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Q&A on operation to remove Fukushima fuel rods


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What could possibly go wrong?

"Assemblies exposed to the air would give off so much radiation that it would be difficult for a worker to get near enough to fix it."


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Skeptics say with so many unknowables in an operation that has never been attempted under these conditions, there is potential for a catastrophe.

I wouldn't call these people skeptics; more like realists. I'm skeptical that they will be able to do this WITHOUT screwing it up.

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So, they will have to remove them one by one manually. There are 1500 of them and it will take nearly 2 years to complete the job. They should never be exposed to air otherwise Tokyo will have to be evacuated. That sounds very risky. I still have some questions. What happens if the rods touch each other underwater during the removal. Is that OK? How will they remove them with the water around them? How long time do they have until water around single rod gets too hot? Are there hooks on those rods, or will they have to be grabbed by robotic arm? What's the chances of electronic malfunction when removing rods (we heard that electronics doesn't work well close to the radiation)? We need more details to asses the situation better. Is Tepco acting alone or did they get as much international help as possible? Does everyone agrees that this is the best solution? Or are they doing this just because of having better attendance to olympics?

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I am quite convinced they will find a way to screw this up as well.

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Some of those 'facts' above could be debated.

Damien15 you make a good point here: "Are there hooks on those rods, or will they have to be grabbed by robotic arm?"

What we have seen in the videos is rods being caught by their grab-handle or pull-ring and lifted up and out. What they have not mentioned is whether any of these pull-rings have been bent, twisted, broken or otherwise damaged and how they propose to pull them out in such cases. I suspect this will be a rod-by-rod problem-solving exercise, and I hope that there is a back-up way of removing rods with broken ring-pulls.

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TEPCO should seek expertise from other countries as well. There is no shame in asking for support to deal with a problem that is huge and never seen before. I am sure they could get some good inputs from them. I hope they get this right.

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TEPCO should seek expertise from other countries as well.

They have already done so.

I hope they get this right.

I hope so too.

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From Wikipedia:

Criticality can be achieved by using metallic uranium or plutonium or by mixing compounds or liquid solutions of these elements. The chain reaction is influenced by parameters noted by the acronym MAGIC MERV - for Mass, Absorption, Geometry, Interaction, Concentration, Moderation, Enrichment, Reflection and Volume.

So this:

Each rod contains uranium and a small amount of plutonium. If they are exposed to the air, for example if they are dropped by the grabber, they would start to heat up, a process that, left unchecked, could lead to a self-sustaining nuclear reaction - known as “criticality”.

Seems unlikely.

An AFP mistake again?

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"Heavy Protective equipment" - like what?

They'd need lead & Boron/Boron alloy or some other Chemical elements known to absorb/control radiation etc.

The white suits? They are primarily to keep out particles from ingestion & skin contact, not protect from the kind of radiation likely to be pouring forth from these things IF nothing goes wrong!

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The idea of having a factual article is good. I like it anyway.

If I had to pick another hole, the following is not so reassuring: "The temperature of the cores and spent fuel pools at all reactors is now stable and water is being used to keep them cool." Wish it was that simple.

Since the corium has melted down through the bottom of the reactor and probably through much of the containment building basement floor, possibly into the ground and natural water courses below, and there are no measuring or observation devices down there, I am not sure if anyone can state much about the temperatures or states of the three cores. Only that is naturally or unnaturally wet enough down there to keep them relatively soaked and thus, although extremely poisonous to the environment, not dangerously reactive.

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Yeah, it is a somewhat factual article, but it uses would and should quite often. This is an extremely delicate and dangerous operation and one mistake WILL create a nuclear catastrophe unseen by mankind. There have been many fictional stories written about what happens when fuel rods go critical, but we haven't lived through it yet.

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From what I've seen both the rod assemblies and the casket are under water. The rods will not be exposed to the air during that procedure. The casket will be full of water when lifted out so the rods will still be under water as they are transferred to the new pool. Apart from the water draining away I can't see how they will be exposed... unless the cask itself is dropped and the rods spill out. Misguided or not I think they know what they are doing. I hope.

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"runaway reactors were brought under control two years ago."

This is a baldfaced lie. The reactors are not under control and never have been. They won't be as long at these question is unanswered: Where are the cores? What are the condition of the cores?

If the industry/government know the answer to these questions, they're being kept top secret. Why?

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Bill, they don't know they answers. No-one does. They can only make educated guesses.

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Sounds like a "ufo catcher" from hell...

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