Monday, June 20, 2011
Fukushima Daiichi Again
They have about a week before the basement water overflows. It's extremely contaminated - very unsafe. It doesn't look like the planned water filtering system is going to work:
The operator of the damaged Fukushima power plant is struggling to fix the problem that caused the suspension of a system to decontaminate highly radioactive wastewater.They are injecting about 500 tons of water a day into the reactors. The planned capacity of the filtration system was 1,200 tons a day. It's clear that flowthrough won't happen. They are going to try again soon, but this casts the entire plan into disarray. The theory was that the water would be pumped out of the basements, filtered, and then reinjected into the reactors to form a sort of closed cooling loop.
The system is designed to filter radioactive material, oil and salt from the contaminated water and to reuse the treated water to cool the reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, halted the filtering system only 5 hours after it went into full operation on Friday. Readings around one of the system's devices indicated higher-than-expected radiation levels. TEPCO engineers suspect that the density of radioactive substances in the contaminated water was greater than had been predicted.
They initially thought that the device had absorbed large volumes of oil and sludge containing radioactive material. But in a test conducted on Sunday, high radiation levels were registered for equipment set to the lowest of 3 absorption levels.
In another test on Monday, TEPCO adjusted the flow of the contaminated water through the equipment.
Right now they have an amazing quantity of highly radioactive water stored in a bunch of special containers at the plant. Should another severe earthquake hit, this could be one huge problem. They can't just keep piling it up in containers.
I have two friends who are retired GE nuclear engineers. They are promoters of nukes and I believe that nukes are the transitional energy that will take us into the future of something cheaper and safer. (I hope.)
The old plants are definitely showing their age and wouldn't it be nice if our government (through our Dept. of Energy) was on the job seeing that the old reactors are scheduled for phase out and new, better plants are in works. But no, we will replace all this with wind mills and solar panels. Sure makes our hydro here in the PNW look better and better. If we can just stop the Greens from taking the dams down.
Well, it was a nice idea.
Seriously, though, that's the only option. The radiation levels in the basement indicate that they've got months, at least, before these suckers are cooled to a cold-shutdown state.
Best keep that one under your hat.
News briefs from yesterday.
But it may be that some of them can be extended safely in the US. Overall we have a very different safety profile than in Japan. Everything's more difficult in Japan, which is one giant coast on an earthquake fault.
And I know no source of power is completely safe. If you build a dam on a fault the chance of eventual substantial human casualties is very high. Any time you are working with high energy levels in any form there are risks.
In the US, I would like to know that we have developed a broader risk assessment system - and implemented it.
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