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It may be that people have been focusing on the wrong problem -- and this might explain the confused coverage regarding the Japanese nuclear situation. Which is this -- the coverage has been focused on the reactors. But the reactors are designed for disasters like this, and it is (IMO) unlikely that the primary containment vessels (the stainless steel containers) will melt through. That is, even if there is a core meltdown those vessels are designed to "channel" the melt into separate areas within the container and will prevent a melt through. So even worst case, the reactors should be contained with only intermittent radioactive gas releases which will be dispersed and have only a very minor impact.

However. What about the "wet" spent fuel storage pools? Here are a couple of images:

Now these may be a significant problem. And this is why. While the reactors have had a LOT of design and engineering attention, the spent fuel pools are almost an afterthought. They are basically just big pools of water not that different from your community Olympic sized swimming pool. All they do is keep "used up" rods removed from the reactor (thus the term "spent") cool for a couple of years, when they can be moved to "dry cask" storage.

The USA promised Japan years ago that they did not have to worry about long term storage of spent fuel rods because we would have a containment facility for them (Yucca Mountain, Nevada). However the radical greens and their corrupt allies in the US Democrat party kept tying that up in court until Harry Reid and his allies (during his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to abandon the Yucca Mountain project) managed to halt its use (Harry Reid is on record as saying "Yucca Mountain is dead. It'll never happen.").

So all those nuke plants in the USA and Japan were promised for YEARS that the spent rods would be moved to Yucca Mountain. They weren't.

Here is the problem. The earthquake apparently ruptured at least one of the "wet" spent fuel storage pools. The water is draining out. And some of those rods have become hot enough to start to combust and emit radiation. And that can be a HUGE problem because -- those rods are NOT contained in a stainless steel containment vessel! And yes, IF those rods melt then in fact we are looking at a Chernobyl type problem. The solution is fairly simple -- refill the pools. The problem is -- how much water does a 12m x 29m x 11m pool need? Answer: 3800 cubic meters. How long does it take to fill a 3800 cubic meter pool? Well if you are trying to fill it with helicopters dumping water -- way to long. Impossible. So it requires big water pumps, electric power for those pumps, a lot of hoses (a LOT of hoses) and a close by water source.

So this may be why we have different reports on the situation. The Japanese may be telling the truth about the problems related to their reactors (it is under control) but not admitting to this potentially far more serious problem. This would explain the statements from the USA and France (both nations with a lot of nuclear expertise) that radiation levels are higher than Japan has admitted, and why the USA has directed all US citizens in Japan to get at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) away.

And this:

American officials who have been dealing with their Japanese counterparts report that the country’s political and bureaucratic leadership has appeared frozen in place, unwilling to communicate clearly about the scope of the problem and, in some cases, unwilling to accept outside assistance. Two American officials said they believed that the Japanese government itself was not getting a clear picture from the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

“Everything in their system is built to build consensus slowly,” said one American official who would not be quoted by name because of the delicacy of discussions with Japan. “And everything in this crisis is about moving quickly. It’s not working.”

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Subject Views Written By Posted
The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 592 SunSword 17-Mar-11 11:30
Re: The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 86 Raja 17-Mar-11 12:52
Re: The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 71 Raja 17-Mar-11 13:41
Re: The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 76 Avatar 17-Mar-11 13:59
Re: The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 68 Ahatmose 17-Mar-11 14:06
nuclear waste free states 88 Akula 17-Mar-11 18:52
Re: The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 80 Avatar 17-Mar-11 18:56
Re: The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 75 Sirfiroth 17-Mar-11 20:09
Re: The Wrong Problem? Spent Fuel Storage Pools 69 Raja 17-Mar-11 20:34

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