Thursday, 24 October 2013

Dangers at Fukushima

Dangers in removing Fukushima’s spent nuclear fuel rods

For the past two years, there have been varying and sporadic reports, some official and some unofficial, describing how the Fukushima nuclear meltdown is anything but under control. In fact, millions of gallons of radioactive wastewater continue to spill out into the Pacific to this day. And while the reactors and their safety mechanisms continue to break down, the world comes closer and closer to global Armageddon.
To stop the complete and total meltdown of Japan’s nuclear reactors, authorities have proposed a dangerous plan. The biggest problem is Fukushima’s Reactor Number 4. The reactor’s cooling pool for spent nuclear rods is located on the top floor of the TEPCO building. And that building was heavily damaged by the 2011 quake. Due to its instability, authorities say they must move the 400 tons of spent fuel rods right away.
Spent fuel rod transfers occur on a fairly regular basis, but always under the most secure and controlled setting due to the potential nuclear catastrophe that would happen if just one spent rod is mishandled. In the case of Fukushima’s Reactor 4, officials will attempt to remove 1,300 spent fuel rods from a structurally unsafe building in a highly contaminated environment.

The problems and dangers
One nuclear fallout expert, Christina Consolo, spoke to RT News to answer the outlet’s questions regarding the situation in Fukushima. She detailed a list of potential problems authorities might encounter when they attempt to move the spent rods. Those potentially catastrophic hurdles include :
    The racks inside the pool that contain this fuel were damaged by the explosion in the early days of the accident.
    Zirconium cladding which encased the rods burned when water levels dropped, but to what extent the rods have been damaged is not known, and probably won’t be until
removal is attempted.
    Saltwater cooling has caused corrosion of the pool walls, and probably the fuel rods and racks.
    The building is sinking.
    The cranes that normally lift the fuel were destroyed.
    Computer-guided removal will not be possible; everything will have to be done manually.
    TEPCO cannot attempt this process without humans, which will manage this enormous task while being bombarded with radiation during the extraction and casking.
    The process of removing each rod will have to be repeated over 1,300 times without incident.
    Moving damaged nuclear fuel under such complex conditions could result in a criticality if the rods come into close proximity to one another, which would then set off a chain reaction that cannot be stopped.
What is most likely to go wrong?
When asked what the biggest potential dangers are in removing the damaged spent fuel rods, Christina Consolo replied, “The most serious complication would be anything that leads to a nuclear chain reaction. And as outlined above, there are many different ways this could occur. In a fuel pool containing damaged rods and racks, it could potentially start up on its own at anytime. TEPCO has been incredibly lucky that this hasn’t happened so far.”
She also expressed concern for the human workers that will have to submerse themselves into a highly radioactive environment and then perform extremely precise movements. Not only might their senses and thinking be affected, but their protective gear will make the entire operation somewhat clumsy.
 “My second biggest concern would be the physical and mental fitness of the workers that will be in such close proximity to exposed fuel during this extraction process,” Consolo told RT News, “They will be the ones guiding this operation and will need to be in the
highest state of alertness to have any chance at all of executing this plan manually and successfully. Many of their senses, most importantly eyesight, will be hindered by the apparatus that will need to be worn during their exposure to prevent immediate death from lifting compromised fuel rods out of the pool.”

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster - the worst in history - poses a growing threat to the Japanese people, global community, and environment for years to come. The magnitude of the disaster requires global cooperation to resolve.
. This is the opinion of Yusuteru Yamada, 73, a retired steel industry engineer. . Yamada, founder of Skilled Veterans Corp for Fukushima (SVCF) toured the U.S. recently to gain support for international scientific and technical cooperation and allowing retired skilled workers to participate in the clean up.
The disaster released more radiation into the air than either the Three Mile Island or Chernobyl disasters or all nuclear explosions including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Liquid radiation is poisoning the Pacific Ocean and although no one knows for sure, it is suspected the reactor is melting the rock beneath the plant.
Over 150,000 people have been evacuated within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant. Thirty-six percent of children living in the Fukushima prefect with a total population of two million have abnormal thyroid growths, including cysts and other precancerous growths.
Fish caught only 12 miles off the coast have recorded radiation contamination levels 258 times the safe limit. And contamination is being found in bluefish tuna originating in Japanese waters, caught off the California coast. Radiation in the ocean is expected to reach the US Pacific coast in five years.
Genetic mutations are now appearing in three generations of butterflies near the plant.
Yamada and the SVCF say the clean up needs to be taken out of the hands of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), owner of the nuclear plant.
"The Fukushima site should be a national project independent from TEPCO," said Yamada. "Such a job can't be handled by a profit oriented company."
Yamada said this disaster requires mobilizing international expertise along with an international inspection team.