Sunday, March 20, 2011

What the news media is not saying about the Fukushima Power Plant but scientists are

The news media has made us all aware of the Fukushima 50, that is, the shift workers of 50 taking their turns to tend to the needs of the Fukushima nuclear reactors from a pool of 300.   Think about this though, these are the top 300 nuclear scientists that Japan has to offer.   What happens when they're no longer able to work?  Who in Japan will step up to the plate and become the next Fukushima 50?   And of the 300, are we talking about one, two or three generations of Japanese nuclear scientists?

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Here is a group of concerned scientist who are explaining the "nuts and bolts" operations of what is taking place at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, without the hype of CNN, BBC or the CBC.

Union of Concerned Scientists

Japan Nuclear Power Crisis: Daily Telephone Media Briefings


"In response to a tremendous volume of requests from national and international media, technical and policy experts from the Union of Concerned Scientists have commenced daily telephone briefings (as of Monday, March 14, 2011) on the Japan nuclear power crisis.
The briefings will cover the latest developments at the two Fukushima nuclear complexes in Japan, updated analysis on the potential threats to public health and the environment, and a review of potential legislative and regulatory policy implications in the United States.
This page will be updated on a daily basis with both an audio recording of the introductory remarks and a downloadable written transcript of the full briefing (with reporters' names redacted)."

UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS UPDATE ON JAPAN'S NUCLEAR POWER CRISIS TELEPRESS CONFERENCE
MARCH 14, 2011, 11:00 A.M., P R O C E E D I N G S 

Snip

"We are, as you know, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and we've been a nuclear industry watchdog on security and safety issues for 40 years. I just want to note that we are not for or against nuclear power, but we have grave concerns about the industry, both here and abroad. In any case, the three folks that we have on the call today will be speaking about what we know as of now with the events on the ground. We do not know -- we do not have -- we are not privy to any up-to-the-minute reports out of Japan, any more than you are. We are dealing with what we know, because we don't have anyone on the ground down there. And we will be talking about what we know as of now about what is going on with the reactors that are in trouble in Japan; we'll be talking about the threat that they pose to the public health and the environment; and we'll also talk a little bit about the potential ramifications of this crisis on the nuclear industry in the United States........."
 Snip
March 15, 2011 

March 16, 2011      
March 17, 2011
March 18, 2011

March 19, 2011    Snip
MR. LOCHBAUM: Good morning. The temporary electric power cable has been installed to power cooling systems for the spent fuel pool and reactor cores on Units 1 and 2, but those connections have been slowed by the need to shield this power equipment from the water spraying and dumping operations on adjacent units. Once power is restored, workers will check to see if cooling pumps, piping, and controls remain functional after the combined effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and the hydrogen explosions. Reports of high radiation levels around Unit 3 continue. Some reports indicate that a U.S. nuclear worker would receive the annual permissible dose in less than an hour. The high radiation levels continue to limit the workers' access to structures. Limited access prevents workers from evaluating the extent of damage caused to date and to determine what systems or parts of systems can be returned to service to mitigate the problem. Fire trucks are continuing to spray water into the upper floors of the damaged reactor building to refill the Unit 3 spent fuel pool. The Unit 3 spent fuel pool seems to be the source of the high radiation levels. The Unit 4 spent fuel pool has reports of water in it, but the latest indications are that the water level in the pool is low, lower than necessary. There were reports yesterday of a possible breach in the Unit 4 spent fuel pool. Water can leak from the pool from evaporation or boil-off. Water can also simply drain out of the pool. The spent fuel pools are large swimming pools but with one key difference: One side of the spent fuel pool has a large door that's about 20 feet tall and about three feet wide. This door, also called a gate, is removed during refuelling to allow spent fuel to be transferred underwater from the reactor core into the spent fuel pool and to allow fresh fuel to be transferred from the spent fuel pool back into the reactor core. We understand that these doors, also called gates, have been installed. When installed, there's a bicycle inner tube-like device that goes around each side and bottom of the gate where it connects with the spent fuel pool wall. The loss of power following the earthquake and tsunami meant that there was no air flowing to these inflatable seals. When inflated, these seals provide a leak-tight fit between the gate and the spent fuel pool wall so leakage does not occur. When deflated, water could be leaking past the edges of the gate out of the spent fuel pool, so that any make-up water would have to replenish the boil-off, the evaporation, and any leakage through this and other pathways. The primary problem on Unit 4 is the spent fuel pool and the need to get water back into it and restore cooling. We have heard reports, confirmed reports, that diesel generators have been connected and are now providing power for the Unit 5 and Unit 6 spent fuel pools. The cooling of those pools had been lost for a while and the temperature of the water inside the pools had been rising, but it appears that cooling was restored before those pools got into distress. I appreciate that. That's the extent of the update I have for today. MR. NEGIN: Thank you, David. Our next speaker is Ellen Vancko.

MARCH 20, 2011 11:00 A.M. Sunday P R O C E E D I N G S 

DR. LYMAN: Thank you, Elliott, and good morning.

A brief update about what we know with regard to the status of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi facility. The Japanese have announced that Units 5 and 6 are now stable. These two plants were in the least amount of trouble to begin with, but this is still one bit of good news. It also suggests that if they have actually been able to reestablish off-site power and the pumps are functioning well, that means that at least there's the potential that they will be able to reestablish cooling to the more severely affected units, although since they experienced hydrogen explosions that may have caused further damage, it's still not assured. My understanding is that power has still not been supplied to any of the other units, off-site power, and they've delayed their -- they originally planned to have power to at least Unit 2 by yesterday afternoon, and they've changed their deadline. Overnight, there were announcements that the pressure in Unit 3 containment was rising and that they may have to do another controlled venting, but then that order was cancelled based on a report that it had stabilized, although at a high level. So, the situation is still quite uncertain.

I understand that Energy Secretary Steven Chu made statements on CNN this morning that he believes the situation is improving, or I don't want to characterize what he said, but I think our own assessment is that it's premature to make any conclusions about the most severely affected reactors, 1 through 4. I would like to explain a little bit why we still have a concern. The IEA and others have reported that Units 1, 2, and 3 have had their cores at least or approximately half uncovered, and this has probably been the case since shortly after the initiation of the accident. So, it's been at least several days that at least 50 percent or the upper half of these cores have been uncovered. Now, that's a longer period of time for the situation than the core at Three Mile Island experienced, and the upper parts of the cores may have experienced significant damage. What may have happened is a swelling of the fuel rods that could cause a potential -- reduce the ability of coolant to actually get between those rods if the core is reflooded. So, the situation may not be -- these cores may not be as easily cooled as they would have been if they were undamaged.

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