This is a particularly important update. An anonymous source in Japan has told reporters connected to the New York Times that there is a visible crack in the Fukushima Reactor 3. This is the reactor that showed isotopic evidence of a leak of some kind. Arguments had been made that a hole in the reactor vessel was an impossibility. The increasingly convincing evidence of a leak led people to admit, or realize, that the reactor vessel already has holes in it … those designed to allow pipes and such in and out of the large thick-walled metal object. It was then presumed that this is where leakage was happening, and that remains a distinct possibility. This presumption was based on the repeatedly stated impossibility of the reactor vessel being burned or corroded through.
But now we have evidence of a visible crack. A crack is a whole nuther matter. If there truly is a crack and the crack is through-and-through and allowing leakage, the we may be observing an excellent and disturbing example of how nuclear accidents often play out, and, in fact, why they happen to begin with. There have been repeated arguments made, in the press, on this blog (in comments), and elsewhere that there is no way that even melted down nuclear stuff inside the reactor vessel could eat its way through that vessel. Then a concession was made for pipe-holes. In the end, however, eating through the vessel or corroded or melted pipes may not be the point. Cracking the vessel then leaking out may be a possibility. Hadn’t been considered before.
There is isotopic evidence that the material leaking out of Reactor 3 is in part the product of fission that has occurred since shutdown of the machine at the time of the earthquake. This is not confirmed and there may be other explanations. But, if that is true, this probably means that fuel pellets have come free of their containment in fuel rods and accumulated somewhere in the reactor vessel in sufficient density to cause a chain reaction. If this has happened, it is probably not that severe of a chain reaction (or we would see more heat and other bad things). But, if there are fuel rods that have fallen apart, this means that future movement or pressure changes or other effects in the vessel could be more dangerous. Under some scenarios, just adding water can cause a brittle corroded fuel rod to fall apart, dropping more pellets into an accumulating pile of pellets lower down in the vessel.
Put metaphorically, the concentration of radioactive material in a mass that is increasingly close to that necessary to cause a chain reaction was dubbed, in the early days of nuclear research, “tickling the dragon’s tail.” Researchers, it is said, would move two piles of radioactive stuff closer and closer and measure the increase in radioactive output, in part to determine what a “critical mass” would be for that material. In theory, they would stop just before a high-level reaction occurred. Louis Slotin went to far with this technique in May, 1946 and it killed him.
If the isotopic evidence truly indicates that there has been post-quake fission in the reactor chamber, then this may mean that there is a dragon in there, metaphorically speaking We just have to hope that the Japanese engineers know how to keep the dragon calm.
There are other startling developments including a shakeup in the government. Ana has put together a very interesting feed. Read on:
Ana’s Feed starting at about 7PM CT 25 March:
TEPCO says there must be a drastic review of work plans, due to very high radiation, before work can continue to restore electric cooling functions – the water in the turbine building of the No.1 reactor is at an almost equivalent level as that found in No.3. (NHK)
- Something about a plan to convert the steam produced in No. 1 into water for cooling??? Not sure how that would work… Meantime, fresh water will be pumped from trucks into No.1 and 3.
- Water is also observed in the turbine rooms at reactors 2 and 4.
Two of the three injured workers were not wearing high boots – were exposed to 2,000-6,000mSv while standing in water for two hours. (NHK)
- They are reported to have good appetite and there is not a high possibility for future development of leukemia. They will be monitored for skin changes over the next 3 weeks.
- “TEPCO plans to strictly enforce the rule of evacuating the site whenever dosimeter alarms sound after the radiation level tops 20 millisieverts.
Referring to the absence of a person who should have been in charge of radiation-level monitor..
“I felt things shaking, and then it went crazy,” Nishi recalled in an interview. “I was shouting, Stop! Stop!” Then the lights went out, leaving about 200 workers inside the reactor in near-darkness since the structure has no windows.
A small red emergency light started blinking. “Then some kind of white smoke or steam appeared and everyone started choking,” Nishi said. “We all covered our mouths and ran for the door.” But the door leading outside was locked, shut down automatically during the temblor to contain any leakage. The workers were stuck.”
Pretty intense press conference with Yukio Edano – a shake up in the Prime Minister’s cabinet, and some harsh Q and A re: TEPCO.
Mr. Mabuchi will replace Mr. Terata as assistant to the PM. The new man will deal directly with the nuke crisis – “as we try to respond, the strongest lineup…should be given the highest priority at this time.” (Edano)
- Hand in hand with Mr. Hosono, under direction of PM Kan, Mabuchi will be in charge of disaster control, specifically with regard to Fukushima. He joined the task force early and has been very active, and since the scope of respose and task has expanded, Mr. Hosono wanted to step up the effort further. M. has a lot of experience – “I’m quite sure he’s going to…provide a vital role.” (Edano)
- Asked if this change indicates that the gov. hasn’t been able to respond well up until now, Edano replies that the cabinet was not assembled with this disaster in mind. Given the unprecedented scale of the disaster, they needed to revise their personnel in order to respond better. (Seen on NHK)
- “Mabuchi was a member of Kan’s Cabinet until mid-January. Along with then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, Mabuchi came under pressure to leave the government after the opposition-controlled upper chamber passed a censure motion over his handling of the ship collisions last year involving a Chinese fishing boat near the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by Beijing.” -kyodo news
With reference to discovery that TEPCO had prior knowledge of the dangers the injured workers would encounter in the turbine building, a reporter asks “Did the government know the high radiation?” Edano: “We were not reported this information.”
- (The NHK translator interjects – “Yes, he was asked this earlier too!”)
- Q: TEPCO failed to give the report – and what do you think about this?
- Q: What do you have to say about this company?
- Edano: The workers are in a hard situation, we must be able to know the situation – without information it’s difficult for the government to respond accurately and swiftly.
- Q: Do you think they were concealing facts?
- Edano: It is not our job to assess their position. We have to make sure that TEPCO does not act in ways that cause suspicion, “therefore we would like to give stronger instructions to TEPCO.”
- Analiese Miller (pieced and paraphrased from NHK broadcast)
- Q: “What is the outlook?”
- Edano: No definitive outlook that we can say at the moment, I do not want to make any comments that make people feel optimistic. We are taking measures so that the situation does not deteriorate any more – vigilance is required, even at this time. There are still a lot of preparations and operations to be done – a daunting amount of work that needs to be done. (NHK)
Lighting has been restored in the control room of reactor no.2. -kyodo news
Seismologists examining the quake found that the fault line moved 30 meters in 3 minutes. (NHK)
“The utility, known as TEPCO, said the radiation level at the No. 1 reactor of the plant has reached 200 microsieverts per hour, suspending work to pour seawater into its spent fuel pool. But its Fukushima office corrected the announcement later, saying no such high radiation level was detected.” -kyodo news
Radioactive water in the turbine buildings of reactors no.2 and no.3 is over a meter and a half deep. (NHK)
- The decontamination equipment in reactor no.1 has been damaged in the quake – there are no ideas yet as to how to clear this water to permit workers to proceed with electrical. (NHK)
(Ana’s Feed is a collection of Analiese Miller’s facebook status entries posted as she takes in the news live in Japan.)
Links to news stories and updates:
- The situation at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan was brought under control days ago
- ‘Don’t panic, protect N-energy facilities’
- Japan Extends Evacuation Zone Near Power Plant
- Marines help clear out Sendai Airport after tsunami
- U.S. forces to supply water to be pumped into Fukushima nuke plant
- Levels of radioactive materials soaring in sea near nuke plant
- Fault line shifted up to 30m
- Fukushima Crisis Could Have Long-Term Impact, Claims Chernoybl-Era Official
- Radiation in Fukushima reactor water could have been from core
- $1 million, 203-foot industrial fire truck en route to Fukushima plant
- Fukushima Update: It Could Be Worse
- U.S. Navy to Provide 500,000 Gallons of Fresh Water to Fukushima Power Plant
- Fukushima plant’s fallout to go around globe
- Seawater near Japan plant tests high for radiation
- Govt may have avoided direct evacuation order to prevent panic
- Fukushima’s MOX Fuel Reactor May Be Seriously Damaged
- Radioactive seawater in Japan raises new fears of reactor crack
For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.