Interview with Nuclear Engineer Chris Harris
June 21, 2012
At ~30:00 in
Chris Harris, former licensed Senior Reactor Operator and engineer: Instead of waiting until 2015 to remove the undamaged fuel from Unit 4 — which implicates that there is plenty of damaged fuel there too that they can’t even touch — they’re going to try to do it this year. Now don’t ask me how. That’s an engineering feat in itself, because you’ve got to keep it submerged, but they’re going to step up their efforts.
"The Fukushima situation aside…" Really? Presumably, that's why you are here reading and contributing. It's also the only thing, regardless of your true intentions, that matters at all around here. I've read a few of your comments, and I don't like them. You sound, for the most part, like you're commenting about the latest tech gadget on Gizmodo or something. Aloof, disinterested, dumbly hopeful, and acutely interested in defending yourself. We'll never meet, but I'm sure I wouldn't like you. People's lives are at stake here, and you are interested in some of their brilliant solutions. Yeah, they've done a really awesome job so far. The Japanese (with help from our military) will throw it all in the ocean to "save" their country–but it's already lost. The only real innovation we're likely to see is in the CYA department.
Please don't post here any more.
Room 101 I really sympathize with your anger at such blythe positivism in the face of this disaster, but scintillator's post isn't worth the energy you spend responding to it. First, It reeks of trollism–first post, vague but provocatory; maybe he/she's sincere, but more likely just trying to piss people off. If sincere, they're just naive or dihonest.
To someone like myself with 10+ years living there, the statement "the Japanese have an incredibly intelligent engineering brain trust" betrays the writer as a person who has little or no knowledge of Japan. The level of engineering in Japan is good to great, but obviously that's not the only factor at play, which is why we have this disaster in the first place. And any solutions conjured up by engineers, no matter how brilliant, face innumerable hurdles not the least of which is messy old reality.
Another I'll mention is that the Japanese in general are horrible cheapskates, penny-pinchers non-pareil; another reason FDI happened in the first place. Their whole response is hampered by this–every "we can't do…" or "we're doing the best…" is conditioned by TEPCO's budget concerns, absolutely.
Just hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and don't give folks like scintillator more credibility than they deserve by letting them get to you.
What the Japanese are or are not is a pointless and racist discussion as far as nuclear physics is concerned. Go discuss samurai swords and kabuki instead. I believe the US designed the reactors and the French provided mox fuel. My beloved Canada sells uranium and plutonium factories to anyone who wants them. So discussing cultural peculiarities serves no purpose – we are all guilty.
Dave, begging to differ with you. Analyzing different cultures is not racist but practical. It is fact that every culture has different ways of seeing and doing things. The situation begs comparison with Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Only the Russians brought in the military. Although everybody lied to their respective citizens. The Russian culture is different from USA and Japan. It made sense to the Russians to send in the army. But not to the Japanese. Their culture is different. But to say Japanese eat more raw fish then Americans or any other comparison is not racist but simple fact. Understanding their culture might let us understand what motivates them. Whats wrong with that?
Dave, no we are all not guilty. Most people regardless of race know very little about nuclear technology. We all have been trusting the industry and politicians to be responsible. The average citizen can only be guilty of naivety. The nuclear industry has been actively promoting itself as clean and green when we know they know this isn't the case. But according to your yard stick we are all guilty. Well I live in B.C, a Canadian province that has a moratorium on uranium mining and has no nuclear reactors. You live in Ontario a province that mines uranium produces fuel rods and has nuclear reactors. Does that make you more guilty then me?
Sorry, but the idea that imagination and free thinking are not in the Japanese DNA begins to sound racist. I realize that term can mean something very different, that it just isn't part of the makeup of the people, which is more a matter of culture. Sorry to sound picky.
But the truth is, the Japanese have a very inventive side to them, the list of interesting accomplishments is not insignificant. The problem is not inventiveness, I think, but the need to spend a lot of time coming to a consensus. If they can avoid that, they have better hope.
The real issue here has another aspect to it, that we must be willing to accept. The situation is such that there is a big chance no one, regardless of intellect or inventiveness, can find a solution, because the solution does not exist. There is the chance that the best planning and hardest work will not defer some disaster that awaits just around the corner.
What can we do? Most of us cannot go to Fukushima Daiichi and make a contribution of work. No one is passing the hat. To some degree our voices are being ignored. Most of us have only one course available, which is to hope (or two, if you want to count praying).
But we can also insist that all nuclear plants close. And we can insist that other, renewable, energy sources be developed.
I look at this aspect of the situation every day. I am convinced we can do it.
Yes, this "—DNA" thing about any country is BS. It is definitely cultural, or societal more accurately. Conformism from Kindergarten on is deleterious to creative and other types of high-level thinking, and the strict hierarchical nature of organizations there hurst as well. Theoretically, an engineer could come up with an unconventional solution but if he's low on the totem pole it might never get anywhere either through self-censorship or other reasons.
This is why we need an international effort on this problem, not just TEPCO f-ing around while building 4 slowly topples.
Not meant to be racist, cultural thing, I agree no one knows how to solve but is it not better if you have any help to solve and Japanese government not intrested, it effects us all lets help that is what is up my nose. I fully apologize try to take things with a pinch of salt, I do not know of a race that does not have idiosyncrasies especially mine Anglo Saxon
Thanks Weeman. I didn't think you were racist, but that you were stating a case just a mite carelessly. I have done this myself, and in a way that was much worse, and entirely innocent. But it is nice to know the intent was good.
Sorry, I didn't see Admin's request. Did not mean to sound like I was contributing to disagreement over Japanese ingenuity. At one time had done some studies on industrial design and Japanese business (the 80's and 90's) and many educators had said Japanese reverse engineered the inventions of others. I didn't mean to sound like I was attacking them as a group.
They're not the only cultural group to have done that by the way.
Vertically stored rods are fine, until they get a little bit bent and get stuck on each other as they are being extracted.
I am really glad I am not the one having to face this nightmare of a job. I really wish I could help. But I am really glad I can't. I have an excuse.
For some years, I have paid extra for a local electricity option called "cow power," which buys purely renewable energy. Yes, I know this is an accounting thing, but it supports the move to renewable power. For many, many years I have been opposed, sometimes actively and most recently very actively, to nuclear power. At least I will be able to tell my grandchildren that my excuse is not hypocrisy.
There is perhaps a key to how to take the nuclear industry down. If half the people in the world insisted on buying only renewable power, the entire industry would collapse tomorrow.
By the way, we are starting to see big business focus on replacing fossil fuel and nuclear power generation. European Desertec, a consortium including such companies Siemens, E.ON, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Enel, and Shell, says it will use wind and solar energy from northern Africa and southern Europe to eliminate 95% of the emissions from generating electricity by 2050. (There is a link to an article on this at my blog, http://geoharvey.wordpress.com/ , in the "World" section of the "June 27 Energy News".)
"plutonium in every sample tested" "plutonium in fish" "cesium in every tuna caught" "cesium saturated milk in ca." "180 tons of missing melted uranium fuel",,,,shills or whomever wishes to downplay this catastrophe,,,well,,,maybe you can cheer us up a bit,,,,
From the bits and pieces we know the spent fuel pool had a fire or two and most likely went critical. The neutron dose rates they were measuring were certainly not coming from the operating reactors 1-3,so most likely it was SFP #4. With what we know from TMI I would expect there to be pockets of melted fuel in different areas of the fuel pool. No one has ever even postulated what would happen in a critical fuel pool. The lower part of the fuel could all be melted together, or there could be minor damage. Certainly there will be broken rods and fuel pellets on the floor of the pool. If TEPCO is talking about removing undamaged fuel you can bet they know there is substantial damage.
The only way to remove damaged fuel is by cutting pieces up and removing it very slowly. It would certainly take many years.
I think the neutron dose rate could have come from fuel expelled form reactor three, which may have blown its cork. We know that fuel fragments were blown from a critical mass to almost two kilometers (mile and a half) from the plant – the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission admitted this in a conference call last July, and it was reported on ENENEWS after the transcript was published.
I think there is a real chance that the black dust found all over northern (eastern) Japan either is, or contains, fuel dust from that explosion. The wind was blowing toward Tokyo that day. Yuck.
That could also be the source of fuel all over the plant grounds. Again, yuck.
Instead, we will perhaps see a lead and steel tube lowered into the pool. A fuel assembly will be raised into the tube, and secured. A lead top and bottom will be closed. The crane will lift the tube out of the water, and will lower it outside the perimeter of Building4 directly into a dry cask. When filled, the dry casks will be transported to a permanent storage location. Just a theory. We will see what they intend to do.
Perhaps once the intact fuel assemblies have been removed, foreign workers in scuba equipment will pick up the remaining fuel pelllets from broken fuel assemblies off the floor of SFP4 using a brush and dust pan.
Phil, I was thinking the same sort of thing: a fuel assembly elevator of sorts that holds water from the pool along with the assembly.
now the big problem, as you have pointed out, is what to do with it once you have picked it up. I think they are going to dry-cask the fuel in the common SFP first to free up space and then quickly transfer the fuel assmeblies from one pool to the other. the common pool and unit 4 are only 50m appart, so if you put a tower crane between them it could be done (well you'd need a hole in the common pool building roof first).
Off the grid: Totally agree.
In other words, TEPCO already has a way to get fuel assemblies from a reactor SFP to the common SFP. They have been doing this since the plant was built. After all, the common SFP is nearly full, isn't it? So they are on top of the process of transferring fuel assemblies from any SFP in the complex to the common SFP. Wind and solar, the only way to go. Peace.
My understanding is that they lower a really big tube containing water into the area where the fuel rod assemblies are, and transfer them into it without taking the rods out of the water. That is why the pool has a lot of water over the rods, so they can be lifted and put down without exposing them.
When the tube has rods in it, it is lifted out of the pool with them, still covered with water.
When i was in the business dry casks were being designed but not yet used, so i never saw the operation. One would think that the dry casks must be filled with the fuel assemblies while everything is underwater including the cask. Anyone out there know something different speak up.
I did many underwater surveys in reactor pressure vessels and in spent fuel pools. We used a long cable with a detector at the end, and sealed everything in plastic shrink wrap including the cables. Whenever there was less than about 10 feet of water between the detector and the source (fuel bundle) it was detectable. When you got within 5 feet it would have been deadly to be there.
My point is it takes a lot of water to shield a fuel bundle, there will be no divers doing anything (I have monitored them also), and whatever system is used will need a lot of water or other shielding material. No crane structure can be used that includes enough shielding, the fuel must be shielded inside a cask and removed with the crane they are building.
Can they build an aquarium type structure around the entire outside of reactor #4 and fill it with water until it fills the reactor?
Even if there was some leakage of nuclear water into the earth at its base it would be temporary(if the water was removed later into smaller enclosed containment bins) and they would be able to safely remove the nuclear rods in water.
The Japanese have built the Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, Japan, the enormous tank is some ten metres deep, 35 metres wide and 27 metres long.
It has the world's largest acrylic panel that holds a staggering 7,500 tonnes of water – roughly equal to three Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The nuclear water storage bins would need to stay on site and not be removed.
Here, we need a tank 50 meters deep, inside a building that is already wrecked, on top of unstable ground.
If it were left to me, I think I would build a berm over the current seawall out of sand. If there is a disaster, at least it would be possible to have robotic equipment blow sand over any fuel spilled or burning, to the point that it would either not aerosolize or would settle under sand, before reaching the atmosphere. And yes, that would not prevent its doing a lot of other nasty things, but it might prevent some trouble.
But other people know a good deal more than I do. I just hope they can bring themselves to value the environment, their country, humanity, or the future above loyalty to a corporation or income.
The amount of debris that has landed on top of the fuel racks is a problem. No one knows what is laying on top of the rods or how complicated it would be to remove the debris for a "normal" removal of fuel rods. They can not see the configuration of the assembly, it might be torn apart in a pile of rods at odd angles. Rods may be difficult to locate and pick up without damage to surrounding rods. Floating silt obscures the view into the pond for workers. Underwater cameras have confirmed visibility of about five metres. This silt needs to be flushed/ pumped out as fresh water is pumped in.
#4s reactor vessel was open and emptied for inspection with all its fuel assemblies and control rods transferred into the fuel pond when the event happened. The pond contains 1331 fuel assemblies. Since there is nothing in the reactor vessel, I think building a swimming pool/aquarium type structure outside the entire #4 reactor building (taller than the fuel pool surface) and then berming it with sand pyramid style on the outside, as GeoHarvy suggested for the seawall, for structural support is a good idea. Just flood the entire structure with water. Right now we are dependant on ONE Cavity Seal as noted by nuclear engineer Chris Harris as the “weakest link” which may initiate a spent fuel pool draindown event. That seal may be damaged. If the entire unit was underwater we would not have to depend on the reactor seals and gates which may fail.
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I know you meant the bureaucrats….Those "idiots" will be safely off premises. The heroic workers will do their best considering they get orders from some of the idiots. Hopefully the government takeover will purge some of the dead weight leaders.
Japan and the rest of us were sold a bill of goods a long time ago…
What exists in the nuclear industry in Japan is the same model and processes worldwide. The scientists have been relegated to the sidelines; and, the accountants, operators, regulators and politicians are managing the business without regard to science.
If REAL science were managing nuclear, we wouldn’t be in this mess. We would have discovered that we cannot control and remediate large scale nuclear chain reactions as evidenced by Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima.
Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have become tombstones to never ending discharges of radionuclides. Fukushima will be the mother of all. This time, the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi and the radiological firestorm to come, will be the end nuclear power generation and the beginning of a mass extinction.
thanks pure water for asking me, although i'm not really qualified to answer, other then what i've read and learned to form an opinion.
from my experience with some nukers, they simply believe they have the right product for the market and seem to give no thought to the side-effects – as we've seen, they compare apples to oranges and come up with lemons.
some are simply trying to earn a living. but the big mining companies (and their personal owners) and the big power companies (and their superannuation owners) are out to screw the world to make the biggest buck they can, no matter the cost to others.
as i said in my opening, i'm not entirely qualified to answer. I was only recollecting today how impressive the minds of enenews users work. I'm humbled regularly by the brilliant insights and opinions. I'm very impressed at the former pro-nukers who have joined us with their knowledge.
there are real professionals amongst us here, each a specialist in their own fields. together we form a powerful thinking group of people. I'd like to see us get more traction in the 'offline' world. I'm sure that day will come.
I've raved on enough. Thanks again for asking me.. in the mean time I'll be working on another song.. did you hear my first protest song yet ? (i'm so unashamed or what).
Thanks! As a matter of fact, who was really qualified for this mass?! I asked because most of the people here have their two wings functioning – inquiring mind and copassionate soul. Isn`t it beautiful to make a computer simulation, and then write a song! So, I answered you.(I do not post much recently, but still try to follow events.)
Russia has threatened nuclear attack on any NATO member that fights Assad in Syria, even Norway or the USA. Cuba and Russia have signed a military agreement. China and Russia have signed a military agreement. If the US goes to war in Syria, (more than just giving money and weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorists fighting Assad as they are doing now) Nuclear weapons will be launched toward the USA from Cuba. The Russian nuclear subs that were off the US east coast in 2009 will return. The war in Syria will also be fought on US soil.
There are thousands of Russian & Chinese soldiers in the US right now that are here for "training" purposes. They are learning how to shut down US airports among other things.I read that there are 100,000 highly trained (equal to US Navy seals) Russian soldiers in the US and they all understand english. The only Russian words I know are hello and goodbye.
Less people – it could be reasonable in a way, but suffering from cancers, "cures of cancers" and deformed genetic pool of mankind is too much for me. If there are any races, they are psychopatas and empaths, and I do not believe they will ever understand each other.
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