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It has been 12 days since the titanic tsunami, and decay heat production in the reactor fuel cells of Fukushima Units 1, 2, 3 & 4 has continued to drop since yesterday, but the amount of decrease each day is less than the day before. We are now approaching the point where decay heat production drops so very slowly that it seems relatively constant from one day to the next. Currently, decay heat production in Units 1, 2 & 3 are about the same as heat production from 20,000 100-watt light bulbs (incandescent). This time next week, it will be in the 15,000 light bulb range. Regardless, the threat of uranium fuel melting any further in Units 1, 2 & 3 is now highly improbable. However, further zirconium metal damage is still possible if the fuel cells lose water level sufficient to uncover the fuel cells, and they stay uncovered for a prolonged period. The rate of water level loss is necessarily slow, compared to the rate of water level loss probable for the first few days after the tsunami.
Previously, this writer reported that Unit No. 4 had been shut down for a period of days (maybe weeks) before the tsunami, for a refueling of some of the core. Typically, a third of the core’s fuel cells get removed, and replaced with fresh fuel cells, about once per year. This requires removal of the the thick, dense concrete plug on the top of the concrete containment which surrounds the reactor, which is always bolted tightly in place when the reactor is operating. Then, the ~8 inch thick “head” of the seamless steel pressure vessel surrounding the fuel cell is removed after the large bolts holding it in place are themselves removed. This process takes many days, using the installed, heavy-duty crane in the refueling area above the containment. We now know that the fuel cells scheduled for removal and replacement, had been removed and placed in their storage racks deep within the spent fuel pool before the tsunami. However, no new fuel had been inserted as yet when the tsunami hit.
Given this information, the decay heat in the Fukushima 4 reactor was well below the 15,000 light-bulb level before the wave struck. By now, decay heat in the No. 4 fuel pool is below 10,000 light bulbs. This means there was NEVER a realistic possibility of catastrophic meltdown for Unit No. 4 reactor. There was, and still is, enough decay heat for zirconium heat damage, which would take more than 10 days of decay heat-induced evaporation to lower the water level down to the fuel cells. Please note, the Unit 4 hydrogen explosion occurred 4 days after the tsunami, while the explosion of Unit 1 occurred one day post-tsunami and Unit 3 three days post-tsunami, both of which had reactors at full power until the earthquake triggered the automatic shutdown. In fact, no one has any idea where the unit #4 hydrogen came from! We have yet another example of TEPCO’s lack of full disclosure. How different would the world-wide reports have been over the past 8 days if the TEPCO news releases had said that Unit No. 4 cannot have had a catastrophic meltdown?
Work continues in the effort to re-power the emergency cooling systems of the 4 stricken units. All four buildings now have electrical connections to their Temporary Power Panels, the panels themselves have been energized, and the Unit 3 control room has been re-energized. Progress is being made, but clearing of debris and prudent caution with re-energizing equipment make progress slow and laborious.
Yesterday’s news reports of white smoke (Unit 2) and black smoke (Unit 3) bear some attention here. The white smoke of Unit 2 is probably steam from the sauna-like conditions of the refueling area at the top of the reactor building. Actual spent fuel pool water level cannot be monitored because the building walls and roof keep us from looking at the pool from above, and lack of electricity makes remote water level monitoring impossible. If any of the spent fuel pools have a water level low enough to expose the spent fuel cells, it would be Unit 2’s. Whether or not this actually happened is impossible to tell, at this point. But, the relatively slow evaporation of the pool’s water makes it possible that the 16 feet of water above the fuel cells has not been completely evaporated away.
The black smoke from unit 3 means either something is burning or smoldering under the rubble on top of the un-compromised containment building below. TEPCO suggests the flammable material is explosion-damaged electrical wiring. We can safely say it isn’t a zirconium fire (addressed in the March 18 update). However, keep in mind the rubble acts as an insulator so any hot debris from the prior hydrogen explosion and fire could be re-igniting due to the debris’ insulating property. Evacuations of emergency personnel from the area of Units 2 & 3 when the smoke re-appears are precautionary, just in case the re-emergence of the steam (Unit 2) and smoke (Unit 3) marks a dangerous increase in radiation levels. When monitors show that no increase in the existing radiation levels have happened, the workers return to their recovery tasks.
Several readers have asked why I’m not focusing on the reports concerning radioactive contamination having been discovered now known to be in some food sources (fast growing vegetables, like spinach), milk from a few Fukushima dairy farms, and in the Tokyo water supply. First, we don’t know what the contamination concentrations are. They cannot be realistically compared to naturally-occurring levels in foods and water supplies in our world, in order to promote reasonable public comprehension and understanding. Second, all of the emergency majors being taken with food and milk confiscation, and drinking water precautions, are based on the flawed Linear, No Threshold (LNT) radioactive risk models (no-safe-level theory). I must re-emphasize, statistically-proven radiation hormesis modeling of risk clearly demonstrates that the existing contamination levels found in Japan are completely safe. Iodine in milk may be something to rationally provoke precautionary reaction because it can concentrate in the thyroid if consumed, but Iodine isotopes have quite short half-lives and burn out in a few weeks. Once the low-level emissions from Fukushima stop, a few weeks later the radioactivity in the Iodine will be gone.
In addition, Western reports on the risks of contamination from Fukushima are seriously exaggerated due to almost exclusive use of LNT. Further, cancer death estimates (which are tacit public death threats) for these very low exposures are gross fictions which radiation hormesis research has demonstrated to be absolute rubbish. To make matters worse, theoretical cancer death estimates for Chernobyl and a few other relatively-unknown-to-the-public radiation-releasing emergencies have no basis in actual, real world medical statistics. Medical records of exposed populations in each case have shown no long term negative health effects, and statistically lower cancer death rates than the unexposed population. A prime example of the disgusting practice of broadcasting theoretical cancer death numbers that have never actually occurred, is a March 18 BBC News article (referenced below). This is no more than subjecting the world to a death threat. If you or I were subjected to a public death threat, the perpetrator would be subject to arrest and punishment. However, the ubiquitous publication of public death threats due to radiation exposure are obviously acceptable to the western news media. This further exacerbates the terrible effect of the fictional no-safe-level myth on public understanding, and deepens the world-wide infection of the Hiroshima Syndrome.
Which makes this writer wonder…why does the news media in the West feel obligated to broadcast opposing viewpoints and create fearful “spins” when positive, non-frightening nuclear information is presented, but never provides the same so-called “balance” or spins when negative, fearful nuclear info emerges?
- “Fukushima – disaster or distraction?” ; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12789749
- “Tokyo Warns on Water as radiation Hampers Nuclear Cleanup”; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-22/nuclear-plant-s-fuel-rods-damaged-leaking-into-sea-tokyo-electric-says.html
- IAEA concerned about Fukushima food radiation”; http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201103220166.html