March 13, 2011

Meltdown.

Presumed.

31 comments:

lemondog said...

Interactive satellite photos

Officials estimating 10,000 dead.

Earthquake Relief Options

Hagar said...

So far it looks like the systems are working. As at Three Mile Island, despite everything going wrong, the "meltdown(s)" are being contained within the plants. No need to go into Chicken Little mode yet.

The Drill SGT said...

Althouse,

The situation is serious, but not yet unrecoverable. a couple of observations.

1. The use of "meltdown" is in the context of the deforming and melting of the fuel rods, NOT breaching of the containment vessel by a molten mix of radioactives (e.g. the famous, but not feasible "China Syndrome")
2. The containment vessel is both intact and designed for this purpose.
3. The hydrogen formation and possible explosions are factors considered in design
4. Steam creation and water flooding is at some level, the normal operation.
5. what they are doing here that is abnormal is doing it outside of the normal generation process (because likely that main pumping system is inoperable). There are back-ups. So they are using emergency pumps to flood the containment vessel and venting steam with some radioactives to the open air.

this step has some issues, but I suspect that prevailing winds are Eastward and therefore have relatively lower impact.

short version. This is 3 mile Island, not Chernobyl.

The Drill SGT said...

Hagar beat me and seems to agree :)

lemondog said...

Heard last night container may have been breached
Nuclear plant fuel rods may have melted - Jiji

Jon said...

10,000 dead from the quake, yet the coverage focuses on a nuclear accident whose death toll stands at zero, and realistically, may at worst produce slightly elevated risk of cancer in a few dozen people decades from now.

BTW the death toll from Three Mile Island? Also zero. And 25 years later there has been no significant rise in cancer deaths among residents living near the Three Mile Island site.

Resist the anti-nuke hype.

Roger J. said...

The terrible earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan should be a wakeup call for good building codes--As terrible as the EQ was Japanese engineering (base isolated buildings inter alia) apparently mitigated other more horrific events.

As we come up on the 200th anniversary of the New Madrid event (three quakes in a month estimated to be in the high 8s) we ought to be assessing our own vulnerabilities.

We cannot protect 100 percent, but we can take steps, as the Japanese have done, to mitigate even more cataclysmic outcomes.

The Drill SGT said...

With high pressure inside the reactors at Daiichi hampering efforts to pump in cooling water, plant operators had to release radioactive vapor into the atmosphere. Radiation levels outside the plant, which had retreated overnight, shot up to 1,204 microsieverts per hour, or over twice Japan’s legal limit, Mr. Edano said.

so this catastrophe is producing a release of twice the normal allowable max.

in context 1204 microsieverts = .12rems / hour

an absorbed total dose of 50 rems is subclinical. e.g. you wont notice much, though there are some blood impacts

50-200 rems and you are going to likely have radiation sickness.

so if you stand there down wind without protection, just outside the plant and suck up air for 500 hours you will reach something on the order of 50 rems

Likely, this will get resolved in under 20 days and folks without masks aren't standing right downwind.

btw the fallout pattern for such a low level release is going to be a couple of miles. so dont graze any beef next to the plant for 10 years.

beyond that, its going to need to get a lot worse to have a serious impact IMHO

and yes, I'm not a nuclear engineer, but I was an army trained nuclear staff officer. trained both in the states and by NATO.

lemondog said...

Location of Japan nuclear power plants and fault line exposure.

lemondog said...

... beyond that, its going to need to get a lot worse to have a serious impact IMHO

I had been wondering what, if any, the West Coast exposure might be.

Roger J. said...

for those wishing detailed information such as Lemondog posted go the USGS website--its a great source of information.

This terrible event will also validate the use of satellite technology for post damage assessment (See the EROS website--a part of the USGS)

The Drill SGT said...

lemondog said...
Heard last night container may have been breached
Nuclear plant fuel rods may have melted - Jiji


Overhyped Lemondog.

Yes, the NYT says melting rods. Your story says melting rods. Your story doesnt say anything about a breach and a breach would be instantly obvious to the folks engulfed in deadly scalding steam.

ain't happened.

the issue with melting fuel rods is that if they can't get the temps started back down, continued melting deforms internal space and reduces the surfaces that the water can cool. meaning that in normal mode, water moves around the fuel rods freely, if they melt together, there is less rod surface expsoed to water and cooling gets less efficent.

Roger J. said...

Good morning Drill--you were a prefix 5 guy? hey, so am I.

Thanks for your cogent explanation of rems and exposure. Will go a long way to put the exercise in perspective. Well done.

prairie wind said...

With 50+ nuclear plants in tiny Japan, it must be easier to find experts and to transport them to the damaged plants. Amazing engineering--an 8.9R earthquake and a 23' tsunami, and Japan is still not seeing Chernobyl. Of course, Japan is not the USSR.

Darcy said...
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The Drill SGT said...

Roger J. said...
Good morning Drill--you were a prefix 5 guy? hey, so am I.


NATO School Oberammergau trained.

Ran a Nuclear Personnel Reliability program. Most of my stuff was ADM related (training, target folders, etc), but also had to train up site reaction forces and flow down NRAS messages to our attached FA units.

Was an Assistant 3 then. also did all the standard planning and downwind work.

Darcy said...

I found this blog article a nice counter balance to the hysteria.

I hope the blog article is much closer to the truth. I really do.

Darcy said...

And I'm clearly terrible at links. LOL Forgive me. You'll have to copy and paste, sorry:

http://is.gd/4LhNfI

Darcy said...

It's worth it, though!

lemondog said...

...for those wishing detailed information such as Lemondog posted go the USGS website--its a great source of information.

Great site.
Aftershock map

228 aftershocks.

The Drill SGT said...

Darcy provided a great link. It gives a clear understanding that there are problems, but no big unthought of issues that will create a disaster.

Bottom line. The japanese are going to have power shortages, but not radiation.

David said...

Call in the French.

They seem to be the only ones who can administer a nuclear power industry.

Peter Seniuk said...

Drill SGT is right on. There is three levels of design for fuel to reach the environment. The fuel rod's cladding, the reactor vessel, and containment. Each is design to limit a radioactive breech. The fuel rods themselves surround the fuel pellets, these are ceramic in nature and takes ex-stream temperatures to melt. However after a shutdown 5% of the heat is still be generated, call decay heat, if not removed they will cause fuel damage. This heat must be removed, an operator first rule is "maintain adequate core cooling". e.g., put water on the core, remove the heat. It appears that the Japanese, as a last restore, are using feed and bleed to remove this decay heat. Add water then vent the steam. This explains the hydrogen, which is within the vented steam, explosion on unit 3. The explosion on building 3 was design to handle this, they are called blowout panels. I still believe this emergency is under control. The is great hype by the anti-nuclear industry, this will go on to limit nuclear power, but remember these plant were designed 45 years ago, their core may be rubble, but it is still withing the reactor vessel, a vessel surrounded by containment. The Chernobyl reactor had no containment while is core was made of carbon, a flammable substance. This I believe that containment and the vessel are still intact and holding, as time goes by so does amount of decay heat. The Japanese are doing what they were trained to do. We need to let them and help them, then learn from them.

Roger J. said...

For other sources of information on earthquake hazard in the US (primarily the New Madrid) google CUSEC and CERI (University of Memphis--I was an emergency planner for the New Madrid project and the consequences of a new Madrid are far worse than what Japan is facing. (IMO of course)

Darcy said...

Thanks, Drill SGT. There was a caffeine deficient blonde operating my keyboard. ;-)

As always, I'm grateful to the smarties I follow on Twitter. I got that link from @StarlessTwit.

The Drill SGT said...

David said...
Call in the French.


Me? I think the Japanese are the experts. They after all have a huge aversion to rads (Hiroshima, etal), know earthquakes, and are great engineers.

lots of lessons to be learned here by us, but from the French? IIE!!

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

Peter Seniuk said... There is three levels of design for fuel to reach the environment......

their core may be rubble, but it is still withing the reactor vessel, a vessel surrounded by containment.


One could say 3.5 levels of engineering. As Darcy's link points out. The last layer, e.g. the Containment vessel has as part of its floor a big concrete/ceramic basin which further insulates the bottom of the vessel from the melted core.

as for the rubble part. It means that they will need to do a refuel cycle and have more waste to haul out, but this failure will not require the plant to be scrapped.

what will happen that has the big impact will be a likely design review and recert at all Japanese plants as they product improve(e.g. Kaizen) which will cause electricity price hikes due to shortages.

Roger J. said...

A most interesting and informative thread--this thread is an example of what the internet can do in linking people with information.

Kudos to the participants--and sad to say it will fly under the radar of the MSM

edutcher said...

When TMI happened, it was the only time in his administration that I was glad Carter was POTUS, as he had experience with nuclear power.

With The Zero, we have an egocentric ignoramus who will do what is PC, if he has time between rounds of golf. So pray our nuclear plants stay safe.

PS While we've had our moments, the US record with nuclear power isn't all that bad.

Phil 3:14 said...

I have to agree with Jon's sentiment. The Tsunami has killed many thousands and yet it seems that equal or greater coverage has been given to the Nuclear power plants. While this is an important story it still feels like a slap in the face of the Japanese:

Well yeah, a lot of people died but please do more stories that appeal to our nuclear angst.