More Meltdown Mania

SUBHEAD: The operators are left with nonsense cures while the radiation loads from all four reactors increases exponentially.  

By Steve Ludlum on 5 April 2011 in Economic Undertow - 

Image above: Heroic workers at Fukushima Dai Nuclear Plant. Note protective footwear inlcudes plastic bags over shoes taped to ankles and calves. From (

 It's interesting to watch how pop culture deals with problems like the Fukushima Fiasco: It can't and it doesn't. The establishment soothes while coming up with idiotic 'solutions' such as putting shredded newspapers into a 'crack' in concrete leaking 7 tons of intensely radioactive water per hour onto the highly manicured 'grounds' of the reactor complex and thence into the Pacific.

You know ... 'That' Pacific Ocean, where all those buff dudes go to surf ... "

No more surfing for you!" No walking on the beach either, unless you want to get what is becoming known in Japan as a 'Ground Tan'.

Energy Meanwhile the Fossil Fuel Fiasco takes place under everyone's noses:

BRENT CRUDE 120.23 1.530 1.29%
GAS OIL FUT 1,006.0 9.000 0.90%
HEATING OIL 315.31 1.860 0.59%
NATURAL GAS 4.32 -0.045 -1.03%
GASOLINE ) 314.58 -0.550 -0.17%
WTI CRUDE 108.07 0.130 0.12%
Yowzah! $120 per barrel is a bludgeon to the head of the waste-based economy. How are the precious SUV's and giant pickup trucks going to cope? Here's what's happening with three- month average US gas prices from estimable Gasbuddy:
How about that for a bull market? Gas prices are not the determinant whether our sorry excuse for an economy takes a dump or not but they are a good 'pain indicator'. They measure the level of wishful thinking about how our machines interfere with reality ... Reality sez there are limits, Fantasy sez some wads of newspaper and 'polymers' will make them go away. If not, skip the pesky reactors and welcome 'profits'! Here is the party line from Bloomberg:
S&P 500 earnings are poised to surpass the 2007 peak of $90 a share in the third quarter after surging from $7 in March 2009, the quickest recovery since at least 1900, according to data from S&P and Yale University’s Robert Shiller compiled by Bloomberg. The gap between projected 12-month profits and average earnings over the last 10 years is set to widen the most since 1951, the data show.
PNC Wealth Management, Federated Investors Inc. and ING Investment Management, which together oversee about $1 trillion, say consumer spending will sustain the recovery after government stimulus helped lift profits from the lowest level since the Great Depression. While earnings will slow in the second half, stock purchases by investors who missed the S&P 500’s advance will fuel gains, according to Leuthold Group LLC.
Somehow, all those hapless unemployed on food stamps are going to spend money they don't have in stores that are now boarded up ... If they spend all their cash on gas what is left to push up 'profits'? The best answer is pesky customers and 'salez' are unnecessary. What is required is corporate 'self dealing' and finance 'investments' in other companies just like themselves.

It's hard to think of a US company that is makes something useful other than GE, which brings 'Good Things' like ground tans to light. Those pimping vapor profits have an agenda: anyone willing to take some time and think for themselves can come to the conclusion: what used to be progress is now naked self interest. There are the privileged and there are the damned. At some point you start asking yourself whose side are you going to be on when the shooting starts?

Reactor Number 2 did not provide a visible explosion to analyze. It's primary and secondary pumps failed after the flood and like the others was dependent upon fire engines for cooling injections of seawater.

The reactor 3 blast on Monday the 14th rendered 4 of the 5 fire trucks servicing unit 2 DOA: the survivor ran out of fuel and was then unable to overcome reactor pressures due to a stuck valve. Operators said fuel rods were out of water for an extended period. The consequent blast took place within the suppression pool in the early morning of the 15th.

Image above: Identical Browns Ferry Reactor Number 1 under construction. Click to enlarge. From (

 Figure 1
This is the pressure vessel before it is surrounded or clad with reinforced concrete. The central 'flask' or lightbulb- shaped fixture is the inner mold for a ten- foot thick concrete shell that is an integral part of the overall containment structure. Below the lightbulb is the torus- shaped suppression pool which is also within the containment. While everything you can see here is very robust and oversized, this is not nearly so as much as the pressure vessel and containment of a pressurized water reactor (PWR) which operates at pressures approximately 2,000 psi.

The PWR has the familiar dome structure(s) which rise above the rest of the facility. The operating pressure for this kind of reactor when making steam and electricity is approximately 1000 psi. Ordinarily, water and steam are circulated around the core with the reactor 'throttled' or 'accelerated' by inserting or withdrawing control rods along with increasing/decreasing the flow of feedwater.

Excess steam is vented into the suppression pool where it is condensed. The power cycle has steam flowing from the fuel elements through the power turbine to a condenser which is the heat exchanger for the reactor. Condensate is pumped back into the core. Work is a flow of heat from the fuel toward the ocean by way of the turbine and condenser.

Important feedwater pumps along with control rod drive mechanisms are located within the pressure vessel under the core. This core is the metal can that contains the fuel- and control rods. It sits high inside the pressure vessel dry well which is within the throat of the pressure vessel. The core is where the boiling takes place. Vents equalize the pressure so that it is the same within the core as well as within the rest of pressure vessel.

The obvious weak point of the design is where the pressure balance tubes (parts 'e' in Figure 1) connect to the suppression pool. There are eight of these radiating like spokes from the central flask of the pressure vessel. Where the tubes join the suppression pool are elaborate welded and mechanical joints that cannot accept stresses that more regular shapes such as the sphere and torus can.

Other weak areas are where tubular sections of the suppression pool are welded together, where pipes and valves are attached to the suppression pool and where conduits and ducts such as control rod hydraulic lines penetrate the pressure vessel. Most of the non- welded pipe joints are conventional flange fittings with gaskets. The amount of pipe and fittings within the containment is significant. It is likely that much of the piping in all the Fukushima reactors was severely damaged by the earthquake, before cooling problems emerged.

 It is likely that all three reactor explosions originated in the suppression pools and specifically in areas of the pools that were unable to contain an instant increase in steam pressure. Steam pressure would flash when fuel melted and flowed through core fittings and pipes into the bottom of the pressure vessel and from there into the suppression pools.

 Since all the reactors are of more or less identical design, shared identical vulnerabilities and were subject to the same cooling abuses it is likely that all met the same explosive fate in the same place, within the suppression pool area. Severe fuel meltdowns caused powerful steam explosions that damaged the suppression pools and compromised the containments. The simple explanation for the flows of radioactive water and isotopes in the plant area seen today is the multiple explosive failures of reactor containments.

When the fuel rods are exposed above cooling water, the zircalloy cladding oxidizes producing hydrogen and zirconium oxide. There is no free oxygen in the pressure vessels under working conditions as these are charged with nitrogen. When the pressure vessels in the other reactors were vented, the nitrogen and hydrogen flowed into the service areas above the containment buildings.

The nitrogen was of little significance in the service areas' vast spaces. The vented hydrogen mixed with oxygen in the air within the service areas: steam explosions, when they occurred, triggered nearly simultaneous hydrogen blasts in the service areas. In the suppression pool area of unit 2, there was little free oxygen to mix with hydrogen being produced by the zircalloy oxidation. Hydrogen was due to be vented into the service area as was the case with the other reactors but this venting could not take place due to the stuck valve.

As was the case with the other reactors, when the fuel rods within the core were exposed for long enough period, the cladding failed and fuel pellets aggregated within the core. At that point, the cooling water had been pushed by steam pressure into the suppression pool. Enough fuel melted together then flowed from the waterless core into the suppression pool where the melt caused the steam explosion.

This wasn't a total meltdown and the result was not a massive explosion as was the case in unit 3 but it was sufficient to blow a hole in the suppression pool area of the pressure vessel with steam under extraordinary force blasting away internal parts of the containment. Here is reactor 2 with its ominous trail of steam emitting from its bowels:

 After the explosion, all but 50 of the workers at the four-reactor site were removed due to increases in radiation. Further examination showed high levels of radiation in water in buildings connected to Reactor #2 along with many short-lived isotopes indicating ongoing criticality taking place within the destroyed core.

As has been noticed by others, that means the plants' operators have been attempting to stanch the flow of radioactive water out of these reactors has been pathetic. Water flows create a dilemma: water flow is needed to cool what remains of the cores while water acts as a moderator for reactor fuel, triggering chain reactions.

Heat is removed from the cores to the ocean but moderating water causes the ruined cores to emit more heat in a vicious cycle. Newly released TEPCO data provides evidence of periodic chain reaction at Fukushima Unit 1 from Fairewinds Associates.  
Video above: Arnie Gundersen, Chief Nuclear Engineer at Fairewinds Associates . From (

 The operators are left with nonsense cures while the radiation loads from all four reactors increases exponentially. With all four reactors fatally compromised, the outcome is a reactor complex that is steadily becoming too 'hot' for anyone to approach even with protective gear. Once that point is reached the remaining core structures will fail and even more radiation and radioactive particles will be emitted. The Japanese have to get serious and marshal vast forces to battle these reactors. Every Japanese citizen will need to do his duty, to take lead brick in hand and gain not a Warholian fifteen minutes of fame but a three minute tour of hell. Japan also needs to make a plan to decommission all of its reactors. They are all ticking time bombs, Japan is broke and the 'financial' outcome is more and more meltdowns. The 'mass attack' is rejected is that it is too 'old school'. It defies modernity and the fantasy of mechanical advantage, advertising- directed self- actualization and increasing luxury. Modernity's leverage is to waste fuel and have the illusion of doing something useful by the process. It's that or nothing with the Japanese tempting an avoidable fate. Then again, there is no such thing as leadership, only soothing. .

1 comment :

voltscommissar said...

Arnie Gundersen at says reactor 3 was a "prompt moderated criticality" in the spent fuel pool, such a violent event that a fuel pellet was hurled 2 kilometres from the blast: see

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