Nuclear Plant Operator: Water in Pool Storing Spent Nuclear Fuel Rods May Be Boiling, an Ominous Sign for Release of Radioactivity

George Washington's picture

Kyodo News reports:

A nuclear crisis at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant deepened Tuesday as fresh explosions occurred at the site and its operator said water in a pool storing spent nuclear fuel rods may be boiling, an ominous sign for the release of high-level radioactive materials from the fuel.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the water level in the pool storing the spent fuel rods at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant's No. 4 reactor may have dropped, exposing the rods.

The firm said it has not yet confirmed the current water level or water temperature in the pool and will try to pour water into the facility from Wednesday through holes that were created following an explosion earlier Tuesday in the walls of the building that houses the reactor.

Unless the spent fuel rods are cooled down, they could be damaged and emit radioactive substances.


The utility said it could not deny the possibility that the early morning explosion was caused by hydrogen generated by a chemical reaction involving the exposed spent nuclear fuel and vapor.

But it's not just reactor number 4. Kyodo News notes:

Edano said water temperatures in the pools at the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors at the Fukushima plant have been rising as well.


The agency said among the three, the situation is the severest at the No. 4 reactor because all the fuel rods are stored in the pool due to the change of the reactor's shroud. At the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors, up to one-third of the rods are being kept in the pools. The more fuel rods that are kept in a pool, the more radioactive substances could be emitted.

To see why this is such an ominous development, let me provide some background.

The Washington Post notes:

At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, where an explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that unit 1’s pool may now be outside.

“That would be like Chernobyl on steroids,” said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi unit 1.

People familiar with the plant said there are seven spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi, many of them densely packed.

Gundersen said the unit 1 pool could have as much as 20 years of spent fuel rods, which are still radioactive.

NPR provides the following graphic, showing the spent fuel pools at the top of the reactors:

Alarm Over Spent Fuel Rods Threatens Chernobyl on Steroids   150311top2

Please compare the location of the spent fuel pools (near the roofline) in the NPR graphic with the following photograph:

In some of the reactors - especially those to the right of the photo - the area in which the spent fuel pools are located appears to be severely damaged.

Nuclear expert Frank N. von Hippel explained on MSNBC that heat would release all radioactivity in the spent fuel rods, so that we could get a "worst case scenario" even if we never have a Chernobyl-like meltdown:

(starting 10 minutes into video).

The Christian Science Monitor writes:

A particular feature of the 40-year old General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor model – such as the six reactors at the Fukushima site – is that each reactor has a separate spent-fuel pool. These sit near the top of each reactor and adjacent to it, so that cranes can remove spent fuel from the reactor and deposit it in a swimming-pool-like concrete structure near the top of the reactor vessel, inside each reactor building.

If the hydrogen explosions damaged those pools – or systems needed to keep them cool – they could become a big problem. Keeping spent-fuel pools cool is critical and could potentially be an even more severe problem than a reactor meltdown, some experts say. If water drains out, the spent fuel could produce a fire that would release vast amounts of radioactivity, nuclear experts and anti-nuclear activists warn.

"There should be much more attention paid to the spent-fuel pools," says Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear engineer and president of the anti-nuclear power Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. "If there's a complete loss of containment [and thus the water inside], it can catch fire. There's a huge amount of radioactivity inside – far more than is inside the reactors. The damaged reactors are less likely to spread the same vast amounts of radiation that Chernobyl did, but a spent-fuel pool fire could very well produce damage similar to or even greater than Chernobyl."

But another scientist said while the spent-fuel pools have capacity for high volumes of radioactive material, the amount of fuel currently in the spent-fuel pool might be less than widely believed, based on data he has seen showing only about as much spent fuel in the vulnerable pool as contained in the reactor.

The Nation notes:

If the spent rods start to burn, huge amounts of radioactive material would be released into the atmosphere and would disperse across the Northern Hemisphere.

Unlike the reactors, spent fuel pools are not—repeat not—housed in any sort of hardened or sealed containment structures. Rather, the fuel rods are packed tightly together in pools of water that are often several stories above ground.

“With damaged [fuel rod] pools, we are talking about things that were never considered a credible threat,” said Alvarez.

Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Green Action Kyoto, met Fukushima plant and government officials in August 2010. “At the plant they seemed to dismiss our concerns about spent fuel pools,” said Mioko Smith. “At the prefecture, they were very worried but had no plan for how to deal with it.”

Remarkably, that is the norm—both in Japan and in the United States. Spent fuel pools at Fukushima are not equipped with backup water-circulation systems or backup generators for the water-circulation system they do have.

The exact same design flaw is in place at Vermont Yankee, a nuclear plant of the same GE design as the Fukushima reactors. At Fukushima each reactor has between 60 and 83 tons of spent fuel rods stored next to them. Vermont Yankee has a staggering 690 tons of spent fuel rods on site.

Nuclear safety activists in the United States have long known of these problems and have sought repeatedly to have them addressed. At least get backup generators for the pools, they implored. But at every turn the industry has pushed back, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has consistently ruled in favor of plant owners over local communities.

After 9/11 the issue of spent fuel rods again had momentary traction. Numerous citizen groups petitioned and pressured the NRC for enhanced protections of the pools. But the NRC deemed “the possibility of a terrorist attack...speculative and simply too far removed from the natural or expected consequences of agency action.” So nothing was done—not even the provision of backup water-circulation systems or emergency power-generation systems.

Similarly, Pro Publica points out:

The plants of that design also store highly radioactive spent fuel in pools outside the protective containment structure that surrounds the reactor itself.

Opponents of nuclear power have warned for years that if these pools drain, either by accident or terrorist attack, it could lead to a fire and a catastrophic release of radiation.


The nuclear industry says fears about the storage pools at U.S. plants are overblown because the pools are protected and, even if fuel is exposed to the air, the chance of a fire is incredibly small. And with limited information being released about conditions at Fukushima, the status of spent fuel pools is uncertain.


At Fukushima, these tanks are attached to the outside of the reactor’s containment structure. The pools are deep – typically the fuel lies under 25 feet of water. Although the concrete-and-steel containment is designed to trap radiation leaks, there is no such protection for pools outside.


Many plants have been operating for 20 years and have tons of used fuel in cooling pools.

The concern is that if the water in the pools ever drops too low, the zirconium cladding that holds the radioactive fuel pellets would begin to heat up and eventually burn. And if it did, the smoke from the fire could carry radiation away from the plant because the pool is outside the containment.

“People should be very concerned because the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has acknowledged that spent fuel pools that are not located inside the containment have the potential to cause catastrophic accidents,” said Diane Curran, a lawyer who has represented environmental groups and governments in challenges to fuel storage plans.

“These are not high-probability accidents,” Curran said, “but we have seen how low-probability accidents can happen.”

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress asked the National Academies to study the vulnerability of spent fuel to a terrorist attack.

The resulting 2005 report, “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage ,” concluded that “an attack which partially or completely drains a plant's spent fuel pool might be capable of starting a high-temperature fire that could release large quantities of radioactive material into the environment.”

The report found that the vulnerability of the spent fuel to fire depends on how old it is and how it is stored. As the fuel ages, it cools, so it becomes less susceptible to a fire.

“The industry standard is that fuel that is older than five years can be dry-stored,” said Kevin Crowley, director of the nuclear and radiation board for the National Research Council, part of National Academies.

The report recommended that the nuclear industry take steps to decrease the vulnerability of the storage pools to fire. Some of those steps are classified, Crowley said. But he said others, like making sure there were fire hoses or spray systems above the pools, were pretty simple.


The nuclear industry disagreed with the national academy about the vulnerability of the spent fuel to a fire.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Careless Whisper's picture

posting a clip on this blog from that lyin' c*nt rachel maddow should get you banned.

navy62802's picture

Only thing I want to point out here is that the spent fuel rods stored in Unit 4 must be exposed directly to the environment. Otherwise, the workers wouldn't be dropping water from helicopters onto the reactor.

jkruffin's picture

So if these KI pills block radiation absorbtion right, why not dump a couple tons of powder on those babies and go home? Ahh, they just want to sell some useless shit to people so they will feel better, and make a fortune doing it. I get it now.

RichardP's picture

... these KI pills block radiation absorbtion right ...


The body absorbs iodine.  Nuclear fission creates radioactive iodine, among other things.  If you have an iodine deficit and come into contact with radioactive iodine, guess what gets absorbed into your system.

The KI pills only make certain that you don't have an iodine deficit while in the presence of radioactive iodine.  They do not act on radiation at all.

RockyRacoon's picture

Kinda reminds one of those taking the life boats off the Titanic, leaving those in steerage to fend for themselves.   Times and methods change but people don't.

Xkwisetly Paneful's picture

OMFG how hilarious. Shame that incredibly ludicrous opinion can't cost anything so next disaster it can be regurgitated again and again and again.




Right and the gulf oil spill was the worst ever,

Y2K was the end of the modern world,

and the bird flu pandemic followed shortly thereafter by the swine flu pandemic was the worst ever,

and the hole in the ozone will burn us all if not acid rain surely will,

and heaven forbid make it past that, global warming will nail the coffin shut.


Supposed to run out of food and oil first in 1970, then in 1980, then in 1990, then in 2000,then in 2010 now by 2020 for sure.

One thing for certain the world will never run out of doomsdayers who are wrong 99.99999999% of the time but will latch onto whatever the next doom train is that happens by.



Not one single person injured at 3mile island and yet still no nuke plants in the US since 1979.


How much can you people stunt the human race?

Infinity plus one percent?

High Plains Drifter's picture

I don't want any freakin nuclear plants here in this country, Kapiche? Heck I don't like green peace but they were right about this one . for sure. You know what. I bet if you took a poll, you would find I am not alone in this feeling. There has to be a better way and a safer way. The days of nuclear power are over for good soon..........

DeweyLeon's picture


It's over.  Even if this turns out to be only half as bad as it looks now, it's over.


Think of the hundreds of reports, movies, pictures, talk shows, commercials, documentaries, books etc. there will be about this disaster.  The deaths, dislocations and general misery that will be recorded.


Nuclear is dead.

Xkwisetly Paneful's picture

Of course not rather give money hand over fist to the Arabs or better yet spend incredible sums on alternatives that have yet to produce jack,


when the obvious future is nuclear power.


and yes I live almost in the shadow of a nuclear reactor and lived well within range of 3mile island while that was supposed to end the world.


Stunting the human race infinity plus one percent.

Take a bow because no one or nothing else in my lifetime has done more damage to the entire human race than those who blocked the US from building nuclear reactors.



 I bet if you took a poll, you would find I am not alone in this feeling.


Americans oppose building more nuclear plants by 47%-44%, the poll finds.

The poll of 1,004 adults has a margin of error of +/—4 percentage points.

 Real definitive majority taken immediately after a nuclear disaster. Pretty much says it all about the perpetual neo marxist fear mongering.

Funny enough it was 70% the day before.

So for 30+yrs 30% of you managed to stunt the entire human race-good job.

It's OK though, I know can't help but wanting to stunt to all of mankind  to pacify to your own irrational fears.


Afterall this is zerohedge land of the self loathing wannabee intellectuals.

Xkwisetly Paneful's picture

ROTFLMAO I was just surveyed by Central Research a polling company representing GE.


10mins worth basically asking how much has the GE name been tarnished by this and my thoughts on nuclear power vs other alternatives.


Just cannot make this stuff up if one tried.


Buck Johnson's picture

The total used fuel rods for the 6 rectors are at least 360 tons or a third of the one american plant of 865 tons, or at two thirdsl for the worst.  When I saw those explosions especially the one on sunday, that explosion shot up more than outside paneling.  It shot up the crane and other stuff inside the rig.  Japan govt. officials are trying to save face and not look weak but it's hurting them.  They have 6 reactors and their spent fuel rods in the pools are burning up and releasing radiation.  What about the other nuclear power stations that have been shutdown, are they having problems.  We definitely have a chernobyl on steriods and if they aren't careful they may make half or more of japan uninhabitable.

Xkwisetly Paneful's picture

NPR, Nation, Pro publica, card carrying member of the neo marxist left.

Just divert more food to bio fuels while the world starves.

or create more billionaire wind farmers while they take more off the grid than the contribute.


Nothing more stunting to the entire human race than no nuclear reactors built in the US since 1979.


Pretend otherwise and keep using Homer Simpson as the face of nuclear power while you steal food from people's mouths to make bio fuels.

George Washington's picture

Nice try - as usual - to divide and conquer.  But we're not talking about nukes versus no nukes. We're talking about safe, next-gen reactors like thorium which are well-built and well-maintained versus prehistoric designs which -- even at the time - many experts said were totally unsafe, and which have not been maintained well at all...

By the way, given your avatar, are you a fan of torture?



Xkwisetly Paneful's picture

I don't have nefarious motives like you.

and regardless the end game is expand nuclear power or not.


and lastly my nick comes from reading the neo marxist/anarchist crappolla here for a few months before deciding to register-obviously purposely misspelled as I don't want anyone to think anything other than I am the biggest moronic imbecile on the internet.

Cleverbot's picture

They would if I lived in the US.

Xkwisetly Paneful's picture

BTW GW since I know your leftist  agenda knows no bounds which would include oppressive safety measures.

TMI was started with someone shutting off the emergency cooling system during a safety check.

Chernobyl was started with a safety test of a new emergency cooling system.


and although I cannot find an answer yet,

I suspect that the Japanese reactor was shut down initially for safety reasons, which killed the power and made the problems exponentially worse.


All hail safety procedures.

High Plains Drifter's picture

I am seeing some talk about stuxnet. I know that China is having a major problem with it. I wonder has anyone heard of anything about if this worm had infected Japanese nuclear power plants prior to the earthquake?

Odd Ball's picture

No, Japan was infected with Tsunamex.

franzpick's picture

Bomb Japan twice to end a war, and now a multi-reactor-fire-meltdown-spent-fuel-hydrogen-oxygen-explosion-possible chain-reaction:

Is this the coming world-class demonstration of "What Goes Around Comes Around?"

Quantum Nucleonics's picture

GW, it wasn't so much the meltdown of the fuel rods that defined the nature of the Chernobyl accident.  It was the graphite used as a neutron moderator in the reactor.

Predator's picture

GW...people can learn more here in 20-minutes than all of the BS MSM for a week.  Nice work.

Predator's picture

GW...people can learn more here in 20-minutes than all of the BS MSM for a week.  Nice work.

honestann's picture

The "nuclear industry" is just like every other large corporation.

They lie, cheat, steal, defraud and do anything and everything they can to shift all possible wealth to themselves, and shift all risks and negative consequences onto others.

Nobody should have ever listened to them AT ALL.  Anyone with even a single functional neuron should know they are utterly and totally biased, and always argue for minimum standards and minimum costs.  Thus everything they say should be immediately thrown in the trash bin.

The fact is, probably the only [almost] safe place nuclear plants can be located is several hundred meters below ground, well below the lowest water table in the region.  This approach has many advantages.

First, all cooling water is located well above the reactors and fuel-rod pools.  Therefore, unlimited water (from a lake, plus water tanks, plus ground water, plus canals from rivers) can be gravity fed to the reactor and fuel-rod pools, and manual valves can be [partially] opened and closed to let water flow even when ZERO electricity is available.  Even at above ground facilities this can be simulated with huge but conventional water tanks high above the ground (above possible 15~20 meter tsunamis), but this is not as bomb-proof as underground equivalents.

Second, if everything goes haywire and nothing can be done to save the facility, the entire facility can easily be sealed shut by closing large steel barriers, filling with cement, or by detonating charges around the periphery of the mine shaft to cause the entire vertical shaft that leads to the facility to collapse and fill with dirt and rock.  The facility can then experience a complete melt down and the fuel can go ahead and sink through the earth until it reaches the magma where it would be dispursed and diluted where no damage to anyone or anything could ever occur.

Third, the "spent" fuel-rods can be kept down in this hole forever, and when the lifetime of the facility ends, the vertical mine shaft can simply be sealed, cemented and exploded closed forever.

This industry is utterly irresponsible, and has always been utterly irresponsible.  Furthermore, they know what every large corporations knows - incredibly tiny bribes to government agencies will reliably result in them being allowed to be utterly irresponsible.  In fact, in the experience of mankind, nothing is as corrupt as government and large corporations.  The predators in these fictitious entities have zero concern for anyone but themselves.  Period.

thebark's picture

The facility can then experience a complete melt down and the fuel can go ahead and sink through the earth until it reaches the magma where it would be dispursed and diluted where no damage to anyone or anything could ever occur.


REALLY? and we know this how? this has been tried before? wow...its scary how many really stupid people populate this planet....

Element's picture

Do some basic reading on the MECHANISM that makes the heat.

It's called 'fission'.

Look up how it works, and what makes it stop working.

And look up subcritical mass.

And neutron mean-free-path.

And ... get an education.


honestann's picture

So you believe I invented the term "China Syndrome", huh?  Is that correct?  Well, I didn't.

And it doesn't matter whether the melted rods makes it to the magma or not.  If you were thinking while you were reading, you would have realized that's not the point.  The point is to create a situation in which humans were not exposed to hyper-poisonous plutonium and other radioactive dangers.

The worst case in the scenario I described was the case you criticize, and I am certainly not the inventor of that concept... that idea was proposed as likely by nuclear engineers.

And you know what?  It would not even be appropriate to test this theory in practice.  The whole point is to avoid ever having this horrific event happen (a total worse case meltdown).  But if all fails and it happens anyway, don't you think designing in a way that is safe as possible makes sense?  Or you'd rather us put these plants on top of your roof and let the meltdown fall through your roof onto your kitchen table.  Yeah, that sounds like justice to me.

I_Rowboat's picture

Paragraphs 1, 2, 3, and 8 are basically correct: governments and corporations are reliably dishonest and evolve into mutually reinforcing crime syndicates.  However, all of your technical ideas re: safe siting of a nuc plant are pure, unadulterated horseshit.  First off, it takes a truly uniformed perspective to suggest that the best place for one of these things is below the groundwater table, where it can poison the source for most localities' drinking, agricultural, and industrial water for generations to come.  Second, building it underground makes it even less accesible for maintenance, inspection and safety upgrades, which is something the Evil Corporation already begrudges - why give them more reason to shirk that responsibilty.  Third, you'd have to go beyond just opening a manual valve to make that surface water go down and, ya'know, cool stuff down.  You've got to circulate it.  What do you do with the warm, exiting (and now comtaminated) coolant water?  Put it back in the river?   Great, now the surface water is contaminated too.  Brilliant.  Fourth, (and I'm not sure on this one entirely), letting "the fuel can go ahead and sink through the earth until it reaches the magma where it would be dispursed and diluted where no damage to anyone or anything could ever occur" might be a bit off the path.  I'm pretty sure a conduit down to magma is known as "a volcano."  So now you've potentially created a radioactive volcano.  Nice going, Dr. Evil.

honestann's picture

Please, think!  You prefer to put it ABOVE the ground water?

When a meltdown happens, the material gets so hot that it literally melts whatever is below it, and sinks downward through solid rock.

That is why they call it "the China Syndrome", because nothing will stop the superhot material from going DOWN.

Therefore, by locating the material far below the lowest water table, you PROTECT the water table no matter what.  Of course, you must also take the other steps I mentioned to seal in the facility so vapors cannot work their way too far upward.

The coolant water situation is no different in a facility below ground than anywhere else.  None should be released into the environment in any configuration, so who knows what kind of wacko comment you were making about that.

If you have a huge empty "swimming pool" down near the reactor, the emergency water from above that can be sent down without power can be gradually (when it gets too hot) be kept down there for as long as necessary, and perhaps indefinitely (if it gets contaminated).  If lots of horizontal holes are drilled into the rock deep down near the bottom, a loop of circulating pipes can be run down those holes to transfer heat from the heated water into the deep rock far below ground (which is gradually conducted away by the rock).  Of course these systems cannot last forever, and if everything goes wrong for days on end, the last ditch scenario can be enacted (let the China syndrome happen).

Don't confuse "emergency systems" with "normal operation".  They are different.  The only reason you resort to opening the manual valves on the water tanks above is... because the normal systems have failed.  I can assure you, gravity works.

Go look up geothermal someday.  When they drill down close to the molten rocks below, they do not create volcanoes.

Your comments are absurd.  Really, please think for a while before you write replies.

I_Rowboat's picture

Your response to my comment is riddled with enough fallacies regarding the physical sciences (especially hydrogeology) that I suspect there's really nothing I can say that won't "feed the troll."

Nonetheless, any idea on how low the lowest water table is?  Here's a hint:  Does dewatering become a greater or lesser problem as a mine progresses downwards.  Perhaps the South Africans have some opinion on water conditions in their deepest mines.  They might also have something to say about maintaining large underground openings for use as emergency swimming pools.  The term "rockburst" comes to mind.

Perhaps you can enlighten us on the finer points of using rock-blasting "to seal in the facility so vapors cannot work their way too far upward."  I understand that a related (but far more controlled) technique is used to achieve the exact opposite effect -- to increase the hydraulic conductivity of petroleum and natural gas-bearing rock units.  Explosives are also an old-timer's method to rejuvenate a well (it only works sometimes).

"Go look up geothermal someday.  When they drill down close to the molten rocks below, they do not" actually drill all that close to molten rocks.  They certainly don't drill in to them, not by a mile.  And the engineering behind controlling a borehole at great depth - with or without a geothermal target - is no trivial issue.  So thinking that an uncontrolled core-meltdown wouldn't be much different from a fully instrumented drill rig with a team of experienced roughnecks, fluid technicians, and the like is non-sense.

Not really analogous, but look up the terms "kimberlite pipe" and "diatreme" to get some idea of what a sudden phase change in the deep-down might look like. 

But really the China Syndrome thing may be a bit of a red herring.  It's a theorhetical failure mechanism -- the core may actually remain fairly near the surface releasing its energetic goodness, or at least turning all of the surrounding groundwater into radioactive steam for years to come.  You may find that pumping cool water into the subsurface against the expansive pressure of radioactive steam to be a bit of a technical challenge.  But no worries - I'm sure you've got a poorly conceived solution to that too.

Your entire original technical suggestion is far more susceptible to the problem of unintended consequences than something so daft as, for example, siting a nuclear power plant in a location with both a high seismic and tsunami threat, poorly protected "backups" and "backups of backups," and a large nearby population.

But hey, I'm just a engineering geologist with 19 years of field, drilling, and design experience.  What the hell would I know?

honestann's picture

You are just making stuff up in a futile attempt to support your utterly stupid comments.  I will only address a few, because otherwise you'll just invent new absurdities in a never ending attempt to rationalize yourself out of your foolishness.

When you discover a deposit of some valuable commodity like gold or diamonds, you have no freaking choice where to build your mine... that's where the goodies are!!!  Get it?  Nah, I suppose that's too "deep" for you.  So sure, sometimes the situation underground is a real inconvenient bitch.  No kidding.

When you go to build a nuclear facility like I described, where do you put that?  Duh.  Think now!  Got any ideas?  Come on, genius.  Getting the point?  With all your years of experience, have you never heard of places that do NOT have these problems?  Yes, you have.  You just conveniently forgot that because you figure I and other readers are morons who don't know that very favorable geologies also exist.  Sigh.  In fact, there are very deep mine shafts that do not have the problems you described.  If they did have those problems, they would not be suitable sites.  Duh.  Duh.  Duh.  Duh.  Duh.

Your comments about blasting AFTER the steel doors are shut and gazillion tons of cement are poured are truly amazing.  Apparently you assume zero thought or design will be done before the facility is built.

Sorry, that's a bit too much like the current designs, built on top of huge fault-lines at the ocean edge where tsunamis are most common with zero gravity fed emergency water towers and no underground (or overground) electricity for emergencies, with 600,000 plutonium-laced "spent" fuel rods sitting near the top of the buildings and outside the primary AND secondary containment vessels and contained only by the outer buildings (that blew up).  I was hoping for a bit more intelligence.  And if they can't muster quite a bit more intelligence, they should not be building these facilities.  I know they can do better, but won't, because the large corporations and government are utterly irresponsible and totally corrupt.  They just do what they want to do, because a tiny bribe here and there will assure approval.  Honesty?  Safety?  What are they?

I too am not certain how literally true the China Syndrome is.  But it is certainly true to some extent, due to the temperatures that occur in full-on meltdowns.  But the fact is, the biggest part of the current disasters may have little or nothing to do with the active fuel rods within those two extra levels of very serious containment.  The main disaster here is releasing plutonium (especially) but also other poisonous and radioactive materials into the atmosphere from the "spent" fuel rods, which are not contained by anything but the blown-up buildings.

What do you know?  You probably know quite a bit about drilling for oil, or drilling for something or other.  But you seem to have the most experience in purposely creating rationalizations that completely ignore the reality of the conversation at hand.  I've been a scientist, engineer and product developer for much longer than you, so I'm not some feeble-minded moron you can fake out so easily.  True, I have not been a geologist, so you surely know more about what usually happens when you drill for oil or strike oil.  I'll give you that.  However, we would specifically avoid such areas when we search for locations to sensibly locate these facilities.  That was my whole point... to find locations that make these nuclear reactor facilities much safer.  So stop talking about me locating them in the middle of 37 layers of groundwater on top of oil bearing rocks in mud puddles of lava or whatever you're attempting.  That's just totally disingenuous... and you sir know that.

I_Rowboat's picture

"I've been a scientist, engineer and product developer"  Wow, quite a list!  Shall we presume that all were in a field unrelated to mining, geology, geophysics, geotechnical engineering, or some related Earth science?  Personally, I enjoy amateur gynecology, but I recognize that that doesn't make me an M.D.

I assure you that we're all sitting on pins and needles waiting for you tell us on what basis, through some combination of education and relevant experience, you're in a position to make informed comments about the topic at hand.  Either from the nuc. engineering side or the Earth sciences arena.

honestann's picture

Why not try to be constructive.  Read my other reply below for more detailed comments about sharing ideas to arrive at better provisional inferences.

The short answer is, the "authorities" are massive liars and are not giving us straight answers AND no single human is expert in all the aspects of these facilities or the sciences and engineering involved.

Also note that my opinions are shared by highly experienced scientists in the relevant fields, though I do not require that to form provisional opinions!

Element's picture

As you know honestann, I'm also a geo. The geological setting on the western shoreline of Japan is vastly ‘safer’ and more stable, geologically than the Eastern shoreline.
Nowhere in Japan is actually stable cratonic rock, but it is many times more stable in the west that the east, because the quakes occur are MUCH deeper. In the east they are almost all above 150km depth, with volcanoes close by and a trench complex that spits off turbidite underwater landslides, and thrusts faults everywhere … so lots of BBBIIIIGGGG tsunamis.

So quakes on the west coast are (1)less, (2) deeper, and make much smaller tsunamis, and less frequently. No trench complex is present there, and little sea-floor thrust-faulting, and volcano density is lower.

I can't believe they built the Fukushima plants and others on the eastern shoreline.

That is the worst possible development planning decision ever.

An (honest and competent) geologist would NEVER put a reactor there –NEVER!

As for cooling ponds, they should all be in underground storage in plutonic (impermeable) igneous terrain. That way if there's a wee problem you can collapse the fucker and its immobilized for millions of years and not poisoning my tuna sandwiches.

There are ways to do 'safe' fission reactors, we just aren't doing it, because we're following cheap-skate false-'economics'. Some shit you can't skimp on, and Japan is getting the ultimate lesson of the false economics of their extremely bad way of doing it.

Next time, talk to a geologist first, for the best location to put the damn thing and where to put the fuel rods and waste.

honestann's picture

As you know, these facilities and processes involve a wide variety of issues and no single specialty in science or engineering covers all of that.  So all scientists can either shut up completely because none know everything, or we can apply what knowledge and understanding we have to attempt to infer what is happening.

I suspect all of us scientists and engineers can make better educated guesses and provisional inferences than others, so why should we not convey our educated guesses and inferences?  I'm quite aware I don't know everything, but nobody else does either, and learning about anything is a continuous process of making provisional inferences from observations and experiences and previous knowledge, then testing them against what else we can observe.

It seems that many scientists here believe they should not reveal any of their own thinking (if they've been doing any), but just throw rocks at others like me trying to figure out what is happening.  And sadly, much of their assaults are totally disingenuous, on purpose.

I don't have time to talk to 37 specialists before I toss out an idea.  One way to work towards better understanding is to throw out thoughts where other people with other expertise can apply their knowledge in constructive ways so we can all converge upon better quality provisional inferences.  Instead of behaving like scientists and performing such a process here, some scientists here prefer to act like children.

I have drawn a few incorrect inferences since the beginning of this tragedy.  For example, at first I thought the original explosion of the building at reactor #1 was most likely a steam explosion because I saw no sign of flames (like we did see when the building at reactor #3 exploded).  It was only later that I realized H2 would be produced in large quantities when the overheated metal rod casings oxidized, which sucks O2 from the H2O pools they were sitting in.  Since I didn't have much information about those rod casings at the start, and no flames were visible, I thought a steam explosion was more likely.  Now I'd guess it was an H2 explosion, though that's still only inference.

Any scientist who learns primarily if not exclusively from reality and not books must go through long series of provisional inferences to develop their knowledge and understanding.  A so-called scientist who only memorizes the contents of books... well... I guess you can consider them scientists, but frankly I don't.  Ask memorizers to explain anything they haven't memorized, and.... nothing.  They haven't trained their brain to go where memorization has not taking them.  They only have "revealed knowledge"... revealed by books they cannot assess.

Thanks for providing information about the geology of Japan, which you should know.  I more than agree they should never have built those plants on the east coast, but I also believe they should never have built them on the west coast either... or on any coast where large tsunamis are likely in a 1000 to 10000 year time frame.

Some points we seem to share:

#1: There is complete, utter, blatant, intentional irresponsibility in the design, location and approval of these facilities.

#2: The location and design of the cooling ponds is insane beyond belief... and especially given the chemistry of H2 generation in those pools.  I'm guessing those "spent" rods might have low enough residual radioactivity that their meltdown could be contained by appropriate materials and conductivity, possibly augmented by dispersal of the materials as they melt.  As you say, putting these facilities in the most intelligent geology and sealed from outside venting makes infinitely more sense.

#3: Safe nuclear power is possible, however those who have any interest whatsoever in these facilities must be totally prevented from having any say in their design.  Since government and regulators are insanely easy and cheap to bribe, they cannot have any say in approval.  Sadly, how we prevent liars and predators from manipulating design and approval processes is unclear in the totally corrupt world we live in today.

I am sad to see the behavior of some "scientists" and "engineers" in this forum.  I am happy to be corrected, because I learn something, and because we all iterate towards more accurate inferences.  To me, back-and-forth in this forum or anywhere can be helpful in that regard.

However, too many take an anti-scientific approach and attempt to confuse the statements and intent of the ideas, information and opinions of others.  That doesn't help anyone, though it might make them feel some kind of strange emotional joy and power because they can cause chaos, as well as prevent thoughtful iteration towards better inferences.

One more question for you.  I talked about locating nuclear reactors below ground, and below the lowest water table.  Later I thought I remembered that some small but significant minority of locations literally have no water table.  This is true, correct?  If so, those seem like the best places to locate these facilities.  Then they needn't be so far underground, which does, of course add expense.  Such underground geology with a nearby lake at higher elevation would seem ideal.

Iam_Silverman's picture

"When you go to build a nuclear facility like I described,"

Aha!  You are also a geologist and a nuclear plant design engineer too?  So, what is your specialty, electrical, mechanical or facilities?

I'm sure your credentials would assure you a seat on the worlds most preeminent reactor design teams.  How have your interviews been going?

"I've been a scientist, engineer and product developer for much longer than you, so I'm not some feeble-minded moron you can fake out so easily."

We only think you are a moron when you dismiss people out of hand for not agreeing with your "exceptional" genius.  Sorry, didn't notice your MENSA badge.

"I too am not certain how literally true the China Syndrome is."

Ahhh, but when you made another post you stated this as fact.  So, where did the Chernobyl core end up?  Oh, that's right.  It only penetrated to the lowest floor of the facility.  maybe it was known as the "China Level" for fun?

Do you have any patents?  If not, try registering some of your ideas.  They may pan out in the future.


honestann's picture

I very much hesitate to address your questions, because you'll just find reason to create more chaos.

You are doing what I mentioned in a reply above, which is gaining some kind of emotional joy out of purposely ignoring content and ignoring intent.

Don't lie.  I never said I was a nuclear plant design engineer.

To answer: I have lots of experience with electronics and some but limited experience with high power electrical systems.  I also have moderate experience with mechanical and material systems, and some but rather limited level understanding of chemistry.  But my brain works.

I have no interest in working in the nuclear industry, but I am interested in knowing what is happening, partly just out of curiousity, but partly to be prepared to make decisions about how to respond to possible consequences of events.  I never said I am applying for such positions - you are just being completely and utterly disingenuous and adversarial.

I don't have a Mensa badge.  I never did.  However, I did take the tests and was accepted ~25 years ago.  But the people I encountered in the first gathering I attented seemed so proud of applying their "intelligence" exclusively to silly and trivial matters... well, that was my last contact.

Your comment about China Syndrome is also purposely disingenuous.  In messages where I mentioned that term I was not concerned about that phenomenon, I specifically worried about the materials hitting a water table where the steam explosions would eject the materials into the atmosphere.  And frankly, everyone who ever thought about that term for more than a few seconds knows it is not literally possible for anything to pass through to "China" for the reasons I also stated... the magma that is the vast majority of earth.

Yes, I have patents.  One product I invented and patented won Industrial Design of the Year award.  My most recent contracts were as "senior research scientist" for NASA and AirForceResearchLabs.  I did not seek either position, they sought me out, presumably because I have something to offer.

Actually, I know what that ability is... an ability and willingness to think far outside the box.  I suspect that willingness is what pisses some of you off.  I don't care.  I shall continue to operate my consciousness and continue to draw [better and better] provisional inferences in my quest to understand whatever I wish to understand.  I would prefer if everyone with knowledge, experience, or even just observant and rational habits would exchange their ideas too.  I'm happy to be corrected (as long as I'm told where I went wrong with some evidence).  Every correction just helps lead me to more accurate inferences.  However, personal attacks get nobody anywhere, which unfortunately is lost on many so-called scientists and engineers and regular folks.

In this tragedy, none of us are being given honest, complete or accurate information.  So you go ahead and sit on the railroad tracks and let events happen to you.  I'll try to figure out what's happening, and also state my opinions, thinking and observations for others to take, leave or augment.  You are completely welcome to leave them.

Internet Tough Guy's picture

George, did you lose interest in the GOM spill? The one that was going to kill everyone on the gulf? Your credibility is as dead as Matt Simmons. lulz.

Shell Game's picture

So the Gulf is just fine IYHO?  Can you back it up with anything but cyberspace bravado?

kinetik's picture

Please go away, you are making us all dumber with your comments ITG.

Paul Bogdanich's picture

The fear is that the rods in reactor 4 that were in the pool above the reactor for maintenance at the time of the earthquake are not "spent" rods but are in fact live rods and that dear friends is a huge problem.  If / when those slag they still have active fuel content and no containment.  No danger of a nuclear explosion but the chemical explosion that will occur once the molten mass outside the containment structure hits water will be an exceedingly large blast.  Water is explosive at those temperatures.          

Shell Game's picture

+1  I second that.  A lot of haters here who don't tolerate another POV.

paint it red call it hell's picture

damn, i find myself reminiscening fondly for a simple out of control oil well at the bottom of the gulf.

hedgeless_horseman's picture

"...There's a huge amount of radioactivity inside – far more than is inside the reactors. The damaged reactors are less likely to spread the same vast amounts of radiation that Chernobyl did, but a spent-fuel pool fire could very well produce damage similar to or even greater than Chernobyl."

Will the above be Exhibit A in the inquisition as to why Tokyo was not evacuated?

metastar's picture

Precious iodine bitchez!

prophet's picture

Kyodo reports that the US military is to fly an unmanned plane over Fukushima, equipped with infrared sensors, to give an aerial view of what is going on.

oklaboy's picture

Barrrrryyyy, Barrryyyy, Barrryyyy com eout and playyyyyyy