Friday, March 25, 2011

Slowly but inexorably worse and worse...

March 25th, 2011

Dear Readers,

We are two weeks into the Fukushima Daiichi tragedy. Now the Unit 3 Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) has apparently breached. That is, it's leaking. Oh, no. This may make it impossible to keep coolant covering the damaged reactor core, greatly increasing the likelihood of a meltdown or even an RPV explosion -- a very violent steam explosion or steam/hydrogen explosion, which would release huge amounts of radioactivity all at once.

In typical Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs), the control rods are inserted into the RPV from the bottom. Just one more stupid part of a stupid design, like the spent fuel pools being above the reactors. (But don't go thinking other reactor designs are much better. They each have their own problems.)

Fuel pellets that have broken off are likely to gather at the bottom of the RPV. The extra heat and radioactivity can damage the seals between the control rods and the RPV. This might be the cause of the leaks.

Radiation levels 10,000 times more than normal were found when technicians tried to get near the reactor. Two workers received serious radiation burns from water that seeped into their boots.

Who knows how many gauges and control mechanisms have already been destroyed? Or how many more are undoubtedly failing as they get clogged with soot, salt, seaweed, contaminated water, boron, and radioactive debris?

The operators are losing control: Things are overheating, evaporating, steaming, boiling, burning, melting. A full-scale meltdown, even without an RPV explosion, can render the entire area fatally radioactive to those who remain for more than a few seconds even with many layers of protection. So they'll run out of operators, sooner or later.

The Unit 4 spent fuel pool is particularly precarious because THAT fuel was just recently removed from the reactor and is very "hot" both thermally and radioactively. It won't just sit there. It will burn. It might even collapse into a critical configuration.

Is a meltdown in Unit 3 now inevitable? The Japanese Prime Minister says he cannot rule out things getting much worse.

One meltdown will be tragic. But we will be lucky now if it is ONLY one.

And yet, the mainstream media can still present "experts" who will tell the public that the U.S. nuclear industry is somehow different. That it is more "safety-conscious." It reacts faster to problems. It's taking the "lessons learned" from Fukushima Daiichi very seriously. They'll always say things like that.

The public has to demand that the plants be shut down. (Or they can just demand that the illogical and immoral Price-Anderson Act be abolished and put the liability for an accident where it belongs -- that would work, too.)

I don't know how to stop what is happening in Japan from turning worse. It seems that nobody does. But I do know how to stop the same thing from happening here in America: SHUT THE PLANTS DOWN!

Nuclear power is certainly not green energy, and it has never lived up to its promise of being clean, too cheap to meter, safe, reliable, or even merely cost-effective. But it sure is living up to its threats, and to the most dire predictions of its opponents.


Ace Hoffman
sweating bullets in...
Carlsbad, CA

The author, 54, has written extensively about nuclear power for many years. His book, The Code Killers, written in 2008, is available for free download or online viewing from his web site: . Hoffman is also an educational software developer and bladder cancer survivor.

Comments on Dry Cask Storage:

Some activists, experts, and politicians think that dry cask storage is the solution to the nuclear waste storage problem, and point to the fact that no dry casks have caught fire (yet) in Japan as "proof."

But dry casks are each an additional danger, and they'll need endless numbers of them as long as the nuclear power plants remain open. In fact, they'll need hundreds of dry casks at each location! Dry cask fires, once started, will burn until the entire cask is vaporized -- and maybe casks underneath or next to them too, and then the one next to that, and the one next to that, until they are all gone.

An airplane or a tsunami might have smashed the dry casks into each other. So perhaps criticality can even be achieved (NOT like an atomic bomb, but like what happened in Idaho, Tokiamura, Los Alamos, and elsewhere in the past).

Shown below, from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) web site, are comments on criticality control of nuclear spent fuel, showing that preventing criticality requires an "engineered solution".

Dry cask storage isn't a good solution to the nuclear waste problem. (Note: This is not an endorsement of Yucca Mountain, either.)

Criticality control:


"Criticality control shall be maintained throughout all phases of spent fuel management. This includes operations during: handling, storage, transport, and geological disposal. This report will not discuss criticality control during storage in spent fuel pools or during loading operations. Criticality control will be provided primarily by the basket of the transport, storage, or geological disposal container. "

Animations of PWR and BWR types of reactors (including a GE Mark 1 BWR):

From Crisis to Catastrophe: A Nightmare Scenario:


"The leakage of plutonium and uranium from reactor number 3 is the nightmare scenario that many experts predicted would turn the situation at Fukushima from a crisis to a catastrophe. "

At 09:34 AM 3/25/2011 -0700, Jerry Collamer sent:

>The trouble at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is "nowhere near the point" of being resolved, Prime Minister Naoto Kan conceded on Friday. Two workers were hospitalized for radiation burns Thursday after stepping in highly radioactive water that suggests a breach in the No. 3 reactor vessel, according to the Los Angeles Times. The No. 3 reactor was the only reactor at the plant to use a concoction of uranium and plutonium known as mox fuel. It's likely that a mox fuel leak led to the unusually radioactive water, and officials say even more radiation from the fuel could be released. Meanwhile, the Japanese government has "quietly" extended its evacuation zone from 12 to 19 miles from the plant, suggesting that the threat is worse than officials have acknowledged. The U.S. government recommends that citizens stay at least 50 miles away the reactors. Apart from the dangers radiation, daily life in the affected area has come to a standstill. There's little access to shopping or gas, and many companies have stopped making deliveries. Efforts to repair the plant continue, with 700 workers operating in shifts to vent radioactive gases and cool the damaged reactors. The official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has topped 10,000 people, with 17,500 still missing, reports the New York Times.
>Read original story in Los Angeles Times | Friday, March 25, 2011,0,2343279.story


Ace Hoffman
Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
Free download:
Phone: (760) 720-7261
Address: PO Box 1936, Carlsbad, CA 92018
Subscribe to my free newsletter today!
Email: ace [at]