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A Mistake Now Could Release 14,000 Times More Radiation than Hiroshima

Lately the bad news emanating from Japan is that the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been leaking thousands of gallons of water ever since the earthquake that struck it in 2011. There is a high chance that the radioactive water could hit Korea, China, and the West Coast of North America, and it is only likely to get worse with time as Tepco, the Japanese utility and operator of the power plant, is unsure how to stop the leaks.

Now however there is worse news that could prove dangerous to much of the world, and again Tepco could be responsible.

At Fukushima, used nuclear fuel rods are stored in pools and, especially at reactor 4, some of these pools are damaged and at risk of completely breaking open in the event of another earthquake. If one of the pools were to collapse or catch fire, then the impacts would affect the world. Arnie Gunderson, a nuclear expert, and Helen Caldicott, a physician, have even suggested that if this occurs then people should evacuate the Northern Hemisphere. And Akio Matsumura, a former advisor for the UN, has called the situation “an issue of human survival.”

Spent fuel assemblies.
Spent fuel assemblies.

Tepco could be responsible for unleashing this devastation on the world as starting in November they have decided to begin an operation to remove 400 tonnes of fuel rod assemblies, on their own. A workforce of thousands is preparing to work on the fuel rod pools at the instable reactor 4 in order to relocate them to a safer location.

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The spent fuel, which contains plutonium, one of the most deadly substances in the universe, will prove to be a very delicate procedure. If a fuel rod is broken, cracked, or dropped whilst being removed, then it could cause an explosion, a meltdown, or a fire; all of which would release radionuclides into the atmosphere, and result in the evacuation of Tokyo and much of Japan.

The more than 1,300 fuel rod assemblies tightly packed into the building at reactor 4 contain enough radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the radiation released during the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

Each fuel rod assembly weighs close to 300kg and measure 4.5 metres long. The reactor 4 building contains 1,331 of spent assemblies and 202 unused assemblies.

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Working completely underwater, the fuel assemblies will be pulled off their racks where they are currently stored, and then inserted into a heavy steel chamber, which shields the radiation. Then they will be removed from the pool, lowered to ground level and transported across the plant to a storage pool in an undamaged building.

Toshio Kimura, a former technician at Tepco, said that “previously Previously it was a computer-controlled process that memorized the exact locations of the rods down to the millimeter and now they don’t have that. It has to be done manually so there is a high risk that they will drop and break one of the fuel rods.”

Whilst aware of the inherent dangers, Tepco is confident that it can carry out the operation safely.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Clyde Scalf on November 07 2013 said:
    Let alone why TEPCO is incompetent and their workers are untrained. I'm speaking as a construction worker, a master carpenter/rigger.Rigging,capturing, is a highly trained profession. Simply put.

    While rigging any load their is a chain of command and that begins with "eyes on" and "eyes off". The rigger is "eyes on" and he signals the crane operator. When the rigger gets to the point of transferring to the operator the rigger is now eyes off and the operator or another signaler becomes eyes on. At any given time there is always 4 eyes and two brains concentrating on the load and crane.

    TEPCO plans to have 1 operator, one rolling gantry crane. A rigger-operator will capture the rod with an unknown device, all the while moving the crane forward, back, left, right, up and down, while operating the catch device mechanism. Operation of the crane will be done remotely looking through cameras, looking through hot water all the while avoiding debris and removing the rod and trying to place it in a containment vessel.

    This entire operation is fraught with error. The criterion is not to commit 1 error or radiation will close the site forever.

    All the engineers, scientists and politicians will have little to say when the fate of the world rests with one soul, who we pray, is at the top of his game.

    Scientists, engineers and workers need to act as one on a job that has never been attempted, with untested machines, remote cameras and one earthquake to ruin your day.
  • METHICS on October 28 2013 said:
    Perhaps, the Mayans did have their timeline right!
  • Reverend Ryan on October 27 2013 said:
    Very few solutions have been offered. Involvement of the worlds experts is essential. Entombing the site in borax salts might provide a relatively long term solution.
    Maybe not.
    This disaster only underlines the problems with nukes... which pose a direct threat to all of humanity. Thanks to the idiots running the "program" ~ including GE and their shitty US designed reactors.... We, the People, are at risk from the psychopaths who profit from this "program".
  • Dave on October 02 2013 said:
    So the Sword of Damocles hangs over the Northern Hemisphere and Tepco's brought in some cheap temps to fiddle with the hair? Buy your plane ticket early.
  • Paul Rowlandson on October 01 2013 said:
    TEPCO is an operating company and a poor one at that. The Fukushima disaster requires the best engineering talent available but no such firm has been engaged to deal with the disaster. Things continue to get worse because NOTHING is being done that addresses the real problem. Perhaps this is all by design to see just how bad things can get. Certainly TPTB are not concerned about human deaths and want population reduction. Food chain concentration has already made any food from the Pacific Ocean, inedible. The link is Part 1 of "Protect Yourself From Radiation". Lipsomal Vitamin C is the best available protection. Watch all 4 parts.
  • Dan on September 30 2013 said:
    Don't they want to be removing it offsite altogether? If there was another tsunami all this work would be for nothing if the next building became damaged!
  • Rich Lancaster on September 30 2013 said:
    I've been following this story closely for the past 18 months, and it's incredible to me that a private company (Tokyo Electric Power Co) is still in control of a situation which is already going to impact the Pacific Ocean and it's biodiversity. Just yesterday the CEO of TEPCO was stating how the company intends to return to profitability through cost-cutting measures. This company should be seized by an international regulatory agency/commission and put in to the hands of the best consultants and practitioners of environmental clean-ups that are known to man, before the situation gets beyond our ability as a race to rectify it. The shareholders who backed this company should lose everything to the clean-up effort, if that's what it takes. If you invest in bad companies you lose your money, this is one of the worst (if not the worst) man-made environmental disasters in the history of humankind.

  • William Maurer on September 29 2013 said:
    Based on TEPCO's performance over the past 2 1/2 years......I'm praying for devine intervention.

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