Fukishima- Still a Mess

Is there a chance they will ever get this under control:

Fukushima operator TEPCO has been forced to switch off the cooling system at mothballed Reactor Unit 5, after it was discovered that it had been leaking water. In nine days, if the system is not repaired, temperatures will exceed dangerous levels.

Engineers have discovered that 1,300 liters of water leaked from a cooling system intended to stabilize the temperature of the spent fuel at the Reactor Unit 5, which was offline but loaded with fuel rods when the plant was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The source of the leak was a 3 mm-diameter hole near a flow valve, a statement published by the Japanese energy giant on Sunday asserts. However it is unclear from company data if the location of the opening has been discovered, or whether it was calculated with flow measurements.

Absolute disaster.

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45 replies
  1. 1
    MikeJ says:

    Have they decided yet if they’re going to have to scrap the Ronald Reagan? Last I heard it was so irradiated from ops right after the tsunami that they might never be able to clean it. $6 billion.

  2. 2
    SuperHrefna says:

    Eek. And there is my brother, living 100 miles away from Fukushima. Ever since I saw the recent Vice report ( http://youtu.be/R704eWwXe_g ) I’ve been really concerned for his safety. Are there any Japanese or radiation expert Juicers out there who can tell me if I’m overreacting or justifiably concerned?

  3. 3
    Emma says:

    Short answer: not until the Japanese government stops trying to save face and spends the billions it will take. Shorter answer: f_cking never.

  4. 4
    priscianus jr says:

    I think the problem is as much sociological as technological.

  5. 5
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Is there a chance they will ever get this under control:

    Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, ya know.

  6. 6
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Emma: The Japanese government seems to be far more interested in ditching the post WWII commitment to peace.

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Emma: The Japanese government seems to be far more interested in ditching the post WWII commitment to peace.

  8. 8
    Trentrunner says:

    And The China Syndrome is being released on blu-ray in October.

    The reviews are glowing.

  9. 9
    Keith G says:

    Quite a run of good news posts you got going here.

    Time to go to the Aww sub reddit for kitten cuteness.

  10. 10
    Emma says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Yeah. I have some Chinese and Korean acquaintances that are seriously not happy.

  11. 11
    chopper says:

    and a hurricane is headed towards japan. It’ll mean a ton of rain and some blustery winds by the time it hits Fukushima but still, fun on a bun.

  12. 12
    Robert Sneddon says:

    rt.com == Russia Today, the Newsmax of the conspiracy-minded Russian (and other nationalities).

    From the fine article, “If no new cold water is pumped in at such rate it will reach the dangerous threshold of 65C by the midpoint of the month in roughly 9 days.”

    The article is unclear whether they’re referring to the spent fuel pool or the reactor vessel itself. Topping up the spent fuel pool with water is a trivial process, it’s a large open bathtub containing a few thousand tonnes of water. They could top it up by hand with buckets if a garden hose wasn’t available. As for “65C” being dangerous, the fuel rods will start to deform and take damage at about 800C, they operate in a reactor at 400C or 500C continuously for months on end. I’m not sure why a spent fuel pool temperature of 65C is regarded as a problem.

    Reactor 5 like its sister no. 6 is in cold shutdown and has been since before the earthquake and tsunami. That means cooling water has been circulating through the reactor vessel and its load of fuel rods to remove decay heat and as far as I know that’s not posed any problems although there is more decay heat to remove since the rods in the reactor will be a lot “fresher” than the older ones in the spent fuel pool. This many years since the rods in the no.s 5 and 6 spent fuel pools were last in an operating reactor their decay heat is not really a problem — a lot of the spent fuel rods could probably be dry-casked now.

  13. 13
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    3mm, though. That’s the problem with nuclear facilities: big industrial buildings that rely upon tiny tolerances.

  14. 14
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @chopper: I’m flying out to Tokyo in, ummm, less than 36 hours. The weather forecast for Tokyo is for heavy rain on Thursday or Friday but that’s all. The Pacific typhoon in the news (Neoguri) is heading north to hit the Chinese mainland, skirting the western coast of Kyushu more than a thousand kilometres from Fukushima Daiichi.

  15. 15
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    Don’t believe anything RT says about nuclear. Everyone else’s nuclear = will kill us all within the week. Russia’s nuclear = leading the world for peace.

    Plus, on general propagandistic principles, sea monsters and flying saucers coming from inside the hollow earth.

  16. 16
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    If the Japanese, supposedly far more efficient can’t control this, God help the USA if we have a Fukishima of our own.

  17. 17
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee: I don’t know how much truth there is to that stereotype. Japan’s bureaucracy makes ours look decisive

  18. 18
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I’ve seen comments on pro-nuclear blogs suggesting that the Russian government is behind a lot of FUD reports about nuclear power to encourage Europeans and others to abandon nuclear and buy their gas. At the same time Rosatom are offering providing turnkey funding, construction and operation of new nuclear plants to countries that aren’t interested in buying their gas. Iran, for example is negotiating to build another two Russian reactors and a Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactor was brought up to full power recently in India ready for commercial operation this month.

  19. 19
    MomSense says:

    @SuperHrefna:

    Unfortunately, there is reason for serious concern–especially for children. I recommend Arnie Gundersen at fairewinds.org as a good resource.

  20. 20
    SuperHrefna says:

    @MomSense: Thank you! I’ve tried taking this issue up with my brother but he has a firm head in the sand stance on this one.

  21. 21
    celticdragonchick says:

    The VICE report on HBO was utterly fucking terrifying. They have hundreds of thousands of gallons of irradiated groundwater sequestered in a gigantic tank farm that grows every day…and there is no end in sight.

  22. 22
    trollhattan says:

    “Ever”?

    Not in our lifetimes.

    We’re still cleaning up the Manhattan Project.

    The ironic bit is this has made Japan a larger importer of coal and oil. Yay, everybody.

  23. 23
    Bob Munck says:

    Is there a chance they will ever get this under control:

    Eventually the radioactives will decay; unfortunately they mostly have half-lives of 20,000 years or more, some much more. The melt-down of the reactor in Gabon is finally under control after 1.7 billion years (it was the problem of a previous ruling species, not us).

    I’d suggest that the problem with nuclear energy isn’t a matter of technology, but of economic system: nukes and unfettered capitalism just don’t mix. Sooner or later the corporation slacks off on safety measures to increase shareholder value, and pretty soon you’re sending in the robots.

  24. 24
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    If the Japanese, supposedly far more efficient

    1) That’s a big “supposedly” there
    2) The biggest problem with Fukushima so far hasn’t been efficiency, it’s been an unwillingness to deal with inconvenient facts. They simply aren’t willing to admit that there’s anything wrong until it’s so bloody obvious they simply can’t avoid it. It appears that this involves disinformation not just to the public but also to the people who are responsible for managing the problem. The US is far from perfect in this regard, but we’re at least a little bit better.

  25. 25
    chopper says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    a thousand? map i’m looking at has the center of the storm a bit more than 100 miles from fukushima proper around thursday evening.

    maybe it’s changed, i hope it has.

  26. 26
    MomSense says:

    @SuperHrefna:

    I have a good friend coming to visit later this month who lives in Fukushima Prefecture. I’ve tried to talk about it gently–but I think he is just really overwhelmed by it and trying to live with it all the time.

  27. 27
    revrick says:

    Even if they could do everything perfectly, they would need to build a sarcophagus that would last as long as the human species has existed. Which means rebuilding it every hundred years when the concrete fatigued. Japan is in big trouble.

  28. 28
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Robert Sneddon: I think that’s about it. Plus general confusion to make people more susceptible to their propaganda, which is pretty thick lately.

  29. 29
    Roger Moore says:

    @Bob Munck:

    nukes and unfettered capitalism just don’t mix.

    One word: Chernobyl. The problem is not capitalism but human nature. People are just terrible at dealing with any problem that has the potential for rare catastrophic failures because we can’t deal well with either extremely rare events or events far beyond the scale we’re used to considering. Put the two together, and you’re headed for disaster.

  30. 30
    J R in WV says:

    This is more F’ed up than Gabon’s naturally occurring meltdowns.

    I don’t trust the TEPCO nor the Japenese government to fix this cluster fuck.

    We should all, every mother, father, son daughter of us be taking anti-radiation uptake minerals to at least slow the uptake of radiation-emitting bits of fallout into our bodies.

    If the Reagan was contaminated, it should be decontaminated with a vengence. If this means dropping it into a subduction trench, so be it. Send TEPCO the bill! The salors who were on board, I hope they were kept inside!

    We got training on handling atomic pollution back in 1970, I would hate to think they had forgotten the need for that kind of training. My ship was built in 1944ish, and had salt water washdown systems that would flood every surface outdoors / above decks violently. At least so we were told. I never saw the washdown system in operation, but there it was, big pipes with nozzles, on every deck.

    I’m planning on giving up Pacific caught fish sometime before too long. I’ve got a geiger-counter used in my rock collecting hobby, to be sure I ddin’t have a big chunk of ore radiating the house with me all unawares. If the fish start having a high count reaction on the gadget, I’ll be eating Atlantic fish. Unless the BP oil smells too strong!

    Wow, are we fucked!!!

    NOT just Japan, All of US! Fucked, everybody!!

  31. 31
    srv says:

    Last I heard, the Reagan was being rebased to Japan.

    Maybe the Navy isn’t trying to be subtle.

  32. 32
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    The Reagan was never contaminated in the way the doomsayers want you to think. Photos of the “radioactive snow” are in fact photos of the deck being washed down – yes, there was a little bit of contamination. Look closely – that’s not snow, it’s soapsuds.

  33. 33
    Bob Munck says:

    @Roger Moore:

    The problem is not capitalism but human nature.

    True; we’re not all saints, after all.

    But capitalism without regulation just exacerbates human nature. Chernobyl showed that there are forms of communism that do also, and I’ll bet you couldn’t trust people living in a feudal state with atomic energy either. I think we can handle long-term-rare catastrophic events, but you need the right social and economic mechanisms to do so. Something of the nature of a hereditary caste of nuclear-system inspectors with the power to detect and correct problems, supported by the state. Or maybe some level of artificial intelligence.

    (Apologies to Simon Templar.)

  34. 34
    Bob Munck says:

    @J R in WV:

    Gabon’s naturally occurring meltdowns.

    The birds and lizards just want you to think it was naturally-occurring.

  35. 35
    jheartney says:

    My guess is this Unit 5 problem is minor compared to the first four units. The core never melted down, so the reactor building can be entered and worked within. It’s been in cold shutdown for over three years, so the core isn’t generating heat in anything like the amounts of a just-shutdown unit. If the leak is in the fuel ponds, refilling them is easy.

    Units 1, 2, 3 and 4, OTOH, are unimaginable disasters, with potential to become much worse. At best, the Fukushima no-go zone will slowly spread for centuries.

  36. 36
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @srv: The Reagan is taking part in the RIMPAC exercises this year and is currently (as of a few days ago) berthed in Pearl Harbor. It’s been operational since Fukushima happened other than a scheduled year-long refit at the Bremerton dockyards in Puget Sound during 2012. Among other things that it’s done is carry out a couple of Family and Friends cruises where civilians are invited on board for a few days.

    I’ve got no idea where the “it’s going to be scrapped” stories have come from other than fevered imaginations and/or wishful thinking.

  37. 37
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @chopper: Typhoon Neoguri is forecast to be a cat 5 storm (winds of 150 mph plus) when it hits Okinawa but it should die away significantly before it swings east. The big typhoon that hit Japan last year followed a more southerly track and was more energetic as it ran across the Kansai and Tokyo coastal areas. It killed over a dozen people in mudslides and flooding but nothing much happened at Fukushima, not surprising given the strength of the buildings and containments there.

  38. 38
    Tim in SF says:

    @Bob Munck: nukes and unfettered capitalism just don’t mix.

    It really depends on the type of reactor. 4th gen molten-salt reactors are much, much safer than these nightmarish light-water reactors. And smaller. And their waste is only hot for 300 years.

  39. 39
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Tim in SF: And they don’t exist other than in Powerpoint presentations. Meanwhile light-water reactors are generating about 15% of the world’s total electricity demand, all of it zero-carbon. If folks weren’t terrified of the bogeyman hiding in their closet it would be more — I think folks like being scared of nuclear power for some weird reason while being totally copacetic about the actual threats to life and limb from extracting and burning fossil carbon.

  40. 40
    Brutusettu says:

    How much more radiation is expected from Fukishima than from an average “Clean Coal” plant?

  41. 41
    chopper says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    but it should die away significantly before it swings east.

    i know. that’s why i said “It’ll mean a ton of rain and some blustery winds by the time it hits Fukushima”.

  42. 42
    Bob Munck says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    If folks weren’t terrified of the bogeyman hiding in their closet

    The trouble is that we have a number of well-publicized events where the bogeyman came out of the closet and ate the little kid. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima.

    totally copacetic about the actual threats to life and limb from extracting and burning fossil carbon.

    It’s a matter of daily routine vs. major catastrophe. We’re horrified by Sandy Hook but copacetic with 14,000 gun deaths a year, alarmed by a 200-car pileup but OK with 200 serious individual wrecks per day.

  43. 43
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Bob Munck: Radiation from Three Mile Island, zero dead, zero sick. Radiation from Chernobyl, a few dozen dead from prompt exposure, a few hundred sick and possibly dying eventually from the effects of extended exposure. Radiation from Fukushima, zero dead, zero sick. As you said, well-publicised (and over-dramatised IMO).

    Coal waste tip in Aberfan, over a hundred dead. The recent Soma coal mine fire in Turkey, over three hundred dead. Deepwater Horizon, eleven dead and the Gulf of Mexico heavily polluted. In the North Sea the Alexander Kielland, 120 dead and Piper Alpha, 160 dead. Jesse pipeline explosion in Nigeria, 200 dead. Chinese coal mining is still killing a couple of thousand miners a year and has been for the past fifty years. There are hundreds if not thousands of such disasters with real deaths and horrific injuries in the record books over the same time nuclear power has been pumping out the watts and keeping the lights on without killing and maiming anywhere near the same extent. The body count just doesn’t compare but radiation is scary and carbon-energy deaths are just the ho-hum cost of doing business.

  44. 44
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Brutusettu: Lots more radioactive material has escaped from from the Fukushima site than from a single modern coal plant (“Clean coal” is a misnomer, a bit like “single-digits serial killer”) but the coal plant will keep on emitting radioactive materials for decades while working perfectly, as will the dozens of other plants like it in the US and elsewhere. That’s not to mention the non-radioactive mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, nitrous oxides, dioxins, sulphur compounds, CO2 and other bad-for-us crap they dump into the atmosphere, of course.

  45. 45
    Bob Munck says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    Radiation from Three Mile Island, zero dead, zero sick.

    A high school friend of mine lived a few miles SE of TMI (and still does). At our 50th reunion, she regaled me with stories of what they went through for years afterward. She and her eldest son are still part of an ongoing study on the effects.

    Coal waste tip in Aberfan, over a hundred dead.

    A friend and fellow wine geek of ours is General Counsel of the United Mine Workers. He’s the only person I know who actually spends his days fighting the Forces of Evil. The people he goes up against in court are utter scumbags.

    You’re arguing actual facts; I’m arguing perceptions. My arguments win in a walk, every time.

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