Dear Dr. Burnett:
I appreciate your torque and integrity in your analysis of the Fukushima situation. Largely, I agree with you. However, I do think there are solutions, though the margins of error are almost infinitesimal. For example, as to MOX fuel going critical and also Pu containing “spent” fuel going critical, some geologic species of Magnesium sand and then, or mixed w/concrete will stop the criticality or would buy some time. I’m not sure if glassification is even possible in this circumstance, which is another procedure by which control over Pu oxides or Pu oxide contaminated nuclear fuel can be made more inert, or inert. I am, however, in complete agreement that all five known sources of nuclear fuel that could go critical are extremely substantial and far more dangerous, as the Greenpeace press release of 03/26? says, than Chernobyl, already 3x worse, which I think is perhaps the French playing along with the U.S. military/CIA minimization in the world media of the crisis. Keep on publishing. You rock for having critical thinking skills. Thank you very much as seeing anything published written by a thinker and not a propagandist for the government/industry, gives one some energy to keep looking for a solution on this one. Thanks again.
It’s my own stupid fault. If I just went by ‘Tom’ and didn’t put the ‘Dr.’ in front of it, no one would care.
This responds to a reply by Frank Snapp, whose comment I appreciate and which carries the conversation forward. I am actually enjoying the opportunity to respond to it – although the situation is unfortunate.
“Glassification”, also known as “vitrification” requires access to non-critical fuel cells in a controlled environment. http://www.srs.gov/general/programs/solidification/index.htm Fukushima is well past that point.
To address your point directly: moderators only work on non-critical fuel piles. Once criticality is reached no moderator can physically contact it without burning or vaporizing. At that point human-induced moderation becomes impossible and the pile must reach equilibrium with the earth through processes of which we really know virtually nothing.
But we do know, from 2.000+ nuclear tests, and hundreds of active reactors, that the world is not going to end because one, or all four F-D-I reactors melt down.
We also know that s critical fuel pile at 5,000 degrees C is impervious to everything except something hotter – a supercritical fusion device – or the center of the earth – or an eventual self-entombment in it’s own lava cyst inside the lithosphere unless the pressures become so great, or some other natural reaction occurs which causes it to go supercritical and detonate as a thermonuclear device – I do not believe that is possible.
Back in the Hyman Rickover days you had to be a nuclear physicist to run a nuclear reactor. Now you don’t. You can go to any of several schools which teach you how to control what you CAN control – and each lesson invariably ends with: “But this can’t happen because……..”
If you ask “What would happen if a MAG9.0 EQ hits my 6.9 containment and then my aux power goes out?”, you get one of two answers (1) that will never happen, or (2) You are fvcked.
I believe the instructors who answered truthfully are in a tiny minority – because it serves no purpose to train operators to try to deal with events they cannot deal with.
There is a line – it is dictated by profit vs risk. Anything which passes that line is neither planned for, nor considered in ANY phase of the plant operation. That is why Tokyo Power seems helpless. They are. This contingency was not part of their plan and they have no way to adapt to it.
Blaming them is useless. They did not approve the plant design. Blaming GE is pointless. Their containments are designed for MAG6.9EQ events. The plant – and ALL gen I and II AND III plants are designed to withstand a MAG6.9EQ. No planning for a subsequent tsunami which might be generated over a 6.9 is required. In California, NO requirements exist – but the Gen 1 and II GE containments are still manufactured to 6.9 standards. But so are the new GEH (GE-Hitachi) and the Westinghouse Gen III+ containments. They will ALL fall to shit in a MAG9.0EQ event. Fuhgeddaboudit.
So what do we have? We have a situation. We started it but we can’t stop it. However, the earth can stop it and will at some point. We simply have to live with the consequences of our actions until that time. Did we learn anything? Yep. Put nuclear reactors on ships. Is that a good idea in the long run? No. Since when has that deterred us?