Nuclear Power and the Witch Hunt

Across the street from me when I was a little girl, there lived a witch. She and her husband lived in their house and I was sure they buried bodies in the flowerbed. That’s what all my friends said and I believed them. If our ball went into their yard, we all dared each other to go in to get it. There were never any children at the house and we never went there on Halloween. One day, my mother asked me to go to this house to take something to Mrs. Smith. Turned out she was a nice old lady who didn’t have any kids or grandkids. She just didn’t like us kids trampling her flowers very much.

The spent fuel pools at Fukushima are another witch hunt.

Early in the event, there was smoke seen in the vicinity of the unit 4 pool, initially most people thought it was an oil fire created by leaking fluids from equipment on or near the refuel floor. Then, there was a rather large hydrogen explosion. This was assumed to have been produced from a zirconium reaction in the spent fuel pool. And THAT could only have occurred if the pool was essentially dry. I reported the same to numerous reporters, journalists, members of the public over the course of the next six weeks.

This series of events and assumptions led to sharp warnings from the chairman of the NRC, and an opinion on the part of virtually everyone that spent fuel pools are extremely dangerous and should be modified to protect the public from any possible risk of the similar scenario in this country.

End of story, right?


Nuclear Power and the Witch Hunt 1

Let me make it clear. The unit 4 pool fuel is undamaged (see the video here) and the relative contamination of the water is low, indicating that few, if any, fuel rods have even failed, let alone suffered significant degradation associated with a pool fire.

Yet, the story is still being told by industry people to the general public. I heard it again yesterday when a local reporter asked me to explain in more detail about the Spent Fuel Pool storage at Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant. When she came to me, she asked me about the fires in those pools. She told me that the folks at Brunswick had told her about the pool fires at Fukushima.

Should we do something about Spent Fuel Pools in this country? Absolutely, there is a clear risk there. Most certainly the difficulties in keeping these pools adequately cooled have been an added burden on TEPCO in an already difficult situation. But we should make any changes in approach in concert with the larger issue of long term spent fuel disposition. Dry cask storage of older spent fuel is still a good option. The casks are designed to be transported wherever in the country we want them to go as well as keep the fuel safe and cool at any storage site. The casks at Fukushima weathered the earthquake and ensuing tsunami with no apparent damage. A good indication of the capabilities of these systems.

BUT, we should not make significant changes in the approach to spent fuel storage without ensuring that we are not creating a different problem down the road. I’ve heard some suggest that fuel that has been very recently discharged should be moved into dry casks and stored so that very little fuel sits in the SFP’s for very short periods of time. This fuel is extremely hot, both temperature and radiation and has many increased risks in handling and exposure. Before we go fixing a problem, let’s make sure it really exists AND that we are not creating another problem.

The lesson learned here is that we should continue to observe what is happening and make sure we have our facts straight before jumping in again and assuming the worst. Things will continue to develop in Japan and what we thought we knew will continue to change, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. In this case, there is good news that hasn’t been shared well.

So what really happened to cause the explosion in unit 4?

The Japanese are still investigating the cause of the explosion in unit 4 and have come up with some alternate ideas. I’ll let them finish their studies before announcing yet another witch story.

122 thoughts on “Nuclear Power and the Witch Hunt”

  1. Actually I think you will find that it was the number 3 spent fuel pool that exploded. They are still finding lumps of plutonium several kilometres away. Building 4 simply suffered structural failure. I’m not sure why it has an ongoing steam/smoke issue… possibly something to do with the hot live fuel stored there due to the maintenance shutdown, and the difficulty keeping the fuel covered with water due to the extensive destruction of the facility.

    • It is not clear what caused any of the explosions at this point in time. Number 3 spent fuel pool had considerable less material and from the videos I’ve seen the racks while under considerable debris look relatively intact.

      I have not read of lumps of Pu being found from any official or credible source. If you are willing to provide such, I would like to learn more.

    • At the risk of stating what we Brits call the “bleedin’ obvious”…..

      While it’s true that R3 was fuelled with MOX fuel, MOX fuel contains relatively small quantities of plutonium oxide mixed in with uranium oxide then sintered into a ceramic.

      If anyone was finding “lumps of plutonium” it’s a pretty miraculous explosion, which has the power to do chemical separation.

      As is so often the case with the more hysterical comment on Fukushima, ten seconds application of thought would prevent most of the truly silly statements……

      • So you are saying that, “The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), a government nuclear watchdog” are not correct?

        I suggest that you post a link to back your statement up… I bet they would be very interested in your information.

        BTW: And this is completely hearsay, there was talk of a secret Japanese Nuclear Lab under reactor #3 or #4 and if that turned out to be correct, that would change everyones interpretation of the facts surrounding this disaster.


        • Well, if you can show me the point at which NISA has said they’ve found anything other than trace quantities of plutonium, feel free.

          And, by trace quantities, I mean more than microgamme amounts.

          This may be a surprise to you, but it’s pretty simple maths to calculate, from a bequerel figure, the aactual mass involved. Go away and google “avogadro’s constant”.

          Then show me the NISA detection that amounts to more than a microgramme – i.e 1/1,000,000 of a gramme – of plutonium. And I think we’re probable agreed that one millionth of a gramme isn’t perhaps a “lump”….

          You see, Captain, that’s one of the differences between people like you, and trained engineers. We deal in facts and numbers. You deal in vagueries. And lunacies like hidden labs underneath reactors….

  2. Do you know where I can get some fissionable material ? I have a, er, a science experience, er experiment i wana do….

  3. Looking for the bright and well-informed here. Humanity needs to know.

    Nukes frighten people for a number of reasons. The most rational fear is the dispersed intentional and the massive unintentional releases of radionuclide material.

    So lets compare our experience as a species so far. First add up all emissions from all power producing Nukes thus far including the disasters and accidents. Now compare radionuclide materials from the same time period for the same energy produced from the dirtiest, highest emitters, non-nuke.

    OK, I am waiting…..

    • I think you’re frightened to do the research and calculations required to answer your own question. If you think you’re smart enough, you should be able to do it and write up a blog post about it.

      Start with accounting for all the radium and radon (intentional or not) releases from fossil gas, oil and coal from 1957 for the whole world. Add in the thorium, uranium releases from coal as well. I’ll even give you a start. We burn over 1 billion tons of coal each year in the USA with uranium concentrations of 1-4 parts per million, so that’s a range of 1000-4000 tons of uranium released by burning coal just in the USA per year.

      I’m done with your “lets” (I think you meant “Let us”). You posed the question, so you do the research. Based on the bit of information I gave you, my bet for the most radionuclide emitters are fossil fuels. Now go do your homework.

      • A comment like “Now go do your homework,” is a sure sign that you are a politically correct advocate for Nuclear power that wants to demonstrate to the Public the best that your Industry has to offer!


        BTW: If I was your boss and you posted on an Industry site like this I would call you into my Office for a little CHAT!

        p.s. I don’t use “Let Us” for personal reasons and if that is a precursor for blogging with you then I’ll stick to the other Professionals on this site…

        • Politically Correct ADVOCATE for nuclear power?

          Nukes are almost as anti-PC as you can get (only human biodiversity is a greater heresy in the PC religion).

        • I am not a nuclear industry professional and I answer to no one but myself. You said to “Red Mercury” (or is it you with another name CaptD?) that he/she would wait a long time for an answer. I gave him or her a head start on the part of the answer if they were curious enough to pursue it. Obviously, he/she would rather have someone else spoon feed the information to his or her liking.

          Rather than challenging me on the information, you became offended by the remark of “go do your homework”. That’s rather benign compared to the other remarks I see posted here. Seems you can dish it out well but can’t take it.

          • 1. I’m not or ever been, “Red Mercury”.

            2. I still do not see any comparing, just a homework challenge, hence the “long wait” comment seems factual.

            3. I’m not dishing anything out… I’m trying to engage some folks in the “know” without name calling or other benign comments…

            4. Asking for credible links that describe your view point is just smart use of the web and keeps folks from making lots of grand statements and or using jargon to make their points.

          • CaptD, are you honestly curious to know the answer to the question that Red Mercury posed or do you just want to make an issue out of your suspicion that he’ll be waiting a long time to receive an answer?

            Do you feel competent to find out the answer for yourself? Or at least research enough it enough to give it an educated estimate? Or are you asking for help?

            You have Google, the internet, a computer, and spreadsheet programs are freely available. You have all the tools you need to find out an answer just as Red Mercury does. You can do all the things I did in 5 minutes to find out a range of tons of uranium emitted by coal each year, yet you still seem to expect someone else to do all this drudge work for you, why? I personally don’t care what the answer is, so if you feel it’s so important (and the same goes for Red Mercury) then why don’t you do the research and discover it for yourself? Do you really expect people to know these things off the top of their head for your convenience or bend over backwards to find out an answer for you? I gave both of you a very good head start. You can study the reports from the Energy Information Agency for hours on end to find out the rest. If you’re curious enough, you can figure it out.

  4. Get real: This is what Arnie says*

    “I have said it’s worse than Chernobyl and I’ll stand by that. There was an enormous amount of radiation given out in the first two to three weeks of the event. And add the wind blowing in-land. It could very well have brought the nation of Japan to its knees. I mean, there is so much contamination that luckily wound up in the Pacific Ocean as compared to across the nation of Japan – it could have cut Japan in half. But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit 4 building collapses, leave. We are well beyond where any science has ever gone at that point and nuclear fuel lying on the ground and getting hot is not a condition that anyone has ever analyzed.”

    * Arnie Gundersen is an energy advisor with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience. A former nuclear industry senior vice president, he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in nuclear engineering, holds a nuclear safety patent, and was a licensed reactor operator. During his nuclear industry career, Arnie managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants around the country. He currently speaks on television, radio, and at public meetings on the need for a new paradigm in energy production. An independent nuclear engineering and safety expert, Arnie provides testimony on nuclear operations, reliability, safety, and radiation issues to the NRC, Congressional and State Legislatures, and Government Agencies and Officials throughout the US, Canada, and internationally.

    • The only reactor that Gundersen was ever qualified to operate was the 100 watt (that is the same power level as a single lightbulb) critical assembly at RPI. When he was a nuclear services company VP he had more responsibility for sales than for engineering. He was fired and sued for defamation after accusing his employer of improperly handling test sources that did not require special containers.

      Gundersen spent a decade earning a quarter of his previous salary while teaching math and science at a coupleof private schools. He has done a lot better as a $300 per hour antinuclear activist with a degree for hire. He is a disgruntled ex-nuclear professional who is selfishly attacking a vital, emission free power source for personal gain. He is NOT a credible technical resource.

      On the other hand Margaret knows her stuff and has the respect of many esteemed and qualified colleagues.

    • Arnie’s actual words were “Chernobyl on steroids.”

      You cannot expect reasonably intellient people to buy this garbage. He’s a fraud and little more than a disgruntled former employee as Rod points out.

  5. Fuel Pool 3 blew up so violently that the Japanese have found bits of fuel rod up to 2 miles away. For that to happen the fuel rods had to have been blown out of the pool at greater than the speed of sound. That is believed to have been caused by a “prompt criticality” , ie, a small nuclear explosion in the number 3 pool.
    Milk in Hawaii has had to be diverted as radiation levels went above health limits. The US FDA has raised its previous health limits for radiation, and 3 US states have warned not to drink the rain water there.
    Could it happen somewhere else? You bet. Indian point in the USA has far more fuel in its fuel pools and the same reactor design. The Japs had made safety improvements that have not been applied to many US plants.
    The cooling systems were knocked out by the quake, before the Tsunami hit.
    This could easily happen in the USA. Note that PR companies hire armies of workers to troll forums and put up disinformation sites on the web basically saying “move along nothing to see here” or labeling their opposition as “alarmist” or “witch hunters”.

    • @michael cato:

      You comment includes several outright fabrications that a designed for no other purpose than to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt.

      Get some facts and training. Maybe then you will be able to produce a comment worth reading.

      Which competitive power source are you working for?

    • Again, I’ve seen no credible reference to “bits of fuel rod (being found) up to 2 miles away”.

      And you’ll note, there is now video footage of the unit 3 spent fuel pond, showing that wquite a lot of debris has fallen in, but the structure itself is intact.

      How is that compatible with claims of a large explosion in the pond?

    • The depth and scope of your ignorance and misinformation is truly astounding.

      I will just pick the low-hanging fruit: “Indian point in the USA has far more fuel in its fuel pools and the same reactor design”.

      Indian Point units 2 and 3 are Westinghouse 4-loop PWRs, not GE Mark I BWRs. That is a big difference, discoverable after about 30 seconds of research, and if you don’t know that, you should disqualify yourself from commenting on this topic as if you are actually bringing some value to the conversation

  6. Radioactive fallout is particularly serious because its small particles that can be breathed in or eaten. Once in the body they can do great damage, even though they may not raise the background radiation levels significantly. Does it matter or affect anyone? See the link below.

  7. @Red Mercury,
    Considering Fukushima Daiichi put less than 500 grams of I-131 and less than 20 grams of Cs-137 into the atmosphere and a single coal plant in the US puts out 900,000 grams of uranium and over 900,000 grams of thorium contained in the smoke and coal fly ash per year, I’d say coal beats the nuclear industry by a factor greater than a million (there are over 600 plants in the US alone). One also has to consider that I-131 is a low energy beta emitter and Cs-137 is a gamma emitter whereas uranium and thorium are both high energy alpha emitters making the equivalent dose from them over 20 times more damaging to tissue than that from I-131 and Cs-137. Uranium is also a bone seeker and will cause leukemia. That coupled with the fact that any thorium one inhales will stay in the lungs forever, high enough concentrations will cause lung cancer. I’d even say anyone that is truly worried about nuclear waste and public harm from radiation that doesn’t put coal and natural gas fracking on the top of their list with nuclear at the very bottom is a complete hypocrite (or an uneducated tool of the fossil fuel industry). If it wasn’t clear, YES, coal IS radioactive (that’s right Belzer!)That’s just my two cents.

  8. As to plutonium being found, I did see a report that indicated three different isotopes of plutonium being found in a few different areas throughout Japan. The funny thing is, only two of those isotopes are viable candidates for fission products in a reactor, the third is only from weapons detonation. Have people forgotten that the bomb detonated atmospherically above Nagasaki just 65 years ago used plutonium? Some of that plutonium is certainly from that event, if not all of it. You can claim conspiracy if you want, that still doesn’t change the fact that Japan was tragically nuked (the only country to ever experience such a horror) and with a ruined economy after a world war and with the extremely limited knowledge at the time, there wasn’t a real clean up or decontamination effort. They just rebuilt on top of the ashes.

  9. Forget the coal comparison,
    You are trying to compare apples and oranges!
    The potential DANGERS of nuclear power generation have now been shown to outweigh the benefits because of the “downside” of nuclear which is global air pollution, radioactive poisoning of the surrounding area and the spread of radioactive “fallout” which will contaminate our drinking water and food sources for generations or longer!

    You “PRO” (No pun intended) folks are like the “icemen” of the last century that maintains that the icebox will never be replaced by the refrigerator, because that is their line of work!

    1. All of US need to demand realistic disclosure and
    ….safe guards on all nuclear facilities!

    2. All of US should now demand equal subsidies on all Energy,
    ….that way Green will be able to compete with the others
    ….and very soon be less expensive…

    • Given your extreme volume of posting in this discussion thread and concentration on news items of high drama but low perspective, it’s obvious that your intent is to create the illusion of overwhelming support for a position which is actually very weak.

      Back in the days when Slashdot was worth reading, we called this sort of thing a “crapflood”. It fits.

      • 1. Where does one go to get answers? I thought this might be a good place since many here are knowledgeable.

        2. “Low perspective” is something that is easy to fix, post some quality information and stop acting like, well, how you are acting!

        3. Your use of “obvious that your intent”, is far off the mark, I’m taking the time to reply and answer (with links) to share what I’ve found and to get your groups opinion about it… That is what this blog is designed for is it not?

        4. I know nothing of “Slashdot”, and your comment is crude and unnecessary.

        BTW: Sadly, It seems that you are much more interested in shaking spears than sharing some well written verse or prose…


        • “post some quality information”

          Did you read the material Rod posted? I think you may be sincere and really came here to learn something from people who know this technology.

          Arnie Gundersen? The reactors I was in charge of put out more megawatts while I was in the head than Arnie’s did during his whole career.

          So stop spouting demands and regurgitating drivel, and spend a few days digesting the ample resources you have already been directed to. Then after you have done your homework, come back and take the discussion to a new level.

  10. […] Now, Unit 3 has another problem and the NRC mentioned it yesterday for the first time and it gets back to that saltwater and the effect on iron. They are afraid that the reactor bottom will break, literally just break right out and dump everything. Because it’s now hot and it’s got salt on it and it’s got the ideal conditions for corrosion. So the big fear on Unit 3 is that it will break at the bottom and whatever else remains in it, which could be the entire core, could fall out suddenly. […]

    • I’ve just googled news sources on “fukushima unit 3 NRC”, and can’t find any mention whatsoever of this – even going back as far as the 20th May.

      What’s your source?

    • I dabbled in material science back in engineering school and I’m fairly certain it takes considerably longer than three months for saltwater to corrode thoough 7 inches of carbon steel and 1/4″ of stainless steel.

      But I suppose anything is possible in the world of antinuclear activism where the laws of physics need not apply.

      • High temp’s can make jelly out of high carbon and stainless steel…

        I’m no corium expert, but believe that the corium mix may also have something to do with the leakages… as the salts may be crusting over and allowing the corium to get hotter even though they are adding tons of cooling water.

        Anybody here any real life experience with corium, as most of what I’ve read is lab stuff and nothing like what is in fact below the reactors in Japan!

        Now does that sound like I’m a weirdo?

        • No, I do not have any personal real world experience with corium. I was too busy during the 1980s when TMI was being defueled. I spent about 25% of that decade underwater as an engineer officer on nuclear powered submarines.

          However, I have a number of friends and colleagues who did participate in the cleanup and I know a great technical library at Pennsylvania State University with a huge collection of papers and videos that describe the behavior of corium in a light water reactor.

          I highly recommend some heavy reading before you expose any more of your ignorance.

  11. From Arnie: (Leave Tokyo if #4 Collapses!)

    [N]ow the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit 4 building collapses, leave. We are well beyond where any science has ever gone at that point and nuclear fuel lying on the ground and getting hot is not a condition that anyone has ever analyzed. […]
    [M]ainly cesium and strontium – those are going to head south, whether or not there is a tropical hurricane. The wind is going to push it south this time and so the issue is not the total radiation you might measure with a Geiger counter in your hand, but hot particles. […]

  12. I’m afraid this is some of the most ignorant commentary I have read on the Fukushima issue. Of course I don’t spend much time visiting ‘Friends’ of the Earth, etc.

    It would take too long to correct all the wild misconceptions on this page. If anyone is interested you can look at a blog like ‘Brave New Climate’, where there are mountains of technical discussion by people that actually know something. Or you can look at the Nuclear Engineering Institute website — make up your own mind as to whether you think this is propaganda or serious reporting by knowledgeable engineers.

    Margaret, I feel sympathy if you have to be subjected to this all the time.

  13. FLASH
    Spoke to a friend on the Big Island of Hawaii and he said that they tested a “Radiation Siren” (about 5/28/11) there for the very first time! It surprised all the locals because they test the tsunami siren the first of every month and nobody knew what this new sounding siren was!

    There has been nothing written or said about it in the media at all!

    • Fear mongers put out a hoax map that there were 3000 rad in Hawaii. These people will destroy the planet.

      • What about the radiation warning “system”, since you know so much is one in place or not and if it is why the big secret?

  14. There was no prompt criticality at any plant at any time at Fukushima Daiichi. There were no fires in the spent fuel pools, and criticality did not occur in the spent fuel pools. No one has found any fuel rod pieces anywhere outside of the spent fuel pools, much less miles away. I do not know who is spreading this kind of malarkey, but surely it is someone (or multiple people) who have absolutely no operational experience in the field of nuclear energy at all.

    There were no explosions in any spent fuel pools. The buildings at Fukushima Daiichi that were damaged (Mostly the reactor buildings at No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 plants) were damaged by hydrogen gas accumulation and explosion in the upper areas (refueling floor) after the core damage at the reactors released this hydrogen. All of the details of this have been on my blog for months. Further, No. 4 building was damaged by backflushed hydrogen that came originally from No. 3 plant; the fuel is completely intact in No. 4 plant’s spent fuel pools. The video proves it.

    Those who have no knowledge at all of nuclear energy should not count the Huffington Post or US network news as the end-all be-all for technical information. Or Wikipedia, for that matter. It is from these kinds of sources that such garbage is spewed.

    • I agree with one thing, Huffington Post is a breeding ground for deceit, lies, and fear mongering by people like CaptD who absolutely know nothing about nuclear, or this issue. The explosions did occur in units 1,3, and 4. However now we learn that the explosion in 4 was spill over from H2 from a common header in Unit 3. With respect to Huff post antinuclear bloggers, they are the worst sort of duplicitous hate mongers. They will do anything to get a pro nuclear voice silenced. Very very dangerous people with the feeling that their blog is their own little party.

        • You hide behind Gundersen like someone who needs a bully to fight for him. Gundersen did not prove the criticality in Unit 3. Enough said. There is forensic evidence to disprove the criticality

        • First I had to laugh that the article was titled “exclusive interview” There is nothing exclusive about Mr. Gundersen’s interviews. He is all over the airwaves, talking with anyone who will have him on trying to get free advertising for his consulting firm. It may have been an exlusive for Mr. Mortensen’s audience but not a real exclusive.

          Secondly Mr. Mortenson, while educated, is not educated in the technical areas discussed by Mr. Gunderson. Hence Mr. Gunderson was able to put out many things without being challenged and it was a “sympathetic” interview.

          Finally, to pick one issue out of many I have with Mr. Gundersen’s statements. Mr Gundersen discusses 10 hot particles being ingested or inhaled in the Seattle area per day after Mr. Mortensen discusses a cold war posioning case. The two issues are not related in any fashion but added a spicy mix to an otherwise technically dry discussion for those that are not fully aware of radiation issues.

          Funny thing about that 10 particles atatement. First it has no reference. Is it a bad number or a no-never mind number? Mr Gundersen does not explain which is not a surprise since he is in the business of spreading fear about nuclear energy.

          Mr. Gundersen’s numbers were very specific and for a very specific location. His numbers mean that every man, woman, child, cat, dog, cow, sheep, llama, etc are breathing in 10 radioactive particles per day. That should be SERIOUS and we should be CONCERNED or even WORRIED according to Mr. Gundersen (who is preparing to sell decontamination kits).

          One would expect to see news reports, data made available on the web from the news channels, the state or University of Washington Physics Department that was monitoring the Pacific Northwest after Fukushima.

          So to verify I went to those various sources and discovered NOTHING in April which was the time Mr. Gundersen mentioned.

          According to the EPA’s own website, the rad levels as of May 3rd are, and I quote:

          “It is important to note that all of the radiation levels detected by RadNet monitors and sampling have been very low, are well below any level of public health concern, and continue to decrease over time.”

          EPA is not exactly known to actively support nuclear power. So when they say everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about I tend to belive them especially since they put the real time data out there for everyone to look at.

          Mr. Gundersen however seems to have other data. Therefore if anyone must prove themselves it is Mr. Gundersen and not by claiming some grand conspiracy argument.

      • BTW: Your comment “duplicitous hate mongers.” makes you look like a silly bully, as I am just as interested in safety as you are and maybe more so…

    • Tell you the truth, the entire Japan reactor Trillion dollar disaster is almost NOT in the news…

      Funny that, since the exclusion zone is getting larger and TEPCO is about to go bankrupt!

      Where are folks supposed to get “factual and unbiased” information?

      Anybody here willing to have a one on one with Arnie and talk facts and not name call? If sure he can stand up for himself since he also is a nuclear professional with huge experience at running reactors…

      IMO, By NOT stepping forward to keep the public informed, you and those in your industry are making it easier, not harder for the public to “Just Say No to Nuclear”, especially since other forms of Greener energy are now or soon will be available; WITHOUT THE FEAR THAT THEY WILL BECOME the AK-47 of the 21 Century and can be used against mankind by terrorists and or a Rogue Gov’t. to poison the Earth!

      • I would be quite willing to engage in a civil discussion with Arnie Gundersen. It can be his venue or mine – I am the host and producer of the Atomic Show Podcast. Heck, it might be even more fun if we could each invite a “second” to the intellectual duel. My first choice would be to invite Margaret Harding, the host of this blog. However, if she is not available, I have a large contact list of nuclear professionals who might jump at the chance.

        I wonder who Gundersen might be able to find as his “second”. Perhaps he could invite Dr. Susan Sterrett, the woman who was mentioned in the FOE press release regarding questions about the AP1000.

        Of course, she might have to dust off her nuclear knowledge; according to her CV, her PhD was awarded in philosophy and that is the subject on which she has been publishing for the past dozen or so years. It does mention that she earned a BS from Cornell in Engineering Science – Theoretical & Applied Mechanics, but it makes no mention of any employment related to that degree.

        I pledge not to engage in name calling, but I might have to ask a few questions about funding sources and reasons why Gundersen has decided to turn his MS in NE degree into a weapon against the technology.

        Rod Adams
        Publisher, Atomic Insights
        Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast

        • Are you open to a “second” from the other side of the pond?

          I’ve a few specific issues with which I’d like to challenge Mr Gundersen. Not least his repeated claims about “re-criticality”.

          Now, this may just be me, but when I studied, you couldn’t get low-enriched fuel critical on fast neutrons alone. Below 40% enrichment, the numbers don’t even get close to working.

          And yet, according to Mr Gundersen, there’s a chance of recriticality in fuel that’s slumped to the bottom of a reactor vessel – see CapnD’s recent post.

          Now, here’s a funny thing. Mr Gundersen points out that that such fuel may get hot because there’s little water contact – hence little heat removal. But, if there’s little water contact, there’s little water between the fuel pellets – which means few chances from a neutron emerging from a fission event to lose energy to a collision with a water molecule…..and hence, no chance to lose energy to cease to be “fast”, and move into the thermal capture range. Without which, there ain’t no chance of sustaining a chain reaction.

          Of course, maybe it’s me – but if you could get fast criticality in LWR fuel, I wonder why Iran’s bothering with an enrichment plant. Just grab a few dozen rods from Busehr, and bingo, instant bomb…

          It’s struck me that Mr Gundersen either knows this – in which case, he’s knowingly making misleading statements to the ignorant. Or, he doesn’t understand it – which means he’s well adrift on issues of basic neutron physics.

          It’s binary – one or the other. My bet’s on the former.

          Themn, there’s his concept that a neutron emission detected a mile from the plant can be argued to indicate a “beam” produced in a rector. I wonder if Arnie knows the meaning of “collimation”…..or failing that, what sort of neutron flux would have to be produced at the point of criticality to be triggering detectors a mile away…

          I could go on.

    • “I do not know who is spreading this kind of malarkey, but surely it is someone (or multiple people) who have absolutely no operational experience in the field of nuclear energy at all.”

      I have a suspect that fits the bill perfectly. You can find him at:

      The Honorable Gregory B. Jaczko
      One White Flint North
      11555 Rockville Pike
      Rockville, MD 20852-2738

    • Geez, go ask Harry Reid why he stopped Yucca. You whine and cry over renewables then curse nuclear because at every stage of the game, stonewall tactics by antinuclear kooks like yourself just make things worse. 42 million people were displaced by harsh natural disasters last year. Go back to Huff Post.

      • I’ll chime in here on how geothermal is going.

        It isn’t.

        Geothermal may cause localized earthquakes. (See Switzerland and hydrofracking in Arkansas.)

        Geothermal is hard on equipment due to the poor quality of the steam. (High operations and maintenance costs)

        Geothermal brings radioactive material to the surface which must be disposed of. (who would of thunk it that a “green” technology might actually increase local radiation levels)

        And most importanly geothermal is a localized solution due to geology so it is not a technology that can be widely used throughout the world.

    • What this all means is that a 40 year old facility withstood a massive earthquake and subsequent massive tsunami without a major release of radioactive material from the core.

      Yes the leak of #1 is a problem and must be contained but after the experience gained at Three Mile Island this cleanup will follow a similar path.

      End result: No has died, no will die during the cleanup unless it is due to an industrial safety incident and the site will be cleaned up. Cleanup will progress in an orderly fashion unlike the Exxon Valdez and the Gulf of Mexico oil spills that still affect and will continue to affect the world’s environment for many decdades to come.

      The material in the core will be stored similar to the TMI material in spent fuel containment systems that will be designed to handle the waste stream. These containers will protect the public from radiation and can be stored above or below ground for the time necessary until it is safe to handle without engineered equipment or can be recycled in some fashion.

      • Bill
        Lets take you comment item by item:
        1. No Major release from the core.
        What do you consider Major (the big Bang), since there is plenty of documentation of the leakage and melt through on site?

        2. #1 is a problem… I agreed but so is #2, #3 and especially #4…

        3. “No has died” YET, but there will be plenty to count in the future. Your statement makes it sound like there has only been a “spill” that is going to get mopped and scrubbed up! What about all the residents and the poisoned land surrounding this complex not to mention the Pacific Ocean pollution; are they “no big deal”?

        4. “The material in the core will be stored similar to the TMI material in spent fuel containment systems that will be designed to handle the waste stream”. If we all are very, very lucky that no more quakes or anything else happen AND they can somehow get to the corium that is very close to the Pacific Ocean/ground water interface!

        5. What about no mention of the total cost to Japan, a Trillion+ Dollars is a terrible thing to waste!

        6. What about the cost to your industry because of this “event”?

        7. This “event” is nowhere near stabilized YET, and to talk about it as if it is in the final stages of cleanup is just silly.

        • Oh, I just love lists! Can I play too?

          This is the response of a lay person who reads a lot of stuff. If I have created major technical blunders please correct me.

          1. Major Release! – Uh people die, that is you know, like right away, like by the thousands and thousands. Well, perhaps we could scale back and just say that a Major release would kill at least as many people as a typical coal mine, or natural gas explosion in the first hours of the release just like coal and natural gas do. No one dies during the release – not a major release.

          2. Only a spill – well Yes, only a spill. Again, no one has died and the stuff is going away. As a layman I found out that if radiation is dangerous it does not last very long, but if it is not dangerous it can last a long time. So the really bad stuff is long gone and the rest can be found, and either isolated or moved. Can this radiation spill be cleaned up? Sure, we can find it, isolate it and put enough distance (a few feet for most stuff) to allow it to cool off while we work close by. By the way have you seen the Pacific ocean? Talk about dilution!

          3. Yep, no one has died yet and the chance of someone dying reduces daily. You refer, I believe, to the concept that radiation will cause cancers in the future. Unless you are referring to the general premise that it is appointed unto people once to die and then comes the judgment…. Uh, maybe not. Oh, you mean that some of them might have their lives shortened by some degree due to the possible, but not necessarily measurable effects of radiation and (if everyone is very negligent and stupid) the possible ingestion of various heavy elements. These all these potential possible “deaths” get to multiply like a ponsi scheme until the whole population of the world has been consumed in the death toll…. Sort of like is happening with the death toll from the Ukraine.

          4. Lucky? Oh, I see you are predicting another 8.9 or 9.0 earthquake to happen before the cleanup is finished. We have already had numerous 6 and 7 earthquakes in the area during the current cleanup. So far they have been able to handle the shocks. So, the point about being lucky to be able to get to the “corium.” What is with you and corium? You act like this is kryptonite for Superman or something. So what? The stuff melted down and made a mess on the floor. It is still there and not going anywhere. Challenging? Yes, highly dangerous? No. Mildly contaminating? Perhaps in some places. Will the contamination go away? Well, I have the feeling we are not going to get rid of the Uranium and Thorim that came with the planet. In small amounts most life seems to handle it ok.

          5. This number just keeps going up. I was chatting with a person on HuffPost the other day and he mentioned like 500 billion. When I read the note, they were putting the whole recovery effort, a total rebuild and recovery of all wages on the back of the Fukushmia reactors. Soooooo….. If we move down the coast just a bit away from this area……. what will it cost them to repair the area and restore the towns? What we have with the reactors that adds expenses are the following factors, increased time, lost wages / business due to direct contamination. Both of these are very very subject to people’s natural tendency to sit on their bottoms while others are paying them to do that. So could 5 billion become 500 billion if people can convince the government to spit up the money and blame it on the reactors? Sure. How long should it take to recover the area? As long as it takes to move in with Geiger counters.

          6. Well, that is to be determined. Let’s see how many people we can convince pro or con. I for one have become a strong advocate of Nuclear and especially in the Small / Medium reactor format.

          7. “No where near stabilized yet” Mind telling us when that line in the sand will occur? The situation is much much more stable than last month and is more and more stable day by day. You wait with baited breath for some type of axe to fall and the disaster comes!!! We saw the disaster, a 45 foot wall of water that overwhelmed everything in it’s path except the nuclear reactors. The heroic workers are dealing adequately with the aftermath and so far it is good enough that NO ONE HAS DIED FROM RADIATION. Amazingly strong technology with amazing response.

        • To answer your questions:

          1. There has not been a major release of core material to the atmosphere. The reactors did not eject core material such as happened in Chernobyl. Fukushima is more similar to TMI. It was a hydrogen explosion, not a nuclear explosion.

          2. So far #1 is the only reactor vessel that appears to be open to atmospheric pressure hence the leaking water, which is the problem. But TEPCO is taking actions to mitigate this issue and should have filtering systems from Areva set in place by the end of the month if not sooner. #2, #3 and #4 vessels are either intact or their breaches are not as significant so they will also be brought under control.

          There are several sites updating on the events of Fukushima without drumming up fear or end-of-the-world scenarios. You were provided Rod Adams’ website where he has posted on Fukushima. He has a link to other individuals that are also posting regular updates here:
          Here is one:

          There are others as Rod stated in his comments below.

          3. Your statement assumes Linear No-Threshold model for radiation damage is a proven fact. I am not in the camp. There are many experts who question LNT as well. See the following NYT article and an article from someone who has studied radiation exposure.

          4. The core material will be extracted one way or another or entombed even if the entire facility comes down due to another earthquake. I have not understood this line of negativity from Gundersen and other anti-nukes. Why would another earthquake prevent accessing the cores? Another earthquake just means it may take longer if the buildings are further damaged since more precautions would be necessary to protect the workers but it won’t be impossible to contain the radioactive material. By the way, many aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 and above have already happened and that has not stopped TEPCO from continuing their stabilization plans as mentioned already.

          This was and will always be a demolition job, not a recovery job. Those reactors were slated for removal anyway even before the earthquake. So now, the site will be demolished as originally planned just not the way it was expected.

          5. How much have the Exxon Valdez or the Gulf of Mexico spills cost? How much more will they continue to cost US taxpayers?

          How much will be spent rebuilding Japan that was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami not Fukushima which did not the cause this disaster? What about the cost of the dam that blew out during the earthquake? What the costs of the LNG facility that blew up due to the earthquake?

          How about the windmills at Altamount Pass that are killing endangered golden eagles since that is in the news now? How much worth should be put on the remaining 60 pairs of mating eagles?

          We live in an industrial society where risks have costs. Even if we did not live in an industrial society, living in an agrarian society of over a hundred years ago had its own costs as well such as a shorter lifespan, disease, unsanitary living conditions, etc. Living has risks, risks cost money.

          Generating power will always have a cost. That cost may fluctuate as exemplified by the fluctuating prices of natural gas for turbines and gasoline at the pump. The financial cost to the nuclear industry may actually not be that large to mitigate the issues presented by Fukushima. Yes, more safety systems may have to be added but that hasn’t even been determined yet since the full mechanism of the hydrogen explosions are still being analyzed. It may come out that the safety systems of the Gen III+ and the future Gen IV plants, or their very designs, are more than sufficient to handle the issues at Fukushima.

          The initiating event of the earthquake, which has cost over 20,000 people their lives, will have a far more significant and longer term financial and emotional cost then Fukushima. Right now the press is focused on Fukushima since that sells headlines. As Fukushima continues to move away from the disaster point and as more time passes, people will turn their attention to the wider catastrophe of the earthquake and tsunami in its entirety as they should. There are significant issues to deal with in rebuilding their society. This constant focus on Fukushima is not allowing the other major issues to receive the attention they deserve.

          6. From an engineering perspective the issues to achieve full stabilization are identified, solutions are being implemented, experience is being gained. Many steps have to take place before the cores are fully contained so I am not saying this completely stabilized but it appears they are over the worst part of it.

    • As a lay person who read the link you posted, I really have to say,

      Wow!! That is really kinda cool. It is super interesting, fascinating and will be a great source of papers and research for many many years to come. This is only the Third time in History this has ever happened and the chance to learn is huge. At this rate we will need to wait another 25 years or more for the next one to come along if ever.

      Boring!! Old news!! We knew that like ages ago. ya ya the plants got hit with a Tusnami and stuff broke. It is not very dangerous. I mean the radiation levels are nearly gone. Where is all the neat glowing goo stuff? I am just so like bumed out man. I was expecting like you know fireworks or something. Or at least liquid core material heading for the USA through the center of the earth! (Oh that would make it geothermal and just Ok). All we get is people running around in white suits and taping a bunch of stuff and spraying a bunch of stuff. No mutated monsters or big growths out of people’s nose or anything. A sun burn!! For crying out loud! A sun burn on one or two guys Sheese. I get more blood and guts at a swimming pool in the summer.

      For a radiation disaster dude this sure is dull.

      So, when will they let people start coming back home? Sure wish I could sell some Geiger counters right about now.

      Sorry Margaret, I couldn’t resist.

    • Why, so people like you can take shots at them; calling them nuclear cheerleaders and industry shills? You wouldn’t pay any attention to what they wrote, you would just reply with links to Arnie’s rantings at Fairwinds.

  15. Another wake up call for you all to consider:

    Green Party of California makes major announcement Tuesday urging immediate closure of nuclear power plants at Diablo Canyon, San Onofre to ‘promote safety’ for humans, state

    SAN FRANCISCO (May 2, 2011) – The Green Party of California – the state’s only ballot-qualified environmental political party – said it will make a major announcement Tuesday regarding closing the state’s power plants at Diablo Canyon and San Onofre…

    • What does the Green Party of California have to do with to the spent fuel pool issues of Fukushima?

      This blog article is about the facts of what happened at Fukushima Unit 4 not what is going on in very minor political party in California. (First the group has never received more then 3.5% of the total vote in any election so they are not going to dramatically affect anything. And second they are releasing yet another in a long line of anti-nuclear press releases so how is that news??)

      Recommend staying on topic. That would be the facts of what happened at Fukushima which was not a world ending event as so many anti-nukes predicted it would be.

      • I’m sorry. I was trying to use that post as an example that there are now large (and growing) public concerns to BOTH nuclear reactors and spent fuel rod storage issues and perhaps some of you (that are above calling names) might want to know about and or submit some “expert” comments.

        If that was inappropriate, I apologize!
        Thank You

  16. Getting back to what I was going to write before the distractions of the CaptD troll…

    It’s certainly a good idea to store fresh spent fuel in rugged, passively-cooled containers so that they are as safe as older SNF in dry casks.  As an engineer with a little experience in thermal management (both electronics and heavy-duty engines), I’d suggest pressurized “wet casks” filled with either water or a non-combustible fluid like CO2.  The purpose of the fluid is to increase the heat transfer to the casing such that the fuel remains well below its rated temperature no matter what happens to the cask.  A fluid which contains no hydrogen (e.g. CO2) cannot release hydrogen in any reaction with Zircaloy, so the potential for hydrogen explosions is zero even if the container should be damaged and the fluid should leak.

    • Your ideas are interesting and potentially quite practical

      My point was that we should not rush to empty the spent fuel pools without careful consideration and testing. The risk of unintended consequences is at work. Some measured efforts to determine what the consequences of these options should be examined.

      • I agree 100%,
        Haste makes waste (no pun intended).

        Adding to your Witch Hunt Theme:

        As the Wicked Witch of the West said,
        (in The Wizard of Oz):

        “These Things Must Be Done Delicately”…

  17. Just thought I’d chip in with this:

    You have a problem here:

    “Let me make it clear. The unit 4 pool fuel is undamaged (see the video here) and the relative contamination of the water is low, indicating that few, if any, fuel rods have even failed, let alone suffered significant degradation associated with a pool fire.”

    Which is it? “undamaged”, or “few[…] failed”?

    If it’s an inversion typo and you meant to write “the unit 4 fuel pool is undamaged”, well then I beg to differ. TEPCO published in their roadmap the fact that the pool needs shoring up. Work on the support struts has just started:

    • Sorry if that was unclear.

      The actual pool, storage racks and stainless steel liner appear to be undamaged in the video. The racks are level and appear to be intact. TEPCO has also done an analysis of the water and detected relatively low levels of contamination in the water (I-131, CS-134, CS-137). The amount and type of isotopes found would indicate that there are very few failed fuel rods in the pool. TEPCO has also said that the water replacement needs seem to be consistent with evaporative heat loss rather than any leakage of water through a liner failure. That assessment has been reviewed by outside agencies.

      I have seen TEPCO’s assessment that there are some structural issues AROUND the pool and that this needs shoring up. My point here was that the pool did not catch fire and was not spewing radioactive isotopes as was believed and reported in mid-March. Clearly the building has suffered major damage and work is required to stabilize the pool.

  18. Margaret I replied to your comment June 4, 2011, at 6:01 pm. Below
    What is your opinion about “storing” these spent fuel rods in casks in the deep Ocean subduction zone for either long term “recycling” into the Earth’s core or reclamation at some future time for either newly developed Earth Based recycling or raising them to the surface and then moved to low orbit via something low cost, like the Earth elevator concept and “shoved” toward the Sun?

    Thank You

    • Deep ocean subduction is not a “retrievable” scenario. Subduction would mean that the casks would be subject to movement further down into the earth’s crust/core. This is a reasonable “ultimate disposal”, but not for interim retrieval.

      Science Fiction concept of earth elevators is too speculative to even comment on. Technology doesn’t exist today, and won’t for the foreseeable future.

    • Whyever do you Americans (and a few others) want to shove fuel that’s been through a reactor once into casks and bury it?

      You’ve used about 2% of the energy production potential, if you do that. In the UK we’ve got ourself to a rather useful position, by getting involved in reprocessing, and in fuel production for international markets.

      Between the products of reprocessed fuel from our first generation MAGNOX plants, recovered military plutonium, yet-to-be reprocessed fuel from our second generation AGR plants and recoverable uranium from old enrichment tailings, we’ve enough fissionable material to power a fleet of modern reactors equivalent to about half our total electricity production for 60 years or so. That’s if we don’t reprocess the fuel from them…

      And guess what? We don’t glow in the dark. Further, relative to the amount of power produced, we’ve far less of a problem with disposal of the truly problematic stuff than you have with spent fuel. We recover the uranium for re-use, which means we only have to find disposal for the actual fission product waste (and a small amount of long-live actinides). The fission product waste is less radioactive than uranium ore within about 300 years – and we and the French have worked out how to encapsulate it into glass that will last for thousands.

      All we need now is a government with the balls to let is dig a proper repository for the glass blocks – and we’ve even got local authorities bidding to be the home.

      • Andy,

        Hence why I don’t like deep geologic “storage”. You need to ask Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan why the US doesn’t do reprocessing. You guys got it right.

        • Deep geologic storage has it’s place, I think – for the disposal of the fission product residues.

      • Better watch out for those communities vying for a disposal site changing their minds once the disposal site is built. That’s what happened with Yucca Mountain in Nevada. They out-bid other potential sites, but once all those construction jobs building the site were done, oops, they changed their mind. So Obama abandoned the perfectly good site built at the cost of billions of dollars, and we’re back to square one.

        • The way to address that is to embed a long term financial incentive – as the Swedes have done for their repository site, at Oskarshamn.

    • I would like to clarify that this linked site is combining two DIFFERENT Margaret Hardings. I do not have a PhD in Chemistry, nor do I work at a university in Australia. I do not want anyone thinking that I am engaging in resume inflation!

  19. Could one of you experts explain why there has been so much steam/smoke seen coming out of unit#4 on a regular basis for over a week?


    Also on the Tepco site it says they are not providing a graph for #4 because nobody is checking the fuel rods.

    • I checked the NISA website which indicates the unit 4 is running about 85 C (about 180 Fahrenheit. This is warm enough to cause visible vapor in the coolest part of the night, much like you see on a cool morning at heated swimming pool. But not hot enough to indicate any issue with the fuel.

      They continue to add water to this pool on a regular basis.

      • The fuel tank 4 still intact after such a massive explosion ? – common sense arguments decisively make this impossible.

        • Look at the video. The pool is intact. The thick steel liner withstood the hydrogen explosion and is stable. TEPCO has stated that they are shoring up the pool in that the surrounding concrete has been damaged.

      • Have you read today’s news on NHK?


        Tokyo Electric Power Company has been trying to reduce a high level of radiation discovered in the Number 4 reactor of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

        The utility started to inject water into a pool on the top floor which was used for storing large equipment contaminated by radiation on Sunday.

        The Number 4 reactor was shut down for a routine inspection when it was hit by the earthquake and the tsunami on March 11th.

        Large hardware in the reactor was removed and was submerged in the pool to block the release of radiation.

        Tokyo Electric Company discovered that the water level of the pool had dropped to about 1/3 of its capacity as of June 11th.

        The machinery is thought to have been exposed and releasing high amounts of radiation.

        The operator fears it could hamper restoration work in the Number 4 reactor.

        TEPCO says the radiation level on the top floor is so high that workers cannot enter, but if the equipment is submerged again, the radiation level will decline enabling operations to restart.

        Monday, June 20, 2011 05:53 +0900 (JST)

        Also Tepco have just put up a temperature graph for the reactor #4 pool. (The graph is new today…there wasn’t one yesterday).

        Tepco says the water temperature is 93C.

        • Tepco said the water level had dropped to one third on June 11th (which is the same date as the video showing steam/smoke escaping from the plant).

          Since that date there have been numerous other large steam escapes which probably means the water got even lower. For example on June 14.

          Am I right in thinking that the fuel rods in #4 have probably been very severely damaged and that is what is causing the very high radiation releases?

          • Don’t confuse radiation and radioactive isotopes.

            Radiation is a local phenomena that is the result of the decay of radioactive isotopes. Radiation is occurring in the fuel in those pools as the fission products decay within the fuel rods. The water both cools these rods and provides a shield that’s why the pools are much deeper than the fuel rods are tall.

            To determine whether or not the fuel has failed you have to look for those fission products to be OUTSIDE the fuel. TEPCO has pulled samples of the water from the pools which show some iodine and cesium. Iodine, because of it’s short half life, cannot be coming from the fuel sitting in the #4 pool as it has been out of core for more than 5 months. Its presence indicates some contamination from units 1, 2, or 3, which is consistent with the presence of these same isotopes all over the plant site. Some of the cesium found would have come from the same source, but it is possible that some of the fuel in the #4 pool has failed, but given the relatively low amounts of fission products, it is not “severely damaged”. In addition, again, looking at the videos we see the racks sitting level and the tops of the fuel bundles sitting level in the racks. Another indications that massive failures have not occurred.

            IF the water in the pool was very low, which I have not confirmed, that does not mean that the fuel MUST fail. The graph you provides shows the water temperature at 93C. This is MUCH hotter than we would like it, but does not mean that the fuel is at imminent risk of overheating and failing. Remember that the reactor runs at 500C and fuel does not fail. We want to see TEPCO adding water to this pool to both get the temperature down and reshield the radiation.

  20. Hi. I made two consecutive posts earlier. The second one is showing but not the earlier one.

    Why is the first post still “awaiting moderation”?

    I’ll try again. here is a C&P of the news item I linked from NHK.


    “Tokyo Electric Power Company has been trying to reduce a high level of radiation discovered in the Number 4 reactor of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

    The utility started to inject water into a pool on the top floor which was used for storing large equipment contaminated by radiation on Sunday.

    The Number 4 reactor was shut down for a routine inspection when it was hit by the earthquake and the tsunami on March 11th.

    Large hardware in the reactor was removed and was submerged in the pool to block the release of radiation.

    Tokyo Electric Company discovered that the water level of the pool had dropped to about 1/3 of its capacity as of June 11th.

    The machinery is thought to have been exposed and releasing high amounts of radiation.

    The operator fears it could hamper restoration work in the Number 4 reactor.

    TEPCO says the radiation level on the top floor is so high that workers cannot enter, but if the equipment is submerged again, the radiation level will decline enabling operations to restart.”

    Monday, June 20, 2011 05:53 +0900 (JST)

    Not only that, the 110,000+ tons of contaminated cooling water that is about to start overflowing into the Pacific Ocean is far more radioactive than previously thought.

    About 144 times as much if my math is right because the Cesium zeolite filters which were supposed to last a month (about 720 hours) were unexpectedly found to be “full” in less than 5 hours.

    I cannot understand why people on this forum are still making reassuring comments and downplaying things as much as possible.

    “Always happy to discuss the verifiable facts.”

    OK I’ve posted some verifiable facts. Could some genuine experts now discuss them please.

    • I look at moderated comments about once a day. I’m not sure why WordPress moderated your second comment, but not this one.
      On to your questions:
      1) Large hardware is several large stainless steel components used to separate moisture from the steam. These components do not generate any heat of their own, but they are radioactive because they’ve been sitting inside the reactor. In outages, they are place in pools that are much like the spent fuel pools because water acts as an excellent shield to the radiation (which is a localized phenomena). If that pool has drained for some reason, it represents an issue for workers trying to work in the area, but no risk to the public at large. The solutions is to simply refill the pools to cover this equipment back up and shield the radiation. This is exactly what TEPCO has said they are going to do. Depending on what else is going on it might take some time to do, but again it is an issue only on the plant site.

      2) Cesium zeolite filters. I am not a chemist and do not pretend to be one, so I’m not going to try to answer your question. I will pass it along to some chemistry experts and see if someone is able to clarify what is really going on.

      3) I am confused by your rather angry sounding last three lines. If you do not believe that I’m a “genuine expert”, then why are you bothering to post a comment? If I’ve posted something that is incorrect, please send me a link to information that clearly disputes my comments.

      • Thank you for your reply Margaret, I appreciate it. I was not referring to anyone in particular… it was aimed at the world in general and the media in particular because it is incredibly frustrating not having any proper experts commentating on things. Even Scientific American and Nature just have Reuter’s news reports now… there’s zero explanation or discussion about ongoing developments by experts!

        May I ask what qualifications you hold BTW? I saw in another post that you are not a chemist and do not work in an Australian university. Are you a nuclear physicist?

        So you don’t you think that steam or smoke emission seen in the live webcam videos is particularly radioactive? It was definitely coming out of reactors #3 and #4. I’ve watched several of these events happening on the live Tepco webcam site. It usually starts with a small plume from #3 which is then followed by a much bigger emission from #4 Often this lasts several hours and the steam/smoke gets so thick it completely obscures all the buildings on the site from view. It doesn’t look like mist rolling in from the sea either… you can it’s all coming from one direction … the #4 building.

        Three buildings have no roofs so steam could escape from any of them easily… why mostly #4 and why such large amounts?

        I also do not understand why it happens periodically rather than all the time. What would make the fuel pond heat up suddenly like that from time to time?

        Do we know what radioactive isotopes are in the #4 fuel pond? I’ve never seen it mentioned on Japanese TV and there has been no data at all about #4 on the Tepco website until today.

        Another thing has been bugging me. Sorry, but I have so many unanswered questions!)

        Tepco said that the steam found coming from a crack in the floor of reactor #1 and measuring 4Sv was from water at 50C in the basement.

        I don’t understand how that could be. The ambient temperature inside the buildings has been reported to be uncomfortably high and humid for the workers … so how could the water in the basement only be 50C if it’s giving off lots of visible steam? Sounds like that water was a lot hotter than that to me…more like boiling point, 100C. Do they just guess or can they actually measure the temperature of water that has leaked into the basement?

        Incidentally what happened to the cooling pools in reactors #1 and #3? Are they still intact? How much fuel do/did they contain? I’m just wondering where all this unexpectedly high radiation in the cooling water is coming from.

        Also, are there instruments capable of measuring really high levels of radioactivity? Because it’s rather surprising that Tepco apparently didn’t know how much Cs137 was in the water before they started using the filtering device.


        • I will get back to you on all of your questions as soon as I can. But some of this takes research and study. I do not speculate on this matters – or I will tell you that I am.

          As to my qualifications
          I have a BS in Nuclear Engineering and have spent the last 30 years working in the industry. My initial focus was on core and fuel design which makes me very familiar with the specific behavior of the fuel both in core and in the fuel pools.
          I also have worked extensively with experts in the design of the rest of reactor. This gives me perspective much of the rest of what has been reported.

          Perhaps as important as my knowledge is my willingness to tell people when I was wrong and/or do not know the answer to their questions. I hope this leads people to trust my answers.

          • Even speculation would be welcome from someone who knows what they are talking about!

            Thank you for your time Margaret.

          • Hi Margaret.

            After months of loud silence about what the worst worse scenario might be in terms of radiation exposure, the Guardian newspaper has just published an article containing previously undisclosed information about the plant reactors, possible worst case scenarios etc.

            The link below has estimations of the number of fuel rods etc. You need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to get all the information.


            Also there was another large steam release at the SFP #4 tonight and what looked like a possible fire.

            Here is an accelerated webcam segment I found on You Tube to give you an idea. It’s not as clear as the live webcam was unfortunately.

            I have no idea if it is plutonium being ejected as the poster says or whether it was just rubble from the building but the steam had sufficient force to project the debris upwards.


          • Miss Trust,

            Unfortunately, I am on a business trip for the next couple of days so my time to research thoroughly is very low.

            However, here is some food for thought.

            1) The data still doesn’t show the pool above even boiling water temperature. I can assure you that a steam explosion simply can’t happen at that temperature.
            2) Plutonium is in the fuel. However, it cannot be separated out without significant complicated chemistry. Anyone who says “chunks of plutonium” are being ejected is simply spreading “Fear Uncertainty and Doubt,” in order to forward an agenda of their own.
            3) I don’t trust reports in the Main Stream Media because they listen to the people in #2. and FUD sells papers – Calm assessment does not. You might go directly to TEPCO’s website to get information here’s the link:

            I will try to do some study tonight from my hotel room, but can’t promise I’ll get it done.

          • Sorry, yet another quick question!

            Is the release of radioactive isotopes following fission proportional?

            eg If you know the amount of 133Xe, can you estimate from that the probable amount of Strontium 90, Cesium 137, Iodine 131 that has been produced?

            I did a search and can’t seem to find a straightforward answer so maybe it isn’t that simple?

          • Not that simple, different fission products have different chemical properties and different half-lives, so the ratios change constantly and depending on water, airborne, particulate, etc. So there isn’t a simple if x then y formula. Universities and national labs, in addition to the utilities and the big reactor/fuel designers have very complex computer software that does these kinds of calculations. However, the best data is the actual measurements. I expect that as this winds down (and it will) we will begin to get more accurate information in this regard.

            Regarding your questions on the water purification, several of my very knowledgeable friends have told me that this is an extremely complex process and that the fact that the first pass didn’t work as planned is not a shock and should not be a cause for huge concern. We should see TEPCO getting this up and running very soon.

            Again, I watch for TEPCO’s activities to line up with what I’m expecting to see based on the data provided. when the data or the actions don’t line up, I start asking questions of my industry experts to find out what is going on.

Comments are closed.