By Dr Tom Burnett
Hawai’i News Daily
Fukushima is going to dwarf Chenobyl. The Japanese government has had a level 7 nuclear disaster going for almost a week but won’t admit it.
The disaster is occurring the opposite way than Chernobyl, which exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactions are getting worse. I suspect three nuclear piles are in meltdown and we will probably get some of it.
If reactor 3 is in meltdown, the concrete under the containment looks like lava. But Fukushima is not far off the water table. When that molten mass of self-sustaining nuclear material gets to the water table it won’t simply cool down. It will explode – not a nuclear explosion, but probably enough to involve the rest of the reactors and fuel rods at the facility.
Pouring concrete on a critical reactor makes no sense – it will simply explode and release more radioactive particulate matter. The concrete will melt and the problem will get worse. Chernobyl was different – a critical reactor exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactor cores are still melting down. The ONLY way to stop that is to detonate a ~10 kiloton fission device inside each reactor containment vessel and hope to vaporize the cores. That’s probably a bad solution.
A nuclear meltdown is a self-sustaining reaction. Nothing can stop it except stopping the reaction. And that would require a nuclear weapon. In fact, it would require one in each containment vessel to merely stop what is going on now. But it will be messy.
Fukushima was waiting to happen because of the placement of the emergency generators. If they had not all failed at once by being inundated by a tsunami, Fukushima would not have happened as it did – although it WOULD still have been a nuclear disaster. Every containment in the world is built to withstand a Magnitude 6.9 earthquake; the Japanese chose to ignore the fact that a similar earthquake had hit that same general area in 1896.
The problem is that you don’t want to play with this stuff. A nuclear reactor means bring fissile material to a point at which it is hot enough to boil water (in a light-water reactor) and not enough to melt and go supercritical (China syndrome or a Chernobyl incident). You simply cannot let it get away from you because if it does, you can’t stop it.
The Japanese are still talking about days or weeks to clean this up. That’s not true. They cannot clean it up. And no one will live in that area again for dozens or maybe hundreds of years.
Tom Burnett holds a PhD in Earth Science and Physics.
For a concurring opinion, see Nuke engineer: Fuel rod fire at Fukushima reactor “would be like Chernobyl on steroids” by Kirk James Murphy, M.D.
In a comment on this article, Burnett further explains:
[A] critical fuel pile at 5,000 degrees C is impervious to everything except something hotter – a supercritical fusion device – or the center of the earth – or an eventual self-entombment in it’s own lava cyst inside the lithosphere unless the pressures become so great, or some other natural reaction occurs which causes it to go supercritical and detonate as a thermonuclear device – I do not believe that is possible….
If you ask “What would happen if a MAG9.0 EQ hits my 6.9 containment and then my aux power goes out?”, you get one of two answers (1) that will never happen, or (2) You are fvcked.
I believe the instructors who answered truthfully are in a tiny minority – because it serves no purpose to train operators to try to deal with events they cannot deal with.
There is a line – it is dictated by profit vs risk. Anything which passes that line is neither planned for, nor considered in ANY phase of the plant operation. That is why Tokyo Power seems helpless. They are. This contingency was not part of their plan and they have no way to adapt to it.
Blaming them is useless. They did not approve the plant design. Blaming GE is pointless. Their containments are designed for MAG6.9EQ events. The plant – and ALL gen I and II AND III plants are designed to withstand a MAG6.9EQ. No planning for a subsequent tsunami which might be generated over a 6.9 is required. In California, NO requirements exist – but the Gen 1 and II GE containments are still manufactured to 6.9 standards. But so are the new GEH (GE-Hitachi) and the Westinghouse Gen III+ containments.
They will ALL fall to shit in a MAG9.0EQ event. Fuhgeddaboudit.
So what do we have? We have a situation. We started it but we can’t stop it. However, the earth can stop it and will at some point. We simply have to live with the consequences of our actions until that time. Did we learn anything? Yep. Put nuclear reactors on ships. Is that a good idea in the long run? No. Since when has that deterred us?
UK Guardian reports today, “The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site.”