Monday, March 14, 2011

#Fukushima Nuke Plant: Very High Radiation in Reactor No.4, Thanks to Used Fuel Rods

Murphy's law at work: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And spectacularly.

Now the serious, harmful doze of radiation is coming out of the Reactor No.4, the one that was supposed to be "cold" and safe, as it had been shut down for maintenance prior to the earthquake on March 11.

I told you in my previous post that the used fuel rods were stored in a pool within the building. Apparently, that's an industry-wide practice, not just in Japan but everywhere.

Main points from Yomiuri Shinbun (in Japanese; 1:50PM Japan Standard Time, 3/15/2011):

  • After the fire broke out (it has since died down naturally) in the Reactor No.4 building around 9:38AM, the radiation near the storage pool shot up to 400 milli-sievert (or 400,000 micro-sievert). Remember, the radiation at the gate of the plant at 8,217 micro-sievert earlier (see my earlier post) was a big deal.

  • 400K micro-sievert is beyond the point where the risk of cancer increases (100K micro-sievert).

  • In the Reactor No.2, the Suppression pool was probably damaged by the explosion. It is possible that the fuel rods were damaged, and a large amount of radiation started to leak.

  • In the Reactor No.4, the used fuel rods were stored in a storage pool. However, as the power went out and water stopped circulating, the residual heat from the used fuel rods raised the temperature of the pool from the normal 40-degree Celsius to 85-degree Celsius, causing the water level to drop. The used fuel rods were exposed, reacted with steam, producing hydrogen, which led to an explosive fire.

  • In the Reactor No.4, there are 783 used fuel rods in the pool. 300 to 500 used fuel rods are also stored in the Reactors No.1, 2, and 3.

  • Radiation level inside the Plant:

    between the Reactor No.2 and No.3: 30 milli-sievert (30K micro-sievert)
    near the Reactor No.3: 400 milli-sievert (400K micro-sievert)
    near the Reactor No.4: 100 milli-sievert (100K micro-sievert)
    inside the Reactor No.4: 400 milli-sievert (400K micro-sievert)

  • 400K micro-sievert is 100 times as much radiation as what's permissible for a person to be exposed in one year.

  • The government ordered the complete evacuation of the residents within 20-kilometer radius, and suggested that residents in 20- to 30-kilometer radius that they do not go outside and close all windows and doors.

The government waited 5 hours after the explosion at the Reactor 2, and a hour and a half after the fire at the Reactor 4, to tell the residents and the Japanese people about the seriousness of the situation. During that time, I hate to think how many people were unnecessarily exposed to radiation, however minute.

They waited until 11:00AM to tell the world, so that the Prime Minister Naoto Kan could show off he was in charge (he set himself as the head of this commission to tackle the Nuke problem), giving the dire message "personally and directly (his word)" to the Japanese people.

This is beyond grand-standing incompetence. This is criminal.


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