Fukushima Unit 4’s spent fuel pool teeters on the brink of collapse threatening a never-ending nuclear fire
NEWS, ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
Japan courts a potential country-killing catastrophe as it literally puts the lid on any chance of saving a nuclear reactor’s spent fuel pool before further disaster strikes.
In the process, the situation has gravely worsened and is far more likely to precipitate the very calamity the Japanese government and Fukushima-Daiichi owners purport to be trying to stop – an uncontrollable and never-ending nuclear fire which could take over a hundred years to burn through over 3 million pounds of hot goo.
But not just any nuclear fire, an unquenchable fission-fed fire water can’t cure. It would release so much gamma radiation that Fukushima would have to be abandoned – those flimsy white suits seen in photos of Fukushima workers provide minimal protection only against alpha and beta radiation.
Abandoned, the entire site’s spent fuel pools would eventually dry up and ignite with an uncontrollable nuclear conflagration that would burn for hundreds of years. Just Unit 4’s spent fuel pool alone would release more than 85 times the amount of cesium-137 let loose by the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.
The possibility of a total failure of Unit 4, which would take the pool with it, was hugely increased recently according to a June 15 press release by Fukushima-Daiichi owner Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Photos in it show a so-called “Protection Platform Installation on Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool” being lifted off the ground and lowered into place over the pool.
The photos also show that no new shoring to the destroyed reactor building had been built, indicating that the weakened structure now had to support 60 more tons. The heavy 36-foot by 45-foot lid also takes away the only way to extricate the spent fuel rods from the pool – from the top.
TEPCO claimed that the lid was “to prevent rubble from falling into the pool” yet photos released by the company show nothing above the pool now that could fall into it – it had already been carefully removed without any apparent chunks of Unit 4 blown apart superstructure falling into it.
Now, according to TEPCO, the spent fuel pool needed a 60-ton lid to keep out what wasn’t there in the first place because it had already been taken away without wrecking the rods.
Indeed, the reason TEPCO’s brave but most likely doomed workers could lower the plate down on top of the spent fuel pool in the first place was because nothing was over it.
If TEPCO felt issuing misleading information about the weighty lid was its only option, the actual reasons for covering the spent fuel pool could be that they already know that it is beyond salvage and better to have it covered than open for any satellite to peer into.
Like most of TEPCO’s inept and hazardous handling of this disaster, even a 60-ton slab of steel may not cover-up the truth of the spent fuel pond for very long; the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl meltdown blew a much heavier 1,000-ton concrete lid off of that reactor.
The Japanese government has signed off on Hell’s hot plate either oblivious to the potential consequences or inured to them. Motive can be gleaned, however, when looking at a pattern. Apathy or recklessness do not account for the nation-wide deliberate burning of millions of tons of irradiated rubble, which likely impacts millions of Japanese.
That inexplicable process, which has been demonstrated against in Japan by people angry at getting exposed to additional radiation, volatilizes and mobilizes Fukushima fallout trapped in all manner of material. These radioactive-infused gases travel into the atmosphere impacting Japan and beyond.
Even the incineration of millions of tons of Fukushima debris, debris that would be better left in place as the land is unusable for now anyway, does not present the apocalyptic scenario spelled out if Unit 4’s spent fuel pool fails.
The American and Canadian governments’ response is no response at all. The occasional reply to concerned citizens (who have shared them with EnviroReporter.com) indicates an official response usually long on dismissive rhetoric and short on facts.
All the while the Pacific Ocean is being poisoned with 1,000 tons of highly irradiated water dumping into it from the melted down reactors in a desperate bid to keep them from erupting into their own uncontrollable infernos.
On June 17, an earthquake measuring 6.4 hit off the coast of the prefecture next to Fukushima. All the while a storm with 93 mph winds bore down on the coastal nuclear complex.
Numerous earthquakes have rattled Fukushima since “3/11” including a magnitude 6.8 quake in Fukushima last August. There were reports of cracks in the ground with steam venting from the fractured earth leading to speculation that the nuclear fuel from the reactors was in the groundwater, one of the worst “melt-out” scenarios.
Fear that Unit 4’s heavy spent fuel pool might collapse causing untold misery is based on the inventory of what’s in that pool, which TEPCO has braced from beneath where it spotted a leak in the containment vessel.
There is a reason for this – Unit 4’s spent fuel pond contains enough uranium and plutonium-based fuel rods, which are far more radioactive than fuel assemblies in use in reactor cores, to destroy most if not all of Japan if the rickety pool should collapse to the ground or leak from losing its cooling water.
Such a scenario could cause the 460 tons of irradiated fuel to explode in fire and fission, an inferno that cannot be extinguished by all the water in the world, an inferno that would lead to the mandatory evacuation of the Fukushima-Daiichi site which would then leave an even larger common spent fuel pool untended which would in turn erupt into an inferno of goo that could change civilization as we know it.
The destroyed Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactor Unit 4 didn’t fully melt down like Units 1, 2 and 3 did during the March 11, 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Unit 4 exploded four days later leaving its nuclear reactor spent fuel pool hanging suspended 100 feet in air. Then the building started to lean under the weight of the pool, weakened by its blown out walls.
Instead of rushing to brace this structure, however, the Japanese government has slowly removed the superstructure above and around three quarters of the spent fuel pond. Other than cosmetic changes to the site, such as flimsy coverings for the melted reactors, Japanese officials have proven inept at controlling the calamity and have excelled only at misleading the Japanese people and the rest of the world about how precarious and out of control the debacle is.
The government and TEPCO have not only failed to control this worsening disaster, which both claimed was in “cold shutdown” last December, they have embarked on a series of actions that threaten to bring down the pool even faster than if nothing were done at all.
For over a year, citizens and anti-nuclear activists have repeatedly called for this incredibly unstable structure to be stabilized lest the pool crash to the ground in another earthquake, tsunami or typhoon.
Dale Ramicone, a Glendale resident who operates an online streaming Radiation Station, has advocated reinforcement of Unit 4 with a steel super structure or even hundreds of thousands of sandbags — a convenient option since the super-irradiated site sits on a beach — to brace up the wrecked structure against falling over in an inevitable earthquake.
“I think it is hanging by a thread,” Ramicone says. “Adding more weight to it without strengthening the building’s support structure seems to be a big gamble. Any additional earthquake shocks or even a typhoon might be the the final blow that unleashes a radioactive firestorm.”
The steel lid does none of this and weakens the structure especially in a significant earthquake as it sways back and forth high in the building right over the spent fuel pond, protecting it from nothing except rain when those hot rods need all the water they can get. All the while, the unreinforced and cracked skeleton of the building now has this immense weight it wasn’t designed to support even if it weren’t blown to smithereens.
Japan’s handling of this disaster and its willful and wanton disregard for the well-being of its citizens may destroy the country. Much of it relies on the vagaries of which fault cuts loose with the shaker that brings down the burning pool and which way the wind blows when the fountain of fissioning goo catches fire never to go out.
After reading most of the news here especially the unforgettable fire, I have come to an absolute final conclusion to save Japan and the rest of us the planet world, just as a lay person who wants life not death , is to have Japan declare Fukushima a national sacrifice zone after evacuating all population. Once the whole plant sinks under the ground or partly in the ocean which is already contaminated anyway beyond repair, then start pouring from the air tons and tons of Boron and cement etc. day and night until the crater is completely filled. Just maybe we can save our breathing air this way and people simply don’t eat any more seafood. Any better solution and I urgently want to know! Thanks.
As a species, we seem to be the only one foolish enough to invent things beyond our abilities to control them….This disaster, and the subsequent denial of the truth by all media is amazing. If this isn’t fixed, a good part of the planet will be uninhabitable. Our food chain has already been destroyed by the radiation of fish, soil, crops and air.
I am a historian, and have often wondered if illness, disease, war, plague, etc. is what destroyed the ancient civilizations causing them to vanish overnight. Perhaps it is this same insane denial of the truth (whatever it might have been) that caused it.
We seem to be able to progress only so far before our progress destroys us. I think our demise started with the splitting of the atom. It was a technology that should never have been revealed. If we could have stopped somewhere before WW I in development, we might have been able to go on for centuries. From 1800-1920 We went from candlelight to electric lighting, horse and buggy to autos and aeroplanes. We developed the telephone, telegraph, railroad….so many things that will be remembered as as golden era. Now, we face disaster, and our leaders deny it as if by pretending it doesn’t exist, it won’t hurt us.
We may well be experiencing our own extinction.
Thanks for a great article not seen elsewhere.
@nateobie: We included your nitwiticism as another glaring example of the anonymous ‘experts’ that like to goo up the works by insulting folks here. We don’t explain how “fission works” rather use the word twice in this long piece to refer to the unfortunate process of uncontrolled radioactive goo going critical once again achieving fission outside the (semi) controlled space of an intact and functioning reactor. Professor nateobie here ought to stick to looking at the neat photos.
@nateoble – Could you please educate all of us “uneducated” on how fission really works? If you know something we don’t it would be great to know. I, for one, would love to know that we really don’t have a problem here. Then I could go back to my old easy life and stop worrying.
p.s. great pics tho.
Wow…This author is seriously uneducated on how fission actually works. Go back to school buddy. Stop freaking people out because you are ignorant. All you readers, try getting a second opinion before you believe any one man’s claims. Wow…you must be one of those believers in dihydrogen monoxide.
We will all be dead men walking if reactor #4 becomes the cause of a world-wide nuclear catastrophe. And, if it were not for your amazing articles, Michael, it really would be almost a totally dead silence….with emphasis on “dead”.
Why are not ALL of the major newspapers putting articles like this on their front page, and in the headlines? This is surely denial on steroids!
I thank you again and again, Michael, for your knowledge, your writing and for having the strength and bravery to keep at it, no matter what. If any lives get saved here, it will be thanks to you!
IRRESPONSIBLE, TREASON TO HUMANITY, INCOMPETENCY,TOTAL NEGLECT. THE WORLD IS IN DIRE STRAIT.EVEN YOU THAT PUT THE HEALTH OFF THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN CANNOT ESCAPE THIS DISASTER THAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. GET WITH IT PICK IT UP GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD BEFORE ITS TO LATE.
cant they just nuke the thang?
Exactly! Excellent article.
“We are on our own. But we are not helpless…”
– Michael Collins
“I want to live free, free of contaminated air, water and food.” – Chase
Why and how, did this basic right of existence get corrupted, stolen and forever changed and possibly destroyed?
Does it matter now?
Do the masses really care?
Do most people really understand?
I cannot answer these questions directly, because none of this makes any real sense to me. Corporations and militaristic governments playing God I guess.
from a comment elsewhere:
“The reactor that is my soul has reached criticality.”
– user johnnyo enenews
“Judging by the pollution content of the atmosphere, I believe we have arrived at the late twentieth century.”
–Spock in ‘The Voyage Home’
Sub in ‘radioisotope pollution’ for ‘pollution’ and ‘early twenty-first century’ for ‘late twentieth century’, and I think he’ll have it about right.
Those with huge IQ’s in the industry, or remotely tied with the industry knows these things, yet nothing is done to prevent this outcome? Have we overstepped technology? The powers of magical thinking have brought us to this point. It says a lot about how our psyche’s choose to perceive ultimate destruction. If we could only step out collectively of our current illusion and be adult enough to face and tend to reality. Has television corrupted our minds to this extent? Or is it the brains attempt to calm our unsteady nerves?
The 60 ton lid placed on #4 SRP is protecting it from the structure to be built that will facilitate the eventual removal of the rods for dry cask storage. This cover will ensure any construction debris that could fall, will not hurt the remaining condition of the rods.
Funny how unit 4 exploded when it was out of service for refueling – you even have a picture of its containment lid sittting in its holder. So do tell how did the reactor explode? Also how come no mention of reactor 3 the real story it did explode and it was full of plutonium mox fuel? You know the most toxic substance known to man.
The world leaders are sociopaths! They always end up in control inevitably causing death, misery and suffering. We sheeple just follow along like the blind fools that we all really are.
Greed and stupidity do not make answers for why we are being continually poisoned and tortured in just so many ways. Look all around you and ask why are we continually be subjected to out and out negative scenarios in every way shape and form as we go along here?
The time is now to wake up people! Wake up from the dream they are creating for you, or shall i say nightmare! This is our only chance to change what awaits or future. I will assure you that it will not be pleasant unless we wake up now!!
The people of Japan are “Dead Men Walking” thanks to TEPCO and Government politics….Lies Lies Lies… and soon they might take down the whole world.
Here’s my article that analyzes the likelihood of another big quake, the topic of the last section of your dynamite article:
Humanity at the Height of Folly
Nuclear Power and Earthquake Zones
Michael, Great article. I had not kept up on the lid issue. That is very freaking weird to be sure. Arnie Gunderson keeps telling them to get the fuel rods out of there as soon as possible, but since their logic is so opaque at best we cannot know what Tepco thinks and at worst your speculation may be correct: THESE PEOPLE ARE COMPLETELY BONKERS.
I live in Japan and have written a number of articles about this (see below). Most people here are in complete ingnorance/denial of the seriousness of it all. A professor I know even said an article by Mr. Muramatsu, the diplomat who has done so much to expose the Unit 4 crisis, as “tabloid journalism”! And I am afraid this is typical of the silly pride/stupidity of people in general. Thanks for your great work Michael, we love you, Concrete man
Tokyo Electric Power
Company’s Radioactive Lies
The Arsonist Investigating The Fire
We are fighting the radiation by taking Iodine drops in water, Boron, Green Tea Extract, VitC, D3, Magnesium, and other liquids, capsules. Replaced cows milk with Almond milk because Almonds help kill cancer. Please keep informed!
We are also sealed in the Names of the Father and Son (Yahweh and Yahshua), Revelation 14:1. Now we know WHY!
Yahshua returns SOON!
Please, people, make a positive difference in this worst tragedy ever…
Where is Superman when you really need him ????
Me thinks the nationwide burning of rad debris is to purposely raise the overall background in the country, the same old modus operandi of the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission witnessed here stateside. After all, this Fukushima is an American-esque Chernobyl: created, engineered, and continually educated by American professors — whether we yanks like it or not. Higher background measurements equals less money spent on cleaning up radionuclide contamination as we have learned from your marvelous coverage of the Rocketdyne mess. Higher background also lulls one into a sense of complacency in mistakingly believing food tested on an Inspector device near background is safe to consume; the news is in, IT IS MOST DEFINITELY N-O-T!
‘GENERAL ELECTRIC’ does not have any Japanese in the name. What is going on in Japan today was gleaned from their allies, the Americans — plain and simple. Investigate the authoring of the Japanese Constitution, see for yourself just how postwar Japan came to be…
Next they will declare National Sacrifice Zones in Japan, just like guess where? The good ol’ USA. Gee, thanks so much DOE!
If you are a responsible male, I implore you: get a genetic test before going about creating any new life (ie., baby making). Cesium-137 concentrates in the testes. FYI, UCLA has the capability to run this test. Write Planned Parenthood and teach them the problem please, then maybe free testing for couples will become the norm.
Boycotting General Electric though? Yes, by all means. Let’s start today. Ostracizing Jeffrey Immelt? The President already has, FWIW. Nailing idiots who pursue nuclear anything? As long as we start with the fat cats with deep pockets first (USA, France, Russia, China, UK, Israel, India, Pakistan, Koreas, and et al.)