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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Here It Comes

TEPCO says it can't check the smoke plume. Radiation levels too high.

TEPCO also says smoke may be coming from 3 - 514 rods in the spent fuel pond there. The situation is now "developing rapidly". We have fires at 4, and possibly 3.

Edano just announced suspect containment breach at reactor 3. Also maybe 1. But don't buy panic and buy fuel to get out of town, because they are not advising further evacuation. I'm thinking the public is not reassured by this advice.

Edano also says the US armed forces might need to help with the "cooling" operation at Daiichi. BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE!!!!!

PS: Gallows humor. Someone on DU thinks the obvious solution is for the Japanese government to nationalize the nuclear plants there.

PPS: Measured radiation levels dropped enough that some workers are headed back. The highest I heard in the press conference was 6 millisieverts. But levels went up and then down, then moved up again, then dropped again (according to press conference). But trending down.

Nope: This just in, news flash at Kyodo News, they are moving the workers out again!!! They are suggesting that it's Number 2. NISA told them to get out. It's not clear who has the right numbers. NISA earlier gave a news conference to correct the previous news conference, and at that point workers were supposed to be heading back.

What ever else is going on, event the higher numbers given at the plant still do not translate into danger for Tokyo area residents, much less US residents. The concern is how high they'll get in the future. Anyway, the lower level figures given are high enough that it is going to be difficult to keep workers in the plant due to rapidly accumulating exposures.

More tremors in another place - Kanto.

One thing is very clear - they don't really know where the pulses of radiation are coming from!!!

Another fine mess.


"I'm thinking the public is not reassured by this advice."

Meanwhile, here's something I posted in the comments on my blog.

"A lot of our parts do come from Japan especially those sold our parts department and those might have a little bit of a slowdown, but it should be back to normal here soon, very very soon." - Anderson Toyota Dealer

Soon = Confident
Very Soon = Concerned
Very Very Soon = Desperate
Soon, Very Very Soon = Holy @#$%!
On the bright side, if the containment shells are already cracked, there's less chance of a catastrophic steam explosion. They will hopefully not be able to build up the kind of pressure required to eject contaminants in to the jet stream, or high enough to reach Tokyo. Contamination should remain localized.
Neil - yeah. I guess that's the best-case scenario now.

Korea is supposed to be sending extra supplies of boron.

In the meantime, the transportation/logistics problems in the worst-hit quake/tsunami areas are reaching a critical status of their own. The government is releasing rice stockpiles, but the problem is getting food and fuel, not to mention medicine, to where it is most needed.
Mark - I did read a blurb about Toyota shutting down some more US plants. I think the issue was logistics.

The scale of Japan's problems and its needs are so huge that it impossible to estimate the economic or logistics impact a few months down the line.

If the earthquakes would die down, it would help a lot.
Jerry Pournelle reports two useful bits of information.

First, reactors 4,5, and 6 do not contain fuel rods. They were down for inspection, and the fuel rods had been removed and placed in the spent-fuel cooling tank. That explains why there was a "crane operator" in the space above reactor 4 when the earthquake hit (the poor guy that died). If I might speculate, that could be why the spent fuel in #4 got hot so quickly after being damaged by the explosion in #3--it was newly-removed fuel and hadn't had time to decay.

Second, some of the areas in the tsunami zone are now below sea level due to crustal shifts during the earthquake. Some of the standing water shown in the new satellite photographs isn't going away.
Neil - I spent some time looking at the aerials. Land has just vanished - the shape of the coast in some areas is different.

That, more than anything else, drove home to me the magnitude of the situation.

If the cooling tank on 4 has the newer rods, then that would explain why TEPCO was talking about trying to get boron in there yesterday.

Still, TEPCO also said there were 514 rods at 3.
Also another big pressure drop at 2 yesterday.

I guess they now have multiple emission sources, and it seems as if they cannot quite tie down where the pulses of radioactivity are coming from. But still at least it is mostly steam. They have to keep it from being fire and smoke, because that's what's going to really spread the contamination.
JAIF's latest update (7AM EDT)says 1937 micro seiverts were recorded at the plant border at 3:30AM EDT.

Compared to the prior day's report, they are listing reactor 2's fuel integrity as "damaged" vs unknown the day before, and list the spent fuel pool in #3 as "level low". They have also changed the containment building integrity to "damage suspected" from "not damaged"
AP reports that "Japan has raised the maximum radiation dose allowed for nuclear workers to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts. It described the move as 'unavoidable due to the circumstances'"

Hmmm...do you suppose the workers think it is unavoidable.

I guess the US military begged off on this assignment
Brian - the SDF was going to run choppers to drop water on 3, but now has called that off due to radiation levels around 3.

1937 microsieverts is still less than 2 millisieverts. That's better than the reported spikes.

I'm just watching the plume news. As long as it is steam, that's okay. Well not, okay, but manageable. When it turns to smoke, the situation gets a lot worse.

NISA's last update covered the 15th and showed reactors 1-3 with water levels significantly below fuel rod level.

What struck me about JAIF's last update, which covered the 16th, is that they show water levels in the core at half for reactors 1 & 3 and "recovering" for reactor 2. Are we making any progress?

They'll have to keep venting a lot of steam. Given the pressure problem at 2, I guess anything released from the core then leaks into the atmosphere.

As for the 250 milliS, that's still only a quarter of a sievert and it is consistent with maximum reported natural exposures. So the workers aren't too freaked.

But if you are having radiation levels at the plant pulse into the sievert level, these people will accumulate that exposure relatively quickly. Supposedly they have 180 people doing 8 hour shifts (3 shifts). And mostly the levels are way below the sievert level, but still, as soon as you start multiplying it out things don't look too good to sustain the effort.

Now they are discussing sending in the SDF with water sprayers to work on No. 3's heat problem.
Note - what I mean by the last is that the limiting factor is how much steam they can release at one time, because they have to keep ambient radiation levels low enough so that they can continue working.

I guess that's why they are looking for the outside sprayers. Those may help to cool, but they shouldn't produce much in the way of radioactive steam.
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