national

Regulators OKs fuel rod removal from pool at Fukushima plant

47 Comments
By MARI YAMAGUCHI

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

47 Comments
Login to comment

OMG start praying.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

This is the moment we have all been waiting for. Please get it right

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Break a leg.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Now, these ''things'' have been sat up there, all that time, gnawing. Gnawing at every minute of every day for the past two years, seven months, two weeks and so many days and now, having finally chewed through the remnants of 'normal'' they fall centre stage for what we hope will be a quiet, nuanced performance... a mechanical ballet of perfection. I KNOW some don't get it because you're there not here BUT... one of those rods drops, ignites, or anything goes wrong? Do NOT fudge this up.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Those rods cannot explode. Please people get you throughs straight.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

their condition isn't really known, they could break apart once moved. Then all those pieces become another problem

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why does the opening sequence to The Simpsons keep playing over n over in my head?? Lets just hope the blokes charged with this unenviable task are equipped with a lot more than just a crane operators licence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some cynical humour at work recently with one worker saying that TEPCO hired a truant JHS boy who spent his time perfecting UFO catcher to cut costs for this operation. Not the funniest joke in the world and not all people found it funny but some thought it wasn't a joke. I'm not sure if the latter group have no understanding of jokes, are slow on the uptake or have the more accurate assessment of TEPCO's mindset and competence. For all our sakes, I don't want to hear cynical humour become gallows humour, funny or not, in the next few weeks. Get your act together, get this right.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Well it was nice commenting with you all. While they may not have any problems with the first 200, with their track record for accidents I really don't think that they will be able to remove the others without a problem.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Where are they going to put them after they remove them or didn't Tepco think that far ahead?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@overchan, the rods can ignite and release incredible amounts of radiation into the environment if they are mishandled.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My fingers have been crossed for 2 1/2 years now. It's starting to hurt.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

gogogo, did you not read the article?

"which will be placed into a protective cask and transferred to a joint cooling pool inside a nearby building."

It's not like we're all going to instantaneously die if they mess this operation up. A few hundred people will get cancer, the northern hemisphere won't be a wasteland as suggested....

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Overchan, the rods have to be constantly kept in water, do not come close to other rods and not get broken or fall... otherwise they would ignite and spreas ignition ( that ignition cant be stopped easily ) ... so yes they are on about same level of dangerous...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Reminds me of that famous scene from Breaking Bad...the one where Walt said...

"Run!"

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Everchan - shoot down to Tsutaya and get yourself a copy of The China Syndrome if you don't fully understand the inherant danger of removing these rods. It is a fictional movie about nuclear fuel rods melting into the Earth. One mistake at this plant and there will be a non-fiction remake called, Fukashima Syndrome.

Is it just me, or is everyone else somewhat panicked about the competence of TEPCO and it's scab labor workforce being ae to actually pull this off?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It would not be so worrying if they could actually have proper expert international force handling that.. but using non trained part time day laborers does worry me quite a bit

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Reading this cacaphonia of comments from the self-declared nuclear experts on JT is like watching an episode of the Simpsons.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Even if they had an "international force" handling the situation (and let's face it, what schmuck from overseas is going to expose himself to massive doses of radiation all 'for Japan'?), they will still only be able to work on the site for a couple of hours before their annual exposure limit is up. So how many thousand international warriors will need to be trained? And they will no doubt be undesirables from the bottom of the pile of society...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Alex Einz

Overchan, the rods have to be constantly kept in water, do not come close to other rods and not get broken or fall... otherwise they would ignite and spreas ignition ( that ignition cant be stopped easily ) ... so yes they are on about same level of dangerous...

The rods have been cooling for several years now, so I doubt any ignition would happen rapidly, if at all.

"Calculations, assuming an instant draindown of the pool and air-cooling, show a heatup time to fission product release of 5 to 10 hours at 1 year after shutdown."

http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML0118/ML011860268.pdf

"More importantly, after roughly three years of storage, spent fuel can be air-cooled, i.e., such fuel need not be submerged to prevent melting. (Submersion is still desirable for shielding and to reduce airborne activity, however.)"

http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr0933/sec3/082r3.html

0 ( +3 / -3 )

one good vid documentation of the fukushima problem, a bit long but might worth watching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBVBSVGqtIA

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Alex Einz, it worries me a little, too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hope the sub-contracted sub-contractors have hired some people who know what they are doing. I expect TEPCO execs are currently heading to other parts of Japan.

Best of luck, seriously, but if I were in the area as far as Tokyo I'd be preparing my evacuation kit. This is TEPCO we're dealing with.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

And the government is allowing TEPCO to handle this?

"Its the end of the world, as we know♪”

1 ( +1 / -0 )

We know the removal of each MOX rod will be delicate. We know this place has been shaken with thousands of aftershocks, some of them so massive that they have had to evacuate workers from the plant (one just last week).

So what I would like to see in an article like this is a description of how a rod in mid-air will be kept from swinging, and either hitting other rods or breaking against something. Sheaths, ropes? What would happen if a rod assembly slipped and fell, 300kg in weight, not just outside the pool, but for example back down through the bottom of the pool?

Not saying the job is impossible, but I am interested in the process. Let's hope a reporter will be able to let us know sometime.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We also know that this delicate operation will be carried out by Bubba the forklift driver. Bubba has been getting a lot of practice, and only runs into things and drops things now and then, so we can relax....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I really really hope, they are not using Yakuza sourced one-day-workers to run the crane. Seriously - Is there anyone with a degree in anything still working at Tepco? (Or at least a skilled Senmon-gakko technician??)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

nandakandamanda: "Not saying the job is impossible, but I am interested in the process. Let's hope a reporter will be able to let us know sometime."

I totally agree with you and hope the same, but remember this is a company that BARELY allows outside inspectors in to see what's going on, and only then pro-nuclear people. It's also a company that has admitted it's "hard to know who is employed" due to so much sub-contracting, and you have a government with a 51% stake in the company making laws against reporting the facts. So, I'm skeptical.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I it is said that they may explode, they are meaning that the rods can break and that would cause them to erupt into flames. Wanna know more... http://archives2013.gcnlive.com/Archives2013/sep13/PowerHour/0924133.mp3

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's at times like this I wished I believed in a deity... not for me, but for all my friends and loved ones in Japan. Hard to accept that their future is in the hands of a crane operator hundreds of miles away.

The scare stories on here today don't help... so some realistic scenarios would be helpful. Like what would REALLY happen if a rod cracked? Or collided with another one? Where's a nuclear plant expert when you need one?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lots of articles out there but here's a recent one from RT, a Russian view. http://rt.com/news/fukushima-operation-spent-fuel-618/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most of the articles I've read seem to be written as opinion pieces rather than using cold hard facts from unbiased scientists or experts... and that RT one is using quotes from Christina Consolo just terrifies me:

“The worst-case scenario could play out in death to billions of people. A true apocalypse,”

That sounds like a very irresponsible thing to say. She just voices here opinion, and it's taken as fact by the article.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Agreed, but reading articles like this below can provide cross references and maybe a few hard facts will remain.

http://americablog.com/2013/09/risky-repair-fukushima-spill-15000x-radiation-hiroshima-85x-chernobyl.html

Actually since this has never happened before it must be hard for anyone, even a nuclear scientist, to provide a 'what if' scenario, with so many variables and unknowns involved..

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Western media are reporting the incredible dangers of this next phase and that if a mistake was made the radiation catastrophe could see a forced evacuation of Tokyo. I dearly hope this has not been rushed to save face and they get it right!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So I am wondering how many specialists in nuclear waste management populate the comment section today ? Let me guess : next to none or just none whatsoever ?

On another hand the number of fear mongers addicted to "facts" found on blogs written by pseudo-scientists is easy to guess.

I tend to trust the IRSN (the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety coming from a country where 75% of its electricity generation is nuclear) or its American counterpart the NRC for level headed comments on Fukushima.

The rest is just noise...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

G.MAL.O.Q Your post makes sense... trouble is I haven't seen a single level-headed discussion about this anywhere. Every article I've read quotes the same scenario - 1000 times worse than Chernobyl, etc... 10 million evacuated if one cell is dropped. I don't know what to believe, and that is making me scared for the people I care about.

Can you provide links to more level headed reporting?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thunderbird2, I guess that G.MAL.O.Q just gave you two places that he trusts, since he hasn't answered your question any further. Go there and read.

If you are looking for hard facts, don't pay any attention to the scare stories. Just keep reading and digging and bits of it will come out. Neither side will give you all the facts. Every scientist, even a highly respected one, will be trashed by someone out there. You need to stay in the center/center and form your own picture.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I had a look and neither site has any reference to the potential damage the rods could cause, but I will do as you suggest and dig around.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Read Star Vikings' links above. Heavy reading, but the conclusions in both scientific articles are that we do not know what would happen exactly in spent fuel pool coolant water loss, and further tests need to be done. Looked good enough at the time, but fairly useless today in our present situation.

"Calculations, assuming an instant draindown of the pool and air-cooling, show a heatup time to fission product release of 5 to 10 hours at 1 year after shutdown. The worst case partial draindown could also release fission products in 5 to 10 hours at I year after shutdown.

(Here they are talking about the onset of runaway zirconium cladding oxidation on one fuel rod assembly exposed to air.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

nandakandamandaOct. 31, 2013 - 02:24PM JST

We know the removal of each MOX rod will be delicate. We know this place has been shaken with thousands of aftershocks, some of them so massive that they have had to evacuate workers from the plant (one just last week).

I think that would be a problem for Spent Fuel Pool 3, Reactor 3 is the one which was using MOX fuel.

So what I would like to see in an article like this is a description of how a rod in mid-air will be kept from swinging, and either hitting other rods or breaking against something. Sheaths, ropes? What would happen if a rod assembly slipped and fell, 300kg in weight, not just outside the pool, but for example back down through the bottom of the pool?

The cranes used to lift the fuel out and transfer it will be the "overhead" type, running on rails. They should be more stable than the normal "arm" type we see everyday.

http://www.tepco.co.jp/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130925_04-j.pdf

If a rod assembly fell, the water would slow the fall significantly. There have been instances of heavy equipment falling into SFP3 with no obvious external damage done. As for criticality accidents, the US NRC says the following:

Spent fuel pools are designed with appropriate space between fuel assemblies and neutron-absorbing plates attached to the storage rack between each fuel assembly. Under normal conditions, these design features mean that there is substantial margin to prevent criticality (i.e., a condition where nuclear fission would become self-sustaining). Calculations demonstrate that some margin to criticality is maintained for a variety of abnormal conditions, including fuel handling accidents involving a dropped fuel assembly.

http://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/faqs.html#14

We also have to remember that the fuel bundles in the pools are surrounded on four sides by neutron-absorbing panels. If a rod or bundle falls on top of the fuel racks a lot of the neutrons from it are going to be absorbed by the panels.

Lots of articles out there but here's a recent one from RT, a Russian view. http://rt.com/news/fukushima-operation-spent-fuel-618/

The problem with the RT stuff is that often their experts have no qualifications in the field they are talking about. For example, Christina Consolo is a biomedical protographer.

Read Star Vikings' links above. Heavy reading, but the conclusions in both scientific articles are that we do not know what would happen exactly in spent fuel pool coolant water loss, and further tests need to be done. Looked good enough at the time, but fairly useless today in our present situation.

But don't forget the fuel can be definitely air-cooled after 3 years immersion. Most of the fuel has been immersed for more than 3 years, and this fuel can act as a heat-sink to help cool newer rods if the geometry is right.

Some more links on Spent Fuel at Fukushima and the fuel removal risks:

http://fukushima.ans.org/inc/Fukushima_Appendix_G.pdf

http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.jp/2013/10/setting-record-straight-on-spent-fuel.html

Thunderbird2

trouble is I haven't seen a single level-headed discussion about this anywhere. Every article I've read quotes the same scenario - 1000 times worse than Chernobyl, etc... 10 million evacuated if one cell is dropped. I don't know what to believe, and that is making me scared for the people I care about.

The problem is that Google will show you 1000s of links to people worrying about absurd worst-case scenarios touted by people like Christina Consolo, anything measured is lost in the noise. The infromation is out there, but it's hard to find as you have to use technical terminology to find it.

Sorry for the long post!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Very good post Star Viking. Many thanks. It will take some time to read all your links.

I can appreciate that cooling has taken place over the two and a half years since the accident and in light of this I can now understand why TEPCO was wanting to put off this operation as long as possible. International opinion has probably pushed them to go ahead with it.

Forgive me if I am wrong, and I am aware that Number 3 was using MOX, but I seem to remember reading that rods from Number Three reactor were being temporarily stored in pool 4, and that is one of the reasons that Number 4 pool is abnormally packed so tightly. (I have been back to try and find the source without much luck.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No problem nandaandamanda.

I can appreciate that cooling has taken place over the two and a half years since the accident and in light of this I can now understand why TEPCO was wanting to put off this operation as long as possible. International opinion has probably pushed them to go ahead with it.

That's one of the reasons I have some sympathy for TEPCO's current situation: they are being told to put safety as the highest priority, but they are also being told to do whatever certain experts tell them to do.

Forgive me if I am wrong, and I am aware that Number 3 was using MOX, but I seem to remember reading that rods from Number Three reactor were being temporarily stored in pool 4, and that is one of the reasons that Number 4 pool is abnormally packed so tightly. (I have been back to try and find the source without much luck.)

Source finding can be very hard thee days. So much on the net to sift through.

I'm a bit skeptical about SFP4 having fuel from Reactor 3 in it for a few reasons. The first is that the reactor buildings are separate (the turbine buildings are connected though). If you check my second-last link in my last post above you can get the number of fuel bundles in each Spent Fuel pool at Daiichi. Pool 3 has a third the number in Pool 4. It's hard to imagine why freshly discharged MOX Fuel would be put in Pool four. Seing that fresh fuel transfers have to be done underwater makes me questiobn if it is possible at all.

Also, MOX fuel had just started being used in Reactor 3 in August 2010. It's harder to imagine a situation where the unloading of fuel from Reactor 3 would need to be moved to SFP4.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So putting two and two together, re what Mr Tanaka above is concerned about: “It’s a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool,” Tanaka said at a regular news conference. “They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break.”

...is the possibility of fuel pellets spilling from a broken rod either inside or outside the building. I guess the natural question remains simply, what exactly does a dropped fuel pellet mean/entail? Naked like that it would give off fairly strong radioactivity, I would imagine. Do they break up easily? Is it a messy job to clean up? etc.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think the biggest problem with dropped fuel pellets is that they might break and release some radioisotopes. These are likely to be solid, so will not be a hazard outside the immediate area. Clean-up would be like collecting rubbish - but protection of some sort would be needed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So that's really it? All this hullabaloo about nothing?

It can't be that simple, surely, or some government scientist or TEPCO spokesperson would have told us. They cannot be that stupid, surely, as to sit on the easily told truth and allow any irresponsible journalist to say anything into the subsequent vacuum. It doesn't bother these people in authority, this panic they are causing through lack of vital communication? Nuts.

Look how what it has taken this long thread to get here.

Sometimes I really wonder where the little voice of reason disappears to!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are conflicting assumptions from experts on the risk associated with the removal of the rods from unit 4. That said, even the most optimistic view of this operation is laced with great concern. Theories, postulates, models, etc. are fine but the real world job of removing these incredibly hazardous materials by a clearly incompetent TEPCO using low skill labor including criminals should be of grave concern for mankind.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

nandakandamanda,

TEPCO are keeping their heads down. As the 'responsible party' that's what they have to do in this society. Anything else will get hows of anger from an anti-nuclear press. As for the government - they're keeping quiet so as to be not associated with being responsible. Look at the cries against Abe for stating that the effects are limited to the plant.

As for the journalists - they don't seem to have any scientific qualifications, seeing how they give as experts people who say that SFP4 boiled dry, or that there was a nuclear explosion at the plant, or that millions are going to die, etc, etc.

If you want the voice of reason, I'm afraid you'd have to look at the scientific papers and literature on the matter.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites