A Detailed Look At The Spent Fuel Rod Containment Pools At Fukushima

Tyler Durden's picture

With the latest headline from Reuters that TEPCO workers are preparing to spray water at the spent fuel pool in Reactor 3 which has been overheating and spreading radioactive steam into the atmosphere, it is time to present the details of how dry casks and spent fuel are contained at Fukuchima. For that we go to a presentation by TEPCO from November 2010 titled "Integrity Inspection of Dry Storage Casks and Spent Fuels at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station." It is no surprise that, as the introduction states, in Japan's 54 NPP, the strategy is "to store spent fuels safely until being reprocessed." Unfortunately for everyone involved, the existing spent fuel is store in a manner that is anything but "safe." Should these structures fail, the fallout that will enter the atmosphere will be unprecedented. So where and how are they stored? We find out, in detail, below.

Summary of storage capacity and utilization at the various TEPCO NPPs:

Probably the most important chart: this is the most recent status of spent fuel rods at Fukushima:

This is what a typical storage pool looks like. This is the area that supposedly has no water left in it in Reactor 3. Notable is that a spent fuel rods have a 19 month cooling life.

And below is the actual pool that is supposed to have water in it. It is now most likely empty in Reactor 4 and probably does not exist in the other ones.

And while irrelevant for the current discussion, below we present some details about Dry Cask storage facilities:

Below is the schematic of the containment pod.

On the chart below Alarm Monitor 4 would be going apeshit. If only it worked.

The charts above are very nice in theory. After all the conclusion of the presentation indicated there was no "significance of defect /degradation of the system." Until one of those magnitude 9 earthquakes that nobody tested for, and a 30 foot Tsunami that nobody predicted, destroyed everything. And now the only thing left is to spray water in hopes of refilling pools full of thousand of spent, and lethally radioactive, fuel rods. Surely, this will end great.


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Turd Ferguson's picture

Jeezo, Tyler. Where the hell do you get all this info.

You are the man. The Edward R Murrow of the 21st Century.

I think I need to buy a gun's picture

what i like is they have all the info the fast money guys have on CNBC but just won't tell you....all the bankers left japan.......Jim Sinclair says tonight the end is near.


The timing of this earthquake is impeccable!

Cistercian's picture

 With apologies to my Lord....

  HOLY SHIT!That's too fucking much to let loose!


  God help us if even 5% of that goes airborne.


10kby2k's picture

Air force one is going to sprinkle pixie dust...problem solved. Dow up 5,000!

Harmonious_Dissonance's picture

Give Tyler & ZH some props on your blog, Turd!!  wtf? they are not listed...

Oh regional Indian's picture

Cistercian, you can bet your last non-glowing bennybuck that 5% of that is already well and truly dispersed. To imagine otherwise, knowing the pool locations and then taking a quick look at the X-plosions and all the gobbledygook explanations, denials, statements and retractions since tell you that fan and shit have met, at high velocity.

And actually, everyone is concerned about airborne, why is no one askign the question about water-borne? Remember thsi was a tsunami that swept in and out? And all thseo expolded tanks? How does water do with nuclear material uptake? Anyone?



Cistercian's picture

 Airborne particles have a distinct FAIL component when wafting over population areas.

  But your point of water contamination is good...if the groundwater becomes hot...it is grim LONG term.Airborne is grim long-term as well(lung cancer).But our experience in the Pacific testing area shows how vegetables can grow well in such an area...and be a poison to all that consume them.This is a poor outcome...to put it mildly.Particulate fallout will be the main mechanism, unless a tsunami hits the nuked reactor site.When the tsunami first hit, it was still not hot there.But it is hot now...and the fallout will have to be dealt with.In the Pacific Test Area, we removed the topsoil...which helped.This is not so cool with nice farmland however....losing your good topsoil sucks big time.And where to put the contaminated soil...hmmm that is a bother.

sharkbait's picture

Water does not become hot, impurities in water can.  That is my understanding.

Cistercian's picture

 That's what I meant...radioactive material in the water, either dissolved or as particles.

Judge Judy Scheinlok's picture

Seriously, it's going to blow and glow.

I think I need to buy a gun's picture

The abc guy tonight was catching a flight a half hour after his interview...this is going to get ugly....watch what they do not what they say

TomJoad's picture

I posted this link at 14:23 today.


Just Sayin'


Jump! You Fuckers!

TruthInSunshine's picture



American officials who have been dealing with their Japanese counterparts report that the country’s political and bureaucratic leadership has appeared frozen in place, unwilling to communicate clearly about the scope of the problem and, in some cases, unwilling to accept outside assistance. Two American officials said they believed that the Japanese government itself was not getting a clear picture from the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

“Everything in their system is built to build consensus slowly,” said one American official who would not be quoted by name because of the delicacy of discussions with Japan. “And everything in this crisis is about moving quickly. It’s not working.”

United States Air Force officials announced Wednesday that a Global Hawk remotely piloted surveillance plane would be sent on missions over Japan to help the government assess damage from the earthquake and the tsunami. A Pentagon official said the drone was expected to fly over the stricken nuclear plant.


American officials were careful to offer no public comparisons to past nuclear accidents when discussing the Fukushima disaster. But clearly the crisis in Japan already far outstrips what happened at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, where very little radiation escaped a crippled reactor. The effort now is to keep the Japanese crisis, involving at least three reactors that had been in active use before the quake, and three others that were inactive but had storage pools for spent fuel, from escalating to the levels of the worst nuclear disaster in history: Chernobyl.

Though the plant’s reactors shut down automatically when the quake struck on Friday, the subsequent tsunami wiped out the backup electronic pumping and cooling system necessary to keep the fuel rods in the reactors and the storage pools for spent nuclear fuel covered with cool water.

The spent fuel pools can be even more dangerous than the active fuel rods, as they are not contained in thick steel containers like the reactor core. As they are exposed to air, the zirconium metal cladding on the rods can catch fire, and a deadly mix of radioactive elements can spew into the atmosphere. The most concern surrounds Cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years and can get into food supplies or be inhaled.


kinetik's picture

I can't believe this, amazing information. Thanks ZH!

Michael Victory's picture

Jeezo, Tyler. Where the hell do you get all this info.
You are the man. The Edward R Murrow of the 21st Century.

tru dat.
interesting sh!t.


Gully Foyle's picture

Who becomes the first nation to warn their west coast populace about incoming radiation, Canada or the US?

I'm thinking the Canucks will and they are the ones to watch. Vancouver is a big cash pool for them.

If radioactive dust does settle what does that mean? Don't buy West coast fruits and veggies for a few years? Decades? What about Salmon?

Man it would suck no GOM seafood, no Salmon, no Alaskan crab.

Of course we would never be warned by TPTB against eating those irradiated foods.


Idiot Savant's picture

It's funny you mention GOM seafood. I no longer eat it, but all my friends and family do. When I mention oil and Corexit, they're all like "core what?".

As far as eating west coast fruits and veggies, well, that might not be an issue soon.


PY-129-20's picture

Some of the food in Southern Bavaria is still not allowed to be traded because of Chernobyl. It depends on how much you will get. Let's hope the best.

prophet's picture

In trying to help out a bit I posted the link to this ppt yesterday:

by prophet
on Tue, 03/15/2011 - 19:17


The link below is a ppt from TEPCO and shows some pictures and stats on the pools. 


found from a nice article on the pools at



TomJoad's picture

I came across it via a different path this morning and posted it in another thread. Information flow on ZH is so freaking chaotic due to the signal/noise ratios being FUBAR'd by trolls, morons, etc. it is a wonder anyone sticks around to contribute real information. Do keep up the good work!



Jump! You fuckers!

davepowers's picture

indeed you did

it's still a chilling read

critical tinkerer's picture

What chance is that earthquake smashed all those used (not spent, since they still have 98% of reactivity) fuel rods and crashed them together, which caused cold melt down. Crashed rods let loose all the uranium pellets which were not restrictedby zirconium between pellets anymore. That cold meltdown caused the heat to rise. Also there was tsunami inside the pools, not from outside that spilled from uncovered pools onto ground around reactors. That highly radioactive coolant probably flooded generator room and caused shorts in the system, prevented technicians to refill the pools. Reactor 4 did not have fuel rods inside reactor and it still exploded, which points to spent fuel pools problem. Also the fact that only outer shell exploded, not reactors.

I think I need to buy a gun's picture

Those helicopter drops aren't doing anything. Nothing ...Zilch

kinetik's picture

Sorry to say but these are all replays at the moment, the water drops were called off 40 min after they began.

Eddie Stobart's picture

Apart from reducing the vapour that was billowing from the reactors.


And burning fossil fuels and contributing to climate change, the bastards!

Hang The Fed's picture

One WOULD tend to believe the entire idea is totally asinine, what with the fact that the pools are obviously leaking.  Talk about trying to attack a tank with a toothpick.

ss123's picture

Why don't they call in Homer Simson so he can run a long hose from the ocean and fill up the tanks?

Slots in Vegas seem to have better odds than these helicopter drops.

homersimpson's picture

I'm still trying to find the "any" key..

Gmpx's picture

I offer to bomb the plant. Vacuum bomb can be tried to open the reactors open without sending ash in the sky. Once reactors are opened helocopters, machines and people can start effectively cleaning the contaminated area.

Math Man's picture

"And now the only thing left is to spray water in hopes of refilling pools full of thousand of spent fuel rods. Surely, this will end great."

And why wouldn't it? Oh that's right, because here on ZH we believe nothing ends great.

They are currently refilling the pools and and making progress to get the power back up to run the pumps - which the AP reported earlier.   The situation continues to improve....  regardless of what the fear mongering Zerohedge reports.

jerry_theking_lawler's picture

ah, the meth man....young grasshappa, you no learn about MSM or trusting govemint....its not like running an extension cord to an outside fan and turning it on....

the plant was hit with a salt water tidal wave...aka tsunami....any electrical item this water touched is SHOT. it will probably need a few more days of major repair to get any of these pumps up....time you do not have when there is reported 5rem/hr from the plant.....

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Someone on NHK was saying about an hour ago that once they get power to the site they would need to rig a temporary cooling system because the existing one was compromised by the ongoing problems. So as you say it's not like you flip a switch. Of course this rigging will be done while the crew is being radiated at some level above "normal".

Do I hear volunteers?

Freewheelin Franklin's picture

I'm certainly no expert on nuclear reactors, but aren't some of those pumps pumping salt water right now? Weren't they made for freshwater? If you put a boat with a freshwater motor in saltwater, it's not going to last very long. Saltwater is much more corrosive to metal and rubber/plastic. It's like trying to run E85 in a gasoline engine.

NotApplicable's picture

The only pumps that are running are fire trucks.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

He's saying that running saltwater through made-for-fresh-water pumps will kill them quickly. I agree and they know this as well. They are saying they must rig a temporary cooling system so either they know using the exisiting cooling system won't work for long or they know the exisitng system is already broken.

sushi's picture


He's saying that running saltwater through made-for-fresh-water pumps will kill them quickly. I agree


Doesn't matter if you agree or not. You are still both wrong.

Aristarchan's picture

CD...these spent fuel pools are somewhat larger than I am used to here in the US. The amount of rods they store in there is probably not best practice. Typically in the US, you rotate rods out of the reactor to minimize rods in the pool. I had read a long time ago from a NRC document that some plants in Japan were storing full fuel reloads in storage pools, but I never really thought about the issue much. Maybe that is part of the problem...people who should know - or are supposed to know, should say something, otherwise everyone gives a collective shrug and eventually it becomes an accepted way of operation.

Aristarchan's picture

They are saying now they plan to get their existing system running....lots of confusion, as usual. It would be nice though to get those 100,000 GPM coolant pumps up.

Jim in MN's picture

Until they start chopping up what's left of the units with high pressure jets from cracks....ah hell God bless 'em let's hope it all works great

Aristarchan's picture

Well, lets hope not. But high pressure jets reminds me when I worked at Comanche Peak in Texas. Comanche Peak is a PWR, so it pumps superheated steam, which was very high pressure and temperature. The high pressure turbines were built in Germany by Allis-Chalmers, and they leaked like crazy when the plant first started up, and inside the turbine room, it was almost impossible to see the invisible jet of gas, since it did not saturate until it was many feet away from the turbine. We kept broom handles hanging just outside the turbine deck doors so you could wave them in front of you to keep from getting chopped in half. Jesus...I am getting nostalgic in my old age.

sushi's picture


This is the kind of hardware I am familiar with:


When they mentioned "water cannon" something similar to the above came to mind. They have 9 of these down in Tokyo and should have no problem moving them up the coast. I don't think the Japanese have thought of this yet.

Downthread there is some arguement going on about pump capacities. 100,000 GPM sounds decent. Depends on the hardware. Some boats only manage 30,000 GPM. The pressure is sufficient to take down most wood frame structures. On a steel frame with concrete cladding I guess you need to wait for the H2 explosions and then go to work.


Share your concern with that high pressure steam. Worse than anything else.

knukles's picture

They'll get right on it.  Cooling down 10,000 degree Kelvin molten radioactive glassine goo.

collinar's picture

Yes, I volunteer the guys who designed this, to clean up their own mess. This kills (pun intended) two birds with one stone. i.e. 1.) It gets the mess cleaned up, and 2.) they never get to design anything again, ever.

machineh's picture

See my post below, about needing 3,828 tonnes of water to refill the pool.

You're a math man. Tell us how long that will take with a water cannon.

Please show your work. Thanks in advance.

malikai's picture

According to NHK each water truck has a 4 ton water capacity. Heh.

knukles's picture

And one cubic yard of water weighs approximately 1,700 lbs.

collinar's picture

Factor in the leakage rate. The pools lost water due to physical damage. The pools can not hold water. Now, try to fill the pools.