via Bellona.org / July 3, 2012 /

A collapse of the already tilting reactor No 4 building at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, ¬atop which sits a spent nuclear fuel storage pool containing 1,535 fuel assemblies – including 204 unused ones – would lead to a “significant global impact,”– by far topping last year’s triple meltdown at the plant, a new report says.

According to the report (available here) released by Holpchi CH, a Swiss-based industrial analytics think-tank, even a 10 percent release of the storage pool’s inventory of radioactive cesium and strontium would “represent 3 to 10 times the March 11, 2011 release amounts, substantially increasing risk levels in Japan and marine life.”

“This is an acute example that we will have to live with the threats emanating from Fukushima for years to come,” said Nils Bøhmer, Bellona’s nuclear physicist and general manager.

The spent fuel pool was singled out by Bellona early in the Fukushima crisis as a possible source of catastrophic radiation releases due to water loss, which took a back seat to the chaos of trying to restore cooling water to reactor Nos 1, 2 and 3 with fire trucks, water cannons and seawater dropped from helicopters.

A tsunami following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake devastated primary and back up cooling to Fukushima Daiichi, causing three reactor meltdowns within three days of the March 11, 2011 disaster. All of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactors are currently in cold shutdown.

But water loss or collapse of the structure housing the spent fuel storage pool continues to pose a cataclysmic threat.

If cooling water for the pool is lost, said the report, “a major release of radioactive material could result,” adding that, “Given the large amounts of heat generated by the fuel rods, the temperature would rise quickly. These rods are surrounded by zirconium cladding and at high temperatures, this cladding catalyzes hydrogen production, can generate additional heat and even explode and burn.”

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By Corbett| 13 Comments | Featured, Science

13 comments

  1. Reactor 4 was defueled back in 2011 and never exceeded an INES of level 3. The only reactors of concern are reactors one, two and three. This article comes across as fear mongering rather than informative due to false information.

    • Assuming you read past the headline, your comment is a lesson in poor reading comprehension. The reactor was defueled, but the fuel was moved to the spent fuel pool. This entire article (and the 12-page report you will get if you bother to click through the link) is about the structural integrity of the spent fuel pool which contains 1,331 fuel rods.

    • Ryan,

      You may want to watch this video. I highly recommend watching the whole presentation, but if you prefer, you can go to minute 38 in the presentation to hear the speaker address the Fukushima reactor 4 implications. http://videos.med.wisc.edu/videos/39682

      • Thank you for posting this link. I have a hard time finding ANY information on the Japanese crisis or Chernobyl for that fact. So nice to hear someone with authority telling the TRUTH about what the impact really is from these events.

    • The spent fuel pool is the danger.

  2. I can’t understand the lack of public interest! When I bring up the subject, it is quickly changed. Do people really feel that ignoring this will make it go away?

  3. As far as I can tell from internet searches only 31 people have died from radiation poisoning from the Chernobyl disaster and to date 0 from Fukushima; Put into perspective, Oil and gas deaths are in the tens of thousands since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster proving with out a doubt that nuclear energy is a safer mode of power. There are many stories circulating around about hot particles contaminating the planet and causing death to thousands of people by cancer but no word on the effects of the tons and tons of depleted uranium used for ordinance of war in the middle east and Africa in the last 11 years. If it is true that modern breeder reactors can utilize 98% of existing nuclear waste and weapon stockpiles for fuel and leave the remaining 2% for medical isotopes then the disinformation is much more of a travesty than even the global warming fraud. It is long past the time to stop using the power of the atom as a tool for creative destruction in the maintenance of empire and put it into civilian use for the betterment of all mankind.

    • I’m sure your “internet searches” are exhaustive, but the debate is between the IAEA which estimates about 4,000 (eventual) Chernobyl-related deaths and critics like Yablokov and Nesterenko who claim 1,000,000 deaths and counting. While I’m not particularly convinced by either argument ( basic summary here: http://www.utne.com/Wild-Green/Chernobyl-Death-Toll-4000-or-1-Million-7272.aspx) the idea that there is no scientific dispute about the wholesome family goodness of radiation (or the 4,000 IAEA-documented cases of thyroid cancer in children from Chernobyl, for example) seems to me to be the disinformation. I suggest you conduct another “internet search” on the IAEA’s 1959 agreement with the WHO to consult on any work that crosses each other’s mandates (protip: search for “Toxic link: the WHO and the IAEA”). Once you read about that, then you can get back to me on why the IAEA has been in charge of examining the health effects of Chernobyl, why the proceedings of the 1995 Geneva and 2001 Kiev conferences weren’t published, and why the 2005 Chernobyl Forum excluded epidemiological studies indicating much higher morbidity. Finally you can tell us why that leaves you feeling sanguine about the implementation of nuclear technologies in our current era.

      • I was wondering how one could begin to reply to the former. I am grateful for your excellent information. I can only add that the region around Chernobyl is still evacuated, and the reactor that exploded, and then covered with concrete, now needs further attention. It is not to take up an argument with one individual,
        but the belief that Chernobyl harmed no one is truly astounding.

  4. I suggest that readers go to Kevin Blanch on Youtube. He’s posted quite a bit on Fukushima. What happens when the radioactive plume in the Pacific reaches the coast of California in a couple of years? This is a real concern. I don’t know my geography or chemistry well enough to understand what happens when the uncontained radioactive fission that was released into the ground when total meltdowns occurred in the first three reactors, but it has occurred to me that there could be a monster explosion if that heated material ever hits an underground stream or pool of water. Maybe I’m worrying too much and that’s quite unlikely, but I don’t think we know what might happen when a nuclear reaction has been unleashed and is no longer contained.

  5. John, I’m catching up on some older news I missed, and I wanted to tell you I’m genuinely impressed with your comments back to folks.
    You do an amazing job of delivering an intellectual smack-down to commenters with your mixture of sharp-wit and bold-facts.
    I actually laughed at a few of them.
    Thanks for that.

    • Not John! James! I’m sorry. Overtired!

  6. I guess some don’t realize that the fuel rods in the fuel pond atop reactor 4 are underwater, and have to stay underwater, or they will get VERY hot melting the outside liners of the rods releasing MAJOR amounts of radioactivity and creating a fire. The rods can’t be moved to ground level because of damage done to them when the reactor roof caved in and the fact that the ground is very unstable. And if that building gives way, or tips or whatever and they lose the benefits of cooling water, they won’t even be able to get close to do anything about it! The great idea of building a wall to hold back the contaminated water leaking from the site is backfiring bad. The ground is becoming liquified. I read that a report shows that the foundation of reactor 4 has sank approx 31 inches!
    And they haven’t mentioned in this article that in all likelihood, reactor 1,2 &3′ s coriums have penetrated the containment vessels and foundations of the reactors and are in the ground. If they are then they are already submerged in water and un-retrievable and will continue to make the water radioactive.
    Here’s a link to an article, and disregard the title, just go down the page and read through the NRC documents.
    http://hatrickpenry.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/something-wicked-this-way-comes-the-story-of-plume-gate-the-worlds-largest-provable-cover-up/

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