Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | July 23, 2012

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Continues…

 

 Fukushima is the ghost that refuses to go away…

 

And now almost two years later the nucleaqr fuel rods, the nuclear explosion bits and pieces, and the 4 [four] nuclear reactors in total melt down, have to be dealt with.

Removal is the chosen method. Out of sight — Out f mind…

 

Operations commenced this week to remove nuclear fuel rods from a storage pool at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, some 16 months after the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl occurred at the Japanese site.

Plant operator TEPCO requested media outlets to refrain from filming the delicate and dangerous operations, but aerial images aired on TV and online showed cranes lifting two of the 1535 fuel units from the No 4 reactor building.

The procedure marked the first stage of a programme to remove unused and used fuel from the reactor to counter the risk of further radiation leakage. The process could take many years and most likely decades.

Nuclear engineers have long argued that structural weaknesses in the reactor building, which was severely damaged by an explosion in March 2011, could cause a large-scale catastrophe should another large quake strike the area or by simply remaining  there uncovered and exposed to the elements…

Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University’s department of Nuclear Reactor safety management says that the biggest concern remains the sheer volume of fuel in the storage pools, which, if exposed to the air, would release vast amounts of radiation.

“The amount of caesium-137 in the fuel in the pools is equivalent to 5000 times the amount that was spread by the Hiroshima atomic bomb,” says Koide. “The government has said that the amount of radioactivity released by the three affected reactors following [last year’s disaster] was 168 times that of Hiroshima, so it is clear that we would be looking at a considerably worse outcome should the [reactor number 4] structure be compromised.”

Delicate operation to last decades…

The government used exactly such an outcome in its worse-case scenario analysis following the disasters. It concluded that residents in Greater Tokyo – home to around 35 million people – would need to be evacuated in the wake of such an outcome.

TEPCO has announced that repair work has sufficiently stabilised the structure. Koide is doubtful such operations could have been properly executed under the still high levels of radiation within the plant and surrounding areas.

The first fuel units to be removed are among some 204 that had yet to be used. TEPCO says that these units pose little danger because unused fuel emits low levels of radiation. Operations to remove the 1331 more dangerous used fuel units will not be attempted until a much larger crane has been installed. This will be used to manoeuvre the 100-tonne metal casks that will be required to house the spent fuel units to ensure they are not exposed to the air, says Koide.

TEPCO, which declined to comment on the latest operations due to their “sensitive” nature, estimates that such operations will commence in December 2013, though Koide believes that is ambitious. “It’s a process that carries with it an immense amount of danger,” he says.

In other developments, a second nuclear reactor was taken back online at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture. At the beginning of the month, another reactor at the Oi site became the first to be reactivated since the Fukushima disaster.

 

 

The Japanese government justified the move in the name of supplying sufficient energy in the steamy summer months. A people’s demo with an estimated 370,000 people took to the streets of Tokyo to voice their disapproval of the move in a giant Demonstration co-organized by the Environmental Parliament and the local Anti Nuclear and Green groups.

Maybe the government is listening or waiting for another disaster to happen…

 

 

Yours,

 

Pano

 

PS:

THe saddest thing is that there is no repository for the spent and leaking fuel rods and other nuclear fuel and waste to be permanently stored so we are just exporting the problem… to another community and geography too.

 

 

 

 

 


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