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Saturday, March 26, 2011


It wasn't Iodine 134!! Article here. Saved!! They're not retracting the total radioactivity measurement, but still this is great news. Latest NISA updates at this page. The release for the basement pool nuclide test results has not been updated to reflect the above news. I thought it was very interesting to look at the results for all of the reactors together. Unit 4 was sampled on the 24th. A lot more information on reactor conditions.

Huge spike in the fallout readings over Yamagata compared to yesterday. Atomic Power Review, nicely unhysterical but yet realistic. If only those levels of Iodine 134 were a mistake.... Also, I forgot. The Japanese are going to embark on a new strategy of covering the intake pools of water at their water treatment plants so rain doesn't fall directly into them. Also they are looking at using some filtering. This is a very practical strategy which could greatly help the situation. I have been looking at the TEPCO updates and the only thing I can find is a correction of wind direction on the plant radiation readings.

Well maybe there's some hope - Kyodo News has a brief that TEPCO says it made some sort of mistake on the water in Reactor 2!!!!

NISA released a ton of data. It's the 26th in Japan; here is their release page.

Of particular interest to me were TEPCO's nuclide testing results on air and water.

For air, take a look at this. Radiation levels are reported decreasing, but the nuclide levels in the air don't seem to be dropping that much. If you really know your stuff, which I do not, these readings reveal a lot. The level of the short term stuff is a marker for current emissions.

As for the seawater, this one struck me. Te-132 isn't going to be around very long. I think it goes to I-132, which is very transitory. If you look at that last link, it gives you some expected yields.

I am very uncertain, but I think what we are seeing here is current emissions from the core.

Contrast that to the water in the basement at 3. Technetium (Tc), for example, is from a human POV effectively going to be around forever. That could have come from damaged fuel rods in the spent fuel pool.

I did take college level chemistry. I got a good grade, but frankly I sucked at it. I have been quietly having my own private melt down over these analysis reports, and by now I am ready to know the worst. If someone could point me to a useful resource on the subject, I would appreciate it.

In another recent release on its website, I noticed that TEPCO had added a comforting line about not thinking any core coolant release had happened on reactors 4-6. This line was absent for reactors 1-3. So I guess they have concluded that the isotopes aren't encouraging.

See, this is what happens when you looking for info. Other people are also freaking out about these numbers. Your first impulse is always to say that it is a mistake.

UPDATE: See Kyodo News for the briefs on radiation numbers. This is - very ugly. Also this is from Reactor 2, which as I pointed out quite some time ago, is likely to be in the worst shape. What's the three-headed Godzilla monster called? Atomic Power Review.

Note: The half-life of Iodine 134 is less than an hour. Thus the news that very high levels of Iodine 134 are being found in the water at 2 strongly imply fission and a pretty big leak. This stuff hasn't been hanging out for long.

NHK providing coverage now.

Well, I'm going grocery shopping Sunday. I may pick up a few extra cans of tuna, salmon, and sardines just in case this is the last chance to get radiation free ocean fish before the glow in the dark versions hit the shelves.
fboness - the volume of water in the ocean is so huge that it is only localized contamination which should worry you. For the time being.

I am looking at these radioactive tea leaves and starting to wonder if there is any way they could possibly take these reactors out to sea and dump them in deepwater. Probably not.

The proximity of Tokyo is extremely disturbing if these measurements mean what I was guessing and apparently a few others were calculating.

Certainly the Japanese will be aware of the implications. This would explain why Kan gave such a negative statement.
I'm not sure what I think of this one: link I do understand the desire to just bury it all under concrete. I don't understand the commenters who think it's crazy to build nukes in an earthquake prone area. Don't they understand why Japan has to rely on nukes for power?
Teri - the latest numbers probably mean the worst. The situation is now critical in every sense of the word.

As for the commenters, you have to realize that our country has been very successful. This has led to complacency. Because we have been able to ensure the basics for almost everyone in our society, their instinctive map does not include the understanding that there are necessary prerequisites for this, and that those prerequisites include a certain amount of affordable energy.
Here's a naive question: shouldn't the longer half-life isotopes be less of a concern since they necessarily decay at a slower rate?

As for all the radioactive sea water, flooding the basements, Before this is done with, I expect it to be mixed into concrete and dumped to the bottom of the Pacific. I reckon the hard part is keeping the water in the basement until they are ready to mix it into concrete, yes?
I hear the Marianas Trench is nice this time of year...
Neil - I like the sound of that. Is there any way that this could be done? I doubt it.

Allan - We have active fission and a very significant leak on 2. We probably have active fission on 1 & 3, but slower leaks perhaps.

So it is not the radioactive water in the basements that is the problem. The problem is the fission and the breach.

You can dump all the basement water into the sea and it won't do that much harm, but if the water you are circulating through the reactors to cool what's left of the rods (which may now be uncoolable, and on 2, probably are) keeps leaking out, you have gained nothing.

This is one huge pile of doo-doo, as one of our more articulate presidents might describe it. And it is growing higher by the hour.
Allan - some scaling: the water found in the basement of (I believe) the turbine building for reactor 2 is 10 million times as radioactive as NORMAL reactor water would be. But not only is it highly radioactive, the presence of the very short-lived fission byproducts means that it is coming out of the reactor and a live fission reaction.

But it is not a normal fission reaction. If you had a breach in a reactor in normal fission, the danger would be loss of coolant and a meltdown, but the immediate coolant dump would be hugely less radioactive than what we have right now in 2's basement.

So now you have a reactor in meltdown with an uncontrolled fission reaction with a pretty significant containment breach.

It kind of does not get MUCH worse than that.

The larger the breach the worse; the worst would be an explosion and a great big dirty bomb this close to Tokyo. I do not know what the chances are of that happening.

I would like to know what the gases in reactor 2 and the turbine room test like. The reactor 2 building is largely intact and I don't know if they are venting it.

According to Kyodo News, the hot water on 2 tested equivalent to more than 1 SIEVERT/hr.

1 sievert is where acute radiation sickness starts. So the bucket brigade is out of the question.

At somewhere around 4.5 sieverts you cross the 50% fatality line. Even heroism won't work here; they would run out of heroes too quickly to make a difference.

I'm not kidding about the idea of just getting some mammoth equipment and dumping the whole thing in the ocean. If it could be done it is probably the best way out.

Trying to entomb on site right now may not be possible. If gas and an uncontrolled fission reaction are occurring, you might just create a very, VERY large dirty bomb.
M_O_M, I can imagine a concrete vessel capable of carrying three meltdowns to the South Pacific and safely conveying them to the bottom, but I don't think it could be built in a reasonable amount of time. The hardest part is shifting the reactors themselves without making things worse. Any plan to dump them in the ocean has this problem.

There's apparently a meltdown--question is exactly what's going on? Is this a meltdown in a leaky reactor vessel that could burn through and create a high-pressure steam event that threatens Tokyo? Or does the contamination look so bad now because the meltdown is over and is already cooling off in the (leaky) suppression pool?

Can't move them, it's too late to bury them, what to do?
Neil - that's what I was thinking. These things are so massive I don't see how you can move them safely out of the plant onto a barge. If they were cooled enough to give you more safety, you wouldn't have to.

It does not look like 2 is cooling. Part of the problem may be that what's left in there from all of the seawater is a concentrated brine. So maybe ENOUGH freshwater in there could help things a lot.

Part of the problem for the people struggling to control this is that they have limited information.
Neil, maybe it's just that we have distilled steam coming off the reactors, winding up in the steam system, and getting highly concentrated.

It's hard to understand how these radiation levels could possibly end up in core water. We don't have any information on how this would work with seawater, because it's never been tried before.

Theoretically even if the fuel melted through the reactor core it should hit the containment vessel and spread out. So then it would be in a thin layer. It would be easy to cool and any fission should be easy to interrupt; more likely it would stop naturally. Especially if you are putting boron in along with water.

This is why I got into a state of such incredulity a few days ago when the first isotope readings on the other pool were released.

The reported radiation levels are too high to have come directly from the core. There's an intermediate step that's boosting them up.

I also wonder if encrusted salt and mineral deposits in the containment vessel would prevent the fuel from spreading out per design. Hopefully, we will not find out.

Obviously these levels of radiation outside the containment system are a massive problem, but maybe they can go on with cooling.
Hey, what if there were some level of actual combustion of salt/mineral deposits going on inside the chamber, and the smoke/vapor was going through into the turbine?

That might do it.
Time for a political comment! I heard this mentioned from Shelby Foote's "The Civil War" and thought it fit with the current war:

"As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show, there is not something about his conscious, more painful than all his mental perplexity."

It's from A. Lincoln during the Mexican war.
Teri - The only thing I have to say about Barry's Excellent Libyan Adventure is "God help us all".
The three headed monster is Ghidorah, americanized to Ghidrah.

Sheesh didn't you watch badly translated Japanese movies like the rest of us when we were kids? ;-)

As for Barry's Excellent War Adventure, I don;t even know where to start. This is so bad and so stupid (helping Al-Qaeda, anybody?) - he's making W look like a genius.
Bob - which you have to admit is a difficult endeavor!

Our current president also made George W look like a clear communicator with a couple of his statements about the excellent kinetic adventure, another remarkable achievement.

Why precisely Our Boy Barry wants to make the country think fondly of his predecessor is a puzzle to me.
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