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Monday, June 20, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi Again

Update: They may have found the problem. This was a multiple pass system, and some of the water wasn't going through all of the chambers. They have corrected that and are trying again. This would explain high contamination levels at the final filter. The results they were expecting (cesium levels dropping to 0.01% of beginning levels) may be possible. End update.

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.

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.
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.

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.

How do you say Murpy's Law in Japanese ?

Thanks for keeping us informed about this. It's not reassuring.

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.
Not surprising that they'd pull more radioactive sludge out than they predicted. The radiation in there is higher than anyone thought could happen without going the full China Syndrome! They're just going to have to pull the sludge out, one filter pack at a time--it's much denser than a radioactive sludge-water mixture. Easier to store. In the spent-fuel pond. That has to be cooled. With radioactive water.

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.
Jimmy, not to burst the bubble or anything--have you ever looked at what NW hydro rates would be if the coal-using states weren't subsidising the Corps of Engineers?

Best keep that one under your hat.
It isn't even the sludge. They finally decided that the water was just very radioactive. They tried to restart and then a pump developed problems last night.

News briefs from yesterday.
Jimmy - I think the older reactors are more of a risk, and I don't like what we are doing. Complacency is the enemy of safety always.

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.
Spork - this goes beyond Murphy's Law. They are now launching a much wider survey of contamination. Further containment will be essential, and they seem to be running into significant troubles.
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