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/...

          *( I look at most of the paper and can only think to myself:  "Kadir beneath Mo Moteh" while still hoping for "Sokath, his eyes uncovered."  So endeth the geekage.)

          We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

          by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 11:21:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  In a measurement today (11+ / 0-)

      [h/t rja in ROV #35] of trench water at unit-1 included 18 Becquerels per cubic centimeter of iodine 132. Half-life 2 hours. Probably not from a criticality that happened early last week...

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:42:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This comment deserves a serious amount (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Into The Woods, Joieau, polecat

        of consideration from other readers.

      •  kbman responded re Ferenc in Update 3/30 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, mahakali overdrive

        http://www.images.dailykos.com/...

        The point he makes about the mistaken start date is something to keep in mind when looking at these numbers.

        I've posed a couple of questions back to him.  Not sure he'll have time to respond (or even that they're on-point questions), but to the extent others are interested in taking a shot, please feel free.

        The jist of my questions are whether inserting the corrected duration (13 days vs 2 days) would make Ferenc's first alternative explanation potentially produce the readings he was focussed on?

        The follow up would be whether any alternative would work to explain other readings we're learning of, including the ones Joieau posted above.

        We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

        by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 11:09:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We do not know (3+ / 0-)

          with any real confidence that any released data on isotopic analysis are actually current. They could be days old, and they held the unit-1 data back (did they gather it at the same time they gathered for units 2 and 3?). But a good coverup expert would have held it back for those several days BEFORE doing the isotopic analysis. The I-132 would have been gone.

          It would appear that enough of the fuel and other components of the core (and possibly vessel) have become corium to be moving and mixing, causing occasional criticalities.

          NOT an actual scenario or prediction, but a recurring day-mare... will the corium lava eventually start coming through the trench heading toward the cliff? [/shivers]

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 08:55:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The lack of data on our part, (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Into The Woods, Joieau, A Voice

            when clearly they DO have the data, is even more maddening.

            Any idea how long the concrete under the PCV can hold corium?

            Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
            I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
            -Spike Milligan

            by polecat on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:31:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And withholding data encourages the public (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              polecat, Joieau, Jake Johnson

              to not only doubt both the competencies and good intentions of those both doing and those appearing to do the withholding .

              It also forces the people to speculate in the ways we see around here (both good and not-so-good).

              It is as irresistable as your tongue being drawn to the hole where your missing tooth ought to be.

               

              We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

              by Into The Woods on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:22:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  It took ~4 days for (5+ / 0-)

              the corium lava at Chernobyl to get through all the concrete and mineral insulation to the lower levels. The "elephant's foot" formation is said to be melted at least 2 meters through the concrete and into the bedrock beneath it.

              Apparently it was dilution of the fuel corium with silicates from the concrete and other silica minerals that finally cooled the final products enough to stop them from continuing to melt everything they came in contact with. We may suppose the same thing will happen at Fukushima at some point in the process. If there is corium on the move, which I remind you is NOT a confirmed scenario.

              Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

              by Joieau on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:19:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Certainly -- I get it. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joieau, A Voice

                However, should there BE any future plants made, the concrete should have a layer of SYNROC underneath it.

                Preferably shaped like egg-carton foam to contain the stuff, and probably layers of boron as well.

                I know that these plants predate synroc, but still...  think one more layer of defense against a catastrophic event.

                Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
                I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
                -Spike Milligan

                by polecat on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 01:31:02 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I am holding out hope (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  polecat, A Voice, ggwoman55

                  that there will be no new BWRs or PWRs built. Anywhere, as both have now demonstrated an odds-demolishing tendency to occasionally melt down, and when that happens the harm (and cost) is huge.

                  As for any 'advanced' designs they decide to test, they'll just swear there's no way according to the laws of physics that they could ever possibly melt down. So there's no reason to spend the extra money to do anything but pour a hefty slab over the underground piping trenches. Just like they did with BWRs and PWRs...

                  Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                  by Joieau on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 02:54:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  How bout a whole big layer of boron? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mwm341
            •  If they're holding back (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Into The Woods, A Voice

              deliberately, it has to be because it is not good.

              They would be strongly motivated to get good news out fast.

      •  ooooo, not good. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Into The Woods, mwm341

        Or, the devil is in the details.

  •  My very basic understanding (18+ / 0-)

    is that "controlled" nuclear reactions are what functioning power plants have.  "Uncontrolled" nuclear reactions are what bombs have -- i.e. explosive.

    I'm not scientist either -- but, "uncontrolled" does add another layer of fucking scary.  Here's hoping one of our rational experts will weigh in.

    IAEA is often criticized for being too conservative about rad issues -- I'd take their analysis very seriously.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:59:16 PM PDT

    •  Troublesome but not the end of the world (12+ / 0-)
      "controlled" nuclear reactions are what functioning power plants have.  "Uncontrolled" nuclear reactions are what bombs have -- i.e. explosive.

      Bombs have very controlled nuclear reactions.  If the reaction in a bomb were to be uncontrolled, then the pressure due to the reactions would separate the materials before many chain reactions occur causing a fizzle. A good portion of bomb design is in figuring out how to compress the nuclear material in a bomb together to achieve critical mass and keep it together long enough that it goes boom.


      An uncontrolled reaction is worrisome but if it's intermittent and for brief periods of time, it's not the end of the world.

      •  NO, the explosion is focused (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Voice, mwm341

        but the nuclear reaction itself, the fission, while "planned," is uncontrolled.

        This definitely sounds as if they have a nonhomogeneous melted mess in there and when some bits get too close to other bits in the melt, they get the blue flash (criticality).

        Oy vey. Does not sound like anything they can "clean up."

    •  Seconded on "please an expert weigh in soon" (8+ / 0-)

      I'm hoping, ignorant though I am, that "uncontrolled" means a few rods here burns and burns itself out, then another few rods there does the same. And not that there's just one pile and it burns. I have no clue about what it could mean, but I hope it isn't as bad as it sounds to a schmo like me.


      Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

      by Jim P on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:10:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  See my comment below and pull out (2+ / 0-)

        your science dictionary, physics textbook, or encyclopedia.

      •  Jim, I think that in laymen's terms (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Into The Woods

        what is being said is that the most likely physical explanation for what is inside at least one if not more of those reactors is a melted area that is nonhomogeneous, in that it contains several elements including some nuclear fuel, and the melt is in some state of "motion" of some kind that occasionally brings some nuclear fuel into contact with more nuclear fuel and so they get "flashes" of criticality (fission, producing neutrons) but that so far the criticality is not seeming to be self-sustaining.

        Hope that helps.

    •  Bombs have explosive reactions (13+ / 0-)

      Uncontrolled reactions can merely emit neutrons and create fission products & heat.

      Obviously, if you are standing nearby, this is not good.

      look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:14:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No actually nuclear bombs are also (2+ / 0-)

      intended to have nothing but "controlled" nuclear reactions.

      Uncontrolled means what you think it means. No one is in control. In the case of a bomb the bomb explodes without the owner wanting it to. In the case of a nuclear power plant, the "fuel", which is fissible uranium or plutonium, "fissions" (check that work in your dictionary or encyclopedia as it quite an important concept), releasing heat and various forms of potentially deadly radiation, depending on the specifics of what type of fuel or fuel byproduct is involved, how much fuel is there, what geometry the fuel or its byproduct is in, and how well it is contained or "moderated" (another excellent word to familarize yourself with) by other physical materials in the environment.

      Not an expert expert but I think I got that right.

      By the way a neutron beam would be a beam of "neutrons", in this case traveling at a very high rate of speed and packing a great amount of energy for its otherwise miniscule size.  A neutron is physical matter, invisible to the naked eye, consisting of a proton and an electron (and little else of significance here). Essentially a neutron is half of a hydrogen atom, the most dangerous half with the highest physical size and energy level. Contrast the neutron beam with the "alpha particle" beam, which consists of a beam of two protons and two neutrons stuck together, which is essentially half of a helium atom, again the most dangerous half with the highest physical size and energy level.

      •  I would contrast "intended" vs "controlled"? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Voice

        As I recall, it actually was fairly hard to get the fission bombs to explode in WWII. A huge amount of fission had to happen at once from a small amount of fissionable material. They had to use a secondary explosive to do that, imploding inwards in a careful design, driving particles into each other. So the fission that resulted was uncontrolled (not moderated) once it started but definitely carefully planned and intended.

        Fission in a functioning reactor is always moderated (controlled). Uncontrolled fission in a reactor is not a good thing.

  •  the odd thing is... (3+ / 0-)

    many other sites seem to be reporting the IAEA update and they don't have anything like that quote. They're talking about a village that should evacuate.  

    such as:

    http://ca.reuters.com/...

    Did Bloomberg get additional time with the IAEA guy where he said this?

  •  Uh oh. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, mahakali overdrive

    Ideology is an excuse to ignore common sense.

    by Bush Bites on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:21:26 PM PDT

  •  Perhaps you'd like to share with us what a... (0+ / 0-)

    ..."neutron beam" is.

    •  I think that it's something like ... (0+ / 0-)

      a photon torpedo, if you remember your StarTrek lingo.

      It's obviously some dangerous weapon that has already killed everyone in Tokyo. ;-)

      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
      -- H. L. Mencken

      by bryfry on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 04:15:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  F. Dalnoki-Veress Paper and discussion (8+ / 0-)

    This is what's NEWS:  

    WHAT WAS THE CAUSE OF THE HIGH Cl-38 RADIOACTIVITY IN THE FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI REACTOR #11F. Dalnoki-VeressMarch 28 2011

    ...What might have caused the concentration of Cl-38?

    The first possible explanation to consider is that the seawater was circulated among the core intercepting neutrons from natural spontaneous fission of the used nuclear fuel. The second possible explanation to consider is localized criticalities.
    ...

    To summarize: We can compare the calculated number of Cl-38 nuclei determined from the measured Cl-38 radioactivity, to the upper limit of the number of Cl-38 nuclei assuming the two scenarios and express this as a percentage. We find that the scenario where the molten fuel pours into the inpedestal and expedestal areas suggests a Cl-38 number that is 3.3e-4% of what is needed to explain the observed Cl-38 radioactivity. Also, the second scenario where a small 1 cm3 sample is embedded into a uniform neutron flux suggests a Cl-38 number which is even smaller at 1.3e-5%. Barring significant information that we do not possess, neither spontaneous fission and seawater option explains the observed radioactivity.

    Conclusions

    So we are left with the uncomfortable realization that the cause of the Cl-38 concentrations is not due to seawater intercepting neutrons from natural spontaneous fission of the used nuclear fuel. There has to be another reason.

    Assuming that the TEPCO measurements are correct, the results of this analysis seem to indicate that we cannot discount the possibility that there was another strong neutron source during the time that the workers were sending seawater into the core of reactor #1. However, since we don’t know the details of the configuration of the core and how the seawater came in contact with the fuel it is difficult to be certain. Given these uncertainties it is nonetheless important for TEPCO to be aware of the possibility of transient criticalities when work is being done; otherwise workers would be in considerably greater danger than they already are when trying to working to contain the situation. A transient criticality could explain the observed 13 “neutron beams” reported by Kyodo news agency (see above). This analysis is not a definitive proof but it does mean that we cannot rule localized criticality out and the workers should take the necessary precautions.

    Wonkish discussion of same at Arms Control Wonk:

    We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

    by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:19:24 PM PDT

    •  In other words (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Voice

      In other words, "we've been thinking that if there were neutron emissions that they were from some random movement or ruptures in the used fuel storage, and those should be going down if we get water back in there, but that may actually not be the case, and there may be things going on with the core, like a motion of melted fuel, that are causing neutron emissions from transient criticalities inside the primary containment."

      Um, um, yeh, that's news alright and that's not good.

  •  Wild speculation and bogosity here. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SCFrog, OtherDoug, A Voice

    The "neutron beam" comment makes you think of some kind of death ray, doesn't it? But if you read the link, it's clear this is just a really, really bad translation from the original Japanese. Sort of like the head-scratchingly bad English instructions in the Japanese plastic models I built in my adolescent geek phase.

    And that reference to criticality accidents killing "21 workers since 1945"? Anyone want to bet how many of those deaths were during the desperate, cut-any-corners early cold war days, frantically scrambling to build more and bigger bombs than the Soviets?

      •  Correct,Except for 10 fatalities and 2 injuries. (5+ / 0-)

        Except for these 6:

        On 15 October 1958, a criticality excursion in the heavy water RB reactor at the Vinca Nuclear Institute in Vinča, Yugoslavia, killed one and led to the deaths of an additional five,[8] The initial survivors needed to receive the first ever bone marrow transplant in Europe, but they all died because of incompatibility rejection.[9][10][11]

        This one:

        On 23 July 1964, a criticality accident occurred at the Wood River Junction facility in Charlestown, Rhode Island. The plant was designed to recover uranium from scrap material left over from fuel element production. An operator accidentally dropped a concentrated uranium solution into an agitated tank containing sodium carbonate, resulting in a critical nuclear reaction. This criticality exposed the operator to a fatal radiation dose of 10,000 rad (100 Gy). Ninety minutes later a second excursion happened when a plant manager returned to the building and turned off the agitator, exposing himself and another administrator to doses of up to 100 rad (1 Gy) without ill effect.[13][14][15]

        This one (fatal) and these two (injured):

        On 23 September 1983, an operator at the RA-2 research reactor in Centro Atomico Constituyentes, Buenos Aires, Argentina received a fatal radiation dose of 3700 rads (37 Gy) while changing the fuel rod configuration with moderating water in the reactor. Two others were injured.[17][18]

        Or these two:

        On 30 September 1999, at a Japanese uranium reprocessing facility in Tokai, Ibaraki, workers put a mixture of uranyl nitrate solution into a precipitation tank which was not designed to dissolve this type of solution and caused an eventual critical mass to be formed, and resulted in the death of two workers from radiation poisoning.[19][20][21]

        And that pretty "blue glow" is mentioned at that same page:

        Blue glow
        Ionized air glow

        Many criticality accidents have been observed to emit a blue flash of light and to heat the material substantially. This blue flash or "blue glow" is often incorrectly attributed to Cherenkov radiation, most likely due to the very similar color of the light emitted by both of these phenomena. This is merely a coincidence.

         ...
        Instead, the blue glow of a criticality accident results from the spectral emission of the excited ionized atoms (or excited molecules) of air (mostly oxygen and nitrogen) falling back to unexcited states, which happens to produce an abundance of blue light. This is also the reason electrical sparks in air, including lightning, appear electric blue. It is a coincidence that the color of Cherenkov light and light emitted by ionized air are a very similar blue despite their very different methods of production. It would be also interesting to remark that the ozone smell was said to be a sign of high radioactivity field through Chernobyl liquidators.

        We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

        by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:48:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Read the Paper. Very little "bogosity" there. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mahakali overdrive, mrkvica, A Voice

      The paper (linked above) quotes from the following news article:

      “Neutron beam observed 13 times at crippled Fukushima nuke plant
      TOKYO, March 23, Kyodo

      Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it has observed a neutron beam, a kind of radioactive ray, 13 times on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was crippled by the massive March 11 quake-tsunami disaster.

      TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear plant, said the neutron beam measured about 1.5 kilometers southwest of the plant's No. 1 and 2 reactors over three days from March 13 and is equivalent to 0.01 to 0.02 microsieverts per hour and that this is not a dangerous level.

      The utility firm said it will measure uranium and plutonium, which could emit a neutron beam, as well....

      But the measured neutron beam may be evidence that uranium and plutonium leaked from the plant's nuclear reactors and spent nuclear fuels have discharged a small amount of neutron beams through nuclear fission.”
      ...

      Are you saying Kyodo news website just can't translate Japanese into English?  

      We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

      by Into The Woods on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:40:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "A kind of radioactive ray". (0+ / 0-)

        Claiming that "uranium or plutonium can emit a neutrom beam" is like claiming that silicon can emit a laser beam death ray, because of the existence of diode lasers.

        I repeat, this is a really bad translation from the original Japanese, and it's non-sensical.

        •  Replace the word "beam" with "event" (0+ / 0-)

          and let's figure out what it means.

          1.5 km distance.  13 times.  0.01 to 0.02 µsieverts per hour.

          Intensity drops with the square of distance...

          So at 0.15km that would be 1 to 2 µsieverts.

          At 15 meters that would be 100 to 200 µsieverts.

          Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
          I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
          -Spike Milligan

          by polecat on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:41:21 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know about that particular source (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Voice

          but several of the Japanese sources (Yomiuri, Asahi) that I have seen used the word 中性子線, which does mean neutron beam. If there is an error in that regard it doesn't look like it comes from the translation.

          •  But is that just being litteral? (0+ / 0-)

            It is quite reasonable that in another language what is neutron radiation could be called by the words for neutron + beam, but not mean the English "neutron beam".

             

            •  Possibly (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              A Voice

              Searching for 中性子線 (chuuseishisen) on Google I find a lot of usages that are consistent with neutron beams, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't also used generically for "neutron radiation". Come to think of it 線 (sen) is also part of the word 放射線 (houshasen) which does just mean "radiation" so it is a possibility.

        •  Maybe "emission" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Voice

          instead of beam? You are dealing with translations and non-engineer/non-physicist journalists here.

      •  1.5 km away? Extrapolate that to intensity at (0+ / 0-)

        the plant!!!

        That is a huge distance for a neutron "beam."

        Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
        I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
        -Spike Milligan

        by polecat on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:38:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Bogosity" A Technical Term? ;-) n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mahakali overdrive
  •  The most disturbing aspect (7+ / 0-)

    to me over the past weeks is that even the most expert of "the experts" really can't say with any degree of certainty exactly what the hell is going on.  

    Now, given the degree of difficulty of experts in reaching the facility and actually seeing what's happening  up close and personal, and the reluctance of TEPCO to keep anyone informed as to conditions less than three days old, I guess this is to be expected by some.....but not by me.  

    If we insist on building  something that has such potential for the destruction of health, lives, and the environment, then we should damn well know what could happen in EVERY circumstance...and be prepared to deal with it immediately.  The necessity of this unfolding trial and error scenario signifies criminal disregard for the planet and its inhabitants.  

    How can anyone in their right mind  begin to suggest that more of these nuclear power plants  should be built, when we don't know enough to prevent an event like this one from happening and don't know how to contain it when it does happen?    

    And here I thought Dr. Frankenstein was fictional.  Apparently he lives.
     

  •  Time to start thinking the unthinkable (7+ / 0-)

    I agree with those here who don't want to exaggerate the threat posed by these reactors.  It can't explode like an atom bomb.  It probably isn't going to have much direct health impact on the western United States.

    But after reading this interesting article by Tom Engelhardt in Salon, I do think it's odd that we almost don't let ourselves think about where this crisis actually is heading -- let alone think about the worst likely outcomes.

    http://www.salon.com/...

    In case you hadn't noticed, while each morning's screaming headlines contain terrible words -- "dire," "catastrophic," "ever worsening," "racing against the clock" -- along with terrifying descriptions and ever-extending timelines for the crisis, few (not even, it seems, most anti-nuclear writers and groups) can bring themselves to speculate publicly about what might actually happen, no less ask the single scariest question: What's the worst that might happen?

    In mainstream news reports everywhere, you can feel the urge not to tumble into the irradiated zone of the nuclear imagination. And so one of the strangest aspects of the massive coverage of the Fukushima catastrophe -- wrapped as it is inside an earthquake/tsunami double-disaster -- has been the lack of reporting on or exploration of what the worst human and environmental consequences might be. It's as if those who report on and assess reality for us had been shoved to the edge of some cliff and none of them could bear to look down or try to describe what might be below.

    Even Engelhardt does not go beyond merely noting that we're not talking about what could happen.  Even he notes that there is a cliff to look down, but doesn't look.

    Even when a talking head on television provides a commentary that uses words that can be described as alarmist, almost all these commentators stop short of actually playing out the scenario.  

    In other words, they go up to the worst technical outcome --- such as uncontrolled fission, full meltdown, a steam or hydrogen explosion -- without explaining its economic, health and social consequences.  It's as though we stop at thinking about what physically can happen to the plant and its workers without thinking about what can happen to Japan.

    So to be brief, the worst is a meltdown with uncontrolled fission, a steam explosion and the spread of nuclear contamination far beyond the current exclusion zone.  

    If that spread is south to Tokyo, then it means the contamination of a major global urban industrial center -- one of the great economic power houses of modern civilization.  

    The thing is, that we can't even contemplate evacuating Tokyo or even a major portion of it, or even a minor portion of it, or even many of the smaller towns and settlements between Fukushima and Tokyo,  especially not in current circumstances.  There are now several hundred thousand people who are homeless and living in shelters as a result of the tsunami.  The government is barely able to take care of them -- in fact, according to many reports, flat out is not able to take care of them.  People are living on short rations and going cold and hungry.  

    In what conceivable way could the government, under these circumstances evacuate a million people or even a few hundred thousand people from any part of Japan between Fukushima and Tokyo?  Where would they go?  What would they do for work and school?

    I'm sure there are many who think that contamination of any part of greater Tokyo or the region between Fukushima and Tokyo would not present serious health risks and therefore no evacuation is needed.

    But the question isn't whether the government evacuates them; it's what the people themselves would do, as well.  We can see that Japanese people are very afraid of radiation.  Even if from a health perspective evacuation isn't necessary, we could see hundreds of thousands of people self-evacuate, causing just as much dislocation as if the government ordered it.

    I tend to look at things from an economic perspective, and I don't want to minimize the health and social aspects, but even if not a single person is injured, an abandonment of trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure, factories real estate, homes, offices, machines, farms, fishing boats, etc., would have a devastating impact on an already fragile global economy.  

    Japan is a highly indebted country and Japanese bonds, their equivalent of US treasury bills, are extremely important to the global economy.  Japan's debt is more of a problem than US debt because of Japan's demographic structure.  It's an aging population with a low birthrate and almost no immigration.  If even a few million young productive people give up on Japan and migrate, what effect will that have on the global economy and financial system.  Even if nothing worse happens at Fukushima, we may already be seeing the end of cheap credit supplied by Japan which was a major creditor of the US enabling us to run deficits, and a funder of development in poorer regions of the world.

    I think it's worth beginning to think these things through even though we're just folks commenting on a message board.  

    •  In Tokyo Now/ Think You Might Ever Face (6+ / 0-)

      a similar magnitude of threat from one of the many lurking low frequency high impact events?  (Like from the Mark 1 Fukushima #1-Type Nuclear Power Plant I've got about 40 miles up wind from me.)

      One thing to think about:  Houston.  
      Lesson:  Many major metro areas have not planned well for any kind of major evacuation.  In fact, it can be difficult to find out the evac route ahead of time.  Not really sure why that should be, but it's true in my non-hurricane prone area.)  

      Danger can catch you out on the road and if you're going to end up stuck in traffic when the danger arrives (like fallout) you might want to decide to hunker down instead of bugging out.  

      The rules for evac out of a major metro area are much like those for investing:

      Rule 1:  Don't panic.
      Rule 2:  If you're going to panic, panic first.
      Rule 3:  If it is impossible for you to comply with Rule # 2, Refer Back to Rule #1.

      If evacuation is not possible, then they'll need to be ready and able to shelter in place (or in alternate shelters in the community).

      Anyone who is prepared eases the burden for those trying to care for those who are not.  

      For those in Japan who can see they are near a worst case scenario and for those elsewhere who may find it more difficult to see they may be as well, here's a couple of offerings:

      Potential Health Effects from Radioactive Emission  ( half hour presentation by a Dr.)
      http://www.images.dailykos.com/...

      Shelter-in-Place and Dealing with Radiation - Guidance
      Links to official guidance from various sources here in the US
      http://www.dailykos.com/...

      DK Disaster Preparedness Primer
      http://www.dailykos.com/...

      DK DPP  -  Scenario 1 is Severe Winter Storms (close to a SIP situation) http://www.dailykos.com/...!

      DK DPP:  Gear and Supplies (Because it's hard to Shelter in Place if your place can't meet provide your essential needs)
      http://www.dailykos.com/...
      DK DPP - Gear and Supplies Cont.
      http://www.dailykos.com/...

      Posts on why governments should share with people the possible worst case
      http://www.images.dailykos.com/...

      What happens when a modern society has it's transporation disrupted:
      When Trucks Stop, America Stops.

      PDF here:
      http://www.truckline.com/...

      Coping:
      http://www.images.dailykos.com/...
      http://www.health.state.mn.us/...
      http://www.images.dailykos.com/...

      It may seem strange  to imagine the worst case and imagine how you would respond, but in addition to the physical preparation that such an excercise might lead you to conduct, it also gives your mind a practice run, exposing it in at least a small way to the emotional shock wave that might come with (or before or after) the event.  

      If that helps even a little in being mentally prepared to act productively if and when the time comes, it may be well worth it.  

      We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

      by Into The Woods on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:20:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Indian Point nuclear plant (4+ / 0-)

        I'm in New York and Indian Point power plant is very controversial because it is just north of New York City.  If something like Fukushima were to happen, it would be impossible to evacuate the metropolitan area.

        As for low frequency high impact events, I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11, and one of the planes coming from the north flew over the reactor, and the hijackers had considered the reactor as a target.

        We're told that a terrorist flying a plane into the reactor would not have caused an uncontrolled situation, but then they said the same thing about a tsunami and Fukushima.

        Your advice is well taken as are your rules of panic.

        •  And Two Faults Run Near It. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HamdenRice

          Actually, what they usually say is that the containment vessel around the nuclear reactor is designed and built to withstand the impact of a fully loaded 747.

          Some of the dry casks used for storage of spent fuel are  described in similar terms but with smaller planes.

          They never mention the spent fuel pools, or describe their ability to withstand that kind of impact.  Since they are protected by only the reactor building and it seems that components of the cooling systems are also relatively unshielded (the failure of which could cause a major accident even if the spent fuel pools had remained intact).  They are really saying much less than it would appear when they drag out the 747 line.  

          And of course Fukushima has taught us to pay attention to the details, like what magnitude of earthquake are all the critical elements of the nuclear plant designed, built and tested to withstand?

          What the owners, operators and regulators decide to include within their universe of "probabalistic threats" might not include the latest scientific assessment of such risks or might have arbitrarily excluded them from consideration.  

          It's big business.  It happens.  (See Financial Collapse, Gulf Oil Spill, etc, etc, etc,. )

          For instance, what if there was an undiscovered fault or worse yet an intersection of faults right near a nuclear power plant, not even discovered until decades after the plant was built.  Would it's design and construction been approved today with the knowledge of that risk?

          How comfortable is New York with the standards and process by which the 'all clear' is given with that new bit of information in the last few years?

          ...But indications are that the earthquake risk is worse than previously thought. A 2008 study by researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found that Indian Point sits at the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones, and could pose a greater earthquake threat than the plant’s design is expected to meet.

          Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say the site is safe and that its earthquake threat is on the lower end nationally and in the Northeast. But it is one of 17 nuclear sites being asked to review and reassess seismic issues. Still, said Scott Burnell, a commission spokesman, “The N.R.C. continues to believe that all U.S. plants are capable of withstanding the strongest earthquakes that can be expected at any given site.”  ...

          http://www.nytimes.com/...

          ...
          As a result of the new seismic data, the NRC study looked at all 104 nuclear plants in the country and increased the risk probability of an earthquake damaging many of them. In fact, only eight had their risk of earthquake damage lowered, MSNBC reported.

          The risk of an earthquake damaging either or both reactors at Limerick was increased by 141 percent, now making it the third most at risk, after the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in Plymouth Mass. and the Indian Point Atomic Generating Station in Buchanan, N.Y., according to the analysis by MSNBC.

          ...

          It should be noted that the "most at risk" is risk of an earthquake damaging the plant, not merely the probablility of having an earthquake affect the area.  I believe it is a measure that includes both probability and potential for damage given the severity of the earthquakes that reach some level of probablity.

          http://www.thereporteronline.com/...

          We'd rather dream the American Dream than fight to live it or to give it to our kids. What a shame. What an awful, awful shame.

          by Into The Woods on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 12:50:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  it's not just the media (4+ / 0-)

      I think this very phenomenon -- not being able to look down the cliff -- has also been stifling the Japanese government's actions.

  •  Regardless what happens they are going to lie (4+ / 0-)

    our only hope is that the IAEA will be able to provide some actual oversight and report what actually happens in the coming years. I guarantee that if they entomb it in 5 years they will be hailing the successful mitigation of the disaster while tens of thousands die from "unrelated" cancers, just like Three Mile and Chernobyl. Maybe we will get lucky and the ocean will "eat" the radioactivity and other harmful releases like the Gulf ate the oil so idiots will have something to spout about why nothing bad has come from it.

  •  It could happen. (3+ / 0-)

    And neutron bursts would be one way to detect such criticalities, depending on what's going on with the usual shielding around the reactor. After all, it was designed to shield the rest of the plant from neutrons during normal operations. However, a lot of those neutrons originate normally in the center of the vessel and are mostly absorbed before they get out of the reactor in the process of sustaining the chain reaction (about half of them), creating plutonium from U-238 (a few more), and being absorbed in control rods and borated water. If you had isolated criticalities occurring at the bottom of the vessel, they would only have the shielding to get through so they might well have a better chance of escaping and being detected outside the facility. I would call them "neutron bursts" perhaps, although the idea of their escaping via small discontinuities in the shielding or something like that does lend itself to a description as a beam.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 08:10:54 AM PDT

  •  Didn't they put boric acid into the PCVs to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Voice

    poison the reactors?

    Oh, wait -- the density of boron is low and the melted fuel would be quite dense.

    Still, shouldn't that prevent a beam from going UPWARDS, but not out to the sides if occasionally critical events take place?  And there should be considerable material (including water) around the PCV to reduce any neutron "beam", so where was this alleged "beam" detected?  When?  How strong (fast or slow)?

    Hard to know ANYTHING with the crappy data they've barely provided.

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    -Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 11:34:50 AM PDT

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