Gundersen: Pyrophoric fire if fuel rods in Unit 4 pool are not cooled — Potential contamination of entire northern hemisphere (VIDEO)

Published: May 21st, 2012 at 2:30 pm ET


Arnold Gundersen with a new report on the Fukushima meltdowns and their worldwide implications
IF YOU LOVE THIS PLANET, A Weekly Radio Program with Dr. Helen Caldicott
May 18, 2012

Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Chief Nuclear Engineer: Unit 4 is weakened… I think about a M7.0-M7.5 quake will knock that building to the ground…

The fuel is still hot enough where it can begin to burn… cesium and plutonium and all that…

It would volatilize as the fuel burns, it creates a pyrophoric fire which is a fire that water cannot put out.

Likely resulting in an evacuation of Tokyo at the least, and potentially contamination of the entire northern hemisphere.

Listen to the hour-long broadcast here

Published: May 21st, 2012 at 2:30 pm ET


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  2. Gundersen: Up to 3 explosions hit Fukushima Unit 4 after 3/11 — Study: There was fire in its spent fuel pool — NPR: Big worry since fire weakened building’s structure (AUDIO) November 21, 2013
  3. Ex-Fukushima Worker: High risk they’ll break fuel rods in Unit 4 pool — Gundersen: Moving fuel risks nuclear chain reaction; You can’t stop it, no control rods to control it August 14, 2013
  4. Gundersen: Fukushima Unit 4 fuel racks distorted from quake and roof falling into pool — Nuclear rods likely to snap and won’t be able to be removed (AUDIO) September 12, 2013
  5. Gundersen: Spent fuel likely to break when pulled from Fukushima Unit 4 pool — Racks have been distorted; Fuel rods overheated — Suspects some will be stuck there for long, long time (AUDIO) September 9, 2013

60 comments to Gundersen: Pyrophoric fire if fuel rods in Unit 4 pool are not cooled — Potential contamination of entire northern hemisphere (VIDEO)

  • Time Is Short Time Is Short

    Oh, please, enough already. Either show me a dated, confirmable picture of #4 SFP still there, or shut up.

    'Potential' contamination of the Northern Hemisphere? We passed that stage a year ago.

    Let's get some real truth. What's the status of the SFP's at #5 & #6? What's the status of the Common SFP? What about the core in #4? Are #5 & #6 reactors really safely shut down, or is it 'status unknown'?

    • timebomb

      why not shut up yourself? the entire northern hemisphere is a massive place. that's a bold statement.

      @ TraderGreg yeah big balls posting an anonymous comment on a message board. get off your but and do something yourself.

      keep up the good work tough guys.

    • I agree with Time is Short

      Although I've repeatedly said I appreciate Fairewinds' efforts, there are too many unanswered questions and too many conflicting bits of evidence about spent fuel pools 3 and 4

      No one talks about the common spent fuel pool

      5 and 6 were reported to have damage but no updates

      No updates on Tokai either

      If Tepco was sincere about transparency, they wouldn't have banned freelance journalists from taking their cameras on the tour of Fukushima

      I'm tired of dire predictions without concrete evidence concerning the state of the various reactors and spent fuel pools.

      • timebomb

        yes Arnie, shut up about 3 and 4 now that the government is being forced to hold press conferences about it.

        enough with the 3 and 4 already, Arnie. you should be talking about 5/6 and the common pool since they suffered so much damaage are a massive threat. right.

      • I feel the same way. Openness is the key to Fukushima. There has been a continuous stream of deception, deliberate ignorance, and arrogant denial of the facts.

    • tomarsandbeyond tomarsandbeyond

      Arnie is asked similar questions each time he is interviewed and has to cover the same ground repeatedly. There is probably a limit to what the Tepco people will tell him because he is no longer part of the establishment. He is knowledgeable, well-spoken, but an outsider like the rest of us. We need more insiders to break ranks and tell us more. Arnie can help us interpret the information when they do.

  • TraderGreg

    TIS – I will second your comment. As much as I like Arnie Gundersen I am getting sick and tired of him beating around the bush. There are times to be cautious and there are times to show some balls…

    • Arnie has tried balls before – it got him blackballed.
      Jaczko too.

      Noone but Arnie is telling us anything.

      Might work better if we encourage Arnie rather than beating him up.
      Just a suggestion …

      • blackbeer blackbeer

        I will never bad mouth Arnie, I have way too much respect for him but I totally agree with majia. How long must we be kept in the dark about conditions in Japan. I have just spent the last 3 days locked into many live stream reporters presenting what is happening on the ground in the windy city. There is no doubt in my mind where we the people stand in the eyes of those in power. We have no value what so ever. Most of us have been on this site for well over a year and are still debating fact and fiction. We still don't have a clue as to what is going on. I for one, am totally fed up with being treated like an ignorant stooge in a world made for the delights of the rich and powerful. I just wonder how much longer this will go on and if there is any hope for the massive revolt that will be necessary to bring about meaningful change on this planet. It's not looking good……………


        • TraderGreg

          I don't even have stomach to watch these things. Things went way too far – but we as a society had let them to do it. We were complacent for too long. Look what the TPTB are doing to the Ron Paul campaign. We can disagree with Ron Paul on thousands things but he is the only hope for the change. We need first restore the liberty and than worry about other details. All others are just the agents of the real owners of this country – to paraphrase the late George Carlin (RIP).

        • Let's recall how Arnie was right when Japanepco was wrong. Many times.

      • Time Is Short Time Is Short

        Well, that's probably true. Busby is pretty quiet, compared to last year, and Caldicott doesn't get into the engineering aspects. I guess Arnie is the only one really telling us anything near the truth.

        I'd still shake his hand and buy him a beer, regardless. And I've always wondered about the pressure he's under. He and his wife must be living on Prozac.

        • There are many dimensions of truth to the Fukushima story. I love Helen and I admire Leuren Moret. I think she has the courage to be a good truthteller.

        • Actually, he's been active throughout.

          クリス·バスビー May 12th 2012

          If you're a Google Chrome user type chris busby into the location (URL) bar, press Enter [if you don't have Live Search on] then click "More Search Tools" at the left hand side which lets you get the latest for the last hour, day, week, month or year.

          The latest for Busby is about May 12th, 2012.

        • arclight arclight

          hi time is short

          heres an informal talk with busby AND bob?

          great interview/chat

          taken at the geneva convention… (wish i went! 🙁 )

          • Thanks arclight – saw that one.

            Busby [sans chapeau] with Robert – Discussion [50min]

            The first part is *highly* interesting – talking about people who were killed for various reasons – I'll have to replay it to figure out what he was talking about. Mentions a guy found riddled with bullet holes that were photoshopped out later to hide evidence.

            (Interesting, because it shows that Busby and his friend know what they're up against – very aware of it. Arnie would be aware of it too).

            They're wondering who is pulling the strings behind the WHO – a mysterious "they", and tracking it back in history to 1949. Talks about how AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) became the DOE (actually part of the war machine). How DOE is not your normal regular department – it's part and parcel of the military, a major arm of the military.

            The military attache for the U.S. mission told him (just before Iraq War) directly to "shut up" about depleted uranium. "You just better be quiet."

            Then the lady-interviewer says:

            "You're a brave man Robert."

            Him: "I'm not a brave man, just someone with a big mouth who can't keep it shut."

            Anyway, it'll take me time to get a full transcript – the above is only the first 5 min of a 50 min video.

            • arclight arclight

              info on bob

              he was at the front of some of the talks

              he has dealt with the issue of depleted uranium

              he has a working knowledge of whos who in the who!

              i suspect he lives in geneva as he knows alot about it

              he has been involved with the campaign against electromagnetic damage and knows where the funding goes

              he confirms the university/who etc funding "with strings attached" and knows the percentage of funding that is "without strings" as 18 percent

              he must work with or in some way connected to the cultural attache to get that sort of heads up? maybe?

              he was a teacher or involved in the teaching proffession
              lecturer, university or school 30 years ago..

              oh and belinda gates eh! who would have guessed?? lol!
              what a cheeky girl she is? computer screens cause disease?
              lucky for polio though and any cancers caused are treatable with only a small statistical chance of death.. so everything is A OK 🙁 /sarc

              • arclight arclight

                he was at the front of some of the talks.. meant

                siiting in the second row seat at one of the talks …

      • dharmasyd dharmasyd

        Absolutely PU 239. We need to stop shooting the messengers.
        Many Plusses.

        • I second that. Read just above what I said regarding:


          and this will explain why Arnie and others have to be *extremely* careful what, where and how they say things.

          • moonshellblue moonshellblue

            PU239, The IAEA is the one pulling the strings of the WHO simply stated. Thanks for the link I look forward to listening to the whole video later today.

            • arclight arclight

              might be worth downloading moonshellblue as the subscription alert didnt work for me and others.. not sure if that is from the uploader or if its "someone" trying to block the circulation… and you gotta wonder why if thats the case… not… ;/

              great interview
              worthy of the great jeremy paxman (pronuke prohighdose prothefukushimachildrenshouldstayinfukushima yea that jeremy!! 🙁 )

            • I know WHO answers to the IAEA, but Busby and 'Robert' in this video are trying to identify a mysterious 'they' that is pulling strings behind it all.

              Not sure if they concluded it was simply the IAEA, the Rothschilds, aliens or someone else.

              I shall listen again and report back …

              • arclight arclight

                the WHO has to apply for specialized funding for nuclear issues and the funding (with strings attached) is from the private nuclear corporations

                the iaea has its own seperate funding and maybe acts as a fundraiser? but "bob" didnt mention in detail…

                • arclight arclight

                  same for the universities etc too!

                • arclight arclight

                  to clarify pu

                  the WHO has to apply for specialized funding for nuclear issues and the funding (with strings attached) is from the private nuclear corporations and "interested" member states..

          • arclight arclight

            and this will explain why Arnie and others have to be *extremely* careful what, where and how they say things.

            err we are ok though pu? arent we..

            😉 a bit of risk for 350,000 children and the rest has got to be worth some risk..

            and maybe the antinuke campaign needs another matyr to wake people up…

            thats why the pronukers cant go that road… busby would be dead now.. hes easily traceable and doesnt strike me as a combat warrior! so whats the hold up..

            in short

            PR propaganda and censorship.. they are holding a delicate hand of cards that threatens to spill out, because of the internet.. and activists are making better use of it now than even during the bp gulf disaster (unfortunately)

            the pro nukes know the day of judgement is coming and like the natzis becoming kinder in certain situations toward the end of the war and they could see war crime tribunals on the horizon

            fear on the other foot imo!!

            • arclight arclight

              that was unfortunately that the net activists couldnt utilise the web better during the bp gulf disaster.. me bad..

            • I was just thinking: didn't the Nazis get a lot uglier just before the end of the war – just prior to getting to that nicer period?

              I suspect we're just coming up to that ugly period – both in terms of the fight we have to fight and the level of emissions.

              • arclight arclight

                the guy is Robert James Parsons

                he will be on RT on the 23 and the 24

                he will be talking about the effects of depleted uranium
                in connection with fallujah

                the programme may be quite shocking and graphic…

                worth waiting for

                • arclight arclight

                  no confirmation on mr parsons being on the show with busby tommorrow but i found this article by him

                  UN-BACKED COVER UP
                  Deafening silence on depleted uranium
                  In spite of the growing number of unexplained deaths and illnesses among servicemen returning from the Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo, UN agencies have, to different degrees, cast a veil of silence over the chemical and radiological hazards of depleted uranium. It was not until this January that the World Health Organisation proposed a study of DU’s effects on the peoples of the Gulf region.
                  by Robert James Parson


                  interesting guy

      • Spectrometising

        has Arnies chemist associate any awareness of the reactivity profile of Zirconium and cesium. Interesting in my layman chemist interest.

        Here is Zirconium.

        1,855° C (3,371° F)
        Zirconium, Melting point

        4,409° C (7,968° F)
        Zirconium, Boiling point

        28.39° C (83.1° F)
        Caesium, Melting point

        670.8° C (1,240° F)
        Caesium, Boiling point

        "and cesium will react violently, even explosively, with an excess of zirconium powder [Ellern 1968. p. 249]."

        The point is for me, how well versed is Arnies chemist in these reactivity profiles.
        Only Zirc and water are mentioned.

        • Sickputer

          Arnie has excellent knowledge and doesn't need a private chemist coach. He also doesn't post here mainly because of the signal to noise ratio.

          Feel free to enlighten us on zirconium theory. Philipupnorth and many of us await with bated breath for another critique.

          In case you think I am sarcastic just reread your comment to Philip on April 18 and we will all examine who is "accurate". I took it in a bad way myself and I am not even PUN.

          SP: "Amongst many Usenet signals there must be an occasional noise of corrective action". Usenet 1990.

          • Spectrometising

            Thanks Sickputer……The question is, can a partial truth be as good as, or even useful when a whole truth is necessary?

            Lets say the Zirconium/Cesium explosion (Documented) i outline makes any fuel rod a potential roman candle,…. even without water for the hydrogen or oxygen from water, ……..according to published government reactivity profiles i quote, what then??

   (Reactivity profile:)

            Are dry fuel rod assemblies a potential for similar explosions, or indeed the one which has already happened?
            Does the nuclear industry need these additional vectors for lets say chemical instability as an accepted part of the known risk?
            What does Arnies chemist think about this?
            I for one would like Arnies chemist to address this obvious question.

            This reminds me of other simplistic scenarios in which CO2 causes extinction, when we already have that in part from more complex anthropochemical activity with respect to herbicides and chemical pollutants for instance.

            If it sounds like a kindergarten lecture and it looks like a kindergarten lecture, then it probably is.

            At least he has some of us thinking 🙂

            • Spectrometising

              Sickputer, professionals have associates to make up for any lack of expert opinion in other fields. It is quite common, so we can lay that to rest.

              Sickputer quote: "Arnie has excellent knowledge and doesn't need a private chemist coach."

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    Bad news is hard to take for most people… they can only take it in small bits over a long period of time, if at all.

    That is how change happens for most people.

    Here is another little bite sized chunk..

    Digest this one for awhile

    Comparing Contaminated Zones Around Chernobyl And Fukushima Ocean Radiation Released; via A Green Road Blog

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    How To Prevent Any New Nuclear Power Plants From Being Built, Shut Down Old Ones, Switch To 100% Renewables; via A Green Road

    There is always hope… never give up.

    • richard richard

      @AGR – wow, you certainly don't give up. Great work, it's appreciated. I'll try to drop into your blog more often. Thanks for the effort.

  • TraderGreg

    Check the TEPCO webcam now. Unless there is still some leftover fog the R4 building is reduced to one level only now. It is still too early to conclude and I hope we will get better view as the day progresses.

    • moonshellblue moonshellblue

      TG the webcam from May 21 was unreal the steam completely obscured the view of all the reactors and seems to be emanating from the area of Reactor 5 and 6. Perhaps they are releasing steam in massive amounts but it was not fog as during a short clip you could see clouds moving in the opposite direction.

  • TraderGreg

    Maybe I was wrong – the R4 building is still there. No change.

  • FaraFola

    How about a liquid nitrogen, it's pretty cold. Could they freeze somehow those rods in pool, I've understand that temperature is a part of this problem. My opinion is, that all efforts should focus a SFP4 now, +10.000 rods sounds pretty scary

    • The Blue Light.

      You could be on to something there. You lower an upturned metal can over the fuel rods and then using liquid nitrogen in pipes to freeze the water inside the metal can. This would hold the rods in place and reinforce any rods that have been damaged. Then remove the can and defrost the contents into a long term storage container, Jobs done. Brilliant.
      I'm off to the patent office quick.

  • TraderGreg

    FF – sounds like a great idea but it may not work. I must admit that my last physics class at university was very long time ago, but we have qualified folks here: PU239, Taco et al. IIRC the nitrogen stays liquid b/c it is under high pressure. Once you increase the pressure the liquid nitrogen will turn into gas. Physics majors – please correct me if I am wrong.

    • Obvious question: how do you put out a pyrophoric fire of this kind?

      A Class D fire extinguisher is normally used for pyrophoric fires. They can contain sodium chloride [& thermoplastic additive], Copper based (Copper Powder Navy125S) developed by the U.S. Navy in the 70s, dry graphite, or sodium carbonate.

      A pyrophoric substance (from Greek πυροφορος, purophoros, "fire-bearing") is a substance that will ignite spontaneously in air.[1] Examples are iron sulfide and many reactive metals including uranium, when powdered or sliced thin. Pyrophoric materials are often water-reactive as well and will ignite when they contact water or humid air. They can be handled safely in atmospheres of argon or (with a few exceptions) nitrogen. Most pyrophoric fires should be extinguished with a Class D fire extinguisher for burning metals.

      DU projectile ordnance is often incendiary because of its pyrophoric property.

    • I think it's over to Uncle Arnie for this one, but let's have a quick stab at it:

      Two possible dangers

      liquid nitrogen (LN2)freezing pipes too quickly causing them to crack and therefore releasing a lot more radiation
      liquid nitrogen, because it has very little heat capacity [takes a minimal amount of heat to bring to boil], 'flashing' (converting immediately) to gas and carrying radioactive gas with it
      nitrogen + hydrogen = ammonia (a hazard)

      That being said, the Chernobyl fire was extinguished by a combined effort of helicopters dropping over 5,000 metric tons of sand, lead, clay, and neutron absorbing boron onto the burning reactor – and injection of liquid nitrogen.

      So, LN2 was used at Chernobyl, and I'm wondering how it was used, and to what effect.

      I think there might also be the problem of finding or manufacturing enough LN2 to do the job.

  • TraderGreg

    decrease the pressure…

  • RutherfordsGhost

    At the end of the day, we are talking potentially about a blob of Corium at 4000C of possible mass of 180 tonnes plunging into the ground under its own mass.

    Is everyone actually clear about this?

    • moonshellblue moonshellblue

      Still, I mean after a year decay heat of Corium at 4000c. Hmm I'm not sure about that if that is true would it still be laying upon the concrete containment floor as Arnie has stated.

    • ageezerofgiza

      Absolutely, but as I see it there are 2 options:

      Option 1 – the blob stays integral and keeps going down. Eventually, it is so far down it is no danger to the biosphere.

      Option 2 – the blob gradually disperses along the natural fissures and interstices of natural strata, and eventually cannot maintain its liquidity and gells. It is solid, and highly radioactive, and might still pose a danger to the biosphere. It will need disposing of a la TMI2. It will not be as far down as Option 1. Indeed it might be quite shallow.

      {These options ignore interaction with groundwater which might result in steam explosion [hasn't happened] or steam expulsion through fissures [might well be happening].}

    • moonshellblue moonshellblue

      "The fast erosion phase of the concrete basemat lasts for about an hour and progresses into about one meter depth, then slows to several centimeters per hour, and stops completely when the melt cools below the decomposition temperature of concrete (about 1100 °C). Complete melt-through can occur in several days even through several meters of concrete; the corium then penetrates several meters into the underlying soil, spreads around, cools and solidifies.[3]" Wikipedia

  • Pat Kittle


    Two questions:

    1. If the "spent" fuel in these nuclear fuel pools is still so incredibly hot, why was it no longer being used as fuel?

    2. How about if a nuclear weapon was detonated as far underground in as geologically stable a place as possible, and nuclear waste dumped into the resulting cavern? It seems as though that would have been considered, but I've never once seen it suggested or refuted.

    Thanks to you and everyone in Japan and elsewhere who post uncensored updates.

    And my best wishes for the Japanese.

  • moonshellblue moonshellblue

    Why are they not building a structure or frame over Reactor 4? Obviously they can get close enough as we have seen them walking around the pool. My spouse has suggested using epoxy to cover the reactor after a frame has been built. I have not seen any activity concerning construction on site, unless I'm missing something.