Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Atomic Power Review
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Thursday he has given the go-ahead for Self-Defense Forces helicopters to drop water onto a troubled reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as the radiation level was 4.13 millisievert per hour at an altitude of 1,000 feet.
The level comes to 87.7 millisievert at 300 feet, the minister also said.
The choppers were lead-lined for this operation. They are going back and forth doing the best they can on a flying run to drop the water. This is really QUITE dangerous. (NHK says that allowable crew exposures have been raised to 100 millisieverts for this emergency. After four drops the choppers left.
The second drop missed basically, but No 3 is sure smoking or steaming!!! Watch at NHK.
Further update: NHK is showing it live. SDF chopper dropped water on No. 3. Who Struck John provides a really excellent blog resource in Georneys. Interviews with a nuclear engineer. End Update.
Further Update: Police have arrived with water cannon, NHK reports smoke or steam rising from 2, 3 & 4 reactors. Kyodo reports SDF chopper measuring radiation levels above the plant. End update.
Update: Off topic. According to this story at NHK, on Tuesday ( it is now Thursday in Japan), Japan's science minister said that testing had detected radiation levels as high as .33 MILLIsieverts 20 kilometers out from Daiichi. NNW.
Now if so, that is a very high number at that distance. They also said they got measurements as low as .22 MILLIsieverts per hour. It is extremely frustrating, because they have not measured since and they only took 3 measurements over ten minutes. I presume after that they booked for shelter.
Levels this high are real concern, although people can cut exposure by staying indoors. For a while. There is air exchange, or you have done the duct tape/plastic sheeting thing too well and you are dead. At .33 milliS per hour in a week you would get 55 millisieverts. At .15 (less than half) you'd get 50 millisieverts in two weeks. That is where I think you have a risk to human life, because you cannot predict total exposures well; they vary substantially. And this is 20 kilometers out. Nor does that give you much margin. Nor are they testing. Tuesday was a high exposure day, but without testing.... The worse this situation gets the more dangerous the evacuation gets, because people get more exposure when they are out in the open moving.
I did work on some disaster plans for facilities around nuclear plants, and at this point, the plan would say "grab essentials and leave for good." As soon as you observed these levels, that would be it, because it is not a one-shot phenomenon. It is continuous, variable, and rapidly mounting exposure. I'm hoping this is a micro->milli mistake.
There is a blog up with helpful updates and commentary. Atomic Power Review. I don't know anything about the author, but I read through a bunch of recent entries and the author does seem to know what he is talking about. Like spent fuel rods going critical. As far as I know, it can't happen without somehow resealing them in a container, plus they'd have to be recent, plus they'd have to be broken up, and even then it would be a remote possibility. I'm going to have trouble believing this until Mothra shows up.
TEPCO is trying to run a line through to Daiichi. Supposedly they got spare pumps in. And engineers hanging around. But without the power, they can't restore real cooling operations. They got Daini settled once they got offsite power (although they had to work through some equipment failures). Anyway, if they can get a power line in perhaps they can settle 5 and 6 down and then start work on the other sites, which probably have signficant equipment damage.
I'd expect the wind direction to be controlling the exposure there.
I am sure the military is rerouting a lot of things, including people.
The water cannon bank shot is to be tried sometime this morning to shoot the water in through holes in the side of the building. It was characterized as a last ditch effort. Where is Doug Flutie when you need him?
But I think success will really depend on the hole and rubbish.
There is one monitoring chopper and what sounds like two fire-fighting choppers.
Now we'll see what's flying....
My understanding was that there are no fuel rods currently in reactor #4--they had been moved to the spent-fuel pond for reactor inspection. If sensors showed plenty of water in that pool, then either the sensors are busted or something very strange is going on.
That's the only justification for it.
Links to this post: