Do you have a better idea on how to solve the Fukushima dilemma?

By | September 22, 2013
The fuel rod extraction is going to begin in a few months… and the chance that something goes wrong and a disaster potentially 85 times more radioactive than any catastrophe in human history takes place is quite high. But what alternatives do we have? I'm not a nuclear expert, but maybe you have some ideas on how else, other than the planned manual labor, the precision work under radioactive conditions could be done?

/via +Kevin Smith 

Humankind’s Most Dangerous Moment: Fukushima Fuel Pool at Unit 4. “This is an Issue of Human Survival.”
Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima. The one thing certain is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineerin…

28 thoughts on “Do you have a better idea on how to solve the Fukushima dilemma?

  1. Sophie Wrobel

    +Valdis Kletnieks I'd agree that "Goodbye West Coast" is not that realistic. But beyond the immediate proximity of Fukushima, the West Coast is probably going to suffer more fallout effects (health issues, etc) than anywhere else of the human populated areas.

  2. Valdis Kletnieks

    +Hervé Musseau Note that an uncontrolled chain reaction excursion indeed doesn't cause a nuclear detonation.  However, it can still generate a steam explosion that can make quite the mess – that's what happened at Chernobyl.    And yes, if the fuel rods currently in that storage tank have an excursion, there will be enough radiation around to kill people.

    But I remain unconvinced that "Goodbye West Coast" is a realistic possibility.

  3. Gijs van Dijk

    +Filippo Salustri that's just one of many mistakes. The other major problems @ Fukushima is a company with a culture of not taking safety as serious as it should and a government that didn't take checking upon safety compliance as serious as it should.

    Had the company running the facility worked in compliance with the existing safety standards for that facility, this most likely wouldn't have turned into a disaster. And likewise, had the government organization responsible for checking safety standard compliance done their job, they would have been able to correct the company before things went horribly wrong.

    But as you say, none of these have anything to do with the reactors themselves, but everything to do with people, profit and politics.

    (source: magazine for nuclear physicists working in the field) 

  4. James Karaganis

    And when the fuel ran out, and the backup battery bank died, they still had a core capable of generating heat that required active cooling. That was the real failure. But yeah, lots of political issues.

  5. Filippo Salustri

    Remember, too, that AFAIK the root causes of the Fukushima accident.  Politically, no reactors should have been sited at a location as seismically active as Fukushima – that's a people problem, not a nuclear technology problem.  Technologically, if they'd been able to get power to the cooling system quickly after the tsunami, this whole current mess would have likely been averted.  They couldn't get power to the cooling system because there was too much water and wreckage from the tsunami.  They needed the power because the backup generators were positioned below the waterline.

  6. James Karaganis

    +Filippo Salustri Yes, and I understand that the Japanese government's efforts to modernize that facility were stymied by their Green lobby. Misguided environmentalism can be dangerous in certain circumstances: some the responsibility can be laid at their feet. Either do it right or turn them off.

    And you're correct: there really is no comparison between newer designs and the early seventies American engineering employed at Fukushima.

  7. Filippo Salustri

    The other thing to keep in mind is that "nuclear power" is a very broad category of technology.  There's types of reactors – CANDU and LFTR, for instance – that aren't anywhere near as dangerous as the type employed at Fukushima.

  8. Gijs van Dijk

    The biggest problem with nuclear power is that since 1945 we have been made so scared of anything radiation, it has become impossible to have a rational discussion based on facts about anything related to the subject.

  9. Martin Emmerich

    +Hervé Musseau yes, it were ignorant people like you who made Fukushima possible. As someone born in Saarbrücken I know very well about your employer EDF's quality of nuclear power plants. On incident after the other in Cattenom as well as the others.
    And in order to distract from the valid points made in the article you counter-argument a statement that was NOT made at all. The article is talking about the thermal burning of the rods which will distribute their content all over the world. The toxicity of plutonium as a chemical (i.e. ignoring its nuclear activity) is so high that the amount at Fukushima could kill mankind several times.

  10. Hervé Musseau

    Beware, the article is catastrophic propaganda by anti-nuclear activists.
    In reality, nuclear fission is not something easy to achieve, and there can't be a spontaneous nuclear explosion from fuel rods.
    Forced evacuation and irrational fear of all things nuclear are what killed people at Fukushima, not actual radiations which remain unlikely to ever kill anyone.

  11. Steve Pirk

    I really recommend listening to the entire 2 days of lectures. These are people who have been studying this very closely.
    Do not trust the AEC or the IAEA.

  12. Steve Pirk

    Or a cloud 50 times more radioactive can contaminate the pacific and the west coast. I have debated this about ten times lately, and I don't have the energy to do it again tonight. Check out Arne Gundersen's presentation at this years Fukushima symposium hosted by the Helen Caldecott foundation.
    Arnie Gundersen

  13. David Bucci

    Easy. Just send in Spock. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one.

    Or if you're new-school, send in Kirk.

  14. Valdis Kletnieks

    +Steve Pirk "Good by west coast".

    Keep clear the distinction between "a measurable amount of radiation reached England" and "a dangerous amount of radiation reached England".

    Yes, it could release 50x more than Chernobyl.  Which means it could contaminate 50x the area to the same level as Chernobyl – which makes it sqrt(50) or roughly only 7x as wide.  Note that the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is only 30km in radius.  So we'd be looking at similar issues for (roughly) a 200km radius.

    LA is a hell of a lot more than 200km from Tokyo.  Just sayin'.

  15. Steve Pirk

    Arnie Gundersen of fairwinds Abdus to say about the unit 4's spent fuel pool.

    Inside Daiichi’s fuel pool, are 1500 fuel bundles, not one, 1500 fuel bundles, 300 of which are just removed from the nuclear core. So instead of one very hot bundle, we have got 300 very hot bundles.

    He estimates that if the pool catches fire, there will be 50 times more radiation released than was released by Chernobyl. Chernobyl's fallout reached northern England.

    Good by west coast.

  16. Valdis Kletnieks

    +James Karaganis Actually, to be pedantic about it, there is a chain reaction involved in all excursion events – that's what causes the excursion.  It simply isn't enough of a chain reaction to cause a detonation though.

    On the other hand, all that actually means in the practical sense is that when all the nucleotides end up in the air, there's no blast wave associated with it. 😉

  17. James Karaganis

    +Josh Freeman Not a chain reaction: it would not detonate like a fission weapon. It isn't weapons grade fuel, nor is it in anything like a bomb configuration. You'd essentially get a steam explosion from the heat of radioactive decay.

    The Russians suffered such an event during the Cold War.

  18. Oleg Kiorsak

    whatever been done, would be nice to have honest information and communication – not like the "damage control" coordinated operation in government official lines, mainstream media/etc which was quite evident since it was apparently enacted in May, 2011

  19. Valdis Kletnieks

    Admittedly, it would be a nasty mess if that fuel went kaboom.  But it's hardly an existential problem.  Yes, it has the possibility of rendering a large chunk of Japan uninhabitable – which would totally suck.  However, painting it as "human survival" does the issue a dis-service.  Remember – even global warming doesn't count as threatening human survival.  It may screw up our civilization, but humans will still be around….

  20. Filippo Salustri

    The problem is real, but the article is far too alarmist. And the bullshit website hosting the the petition is nothing but luddite lies.
    +Daniel Sprouse Your idea sounds crazy enough to merit study. But I doubt politicians will ever buy it.

  21. Daniel Sprouse

    honestly, dig a tunnel under it, set off a nuke to create a cavity, then use conventional explosives to break the surface through to the now huge hole. Then then fuel drops into the pit, flood it with water, then you can use robot submersibles to rend the fuel apart and bring it up bit by bit.


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