Reactor Status Update And Fukushima Risk Q&A

Tyler Durden's picture

The following summarises what is happening at each unit, and the major risks:


Each reactor is surrounded by the primary containment vessel. This is
made of strengthened steel four to eight inches thick. It provides the
most critical line of defence against leaking radiation from the

Should there be a breach, there is a final line of
defence to prevent radiation leaks, a bigger containment building made
of steel and concrete. A breach of the containment building would
release radiation into the atmosphere.


REACTOR No 3: 784-MW

-- What is happening:

TEPCO said on Wednesday that resolving problems at this reactor was the
top priority because it had the highest radiation levels. This reactor
is the only one that includes plutonium in its fuel mix.

operator has been pumping sea water into the reactor to prevent
overheating. The building housing the reactor was hit by an explosion on

An attempt by a military helicopter to drop water on
the reactor failed on Wednesday probably because radiation levels were
too high, Kyodo news agency reported. The Japan nuclear agency had said
earlier in the day that the pumping of sea water was proceeding

TEPCO said the spent fuel pool may have heated up,
producing steam. The temperature has risen to around 60 degrees Celsius
from the usual 30-40 degrees, but the change was not critical, it said.

-- What are the risks:

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday that the
primary containment vessel, the first line of defence against a
radiation leak, appeared intact.

However, Chief Cabinet Minister
Yukio Edano said on Wednesday there is a "possibility" the vessel had
been damaged, Kyodo reported.

If that is the case, authorities
will be worried that radiation may leak through the first containment
wall into the secondary containment building.

The spent fuel
pools present a radiation risk if the spent fuel is exposed to the
atmosphere. When a rod is exposed to the air, zirconium metal on the
rods will catch fire, which could release radiation contained in the
fuel, said Arnie Gundersen, a 39-year veteran of the nuclear industry
who is now chief engineer at Fairwinds Associates Inc.

REACTOR No 4: 784-MW

-- What is happening:

TV on Wednesday showed smoke or steam rising from the facility after
flames were seen earlier. The reactor had been shut down for maintenance
when the earthquake and tsunami struck.

On Tuesday, a pool
where spent fuel is stored caught fire and caused an explosion. Japan's
nuclear safety agency says the blast punctured two holes around 8-metres
square in the wall of the outer building of the reactor.

has said it may pour water through the two holes within two or three
days to cool spent nuclear fuel that is inside. Workers cannot prepare
to pour water into the pool sooner because of high radiation levels,
Kyodo said.

Instead, TEPCO plans to bulldoze a road to the
reactor building so water-pump trucks can approach and hose water
inside, said Kazuya Aoki, a director of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial
Safety Agency.

-- What are the risks:

Exposure of spent
fuel to the atmosphere is serious because there is more radiation in the
spent fuel than in the reactor, said Gundersen. The spent fuel pool is
not inside a containment facility either.

"They need to keep
water in those pools because the roof over the building housing the
pools is already damaged and radiation will escape," he said.

The pools contain racks that hold spent fuel taken from the reactor.
Operators need to constantly add water to the pool to keep the fuel
submerged so that radiation cannot escape.

Exposing the spent fuel to the atmosphere will release radiation.

REACTOR No 2: 784-MW

-- What is happening:

An explosion rocked the plant on Tuesday, damaging a suppression pool,
into which steam is vented from the reactor to relieve pressure. The
roof of the reactor building is damaged, Jiji news agency reported.

TEPCO said on Tuesday the fuel rods were fully exposed. Kyodo reported
an estimated 33 percent of the nuclear fuel rods have been damaged at
the No 2 reactor.

However, on Wednesday, Japan's nuclear agency said the pumping of sea water into the reactor was proceeding smoothly.

-- What are the risks:

When fuel rods are no longer covered in coolant they can heat up and start to melt, raising the risk of a radiation leak.

The suppression pool is part of the primary containment vessel, which
is designed to prevent a leak, but the IAEA said the blast "may have
affected the integrity of its primary containment vessel."

Still, beyond the primary containment vessel is the containment
building, which is also designed to prevent radiation from escaping.

REACTOR No 1: 460-MW.

-- What is happening:

An explosion occurred at the reactor on Saturday. Kyodo reported on
Wednesday an estimated 70 percent of the nuclear fuel rods have been

Authorities are pumping sea water into the reactor to
prevent overheating, and pressure levels were stable, Edano said on

The Japan nuclear agency said on Wednesday the pumping was proceeding smoothly.

-- What are the risks:

The IAEA said on Tuesday the primary containment vessel appeared
intact. If the fuel rods in the reactor are not covered by coolant, they
can heat up and start to melt.

REACTOR No 5: 784-MW

-- What is happening:

The reactor had been shut down for maintenance at the time of the quake and tsunami.

TEPCO said on Wednesday water was being poured into the reactor and
that temperatures in the spent fuel pool were rising slightly.

-- What is the risk.

Reactor 5 and reactor 6 are seen less at risk than reactors 1 to 4.

REACTOR No 6: 1,100-MW

-- What is happening:

TEPCO said on Wednesday water was being poured into the reactor and
that temperatures in the spent fuel pool were rising slightly.

-- What is the risk.

Reactor 5 and reactor 6 are seen less at risk than reactors 1 to 4.

And a visual summary:

Source: Reuters

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Rusty Shorts's picture

I just woke up, when did Unit 4 blow up? looks worse than Unit 1 and Unit 3.


Rusty Shorts's picture

Looks like Unit 2 is next judging from these images.

bingaling's picture

Well they cant get to it due to high radiation levels . What does that mean ?

Rusty Shorts's picture

Tyler reported that there were 2 - 8x8 meter holes blown out of the exterior walls of Unit 4 ... the images in my attachment shows that there are no walls left now. So, my question was/is, when did this happen?

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I asked myself the same question. It appears it blew up just before Japan imposed a news blackout. Unfortunately the Digital-Globe satellite was uncooperative.

Remember when we were being told that the roof of unit 4 had been damaged by unit three's explosion. That was a lie. Then they said the roof of unit 4 was damaged by an unknown-at-the-time fire. That was a lie. It is crystal clear there was an explosion at unit 4 and it is now clear that the containment buildings for units 3 and 4 were breached. They claim the reactor vessels themselves are still sound. We shall see. But look at this devastation.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

You're welcome.

BTW notice the hole in the side of the unit 2 building, the only building of the original 4 that remains intact, where "white smoke", presumably steam, is escaping. What a neat little square. Either it was penetrated by an explosion within the building or the "operators" blew it out to allow steam to escape. I vote number one unless someone on the ground had access to explosives and the knowledge to use them. Who knows though what's going on. It is a very clean hole for an uncontrolled explosion without damage to the sections on either side.

I can't remember which reactor had a stuck relief value, but I believe it was 2. Correct me if I'm wrong. Either way it now looks like the containment buildings (notice I am not saying the reactor vessels) of 3 of the 4 reactors have been breached.

Now......what about units 5 and 6?

DaveyJones's picture

Thanks CD. Can't believe the government would lie about disasters and energy :/ Does anyone know the relative strengths of the primary containment vessel vs the secondary?  

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I found this marked up cutaway of unit one. I would expect the primary to be several orders of magnitude stronger than the building itself simply because it must contain the actual heat and pressure of the reaction. Remember that it is both metal and concrete. The little person down inside the torus can be used for scale. The concrete surrounding the reactors is several meters thick. The metal must be a foot or more, but I am completely out of my pay grade here.

DaveyJones's picture

thanks. So when they say the containment vessel may be "breached," what do they mean, a puncture, a fissure, an actual hole in the primary vessel? If that's the case, yikes. I'm sure this was discussed yesterday, but this "discount" design was criticized from day one and I thought I read that experts indicated that it would have an extremely high chance of inability to contain the contamination as the result of injuries..  

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

One must always be careful to say never.......but short of damage inflicted (explosion etc) from outside of the primary containment vessel, the primary containment vessel will most likely not be breached from heat and pressure building up inside the vessel. However, vessel penetrations for vents, valves, pumps and pipes will most likely let go before the actual vessel breaks, cracks etc from heat/pressure buildup.

That said, if there is a fuel meltdown, where the fuel becomes so hot that it litteraly melts and flows or falls down to the bottom of the vessel, it is feared that the concentration of the 5,000F heat coming from the fuel that will pool at the bottom of the vessel might.........might.........melt it's way through the bottom of the vessel and the dozens of feet of concrete below the vessel.

The longer they can keep this from happening the better off they are because the decay heat will be dissipated over time. They are battling to prevent this from spiraling even further out of control. They need time and heat dissipation to save this disaster from increasing several orders of magnitude worse.

I repeat that this is above my pay grade and my comments are based upon extensive reading over the last 5 days.

edit. Remember also that anything directly connected and open to the vessel must share the vessel's strength. Meaning think about the weakest link in a chain. The torus is connected to the vessel via values, 81 inch values if I remember correctly. If the valve is open, then the pressure in the vessel is equal to the pressure in the torus. Thus if the torus has a leak, the vessel has a leak unless they shut the valve.....which removes some of the cooling ability. Pandora's box is open.

chumbawamba's picture

CD, thanks for the research and information.

Not to defend anyone, I just want to point out that these reactors have been in service for about 40 years now, and in that time Japan has been rocked by numerous high magnitude earthquakes and not once (to my knowledge) was there ever a serious problem until this time.

Without a doubt, this was (literally) an Earth changing event.  I'm not sure how one can really fault the designers or the government for a design that held out for four decades through thick and thin, only to succumb to a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and numerous follow-on tsunamis.  I'd say it's a miracle something like this didn't happen sooner.

Just trying to offer perspective.  The actions of the Japanese government and the plant operators, to the extent that they're not giving the public--the People--valid and accurate information is reprehensible.  But I think it goes without saying that finding someone to blame at this juncture serves no one.

Who cares who is responsible at this point?  Japan seems to be majorly fucked , and recovery will be long and slow.  We won't know until the play ends.  More importantly for the rest of us around the world, we potentially have a global radiation plume to deal with, so I'd much rather see people comparing notes about what materials to stockpile and what kind of actions we should be taking rather than expressing their fear, shock and loathing.  What good does that do?

I picked up 500g of USP (pharmaceutical grade) potassium iodide yesterday from a local chemical supply house.  I paid $78 after tax.  You can find similar (even better) deals on eBay--or at least one could when I checked over the weekend.  I now have ~3,800 adult doses of KI that I can distribute if the need arises.  Good luck finding any commercial product right now as it is all sold out, and there is word coming out now that the government is commandeering whatever commercial supplies of KI are out there.

I put together a custom first aid kit last night from supplies I bought at the local Target.  I had a nice multi-niche portable gearbox that I stuffed with bandages, ointments, medical tape, etc., all very organized and ready to grab and go at a moments notice.  I'm making a second one that will go in my "ready" bag (a.k.a. bug out bag).

Speaking of which, I'm finishing up my ready bag.  I put together a huge list of stuff I'd want if I had to bug out of town on a moment's notice.  I suggest everyone get going on their own and commit to yourself to have it ready by the end of this week.  Just do it and get it over with.  A good bag can be assembled with what you have on hand and supplies you can find at the local dollar store or whatever for under $100.  Multiple lists of items to place in your BOB (Bug Out Bag) are available online.  Everyone has a different idea of what they'd need in an emergency, so I suggest you review the various lists and write-ups that various people have put out to get ideas, then create your own list based on what YOU think will be necessary for YOUR situation.  If you will be bugging out with family members in tow, make sure you stock enough extras for everyone, or have multiple ready bags for each family member.  I'm going to have at least two major bags in two locations, and a few smaller bags for the little Chumbas.

I realize all of this may be unwarranted, as the radiation may never rise high enough in the atmosphere to enter the jet stream and get distributed around the planet, but what's happening in Japan is just a chapter in a long story still being unwound.  It behooves you to heed my call and get prepared for anything and everything (with emphasis on the latter).

I am Chumbawamba.

J.B. Books's picture

Just to add, see the two tanks next to the top of the reactor - that is where they store spent fuel rods.  - NO CONTAINMENT....  if they melt I would think they will burn right to the bottom, past the reactor.


J.B. Books

cossack55's picture

I think that was the door marked "Watercloset" for the newbie initiation.

Rusty Shorts's picture

Looks like Unit 2 is next.

Unit 3 looks really bad, it's obvious that the storage area for the spent fuel rods is gone.

DaveyJones's picture

Beyea, J., E.Lyman, and F.von Hippel. 2004. Damages from a Major Release of 137Cs into the Atmosphere of the U.S. (addendum to “Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States” by R.Alvarez, J.Beyea, K.Janberg. E. Lyman, A.Macfarlane, G.Thompson, and F.von Hippel, 2003. Science and Global Security, Vol. 11, pp. 1–51). Science and Global Security, Vol. 12, pp. 125–136.

bugs_'s picture

hey guys its getting hot in here - can someone open a window?

krispkritter's picture my view that 'neat little square' may just be the weakest panel/link which blew out under growing pressure and in doing so vented rather than blew off the roof. If you note the steel framing on 3 & 4(I'm counting right-left) it's a square grid of steel and likely panels are installed over that. Also, if you look at some of the side view pics of #3(I think), while the finish on the outside is a circular or octagon pattern, some of the panels sticking to the frame of the building are roughly square/rectangular in nature. Quite a bit of concrete construction these days is panelized. My .02 or .0112 after taxes... 

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I like your thinking but......

The concrete is massively reinforced with a maze of re-bar which is also welded at spots to the vertical steel columns as well as poured into the "U" of the column. Plus there are additional vertical columns and horizontal beams laced between the primary vertical columns. What I'm saying is that this isn't a "panel" if you meant a drop in panel.

But I do agree that the weakest point would be at the vertical steel columns. Just pointing out an outlier anomaly in the photo.

trillion_dollar_deficit's picture

There's basically nothing left of the one billowing smoke/steam. Did each reactor have a spent fuel rod pool at the top?

Miss Expectations's picture

The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools dedicated to spent fuel rods. These are located at the top of six reactor buildings – or were until explosions and fires ravaged the plant. On the ground level there is a common pool in a separate building that was critical damaged by the tsunami. Each reactor building pool holds 3,450 fuel rod assemblies and the common pool holds 6,291 fuel rod assemblies. Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods. In short, the Fukushima Daiichi plant contains over 600,000 spent fuel rods – a massive amount of radiation that will soon be released into the atmosphere.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Yup. And something not getting any press is the face that there is a 7th "common" spent fuel pool located on ground level that was flooded by the tsunami and damaged. Each of the reactors has a spent fuel pool near the top plus there is a much larger (supposedly twice the size of any of the other 6 pools) common pool on the ground. No news on it's condition.

trillion_dollar_deficit's picture

CD, anyway you can label each reactor number in that pic? Would be helpful. Thx.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I don't have that capability. But number 4 is all the way to the left and 1 is all the way to the right.

The 2 wide buildings in front I assume are the turbine buildings. I assume this because of their location and the large pipes feeding into them in the back. I don't know this for a fact.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Good stuff CogDiss.

Whose lyin' eyes do we trust eh?


Cognitive Dissonance's picture

The propagandist and apologist would have you believe that you can't trust your own eyes.

This is the root of my anger. The truth in many cases is out there to be easily found. But the average Joe has been conditioned to climb into the back of the bus and leave the driving to the powers. Always a bad idea if you want to arrive in one piece and with all your limbs attached.

DaveyJones's picture

There comes that point in history when the average joe, enslaved and overworked by the corrupt system, spends some time to learn it then fight it. Most still seem to be in the chasing mode, trying to make ends meet. Hopefully, that will end soon  

chumbawamba's picture


I am Chumbawamba.

Yen Cross's picture

Thank you. It was Effernesent.NOW lets get down to business!

DoctoRx's picture

Amazing how ZH proves its worth.  Tx

umop episdn's picture

Time and time again, ZH does a stellar job of reporting. My thanks to all the Tylers involved. Show those faux journalists how it is supposed to be done, Tyler!

JoeSexPack's picture

You got that right! ZH is my first stop for news.

& the comments, like CG's reactor explanation, really help to explain what the MSM can't, or won't.

JoeSexPack's picture

Make that CD's explanation, thanx much!

westboundnup's picture

Where there's smoke, there's radiation.

bob_dabolina's picture

A breach of the containment building would release radiation into the atmosphere.

There is Cesium/Iodine detected in the atmosphere and drinking water can we assume this step has been reached?

Oh regional Indian's picture

TEPCO said. IAEA said.

I put that in the same league as GIvernment Spokesman said.

And Military Spokeswoman said.

Oil is well. Oil is well.

Till it ain't.


strannick's picture

So much more helpful than, 'fire at #3 reactor. Reactor #2 roof's blown off'

High Plains Drifter's picture

Operation "kill all rats and traitors" is now in progress.

The Germans refused to go along with the no fly zone and Italy is refusing to take in refugees. Hmmm, the Europeans see the writing on the wall because they want to make nice with the old man. He is pissed and when this is over there will be shuffling of the deck about the things that Europe needs that he has. Ha ha ha . Number 1 fuckee will be France and Rothschild puppet and former Mossad operative, Sarkozy....

Jim in MN's picture

Not to worry, the Colonel will lose his leverage when all the oil infrastructure is sabotaged into the Stone Age.

Shylockracy's picture

There is no such a thing as a "former Mossad operative".

eigenvalue's picture

Plutonium is extremely poisonous. If remember correctly, 5 grammes of plutonium can kill the entire human race. 

High Plains Drifter's picture

They were extreme idiots allowing whoever, to talk them into using mox. 

eigenvalue's picture

I think the Japanese wanted plutonium to be the fuel because plutonium can also be used to develop nuclear weapons.

BurningFuld's picture

The plutonium is coming from the dismantaling of the USSR and USA nukes.  Might as well get some use out of it plus storage is expensive...also it may fall into the wrong hands and end up in a dirty bomb. Oh wait it did.

flattrader's picture

Part of the From Megatons to Megawatts to Megadeath Program.