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Hosono visits Fukushima No. 4 reactor amid concern over fuel pool

29 Comments
By Mari Yamaguchi

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29 Comments
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“I could see steady progress being made toward removal of the spent fuel (from the pool), which is the next major goal,”

If they were building rails and gantries for a moving crane, or constructing a crane capable of lifting the 300~700 kg 4 metro long fuel assemblies without irradiating everyone around, that would be progress. Covering a pool with tarpaulin is not progress.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The visit by Goshi Hosono, apparently aimed at demonstrating the safety of the facility

He should have gone sans protective suit if he really wanted to demonstrate safety. Then, maybe in a few months, we wouldn't have to deal with incompetent Hosono anymore.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

does this guy even know what he is talking about? these "ministers of ..." change chairs like some people change their socks.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

the minister said

appeared to have been reinforced.

this only means the poor guy is also not sure. I hear he only visited the corner specifically spruced for his visit. He did not go to the bulged side! secondly, the authentic source of safety and security information should come from a group of mixed skills experts(hydrologists, seismic experts, geologists, nuclear physicists, chemists, etc), not a lonely politician

6 ( +7 / -2 )

"The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, has reinforced the structure and says it now can withstand temblors as strong as last year’s quake."

Yeah, we believe you. An all but destroyed structure that was not fit before being so badly damaged, and can hardly be approached (and this is the first time journalists were allowed!) has been reinforced enough to withstand a similar earthquake. How about a similar tsunami?

Hosono doesn't know his butt from a hole in the ground and this is just politicking. He's but another of the rotating politicians that help make this government the joke it is. And now that said government is set to own the majority of a corrupt company you can bet tooth and nail they'll fight for all the NPPs TEPCO runs. I'm only surprised there wasn't a "no harm to human health" soundbite thrown into his comments on the matter of the #4 reactor.

7 ( +7 / -2 )

I don't think those suits are as safe as people think. Even one trip there seems like Russian roulette. Any thoughts on this Zichi?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't think those suits are as safe as people think. Even one trip there seems like Russian roulette. Any thoughts on this Zichi?

I'm not Zichi, but everyone would have been carrying some sort of dosimeter. The suits will block alpha and possibly beta radiation but not gamma radiation. The other reason for wearing the suit is to keep out any radioactive dust so you don't get it on your skin or worse, breathe it into your lungs. When you leave the area, you leave the suit behind and any dust with it.

Anyone who thinks that the spent fuel pool is safe should have a look at the video on NHK. There's a plastic cover over it, but otherwise it's open to the elements.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ted Barrera, I agree 100%

Hosono, why the protective gear ? wasn't it mission accomplished ! yes ? no ?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is absolutely unsafe by any international standards. Please ask the French for assistance.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@tigerta9 - those Tyvek suits are for preventing contaminated materials or radioactive particles, such as metal dust, micronised concrete entering or having contact with the body. Swirls of wind, from walking, driving vehicles, clearing operations are enough to move these very fine particles into the air.

The closely-woven man-made fibres are only good for preventing alpha radiation entering the body, beta and gamma go straight through it. The concrete and steel of SFP#4, plus the 11 meter depth of water prevent everyone getting fried by neutrons from the spent fuel.

Lose that water, through a crack in the pool, or even by damaging the pool structure and losing the safe storage configuration of the fuel assemblies, and Eastern Japan is in deep trouble, along with the rest of the world, as the spent fuel rods overheat and combust, vaporizing literally kilograms of radioactive Cesium, Strontium, Iodine, and other fission products.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Zichi wrote

The No4 spent fuel pool is safer than what is was following the 3/11 nuclear disaster, but won't be totally save until the fuel rods are removed sometime in 2014

Can Tepco afford to take that long? Can Japan or the rest of the world?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Zichi wrote:

the fuel rods can't be removed until then?

Why not? Surely it's a question of money and manpower not time? Given the people and money, why should removing fuel rods from a spent fuel pool take two years? Suppose the spent fuel pool failed and the contents overheated. Suppose that the wind is in the direction of Tokyo. How much would it cost to relocate the population of Tokyo? Doesn't the Japanese government want to take every possible step to eliminate the possibility of the situation getting worse again?

Something which does occur to me that isn't obvious from the video I saw today - the No.4 reactor core has no fuel in it. Where did the hydrogen come from that blew the roof off? Did the fuel in the pool already overheat previously and generate that hydrogen? Until now, I had thought that it was only the reactor cores in the other reactors that had overheated.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi wrote

Actually it's a question of time because moving highly irradiated nuclear fuel isn't the same has moving bags of rice. They need time to cool down. The fuel in the reactor was removed in Dec. 2010 and needs at least two years before being moved. In America the rule is 10 years

Yes, I read the NY times article. What they are currently planning doesn't meant that it's the only possible approach. With respect to the moving of the fuel, the fuel which was most recently in the reactor is presumably only part of the 1,500 fuel rods in the pool. The fact that it was moved from the reactor to the pool in the first place says that there has to be a safe way to move it. The same article you referred to mentions the use of casks rather than pools. That may be an option for the majority of the spent fuel. There may need to be another approach for the fuel which was in the reactor before it was halted for inspections. Having 100 fuel rods in the pool would be a different cooling problem to having 1500+, even though it doesn't remove the risk of damage from quakes or other phenomena. I don't understand why something this serious is viewed purely as the responsibility of Tepco to resolve.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@harper - the explosive blast that damaged reactor 4 came through shared piping with reactor 3. Unlike many overseas reactors, the units at Fukushima and other parts of Japan share many facilities, such as controls, power, piping, and other infrastructure. In the case of reactors 5 and 6, they were able to share power for cooling through the joint electrical bus. a positive outcome, but in the case of 3 and 4, the explosion was shared.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi, we'll have to agree to disagree that the only options are those you've outlined.

The fuel in the pool isn't 1,500 nuclear fuel rods. They are 1,500 fuel assemblies which contain about 400 fuel rods each. the rods are about 1/2 inch in dia and about 12 feet long.

Maybe someone should correct the article above that we're commenting on which states that the pool contains "1,535 fuel rods"? :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks @the_harper, @wanderlust

0 ( +0 / -0 )

TEPCO have a large part of the responsibility for the disaster happening in the first place

Amen to that, along with whoever thought that backup generators in a basement in a tsunami risk location was a good idea.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

That was part of the reactor design from General Electric of America who insisted at the time that they would only build the reactors if TEPCO accepted the design 100%. Basically, there are many flaws in this GE reactor design including putting huge pool of water 100 feet above ground.

On the one hand I feel like saying that the Japanese people should sue GE for an unsuitable design, but then again, the Japanese experts who accepted it despite the flaws are not without fault. I only hope that none of the reactors which the Japanese government is keen to restart share the same faults.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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