They've Found the Missing Fukushima Nuclear Cores ... Scattered All Over Japan

George Washington's picture

We reported in May 2011 that authorities knew – within days or weeks – that all 3 active Fukushima nuclear reactors had melted down, but covered up that fact for months.

The next month, we reported that Fukushima’s reactors had actually suffered something much worse: nuclear melt-throughs, where the nuclear fuel melted through the containment vessels and into the ground. At the time, this was described as:

The worst possibility in a nuclear accident.

But now, it turns out that some of the Fukushima reactors have suffered even a more extreme type of damage: melt-OUTS.

By way of background, we’ve noted periodically that scientists have no idea where the cores of the nuclear reactors are.

And that highly radioactive black “dirt” has been found all over Japan.

It turns out that the highly radioactive black substances are likely remnants of the core.

The Journals Environmental Science & Technology and Journal of Environmental Radioactivity both found (hat tip EneNews) that the highly radioactive black substances match fuel from the core of the Fukushima reactors.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission agrees.

Indeed, “hot particles” with extremely high levels of radiation – 7 billion, 40 billion , and even 40 billion billion Bq/kg – have been found all over the Fukushima region, and hundreds of miles away … in Tokyo.

Let’s put this in perspective. The Atlantic notes:

Japanese regulations required nuclear waste with 100 or more bq/kg of Cesium to be monitored and disposed of in specialized containers.




The new government limit for material headed for landfills is 8000 bq/kg, 80 times the pre-Fukushima limit.

So the hottest hot particle found so far is 5 million billion times greater than the current government limits of what can be put in a landfill.

In other words, the core of at least one of the Fukushima reactors has finally been found … scattered all over Japan.

How did material from the cores get dispersed so far? Remember, there was a huge explosion at reactor number 1 , and an even bigger explosion at reactor number 3.


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Freewheelin Franklin's picture

All of the technology needed for safe, GenIV reactors is sittting in Los Alamos. 

kaiserhoff's picture

Mayan calendar shit.  Now this is appropriate for one of George's fluff and puff pieces;)

The real benefit of George's mouthings and droppings on Fukushima, is that it gives the engineers and nukes a chance to bring us up to date on what is really known, and what isn't.

TheAnswerIs42's picture

Uh OK,

If it was really, really, really bad then we're all fucked and dead really, really, really soon.

Unless if it was really, really bad then we're all fucked and dead really, really soon.

Of course if it was really bad then we're all fucked and dead really soon.

Otherwise then we're all fucked and dead...

Or mebbe were just fucked.

Or mebbe we're just dead.


Is that it?


UrbanBard's picture

I suggest suicide.

Why wait around for the end? Why take a chance that you might be wrong and are obsessing over nothing?

Your suicide would benefit us normal people. We wouldn't have to read your panicky statements. We wouldn't have to calm the fears of the mentally deficient among us. So, it's good all around.

WhyWait's picture

Hard science PhD's mostly don't set the agenda.  Even for basic research agendas which usually requires big bucks from somewhere.  Culture is don't ask too closely how your research will be used, make excuses for yourself about "dual use".  Easy to be lulled into participating in the propaganda game.  

Los Alamos physicists fantasized they would have some control over how the Bomb would be developed and used.  Found out they were as expendible as factory workers.

Hard scientists have a moral responsibility to speak out about what they know, as do we all, but in today's world that can be a quick career-ender.


realWhiteNight123129's picture

Buy Uranium mines. No one gives a shit about radiation, we need more power. Do not forget that in the long run we are all dead, get used to it. 


Kelley's picture

You wouldn't mind having all your teeth fall out would you?


Or swollen feet and knees that feel really hot.


Don't worry - it's not so bad.  

honestann's picture

Japan: royally screwed.
Japan: nuclear reactor explosions and meltdown.
Japan: keynesian hyper-debt economic meltdown.

How obvious does it have to get that humans must STOP handing predators (or any one/few individuals) massive power to manipulate the lives of millions of people?  Disaster after disaster without end.  Get used to it.  Japan is just the first to go completely down the drain.

WordSmith2013's picture

As Fukushima Goes, So Goes Japan

"Tokyo has the largest “greater metro” population in the world at about 34.3 million.  Tokyo has the largest GDP of all major cities in the world – larger than both New York City and London.  Tokyo is the economic/financial capital of the world’s 3rd largest national economy, as well as the primary economic engine of East Asia."

Monty Burns's picture

Nonsense, at least w/r/t the main thesis in this article.  Had the reactor cores disintegrated as suggested nothing at all would be left of the plants or indeed much of the surrounding landscape.

George Washington's picture

Reactor 3 - the one with the biggest explosion - looks great:

(click picture for bigger, clearer image ...)

Element's picture



Are you seriously trying to suggest that a chemical gas combustion explosion can't do that?


GW, at this point you have satisfied me that you have no balance or objectivity at all on this topic.

UrbanBard's picture

Hysteria. There was no proof. A nuclear explosion would have some evidence to back it up, such as a burst of radiation. A hydrogen explosion would not. And it didn't.

honestann's picture

Well, I think someone is just forgetting to say the obvious.

A "nuclear explosion" can happen when [say] 0.01% of the nuclear material goes through the fission process, and that explosion simply propels the rest of the mass out like a conventional explosion would.

Unless you have EXTREMELY CAREFULLY DESIGNED environment (a nuclear bomb), you will never get very much of the material to be involved in the fission process.

So... I see no reason that it is impossible for a small quantity of the fuel to be involved in fission.  I'm not a nuclear scientist, but as a scientist, it seems plausible to me.

PS:  Even the normal process of the nuclear reactor is a fission process, but not many of the ejected particles (of an atom breaking apart) smack into another easily fissionable atom, and so the process occurs slowly.  So, in a manner of speaking, a normal nuclear reactor, running in the normal manner, IS a nuclear bomb that IS exploding a factor of [perhaps] millions or billions or trillions of times slower than a conventional nuclear bomb.

Therefore, we KNOW there was fission happening, and the only question is how much of the heat came from fission processes, and how much came from other processes (like burning hydrogen gas in the oxygen of the air).  But it would be wrong to claim there was no fission happening.  There was, and always is.  How much of the energy it contributed is difficult to tell.  But even if it provided ALL the energy, the explosion was not directly from the fission process, but from rapidly expanding [heated] gas (and turning liquid to gas).

UrbanBard's picture

Let's be careful and rigorous here. A runaway nuclear reaction (that is, a nuclear explosion) requires for there to be free neutrons breaking apart fissile material (U235 or Pu239.)

There are many substances which absorb neutrons so this reaction cannot take place. One of those materials is the Cadmium rods which were rammed shut in Fukushima's reactor cores.

There was still secondary radiation taking place from the decay of fission products. It was this heat, around 3-4% of a primary reaction, which caused the meltdowns when Fukushima lost electrical power.

After the Tsunami, the backup generators were flooded. Cooling water was still pumped for eight hours from battery backups, so the cores themselves were not damaged. If the generators hadn't been flooded from a poor location in a basement, then the cores would have never melted. And Fukushima's nuclear plant would have been back on line in several weeks. We would have never heard about these problems.

The location of these generators was against General Electric's nuclear guidelines, but GE couldn't force TEPco to be sensible, because TEPco was paying the bills. Electrical energy was not a free market in Japan; it was a regulated monopoly and had been since electricity was installed. This allowed a crony capitalist business model which encouraged impractical decisions to be made.

The people in charge would be long gone by the time any adverse results eventuated. Besides, the regulators were in the pocket of the industry. Between them, they could cover over any flaws which developed. The problem is that this attitude encourages flaws or bad decisions to go uncorrected since it does not affect the bottom line.

Light water reactors were assumed to be temporary. Fast breeder reactors were assumed to replace them, but no one could get them to work.

The Nuclear Industry made it's money on the replacement of spent rods, so there was no business model for replacing obsolete plants. Since the taxpayers bore the risks in case of an accident, rather than an insurance company, there was no call to replace obsolete designs.

Consequently, poor designs were not replaced after their normal lifespan. Decades could lapse after the plants were amortized. This contributed to a disaster waiting to happen. This crony capitalist business model works through-out the nuclear industry, so it should make anyone leery of our current plants.

GE's reactors performed well in an earthquake which exceeded it's design parameters. GE did not pick the location on the shore, rather than on the cliffs nearby. Nor did it build an inadequate seawall or decide to place the generators in a basement. TEPco's mangement made these decisions and the nuclear regulators let them get away with it. Let blame fall where it is deserved.

Jafo's picture

This makes sense of the total suppression of the nuclear disaster in the Japanese madia.  If this highly radioactive "black dirt" has settled all over Japan then how much of it was inhaled by the citizens and residents of Japan while it was settling?  Further to that question, how much of what was inhaled was plutonium?

Inhaled plutonium will cause fatal lung disease in all cases - or so I have read.  So, if the whole population of Japan is about to die then you don't want to have the press causing a mass panic which would result in the total breakdown of society and the wholesale lynching of politicians and TEPCO executives.  Not saying that the lynchings aren't deserved.  The end will be just a bit more dignified if society doesn't break down.

Next question is how much of that "black dirt" settled on the Koreas and China?  How much of it settled into the waters of the North Pacific?  The dying of the ocean life in the North Pacific would be explained by this.  Could any of this have carried over to the US of A and Canada?  We will find out over the next ten years.

Element's picture

Speculative supposition is not evidence and it never will be.

Your response in the context of replying to 'monty burn's' comment, is what prompted my comment, and I'm comfortable with its accuracy.

We all know it was a big explosion so you have no point, to him, from that angle.

The fact that SFP 3 is still holding water in your image should be a bit of a hint that there was no shock from a prompt criticality in that SFP, or that SFP would not even be a structure any more, let alone hold water.

Yet foolish people keep trotting that nonsense of Gundersen's out, and he hasn't even had the decency to recant and clarify his obvious error.

He's just letting it roll on and on, and it was Gundersen who started all such speculations, the others just followed on, bah-bah style.

They all ignored the effect of a heavy concrete containment on the roof causing a higher pressure rise before the concrete roof blew off. As number 3 reactor had a solid concrete enclosed roof, it was thus nothing like the sheet-metal roof enclosure that was on reactor #1. So the higher pressures led to higher velocity, and thus a higher energy release, when it popped. That higher velocity and high energy build-up is what fooled Gundersen into thinking it was from an event that implied a 'detonation'.

He was wrong.

Put more grains of gun powder in a cartridge and you get higher muzzle velocity because a higher pressure is developed in the breach block and barrel, before the bullet leaves the muzzle. The bang is the pressure releasing. So the bullet is pushed out at higher speed by more powered and due to longer confinement with a more rapid pressure rise curve behind it to keep accelerating it out (that's why the burn rate of a gunpowder is so critical). The concrete roof top of number 3 acted like the breach block. Put too much powder in a cartridge and the breach block explodes when you pull the trigger because the pressure rises exponentially, so if the bullet does not exit the muzzle in time, the pressure can rise beyond the confinement capacity of the breach and the gun then explodes in your face (and it only takes a couple of grains extra to go from a great 'hot round' reload, to a chemically detonated breach block).

Confining pressure, an its rise with time, matters greatly to the velocity and energy release modes.

Number 3's roof exponentially built up much more pressure before it exploded, and that's all that occurred to it that was different to reactor Number 1's demise. It's why the roof went upwards fast, and high, and a large plume was created.

Number 1's roof could accommodate far less pressure before it popped, so it just blew out evenly in all directions. But with number 3 the wall supports were much stronger than the concrete roof was, so most of the pressure escaped upwards, at a much higher speed. The roof was the 'bullet', the wall tops were the 'muzzle' and the open roof area was the cartridge. The chemical fuel was burning and confined for a fraction longer and the energy went up exponentially with pressure rise.




So I see no reason to excuse Gundersen for not correcting the record and recanting, nor for anyone continuing to cite his non-retracted nonsense as though it still ... holds water.


Hugh_Jorgan's picture

You don't get nuclear explosions from nuclear fission reactors.

What you get are violent steam explosions. IMHO despite what the officials might tell us, the explosion happened pretty early in the timeline. The uncooled boiling-water reactor core generates so much heat, so quickly from the combination of uncontrolled xenon burnout criticality, and runaway zirconium/water reaction that the super-heated steam and gasses left in the core expand at a surprisingly rapid rate (just like the gasses in a high explosive) and "boom" goes the core. Tiny bits contaminated with molten core material are ejected high into the air to be carried on the wind to wherever they may fall.

Boiling water reactors are inherently unsafe. All of the Fukashima reactors should have been decommissioned decades ago, but as long as there is still money to be made...

Element's picture

Didn't happen. None of the containment's were ruptured in that way.

And only one of them had an internal containment explosion (which probably was steam from the reacting corium hitting water), in Number 2.

And #2 lost the pressure relief valve at the top of the containment, i.e. it shot off at supersonic speed in the general direction of the continental shelf like an artillery shell, and has not been seen ever since. Which is why and how number 2 lost only one panel on the ocean-side of its roof cavity, after that valve and the pressure jet release behind it punched the panel out.

That hole added ventilation and is what stopped that roof cavity from blowing up too.

What we do know is that the otherwise contained strong internal explosion-impulse, that occurred inside of number 2's containment, caused structural damage and serious water leakage from its torus chamber. So the containment was clearly in the verge of completely rupturing in that blast, but it didn't.

Seriously damaged yes. Blown apart, no.

So if dispersed core debris did come from anywhere, it had to have come from number 2's core when the pressure release valve shot off out to sea.

What we do know though is that not much of the core could have gotten out in that way. Maybe a small fraction of 1% of the core as a fine mist of particles perhaps, created by the internal explosion (which appears to have been a steam explosion).

It was that specific event that initially sent the radiation sensors all around the plant sharply to a very high level for the first time (look at the logs and news stories from that morning). The radiation went through the roof within minutes of number 2 exploding internally.

But the actual explosion at number 3 was certainly not an internal steam blast. The flame was external from the containment and highly visible, so it was combustion.

Hugh_Jorgan's picture

Oh well, since you were there to see it all happen, I will defer to you... o_0

True a steam explosion rupture does not send the entire core/pressure vessel into the air nor does it make it explode completely, I probably was not clear on that in attempting to keep my explanation brief. The phenomenon also does not end the conflagration within the pressure vessel, it can continue to burn afterward especially when they inject more water due to zirconium water reaction. So all of what you note above would still be possible given my explanation. I'm just explaining how tiny very highly radioactive particles can be found miles away. It is NOT irradiated material or general combustion ash waste that is this hot; it must be actual bits of fuel and resultant fission products themselves, and that can only be sent miles away in the way I explained (or by surface water runoff which was not the means of locomotion in this case).

I would also caution agains placing too much stock in the deceptive, face-saving timeline that TEPCO released to the public. It HAS been altered to make them look as good as possible in light of a disaster that couldn't have been much worse.

UrbanBard's picture

He doesn't have to be there. Like any accident investigator he can follow what happened. What are the chain of events necessary to support a conclusion?

Were the containment buildings breached? No. So, no core material could have escaped out of the top. End of story.

Nor is it plausible that they could do so out of the bottom. We simply do not know what is going on inside the melted down cores. And we won't know until the cores are dismantled in about ten years.

You must find an different explanation for the radioactive materials which were present. We need not help you in your speculations, just point out when you are clearly wrong. Good manners forbids snickering when you act irrationally.

GreatUncle's picture

Only one thought myself.


The olympians should have fun when they visit Japan for the olympics.

sink critically's picture

Whenever I think of this intentionally created disaster a little voice in my head says, "You can tell what happened by it's effect."

Facts, when readily available are preferable to gauging effects, however, it's been quite a bit colder than normal in most of the northern states.

Could it be related? Nuclear winters drag on for what seems like forever...

UrbanBard's picture

No need to jump to conclusions. There are much better reasons for why the northern states are cold. Satellites have reported no warming of the earth since 1998. Why?

1) The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is half way through it's 30 year cold phase.

2) Sunspots have been scarce or missing since Sunspot cycle 24 started, #25 has been quiet, too. A large number of Sunspots are associated with warmer temperatures. The Maunder Minimum, similar to today, was right in the middle of the Little Ice Age.

3) The arctic cycle is in its cold phase

4) The Earth's orbit is an ellipse. There are periods when the earth spends much of its time farther from the Sun, as it is doing now.

It will be 5 to 15 years before these cycles start to correct. Much colder temperature are coming up.

Stuck on Zero's picture

If the cores of the reactors had blown out then there would be nothing left of the roof structures that covered the reactor buildings.  The lids of the pressure vessels are many tons of solid steel and would have had to go straight up.  That is not the case.  Aerial footage shows delicate truss strutures remaining above the reactors.


MGA_1's picture

This isn't good science - definitely reactor material escaped, but that doesn't mean all of it did.  More research is necessary.

Kelley's picture

Could you be so kind to go collect the data?

For the rest of us we realize that the real world doesn't alwways allow for the data to come to us in a nice little neat package.

The place where the data would need ot be researched is too damn deadly to get near it!



Rogue Economist's picture

About the best you can say now is that we are in A World of Shit.


Canoe in the Desert's picture

The Japs have done it again - there's a little nip in the air.

intric8's picture

Its like this boys, why not sample some of that so called 'black dirt' and verify if its low enriched uranium consistent with core material vs irradiated concrete or remnants of a rebar that got blasted to smithereens? Problem solved. All structural material on site that blew up, from the cement wall down to the toilet seat will emit some level of radioactivity, even in powder form. Its easy to rule out what material it actually is, is my point. Have the tepco subcontract the yakuza to recruit some homeless guy down on his luck, teach him how to test material for isotope, have him sweep some of that black shit up and stay as FAR the fuck away as you can while hes doing it. Have him flush it down the toilet when hes done, dump his ass somewhere far in the province and watch him come down with GI syndrome two days later. He dies in agony and tepco gets their answer cheaply and efficiently. THIS is the real world we live in boys, and its fucked up!

snodgrass's picture

Nah, the pimp in the White House will send in American troops as guinea pigs to test the radiation levels. He already sent them to help with clean up and now they are coming down with all kinds of illnesses. That's the kind of govt. we have.

FredFlintstone's picture

Black dirt or "muck" is great for growing crops where I am from.

Kina's picture


well this is going to be showing up real soon in the health of the population.

Tengri Temujin's picture

Racer X is really now X

Speed Racer and Trixie are driving under the Sea Going to Vladivostok to raise a family.

basho's picture

well what HST started in 1945 the japanese have finished for themselves. the entire island is toast. hari kari 21 century style. the chinese only need to wait before it all collapses and the chinese are good at waiting. hey Abe, let's slaughter some more sea creatures while we art waiting to die.

UrbanBard's picture

I hate to rain on your parade, but, in a Tsunami which killed 14 thousand people, Fukushima's industrial accident can be neglected. The nuclear meltdowns have killed no one and threatens to harm only hundreds. It's danger decreases every day as residual radiation declines.

Only hysterics could place Fukushima in the same class as Chernobyl. Chernobyl was designed without any negative feedback mechanisms to prevent a runaway reaction. It had no containment building, so that when the carbon blocks, it was constructed out of, started to burn then a wide spectrum of fissile products were dispersed downwind. No such thing occurred at Fukushima Dai-chi.

Even so, the wildlife in Chernobyl's restricted zone are flourishing and few mutations have been found. Aside from the immediate deaths of the radiation workers and fire fighters few other deaths occurred. Some 2000 children developed thyroid cancers.

So far, Fukushima has produced zero deaths and zero thyroid cancers. The five which have been found locally are statistically within a normal range.

TEPco was incompetent in designing Fukushima Dai-chi. They clearly did not follow the nuclear industry guidelines. The decisions were clearly made by bureaucrats, not engineers. Placing backup generators in a basement which could be flooded was monumentally stupid.

The nuclear plant was placed in the wrong location; there were 30 foot cliffs within a few miles. Placing the plant on those cliffs with another 40 foot sea wall would have prevented flooding. But, it was inconvenient to construction. TEPco would not tolerate it.

Bearwagon's picture

Chernobyl was designed without any negative feedback mechanisms to prevent a runaway reaction, you say?! That's completely false. The reactor of Chernobyl block 4 was a RBMK 1000, a design which was optimized to allow the extraction of separate fuel elements from the running reactor. (That's advantageous if the breeding of weapons- grade Plutonium is desired.) Aside from that the RBMK has a positive void-coefficient, which indeed is a dangerous feature, but of course it  had automatic control mechanisms which were designed to prevent any excursion - if they hadn't been turned off, they would have reliably prevented the accident. You get that? Automatic control was not running, otherwise it would have performed a shutdown of the reactor. The block was running under manual control, and it was human error, which caused the reactor excursion. (Mainly there was a Xenon-poisoning of the reactor-core, which prevented it from regular start-up. This was countered by withdrawal of control rods under manual control, and onsetting criticality suddenly consumed the Xenon, so that it's neutron poisoning effect vanished - leading to prompt criticality.) The reactor suffered an excursion, suddenly running up to a roughly hundredfold capacity, abruptly evaporating the coolant and blowing off the 1000 tons heavy cask cover like a bottle top. All this would not have happened, if the automatic control had been active. The accident happend due to human error.

UrbanBard's picture

I'd direct you to a website about Chernobyl, but why bother? You are not open minded enough to consider that you might be wrong.

malek's picture

Sorry, but this is complete bullshit also.

Depending on the angle of view, Fukushima is worse, equal or a little less bad than Chernobyl.
The worse: not just one but three reactors have melted down and containment was forever lost, on all. Plus the spent fuel pools are still in a precarious state.
The equal: a local fallout zone exists and should be declared an permanent no-go evacuation zone.
The less bad: differing from Chernobyl, most Fukushima radioactive material has not been blown up into the air, but melted through the reactor bottom and is now in the ground under the former reactors. The likelihood of bigger swaths of that radioactive material being released into the air can be considered low, but significantly higher for into the sea.

So yes, I would put Fukushima in the same class as Chernobyl.

UrbanBard's picture

This only makes me question your good sense.

Chernobyl was nasty and remains so. But, so long as people are kept away, no harm results.

The meltdown you project is implausible: the China Syndrome is silly and propagandistic. There is a limited amount of heat produced by the fission products, only 3 to 4%. The plant was rated at only 4.7 GWe.

As it melts the steel of the reactor vessel, the cadmium rods, and then the concrete and rock, the fissile material necessarily dilutes itself. The time will come when the heat generated by fission products can no longer melt rock, so it stops digging.

Since this is through solid rock, sea water cannot get to it. It would be self healing, because any cracks developed would fill with material and then cool to a solid.

malek's picture

Is you add up all you're saying here, it results in "containment is still intact in Fukushima".
Do you really believe this?

a limited amount of heat produced by the fission products, only 3 to 4% (of what exactly?)
Excuse me, what??
Unit 1 had 460 MWe, units 2 and 3 784 MWe each. Assuming an optimistic overall 25% efficiency from heat to electricity, the units produced 2 GW and 2x 3 GW heat, respectively.
After shutdown the reactor after-heat (from secondary radioactive decays) is about the same scale for many days, and this is the best case of no further criticality of the core.
(At Fukushima the rods melted and formed a pool on the bottom which likely at first sporadically reached criticality again.)

Finally your ideal assumption of
1. perfectly solid rock in the ground already before and
2. the melted down cores melting the rock which then cooled to a solid in a perfect way without the finest cracks forming
is outright hilarious!

UrbanBard's picture

No criticality is possible so long as the cadmium rods were inserted. This is because Cadmium absorbs the neutrons necessary for fission. It doesn't matter if the rods melted.

This is a large amount of heat, but it is finite. I'll use your figures, since it doesn't make any difference to my argument

460+784+784= 2028 MWe* 4 = 8112 MWe

How much heat is being output by secondary decay?

8112*.04= 325 MWe

How much rock can this heat melt? Not an infinite amount. I'll leave you to calculate the mass, since you are unlikely to believe me. Remember that the top of the melted down mass is in water.

The plant was built on bedrock. I expect cracks from the heat, but I also expect those cracks to be filled with reactor material. If the cracks spread out wide enough, they will reach the point where the heat produced will equal the amount dissipated. So, the cracks will seal themselves. This is especially so if the rocks are wet.

We won't really know until the cores are torn down in ten or so years. You are working on guesswork no less that am I.

malek's picture

You are so stuck in your over the top optimism that debate becomes pointless.

until the cores are torn down in ten or so years

And that's the cherry on top.
I have news for you: the cores will never be "torn down" - just like Chernobyl they will likely end up pouring concrete over it, after they were able to extract the spent fuel rods.