NPR: How can Fukushima’s molten fuel be contained so it stops contaminating the planet? Nuclear Expert: There’s no way to get at molten fuel… I’ve not seen a solution to this (AUDIO)

Published: September 17th, 2013 at 8:27 pm ET
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Title: How concerned should we be about Fukushima?
Source: Your Call (NPR affiliate KALW)
Host: Rose Aguilar
Date: Aug. 29, 2013

At 43:45 in

Kevin in Felton, California: Considering the fact that the containment buildings and vessels are breached, that the floors of the structures are breached — What methodology exists to actually re-establish containment of this burned fuel, so that they can then control the water leakage that’s contaminating the planet? How are they going to re-establish a seal around this burned fuel? [...]

Arjun Makhijani, Nuclear expert and President of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research: To the caller’s question, the main problem of the molten fuel at the bottom of the reactor — that is going to much more intractable, because, as I said, the infrastructure on the site has been destroyed, and how they’re going to get at that molten fuel and actually extract it, at least I have not seen any reasonable solutions to this problem.

See also: UC Berkeley Nuclear Professor: May be impossible to get Fukushima melted fuel -- Work at site to go on for 'thousands of years' if not removed (AUDIO)

Full broadcast here

Published: September 17th, 2013 at 8:27 pm ET
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52 comments

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52 comments to NPR: How can Fukushima’s molten fuel be contained so it stops contaminating the planet? Nuclear Expert: There’s no way to get at molten fuel… I’ve not seen a solution to this (AUDIO)

  • hbjon hbjon

    One thing is right. The fuel needs to be collected and contained before the water problems can be addressed.


    Report comment

    • Maybe not, trenching and pumping and lowering ground water could do alot of good


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    • We Not They Finally

      But the scientist in the article said we know of no way that that can be done. So regrettably, that may be a moot point.

      I don't understand about "lowering ground water" either. There's the structures on site, there are coriums beneath them now, and underneath that is the ground water, which is apparently an aquifer, as in, doesn't go away. Unless the coriums have already hit the ground water, which is even worse news. I just don't see how an aquifer can be "lowered." And "a trench" would go WHERE? Stagnant water building up forever?

      Sorry abut the pessimism. It just looks like a big giant "damned if you do, damned if you don't."


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      • WNTF, they plan to use industrial pumps to pump out groundwater uphill of the plant and pump directly into the sea. If successful it will lower the ground water level and hopefully divert most of the groundwater away from the plant. Unfortunately they have found radio activity in water uphill of the tank farm so they may have to dig wells further uphill. They can't move the coriums but they can do more to mitigate the situation if they are willing to spend the money.


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        • Finch Finch

          With their unprofessional behavior they will continue polluting the environment in ever increasing amounts. They had 2 years time to hide the real dimensions of this accident. As the international sleepers awaken now and find out that they will get their amount of radioactivity as well, they (whoever in charge in Japan) cannot continue their monkey-policy of no see-no hear-no talk… that's when they start to excuse which is so absurd that I can't even laugh about it.


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      • hbjon hbjon

        It may be a moot point, but starts them out in the right direction. Like drying your car with a towel in a rain storm, as long as there are fuel elements around, the water will get unbelievably contaminated. There will always be rain and there will always be water. It's tempting to use a wrecking ball and hydraulic water lines to flush the entire complex into the harbor and look down the holes for fuel. This is a long term science project and we must not get too attached to any one particular setback or obstacle. It is what it is, an unprecedented catastrophe of unimaginable consequences. They must work with safety in mind, yet towards a known attainable goal.


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  • the coriums are on the run…
    they ran away from home mar 11th of 2011…
    didn't leave a message….


    Report comment

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Nuclear reactors were built with the hope that there'd never be a meltdown.

    So now, you either live in fear, or head to the Southern Hemisphere (for good).


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  • Here at Bingoes lab we feel the meltout happened at the bottom where the control rods make a weak point in primary containment. Possibly they melted through the concrete directly underneath. Considering they continue to deny knowlege of the whereabouts of any of the three melt throughs concrete melt through is highly likely especially since we know they knew it was a melt through while denying that fact calling it in cold shutdown. Yeah since this bid for the olympics has been going on for quite some time it makes sense to continue lying. How can they fix this problam while continuing to deny there is a problem and pull off the Olympics? Easy. More lying.


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  • Jebus

    I like how Arjun , the nuclear "expert", drags Kevin back into containment…


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  • Ron

    This has been one of my main objections to nuclear all along. If a worst case scenario, something that has the potential to be enormously devastating, is within the realms of possibility at nuke plants and nukers can't deal with it, as is evident at Fukushima where they are at a complete loss about what to do, then by god they never should have built the damn things in the first place!!!

    How stupid is it to build something that in an accident like this, has no "OFF" button!


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    • DisasterInterpretationDissorder DisasterInterpretationDissorder

      "How stupid is it to build something that in an accident like this, has no "OFF" button!"

      Well.. so stupid that only humans can do it and at the same time consider themselfes awesome.. I think it has to do with our capability to disconnect from the whole we are part of.. and declare our ego the only "whole" that matters..in the Universe..


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      • Or build stuff that if it doesn't work right, it either kills millions, radiates the planet for millions of years, and/or melts, blows up or catches on fire, or ALL of the above.

        Who in their right mind would buy a product like this?

        By the way

        NO WARRANTY

        NO MONEY BACK

        MANUFACTURER NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR LIABILITY OR CLEAN UP OR WASTE DISPOSAL

        INSANITY IS AS INSANITY DOES


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  • pkjn

    Influence of Rainfall from Approaching Typhoon on Fukushima
    Tokyo Electric Power Company Sep 16,2013
    This is follow-up information on influence of rainfall from the approaching typhoon on Fukushima.
    Following overflow of accumulated water inside the dike in the B area (south side) for contaminated water storage tanks, we conducted all-β radioactivity analysis on the accumulated water inside the dike (by simplified measurement*), and all-β was detected at 37Bq/L.
    · B area (south): 37Bq/L
    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1230650_5130.html


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  • nuknomore nuknomore

    Man is so arrogant..
    He's been fiddling around with the lid on Pandora's box for decades.
    And now he's jiggled it open..
    The solution?…
    A time machine..
    Anyone here know how to build one of those?
    'NO'?

    We are doomed by our own stupidity.


    Report comment

  • pkjn, I think I saw something similar. If there was beta and gamma radiation in the water by only measuring beta wouldn't that give artificially low readings allowing the water to appear safe for dumping untreated into the ocean? I'm no expert but thats my uneducated opinion.


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  • Wooster

    Tepco have issued a handout which describes the ice wall and other measures they are planning to take.

    It is titled "Efforts for Decommissioning of Unit 1 to 4 Reactors in TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station" It is well worth a read!

    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130913_01-e.pdf

    On page 24, you can see the ice wall outlined in blue. The ice wall only surrounds reactors 1 to 4 (and pretty tightly too).

    It does NOT cover the area of the storage tanks, nor reactors 5 and 6.

    The last diagram of the document is very revealing as it give Tepco's interpretation of the geology beneath the reactors.

    Tepco have given 4 different stratifications:

    1) The UPPER PERMEABLE layer
    2) The LOW-PERMEABLE layer
    3) The LOWER PERMEABLE layer
    4) The LOW PERMEABLE layer.

    The words they use are VERY IMPORTANT. Translation:

    1) The UPPER PERMEABLE LAYER = The highest layer which is PERMEABLE
    2) The LOW PERMEABLE LAYER = A layer which is simply LESS PERMEABLE than the upper permeable layer above
    3) The LOWER PERMEABLE LAYER. A lower layer which is PERMEABLE.
    4) The LOW PERMEABLE LAYER – same as 2 – A layer which is LESS PERMEABLE than the lower permeable layer above.

    So, according to Tepco, all four layers beneath the plant are PERMEABLE to some degree.

    Notice that at NO POINT do they use the word IMPERMEABLE.

    PERMEABLE: That can be permeated or penetrated, especially by liquids or gases.


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    • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

      Right, Wooster. The upper aquifer is bounded by the LOW-PERMEABLE LAYER. The aquifer extends from the basement level down to about 100' deep. The Impermeable Wall, made of sheet steel interlocking pilings, is being driven at least a meter or two into the LOW-PERMEABLE LAYER, in order to stop the flow of groundwater into the sea.

      Now, they must extend the Impermeable Wall in a rectangle around Reactors1-4, in order to stop groundwater from coming into contact with nuclear debris in the ground under the plant. If the groundwater can be stopped before it becomes heavily contaminated, it can be diverted into the ocean. Unit3 blasted MOX fuel in a 2 km radius all over the countryside around the plant. Those water tanks were built to leak. Some radioactivity will flow into the ocean. The goal must be to stop groundwater from flowing past nuclear fuel debris in the corium lava tubes under the plant. This is the source for about 90% of the highly contaminated groundwater that is flooding into the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis, IMHO. It is the groundwater that comes into contact with nuclear fuel debris that is destroying the Pacific Ocean Seafood Industry.

      Once we stop the upper aquifer from flowing under Fukushima NPP, we can address the flow of water in the second aquifer, in the LOWER PERMEABLE LAYER, which is also, perhaps, flowing around nuclear debris. ;)


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      • Wooster

        Hi PhilipUpNorth,

        Despite appearances, I am not in favour of doing nothing about the contaminated water problem. It is obviously impossible for Tepco to continue to store it on the scale it has done so far.

        What I would like Tepco to do is to publish all the facts publicly, plainly and honstly so that everyone on the planet is aware of the situation, and so that the pros and cons of each step they propose can be looked at.

        IMHO there certainly wasnn't sufficient public discussion about the impermeable wall that was put in place which then prevented the natural flow of the groundwater until it overflowed that wall and ended up in the sea for example.

        I am not convinced about the ice wall for the following reasons:

        1) At 30 meters deep the ice wall is not deep eough to prevent continued contamination of the groundwater, it might just slow the process down.

        2) The ice wall will simply push the problem further down into the water table.

        3) Given the geography the aquifer will still carry the water out into the Pacific but it will end up much further out than the port or the new impermeable shuttered wall. Is this just a convenient way of hiding the problem? Does Tepco even know where in the Pacific the water will reappear?

        4) This document showing the geology of the area also reveals a underground fault at 200 meters down: http://fukushima.over-blog.fr/article-the-geology-of-fukushima-88575278.html. This could seriously compromise the ice wall if it…


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          • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

            Correcting my above remarks:
            1) The UPPER PERMEABLE layer
            2) The LOW-PERMEABLE layer
            3) The LOWER PERMEABLE layer
            4) The LOW PERMEABLE layer.
            All of the above layers are identified within 100' below ground level, as can be seen in the drawing on the right of Page 30 of the current TEPCO Decommission Plan
            http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130913_01-e.pdf


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            • PhilipUpNorth PhilipUpNorth

              On Page 23 of the TEPCO Decommission Plan is a drawing showing the integration of the Impermeable Wall with the Frozen Wall.
              http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130913_01-e.pdf
              What they have done is to run the Frozen Wall to connect to each end of the Impermeable Wall.
              I am still of the opinion that extending the Impermeable Wall completely around Reactors1-4 is a much better idea than the Frozen Wall. The Impermeable Wall cannot be defeated by flow of the underground river, changes in the temperature of the ground due to corium movements, nor failure due to power outages. The Impermeable Wall, reinforced with concrete, might last for a thousand years as radiation levels fall. The frozen Wall will last only until the power grid fails for the last time.

              However, the Impermeable Wall/Frozen Wall combination is probably better than nothing, will probably be able to divert groundwater prior to heavy contamination, and avoid a continuation of high contamination levels we are now experiencing. I do NOT support a Frozen Wall that requires the restarting of a nuclear reactor to power it. ;)


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  • pkjn

    The utility said about 1,130 tons of water with low levels of radiation – below the 30 becquerels of strontium per litre safety limit imposed by Japanese authorities – were released into the ground.

    Influence of Rainfall from Approaching Typhoon on Fukushima
    Tokyo Electric Power Company Sep 16,2013
    This is follow-up information on influence of rainfall from the approaching typhoon on Fukushima.
    Following overflow of accumulated water inside the dike in the B area (south side) for contaminated water storage tanks, we conducted all-β radioactivity analysis on the accumulated water inside the dike (by simplified measurement*), and all-β was detected at 37Bq/L.
    · B area (south): 37Bq/L
    http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1230650_5130.html


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    • jec jec

      Sneaky, word used was "RAINWATER"..so obviously its not contaminated (sarcasm).
      Am still trying to figure out how to convert the BQ/L or BQ/m3 to tons..as one is volume..and one is weight. I guess use the weight of water per liter..figure out the liters per ton (metric or ??) to get the amount of radiation mixed into the ocean in this first admitted real dumping activity. Am sure its not the first…


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    • Finch Finch

      Every time it rains from now on they will dump radioactive waste into the ocean, just using other comfortable words.


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  • unincredulous unincredulous

    They should use one of those tunneling machines that dug the tunnel beneath the English Channel. Dig it right under the old containment. Then put a big bucket under the corium and wait for it to fall through the tunnel into the bucket. Then take the bucket out on rail tracks. Just hope the corium hasn't already gotten below where you build your tunnel. Hope it goes straight down, too. Empty the bucket in the front yard of Tepco's CEO.


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  • unincredulous unincredulous

    Nuclear power is so hot, why don't they build a nuclear powered wet-vac and just suck it up?


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  • AntonButler

    People are so incredibly foolish…….
    Um , the influential(well paid) scientists all said
    nuclear is safe.
    Now Fukushima is going to carry on for centuries, polluting
    the planet, and when the fuel pool at reactor 4 collapses,
    then Japan will cease all nuclear power.
    When a major accident happens in the USA,
    then they cease all nuclear power.
    When an accident happens in France,
    they will cease nuclear power.
    It is sad that because so many reject Gods orders, do not lie, do not kill, do not steal the same lesson is learnt again and again, and tens of millions of innocent persons die.
    I think the world learnt nothing from World War 2 or World War 1.


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  • ftlt

    FUFU is just the first of many more, gang.. This is a nuclear legacy that just keeps on giving…

    Where is the next one most likely to be??? Iran when it is bombed??? Egypt???… Europe?? The USA – Hanford or Savannah or one of the twins of the GE types again??? It is just a matter of time.. A very short matter of time – when you are talking about nukes..

    Some of the terrors of accidental nuclear weapons accidents are incredible… You should read about those… When is one of those going off at a military base near you???

    And "Nukes" are just part of the problem


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