Radioactive Zirconium Found At Fukushima Confirms Exposed Fuel Rods As High Level Radiation Emitted From Broken Core

Tyler Durden's picture

The latest development in the Fukushima saga is probably one of the more ominous to date. Yomiuri reports that radioactive Zirconium 95 has been found after samples were taken near the water outlet. Google translated: "Zirconium is used for nuclear fuel cladding, the cladding melts some of the spent nuclear fuel was hot cooling water is lost, possibly mixed with sea water flowing into the large drainage There. TEPCO am on March 23, collected about 330 m south from the water at the point of outlet. Zirconium-95 concentration was 0.23 becquerels per cubic centimeter. Atomic Energy Research Institute of Kinki Sugiyama Wataru teachers (of nuclear safety), "The evidence that melting in the heat of the fuel cladding, said first find. Will come from a spent fuel storage pool at," he said." Shortly thereafter NHK spokesman admitted that this is why large amounts of radiation are leaking into the environment, making attempts to control the situation 'very challenging'. If indeed the fuel rod zirconium casing is coming off, it means that the risk for recriticality could be increasing.

Energyfromthorium explains:

A typical solid nuclear fuel rod includes a zirconium alloy tube or “cladding” encasing a single column of uranium fuel pellets. The cladding tube is smaller in diameter than your index finger, and is about 12 feet long. The uranium pellets are each about the size of the tip or your pinky finger, with the energy equivalent of 17000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1780 pounds of coal or 3.5 barrels of oil. The pellets are stacked in the tube with allowance for pellet expansion during fission and heating of the uranium. Once the uranium pellets are loaded into the cladding tube, zirconium end caps are welded in place to form a complete loaded fuel “rod.”

The cladding, pellets and even an individual virgin rod are not hazardous to handle alone, however, multiple loaded rods in close proximity will begin a spontaneous fission reaction. The rods are thus maintained in a non-critical, i.e., a non-fissioning, state during storage or transport by either substantial separation between rods or by control rods or other moderators suitable to absorb neutrons in a more compact rod arrangement.

The fuel rods are then arranged in “bundles” or “fuel rod assemblies”, e.g., 14×14 or 17×17 arrays, which are then inserted into the core with a number of control rods being retractable from the bundle to initiate fission and insertable into the bundle to stop fission. Many rod bundles are oriented vertically in the reactor core with a substantial flow of water passing upward through the bundles to convey the fission reaction heat to a steam turbine for generation of electricity. 

The zirconium cladding serves to hermetically isolate the uranium pellets and accumulated fission byproducts from exposure to the water flow in the core or cooling tank  or to the atmosphere. The thin-walled cladding is transparent to radiation but is naturally affected by the high heat stresses and heat loading in the core.  The rods are preemptively retired after a finite core cycle, 18 months to several years, to maintain cladding integrity even though only a small fraction of the uranium is “spent.”  This finite core cycle is also limited by accumulation of fission byproducts, particularly nuetron absorbers, inside the fuel rod.  A retired or spent nuclear fuel (“SNF”) rod is placed in a water cooling tank for an initial cool-down period during which the more highly radioactive (shorter half-life) isotopes rapidly decay. During this period, the rapid decay still generates substantial decay radiation and heat, albeit only a small fraction of the fission radiation and heat that is generated during reactor operation.  After this initial cool-down period, the slower decay of the remaining longer-half-life isotopes generates a moderate amount of decay radiation and heat, which is readily absorbed by a concrete “dry cask” during long-term storage.

A typical nuclear plant can have hundreds of active fuel rod bundles in each core, thousands of SNF rods in short-term cool-down tanks and fuel from tens of thousands of SNF rods in long-term dry cask storage. The cooling tanks at the compromised Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant collectively house around 11,000 SNF rods with a portion of those housed in the cooling tanks above reactors 1-4.

Water in the cool-down tanks acts as a neutron moderator, radiation shield and coolant, so long as the water level around the rods in the tank is maintained. If the SNF rods are left exposed and uncooled long enough, rapid oxidation (often called “burning”) and extreme heat stress can eventually compromise the cladding, expose the uranium, generate hydrogen, and release fission byproducts. Unmoderated and uncooled SNF rods can produce sufficient radiation and heat that even brief close proximity worker exposure is unacceptable. Should the cooling tank levels drop too low for too long, it could be challenging to restore the cooling tank water levels from a safe distance.

Hopefully, the cooling tank water levels at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will be restored and the situation stabilized soon.

And if that was not enough, Kyodo reports that high-level radiation is now suspected to be leaking from the core of reactor #3, implying reactor damage.

High-level radiation detected Thursday in water at the No. 3 reactor's turbine building at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant appears to have originated from the reactor core, the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Friday.

But no data, such as on the pressure level, have suggested the reactor vessel has been cracked or damaged, agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama emphasized at an afternoon press conference, backing down from his previous remark that there is a good chance that the reactor has been damaged. It remains uncertain how the leakage happened, he added.

A day after three workers were exposed Thursday to water containing radioactive materials 10,000 times the normal level at the turbine building connected to the No. 3 reactor building, highly radioactive water was found also at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors' turbine buildings.

The latest development in Japan's worst nuclear crisis raises the risk of more workers being exposed to radioactive elements, hampering their efforts to restore the plant's crippled cooling functions that are key to putting the crisis under control.

The three workers were transferred to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture Friday afternoon, after two of them were taken Thursday to a Fukushima hospital for possible radiation burns to their feet, the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Following the incident, the nuclear regulatory agency ordered the utility known as TEPCO to improve radiation management at the power station, located about 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.

Nishiyama said the high-level radiation is suspected to have come from the reactor, where overheating fuel rods are believed to have partially melted.

He said further verification is needed to find out how the radioactive water reached the underground site where the workers were exposed. Huge volumes of water have been poured into the reactor as well as its apparently boiling spent fuel pool since they lost their cooling functions.

The government, which has set the exclusion zone covering areas within a 20 kilometer radius of the Fukushima plant, meanwhile, encouraged residents within a 30 kilometer radius of the power station to voluntarily leave, while the official directive is for them to stay indoors.

The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, a government panel, recommended voluntary evacuation as the release of radioactive materials from the plant is expected to continue for some time.

Despite the partial halt of restoration work due to the technicians' radiation exposure, TEPCO on Friday began injecting freshwater into the No. 1 reactor core, as it prepares to inject freshwater into all the troubled three reactor cores and four spent fuel pools, instead of seawater currently used.

Lastly, for those who believe this is reporting merely an attempt to induce panic, here is Bloomberg on the same topic.

Reactor Core May Be Breached, Leaking Radiation at Plant

Japan’s nuclear regulator said one reactor core at the quake-damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant may be cracked and leaking radiation.

"It’s very possible that there has been some kind of leak at the No. 3 reactor," Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman at the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in Tokyo today. While radioactive water at the unit most likely escaped from the reactor core, it also could have originated from spent fuel pools stored atop the reactor, he said.

Repair work at the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl has been plagued by explosions, fires and leaks of toxic material. Workers using fire engines have streamed 4,000 tons of water on the No. 3 reactor, five times more than any of the other five units, according to the government.

Two plant workers were hospitalized yesterday with radiation burns after stepping in the water, which was found to have radiation levels 10,000 times higher than water used in reactor cooling, Nishiyama said earlier today.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, said it found eight different radioactive materials in the water of the turbine building basement, where the men were attempting to connect a power cable. The materials are made through a process of fission, and include cobalt and molybdenum-99, a spokesman for the power utility said.


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Tortfeasor's picture

Radioactive Zirconium: for that shoestring budget, radioactive shotgun wedding.  She'll never know the difference from a radioactive diamond

Sophist Economicus's picture

...But you will, after making love to her, when that burning sensation for her just won't go away...

rich_wicks's picture

Shut up you stupid idiot.

Japan is totally screwed.  Ths humanitarian crisis hasn't even begun. Just shut the hell up if you have nothing intelligent to say.  You're not funny,  it's an obvious joke, and it's unsuitable.  Go to yahoo group for yuck yucks if you want.  That's filled with idiots, you'd fit right in.

Sudden Debt's picture

looks like somebody needs another Anger Management course ;)

Think blue

Think boobs



Carl Spackler-the Creator of Spackler Feather Bent's picture

awww! Come on!  Its a little bit funny.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I would say someone was just emotionally triggered. Time to step away from the keyboard and take a walk around the block.

Thank you for playing the home version of Zero Hedge the game. Please come back and visit us soon.

Bob Dobbs's picture

You are correct.

9.0 Earthquake

9 - 11 m tsunami

400 000 homeless people.

A nuclear disaster in the making.


That's not funny.  We should all help as best we can.


Yes We Can. But Lets Not.'s picture

I'll try to help with some advice:

If you are after all that has taken place *still* in Tokyo, GTFO now.

Thomas's picture

To argue that the Yahoo boards are uncivilized compared to this bunch of wingnuts is a reach. I come here for the Roman orgies.

VyseLegendaire's picture

Sounds like someone's containment vessel has been breached mirite?

max2205's picture

Panic.? We don't need no stinking panic.

DrRaolDuke's picture

A large part of Japan will be uninhabitable for decades. CNN is covering the royal wedding.

Thorlyx's picture

So what? They perfectly know what people want to hear.

Sudden Debt's picture

that means only one thing....





Gmpx's picture

It is too late to run anyway.

Tense INDIAN's picture

George Michael was telling us its tooo late 2 decades back.....

Gmpx's picture

CERN with a Black Hole right in Geneva. UN with directive 1984. First animal ... (there was one in space, it is time for a bigger role).

Alea Iacta Est's picture

CERN will blow Belgium, and 26% of France, off the map sometime before Christmas in my opinion.

Thorlyx's picture

I love the smell of Zirconium in the morning.....

Youri Carma's picture




Although MOX fuel has been used occasionally in Europe, it is not made with such a high percentage of plutonium-239 as is contemplated for the United States. This form of plutonium is the material of choice for nuclear weapons precisely because it is easiest to explode. Obviously, this is not the goal in reactor operation. Compounding the concern about the use of a weapons material is the disclosure that the plutonium is not pure. In order to make the nuclear weapons, other ingredients were added to the plutonium. One of these is Gallium, which has not been put in a reactor core before, and which interacts with zirconium, one of the metals composing the fuel rod’s "cladding."

Compromise of fuel cladding can cause a host of problems including greatly increased releases of radioactivity to air and water. People living near the Pilgrim nuclear power reactor in Massachusetts had a 400% greater chance of suffering leukemia than those who lived upwind during the years when that reactor was using fuel with faulty cladding. The stakes of current reactor operation are very high without compounding them with MOX fuel use.

See Also: [Contribution] What is Happening in the Reactor Cores of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station?, 24 March 2011, by Michio Ishikawa (Chief Adviser of Japan Nuclear Technology Institute (JANTI))

Why Fukushima’s “spent” fuel rods will continue to catch fire, 15 March 2011, by Kirk James Murphy, M.D. (FDL)

Fukushima: The Salt Problem, by Eben Harrell 24 March 2011 (Time-Blog)

TaxSlave's picture

From your Time link, above:

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)--not known for taking alarmist positions...


Cripes alive.  I hate the MSM.

Kina's picture

Japan's nuclear crisis still doesn't warrant optimism: Kan


If Kan is saying that then that's code for, we are really fucked here.

TaxSlave's picture

Following the incident, the nuclear regulatory agency ordered the utility known as TEPCO to improve radiation management at the power station...


Thank God.  The authorities are in charge.  It'll all be OK from now on.

the not so mighty maximiza's picture

seduce as many women as possible, impregnate asap, human race must survive

//sarcasm off.....maybe not sarcasm

Kina's picture

I'm willing to make the sacrifice for Japanese women.

topcallingtroll's picture

Japanese women are a great fuck. I like quiet dignity with zeal and enthusiasm. A unique experience and such nice perky boobs!

walcott's picture

the couple I fucked had some nice big tits and chewy nipples. 

MachoMan's picture

was that before or after the squid shot out?

johnQpublic's picture

so once this is 'under control', then what?

is that when they bury this nightmare, or will they then try to clean her up and use this plant again?

they have been jerking around for two weeks now

how much time do they think they have?

how long will they let this sucker spew?

The Profit Prophet's picture

I'm afraid you haven't been doing your ZH homework very well John.  They have to let this sucker spew until they are able to cool her down.....very hard to entomb a white-hot melted core of MOX.  Additionally...very hard to cool her down when those who try will die.

There will certainly be no "cleaning her up"...unless your talking about Japan.....and then perhaps, the more southern regions.

As far as your "how much time" question goes....this plant was a fucking doomsday device the minute the nuclear geniuses who built this plant decided to store all the spent fuel in the explosion zone above the reactors.  Hubris can be a terrible thing....both in the financial and scientific fields of study.

T.E.I.N. everyone.

flattrader's picture


Point of recognition imminent.

I thought I heard it on BBC and the Americn news this moring, but they backed off calling a spade a spade so to speak likely not to be accused of sensationalism or inciting panic.

I think even really smart people are having trouble getting their heads around this.

I got it instantly when I saw #3 explode.

whoopsing's picture

I'm not sure if 'they' have a choice in the matter JQP

TaxSlave's picture

Use the plant again?


Better read up on the subject a little.

johnQpublic's picture

more sarcasm than anything...i know they cant use it again

the problem i see, is those who run the nuclear industry have no backup plan

we got the warning that anything was possible at chernobyl

its time to sacrifice an enormous number of people to get this thing 'under control'

it does not appear to be fixing itself on wishful thinking and firetrucks

they have to get boron into this bitch, and its not going to get inserted where it needs to be by any method i've heard mentioned

so whats the end game?

to big to bury it, right?      pyramid sized project

leaking radiated everything into the environment

appears to be getting worse almost daily

the documentary i watched on chernobyl said they used 800k people to get under control, so obviously fifty to 200 guys, brave as they may be, wont solve dick

so lets get about it

someone built this thing, and they need to find a way to cowboy up and end it befor the entire island is a wasteland, spreading damage to the entire ocean and earth itself

the fact there is no final plan already in place,long befor a disaster, nor even including final disposal of the rods is absurd beyond my ability to comprehend

TaxSlave's picture

No backup plan...


Agree completely.  How bad it is going to end up is a matter of conjecture, and serial lies coming from Operation Information Control do not engender optimism except in True Believers, if there are any left.


Sorry for missing the /sarc.

RichardP's picture

I'm sure they have several backup plans in place.  Just not one for a 9.0 earthquake followed by a 77-foot-high tsunami.

In any situation, if you can't predict the inputs, you can't perfectly anticipate/plan for/defend against the outputs.

They have been doing a decent job muddling through, which is all you can do in a surprise situation such as this.  Make it up as you go along.  For the most part, they have been keeping everything cool enough.

Now, in terms of information disemination ...

fajensen's picture

If they have no solid ground under the plant - concrete or rock - then they cannot just bury the mess. Someone needs to first build a toomb to dump all the radioactive crap in and then some pretty smart robots to do the work with.

Ident 7777 economy's picture

If they have no solid ground under the plant - concrete or rock 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Well, the ground didn't succumb to the phenomenon known as "liquefaction"

So it's not built on sand ... yesterday it was determined it was more a form of sedimentary rock ...


avonaltendorf's picture

Pretty hard stuff, definitely not sandy. Most of the nearby upland is igneous and metamorphic. To save the air, the seaward side should be demolished, reactors pushed into the ocean, then concrete over debris in the water.

smlbizman's picture

how did this giant asshole larry myers get to be a fed, member.....what a giant fucking douche bag....

Abitdodgie's picture

We are okay the sample of water was collected on July 23 so it's a realy old sample.

Tense INDIAN's picture

invest in building those bunkers....else we are all DEAD....

A Man without Qualities's picture

Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of central bankers...


Ident 7777 economy's picture





For the backgrounder:

"Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds"


prophet's picture

Superb reporting.  NQ.

Incubus's picture

The human race isn't going to die off now, we're like roaches.


The question is, who is going to die this century?  All signs point to a massive population reduction via energy/resource scarcity, famine, and war.

Jim in MN's picture

It's been said that the ecosystem after a thermonuclear war isn't destroyed, it's just...simplified.