Friday, March 7, 2014

Fukushima: even the pro-nuclears admit to unstoppable China syndrome now

Reactor 3 nuclear explosion (March 13 2011)
As the third anniversary of the worst nuclear catastrophe ever approaches, and as the radioactive materials are already arriving to North America, brought by the implacable oceanic currents, it seems that this year we are going to see some some more honesty about the civilizational challenge that this unprecedented disaster means for Japan and the whole World, although always with a small mouth and trying to make up the ugly truth, as they are much more worried by a growing anti-nuclear public opinion (what they call "panic") than by widespread radioactive contamination. 

Maybe you remember that two years ago, in electoral campaign, the Japanese Government falsely claimed that Fukushima Daiichi had achieved cold shutdown, that everything was alright again. Those with some information could not believe them at all but it was just opium for the masses, and like the actual painkiller drug, its effect could only be temporary and merely hide and not at all solve the huge problem. 

Actually the catastrophe is most likely unsolvable and even the pro-nuclear magazine IEEE Spectrum admits to it now. Key excerpts:

The damaged reactor cores continue to glow with infernal heat, so plant employees must keep spraying them with water to cool them and prevent another meltdown. But the pressure vessels and containment vessels are riddled with holes, and those leaks allow radioactive water to stream into basements.


TEPCO officials have admitted frankly that they don’t yet know how to accomplish the tasks on their 40-year road map ...


Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the only other commercial-scale nuclear accidents, can’t teach Japan much about how to clean up Fukushima Daiichi. The Chernobyl reactor wasn’t dismantled; it was entombed in concrete. The Three Mile Island reactor was defueled, but Lake Barrett, who served as site director during that decommissioning process, says the magnitude of the challenge was different. At Three Mile Island the buildings were intact, and the one melted nuclear core remained inside its pressure vessel. “At Fukushima you have wrecked infrastructure, three melted cores, and you have some core on the floor, ex-vessel,” Barrett says. Nothing like Fukushima, he declares, has ever happened before. 


Every day, about 400 metric tons of groundwater streams into the basements of Fukushima Daiichi’s broken buildings, where it mixes with radioactive cooling water from the leaky reactor vessels.

Actually that is a problem that all coastal reactors potentially face. While in Chernobyl (inland) there was enough distance between the reactor and the water table to proceed with the construction of a new concrete layer underground, in Fukushima that is simply impossible. Because nuclear reactors need water for cooling and steam production (it is actually the steam which moves the electricity generating turbines), all them are built near water sources, often at the coast, where the water table is always very shallow. 

As long as that melted fuel glows inside reactors 1, 2, and 3, Fukushima Daiichi will remain Japan’s ongoing nightmare...

The article goes over this issue very surreptitiously: what does it mean that the fuel, the corium, "glows"? 

The melted fuel may also have a lava-like consistency, with a hard crust on top but softer materials inside...

In other words: even if the massive amounts of water poured to the reactors may manage to temporarily cool down the outermost layer of the corium, and that way contain to some extent the damage, the monster is still very much alive inside.

In any case the pro-nuclear article is full of inappropriate false optimism with loads of crap about how robots theoretically "will" solve the problem somehow, apparently by breaking up the corium in manageable chunks. 

That is mere science fiction. While robots can indeed be very versatile, they are as susceptible to radiation as animals, including humans. Their electronics are not at all radiation-proof as was already proven in Chernobyl, where humans actually lasted for longer than bots (although of course they died in troves later on). 

The pro-nuke article does not say a word about this crucial problem. I guess it's better in their sick minds to keep the hopes up somehow, even if it is by means of blatant lies. Even if the new bots would be somewhat more resistant to radiation it is simply unthinkable that they can directly deal with the corium itself.

An even more outragingly blatant falsehood is:
Over the decades its radioactivity will gradually fade ...

That is absolutely false: while the half-life of some (but only some) of the lighter radioactive elements is relatively short, the molten fuel is essentially made of a mixture of enriched uranium and plutonium (MOX) and these heavy minerals have extremely long half-lives: almost 25,000 years for plutonium and not less that 700 million years in the case of uranium. These are absolutely mind-boggling figures for the human concept of time. As I said back in the day, radiation is forever.

Even a lighter element like cesium has a half-life of over 180 years, what means that to reduce its danger to 10%, needs some six centuries.

We are not talking decades here, we are not talking even centuries: we are talking of a nuclear hotspot that is going to be releasing huge amounts of radiation to the ocean and the atmosphere FOREVER. 

And no, the bots won't be able to solve it, at least not in the upcoming many centuries. Radioactivity is the disintegration of matter and nothing material can break into it and remain intact.

H/t: Energy News

See also: video of Arnie Gundersen on the radioactive accident (salt mine ceiling collapse with breach into nuclear canisters) near Carlsbad, New Mexico → FEWCWD.

See also: extreme danger at Hanford Site's dam → Energy News.


  1. The March 9, 2014 issue of USA Today newspaper reports that scientists on the west coast of the USA are calling for tests to measure the amount of radiation in the ocean here. According to their computer models, the radiation from the spillage should be reaching the Seattle area by ocean current about now. The computer models say that the radiation will be in very low amounts, but until there has been testing no one knows for sure. (If there was no reliable data released by the Japanese government, then the models can't be that accurate.)

    Anyway, we may have some more objective data soon about the degree of radiation poisoning in the ocean. People here (I live in Olympia, WA) are pretty concerned. We eat a lot of shellfish, etc.

    1. The problem is that the authorities (not just in Japan but also in North America) are heavily under the nuclear lobby clout (which is not just civilian but maybe even more critically military - nuclear energy fever can be hardly understood without the nuclear enrichment and waste role in nuclear weapons). Both Canada and the USA have actually reduced testing and reporting on radiation levels since the Fukushima disaster, so unless citizen organizations begin doing their own testing, the information is likely not to flow or to flow only way too late.

      I read of some Native chief or activist from that area who said he's not eating salmon anymore, even if salmon is a most traditional food, almost staple, for them.

      Certainly the people living in the NE Pacific arch, from Chukotka to Baja California, are some of the most in danger, after Northern Japanese. Of course, all the planet is threatened to some extent but Japan and the NE Pacific arch are the most exposed of all.

      I have no idea how to solve the problem (it may well have no solution whatsoever because even containment seems beyond our foreseeable engineering capabilities) but what is clear is that ignoring it with a "pretend and extend" tactic is just mass murder. The greatest danger in all cases is for children, because they have to incorporate a lot more of the environment (food, water) in their growing bodies than adults do - and that's particularly sad and gruesome because they have absolutely no fault.

      It's a bit like child sacrifice to some monstrous deity of old. In this case the god of nukes.


Please, be reasonably respectful when making comments. I do not tolerate in particular sexism, racism nor homophobia. The author reserves the right to delete any abusive comment.

Comment moderation before publishing is... ON