Gundersen: Unit 4 pool can turn into a nuclear reactor as they pull rods up — Bloomberg: Like a “self-sustained chain reaction similar to meltdowns” — NHK: Fuel is 1% plutonium (VIDEO)

Published: November 19th, 2013 at 8:47 am ET


Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen interviewed by Prof. Harvey Wasserman, Nov. 18, 2013 (at 22:00 in): The boron between the nuclear fuel has disintegrated. It was never designed for the temperatures it’s seen and it was never designed for saltwater. So there’s no assurance that you’ve got boron neutron absorbers between the nuclear fuel rods. So you’ve got what we call an inadvertent criticality — you’ve got the chance of the nuclear fuel pool becoming a nuclear reactor when it didn’t want to be, as they pull these rods out. So they have to be extraordinarily careful that they dont snap a rod and extraordinarily careful that as they’re pulling these rods, that the dont get an inadvertent criticality.

Bloomberg, Nov. 18, 2013: Were the rods [in the Unit 4 pool] to break or overheat, it could prompt a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction similar to the meltdowns at three Fukushima reactors.

NHK WORLD, Nov. 18, 2013: Spent fuel contains about one percent plutonium by weight. The spent fuel units at the No.4 reactor building have been in the storage pool for at least 3 years. Each is said to have up to 7,500 trillion becquerels of radioactivity. Because of this, the units are stored in water that can block radiation.

Full Gundersen interview available here

Published: November 19th, 2013 at 8:47 am ET


Related Posts

  1. NHK: Fuel removal at Unit 4 underway — BBC: Concern casks not watertight, rods would contact air — WSJ: Exposure to air can cause sustained nuclear reaction — AFP: Tokyo evacuations if uncontrolled nuclear conflagration? AP: Rods contain plutonium, experts concerned quake to hit during process November 18, 2013
  2. Gundersen: 200 brand new fuel bundles in Fukushima Unit 4 pool are most at risk to start nuclear chain reaction — If too close together during removal, there will be a criticality — “They have to be very, very cautious” (AUDIO) September 27, 2013
  3. Gov’t Report: Criticality suspected to have occurred in Fukushima fuel pool — Nuclear chain reaction after massive explosion at Unit 3 compressed fuel together? Concerned about ‘substantial damage’ to fuel (VIDEO) July 4, 2014
  4. 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
  5. Gundersen: Fuel already “very close to going critical” at Unit 4 — Must be extraordinarily careful about starting chain reaction (VIDEO) November 15, 2013

52 comments to Gundersen: Unit 4 pool can turn into a nuclear reactor as they pull rods up — Bloomberg: Like a “self-sustained chain reaction similar to meltdowns” — NHK: Fuel is 1% plutonium (VIDEO)

  • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

    How about the nuclear reaction when these assemblies are added to the Common Spent Fuel Pool?

    • scottyji scottyji

      Remarkable that all we really have to go on is TEPCO's word regarding the daily transfer of these assemblies. Given what's at stake here, where are neutral observers who can honestly verify the transfer?

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    How are they going to put them safely in the CSFP…when the CSFP suffered the same destruction as the reactors during the earthquake/tsunami?

    How do I know?'s commonsense.

    The CSFP 50 meters from Unit 4.
    April 6

    It too burned..

    Fukushima nuclear chains explosions 26 june 2011 – esplosioni nucleari a catena

    • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

      Arnie has one thing's self-sustaining.

    • Socrates

      Heart of the Rose,

      Could you explain more about the 26 june 2011 explosioni nucleari a catena?

      Not only is the music annoying but it is very difficult to determine what is happis verning and at what point into the video it happens.

      Sorry but I was at an NRC meeting until late last night. Maybe you could connect the dots for us… I presume this is evidence that SFP 4 burned and there was an explosion. This is very important information… no doubt the video was posted by an Italian and while my lstin is excellent, my Italian is very poor.

      Thanks. The whole world may depend on this and I am tired of viewing so many grainy films of JFK as the 50th anniversity of that event approaches.

      • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

        YES..I will try to give it ..a good description..but I am away from my office..and will need a little time.

        OT..I wonder a bit how a person can come see me after years for endless miles.only to be arrested ..a few blocks from the house..
        I'm not paranoid..or anything…LOL.

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    PS..I just don't understand why people aren't more horrified when they watch the webcam links.
    'Normalcy bias' is a strange and sticky thing.

    • ToBeExpected ToBeExpected

      Heart… you know people are horrified, deeply horrified, but it's deep seated and talking about that and how they really feel, is not therapeutic to anyone, as the situation is no longer remediable. There appears to be no answer and especially so if you listen to the likes of Lauren Mueret, Arnie Gunderson, and Dr. Caldicott… they tell it like it is… and there doesn't seem to be a lot humans can do now. 🙁

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    I really was not speaking about..about the response..from the people.
    Human response is very wide in range and depth.
    And I no responsibility for..their response nor judge.
    I mostly am referring to our opposition.
    And to some point even those anti-nuke.

    How can they go on day after day..spewing radioactive death and the company line..when by now most have seen these clips..
    They watch us day after day.
    How do they keep up the ruse? ..etc,etc.
    I'm still waiting..for the little light to come on…ya..hope..ya.
    A person would think would happen out of horror and fear..but no.

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    Why do I caution the anti-nuke people?
    Because..some are being taken for a little ride.

  • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

    "Today (November 19, 2013), the workers have removed 8 unused fuel assemblies into the cask as of 1:30PM, according to Nuclear Regulation Agency (secretariat of Nuclear Regulation Authority). The Agency thinks the workers will be able to remove additional 10 fuel assemblies to fill the cask.

    There are six group of workers who take turns in removing the fuel assemblies so that each group of workers spends less than 2 hours on the operating floor."

    That is some video, Heart. Glad to not have been on the night shift at Fuku in June,2011. Can imagine what it sounded like. PattieB used to go on and on about problems at the CSFP.

    I am not an advocate of emptying the SFPs at Fuku. At this point, I'd favor filling them with borated sand, then capping the reactors with a concrete sarcophagus. I put the chance spilled fuel pellets, and criticalities at about 99%. One of those times when you just know something really bad is going to happen.

  • Socrates

    NRC has no permanent repository for nuclear materials and spent fuel rods. I spoke to their representatives last night in Carlsbad, California.

    The NRC has filed a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Report that permits it to store radioactive materials onsite until they can figure out what to do with it.

    The NRC is seeking public comment.

    The plan permits them to use a one-size-fits-all approach to environmental impacts rather than having to examine the specifics of each situation.

    Reprocessing plutonium is not worthwhile, according to the NRC as well as this video.

    Reactors are being closed in US by grassroots action – five in sll.

    Mobile Chernobyl is a parking lot for nuclear waste. These interim sites would become permanent.

    listen to the Wasserman video and submit your comments.

    Waste confidence rule was thrown out and the NRC can not renew or issue licenses.

    The NRC wants to be able to store feel temporarily, semi-permanently, and permanently without a permanent storage repository!!!

    Please listen to Michael and Harvey and comment to the NRC.


  • Socrates

    There are so many groups at the NRC meeting who are pushing for thorium reacyors or who believe that nuclear energy is green. The front groups are shills.

    Fortunately, people like Gary Hendricks, Donna Gilmore, Ace Hoffman and many others were there to make public comments. These people are appalled that dangerous spent fuel will be stored onsite. Some of that fuel is of a very hot variety that takes teenty years to cool.

    Although I had registered in advance, my name did not sppear on the register. I was unable to stay until 10:00 pm in order to speak. They placed me at the goot of the calendar.

    Please contact the NRC to make your views known. Posting by fax or internet is possible. Listen to the Wasserman video posted here. The idea of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement and the overruled Waste Confidence rule is a bit convoluted. It means providing a generic carte blanche to the nuvlear industry to dtart licensing and relicensing nuclear reactors by sllowing waste to be dtored however they want, and where ever thry want gor whatever period of time.

  • ToBeExpected ToBeExpected

    I see what you mean.

    To me people in power, who deny or try to stymie efforts to let the truth out, seem to all have an internal switch, and it can be flicked either way, depending on how the 'ruler in power' is predisposed. Whether he is for himself or for the people.

    For me, the clues lie in the horrendous acts that leaders have carried out, one example is the blue eyed baby that Hitler once was. What flicked his switch cannot have been of human origin. Again, another clue that I often see and hear about, is of those who say, 'I don't know what came over me'… after they committed horrendous crimes or of those who openly say, God told me to do this or that.

    I know I am entering into the realm of spiritual dimensions here, but for me, there is no other explanation, there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour – it without conscience, it is animalistic, demonic. It's as if these ones have been hypnotized into doing awful things to their fellow man and they have no clue what they are doing. Everyone can see it or what they are doing, except them.

  • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

    About remediation.
    Little can be done at this point, IMHO.
    We have 3 coriums somewhere under the plants.
    We have groundwater carrying nuclear debris from corium lava tubes into the Ocean.
    (Wish they would stop pumping water into those 3 reactors, already.)

    Here is what CAN be done.
    Locate the damn corium. 😉
    Double Impermeable Wall, completely around Units1-4, 100' deep and 100' between.
    Excavate between these walls.
    Reinforced concrete between the walls as foundation for sarcophagus.
    (This stops groundwater from flowing through 3 corium lava tubes, and contaminating the Pacific Ocean.)
    Cover ground inside foundation with 10' thick reinforced concrete.
    Borated sand or concrete in reactors/containments/torus/SFPs1-4.
    Sarcophagus 50' above roof level over Reactors1-4.
    Finally, if corium is below 100' deep, drill to it, and freeze it in place with liquid nitrogen, if it is still moving.
    (Radioactive corium volcanoes would be such a problem.)

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    I believe they can see themselves…in the mirror of narcissism.
    Narcissism is part of the composite of the psychopathic/sociopathic mentality.

    They only see what is in the mirror that is before them.
    What they see is shaded and other psychological problems.
    Even now the mirror is broken..yet they still admire themselves in the shards…


    • razzz razzz

      New word for you…
      kak·is·toc·ra·cy (kk-stkr-s, käk-)
      n. pl. kak·is·toc·ra·cies
      Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

  • obewanspeaks obewanspeaks

    Heart…Excellent! 🙂

  • ToBeExpected ToBeExpected

    I think you have a very valid point. It didn't occur to me, the sociopathic angle.

    There must be an awareness of some kind or other. I see this awareness no matter how clouded, as the predisposition I spoke of, of the psychological dysfunction perhaps, and that is capitalized on, by those who would wish us, humans ill, hence the spiritual dimension. They are hence manipulated and become controlled puppets…. a deeply sad but interesting subject.

    • mairs mairs

      There's an element of sociopathy where they don't learn from past mistakes. They don't learn from experiencing negative consequences. This trait is described in the literature on the subject.

      They also find it interesting to elicit negative reactions in other people, and enjoy causing fear and horror, as if they are conducting an interesting experiment to see what affects humans, whom they don't identify with. They themselves don't react to horrific images or films when tested. Their brains don't register them as any different than anything else.

      I would say that the people the nuclear industry picked to sew disinformation and lies wherever Fukushima is discussed, probably enjoy doing it. You'll notice that the psychopath's complete contempt for humans is always on display in exchanges with them. They can't hide that, nor would they even want to. It permeates their being and is part of their identity. Professing their concern for humankind always rings false, and they come off as repellant.

      • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

        Sociopathy is well rewarded in modern society.

        Profile of the Sociopath

        Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed."

        "In the 1830's this disorder was called "moral insanity".

        It's a mind game on their part.
        A lack of real identity ..masked by a corrupt consciousness.

  • Nick

    I read a teeny tiny blip about Fukushima in a local paper this morning. It basically said…"work has begun on Unit #4 spent fuel pool , which was damaged by a hydrogen explosion in 2011, to transfer nuclear fuel bundles to a safer location, the common spent fuel pool. The clean-up at the damaged reactor complex continues……."

    No mention of how bad the situation really is.

    • jec jec

      Anyone who is ignoring the situation, lets just say its survival of the fittest..and they are not. Sadly, their/our families will pay a high price. We, however, may just have enough time and information to help our children…

  • mairs mairs

    (Redacted name) “What do you assess was the cause of the fire in Unit 4 last night?”

    Mike Weber: (Redacted).

    Male Participant: (Redacted).

    Mike Weber: (Redacted).

    (Name redacted): Yes. Okay. So, it is in spent fuel rather than –“

    Mike Weber: “That’s right. The pool structure is no longer in existence. The walls have collapsed. So, you have spent fuel sitting there in a pile.”

  • obewanspeaks obewanspeaks

    These people cover the topic many times in varied articles in different/perceptive ways..

  • nuclear_genie nuclear_genie

    How could there be a critical event? Each assembly will be removed separately, so no two can touch. The boron plates are clad in stainless steel, which resists corrosion. Is the seawater still in the pool, or was it flushed out or diluted with fresh water after the power was restored?

    Could there be a fire if an assembly was exposed to air? Don't think so. Do the math. There are 1331 used fuel assemblies. At the time of the earthquake, they were creating 2 megawatts or 2,000 kilowatts of heat. A year later, the heat production was down to 1 megawatt or 1,000 kilowatts. That is the way these things work as the radionuclides decay. By now, it is probably near a half a megawatt or 500 kilowatts. So now each of the 1331 15 foot long assemblies is creating 500/1331 kilowatts, or about 0.375 kilowatts or 375 watts. In other words, three of these fuel assemblies create as much heat as a toaster.

    • mairs mairs

      TEPCO itself said that the boron wafers have deteriorated and are most likely gone. I certainly wouldn't want to contradict them when they actually admit to any damage.

    • jec jec

      Really? All it takes is ONE, Arnie Gunderson is pretty clear and correct on that. Its not like using a toaster oven, its a nuclear criticality. Not a small or gentle event, then add the PU factor..

    • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

      Nuclear_genie: Ya see, sport, those fuel pellets are still throwing off heat, neutrons, and radiation. 😉

      You are describing the situation, assuming that your math is correct, of an intact spent fuel assembly.

      If, instead, you have a leaker assembly break open during handling, dumping the spent fuel pellets, then the configuration changes.

      Suddenly, there is less water to cool the fuel, so the temperature rises. Suddenly, the fuel isn't nicely spaced apart, over the length of a fuel assembly. So you CAN have a criticality, which pushes the heat and neutrons way up. The water could begin to boil. The fuel pellets could begin to melt together, could become molten, and could flow under a rack of fuel nearby, or burn down into a rack of spent fuel if the fuel pellets were dropped on top of a full rack.

      TEPCO has no plan to handle spilled spent fuel. (Why in hell not?)

      There is no plan to put out a spent fuel fire, or a zirconium fire, burning underwater. Hydrogen is explosive. Vapors of zirconium and cesium are explosive. What, then? We worry about such things a lot around here.

    • razzz razzz

      nuclear_genie: Only a nuclear apologist would average the heat output of 1500+ nuclear bundles. If you haven't been paying attention, they recently removed the entire core load and placed it in the spent fuel pool, some of those are still extremely hot. How else were they going to replace the stainless steel shroud (reflector) and where else would they put about 550 bundles of fuel except in the spent fuel pool?

      And the main worry is if any of the bundles in the spent fuel pool are damaged or not if either by overheating or from falling debris or was the video of Unit 4's blowout panels and roof missing and spent fuel pool steaming away to expose the top of the fuel and fuel racks just my imagination?

  • Bones Bones

    Watching Arnie's video really makes me wonder why he isn't Obama's right-hand man in all nuclear matters. In a perfect world, he would lead the U.S. to tackle this problem. Democracy, whoo!

  • TylerDerdon

    Just a thought and I'm sure it's been discussed already, but… if Fukushima were to have a meltdown and or blow up, is there anything stopping the explosion from involving the spent fuel in storage on the premises? I hear everyone talking about the the 1400/1500 rods at Plant 4, but what about all the thousands of rods that are within a potential blast radius? Seems to me that it would just be a chain reaction and would be far worse than what's being discussed. If anyone has a link discussing this please share. Or Arnie, could you address this in your next video? Thanks.

    • jec jec

      Bet the silence from the NRC and TEPCO is deafing on your question. GOOD question!!!!

    • mairs mairs

      Arnie did address it in his "gamma shine event" comment. I can't recall if he said anything about a chain reaction involving the other pools, or if he was just talking about having to abandon the site and then everything else overheating and going off, and then Daini, and then other reactors in the chain as people evacuated.

  • Grampybone Grampybone

    "Because of this, the units are stored in water that can block radiation." NHK: This is factually incorrect. Boron does not block radiation, it prevents concentration of beta and gamma emissions. This is a far cry from "blocking" radiation which compounds concentration when Boron levels drop. The other two news reports are fairly accurate. I hate to admit it, but since 3/11/11 Bloomberg has been on the ball more than most news outlets who attempt to cover this story. Some reporters from Reuters have also been accurate and unfiltered in their assessment of the FNPP. Honestly all have been terrible compared to ENENEWS. Started reading here 3/12/11. Mochizuki and the Fuku 50 are my heroes till the day I die.

    • razzz razzz

      You can't expect to much from a bunch of layman interspersed with misdirection plays. Have to say that most of the links aren't half bad.

    • mairs mairs

      I have seen stories that don't even mention the bad endings. One at HP about the inspiring rancher who still takes care of his horses in the no-go zone. No mention that half of them have died so far.